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LESSON 6 - MODERN DEMONS (MARK 9:14-29)

Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week we study a story of healing that involves
demon possession. Let's get into this unique study.


I. THE ARGUMENT

     A. Jesus took three of His disciples, Peter, James and John,
     with Him up to a mountain where they met with Moses and
     Elijah. God the Father passed by and acknowledged Jesus as His
     Son. What a day! But it was not over. As they come down from
     the mountain they walk into the subject of our study this
     morning. Turn with me to Mark 9:14-18. Read.

     B. Tell me what you know about the argument that was taking
     place?

          1. Is it big? (Once again we have our typical "large" 
          crowd.  The argument is so big that you can hear it at a
          distance outside of the crowd!)

          2. Who are the parties to the argument? (Nine disciples
          v. "teachers of the law.")

          3. What is the subject of the argument? (The healing of
          a mute boy.)

               a. What is there to argue about that?  Do you think
               that anyone was arguing that he should remain a
               mute? The pro-mute v. the anti-mute faction?)

          4. What else are we told that helps us to understand this
          argument? (The father tells us the disciples have been
          unable to heal his son.)

     C. Does Mark reveal the exact nature of the argument? (No. 
     But reading "between the lines" and knowing human nature is
     probably unchanged over the centuries will help us unravel
     this. Put on your "reading between the lines glasses.")

     D. Before the father brought his son to the nine disciples, 
     what kind of mood do you think they were in? (They had been
     left behind.  They where not "chosen."  The favorites, Peter,
     James and John had been chosen by Jesus.)

          1. Did they feel unimportant? (Certainly less important.)

               a. Do you think they cared? (You bet! Just a few 
               verses later, in Mark 9:33-34 we find they were
               arguing about who would be the greatest!)

          2. Did the nine disciples want to prove their importance?
          (Sure.)

          3. Did the nine disciples have any reason to believe they
          could heal this boy? (Yes. In Mark 6:7-13 they were given
          power over evil spirits and they in fact healed and drove
          out demons.)

     E. Do you think the "teachers of the law" thought the
     disciples could heal? (They did not even think that Jesus
     could do this by the power of God.  They said He got his power
     from Satan. (Luke 11:15))

     F. Look at verse 16. Who does Jesus ask this question? (No 
     doubt the nine disciples.)

          1. Do the nine answer the question? (No.)

          2. Why not? (Bet they did not particularly want to 
          discuss this in public. See, Mark 9:28)

     G. Now paint for me the picture of this argument? Tell me what
     your "reading between the lines glasses" have revealed to you.
     (The disciples were standing around, feeling left out and
     unimportant. Anxious to "prove" their importance, when the
     father comes with his demon-possessed boy, they decide to
     "flex their spiritual muscles" and heal him. The teachers of
     the law believe they cannot do it. The teachers of the law
     turn out to be right. The "healing" doesn't work. So an
     argument ensues about whether the disciples really have the
     power to heal. No doubt the argument spills over to the
     question of whether their Master can heal.)

II. THE FAITH FAILURE

     A. Let's skip ahead in our story a bit to verses 28-29. Read.
     Why couldn't the nine disciples heal the boy?

          1. Had they simply forgotten to pray?

          2. Did Jesus pray before He healed the boy? Is that 
          revealed?

          3. If Jesus is not talking about forgetting to pray, what
          is He talking about?

     B. Let's bring in another account of this story. Keep your 
     finger in Mark 9, and turn with me to Matthew 17:19-20.

          1. How could such a conflict be in the Bible? Is one of
          the accounts wrong?

               a. How do you explain these two different answers?
               The "little faith" and "prayer" answers?

     C. Read Mark 9:19. Is this yet a third answer to why the 
     disciples could not heal the boy -- that they did not
     "believe?"

(This is why we spent so much time on the argument. The disciples
were out to "prove" they were important. Jesus says to them that
casting out demons (healing, etc) is a power that comes from God.
Thus, He answered (Mark 9) that they did not "pray" -- they did not
rely on power from above.  This is consistent with Matt. 17 where
Jesus says that a lack of faith was the problem. Lack of faith is
lack of faith in God, as opposed to a lack of faith in their self-
importance. This is also consistent with Jesus saying that they did
not "believe" and therefore they should bring the boy to Jesus
(Mark 9:19/Matt. 17:17).  We are to always bring our problems to
Jesus with the attitude that He, not us, can solve them.)

III. FAITH SUCCESS

     A. Let's read the section we skipped and learn more about this
     boy's condition and the faith of his father. Read Mark 9:19-
     27.

     B. Put yourself in the father's place. Would your experience
     with the disciples lead you to believe that Jesus could heal
     your son? (Probably not.) 

