Summary: Christ will act towards you on his terms, not yours.
There is a scene in C.S. Lewis' children's book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which the children of the story are learning about the great lion king Aslan from Mr. & Mrs. Beaver. One asks the question, "Is he safe?" Mr. Beaver replies, "Safe?… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He's the King, I tell you!" Aslan, of course, if you know your Narnia Chronicles, is a type figure for Jesus. And this remark made regarding Aslan is one I have come to often associate with Jesus, particularly when I come across such a scene that we are looking at in our passage this morning. Let's look at it now.
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
Jesus, Peter, James and John are returning from the mountain on which Jesus had been transfigured and visited by Moses and Elijah. It was as close to an other-world experience one gets, and now they descend to "the real world" where yet another controversy is taking place. The disciples have gotten involved in some kind of argument with the argumentative religious leaders, and the crowd is gathering and having a great time. Jesus comes on the scene, and now they really get excited. I don't know what Jesus is thinking, but I do know what I would be - What is it now?
So he finds out. 16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
Let's put this scene together. A man has a son possessed by an evil spirit that throws the boy into epileptic fits so terrible that they endanger his life. He has heard of Jesus and has brought his son to him with the hope of the demon being driven out. Jesus, we know, was away on the mountain, so the father turned to his disciples, which would be logical considering they were the Master's special trainees. As we know, the disciples had already been sent on at least one mission by Jesus, where, They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:13). They did this when they were in pairs of two; surely it shouldn't be a problem when nine are together.
And yet they failed to the delight of the religious teachers. “So!” they say to the disciples, “What happened to your power to cast out demons? Weren't you given authority by Jesus?" We don't know the words of the debate, but apparently it was hot enough to get the interest of a crowd of people.
Place yourself in the father's shoes (or sandals). Your son is demon possessed, and you have gone to where you hope you will find deliverance for him. The head guy is not there, but his assistants are who have handled this kind of problem before, so they say. They fail, and the next thing you know, you are caught up in the middle of a theological debate between the assistants and the religious teachers who make it clear these guys are nothing but quacks anyhow. Not only that, but a crowd has gathered around finding the whole matter great entertainment. Just as that moment Jesus walks in, takes charge, and finds out what is going on.
He responds like we would expect him to, having come down from his mountain experience in which he is visibly glorified by his own Father before his three closest disciples. 19 “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
Jesus rebukes probably both the disciples and the religious leaders. Surely he is exasperated with the disciples. But anyhow, it is clear that he is going to handle this matter promptly. I would think the father's spirits are improving.
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. As you and I read this, we think, No problem. This is a typical reaction from an evil spirit when confronted by Jesus. And the typical response of Jesus is to call that spirit out.