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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The trying of Faith and the Casting Out of the Dumb Spirit in an Only Son

Jesus has just been on the mount of Transfiguration with his disciples, Peter, James and John. What they saw there was so astounding, that Jesus commanded them to say nothing until he would rise from the dead. This encounter with heaven so indescribeable at the time, was the backdrop for a healing yet to come: the Casting Out of a Dumb Spirit.

Coming down from the mount, Jesus encounters a father who is distraught about the condition of his son. The man pleads for Jesus to attend to his child, who has a deaf spirit, and calls for Jesus to attend to the vexed son.

And behold, a man of the company cried out, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son; for he is my only child,39 And lo, a spirit takes him and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again and after bruising him hardly departeth from him. Luke 9:38-39

While this healing is referred to as a casting out of a 'dumb' spirit, it is quite literally the casting out of a devil, and though these days one seldom hears a discussion of such things, deafness or dumbness on more than one occasion accompanied or was manifested in devil posession or 'vexation'. This grieving father is so overwrought with his son's condition, that he pleads with Jesus for the son's relief, since it is the father's only child. The healing bears such significance that it is written of in all three synoptic Gospels.

What Devils Do: The Torment of Possession

When we speak today of 'devils' or 'demons' or use concepts such as 'demonic possession' or oppression, we are often cast off as being given over to mythological concepts far too obscure for the sophisticated 'modern mind', and yet throughout all cultures, and at all times in history, there has held both the concept and reports of demonic possession. Even from a very unbelieving and unlikely source, a book, by humanistic psychologist Rollo May comes the idea of the demonic in a treatise called "Psychology and the Demonic" in which Rollo May posits the existence of a 'force' which overwhelms and overcomes a person. May uses the idea more as an 'archetype' but applies it to ideas of addiction or mental illness, e.g. depression, which so overtakes a person that it controls them, instead of them controlling it. So while most today scoff at the idea of 'devils' or demonic possession, many others are aware that even in the 21st century there are documented cases of 'devil possession' and that they follow suit the descriptions of demonic possession described in the Holy Bible.

One of the primary goals of anything to do with Satan in general, is the process of 'overthrow'. Satan sought to overthrow God's sovereignty and purpose in Heaven, and was cast out. He is noted as taking with him 'the third of the stars', and the doctrine most often taught is that the rebellion and division in heaven was so serious as to cast down Satan and his evil minions, and to condemn them for ever: but war occurs first. The war is not a war of this world, where God and his angels fight against Satan and his devils, nor the common concept of good and evil: this war never challenges God's Sovereignty, but until the appointed time, the battle for men's soul's continue, though the outcome was settled 'since the foundation of the world'. The battle for men is one of belief vs. unbelief, more than the battle for 'good'vs. 'evil' for the depth of wisdom to discern the two, belongs to God.

The presence then, of the 'demonic' or 'devils' or 'vexation' while dismissed in the current zeitgeist, nonetheless has been observed, described and met by theological investigations throughout all ages of recorded history. While today the most a humanist can muster is a psychological 'metaphor' for the demonic, most world religions even apart from Christian belief address and report it, and there are even several major motion pictures which have dealt with Roman Catholic accounts of 'demon possession'. Apart from what the world thinks, though, in an age of unbelief, the Holy Scriptures describe in detail Jesus's encounter with those possessed with devils, and his reaction in every case is to bring them under authority and cast them out. He never leaves a vexed or possessed person in the same condition, and the outcome is always the wholeness and wellbeing of those who had demons cast out, including the SyroPhenician Woman's daughter in the last study, the man from the Gadarenes, the possessed in the Synagogue at the beginning of his ministry, Mary Magdalene, and several others.

The Condition of Devil Possession

As Jesus encounters the father of the boy with the 'dumb spirit' (devil possession sometime has the accompanied characteristic of deafness or dumbness), the father, is in distress due to the terrible nature of the boy's condition:

Mark 9:17 ....Master, I have brough unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him; and he foameth and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away. and I spaketh to thy disciples that they should cast him out and they could not.

