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Friday, August 9, 2013

Today’s Reading | Mark 9:14–29

When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” (NRSV)


The urgency in Mark’s good news is palpable. Immediately, immediately, immediately! Three times in this single episode, the author shouts, “Immediately.” We see three responses to Jesus’ presence, as each one speaks from the immediacy of their own emotions and trust.

Jesus approaches the crowd along with Peter, James, and John, who have just witnessed the Transfiguration. “When the crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe and ran forward to greet him.” The powerless, shepherdless crowd responds with reverence and rushes to be near Jesus.

When the evil spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions, casting him to the ground. The evil spirit tried to demonstrate its power by hurting a helpless boy and leaving his family in despair. Jesus exposes the limit of the evil spirit’s power by casting it out and restoring the boy.

The father of the boy is the only one who answers Jesus when he asks what they have been arguing about. The father does not care about the argument and simply blurts out the truth of his need and despair. When Jesus offers a word of hope, the father immediately responds in truth, “I believe! Help my unbelief.”

To me it seems they each responded according to how much power they imagined they possessed. The one who had an illusion of power immediately resisted Jesus’ presence and was forever cast out. The crowd who had experienced powerlessness was drawn to Jesus and greeted him. The man who knew profound helplessness as he tried to care for his son, the one who was most honest with Jesus, was the one most transformed—along with his son.


Lord God, how often I try to hide my needs from you. How often I want to handle things myself because I fear facing my own limitations and sin. Open my eyes to your presence and free me to cry out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Amen.

Written by Patty Jenkins, Former Director of the Center for Life and Learning

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