Please read Luke 9:37-42 – It is about faith and prayer.
Ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding God's Word.
We are entering a section in Luke where he brings together four short incidents which show the disciples’ (Apostles) lack of faith, their struggle to learn, their pride and intolerance. As with life, the pinnacle experiences don't negate the necessity for the daily grunt work of faith, learning and humility.
V37. The issue – lack of faith.
All three Synoptics write about the disciples’ inability to deal with a case of demon possession. Luke, unusually, is the only one of the gospel writers to tell us that this happened the day after the transfiguration. The most detailed account of what takes place is in Mark's gospel, Mark 9:14-29. And it is in Mark that we find the immediate context is a quarrel. Jesus returns from the Mount, along with Peter, James and John, to find the nine other disciples in an argument with the scribes, who are being the aggressors. The row has started because the disciples had been unable to heal a demon-possessed child. Mark writes that Jesus asks the disciples, "What are you arguing about with them?" Mark 9:16, and before they can answer a man in the crowd, cries out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, …" Luke 9:38,39.
The consequences of this demon-possession are highly distressing both for the child and his parents. The man tells Jesus that he had sought the help of his disciples, begging them to drive out the demon, but that they had been unable to do so. Something that was obviously adding to the distress, as well as placing the disciples in the firing line of the scribes.
V41. Jesus' reaction.
Jesus is going to have to protect his disciples. They have forsaken everything to be with him, their careers, time with their families. It wasn't their fault that they couldn't always do what he could do. Yes, they had been able to heal many when he had sent them out in pairs to preach, but they were disciples, trainees learning from Jesus, and they still had so much to learn. Clearly, there were going to be times when they would either get it wrong or not be able to realize their potential fully. It would take time for them to grow and develop into the task.
Jesus' response would shock them. In a few words, he reveals the depths of disappointment and points to their problem – lack of faith. Far from protecting them, Jesus exposes them. He expected more from them, and his language strongly conveys that. Had they not seen what he had done? How could they go through experiences like the calming of the Sea of Galilee, the healing of hundreds, if not thousands, from all sorts of diseases and ailments, the raising of the widow of Nain's son from the dead, the healing of the Gerasene demonic, the feeding of the five thousand, and not believe? His words convey a sense of real frustration. See how he unites faithlessness with twistedness. What is faithlessness? It is a refusal to believe and, in the case of the disciples, it is a refusal to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence. Not accepting evidence can be nothing less than twisted thinking. The truth of Christ is simple and clear; for these men not to humble themselves and accept it, has to mean that their thinking is distorted.
We should be slow, though, to be too critical of them, for where does your faith and mine sit today? We have seen the power of resurrection work in our own lives. We who were dead in our trespasses and sin are now alive in Christ Jesus, and all by the power of Christ's Word and the work of the Holy Spirit. The thought of going to church for some of us, five, ten, twenty, thirty years ago, would have been a joke; but now we want to be in the house of the Lord delighting in public worship every Lord's Day. We see the evidence of God at work among his people. Families are beginning to own the wonderful privilege of daily worship together. God is quietly pruning the Bride in preparation for a season of growth. And yet, the question must be asked – how ardent is our belief, your’s and mine, that Christ is going to save the lost around us? Given the many blessings and privileges he has given us, if Jesus were to look at us, what would he say? Would we fare any better than the disciples? Of course, we would like to think we would, but it is a searching question.
V42. Jesus sorts the immediate problem.
Jesus asks for the boy to be brought to him, and immediately the demon plays up. The whole point of this demonic activity was to test Jesus and show him that he is in a spiritual war. The effect on the young boy is serious. The demonic convulsion takes him to the ground, rolls him about and causes him to foam at the mouth, Mark 9:20. A distressing scene for the child's father. Luke doesn't record the conversation between the father and Jesus, nor the running of the crowd. He just cuts to the point – Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit and heals the boy. Luke adds, with an eye to tenderness, that Jesus gave the boy back to his father.
Mark, Mark 9:28,29, also adds that when they entered the house, we're not told if it was the home of the child or the place where they were staying, that the disciples ask Jesus privately why they were unable to cast out the demon. Jesus' response, as always, is simple and clear – "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer." We can and are to do much using the gifts, abilities, health and strength that God has blessed us with. But the serious work of the Kingdom cannot be done without prayer. It just can't. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, and he calls upon the church to be "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel." Ephesians 6:18,19. As we grow together in our love for Christ, and our faith in his power matures, he will build us into a praying community. When that happens, and it will take time, we will see increasing manifestations of his power both in our own lives and in the lives of others.