Authorised for Action
Like the authority of flashing blue lights which attract crowds to an incident, the powerful presence of Jesus was always a magnet. The scene started with nine disciples (Peter, James and John were up the mountain with Jesus to witness the transfiguration), a distressed father and his son who was being controlled by a demon (Mark 9:14). A crowd gathered to see what the disciples would do; but they could not heal the boy. Religious lawyers joined in, trying to prove that Jesus was a fake healer (Mark 9:17-18). More people joined the crowd to see what would happen.
Then Jesus arrived. In full view of the disciples, who could not drive out the demon (and the crowds who saw their failure), Jesus addressed the evil spirit. The command was explicit, stern and left no room for satanic manoeuvre. The effect was striking: a violent convulsion and then the boy's inert body lay on the ground. Was he dead? The onlookers thought so. Satan had done his worst, but Jesus was firmly in control. Taking hold of the limp hand on the ground, Jesus gently raised the boy by the hand to a new life (Mark 8:23).
This was a Satan-defeating miracle, and also a parable for the disciples. First, Jesus physically brought the boy to his feet – healing the disability, enabling him to hear and speak, proving that Satan no longer had the right to dictate his lifestyle. It was a demonstration that no power, however strong or evil, can ever stand against the authority of Jesus. Secondly, as with all Jesus' parables, it was a tutorial for the trainee apostles. Talking them through the episode, Jesus taught a vital lesson that would be essential for the church in every age. He let them ask why they failed to expel the demon: they were wise not to let the day pass without resolving the dilemma. The disciples needed to understand that they could not work for God unless they worked with God! It was not a power formula they needed, but a relationship with God and His authority to act. Prayer was the essential starting point which they had forgotten.
This lesson needs continual relearning by the church; members and their leaders alike. The purpose of Jesus' work is to destroy Satan's work (1 John 3:8). This is not a matter of philosophy, but of divine power. Nobody except Jesus has such spiritual authority. So, to attempt to work for Jesus, but without Him, especially in the face of such devilish opposition - is naively foolish in the extreme (Acts 19:13-16). The reasons why we might try to work for God in our own strength range from ignorance to arrogance to stupidity. These verses give us the opportunity to reflect and repent: time to confess both our faith and our weakness and allow the Lord to work in us, before He can work through us.
© Dr Paul Adams