Disciples Stumped by Unbelief

Unbelief hindered the ability of Jesus to heal some afflicted persons, not lack of fasting or other ritualistic practices - Mark 9:14-29

Stumped - Photo by DAVID NIETO on Unsplash
When Peter, James, and John experienced the Transfiguration of Jesus, the rest of the disciples were ministering nearby. It seems whenever the disciples ministered when Christ was absent, in rather short order, they found themselves in trouble. As soon as the crowd saw Jesus returning from the mountain, they flocked to him, seeking healing and deliverance - [
Stumped - Photo by DAVID NIETO on Unsplash].

But in this instance, the disciples were not at fault. Previously, in Nazareth, Jesus had been unable to perform many miracles because of the unbelief of its inhabitants, and unbelief is the real problem in this case, also - (Mark 6:1-6).

The reference to the “faithless generation” is directed to the crowd more than to the disciples. Mark uses “generation” five times and never applies it to the twelve disciples. Most often, it refers to the generation of Jews contemporary with Jesus, the same one that rejected him - (Mark 8:12 [twice], 8:38, 9:19, 13:30).
  • (Mark 9:14-29) - “And coming to the disciples they saw a large multitude around them, and Scribes discussing with them... And one out of the multitude answered him, Teacher! I brought my son to you, having a dumb spirit, and wherever it seizes him it tears him, and he foams and grinds his teeth, and wears himself out; and I spoke to your disciples that they should cast it out and they could not. But he, having answered, said, ‘O faithless generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me!... And when he had gone into a house his disciples privately were questioning him, ‘Why, were, we, not able to cast it out?’ And he said unto them, ‘This kind by nothing can come out except by prayer.’” - (Parallel passages - Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 9:37-42).
In this account, Jesus treats this encounter as a genuine case of demon possession and acts accordingly. His response to the pleas of the boy’s father demonstrates the problem is not unwillingness or inability on his part to deliver the boy, but instead, unbelief. There was doubt expressed in the words of the father, and he pleaded for Jesus to help his unbelief.

Verse 29 reads, “this kind (of demon) can come out by nothing except by prayer.” The King James Version has added the words, “and fasting” - (“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”). The clause is missing from the most authoritative Greek manuscripts. It is all but certain that a later copyist added it to the original text. Moreover, the sudden introduction of fasting in this context is odd since that subject does not figure in the story.

The problem was lack of faith, not any failure to fast or engage in other ritualistic practices. Jesus routinely exorcised demons by a simple word of command, and without verbal formulas or religious ceremonies. Prayer, taking one’s requests to God, is an expression of genuine faith.




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