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“And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met Him. And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. And I besought Thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God, but while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, He said unto His disciples, Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask Him of that saying. Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by Him. And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receiveth Me: and whosoever shall receive Me receiveth Him that sent Me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name: and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us”—Luke 9:37-50.
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It would be a wondertul thing if we might always remain on the mountain with Christ. A mountain in Scripture speaks of a plaee of special and exalted privilege. It was on the mountain that the disciples witnessed the marvelous transfiguration of our blessed Lord. They would have gladly remained there with Him and with the Old Testament worthies who appeared in glory, speaking of His decease which He was to accomplish on Calvary; but the time came when they had to leave that place of blessing and go down to the foot of the mount to rejoin the rest of the apostles, and to meet the multitudes in their sin and need. Many of us have known similar experiences. It has been our happy privilege on various occasions to enter into most wonderful and precious communion with the Lord, far apart from the ordinary cares and responsibilities of daily life. On the mount of blessing we were free to be occupied with Christ alone. How gladly would we have remained there and never again taken an interest in mundane affairs. But this could not be. We may not always be in the enjoyment of mountain-top experiences. We have to descend to the plains to participate in the ordinary affairs of life. The fact is that the mountain-top experiences are intended by God to fit us for our part in ministering to those who do not know our Lord; or to those who know Him, yet have very little understanding of the precious truths He delights to reveal to us.
And so we read, “It came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met Him.” In the throng was a poor, troubled father who had with him a demon-possessed son. The father immediately sought out Jesus, pushing his way through the crowd and looking up to Him earnestly, he exclaimed, “Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.” Evidently, satanic power had so controlled this poor lad that he was suffering from something very much akin to epilepsy, but back of it all was demon power. We can well understand the anguish of the father’s heart. There is something so pathetic and so gripping in those words, “He is mine only child!” How many parents have known somewhat similar circumstances—an only son or daughter under the power of Satan, and apparently no ability on their part or on the part of others to deliver them. But when we go to the Lord we go to the right Person. Our cries are never unheeded by Him; He is never indifferent to our exercises. He may not instantly heal bodily ailments, He may not immediately save from Satan’s power, but we can always be sure of a loving and sympathetic hearing; and we may be certain of this: in God’s due time the prayer of faith will be answered.
Oftentimes in our distress we go to fellow-believers, seeking help from them, sometimes to be bitterly disappointed. This poor father said, “I besought Thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.” Now we know that the Lord had given His disciples authority over unclean spirits, and on other occasions that power had been manifested in a marvelous way, but in this particular instance they seemed utterly helpless. Why? Well, the Lord Himself makes it clear. He said, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” They were confronted with a problem which they could not solve. Undoubtedly one reason was that they had become occupied with ideas of advancement in the coming kingdom, and so they were out of touch with the Lord. They might go through the ordinary motions of laying their hands upon the demon-possessed, commanding the unclean spirit to go out of him; but there were no results because the disciples were out of fellowship with God who has said to His own, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.”
It is so easy for Christ’s servants to become professional, or semi-professional, to become self-centered and to give way to pride and self-interest. When this is so, prayer will be neglected and the study of the Word will no longer occupy us; and we will have little power when it comes to personal work and seeking to deliver people from the dominion of the devil. In fact, a believer out of touch with God has no power at all; he becomes the laughing-stock of Satan. He may call upon the demon to depart from his victim, but the evil spirit will refuse to do so; and the poor, unhappy demoniac will find no deliverance. If one is to be in the position where God can use him, there must be self-judgment and confession, daily feeding upon the Word, and he must continue instant in prayer. In this case the disciples could do nothing for this poor, distracted father, and so he turns to Jesus for help. The Lord Jesus rebuked the disciples, saying, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?” Then He said to the father, “Bring thy son hither.” As the poor boy-was brought into the Lord’s presence, we are told that the demon cast him down and he lay writhing upon the ground and foaming at the mouth. It was a pitiful sight, and the compassionate heart of Christ was deeply touched. He said to the father, “How long is it ago since this came unto him?” He did not ask the question because He did not know, but He wanted to draw out that father’s heart and lead him to confide fully in the only One who could give him the help that was needed. The father replied that this had come upon his son when he was but a little child, and that at times while under this awful demon power, he had been cast into the fire and badly burned, and at other times he had been thrown into the waters where he was in danger of drowning. The father, after telling of these sad experiences, exclaimed, “If Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us;” and at once, we are told, “Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.” Oh, the joy that must have welled up in that father’s heart when he realized that his boy was free and that the demon’s power was broken!
Thank God the Saviour has the same power today. No matter how Satan may have afflicted poor lost sinners; no matter how terrible the bondage under which they have lived for years, when they come to Him who died to redeem them, they can be delivered, set free from the chains that have bound them, and He will give them the joy of His salvation.
