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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

All Things Are Possible For One Who Believes - September 16, 2012 - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19) - Text: Mark 9:14-29

Last week we watched as Jesus healed the demonic daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, and as He healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, so that he could hear and speak. Our text for this week actually skips a lot of material in the Gospel of Mark. Our text skip over and comes after Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain where Peter, James and John watch as Jesus confers with Moses and Elijah in all His glory. After they came down from the mountain Jesus tells His disciples not to tell anyone of this event until after His resurrection and then He sends them off  ahead of Him.
 
As we get to our text for this morning, evidently the disciples had attempted to cast out the demon that had enslaved this young boy, but they were not able to do so. The disciples who had previously done miraculous signs were dumbfounded as to why they could not accomplish this casting out of the demon. The crowds did not understand why the disciples seemed powerless and yet, as Jesus approached we can see that the crowds still had faith that Jesus could cast out the demon. I guess logically, most students are not as equipped as the teacher so the same would be true of Jesus’ disciples, that they could not do everything their teacher could do.
 
As Jesus approaches, He found the Scribes arguing with His disciples. We are not told the topic of their argument, but I believe it is inferred in our text that it would have to do with the powerlessness of the disciples, even though the Scribes were truly not in any position to say anything, because we never hear of any miraculous signs coming from them.
 
Jesus arrives on the scene and in Mark’s usual hurry up way he says that “immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.” When Jesus is told about the demon possessed son and how His disciples could not cast out the demon, Jesus begins by expressing His dismay over the “faithlessness” of this generation and then He goes on to ask how long He has to put up with this unbelieving world. Makes me wonder what He would say about our world today.
 
Next, Jesus addresses the demonic son’s father asking him questions concerning his son. Now, remember Jesus is truly God and so as God you would think that He already knows the answers to the questions He is asking and perhaps He does. Perhaps this is a reminder to us as we are encouraged to pray, that although God may already know what we need even before we ask, and He already knows what we are going to ask for, whether it is according to our real need or not, we are indeed encouraged to pray because we need to acknowledge and articulate what it is we need. There might be a different reason Jesus asks as well and that is that as true man Jesus did not always make use of His divinity, in other words there are times He wills Himself not to know certain things, such as the end of the world and the day of judgment and perhaps the struggles of this father.
 
As the father explains the tragic life of his son to Jesus, that his son has been demon possessed since childhood, and here as an aside I would take this as an encouragement to parents to have you babies baptized, which is a miniature exorcism, so this will not happen to them. Anyway, the man explains that his son has been demon possessed since childhood and the demon often casts the boy into fire and water in order to destroy the boy. Again, another aside, in our world today this boys behavior would probably be diagnosed as some form of epilepsy. The man tells Jesus what has been happening and then He confesses his lack of faith, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” To which Jesus responds, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” and the man responds, as we might well respond in our own unbelief at times, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
 
As all this is going on a crowd begins to gather. Jesus, knowing that His time to suffer and die on the cross is not yet upon Him, does not allow the demon to speak and so as Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit He commands it not to speak, to leave the boy, and never to enter the boy again. Like all demons, the unclean spirit did not want to do as Jesus commanded, but being powerless against Jesus, the unclean spirit came out of the boy crying loudly and convulsing and left the boy as a corpse so that people thought he was dead.
 
Jesus heals the boy showing His power over demons. Here again, logically speaking and you would think that the Scribes and the people present would pick up on this, only God can cast out demons. Jesus is casting out demons. Logically, Jesus must be God. The people could not figure this out, they were blinded and were only looking for this worldly physical, felt needs blessings from Jesus. The Scribes could not figure it out they were simply looking out for their own positions logically, in their minds, thinking that if Jesus kept doing the signs and wonders, the miracles showing Himself to be truly God, others might actually believe in Him and they would lose their positions of authority.
 
After healing the son, Jesus entered the man’s home with his disciples and answered more questions, especially questions concerning why the disciples could not perform the exorcism.  Jesus explains how it was their lack of faith which was seen in their inability. This does not mean that anyone who has a big enough faith in our world today can cast out demons. This thinking that if anyone has a big enough faith can do miracles is a false teaching and can lead people to despair, especially if they cannot do miracles and thus think themselves as having insufficient faith. The miracles of Jesus and His disciples served a purpose, to validate their teaching, and as the apostles died out so did the ability to do such outward signs as miracles.
 
Jesus calls the people of His day a faithless generation. I am sure He would have just as harsh words for our world today. Much like the world of Jesus’ day, so our world today continues to be a world chasing after its own desires. What was once wrong is now right and what was once right is now wrong. People continually find those who preach what their itching ears want to hear. Faith in humanity rules over faith in God.
 
What does this mean? First and foremost I would say that this narrative shows us that Jesus is truly God in human flesh as only God can do the miracles Jesus does. Jesus shows Himself to be truly human because only as a human being was He able to substitute His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection for our imperfect life. Jesus had to be truly God in order to be perfect, which would fulfill God’s demand of perfection, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
 
Jesus shows Himself to be truly God through the signs, wonders and miracles He performed. As God, in the beginning, He is the Creator with the Father and the Spirit with power over all creation, thus He is able to do the signs, wonders and miracles, casting out demons, walking on water, feeding five thousand, even fifteen thousand, healing, raising from the dead and the like.
 
At this miracle Jesus mutes the demon so as not to have to deal with his confession of belief and knowledge of who Jesus is. Remember, very often the demons, Satan’s minions knowing who Jesus is confessed their faith calling Him the Son of God. The fact that the demons know Jesus reminds us that head knowledge is not what saves, but it is faith in Jesus alone, His trading His life for ours, that saves us.
 
As true God Jesus has power over the demons. As the Savior, the reason Jesus came to earth was to defeat sin, death and Satan. On the cross Jesus did defeat Satan so that Satan, a fallen angel and creature of God, truly has limited power over us even to this day.
 
Jesus came to save all people through His life, suffering, death and resurrection. After living a perfect life, for us, in our place, as our substitute, Jesus took all our sins upon Himself, He who was without sin became sin for us and on the cross Jesus shed His blood, the price for sin, death, physical death and apart from faith in Him, eternal spiritual death. Jesus paid the price for sin on the cross. Jesus earned forgiveness of sins on the cross.
 
The gifts Jesus purchased and won on the cross are not distributed from the cross, but are distributed through our Lord’s Means of Grace. It is Jesus who gives faith through the means of grace His Word, confession and absolution, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. As we make regular, each and every Sunday, and diligent, yes, even each and every day, use of these means or instruments of God’s grace, it is through these very means that the Lord gives to us forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith, blessings upon blessings, life and salvation.
 
Although we live in a sin filled world which still has many doubts and although we may ourselves from time to time have our own doubts, our Lord would speak to us, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23b). Through the very means of His Holy Word, Jesus shows us and gives to us the gifts we need, gifts of forgiveness of sins, gifts of strengthening of faith which squelches doubt. By faith in Jesus, which He gives to us, our sins are forgiven so that when our last hour arrives He will gather us and all the saints and robe us in His robes of righteousness and take us to heaven to be with Himself and all the saints who have gone on before us and we will stand before the Lord’s throne reveling in His victory and saying to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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