Mark 9:14-29

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

August , 2012)


The following notes are from Bob Utley’s excellent study guide:  The Gospel According to Peter:  Mark and I & II Peter:

9:14 “When they came back to the disciples” Jesus had left the rest of the disciples at the bottom of the mountain. Luke 9:37 says they returned the next day.

“a large crowd … scribes arguing” Both of these things characterized Jesus’ ministry and now the disciples were experiencing a foreshadowing of Jesus’ existential situation and also their coming ministry. These were recurrent problems, but also opportunities.

9:15 “immediately” We have seen this word used repeatedly in Mark to move the action along.

“they were amazed” Some see this as Jesus’ face still glowing related to Exod. 34:29–30, but the context seems to imply that Jesus’ appearance came at an opportune moment for ministry and teaching.

9:16 “What are you discussing with them” Jesus addresses this question to the crowd. The scribes were not concerned with the young boy, but with the theological aspect of the disciples’ inability to effect a cure.

9:17 “possessed with a spirit” The Gospels make a definite distinction between demon possession and physical illness. In this particular case there seems to be a blurring of this distinction. The symptoms described by the father and the implication of several Greek words in the text imply epilepsy, especially a grand mal seizure. This physical element was aggravated or instigated by demonic possession.

9:18 “stiffens out” This is a description of a grand mal seizure.

“I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it” The disciples were surprised also. Jesus gave them the power over the demonic in 6:7, 13, but in this case their attempts failed!

9:19 Jesus uses two rhetorical questions in v. 19 to express His disappointment at the lack of faith of the disciples, the crowd, and the scribes.

9:20 “when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion” This was demonic possession manifesting itself in epilepsy.

9:21 There are several accounts in the Gospels of demon possession of children. How and why this occurred is never stated.

9:22 The destructive nature of the demonic is clearly seen in the father’s description of this boy’s life.

“if” This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE that is assumed to be true from the author’s perspective or for his literary purposes. This was the father’s affirmation of faith in Jesus’ ability to heal.

“ ‘take pity on us and help us’ ” This father had faith in Jesus even when the disciples failed to deliver his son.

9:23 “ ‘If You can’ ” This is a play on the man’s statement of v. 22. It is another FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE. This man affirmed Jesus’ ability; now Jesus affirms his.

“ ‘All things are possible to him who believes’ ” This is not a blank check for humanity, even believing humanity, to manipulate God, but a promise that God will do His will through believing faith. There are two conditions: (1) God’s will and (2) believing faith!

9:24 “ ‘I do believe, help my unbelief’ ” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. Remember it is the object of faith, not the quantity, that is crucial (cf. Matt. 17:20; Luke 17:6). Notice that Jesus worked with this man’s doubts, as He will with ours.

This father’s words admit his need and beseeches Jesus’ help to further his faith. This is a prayer we could all pray!

9:25 “a crowd was rapidly gathering” This could be the same crowd as vv. 14–15 or a large number of new arrivals.

“ ‘You deaf and mute spirit’ ” Apparently this was just another aspect of this boy’s physical problems (cf. v. 17) related to the demonic possession.

“ ‘come out of him and do not enter him again’ ” This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE and an AORIST ACTIVE SUBJUNCTIVE that meant “get out and do not ever start to come back.”

9:26 The physical manifestations accompanying the departure of the demonic appear to have been common in NT exorcisms.

“the boy became so much like a corpse” This is another symptom of a grand mal seizure.

9:27 “Jesus took him by the hand and raised him” This procedure showed Jesus’ concern and compassion (cf. 1:31; 5:41). He was not afraid to touch the sick and possessed!

9:28 “ ‘Why could we not drive it out’ ” They were surprised! Earlier they had been able to cast out demons; why not now? Matthew 17:20 says it was because of the smallness of their faith.

9:29 “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” Many other Greek manuscripts add “and fasting.”[1]


In making application of this event to our lives, I want to focus on three phrases:

·         "...when they came back..." (v.14)

·         "...if you can do anything..." (v.22)

·         "I do believe; help my unbelief..." (v.24)



From the phrase "...when they came back..." in verse 14 can learn something about the arena where Christianity is lived out

1.   The "they" in that phrase is reference to Jesus and Peter, James, and John...points back to experience at which we looked last week...had been up on a high mountain with Jesus ...had seen Jesus transformed before their very eyes in radiant splendor...observed Him speaking with Moses and Elijah... heard the very voice of God proclaim, "This is my beloved Son..."...if there ever was a mountain top spiritual, they had it...

2.   Walking down from the mountain the next day they were bubbling with enthusiasm...on way down had great theological conversation with Jesus about the resurrection and relationship between Elijah and the Messiah...didn't understand much of what Jesus said, but no doubt they were pumped up...feeling pretty spiritual...excited be followers of Jesus...

3.   Then, suddenly they were off the mountain and back in the valley...a large crowd swirled around them...found the other disciples being taunted by group of religious fanatics... confronted by distraught father whose son was demon possessed...

