37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.
But while they were all marvelling at everything he was doing, Jesus[d] said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among all of you is the one who is great.”
49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Lessons from Jesus
How do we oppose evil? Why did Jesus come? Who is the greatest? Who is on our side? These are questions the disciples wrestled with as they started moving from Galilee to Jerusalem. The nine disciples that Jesus had left behind were unable to perform an exorcism on a particularly hard case. Epileptic symptoms were a sign that a person was particularly tormented. Whether the case was mostly physical or spiritual, the twisting of spirit and body is evil. Through prayer and medical attention we must oppose such evil. To stand by and do nothing in the face of evil is not an option for a Christian. The disciples did try to act, but their faith was not mature enough to know the way forward. Jesus had to show them and he is so far above them that all who see his actions marvel at him. I personally would want to see my faith increase so that I know how and when to pray in power for those who are severely ill. May God grow my faith.
Jesus keeps bringing his disciples away from the idea he is purely a faith healer or great teacher by focusing on his death. Jesus is walking resolutely toward his own sacrifice. He will rise to new life so that others will live that new life with him. However, his disciples can not comprehend what Jesus means. They probably think he is speaking in metaphors. Remember, Jesus often made things obscure so that sincere believers could be drawn out from the masses.
However, even those who sincerely follow him can miss the point. They can use their calling as a basis for power and influence. Jesus’ disciples wrestled with each other for pole position in the group.
Finally, Jesus is gracious in his assertion that his kingdom spreads to those who do not oppose him. This is an inclusive posture. However, on other occasions we see that those who are not for Jesus are against him. There are sides in the cosmos. The nature of reality is divided and there are those who really are on Jesus’ side and there are those who are opposed. We shouldn’t worry too much about the opposition, we should focus on Jesus. In so doing we make sure that we are on the right side of the divide. Hopefully, our sincerely choosing the right side will encourage others to do the same.
Jesus, let me be taught and instructed by you. I know my mind is dull to all that is possible and my faith is weak. Let me be consistent in the side that I choose and let me serve people in a way that is modeled by you.
- What issues do Jesus’ disciples have?
- How does Jesus address each issue?
- Is anyone who doesn’t actively speak out against Jesus a disciple?
- Which of these lessons particularly resonates with you?
- How should you respond?