shall take today’s Scripture in its pieces, for the sake of the lesson. But do
remember these things all happened on the same day, in very short order. They
are connected; they tell us of life in the kingdom.
When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large
crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the
entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.
And He asked them, "What are you discussing with them?" And one of the crowd
answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which
makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and
he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your
disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." And He *answered them
and *said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long
shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" They brought the boy to Him. When
he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling
to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He
asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said,
"From childhood. "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the
water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help
us!" And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him
who believes." Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do
believe; help my unbelief." When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly
gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute
spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." After
crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the
boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" But
Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. When He came into
the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not
drive it out?" And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything
(Mark 9:14-29 NASB)
Arguing with the Pharisees
that we are talking here of the “other disciples” – the ones who did not see
the Transfiguration. As is often the case, we can see the difficulty the
disciples are having not by what they are doing but by what they are not
doing. They are arguing with people. They are concentrating on winning the
argument, and so sacrifice healing for debating points.
argument, clearly, concerns the demon possessed boy. Recall that the Pharisees
most certainly believe in demon possession; they believe in exorcism – they
just don’t believe in Jesus. They are, however, experienced debaters. They
have managed to get the argument on their own terms here; debate, rather than
simple fact of the matter is this: Without prayer equals without power.
Rather than debate these people, they should have gone to their heavenly Father
Jesus approaches this knotty little argument, we see his approach to the
problem. It is very different from the Pharisees and the disciples.
by asking what they are arguing about, he simply points out the
absurdity. They are arguing over this exorcism. Either the disciples
can do it, or they must appeal to Christ. What’s to argue about?
displayed the disciples’ problem, he next goes on to tell them the
solution – and to give vent to his disappointment with them. The matter
is one of faith, he tells them.
such a statement is not sufficient for the boys father. “If you can help”
arises, a statement which challenges both Christ’s power and his love.
Christ’s response is simply to ask for the smallest of obedience: bring
the boy here.
statement is a classic; it reflects the view of so many of us. I believe (I
really do, Lord) – but I need some help with it. There is just enough faith
here to allow that it is possible.
please, that this is not the cynic demanding a sign, for no such sign is
given the cynic. The father genuinely believes.
mistake is to doubt “whether or not.” He is asking the wrong question.
The right question is “Who is this Jesus?” If he is not from God, all the
belief in the world will not help. If he is, then praise God.
the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace? Their faith extended
beyond circumstance; whether God chose to save or not, He is still God.
matter is rather simple for most of us. We believe – and we’d be a lot happier
about it if God gave us the power to work miracles. But remember: power in
us, that’s magic. Power in Him, that’s faith.
From there they went out and began to go through Galilee,
and He did not want anyone to know about it. For He was teaching His
disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the
hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will
rise three days later." But they did not understand this statement, and they
were afraid to ask Him. They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the
house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But
they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which
of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to
them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of
all." Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He
said to them, "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me;
and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."
(Mark 9:30-37 NASB)
The example of humility
the Transfiguration showed his glory, his death on the cross showed his
humility. Jesus died the death of a despised criminal. He has now chosen to
take his disciples away from the crowds to teach them. Teach them what?
Humility. You cannot help but contrast his humility in going to death on a
cross – which is what he is talking about – with their pride in being first.
often our pride is an embarrassment to us! Is it not like God to puncture our
pride when it surfaces?
Teaching with formality
is a certain style to the lesson. He does not ask them what they are arguing
about while they are arguing about it, on the road, with the crowds near by.
He waits until they are behind closed doors. If you need to have your pride
punctured, it is best done gently.
then sits down. This is the picture of a rabbi holding a formal time of
instruction. We still speak of people who “take the chair” of a meeting,
meaning to take charge of. If you need to have your pride punctured, it is
best done with dignity.
lesson is short (pun intended) and to the point. He takes a convenient example
at hand, a small child. In those days children were held to be the lowest
members of society (a position now reserved for Junior High students). The
example is clear to them. If you need your pride punctured, it is best done
with a practical example.
