Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“Lord Help My Unbelief”
Cell phone and charging cable.
The Lack of Power by Jesus’ Pupils (vv. 14-18)
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
The disciples have been on the mountain top with a transfigured Jesus, they have seen Moses and Elijah, and they heard the voice of God – it was a truly “mountain top” experience. But at some point, you have to come down from the mountain – so they are almost immediately encounter evil (demon possession) and unbelief.
The dispute between scribes and nine disciples, that the three disciples and Jesus walk into, seems to be over the disciples’ inability to heal the man’s son. Whatever the disciples would normally do to heal was not working this time – and the scribes jumped on the opportunity to make them, and thereby Jesus, look bad. So, an argument developed.
The father describes the condition of the spirit possessed boy. He is mute, he is thrown around because of convulsions, foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, get rigid, and there is an idea of withering. The evil of the demon is on keeping the child from saying what is wrong (mute), he can’t hear the truth of Jesus, the gospel, his father’s loving voice telling him we are going to get some help (deaf), and the demon seeks to cripple him, scar him, and ultimately destroy him. Evil’s goal with everyone he can get his claws into is destruction.
And the disciples did not have (ischus) the strength to handle this case, “they were not able” to cast it out. Why?
The Potential of Power (vv. 19-24)
19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
“This is not just another miracle story or another example of Jesus’ power over demons; it is also intended to instruct mark’s readers (the church) about their task of continuing the work of Jesus.” It is also the work that we are to be about.
(v. 19) “how long am I to be with you?” – Jesus knows his time is limited and that there will come a time, very soon, when the disciples will have to continue on with the mission given to them from Jesus, in faith.
(v. 22a) “to destroy him” – the possessing spirit has tried and tried again to make him convulse and thrown himself into water and into fire, for the purpose of destroying the boy. Satan’s goal through tempting people to doubt and have unbelief is to ultimately lead them into destruction (both here on this earth, and in eternity).
Also, “the purpose of demonic possession is to distort and destroy the image of God in man.” The purpose of Jesus’ mission is to restore man back to be able to accurately bear the image of God.
Satan seeks to destroy; Jesus restores.
(v. 22b) “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” – This man’s response to Jesus is based on his earlier interaction with Jesus’ disciples. The father’s understanding of Jesus’ ability is influenced by the disciple’s ability.
(v. 23) “And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” – Jesus is challenging the man’s faith. “What is to be tested in the arena of experience is not Jesus’ ability, but the father’s refusal to set limits to what can be accomplished through the power of God.” The father doesn’t have faith in Jesus, he is just willing to try anything to help his son.
Jesus asks how long has this been going on? “from childhood” but he is still described as a child. But this has been going on for some time. Time and stress takes it toll on what we envision for the future. What do you think this man envisioned for his future?
This man’s eyes are closed to the possibility that life could be radically different than how is right then. Life can be a little better, but not fully healed son Difficulty, pain of our loved ones, life’s twists and turns that don’t go our way – it is easy to begin to believe that something better is not possible in our lives. I’m not talking about health and wealth, I’m talking about the peace that passes all understanding, the releasing of weight of guilt that comes from the forgiveness of sin from our Creator. I’m talking about a faith in Jesus Christ that opens up a world of possibilities.
“All things are possible,” “does not convey that believing will magically produce anything one might desire but rather means that Jesus’ power is available by faith to meet any need that arises in the course of ministering in his name.”
(v. 24) “I believe; help my unbelief!” – The man had some faith, but wants more. He had faith to bring his son to the disciples in the first place, he had some hope in Jesus, or he would have already left to go back home. He wanted to go from where he was, to get to where ever he needed to be so that his child could be healed.
“He asks Jesus to heal him – the father—first. ‘Whatever is in me, Lord, that does not believe or want to believe, heal that first.’ Like removing the log from your own eye, this request was not only appropriate but life-giving.” 
He says that he believes and does not believe at the same time. He is asking Jesus (in faith) to help him overcome his unbelief (lack of faith). He has some faith, but not what he desires to have. So the father is asking for two healings – his own lack of faith, and his son’s condition.
2 Kings 6:15-17 “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” This should be all of our prayers, “Lord help my unbelief.”
