Mark 9:14-29: Lord, Jesus, Help Me! I Need to Overcome My Unbelief!

Jesus, Peter, James and John, came down from the mountain, and the experience of the Transfiguration, only to find a crowd arguing with the disciples who stayed behind. As always, Jesus, to the rescue — to do what the disciples lost their ability to do — drive out demons. Let’s dig in…

Mark 9:14-29 – Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy

14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law (scribes) were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.

16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked.

17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19 Jesus said to the disciples, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”

26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer (and fasting).”

Mark 9:14-29 NLT

Let’s Unpack This…

  • First, who were these “scribes”? In the first century, a scribe was a copyist of the Mosaic law. They prided themselves on their knowledge and expertise, as well as the traditions of the elders.
  • What was the argument? The man had brought his son to Jesus to have Him drive the demon from his son. Jesus was up on the mountain with Peter, James and John being transfigured. The disciples, thinking they still had the “authority” that Jesus gave them to cast out demons back in chapter 6, failed. The scribes called them out.
  • The disciples couldn’t understand why they were unable to cast out the demon like they had before. So, Jesus calls them out — “You faithless people!”(v19)
  • As soon as the demon sees Jesus, he tortures the kid even more.
  • The father, having dealt with this for years was desperate. He believed that Jesus could heal his son, otherwise, he wouldn’t have brought the boy to Him. But, he had doubts. Anyone would! The man cries, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”(v22)
  • I love Jesus’ response… “What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Anything is possible if a person believes.” (v23) Now here’s where this passage gets taken way out of context. Just because a person is a believer, doesn’t mean God is at our beck and call. God is not a magic genie! Both John and James later wrote about how to ask God with the right attitude…

14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.

1 John 5:14 NLT

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

James 4:2-3 NLT

Pastor Sandy Adams comments…

The man asks, “if you can do anything?” Jesus replies, “I can do anything.” The solution doesn’t hinge on Jesus’ ability. Jesus is always able. The only issue is our faith.

What honesty. He had faith, but it was a wimpy, skimpy faith. He cries out to Jesus to bolster his weak faith… But at least he used what faith he had…

Obviously, it wasn’t the strength of the man’s faith that performed the miracle, but the object of his faith. Jesus delivered the boy despite fragile faith. It’s not faith – but God that moves mountains. What we need is enough faith to move the hand of God.

Sandy Adams

2 Stages of Faith

Jewish exorcists had a complex procedure to attempt to cast out a demon from a person. All Jesus had to do was command the spirit to leave. HE had AUTHORITY.

Let’s look at this from the disciples point of view…

Faith is not the absence of doubt. To be a born-again Christian, it’s not necessary to have 100% belief. You don’t have to have complete certainty in Jesus. Just enough faith to TRUST Jesus. Here we have faith in 2 stages…

  1. The removal of the demon.
  2. The recovery of the boy.

It’s was like, “Wait! I’m not done, yet!” Are YOU giving up on Jesus because He doesn’t act fast enough?

Prayer as a Discipline

The final question here was why couldn’t the disciples cast this demon out? Well, it seems that not all demonic spirits are alike. This one needed to be driven out by “prayer and fasting”. My question is, when did Jesus have time to fast? It seems some ancient manuscripts added “fasting”, when some had just “prayer”. I wrote about fasting for Ash Wednesday, so I won’t get into here. Nevertheless, fasting does add fuel to the fire of fervent prayer.

So, why did the disciples fail? They didn’t pray.

How Strong is Your Faith?

Faith destroys fear, gives joy, peace and hope. There is a link between faith, the heart, possibility and God’s will.

I’m going to close with a portion from the YouVersion Bible app lesson, The Gospel of Mark Part 4 by Danny Saavedra…

…The disciples were caught up in the difficulty of the case and the stubbornness of the demon. They tried at first, but it didn’t work. But instead of taking that moment to pray in faith to the One who has proven faithful over and over, instead of calling on Him to do this mighty work and believing He could and would, they deduced they simply couldn’t drive it out.

Now to be clear, their faith wouldn’t have made it easier for God to work this miracle. He doesn’t need our faith to work. But He desires and requires faith in those who are His instruments. Where there is no faith, no amount of miraculous work will amount to anything (see Exodus and the Gospels for proof of this statement). And faith, my friends, is grown, developed, stretched, nurtured, pruned, fueled, and matured in prayer. Faith cannot grow where prayer is not present and persistent. 

Do you want to accomplish great things in His name? Spend more time on your knees in intimate prayer and devotion. Grow in Him and in your relationship, and He will grow your faith! And as He grows your faith, you will see and experience His presence and power in, through, and around you in ways beyond what you could ever ask, think, or imagine! 

Pause: What is the relationship between faith and prayer?

Practice: Commit to praying three times per day for the next seven days.

Pray: Father, I want more of You—not more power to do the impossible, not more wisdom for accomplishing wonders or living out my best life or walking in my purpose. I want more of You! You are my life, and You are all I need. 

Everything else that comes with knowing You is a bonus. I thank You that I can know You and have an intimate, loving, deep, healthy, growing relationship with You, that I can be in Your presence, that Your Son Christ Jesus dwells within me. I pray that more and more I can “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” so that I would be daily, continually “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19 NIV). Amen. 

Danny Saavedra, The Gospel of Mark (Part Four):

Do you have a growing relationship with Jesus? If not, all you have to is…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

God is on the Move

Way Maker

Whom Shall I Fear?

Chain Breaker

Top image by Sweet Publishing from, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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