Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Power; Demons

Many years ago, probably before I came to know Jesus, I read somewhere that some people thought the end of the world was coming in the first century. It was based on Mark 9.1:
And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."
or maybe its equivalent in another of the gospels. Quite a while later, I read something that made more sense -- see what the evangelist tells us immediately afterwards. In this case, Mark 9.2:
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.
Jesus's clothes became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appeared, and a voice from heaven instructed Peter, James and John to listen to Jesus, "my son, whom I love." Which to me sounds like some sort of investiture of power, and is probably what he meant by "the kingdom of God coming with power."

They come down from the mountain, and find a boy possessed by an evil spirit. The other disciples couldn't cast the demon out, which makes me wonder why. Was it a lack of faith? I don't think so. Take a look here:
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."
Mark 9.28-29
They thought they should have been able to drive it out; that's why they were surprised. Which reminds me of something I heard once at a conference: the first rule of dealing with demons: Never, ever, for any reason, under any circumstance, ever be afraid of a demon. A demon's job description is to get beat up by Christians. An interesting thought, and it makes sense in light of 1 John 4.4, but I don't think I would have thought of it on my own.

Anyway, I find Jesus's reply astonishing -- that this kind of demon requires prayer to be driven out -- in other words, the others didn't require it! Apparently the disciples drove out those other demons just by commanding them. That's a different world.

The last thing I want to mention about this passage is the exemplary attitude of the boy's father: Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9.24) And Jesus did help him. In this case, he helped by healing the boy immediately, but that's not what he always does.

Which reminds me of Paul, taking comfort in the assurance that whether we live or die, we can be with him (with Jesus). Or Daniel's three friends, who knew God could save them if he so chose -- "But if not," they were willing to take whatever came next.

May I be like that too!

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