It is not always His will now in this dispensation of grace to deliver from bodily affliction. God had promised the people of Israel that if they would walk with Him they would be free from sickness. He has not promised this to those who belong to the Body of Christ; but He has promised something even better—namely, grace to endure. Paul found this out, He suffered from a severe physical affliction, and he besought the Lord thrice for deliverance from it. God did not answer in the way His dear servant at first desired, but said to him, as it were, “No, Paul; I am not going to free you from this affliction, but I am going to do something better for you; I am going to give you grace to bear it.” Paul exclaimed, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
When the people saw how the boy was delivered from the spirit that had controlled him for so long, we read, “They were all amazed at the mighty power of God.” While they were looking on with wonder at the mighty works which Jesus did, He took occasion to tell His disciples that the day was drawing near when He Himself would be delivered into the hands of men. Then, indeed, they would need faith to believe that He was truly the Christ of God. He said to them, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.” When the time actually came they forgot His warning, and so they were in great perplexity. Had they only borne in mind what He had told them, they would not have been so troubled when He was delivered into the hands of men to be crucified. He said to them, as it were, “Do not forget what you have seen and heard, for the day is coming when you will need to call these things to mind, when you see Me led out to die, and apparently left alone and forsaken upon a cross of shame. You will be in danger then of thinking that I have been a deceiver, but remember these things when the hour comes that I am taken from you.” They did not understand, however, for it was hid from them, we are told, and “they perceived it not: and they feared to ask Him of that saying.” Had they been in more intimate communion with Him, they would have doubtless turned to Him and asked for fuller information, and He would have given it gladly. We notice as we go on through these records that there were times when there seemed to be no restraint, and the Lord was able to speak to them freely of what was in His heart; at other times, when He spoke of His death and resurrection, there seemed to be a barrier between Him-and them. They were perplexed. The root-cause of their lack of faith and of understanding is seen in the incident that follows. We read, “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by Him, and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receiveth Me: and whosoever shall receive Me receiveth Him that sent Me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” How this brings out the distrustfulness, worthlessness. the unreliability of the human heart, even in those who really knew and loved their Lord. The disciples were His own. They were surely among the best in Israel, and yet they were remarkably human, and seemed to forget so easily what was expected of them as followers of the meek and lowly Saviour. He has been speaking of His death, and here they are striving among themselves as to who will be greatest. Think of it! These men who had been with Jesus for so long, and had never seen Him do a selfish thing, nor heard Him say a word that would indicate a proud or haughty spirit, and yet they are so unlike their Master that they are actually quareling among themselves as to who will have the highest place in the coming kingdom. What a lesson for all of us as we realize that “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.” Note the lovely picture which Jesus put before the disciples. He took a little child and set him by Him and said, “Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receiveth Me.” The child is the ideal convert: simple, trustful, confiding, ready to receive because of faith in the person who speaks to it. The little one trusted Jesus and was not afraid of Him, and therefore remained at His side in perfect confidence.
Did the disciples get the lesson? Did they understand that it is the spirit of the little child which the Lord desires to see manifested in His own? Do we realize it today? Do we see Jesus, as it were, in every little child? As we look into those innocent little faces, do we behold Him; and do we say in our hearts, “We must do unto this little child as we would do unto Him”? To receive the child in His name is to receive Him, and to receive Him is to receive the Father who sent Him.
The Lord adds, “He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” Advancement, then, in the kingdom of God comes by taking the lowest place.
In the next verses we have the Lord’s rebuke of sectarianism. It is quite possible to be intensely jealous of one’s ecclesiastical position while actually out of touch with the Lord Himself. John manifested this when he spoke up and said, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name: and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.” Evidently this man whom they had seen was one who believed in Jesus and in the power of His name, and he undertook to seek to exorcise demons in the name of Jesus, and evidently the demons came out. But this gave no joy to the heart of John or the other disciples. They were indignant that anyone should be using the name of their Master in this way if he did not actually belong to their little company. How much of that spirit we see among Christians who are so obsessed with the idea that they alone constitute the elect of God, that they find no pleasure in the work which others are doing for Christ who do not belong to their particular sect or group. What a rebuke are the words of the Lord, not only to those disciples of old, but to us: “Forbid him not: he that is not against us is for us.” Elsewhere Jesus said that “He that is not for us is against us.” Both are true. There is no such thing as neutrality in respect to Christ. We are either for Him or against Him. If for Him, we are not against Him; if not against Him, we must be for Him. If we could ever keep this in mind it would prevent a lot of unhappiness among professed Christians. Just because people do not agree with us in every detail does not mean they are necessarily against Christ. Many would die for His name’s sake who might not see with us as to some minor point of doctrine or church order. We may say we do not see why the Lord should use certain people when they do not belong to us, but He continues to use them just the same. Precious souls are being won to Christ through many with whom we might not fellowship.
There are indeed many important lessons to be learned at the foot of the mountain. There the difficulties of life are to be faced. We discover that only by prayer and fasting can we have power to deliver others from satanic influences. Only as we live in fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ and desire nothing for ourselves, will we be able to understand and enjoy the precious truth of God and to maintain a right attitude toward others. We are slow to learn, but may God give to each one of us His grace to bow in contrition at our Saviour’s feet and receive the instruction that He is so ready to give.