The Power of Prayer (vv. 25-29)
25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
There seems to be two crowds developing – one crowd (v. 15) was with the father and gathered when they saw Jesus arrive. They came and welcomed Him and were there for the conversation. With this first crowd around, Jesus is asking questions, “how long has this been going on, etc.”
It was not until the father cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief” that the second crowd began to run toward the child, the father, and Jesus. The nine disciples had failed, would Jesus be successful? The crowd was running to see the difference. The second crowd were not concerned about the boy, the father, etc. – they wanted to see a show.
So Jesus moved quickly before they get there. Also, notice the crowd’s response to Jesus casting out the demon – they say, “He is dead.” Even though they ran to see the miracle performed by Jesus, there is no sign that anyone in the crowd, other than the father, placed their faith in Christ. “The crowd was not made any more believing by this astounding exorcism, which must have been even more impressive after the disciple’s failure; they remain an unbelieving generation.”
Jesus addresses the spirit directly, and not the boy, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” There are some who would say, the accounts of demons or evil working spirits in the Bible are simply diagnosed medical conditions today (Tourette Syndrome, schizophrenia, epilepsy, bruxism). But because Jesus specifically addresses the spirit, where are as when he heals a person he does not do this.
“A few things can be said in response to this. (1) All sickness is not demon possession. (2) The deafness here is of demonic origin; however, not all instances of deafness are attributed to demons. (3) The seizures were the work of an unclean spirit.”
But the demon did as much harm as it could on its way out, “after crying out and convulsing him terribly” – They are resisting because they are being dethroned. Satan has to submit to the authority and rule of Jesus in this boy’s life. Whenever a person receives Christ by faith, there is a dethroning that takes place – Satan has to step down and Jesus sits on the throne of the person’s life.
(v. 28) Again, we see that the disciples have direct access to Jesus to ask Him questions, and to ask about why things happened as they did, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
“They had been given authority over evil spirits (6:7) and had successfully cast out many demons before the incident (6:13). Why the failure now? They began to take for granted the power given them or had come to believe that it was inherent in themselves.
So they no longer depended upon prayerfully on God for it, and their failure showed their lack of prayer.” They began to think that it was them, in their own strength, talents, personality, even their position as apostles that the demons would run before them.
Holding a position does not mean you automatically mean you have the power needed to be affective – everyone who is seeking to serve Christ and His kingdom, must be empowered by prayer.
“The disciples had been tempted to believe that the gift they had received from Jesus (Mark 6:7) was in their control and could be exercised at their disposal. This was a subtle form of unbelief, for it encouraged them to trust in themselves rather than in God.” The disciples are linked by their gift to the Lord, and it is based on an ongoing relationship.
We have each been given at least one spiritual gift; Romans 12:6-8 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” And it is God’s desire that you use these gifts within in the body of Christ, for His glory, and to see the kingdom expanded.
But because there are some things that just come so natural for you, it is easy to begin to think it’s all about you. You may even be able to go a while on your own strength and talents – but there will come a moment, and obstacle, where in order to accomplish it, you must have the power of God.
You have a gift, and it is powered by a reliance upon God, through prayer. You can also put your efforts toward what you know you can alone accomplish, or go about God sized tasks. “Spiritual power is not something which once possessed will always be available. It must be maintained and renewed.”
(v. 29) “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” “They were powerless because they were prayerless.” Earlier when Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes” – power is available to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, and it is accessed through prayer.
Success is not found in you trying harder, not in your personality, and not in your brilliant intellect. Mountains are moved by the power of God, working though His people. When God’s people forget this, the power stops flowing, and we become ineffective in our attempts to do good in His name.
 Utterly amazed Mark 9:15 (the returned Master), 14:33 (agony in the garden), 16:5 (appearance of the angel at the resurrection).
 Larry W. Hurtado, New International Biblical Commentary, Mark (Peabody Massachusetts; Hendrickson, Publishers, 1989) 147.
 William L. Lane, The New Testament Commentary on The New Testament, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 331.
 Lane, 333.
 Hurtado, 150.
 Anders, 149.
 Matthew 17:20
 Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. Mark, Volume 2 (New York, New York; Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981) 27.
 Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Reference, 2000) 149.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1984) 704.
 Lane, 335.
 James Brooks, The New American Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1991) 147.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1932) 343.