Is the Church a Cage?, by Carl R. TruemanFebruary 25, 2019
Saint of the Day for February 25: Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio (Jan. 20, 1502–Feb. 25, 1600)February 25, 2019
“All things are possible to him who believes”
Author Don Schwager – Scripture: Mark 9:14-29
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.
21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Meditation: What kind of faith does the Lord Jesus expect of us, especially when we meet challenges and difficulties? Inevitably there will be times when each of us cause disappointment to others. In this Gospel incident the disciples of Jesus brought disappointment to a pleading father because they failed to heal his epileptic son. Jesus’ response seemed stern; but it was really tempered with love and compassion. We see at once both Jesus’ dismay with the disciples’ lack of faith and his concern to meet the need of this troubled boy and his anguished father. Jesus recognized the weakness of the father’s faith and at the same time challenged him to pray boldly with expectant faith: “All things are possible to him who believes!”
Prayer and faith go together
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), in his commentary on this passage, reminds us that prayer and faith go together: “Where faith fails, prayer perishes. For who prays for that in which he does not believe? ..So then in order that we may pray, let us believe, and let us pray that this same faith by which we pray may not falter.” The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit that we may have the confidence and boldness we need to ask our heavenly Father for his help and grace. Do you trust in God’s love and care for you and pray with expectant faith that he will give you what you need?
When Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, the boy at first seemed to get worse rather than better as he went into a fit of convulsion. Peter Chrysologus (400-450 AD), a renowned preacher and bishop of Ravena, reflects on this incident:
“Though it was the boy who fell on the ground, it was the devil in him who was in anguish. The possessed boy was merely convulsed, while the usurping spirit was being convicted by the awesome judge. The captive was detained, but the captor was punished. Through the wrenching of the human body, the punishment of the devil was made manifest.”
God promises each one of us freedom from oppression, especially from the oppression of sin and the evil one who tries to rob us of faith, hope, and peace with God. The Lord Jesus invites us, as he did this boy’s father, to pray with expectant faith. Do you trust in God’s unfailing love and mercy?
Faith and trust in God’s unfailing love and mercy
The mighty works and signs which Jesus did demonstrate that the kingdom of God is present in him. These signs attest that the Father has sent him as the promised Messiah. They invite belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. The coming of God’s kingdom means defeat of Satan’s kingdom. Jesus’ exorcisms anticipate his great victory over “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). While Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and may cause grave injuries of a spiritual nature, and indirectly even of a physical nature, his power is nonetheless limited and permitted by divine providence (Romans 8:28). Jesus offers freedom from bondage to sin and Satan. There is no affliction he cannot deliver us from. Do you make full use of the protection and help he offers to those who seek him with faith and trust in his mercy?
“Lord Jesus, help my unbelief! Increase my faith and trust in your saving power. Give me confidence and perseverance, especially in prayer. And help me to bring your healing love and truth to those I meet”.
Psalm 19:8-10, 14
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Emerging faith seeks maturity, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
“In saying, ‘When the Son of Man shall come, shall he find faith upon the earth?’ our Lord spoke of that faith which is fully matured, which is so seldom found on earth. The church’s faith is full, for who would come here if there were no fullness of faith? And whose faith when fully matured would not move mountains (Matthew 17:20; 21:22)? Look at the apostles themselves, who would not have left all they had, trodden under foot this world’s hope, and followed the Lord, if they had not had proportionally great faith. And yet if they had already experienced a completely matured faith, they would have not said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’ (Luke 17:5). Rather we find here an emerging faith, which is not yet full faith, in that father who when he had presented to the Lord his son to be cured of an evil spirit and was asked whether he believed, answered, ‘Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24). ‘Lord,’ says he, ‘I believe.’ ‘I believe’: therefore there was faith; but ‘help me in my unbelief’: therefore there was not full faith (Hebrews 10:22).” (excerpt from SERMONS ON NEW TESTAMENT LESSONS 65)
Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source: www.dailyscripture.net, Author Don Schwager
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.
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