          1. If you go to a doctor, and you get worse, does that
          improve your faith in the ability of that doctor?  What
          impact would Mark 9:20 have upon your faith in Jesus if
          you were the father? (As soon as the boy comes to Jesus
          he gets much worse.)

          2. Did the father at first believe that Jesus could help
          his son? (Verse 22-23 shows that he was uncertain.)

     C. Look at v.21 again. Why did Jesus ask the father how long
     the boy had been like this?

          1. Did Jesus need to know to heal the boy?

          2. Would the answer make any difference to whether Jesus
          healed the boy?  That is, if the father answered, "Six
          months," would Jesus had said, "Don't bother me with a
          short-term problem like that!"

          3. If the question is absolutely irrelevant, why did 
          Jesus ask it, and more importantly, why is it recorded in
          the Bible? (Before we find the answer, let's explore the
          reasons for the healing a little more.)

     D. Why did Jesus heal the boy? Did the father have a better
     faith than the disciples?

          1. Notice that Jesus (v.19) called the disciples an 
          "unbelieving generation," and told the father (v.23) that
          everything was possible for those who believe. From this
          does it appear that the father had a better faith? (The
          critical difference between the father and the disciples
          here is that the father immediately turns to Jesus --
          both to strengthen his faith and heal his boy.)

          2. Was Jesus' question about "how long" the boy had been
          like this designed to cause the father to depend more
          upon Jesus? (From our study of the book of Judges we
          learned about a very interesting characteristic of God. 
          His preferred situation for helping is when the problem
          is absolutely impossible. God does not prefer to act if
          the problem could be solved by man, or if it is unclear
          whether man or God "fixed" the problem.  This question
          was intended to impress again upon father the
          hopelessness of his son's situation and his need to
          depend upon Jesus. It also showed the crowd the
          impossible nature of this situation.)

     E. As we compare the disciples lack of success with the 
     father's success, what lesson can we learn today about
     healing, self-importance, and faith? (That healing involves
     total dependence upon God and putting away any claim to
     personal power or glory.)

IV. THE BOY

     A. So far we have been talking more about the spiritual 
     "mechanics" of the healing. Let's look more closely at this
     boy. 

          1. Those of you who know something about medicine, if I
          told you about a boy who had seizures that caused him to
          fall to the ground, clamp his teeth shut and become
          rigid, what would be your diagnosis? (It sounds like an
          epileptic seizure.)

          2. During Jesus' day was the diagnosis "demon possession"
          just a crude and uneducated way to describe mental
          illness?  Consider the reverse, is mental illness today
          demon possession? (The Bible gives us the answer to this
          difficult question. Let's re-read: Mark 9:25-26.  If you
          believe the Bible account (as I do), it literally
          identifies the boy's problem as a "spirit" that is cast
          out, is commanded never to return and which had an
          adverse reaction to being sent away.)

          3. Notice that Mark 9:21 says the boy has been possessed
          by this spirit since "childhood." How can a child choose
          to be demon possessed?

               a. We (I) generally look at demon possession as 
               something voluntary.  You ask Satan to take control
               of your life.  I have not viewed it as something
               that just "jumps up" on you when you are not paying
               attention. 

                    (1) Can you become involuntarily demon-
                    possessed?

               b. Can we draw the line between demon possession and
               mental illness? (Our lesson (Tuesday) attempts to
               draw the line.  I cannot and do not have much
               confidence that anyone can.  In law school I took a
               course called "Law and Psychiatry."  The book
               started out by ridiculing the "early" efforts to
               cure mental illness: such as drilling holes in
               skulls to let out the evil spirits, and surprising
               mental patents by shoving them into pools of cold
               water.  The book ended with a serious discussion of
               the "advanced" efforts of the last thirty years
               which, among other things, included "electric-shock
               therapy." Is there some principled distinction
               between shocking people by tossing them in cold
               water and shocking them with electricity? It seemed
               to me that our modern medical culture's chief claim
               to progress was that they stopped drilling holes in
               heads!)

     B. What is the source of all sickness and death? (Sin. Genesis
     3:3)

          1. Who brought sin to us? (Satan, and our corporate 
          choice to believe him and not God. Genesis 3:1-6.)

          2. If all sickness, mental or otherwise, finds its source
          in sin and Satan, as a practical matter need we be able
          to distinguish between mental illness and demon
          possession? (If we are uncertain, it certainly is helpful
          to the "victim" to avoid calling them "demon-possessed.")

               a. Is the cure the same? (Yes.)

     C. Friends, are you troubled by the "demons" of illness, 
     discouragement, or mental illness? The solution is to put away
     self, and depend absolutely and completely upon our Lord. No
     problem is too great for Him to solve.

V. NEXT WEEK: THE SABBATH AND HEALTH. Study!