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.
Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“The Transfiguration of Jesus”
The story of Lady Shalott – poem by Alfred Tennyson
Paintings by John William Waterhouse
Seeing life through a reflection of reality.
Jesus Prepares the Disciples For the Hard Days Ahead (vv. 2-4)
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
In the OT there is a common theme for God to take leaders (Elijah, Moses) to a mountain and there reveal Himself to them. Exodus 24:15-16 “Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.”
It represents a time of preparation for the reception of revelation. God is preparing the disciples for a revelation that is coming. Jesus seems to view his announcement of his suffering that is about to happen to be so important that takes three of the twelve aside to prepare them. Jesus only took three, of the twelve to the mountain, “Peter, James, and John.”
Jesus has already given a hint of this glory in Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
In the description of Jesus’ transfiguration, we are not given very much detail, but when we look at other passages that use this same word (i.e. 2 Cor, 3:18, and Romans 12:2) we see “that which is outward represents and expresses a true glory that dwells within.” Jesus’ divine nature is being revealed through the human body.
The English word transfigured is the Greek verb metamorphoo meaning, “to change into another form,” “to change in a manner visible to others,” or “to change inwardly in fundamental character or condition,”
Cole says, “in a sense, we are wrong to call this “transfiguration,” as though it was unique: the true great transfiguration, the metamorphosis, had already taken place at Bethlehem when God took human form. . .”
When discussing Jesus being transfigured, Mark describes his clothes, “became radiant, intensely white,” and who appeared to them, “Elijah with Moses.” “In the OT the glory of God is always conceived as shining brilliance or bright light.”
(v. 4) “The appearance of Moses and Elijah represent the coming together of the Law and Prophets. Each of these sections of the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied about the coming Messiah.”
Moses representing all of the law, and Elijah representing all of the prophesy pointing to the Messiah are there “to testify to the character and mission” of Jesus. “Both the law and the prophets Christ was thus to fulfill;” We don’t know if the disciples overheard what they saying, if they understood or followed what they were talking about.
When Elijah was at the lowest point of his life, God came and encouraged him and ministered to him. 1 Kings 19:5-8 Elijah is running for his life from the evil queen Jezebel “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” Now a man comes and talks with and encourages Jesus.
Moses used to pitch a tent way outside of the Israelite camp and would meet with God, the tent of Meeting. The pillar of smoke would move to the front of this tent while Moses and God met together. Exodus 33:11 “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Here God’s friend has come to encourage and talk again with Jesus.
Mankind can have a friendship and minister together with God.
God the Father speaks from heaven, all of the law and prophets are represented, and Jesus’ appearance become brilliant light – all confirming Jesus as the Messiah.
Jesus has already told them that he must suffer, and will die (at which Peter rebukes him), and now Jesus is being transfigured. “It offers assurance that despite apparent abandonment by God, Jesus is the Lord’s Servant who prospers in the task he has been sent to accomplish.”
This was for the disciple’s benefit, Jesus was transfigured (v. 3) “before them” and (v. 4) “And there appeared to them, Elijah and Moses.” It is a way of preparing them for the suffering that they also will be experiencing soon.
We can face the hard things in life, if we understand who Jesus really is – Jesus is God, and above all. He is above every person, everything in creation, every circumstance, every and anything we may encounter during our lives; and He rules above all – there is nothing that is above Him.
These disciples are about to endure seeing their rabbi and friend beaten beyond recognition, flogged, and crucified – they needed to know that while all that was going on, He could with a word stop it all. He was more powerful than the crucifixion, but endured it for their sake.
Jesus Wants the Disciples to Experience Being in the Presence of God (vv. 5-8)
5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
(v. 5) Peter, being terrified, suggested that they build them booths – temporary shelters. Peter is thinking, “Why would Jesus bring them along, unless He wanted them to do something once they are there with Moses and Elijah.” Peter is trying to organize the moment, organize Jesus. You cannot organize Jesus.
Jesus is not wanting them to do something, He is wanting them to experience something. For people who want to be doing something to feel productive, this is really hard.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Peter had acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah (Mark 8:29). God the Father does not respond to Peter’s comment – Peter doesn’t understand but Jesus is on the way to the cross, and to delay that by camping on the mountainside was not part of the plan. He wanted to slow the moment down. Peter keeps trying to interrupt the plan; he wants to be helpful but doesn’t understand the plan.
(v. 7) “And a cloud overshadowed them” – This appearance of a cloud and the presence of the Lord is what the OT calls, Shekinah glory of God. It has been six hundred years since anyone had seen this special appearance of God. Peter, James, and John were permitted to directly behold God’s glory – because Jesus was with them.
