By Robert Olsen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
The Challenge (17–20)
In Mark 9, Jesus is transfigured on the mountain in front of Peter, James and John. This is Jesus showing His true glory, affirming that He is the promised, divine Messiah. However, when the disciples come down from the mountain experience, they are thrust right back into the issues of the world.
A man brought his son to be healed by the disciples, but they couldn’t do it. It must have been frustrating and humiliating for them to fail at a task in which they had previously succeeded.
This is a lesson to us not to become so confident that we begin to trust in our own abilities instead of remembering that it is God who works through us.
Often when we have a spiritually uplifting experience, we feel like we can take on the world. We have seen our faith in action and the power of God at work. These are the times when Satan tries to knock us down.
The Admission (21–24)
It is interesting to note that the father in this story claims to believe and yet recognizes his unbelief. How can one both believe and have unbelief?
All Christians believe the promises of God. We know God works all things for our good (Rom. 8:28), and yet we often fail to really live this out. Even though we do believe, we find that our faith is small. We should admire that the father can see his lack of faith, but we also should admire that he goes to Jesus for help.
In times when we fail to live out our faith — when we doubt or worry — the correct response is to go to God and confess it and ask for God to increase our faith and trust in Him.
The Demonstration (25–29)
First, it is important to recognize that demon possession is a real phenomenon. Some modern readers think that when the Bible speaks of demon possession, it is really just a lack of understanding of things like epilepsy and sickness. The Bible writers knew the difference.
The important thing for Christians to understand is that we cannot be possessed because the Holy Spirit, who is God, lives within us (1 Cor. 6:19), and demons are not more powerful than God.
It is also important to recognize that there is spiritual warfare going on around us.
We need not fear it, however. The demons must do whatever Jesus tells them to because Jesus is God in human flesh. There is no hesitation. The demons respond at once because they have no other choice than to obey God.
How often do we try to do ministry in our own strength? A former professor I worked with often said, “Be careful that you don’t get so caught up in doing the work of the Kingdom that you forget the King.”
Jesus reminds His disciples that prayer is the key because prayer shows our dependence on God. We can never lose sight of our dependence on God, even in times of success.