The man who went up a hill and came down a mountain to chaos

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Which scene in the Bible do you think the heading is referring to?  In Mark 9, Jesus goes up  a hill/mountain with a few of his disciples. There at the summit, there is a revelation of God’s glory, an encounter with The Law (Moses) and The Prophets (Elijah) and God speaks.  When they come down after, they are greeted by chaotic scenes, a man has come to find Jesus to ask him to heal his son who is demonised. With Jesus absent, the man has turned to the disciples who have tried but failed to cast out the demon.

Jesus then says two things that we might struggle with.

‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? 

And at the end he says

‘This kind can come out only by prayer.”

(Some translations add “and fasting”)

The reference to an unbelieving generation is a clue or throwback because the language picks up a theme from all the way back in Deuteronomy. Those who wandered in the wilderness were a stubborn, unbelieving generation and I believe that Jesus intends us to make the comparison.

So, can we think of another incident where a man came down a mountain to chaos? One specifically to do with the Exodus? You may recall that when Moses goes up Mount Sinai to receive The Law and whilst he is encountering something of God’s glory as he hears God speak, the people down below are getting frustrated.  Aaron the priest decides to fix things. He has a golden calf made and tells the people to worship it as Yahweh. Moses returns to find the people engaged in an orgy like worship event before the idol.

Idolatry is often about us seeking other forms of help instead of complete dependence on God.   That’s what the people do at Sinai and I want to suggest that this is what we are seeing after The Transfiguration.  The disciples had previously been able to heal the sick and cast out demons but here they cannot. It seems that with Jesus up the mountain, they’ve thought that the responsibility is all down to them. They are the ones seeking to help instead of realising that even when Jesus isn’t present, when it is their hands and voices at work that they are still completely dependent on him. He is the one who heals.

That’s why I think Jesus concludes that prayer and fasting are needed. It’s not that this is a particularly deadly type of demon.  When Jesus says “this kind” he is referring to all demons.  The point is not that you need a particularly intense type of prayer, a special type with fasting carrying magical properties. Rather, it’s that prayer and fasting are an expression of our complete dependence upon God, upon Jesus and not on our own strength. 

Who are you depending on today?

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