As they came down from the mountain they saw an excited crowd of people. There were the nine disciples looking troubled and perplexed, and scribes questioning with them. And there was a piteously anxious father with his sick boy, who was possessed by a devil; and besides, there was an excited crowd of on-lookers. The father had brought his child to the disciples to be healed and they could not cast the devil out of the boy. But when the Lord had sent out His disciples to preach and to heal they had been able to cast out devils, and the poor father was grievously disappointed. Now he came to the Lord and told Him about his boy, and how he had brought him to the disciples but they had not been able cast out the evil spirit. "Bring him unto Me," the Lord said. He asked about the sick boy, and the father said he was possessed of a deaf and dumb spirit and that it often cast him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. "But," he cried, "if Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us." But the Lord said, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." Then the poor man cried with tears that he did believe, but prayed the Lord to help him to have greater faith. So the Lord rebuked the evil spirit and commanded it to come out of the boy; and the spirit screamed and tore the child and came out of him, leaving him lying on the ground as if he were dead, but the Lord took him by the hand and he arose.
Afterwards the disciples came to the Lord and asked Him why they had not been able to cast out the evil spirit, and the Lord said to them gently, "This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting." The Lord can only send away the bad and evil feelings and thoughts from us if we trust in Him and pray Him to help us. Every little child must learn to turn quickly to Him and ask His help whenever the bad thoughts and feelings come, and if he asks with all his heart the Lord will take them away every time.
While the Lord and the three disciples were coming down from the mountain, the other disciples were at the foot of the mountain. A multitude was about them, among them a man with his son who had been from a child possessed by an unclean spirit. Tell me of others that we have learned of who were possessed. You remember the man in the synagogue at Capernaum, how the evil spirit in him cried out with fear at the Lord's presence, and tore the poor man as he came out of him. (Mark 1:21-28) You surely remember the man who met the Lord on the east side of the Sea of Galilee who lived in the tombs, exceeding fierce; how he too cried out as the Lord came near, and at His word the devils went out into the swine. (Mark 5:1-17)
In those days evil spirits had power over men such as they do not have now. Even children were possessed and driven by the devils to do harm to themselves and others.
The reason that evil spirits cannot do this today is that the Lord overcame them and protects us from them. He gave a little of His power to the disciples to use in His name, as He sent them out to preach and heal. But the power was all the Lord's; they must always think of it as His and not their own.
Read now of the man and his son, who came to the disciples at the foot of the mountain of transfiguration. What a sad picture! The devil had possessed him from a child; it tried often to destroy him; it cried out with fear at the Lord's presence, and threw down the boy and tore him before it left him. And how plainly the story teaches that the only power to cast out devils, and indeed to overcome any evil, is the Lord's! We have no strength of our own, but only as we trust Him and ask His help.
1. Who met the Lord as He came down from the mountain of transfiguration?
2. How had the evil spirit tried to destroy the boy?
3. What did the Lord do for the boy?
4. Why could not the disciples cure him?
Contrast the scenes in the mountain and at the mountain's foot. Is there sometimes such a difference between our ideals and our realization of them?
Fire and water. The harm which the possessing spirits did to their victims in natural, external ways was representative of the spiritual harm to us if we let evil gain a hold upon us. What two dangers into which evil leads us and from which the Lord saves us, are suggested by the child's falling into the fire and into the water? The fire into which we fall is the burning of evil passion, and the water is the false thought which is the companion of evil. Compare the promise in Isaiah 43:2. (A. 739; E. 504, 518)
When the devil was cast out the boy was as dead, but he received new life from the Lord. So when we let the Lord overcome any evil in us, it is a laying down of the old life to receive a new. If He should in a moment take away all that is not good we should die. Therefore He deals gently with us and takes away the old only as we are able to receive the new.
Belief in the Lord was needed in the father of the boy, before the boy could be healed (but notice the rendering of Mark 9:23 in the Revised Version); and the disciples' lack of power was because of their unbelief. (Matthew 17:20) Recall other times when the Lord required the people to express their faith in Him before giving the blessing they asked, or when the blessing was said to be the result of their faith. (Matthew 8:13; 15:28; Luke 8:50) The reason is that true knowledge and practical living acknowledgment of the Lord give His Divine power access to our souls, to do for us what is impossible while we are ignorant of Him and still more so if we willfully deny and disobey Him. Even the disciples only began to know the great goodness of the Lord; they were men of little faith: and therefore what they could receive was little compared to what He had to give. Read E. 815. See also A. 10083.
Prayer and fasting. There seems to be a suggestion of self-confidence in the disciples' question, "Why could not we cast him out?" which is gently rebuked by the Lord's answer, "This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting": by trusting the Lord with all the heart, confessing our own utter helplessness. Notice that the words which follow in each Gospel teach that the natural, selfish life must die and that heavenly strength comes with trustfulness as of a little child.