The lesson itself
lesson is remarkably economical in words. Christ lays out three principles of
conduct in the kingdom of God:
it is a kingdom of servants. If you follow the website on which these
lessons are posted, you will notice a page marked “Web Servant.” Most
sites have a page for the Webmaster; but this is not appropriate for the
kingdom of God – in which there is but one true master.
that kingdom extends to “all who will.” One’s status in society, high or
low, makes no difference.
it makes so little difference that we can safely say that many who now
appear to be in high position will be found to be in low position.
Indeed, finding the best “team player” is often difficult. Finding the
worst usually is not.
Who the work is for
the work is lowly (and it often is) we should consider who we’re working for –
the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It just appears to be for the church
the task seems a low one, we should do it nonetheless – for the task is
for the highest.
task therefore deserves to be done as well as possible. Give of your best
to the Master, as the old hymn says.
task also therefore deserves to be done cheerfully, as God loves a cheerful
John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out
demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not
following us." But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who
will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil
of Me. "For he who is not against us is for us. "For whoever gives you a cup
of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say
to you, he will not lose his reward. "Whoever causes one of these little
ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy
millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. "If your hand
causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life
crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the
unquenchable fire, [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT
QUENCHED.] "If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for
you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,
[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] "If your eye
causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the
kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,
where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. "For everyone
will be salted with fire. "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty,
with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at
peace with one another."
(Mark 9:38-50 NASB)
For and against
here lays out another principle of life in the kingdom of God. It’s binary, as
the computer types would say. You’re in, or you’re out. How is this?
by his very nature, by the claims he makes about who He is, forces this
choice. You cannot mildly approve of Jesus Christ.
of this nature – in or out – we are not to judge others. If they are not
Christ’s servant, then our mission is to evangelize them. We need know
nothing more than the fact that they are sinners like us. If they are
Christ’s servants, who are we to judge them?
commonly, however, do we put barriers in the way of Christ’s servants.
You cannot serve Jesus unless you are a member of the right church;
worshiping in the right way. All this is pain to the Lord who prayed that
we might be one.
Caring for the least
that we understand “in and out,” we can see why we are commanded to care for
even the least in the kingdom of heaven. We don’t really know who will truly
be the least (or most) when Christ returns, but we do know his command is to
care for all of our fellow Christians.
at it this way: suppose you do a favor for one of my children. For example,
one friend got my son a summer job during his college years. My son should be
grateful; I certainly am. Now if I (a sinner) can understand such gratitude
for good things, how much more does this apply to Christ, and to God the
No half way
all the principles of the kingdom of God, this is likely the least popular.
Christ puts up with no half way measures. He gives you three examples here:
– it is better for you to stay away from some places than to wind up in
hell. For most of us there are such places. Some have signs on the door
saying “adults only.” Others have signs in our hearts.
– it is better for you to avoid doing some things than to wind up in
hell. Some of us are not to be trusted with a drink in our hands. Some
of us are not to be trusted with money in them either.
– it is better for you not to gaze upon some things than to wind up in
hell. Pornography is not a victimless crime.
The principle of “salt”
sums it up: have salt in yourselves and be at peace with each other. Salt?
the Old Testament it was a symbol of purification (we still gargle with
salt water). We need to keep ourselves pure – not half way pure.
the Old Testament grain offerings which were “first fruits” were salted.
We need to present our first and best to our Lord.
the New Testament, we are told
that our speech is to be seasoned with salt – meaning that it should be
full of grace.
these things we can find peace in the kingdom of God. By keeping ourselves
pure; by doing our best for our Lord; and by keeping our speech gracious and
kind we keep peace in the kingdom.
look like isolated instances, but I think not. The basic call to follow Jesus
is rooted firmly in faith. If you will walk with him, you will walk in
humility. You will share that walk with many others of many different views;
maintain peace with them in your purity, best work and gracious speech.