Seeing Is Believing

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the experts in the law arguing with them (Mark 9:14 NET).
Seeing is believing, some say. In Mark’s account of the disciples’ failure to cast out a demon, he uses the verb “to see” three times and directs our attention to Jesus through the act of seeing.
Failure begets confusion, blame and doubt. Jesus descended the mountain where he had been transfigured before his three closest friends, Peter, James and John. The other nine had been busy in the meantime. And had royally messed things up. By the time Jesus got back, they had a disappointed and disbelieving father with a demon-possessed child still on his hands and no idea what to do. Likely several of them had attempted, perhaps several times, to expel the demon, since the father told Jesus that “they were not able to do so” (v. 18).
Their failure, like a roadside wreck that attracts rubberneckers and gawkers, had gathered a crowd. Then descended the experts who were probably telling them where they went wrong. Or chastising them for the attempt.
Jesus, even if tempted to go back up on the mountain, descended and dove into the crowd to discern the nature of the problem. He asked what they were arguing about. Jesus saw their predicament and will now fix the problem.
What a willingness to bless us! What patience, even as he upbraids us! (v. 19). What persistence to teach us! Jesus sees and comes to our aid.
The text does not say why the crowd was amazed when Jesus appeared (v. 15). Undoubtedly, he was the topic of conversation, even though the failure belonged to the disciples. Most leaders would probably prefer to make themselves scarce when their underlings goof. The superior distances himself from the lackey when the latter makes a mistake. The smart politician fires the staffer who embarrasses the boss.
Not so Jesus! Perhaps this is the source of the crowds’ amazement. When it looks as if his movement might be headed for disaster, the Master appears! He’s not about to hang his underlings out to dry. He is ever the consummate rescuer. At the crucial moment, Jesus appears and takes charge.
He orders the boy be brought to him and when they do, the spirit sees the Lord and immediately throws the boy in its possession into a convulsion. But Jesus is concerned not only with the boy, but with the father as well. What might seem to us to be insensitivity as Jesus engages the father in conversation, while the boy rolls on the ground, is the repair of faith. The spirit has seen Jesus, but the father yet needs to perceive that Jesus can and will come to his aid. And he moves from “If you can” to “I believe.” Only then does Jesus rebuke the spirit and heal the boy.
Our Lord is almost nonchalant about the powers of evil. His main concern is our response of faith. The forces of evil panic at his appearance. He’s not worried about them. He wants to provoke in us a confession of faith.
Jesus sees what’s happening in our lives and the mistakes we make. He allows us to make them and learn from them. But he is the one who comes among the looking crowd and the emboldened evil to put things right and teach us that, without him, we can do nothing.

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