In the last part of Luke chapter 9 we see Jesus, Peter, James and John return from the Mt of Transfiguration to be with the rest of the disciples who had waited somewhere around the base of the mountain (Mt Nebo?) while a large crowed gathered, presumably expecting Jesus’ arrival.
From the crowd, a voice cried out in pain and caught Jesus’ attention. It was the voice of a man whose son had been tormented by demonic spirits since he was a child. Maybe the father had heard how Jesus had shown compassion on the multitudes, healing and delivering all who came to Him from sickness and the bondage of Satan. This might be his only chance to rescue his son.
The man had already spoken to Jesus’ disciples – the 9 who did not go up the mount with Jesus – and had pleaded with them to ‘do something’! But they had failed. They had certainly tried, but what had worked for them up until now just didn’t have any impact. Their failed attempt had clearly been a source of discouragement, and now doubt had set in.
These are two of Satan’s most prized weapons. What he cannot accomplish in other ways he can so often do through these trusted sinister bedfellows.
The father of the man explains this to Jesus, but Jesus’ response must have caught everyone off-guard! “And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.” (Luke 9:41).
Probably, at this point, Peter, James and John were secretly glad they had been with Jesus up the mountain, so they knew they couldn’t be blamed for this – Peter’s uncharacteristic lack of comment suggests as much!
Jesus then promptly casts out this demon and the man is instantly restored to his right mind.
Matthew’s account (Matt 17:14-21) tells us (indirectly) that persistence is sometimes the key. This is why the disciples failed. ‘Prayer and fasting’ require (and produce) constant fellowship and communion with God. It is from that intimacy that the Power of God’s Holy Spirit can have His way in us and through us. For God to use us, we need to be cleansed vessels. When Jesus had previously sent the disciples out (Luke 9:1-6) and given them “power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases” He had sent them out with nothing: “Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece”. They had nothing except Jesus’ word, and that’s the point. They were totally dependant on Jesus. There was next-to-no-element of self, they knew they were powerless without Jesus’ authority.
But here, at the foot of the mountain awaiting Jesus’ return, they simply became discouraged and gave up.
How many of us are persistent in our prayers? How many of us are serious enough to actually fast? How much time do we spend fellowshipping and communing with Jesus? How much do we realise we are in a spiritual war and Satan will not easily give up ground. He has built strongholds of fear, doubt, discouragement, the belief that sickness is from God and we should simply accept it! We have fallen for Satan’s lies that sickness is actually good for us, and that God uses it to teach us! This is a lie from the pit of hell! It crept into the church during the 3rd – 4th centuries under the mistaken notion that God was somehow pleased by our penance, self-flagellation and suffering.
Yet scripture constantly affirms that God is good and does good! (Psalm 119:68 / Matt 13:37 / Matt 19:17). Only good things come from God! (Matt 7:11 / Rom 10:15 / Heb 9:11). God is not the author of sickness, evil or confusion! In contrast, Satan is the father of lies and from him proceed sickness and all that is bad. Satan brought sickness upon Job; he brought the storms that wreaked havoc and destroyed Job’s possessions. Satan brought the storms on the sea of Galilee… yet somehow, we attribute destructive storms and the like to ‘acts of God’!
God gets the blame and bad press while Satan – the ‘god of this world’ (1 Cor 4:4) and ‘prince of the power of the air’ (Eph 2:2) sits in the background with a smirk on his face.
The chapter ends with a sobering call to set our hands to the plough, to dig some deep furrows where the seed of God’s Word can be sown… but only if we are willing to abandon all else. God is looking for those He can use in this world (2 Chron 16:9), through whom the Power of His Holy Spirit can be manifest to an unbelieving world that will not respond to reasoned arguments. The world today is much like it was at the time of Christ. People are hardened and indifferent to the Gospel.
That is why the disciples prayed: “And now, Lord… grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus”. (Acts 4:29)
What was the result? “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one“. (Acts 5:14-16)
Are you ready to put your hand to the plough?