What exactly is wrong with this boy? The symptoms include being unable to speak, being thrown to the ground, foaming at the mouth, gnashing of teeth, becoming rigid and uncontrollable convulsions. I wonder what a modern GP would make of it. Is it really demonic activity or can it all be explained by modern medicine? Is it possible that it's both? In other countries people talk often about exorcisms and people being under the influence of demons but not so much in England. Why is this? Are there fewer demons over here or do we just not believe in the spiritual reality as much in our materialistic culture? We could argue about these questions for quite a while and miss the main event.
Whatever the answers to these questions, here are some of the things we can be sure of, according to Mark's account of this incident:
- Jesus has ultimate authority (v25-27). Whether it's demons, sickness or anything else, Jesus is in charge over it. No-one could argue with the healing results of this boy's encounter with Jesus. The exorcism is nothing as complicated as what we see in the movies either. No special equipment, no special room or chanting. The power to heal is not in those things but rather, in the person of Jesus. All he has to do is command the demon to leave and it does. No fuss, no ritual, no superstition. Just the power Jesus has because he's God.
- Faith in Jesus is crucial (v23). Jesus nearly always heals in response to people's faith because he wants people to trust him and know him more. And even when he chooses not to heal, he offers us himself because knowing him is better than getting what we want, even if what we want seems vital.
- Reliance on God through prayer is essential (v28-29). The disciples were arguing when they should have been praying and they were powerless as a result.