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"When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them. A man called from out of the crowd, 'Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He's my only child. Suddenly he's screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black-and-blue before it leaves. I asked your disciples to deliver him but they couldn't.'" Luke 9:37-40 (The Message).
This is strange. Not long before this, the disciples went out on a preaching tour, authorised by Jesus, and were very successful. They did everything He sent them to do including casting out demons. Why were they incapable of evicting this one?
The description of this demon's vicious activity in the boy seems to indicate that it was a particularly nasty and tenacious spirit that had hold of him. It was not about to give way easily and made its intentions known. The disciples were obviously intimidated by its resistance and perhaps believed that it was more powerful than they were, and they gave up.
The boy's father was relieved to see Jesus and wasted no time in pleading for His help. Jesus' reaction to His disciples' failure revealed His exasperation with them. They had been with Him long enough to know how to deal with the opposition from the dominion of darkness.
"Jesus said. ’What a generation! No sense of God! No focus in your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here.'" Luke 9:41 (The Message).
This paraphrase captures the essence of the disciples' failure and Jesus' frustration. He perpetually lived in the environment of God's presence. His God-awareness kept Him from being intimidated by apparently uncontrollable circumstances and enabled Him to restore to wholeness what the evil one was using to destroy people. Demons were part of the devil's arsenal of destructive weapons against people whom they had overpowered but Jesus easily overpowered them because He, not the devil, is Lord.
Jesus knew that the power of God and the kingdom of God were greater than Satan's power and in that awareness and environment He ordered demons to leave. The disciples, on the other hand, were yet to live in the mind-set of God's presence and power. They had not yet grasped the authority that they had in Him.
"While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the vile spirit gone, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God's greatness, God's majestic greatness." Luke 9:41-42 (The Message).
This demon was a show-off! He had to have his last fling before he left. But leave he had to, because he knew who had authority over him. In Mark's version of the story, after this final thrashing, the boy seemed to be dead but Jesus had him up on his feet, healed and delivered, and handed him back to his relieved father.
The disciples were puzzled, according to Mark (Mark 9:28-29). Why did they have no power over this demon? Jesus' reply is equally puzzling. The implication of His response seems to be that, before they could cast out the demon, they had to spend time in prayer. But that was not practical.
Prayer is essentially not about getting our needs met. Jesus said that that was the Father's responsibility. Prayer is about developing a God-awareness that places us, like Jesus, in the environment of God's presence and power.
Circumstances overwhelm us because they are more real to us than God. The more time we spend engaging with God and opening our spirits to His Spirit, the more real He becomes to us in the difficult circumstances of our lives. This is the essence of faith -- and the outcome is God's intervention to bring us a step closer to wholeness.
God is as real and powerful to us as we want Him to be.
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