~by Pastor Mike
This post is part of a series on the miracles of Jesus. Each week I will look at one miracle performed by Jesus to explore its meaning and significance. I’ll be using several resources to help me out, including an excellent new book by Pastor Jared C. Wilson titled “The Wonder Working God,” published by Crossway.
Sometimes it is thought that God and the Devil are locked in some sort of cosmic battle, that evil is the opposite equal of good. However, if we are looking to scripture to help us better understand these forces, we will find a pretty clear contradiction to that line of thinking.
Satan makes his presence known very early on in the story of the Kingdom. We should note though, that he only makes his entrance after “God created the heavens and the earth,” and not before. Genesis 3 tells us that his scheming against God’s good creation is at first successful, but bis triumph did not last long. He is cursed, along with humankind and all creation.
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” (Gen. 3:14)
But there is also included, in this opening act, a promise along with the curse.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
This has been termed the “first gospel” by theologians throughout the ages. It is the first glimpse that this is not a fair fight, nor is it an equal exchange. God speaks. The serpent listens. No arguing, no bickering, simply it is so.
It should come as no surprise then that all of Jesus’ miracles are echos of this great promise. As I have suggested in previous weeks, Jesus comes to set straight all that has been bent. This week’s miracle comes from Mark chapter 9, when Jesus is approached by a man whose son is possessed by a demon.
The man describes his son’s ailments much like we might describe epilepsy. Apparently the boy would regularly convulse and foam at the mouth. But, before we decide that these people were primitive and had no understanding of modern medicine, we should study the rest of the details. The passage goes on to tell us that “when the spirit saw [Jesus], immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.” (Mark 9:20)
The boy’s father adds an additional detail that “it has often cast him into fire and water, to destroy him.” This does not sound like a medical misunderstanding. The people of Jesus day did not always equate sickness with demon possession, and they were not as superstitious as we might think.
If we give Mark some credit and take this story at face value, then a real-life demon possession seems to be what is described. When the man asks if Jesus can heal the boy, Jesus responds by saying “all things are possible for one who believes,” seemingly challenging this poor father’s faith. But to his tremendous credit, the man proceeds to speak one of the most honest and sincere explanations of faith found in all of scripture:
I believe; help my unbelief! (vs. 24)
An incredible response to the presence of God and something we would do well to take note of. This man, with a sick boy, deeply desires healing for his son. He knows he is at a loss if left to his own devices, and yet he does not lie or paint a picture rosier than reality. He recognizes his own doubts, admits his struggles, and knows what he doesn’t know: “help my unbelief.” Yet he is also able to say “I believe.”
So how does the God of all creation respond to this not-so-sure faith?
[Jesus said,] “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And 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 arose. (vs. 25-27)
“He arose.” At the power of Jesus’ words the demonic spirit had no choice but to leave the boy. No arguing. No bickering. Simply it is so. The power of Satan, and the domain of death is being dismantled stone by stone.
This story gives us permission to doubt. It helps us to understand our weaknesses. The spiritual realm holds many unknowns, and we rational, thinking, logical people tend not to do well with that which is concealed. But if there is one thing this story also might show us, it is that we should doubt our doubts. This father had doubts, yet Jesus conquered. The crowds had doubts, yet Jesus conquered. Those at the foot of the cross had doubts, yet Jesus conquered. We may have many doubts…
Quoting from Jared C. Wilson once again:
“There is a well-worn rule of playwrighting that goes like this: if you introduce a gun in the first act, it must be fired in the last. And because God is an excellent storyteller, what has been suggested in the first act (Genesis 3:15) shows up in the last:”
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:2, 10)