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Lesson 15
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I.       Observation

A.     Outline

Jesus Drives out An Unclean Spirit (9:14-29)

The disciples fail to drive out an unclean spirit (14-18)

The unclean spirit defies Jesus (19-20)

The father’s faith (21-24)

Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit (25-29)

Jesus Teaches the Disciples about What Is to Come (9:30-32)

A servant’s proper attitude (9:33-41)

The first must be the very last (33-35)

Serving the children (36-37)

Do not forbid others from working in Jesus’ name (38-41)

Warning against Causing to Sin (9:42-50)

Warning against causing a little one to sin (42)

Better to enter life with a body part missing (43-38)

Teachings from salt (49-50)

B.     Key Words/Phrases

Believe, unbelief, convulsion, prayer, fasting, betrayed, kill, rise, greatest, first, last, child, “in My name,” little ones, causes to sin, cut it off, hell, worm, fire, salt

II.    Segment Analysis

1. Their experience of heavenly glory eventually came to an end. It was not yet their time to leave the world, and they had to return to their everyday problems. Likewise, we must not let our minds be stuck in a particular miracle, a powerful sermon, or spiritual experience. God inspires us spiritually to help us grow in faith and understanding, so that we can move on with our lives and face their challenges.

2. The disciples must have been very confident when the father asked them to drive out the unclean spirit. They had done it many times before, with great success. However, this time they could not drive out the unclean spirit. Perhaps the scribes were claiming again that Jesus’ authority was not from God. The disciples must have been frustrated at their inability, and tried to come up with reasons why. But arguing with the scribes probably made things worse. They were neither as educated nor as eloquent.

3. Moses’ face was so radiant that the people were afraid to come near him, and that was just a reflection of God’s glory, which probably had resulted from Moses speaking with God face to face (Ex 33:11; 34:29,30). In the high mountain, Jesus showed His glory (9:3). As He was coming down from the mountain, some of that radiance might have remained in His appearance. Likewise, if we let God’s word and spirit fill us, others can see the glory of the Lord through us (2Cor 3:18).

4. This unclean spirit dared to defy Jesus. It did not beg Jesus nor acknowledge His authority. When it saw Jesus, it lashed out (20). Even after Jesus rebuked it, it convulsed the boy one last time before coming out (26).

6a. Because of the disciples’ failure, perhaps the father’s faith had wavered. Still, he remained in the crowd, probably to listen to the argument between the disciples and the scribes. Although he did not understand, he earnestly sought the answer.

6b. He believed that Jesus would take pity and help them, if He could do anything. He believed in Jesus’ compassion, but was unsure of Jesus’ power. The disciples’ failure and subsequent argument with the scribes probably did not help the father’s faith in Jesus. But after Jesus had spoken to him, he realized that only Jesus could make him believe completely, and that only Jesus could help his son.

Jesus later taught the disciples the power of faith as small as a mustard seed (Mt 17:20). It tells us how small our faith is. We receive grace through faith; but only Jesus can give us the perfect faith (Acts 3:16).

8a. Jesus said that the unclean spirit could be driven out only by prayer and fasting (cf. Mt 17:21). Prayer was always a part of Jesus’ habit (cf. 1:35; 6:46). He was always prepared against the devil, and did not have to make a special prayer just for a miracle. On the other hand, the disciples’ argument with the scribes shows their lack of faith, understanding, and power.

9a. They were filled with grief (Mt 17:23). Also, Jesus had rebuked them several times before (cf. 4:40; 7:17-18; 8:16-17), so they would rather not ask Him another question.

10. We don’t know who started the argument, but perhaps Peter, James and John were thinking highly of themselves because Jesus had taken only the three of them to Jairus’ daughter’s bedside (5:37) and to the transfiguration (9:2). Even though Jesus had sent the twelve disciples out in pairs (6:7) to teach them how to work together, each one still had selfish ambitions (later, James and John asked Jesus for glory for themselves [10:35-37]). It is also probable that their different backgrounds made it difficult for all of them to get along with one another.

11. Jesus was speaking about being the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:4). Heavenly authority is different from earthly authority (Lk 22:25-27). While acquiring earthly authority requires ambition and and self-promotion, heavenly authority starts with humility. If we humble ourselves, God will exalt us (1Pet 5:5-6). Jesus Himself set an example of this lesson (Php 2:6-7).

12. “In my name”—the phrase reminds us of our roles as God’s servants. We do everything for Jesus. We express Jesus’ teachings in our lives. Like our Lord Jesus, our goal must always be to edify others physically and spiritually. Jesus warned the disciples against causing anyone to sin. If we truly follow His example, our actions would not cause anyone to fall (1Cor 8:13).

