The Possessed Boy at the Foot of Mount Tabor -James Tissot

The Miracle of the Healing of a Demon-Possessed Boy

Now, be honest, how often do you feel like you're talking to a blank wall when you pray? One reason we feel that way is because we aren't listening. We're just babbling. Another reason is because of our lack of faith. Jesus becomes exasperated with his disciples for their lack of faith. He sighs, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" Why did he utter these words before healing a demon-possessed boy? Did he not have compassion for crazy situation?

Cause Healing Demon-Possessed Boy
Material: Mute boy with seizures
Formal: Boy restored
Efficient: Prayer, faith, obedience
Final: Salvation, glory of God
Aristotle's Four Causes

Jesus' frustration was aimed not at the boy nor his father, but at his own disciples. He had just been up on the mountain with Peter, James and John, where the transfiguration had taken place, and upon returning he found that the other disciples had been trying to cure the demon-possessed boy. Not only were they not having success, but they had also entered into an argument with the teachers of the law. Those tricksters weren't to be argued with and neither are they today. Only Jesus was effective at that. And it's only through his Spirit that we can engage in those arguments today. On my own devises, I will fail as much as you will, no matter how smart we think we are.

So, exasperated with his disciples' lack of faith, their inability to heal the boy and the fight they got into with the teachers of the law, Jesus turns his attention to the boy's father, consults with him, and commands the evil spirit to leave the boy.

All of the synoptic gospels contain this event, but the version from Mark provides the most detail.

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

"What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."

"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"

"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Mark 9:14-29

Like the other exorcisms in the gospels, Jesus has complete control of the evil spirits. Jesus speaks and they obey. But what I find particularly fascinating about this event is what is recorded afterward. His disciples ask him privately why they couldn't drive out the demon. Jesus explains, "This kind can only come out by prayer." I can imagine that the disciples had been yelling at the boy, "Come out, you demon!" And the demon just laughed, while the boy continued having his seizure and the teachers of the law just gathered around to poke fun at the disciples. Then, as the boy continued to suffer, the disciples engaged in a battle of words with the teachers of the law. What a sad and unfortunate scene. So, no wonder, Jesus responds with impatience directed at his disciples.

Jesus then turned his attention to the desperate father of the boy who called out to Jesus for mercy and begged him to "help me overcome my unbelief."

What we are finding from this event is that prayer and faith are practically synonymous. The point is further driven into us when we read Matthew's version of the story.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:19-20

Notice how in Matthew it is recorded that Jesus said that it was their lack of faith that kept them from driving out the demon. An act of true faith is a form prayer. God unites himself with us. We enter into Jesus when we pray. Likewise, prayer is faith. True prayer is an act of faith, where we discover our relationship with God and his will for us. The writer of Hebrews express this in this way: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Prayer is faith-speak. We express our unseen hope and our unseen longing to God. And he responds to us. He clarifies the reality of Himself and his guiding hand in our life through confidence and assurance.

The disciples were yelling at the demon, but they had no assurance from God that the boy was going to be healed. They thought it was in their power, but they did not have faith to confirm this with the Father. If they had, they would have been provided the confidence and assurance, that faith which says, "Behold, I am making all things new."

So, when we pray, we too must not think we are talking to a blank wall. When we speak, we must listen for that confidence and assurance. God is always near and he is listening to our hopes and dreams. Not only does he want to make all things new, but he wants to make me and you new as well.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:9-13

Tags: commentary, miracles