But in a voice God the Father tells them, that Jesus is the Son of God (i.e. God), “This is my beloved Son; listen to him. But even with seeing Moses and Elijah, hearing the voice of God from heaven, and seeing Jesus transfigured, they still are not grasping the significance of the moment.
(v. 7) “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” – God the Father, in a voice from heaven, is identifying Jesus as His Son (that he loves greatly), and He gives them an instruction, “listen to him.” Think of all that God could have said to the disciples, yet He chose these three words; only three. Listen to him.
The human body has the capability to filter out sound. Right now there are countless sounds around us (your heartbeat, the air conditioning cycling on and off, the sound of your breathing, road noise, the person next to you moving around, etc.) but we filter out all that noise and focus on what is important to us. It is the difference between hearing and listening. Focus.
The only true listening known in the Bible is obedient listening. James 1:22-23 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” So we are to focus on the words of Jesus, so that we may also obey them.
Wiersbe also helps us understand that God speaks and directs them “not on the vision, but on the Word of God; “Listen to Him!” The memory of visions will fade, but the unchanging Word abides forever. The glorious vision was not an end in itself; it was God’s way of confirming the Word (see 2 Peter 1:12-21). Discipleship is not built on spectacular visions but on the inspired, unchanging Word of God.”
The Father from heaven is affirming “Jesus is the unique Son of God who enjoys the unbroken presence and approval of the Father.” Jesus is the one with the plan, stop trying to do your own plan, and listen to Jesus.
Jesus Wants the Disciples to Know That There is More To Come (vv. 9-13)
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
Why does Jesus lead three of the disciples up the mountain, transfigure before them, and then tell them not to tell anyone? What they see will be important later – they needed to know Jesus was fully man (he was hungry, tired, expressed emotions, etc.) but Jesus was also fully God. God wasn’t just with Jesus as He was being the Messiah, but Jesus was God as the Messiah.
Why do we need to know that Jesus is God? If Jesus were any man who had managed to gather a following (Mohammed, Budda) then you can take their words as suggestions, teachings to add to your life. You can take their teachings, or leave their teachings based on if you think they are helpful or not.
Not so with Jesus. If Jesus is God, then when He speaks, then it is the Word of God – and as your Creator has the right to direct you into action. If you reject Jesus’ words, and ignore His life, then you reject and ignore God, and for that there will be consequences.
Even with Jesus speaking plainly to them earlier in the chapter, and here with God speaking, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, they still don’t understand Jesus’ mission involving him suffering and eventually dying, “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.” It is not until Jesus rose from the dead (and Jesus Himself explains it to them), that the significance of his suffering could be grasped by the disciples.
The disciples ask Jesus about the scribe’s teachings regarding Elijah, and Jesus answers them. But then he directs them to consider themselves what the Bible teaches regarding, “And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? Stop worrying about what the scribes say about the Word of God, and start interpreting it through the Words of Jesus. How do we understand and interpret all they seen and experienced? – through the Words of Jesus. He explains it all.
(v. 12) The end of the OT, Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” The religious leaders are correct in teaching that the Bible says that God would send Elijah as a forerunner to the Messiah – But here, Elijah had come after Jesus, and then he left quickly, without connection with the kingdom. Elijah was to come, be a restorer of the people back to God, a preparer of the way of the Lord. John the Baptist fulfilled this role of Elijah when He preached repentance in the wilderness.
There’s a scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion encounter the “real” wizard. You remember, right? The giant screen has shown a powerful, larger-than-life person whose booming voice rings out across Emerald City. Toto pulls back the curtain, however, and everyone finds that the wizard is just a man. It’s all showbiz, lights and amplification.
His cry of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” falls on deaf ears. When the curtain is pulled back, he is seen for what he is. In today’s passage, the curtain is pulled away for just for a moment and we see Jesus in His glory – so now that we know He is God, and we have His Word – what will you do with Jesus?
 W. N. Clarke, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Gospel of Mark (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1950) 126.
 Frank Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 699.
 James McGowan, Twenthy-First Century Biblical Commentary Series, The Gospel of Mark (Chatanooga, Tennessee; AMG Publishers, 2006) 118.
 McGowan, 118.
 William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Eerdsmans Publishing, 1974) 318.
 Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Publishing, 2000) 146.
 Clarke, 127.
 Lane, 316.
 Ex. 13:21; 16:10; 19:9, 16; 24:15-16; 33:9.
 Deuteronomy 18:15f.
 McGowan, 120.
 Lane 321.
 This is the final command to be silent in Mark’s gospel. McGowan, 121.