Mark 9: 14 – 29 Jesus heals a boy possessed by an impure spirit
“When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.”
‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked.
A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit but they could not.’
‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’
So they brought hi. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’
‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’
‘ “If you can?” ‘ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me to overcome my unbelief!’
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said. ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
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.’
* * *
This describes the same event that I wrote about yesterday, but is from St Mark’s gospel. I found as I walked and prayed this morning that there was more to say based on this miracle.
I was thinking about heaven.
Many years ago I had a vision, not of heaven, but of what it was like to die in faith. All the symbols of faith poured past my perception; the flames of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; the Lamb of God; the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. I was flooded with a great joy, because I experienced a sense of total acceptance. It was wonderful.
Now, one of the challenges to my faith is the existence of suffering. Much suffering is caused by human sin; greed, anger, lust. One only has to look at the situation in Yemen to see how appalling the consequences can be. However, a great deal of suffering is not caused by human agency, but by the consequences of natural phenomena. I am occasionally told forcefully that a Creator who made a world containing such horrors must be wicked – or non-existent.
The only answer I have is that God is greater than me. I am not able to comprehend his plan. I go a little further, and say that I believe that suffering in this world must be more than balanced out in our life after death, but even as write this I know that I’m just guessing. I have faith in a loving God, and a just God, but how he implements his love and his justice are unknowable for as long as I’m in this material world – and quite possibly afterwards.
But, as I said earlier, I was out walking and praying, and I thought of the vision I’d had so many years ago. Was heaven perhaps something like that, a perfect acceptance of me as a whole person? The joy that I felt in the few seconds the vision lasted was intense.
But there is so much sin in my life, so many hours of the day when it is not Jesus to whom I am paying attention, it is food, or television, or fiction. What would it be like to lose those things? – because I’m pretty sure that sin will not exist in heaven.
And then I thought once more about this miracle of healing.
The boy possessed by an impure spirit was probably an epileptic. In modern knowledge a cure would require a profound change to the way the boy’s brain functioned. Jesus accomplished this miraculously and healed him of a severe disorder. The bible describes the miracle as the driving out of a demon, and that’s an excellent metaphor here, because the core person, the spirit of the boy, was not harmed by the exorcism. Indeed, it was quite the reverse; he was given a much fuller life.
And maybe that’s what happens in heaven. The sin that we find so alluring in this world will be shown up for what it is – an irrelevance to true life.
Do you think the epileptic boy was glad to be cured? I bet he was!
You have created a wonderful world for us to live in, and you’ve given us each a spirit that can respond to its beauty. Thank you.
In Jesus name, Amen