March 10, 2018
Somebody from the crowd tells Jesus his problem: a possessed son, and the disciples failed to exorcize him while Jesus was off up the mountain with the 3 disciples who start the team line-up.
Jesus snarls at the ‘faithless generation’ – how long do I have to put up with it? What a grumpy guy, this Jesus of Mark’s gospel! He is mad at everybody, not just the disciples now – nobody gets it, this collision of God’s world and our world – the latter world looking bad.
The spirit responds to Jesus, by throwing the possessed boy onto the ground in a fit. Jesus asks if this is new – the father says it’s not just in reaction to Jesus, but is a lifelong chronic pattern – the spirit is always casting him into fire and water, into pain.
‘If you can do anything’ – Jesus snaps ‘IF?’ – if I can do it? How about if you believe it? The father stops blaming and confesses: ‘I believe, help my unbelief!’
So Jesus calls out the spirit – and calls it out and sends it off – and what’s left of the boy looks dead to folks. But Jesus lifts up the weak invalid, who can then stand…
Pause, and compare the story to others in the first half gospel. This one can’t hear or speak – but it is an exorcism, not a healing with Jesus’ spit. This father is not as confident in Jesus as was Jairus about his daughter – but this kid too looked dead when Jesus acted. Is our disposition a matter of cognitive belief, or of trust, or is it (remember?) ex opera operata?
Cut away, in ‘the movie between your ears’ to a private tutorial with the disciples, away from the crowd. Like the interpretation of the parables, the disciples want a ‘Coles Notes’ explanation of how they had failed and how Jesus succeeded.
‘This kind can come out only through prayer’… Is this addressing the 12 in real Jesus time – or the early church or Mark’s church – and us? Are our exorcism skills and results a bit wanting? How are we failing? Do we pray? How, for what? Again, we hear that he taught, but not what or how. Now what, for us?
Someone from the crowd answered him,
‘Teacher, I brought you my son;
he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak;
and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down;
and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid;
and I asked your disciples to cast it out,
but they could not do so.’
He answered them,
‘You faithless generation,
how much longer must I be among you?
How much longer must I put up with you?
Bring him to me.’
And they brought the boy to him.
When the spirit saw him,
immediately it threw the boy into convulsions,
and he fell on the ground and rolled about,
foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the father,
‘How long has this been happening to him?’
And he said,
It has often cast him
into the fire
and into the water,
to destroy him;
but if you are able to do anything,
have pity on us and help us.’
Jesus said to him,
‘If you are able!—
All things can be done
for the one who believes.’
the father of the child cried out,
help my unbelief!’
When Jesus saw
that a crowd came running together,
he rebuked the unclean spirit,
saying to it,
that keep this boy
from speaking and hearing,
I command you,
come out of him,
and never enter him again!’
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.’
But Jesus took him by the hand
and lifted him up,
and he was able to stand.
When he had entered the house,
his disciples asked him privately,
‘Why could we not cast it out?’
He said to them,
‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’