Note the nature of the demonic hold, is hell like, and forceful, and always harmful:

1. The demonic spirit 'takes him'
2. The demonic spirit 'tears him'
3. There is foaming at the mouth
4. There is gnashing of teeth (driven behavior)
5.There is pining, despair

We have learned from other studies in the Word that a demonic spirit or devil seeks to overpower and overthrow its 'host' and sees persons as 'hosts': Jesus tells of how devils when cast out, must stay out, or should they enter in again, bring back an even greater 'overthrow'

Luk 11:26 Then goeth he, and taketh [to him] seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last [state] of that man is worse than the first.

A few other things are noted about this little boy in this terrible state: he is described as lunatic and vexed:

...Lord have mercy on my son for he is a lunatik and sore vexed: for oft time she falleth into the fire, and oft into the water...17:14

The severity is not just emotional pain or 'oddness' but involves real physical assault by the controlling spirit: the child is being either cast into the fire and water, or at least toppled into them and with the previous symptoms of gnashing teeth, and pining, with an inability to speak in a normal fashion. It is interesting also, that the elements of fire and water appear, which still bear mention today in satanic cults.

The torment the child suffers effects all around him: it is apparent that his father is beside himself with anguish over the child's condition.

The Failure to Cast Out the Devil

The father does not go first to Jesus, he goes to the disciples who have been empowered with his Name, the Word, and his anointing. The disciples though are unable to cast out the devil, and the father, as well as the disciples are perplexed. Jesus though brings it all back to the primary issue of faith:

...and I spaketh to thy disciples that they should cast him out and they could not.

Mt17:16 And I brought him unto thy disciples, and they could not cure him

Jesus's direct response in the three Gospels that contain the passage is:

Matthew 17:17
O faithless and perverse generation,howlong shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
He answered him saying "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him to me.
And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.

Jesus's responses always bear an element of surprise: he does not often answer predictably. Throughout the healings while the Lord of love is after the wholeness of his creation, he is also after one premiere goal: faith, by which Salvation may be attained. This young man in question had been a long time in the condition. In Mark Jesus asks his father:

How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. Mk 9:21.

It was a lifelong affliction. The disciples responded to the affliction without finding out how severe the affliction was. The child was the father's only child. Yet all of this aside,and the remedy yet to come, the disciples are rebuked for being 'perverse' and 'faithless'. The word 'perverse' is diastrepho, which means to distort, turn aside,oppose, etc, or in this instance, to overthrow the plan of God and revert back.[BLB] Jesus's exasperation is with their lack of faith, and missing the target, so to speak. He later notes that "this kind comes only out by prayer and fasting." As in other healings, Jesus is after their wholeness, but the first order of wholeness is faith.

The Healing of the vexed Son

Matthew 17:18And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him and...the child was cured from that very hour.MARK
When Jesus saw the people come running together he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter in to im no more. 9:25)
And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean Spirit, and healed the child, delivered him again to his father.

Jesus in Mark 23-24 takes the issue of faith further for the father, and the father responds in the way of those genuinely desiring to have saving faith:

Jesus saith 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, I believe, help thou my unbelief.

This is a classic statement of those whose heart longs for God and the things of God,but whose faith falls short: I believe,help thou my unbelief. It is not that we sometimes, like father of the vexed son do not have faith, only that our faith is insufficient to meet what confronts us. Jesus is out to save lost sheep, he is out to bring back the house of Israel, the children of Israel to the everlasting covenant and way of God. To have Abraham the father of faith, as one's father, one must walk in faith, for the true children of Abraham are not children of the flesh only. Abraham did not only give physical birth to a nation of 12 tribes, he gave birth to a nation who would walk in faith in relationship with their God and Messiah: a nation that would see what the world could not see, and which would win every war in which that faith was strong. So when Jesus calls the father of the child to a faith which makes all things possible, to belief that strong, the father, like Peter in the boat, takes the first step out, calling for the completeness of faith in Messiah.

The result is saving faith for the purpose in this case of curing the boy whom had been beset since birth with torment. The child was cured by Jesus immediately. Jesus healed the child and delivered him again to his father.

