Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


The Power of Faith

St. Mark IX., vv. 14-33.

"All things are possible to him that believeth."

T HE importance of faith is the main lesson here. With senior classes be careful not to let them confuse faith, which is praiseworthy, with credulity, which is blameworthy. Faith in Christ is not the believing certain facts about Him without sufficient evidence. Faith in Christ means faith in a person—faith in a character—faith in an infinite justice, and power, and love, and nobleness, and generosity. Try to teach this well. In those days of foolish talk about "believing," it is of the deepest importance. It is easy to see how faith thus understood leads to a noble life.

Recapitulate last Lesson. Now mark the contrast. On the mountain, transfiguration—glory—heavenly communing—down on the plain, confusion, and anger, and unbelief, and the agony of a poor boy under the power of the devil. Such is the contrast between heaven and earth.

Picture the scene that met our Lord. A poor boy crying out, and foaming at the mouth; the miserable father blaming the disciples; the disciples worried, vexed, disappointed, with an excited crowd about them, and the Scribes jeering and questioning. "Ah! you have failed. Why don't you cast out the devil? You have not power. Your Master has not power," etc. What a wretched change after the glory of the transfiguration! Like Moses coming down from mount (Exodus xxxii.).

Suddenly they see the Lord. They are amazed. Why? Probably the majesty and dignity of the transfiguration remain. Perhaps the heavenly glory not yet faded away, like Moses (Exodus xxxiv. 29). Running to Him, they salute Him. Evidently people glad to see Him always. Disciples glad to get relieved from difficulty. Like a victorious leader, He turns the tide of victory. He sharply asks Scribes—what? Takes disciples under His protection. Did they answer? Why not? Who did? Tell me his pitiful account of his boy. What does he say of disciples?

Repeat Christ's rebuke. To whom? To all—scribes, people, disciples. How long shall I be with you before you profit by my teaching and presence? (See John xiv. 9.) What does He direct to do with boy? No fear as to His  success—He is the Lord of all power and might. What happened next? This is a strange fact in our Lord's casting out of devils. The kingdom of Satan is stirred into fierceness by the nearness of Christ. Missionaries tell of similar experiences in India and China to-day—exhibitions of Satanic possession and terrible violence when pleading with souls for Christ. What an awful thing to see the poor boy writhing, wallowing, foaming. Evidently the father can't stand it, as he interrupts his account with an eager cry—what? (v.  22). "If  thou canst!" Why did he doubt? Because of disciples' failure. Anything like this now-a-days? Doubt and dishonour of Christ because of disciples' failure? People say—We don't believe much in Christianity—it does not seem to have much power in lives of religious people. Sunday scholars, and Church-goers, and communicants do not seem to differ much from others in ill-temper—peevishness—selfishness, etc. What a shame to bring dishonour thus on Christ's power! Why do they not differ from others? Because not real faith, and effort, and prayer. Because not in deep earnest to win the power and strength from Christ. Try to remember that all your failures are counted against Christ by careless people, and so they bring dishonour on Him.

What does Lord say to this doubt? (v.  23). What a wonderful fact—that Christ so wanted to be trusted. His power is hindered by doubt and distrust. To be trusted is such a help to Him. (Note meaning of "faith" in Introductory Note.) See the Syrophenician woman, and His delight in her faith (Matthew xiii. 58). Could do no mighty works because of unbelief. So He wanted this man to trust Him. Could he? Was it wicked of him? No! he could not help it—so discouraged by disciples' failure. A man has not it always in his power to believe or disbelieve. In such case should he be blamed? Does God blame him? What, then, does God want? The will  to trust Him. The will only  is in our own power. Had this man the will? Yes (v.  24). It was a poor weak, little faith. But he wanted it made stronger. People sometimes have doubts now about religion. Is doubt always sinful? Certainly not; often they can't help it. When are doubt and unbelief sinful? When they are wilful. When they come from carelessness or an evil life. Many a poor doubter has had to cry out eagerly like this man: "Lord, I believe; I want to believe, help my unbelief!" And this is real faith, and God accepts it and strengthens it. If one says, "I can't believe in God," the answer should be: "Have you prayed in deep earnest—as for dear life—for light and faith?" If not, the doubt is your own fault.

See how Christ accepts the poor man's weak faith. See how he utters His masterly command. What? (v.  25). Was He obeyed? Devil departs, leaving him. How? (v.  26). "Like an outgoing tenant not caring what mischief he does." (Fuller).  No power in Heaven, or earth, or hell can resist Christ; and we have permission to come and ask Him to use His Almighty power. Surely we could get far more blessing of every kind if we only came to Him oftener and more earnestly. That is the secret of all power for good.

Has Satan power over people now? Over men and women? boys and girls? How shown? Ever see poor drunkard falling into the fire and into the water? Who is making him do that? Ever see boy or girl in fierce rage, or using evil words, or doing dishonest deed? It is Satan makes him do it. He has not troubled to resist Satan, and so Satan got strong. Who can save him? Parents, and teachers, and clergy can advise him, but can't cast out Satan. Who can? (v.  28). "Bring him unto Me." No case too hard for Christ. He has all power in Heaven and earth. He can make every one of us live such brave, noble, pure, beautiful lives, that it will be a very delight to live. Let us keep earnestly desiring it, and earnestly asking it, and it will be certainly done. "This kind can come out by nothing save by prayer." (v.  29, R.V.)

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