“On Your Mark”
An Impotent Church (Chapter 9 Verses 14-32)
The Lord, it would seem, still bore some of that radiance (v15). The disciples in spite of their mountain-top experience are powerless, because they are faithless, so it appears. An unbelieving Church, is an impotent Church. The man has a problem son (vv16-19), with an evil spirit, more than just ordinary epilepsy. The problem is a spiritual one, and surely comes within the scope of the Church’s remit. There are three definite problem areas that Jesus points out, that would leave any group of disciples or a Church useless in terms of ministry. One is lack of faith (v19), two is lack of prayer (v29), and three is lack of discipline, fasting (v29av). All areas of Christian discipline, which if neglected, the world (v14) will simply mock us, and evil will continue to prevail (v18b). Jesus expected more than this from his disciples. Hence the pained expression ‘how long shall I suffer you’ (v19). In order to increase in faith, we must be faithful in prayer (Romans 12.12), and continue in our calling by love. The one feeds the other.
Be assured it is the disciples who are being rebuked for lack of faith here (vv19-22), Jesus equates them with their present generation. No doubt the demon is enraged at the very sight of the Lord Jesus (v20). The child is beyond human help (v22). Perhaps the social workers have been tried, the psychologists, the faith-healers, and so now the father comes to Jesus. Perhaps as a last resort? He has faith though (v24). The answer given him by Jesus of course is the answer to all the ills of a sin-ridden world, faith! Wherever you find humankind you will find trouble, man is born to it, and conceived in it (Job 5.7; Psalm 51.5), original sin is the problem. It is the source of all disease, anxiety, violence, and ultimately death (Romans 5.12). Our first parents brought crashing down on the whole of humanity all this mess of trouble. But there is only one escape route, faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The trouble is that so often in this century, especially the Church, has been trying to treat the symptoms instead of the disease. All the troubles of the human race are simply the manifestation of a deeper problem, sin in the heart (Jeremiah 17.9), and its consequence (Psalm 7.11). The answer of course is for the Church to get back to its original God-given commission (Matthew 28.19ff), to preach the gospel in all its fullness, and in the power of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 2.4; 1Peter 1.12). The Holy Ghost is withdrawn.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)