Sabbath, October 29, 2011

“If you have faith like this

[a mustard seed], you will lay hold upon God’s word, and upon all the helpful agencies He has appointed. Thus your faith will strengthen, and will bring to your aid the power of heaven. The obstacles that are piled by Satan across your path, though apparently as insurmountable as the eternal hills, shall disappear before the demand of faith. ‘Nothing shall be impossible unto you.’” –The Desire of Ages, p. 431.

Inability of the disciples

1. What situation had confronted the other nine while Jesus and His three disciples were away?
Mark 9:14, 15 And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.
Luke 9:37 And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him.

“As the people on the plain caught sight of Jesus, they ran to meet Him, greeting Him with expressions of reverence and joy. Yet His quick eye discerned that they were in great perplexity. The disciples appeared troubled. A circumstance had just occurred that had caused them bitter disappointment and humiliation.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 427.

2. What incident produced discussion among the multitude and great perplexity on the part of the disciples?
Matthew 17:14-16 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

“While they were waiting at the foot of the mountain, a father had brought to them his son, to be delivered from a dumb spirit that tormented him. Authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, had been conferred on the disciples when Jesus sent out the twelve to preach through Galilee. As they went forth strong in faith, the evil spirits had obeyed their word. Now in the name of Christ they commanded the torturing spirit to leave his victim; but the demon only mocked them by a fresh display of his power. The disciples, unable to account for their defeat, felt that they were bringing dishonor upon themselves and their Master. And in the crowd there were scribes who made the most of this opportunity to humiliate them. Pressing around the disciples, they plied them with questions, seeking to prove that they and their Master were deceivers. Here, the rabbis triumphantly declared, was an evil spirit that neither the disciples nor Christ Himself could conquer. The people were inclined to side with the scribes, and a feeling of contempt and scorn pervaded the crowd.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 427.

Faithless generation

3. Reading the people’s hearts and their constant inclination to doubt and criticize, what did Jesus say?
Matthew 17:17
Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

“Jesus looked about Him upon the awe-stricken multitude, the caviling scribes, the perplexed disciples. He read the unbelief in every heart; and in a voice filled with sorrow He exclaimed, ‘O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?’ Then He bade the distressed father, ‘Bring thy son hither.’” –The Desire of Ages, p. 428.

Brought to the Redeemer

4. As in the past, what happened to the boy when he was brought to the Master?
Mark 9:20-22 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

“The boy was brought, and as the Saviour’s eyes fell upon him, the evil spirit cast him to the ground in convulsions of agony. He lay wallowing and foaming, rending the air with unearthly shrieks.

“Again the Prince of life and the prince of the powers of darkness had met on the field of battle–Christ in fulfillment of His mission to ‘preach deliverance to the captives,… to set at liberty them that are bruised’ (Luke 4:18), Satan seeking to hold his victim under his control. Angels of light and the hosts of evil angels, unseen, were pressing near to behold the conflict. For a moment, Jesus permitted the evil spirit to display his power, that the beholders might comprehend the deliverance about to be wrought.

“The multitude looked on with bated breath, the father in an agony of hope and fear. Jesus asked, ‘How long is it ago since this came unto him?’ The father told the story of long years of suffering, and then, as if he could endure no more, exclaimed, ‘If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.’ ‘If Thou canst!’ Even now the father questioned the power of Christ.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 428.

5. What divine principle did the father need to grasp if his child was to be healed? What did he acknowledge as his weakness?
Mark 9:23, 24
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

“Jesus answers, ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’ There is no lack of power on the part of Christ; the healing of the son depends upon the father’s faith. With a burst of tears, realizing his own weakness, the father casts himself upon Christ’s mercy, with the cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.’” –The Desire of Ages, p. 428.

6. What did Jesus do after hearing the father’s answer? How was the evil spirit’s cruelty demonstrated?
Mark 9:25-27 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
Luke 9:43, first part And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God.

“Jesus turns to the suffering one, and says, ‘Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.’ There is a cry, an agonized struggle. The demon, in passing, seems about to rend the life from his victim. Then the boy lies motionless, and apparently lifeless. The multitude whisper, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus takes him by the hand, and lifting him up, presents him, in perfect soundness of mind and body, to his father. Father and son praise the name of their Deliverer. The multitude are ‘amazed at the mighty power of God,’ while the scribes, defeated and crestfallen, turn sullenly away.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 428, 429.

Reason for defeat

7. Why had the disciples been unable to carry out Jesus’ previous commission to them to cast out devils? How does this important lesson apply to us today?
Matthew 17:19-21 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

“Their unbelief, that shut them out from deeper sympathy with Christ, and the carelessness with which they regarded the sacred work committed to them, had caused their failure in the conflict with the powers of darkness.

“The words of Christ pointing to His death had brought sadness and doubt. And the selection of the three disciples to accompany Jesus to the mountain had excited the jealousy of the nine. Instead of strengthening their faith by prayer and meditation on the words of Christ, they had been dwelling on their discouragements and personal grievances. In this state of darkness they had undertaken the conflict with Satan.

“In order to succeed in such a conflict they must come to the work in a different spirit. Their faith must be strengthened by fervent prayer and fasting, and humiliation of heart. They must be emptied of self, and be filled with the Spirit and power of God. Earnest, persevering supplication to God in faith–faith that leads to entire dependence upon God, and unreserved consecration to His work–can alone avail to bring men the Holy Spirit’s aid in the battle against principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and wicked spirits in high places.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 430, 431.

For meditation

“‘If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.’ How many a sin-burdened soul has echoed that prayer. And to all, the pitying Saviour’s answer is, ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’ It is faith that connects us with heaven, and brings us strength for coping with the powers of darkness. In Christ, God has provided means for subduing every sinful trait, and resisting every temptation, however strong. But many feel that they lack faith, and therefore they remain away from Christ. Let these souls, in their helpless unworthiness, cast themselves upon the mercy of their compassionate Saviour. Look not to self, but to Christ. He who healed the sick and cast out demons when He walked among men is the same mighty Redeemer today. Faith comes by the word of God. Then grasp His promise, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.’ John 6:37. Cast yourself at His feet with the cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.’ You can never perish while you do this–never.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 429.

For additional study

• Mark 11:22-24

• James 1:5-7

The Desire of Ages, pp. 426-431

Prophets and Kings, p. 595

Thought question

Why was freedom from the shackles of the evil spirit possible for the boy only through God’s power?