13a. 1. Jesus wanted to remind them of a parent’s love. A parent is concerned only for the child’s wellbeing. A parent is never jealous of a child who is greater and more successful than him or her. Jesus was probably also pointing to the small child when he was warning the disciples against causing “one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble” (42). If we love others like our own, we will do everything in our power to keep them away from sin, much less cause them to sin.

2. True humility is expressed in our attitude towards the least of our brothers. If we are willing to serve even the little children and those who tend to be despised among us in the name of Christ, then Christ Himself will reward us and make us great (cf. Mt 18:1-6, 10-14).

13b. feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, providing hospitality, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, visiting those in prison (Mt 25:35-36).

13c. A little one is anyone in need. It might be an elderly believer or a young child. It might be a minister or a religious education teacher. It might be your spouse, your parent, or your sibling. It might be a friend or a stranger. While what we can give might seem insignificant, it can bring unexpected comfort to someone in distress (like a simple cup of water for someone in thirst [41]).

14a. “Because he does not follow us” (38). Perhaps the disciples assumed that Jesus gave authority only to them. Perhaps they thought it was their exclusive right to preach, to heal, and to drive out demons. They thought highly of themselves, and forgot the fact that they could not drive out the epileptic demon (18).

14b. Jesus lay down His life for His sheep, but not all of them are yet of His fold (Jn 10:16). Today, there are many devout Christians who are doing their best to live for Christ and to search for the perfect gospel. Instead of rejecting their efforts, we must bring them into the true church, “till we all come to the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:13), in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5).

15a. Hand—We do things against God’s teachings. Examples are: stealing, hitting, gambling, touching inappropriately, laboring for earthly possessions (Eccl 2:11). When we surf the Internet, our hands may click on sites that cause our eyes to sin.

15b. Foot—We walk into places where temptation awaits us. We go to parties that do not edify our spirituality. We go with our worldly friends instead of walking with the Lord.

15c. Eye—Our eyes are the windows to our hearts (Mt 6:22-23). What we see affects our thoughts and imagination. Sometimes we look at sinful things out of curiosity or our fleshly desires. Or we may stare hatefully or jealously at others.

15d. To cut off the body part that causes us to sin refers to our resolve. We must find the culprit and ask God to take our sins away.

17a. Salt is a humble but useful and essential material. It symbolizes hospitality and faithfulness (cf. Did You Know 3). Paul compares speech that is full of grace to that which is seasoned with salt. Jesus also teaches us to be the salt of the earth to show these qualities.

17b. Jesus contrasts hell’s unquenchable fire to the greater fire of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit appears as a tongue of fire (Acts 2:4). John prophesied that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt 3:11). The Holy Spirit gave the apostles power and courage to serve the Lord (2Tim 1:7).

17b. Hell is horrible; we must avoid it at all cost. However, cutting off the offending parts of our body does not destroy the source of sin. Without Jesus Christ, our entire body is a slave to sin (Rom 7:18). The only way to be saved from hell is to be salted with the fire of the Holy Spirit (Isa 4:3-4). The Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual qualities of salt and leads us into life (Rom 8:5-6). Through Jesus Christ, we can do all good things (Php 4:13).

If we continue to reject the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we lose our saltiness, and will be “thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Mt 5:13). If we deliberately keep on sinning, no sacrifice for sins is left (Heb 10:26-27); we cannot be made salty again.

If we strive to obey the Holy Spirit, we will naturally be at peace with those around us (Heb 12:14). Had the disciples been salted with the Holy Spirit, they would not have argued or acted arrogantly.

18a. Their argument with the scribes might have caused some in the crowd to lose faith in Jesus. By arguing, they did not appear to be wise or gentle, which reflected poorly on Jesus.

Their argument over who was the greatest caused discord among them (Mk 10:41). In spite of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness (Mt 18:15-35), it probably took some time before the disciples forgave each other.

One thing the disciples agreed on was that they were greater than other people by virtue of being Jesus’ chosen disciples. They forbade someone else from working in Jesus’ name simply “because he does not follow us” (38). Their arrogance might have caused confusion among the believers, and caused other workers to lose heart or even turn away from God.

18b. Church work should not take precedence over a member’s needs. We must be careful not to become hypocrites like the Pharisees. The devil often concentrates his attacks on church workers. If a worker is not faithful, it is easy to strike down God’s sheep (Jn 10:12). Also, God’s work does not prosper in a divided church (1Cor 3:3). We must understand that God’s work belongs to God, not any one person. Remember that we have been “hired” by God to build up His church (1Cor 3:9-10).

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