...the child was cured from that very hour. Mt 17:18
Luk 9:42 And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare [him]. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.

Note again the devil appears to know his time of tormenting and inhabiting the child is drawing short, and one cannot help but believe it is because as in other manifestations of the demonic that even they know who Jesus is and what he can do (e.g. Gadarenes). Before Jesus rebukes the spirit, the devil tears him violently one last time. Jesus speaks, Jesus rebukes the devil and the child is restored whole to the father, ending years of pain for both.

The people who see the wondrous cure become "amazed at the mighty power of God". Who else in Israel had ever delivered a child vexed with a devil? Who had cured the 'mentally ill' (a term used today). None: not even the prophets. This healing singles out the unique and sovereign power of the LORD.

The disciples did not deliver the child because of an underestimation of what they confronted. The war between God's children in this world, and the forces attempting to overthrow them, their families and their faith is strong and without mercy. Time in the Word, time alone with God, clearing oneself of everything of this world including food through fasting is sometimes necessary to block out all the impinging 'noise' and confusion which may abrogate the power of God in our lives. The disciples had to learn the depth of the battle.

More about Vexation

In the study on the SyroPhenician woman's daughter, we spoke a little of the idea of 'vexation': here it is only mentioned in Matthew 17:14 when the child is called 'sore vexed'. The word here is the Greek "pascho"


which means "to be affected, have a sensible experience, suffer sadly, to have a bad plight or be sick,and is used regarding a possession to healed of.) It goes with the idea of a peril to be delivered of. The scriptures speak of the enemies being vexed (Ps 6:10; Saul being vexed Ps 6:3, bones, or the stranger,fatherless ,widow,poor and needy. THe notion is that intense suffering is present which exhausts the ability of the sufferer to overcome by themselves. As the devil takes control of this young son, he displaces the personhood of the child, and we see not the child, but the bedevilment or demonic manifestation.

Another point of interest is the phrase 'cast into the fire': the word for cast is 'ballo' and fire is pyre, but the more fascinating note is that the kind of casting is a careless 'tossing' as in not caring at all where a thing falls 1 and fire is noted in Thayer's lexicon as certainly the obvious element, but something that tears asunder, takes apart, and destroys. The insane vexation of devil possession is a horrible foreshadowing of what hell does to a person, such that the person in the end is so 'out of the way' that Jesus describes hell as a place 'where the worm dieth not', referring to the utter degeneration of the person when out from the presence of God.

"Casting into the fire" is an expression used to indicate total destruction and total judgment, since anything cast into the fire is totally destroyed. Things in the bible spoken ofas cast into the fire are Idols, (Is 37:19) enemies (Ps 140:10), the 'roll' in Jeremiah (Jer 36:23) theruin of resources (Jer 22:7), wood consumed for no work (Eze 15:4), trees which do not bring forth fruit (Mt 3:10, Mk7:19; Lk 3:9), Hell, and fire that shall never be quenced. (Mk 9:43,5;Jn 15:6) BLB (Thayers) notes its symbolism of dissension.

Following the healing of the father's son with the violent spirit, the child restored whole to life, Jesus expounds of his betrayal into the hands of men, and what will befall him. What Jesus teaches right after a healing is always worth noting for it is likely a direct reference to the healing that has just occurred and it's critical lesson. It is noted that the spirit 'cries out', and that it had so overpowered the child that he looked dead at deliverance:

Mar 9:26 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.

Mar 9:27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

As they leave the scene of the healing, discussing why the devil did not come out at first, and then Jesus explaining what must befall the son of man for their sakes, the eminent presence of this healing remains: Jesus holds a child up promising his special blessing and protection and noting that any who touches a child would be better to have a millstone tied around his neck. He begins upon passing through Galilee then, to teach on hell, and how it is better to even cut a limb off rather than use it to sin, and miss the mark of entering into God's Kingdom. The little son was delivered from a shadow of hell on earth: Jesus calls for a greater deliverance, which only he AND NOT EVEN HIS DISCIPLES can wrought.

cool stuff. ekb
2. 84.