Unbelief hindered the disciples from exorcising a dumb and deaf spirit – Mark 9:14-29.
When Peter, James, and John saw the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mount, the rest of the disciples were ministering nearby. But whenever they ministered when Jesus was absent, they quickly found themselves in trouble. And this time, as soon as the crowd saw him returning from the mountain, they flocked to him for healing and deliverance.
But in this instance, the disciples were not at fault. In Nazareth, Jesus had been unable to perform many miracles because of unbelief, and in this incident, again unbelief was the real problem – (Mark 6:1-6).
- (Mark 9:14-29) – “And coming to the disciples they saw a large multitude around them, and Scribes discussing with them… And one out of the multitude answered him, Teacher! I brought my son to you, having a dumb spirit, and wherever it seizes him, it tears him, and he foams and grinds his teeth, and wears himself out. And I spoke to your disciples that they should cast it out and they could not. But he, having answered, said: O faithless generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me!… And when he had entered a house, his disciples privately were questioning him: Why were we not able to cast it out? And he said to them: This kind by nothing can come out except by prayer” – (Parallel passages – Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 9:37-42).
The reference to the “faithless generation” was directed to the crowd as much as it was to the disciples. Mark uses “generation” five times and never applies it to the twelve disciples. Most often, it refers to the generation of Jews contemporary with Jesus, the same “generation” that rejected him – (Mark 8:12 [twice], 8:38, 9:19, 13:30).
Jesus treated this encounter as a genuine case of demon possession and acted accordingly. His response to the father’s pleas demonstrated that the problem was not unwillingness or inability on his part to deliver the boy, but instead, the unbelief of the boy’s father. There was doubt expressed in his, and he pleaded for Jesus to help his unbelief.
Verse 29 reads, “this kind (of demon) can come out by nothing except by prayer.” The King James Version has added the words “and fasting” to this sentence, but that brief clause is missing from the most authoritative Greek manuscripts. It is all but certain that a later copyist added it to the original text. Moreover, the sudden introduction of fasting in this context is odd since that subject does not at all figure in the story.
The problem was the man’s lack of faith, and not any failure to fast or engage in other ritualistic practices. Jesus routinely exorcised demons by a simple word of command, and without verbal formulas or religious ceremonies, and this was the case in this incident:
“And when Jesus saw that the multitude came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you to come out of him and enter no more into him! And having cried out, and torn him much, he came out.”
Though the immediate problem was the insufficient faith of the boy’s father, all those who were present that day were “faithless,” including the disciples and the men and women who were seeking Jesus for deliverance. The father’s lack of faith typified the faithless reaction of the Jewish nation to Jesus and his gospel proclamation.
Jesus was not referring to faith as a general principle, but something more specific. From the beginning of his ministry, he had summoned Israel to “repent and believe the gospel,” the good news of the kingdom of God.
The crowd sought Jesus for his miracle-working powers, not because they understood him or had faith in his message. The disciples were better informed than the crowd but their continuing failure to grasp just who Jesus was had hindered their efforts when confronted by this demon. They had yet to comprehend exactly who Jesus was and what his mission entailed.