4.   How quickly the excitement of the mountaintop experience must have quickly the feelings of ecstasy were replaced by the reality of dealing with real problems in a real world...

5.   Important lesson in that for us about nature of Christian life... while we need the occasional mountaintop experience, the real Christian life is lived in the flesh and blood world of people and pressures and problems...think it is significant Jesus did not allow Peter, James, and John to linger on the mountaintop ...ushered them down from the mountain to the reality of life below...

6.   From earliest days of church has been element among Christians who have misunderstood essential nature of Christian life...have secluded themselves from world, either literally in monasteries, or symbolically by cloaking themselves in words or rituals or music world can't understand... eventually lose touch with very world to which should be ministering...

7.   While it is important for Christians to spend time alone with God, as one writer put it, "The solitude is not meant to make us solitary.  It is meant to make us better able to meet and cope with the demands of everyday life."  And that's where Christian life must be midst of the real world of everyday life....


From the phrase "...if you can..." in v.22 can learn something about the nature of faith.

1.   In the NASB's translation of this passage will not find the English word faith...however, the concept of faith permeates this story... in the Greek language the same word can be translated faith or belief and faithing or believing....that word is used numerous times in this passage--

--v.19 Jesus calls the people an "unbelieving" or unfaithing or faithless generation...

--v.23 Jesus told the father that "All things are possible to him who believes" or has faith...

--v.24 the father said to Jesus, "I do believe" or have faith...

2.   The father first approached Jesus in spirit of faithlessness as evidenced by the statement "...if you can..." Jesus rebuked him for that attitude...And one thing can learn from this event is don't have to have lot of  faith to get something done....obviously father's faith was weak, faltering, less than perfect...but Jesus responded to it anyway... 

3.   Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, told story about woman who was well known for faith...another woman travelled many miles to meet her and learn the secret of her life...when arrived at her home asked, "Are you the woman with the great faith?"...and the woman replied, "No, I am not.  I am the woman with a little faith in the great God."

4.   It's not really the size of our faith that matters, it is the object of our faith...our faith -belief, trust, confidence, hope, assurance- must be in Jesus...


From the phrase "I do believe; help my unbelief..." in v.24 can learn something about prayer.

1.   In Bible are recorded some wonderful prayers...Psalms are filled with the eloquent prayers of David...Jesus taught disciples to pray using prayer we call the Lord's Prayer or Model John 17 there is the great intercessory prayer of Jesus for His book of Acts read many prayers of early church...throughout Paul's letters are wonderful prayers for His readers...

2.   But of all the prayers in the Bible, this is one I identify with the most..."I do believe; help my unbelief." is so honest, so transparent, and so typical of where I am most of the time ...always struggling between belief and unbelief...between faith and doubt...

3.   And it's reminder that prayer doesn't have be eloquent or long or profound for God to respond to it...just has to be heartfelt...There's a beautiful story in the book And the Angels Were Silent by Max Lucado:

      …a bishop was traveling by ship to visit a church across the ocean.  While en route, the ship stopped at an island for a day.  He went for a walk on a beach.  He came across three fishermen mending their nets.

      Curious about their trade, he asked them some questions.  Curious about his ecclesiastical robes, they asked him some questions.  When they found out he was a Christian leader, they got excited, “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.

      The bishop was impressed but cautious.  Did they know the Lord’s Prayer?  They never heard of it.

      “What do you say when you pray?”

      “We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’”

      The bishop was appalled at the primitive nature of the prayer.  “That will not do.”  So he spent the day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer.  The fisherman were poor but willing learners.  And before the bishop sailed away the next day, they could recite the prayer with no mistakes.

      The bishop was proud.

      On the return trip the bishop’s ship drew new the island again.  When the island came into view, the bishop came to the deck and recalled with pleasure the men he had taught and resolved to go see them again.  As he was thinking, a light appeared on the horizon near the island.  It seemed to be getting nearer.  As the bishop gazed in wonder, he realized the three fishermen were walking toward him on the water.  Soon all the passengers and crew were on the deck to see the sight.

      When they were within speaking distance, the fishermen cried out, “Bishop, we come hurry to meet you.”

      “What is it you want?” asked the stunned bishop.

      “We are so sorry.  We forget the lovely prayer.  We say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by your name…’ and then we forget.  Please tell us prayer again.

      The bishop was humbled.  “Go back to your homes, my friends, and when you pray say, “We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’”



1.   In the Vatican Art Gallery hangs the last painting of the famous artist is entitled The Transfiguration...perhaps you've seen a print of top part of the painting is the transfigured form of Jesus with Moses on the left and Elijah on the middle of painting are Peter, James, and John shielding their eyes from the brilliance of Jesus' shining the bottom of the painting is the demon possessed boy described in passage read today...his mouth is distorted and face twisted with wild ravings... next to the boy is the desperate father...surrounding them are the rest of the disciples, some of whom are pointing upward to the glowing figure of Christ, the boy's only hope...

2.   Painting captures well the meaning of this passage...only as we turn to Christ in faith and prayer are we able to meet the challenges of life in the real world... 

[1] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (105). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.