37 And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him. 38 And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. 39 And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. 40 And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. 41 And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. 42 And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
Failed authorities. Desperation. Religious amateurs. Evil’s “fierce face”. Wimping out.
People came to Jesus from the time it was known that He was able to heal any disease and cast out any demon. By the time we get to verses 37-43, the name of Jesus is at least as well known to the population as Herod’s, and held in far greater esteem. Obviously, the Pharisees and Sadducees hadn’t demonstrated much ability regarding diseases and demons, or there wouldn’t have been such a massive “backlog of patients waiting to be seen.”
We know that there were some among the religious hierarchy who were at least somewhat capable at casting out demons, because in Luke 11:18-20, Jesus responded to an accusation by the Pharisees with these words:
“And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
We just read a couple weeks ago about the disciples being sent out on their first “authorized” mission to heal all diseases and cast out demons. Then they had their faith stretched even more when King Jesus involved them in feeding five thousand men plus women and children – with five small loaves of bread and two fish, and no tuna helper. And they had, what a coincidence, twelve baskets full left over. (I would like to have heard their thoughts as they sat down to that meal! 😀 )
So how does this happen, that one man brings one demon-possessed boy to the disciples and they can’t handle the job?
It seems that this demon was big on fierce displays. This poor boy was having a horrible time with this demon. If, a reasonable assumption, the disciples saw this, they may well have been intimidated by the ferocity of the demon. May have thought, “I can’t handle this one!” They may, to put it bluntly, have been scared. I don’t blame them. People in this age talk casually about demons and casting them out. Unbelievers use the words “demon” and “devil” to give potency to songs, etc. Demons are not to be taken casually. They are highly dangerous, far more powerful than we are, and powerful in ways we can’t begin to understand. They look at us with contempt and a burning hatred, because we are created in the image of the God Whom they rebelled against. The God Who slapped them down with no effort at all, and they thought they were bad boys. Now He centers the attention of the Universe (1st Peter 1:12; Daniel 4:17) on this soft, foolish race of bipeds. (That’s us.) And hurting, humiliating, degrading, human beings has become the closest thing they will ever experience to pleasure:
“Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan has asked excessively that [all of] you be given up to him [out of the power and keeping of God], that he might sift [all of] you like grain …” (Luke 22:31, Amplified Classic Bible)
If that doesn’t freeze your blood, I don’t know what to say. “Out of the power and keeping of God“. Jurassic Park isn’t even in the same league. Only God’s protection stands between us and ultimate evil.
I think that somehow the disciples got a whiff of the savage hatred and the total depravity of this demon. Those of us who have been unfortunate enough to have a similar experience can readily understand.
But Jesus was exasperated with the disciples. He had equipped them to deal with this, had given them experience in dealing with this, and they had let themselves be intimidated. We have instructions not to be similarly intimidated:
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1st Peter 5:8-9)
Note in those two passages that submitting ourselves to God (James) and humbling ourselves before God (Peter, v. 6) come first. No one should be lunatic enough to try to resist any demon without God’s help.
There followed one of the few moments of harshness that King Jesus displayed toward His disciples: ” ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation!’ Jesus replied, ‘How long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
I fear to ask how many times God has been this exasperated with me.
And Jesus dealt with the demon immediately and that was over. Sort of. But there were more human failings – yes, immediately – that the disciples had to come to grips with in themselves. Tune in next week for the next thrilling instalment of “Luke Like You’re Never Read It Before”.