God’s Word for You
Mark 9:14-18 He foams at the mouth
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 30, 2020
Jesus Heals a Boy With a Demon
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes were arguing with them. 15 Then everyone in the crowd saw Jesus. They were very agitated and ran to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”
The scribes figure prominently in verse 14, but they disappear from the account as soon as Jesus arrives. We can only guess at what the argument was about, but in other places we have questions in similar situations, such as: “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). We also know that the scribes (NIV, “teachers of the law”) did not speak with authority about anything but only asked more and more questions that confused people (Matthew 7:29). The scribes became indignant when people praised Jesus (Matthew 21:15).
Here, as soon as Jesus arrived, the crowd became “very agitated.” This word, ekthambéō, only occurs in Mark’s Gospel in the Bible, and only in the passive voice (it is something that ‘comes upon’ someone). In the resurrection account “they were ‘alarmed’” (Mark 16:5), and before that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was ‘deeply distressed’ (Mark 14:33). Clearly this word presents a strong emotional reaction which was stirred up by the scribes and prolonged by the absence of Jesus.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who has a demon that keeps him from speaking. 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
A distressed father comes forward. He had been looking for Jesus, and having found him, he didn’t want to waste any more time. He describes some of his boy’s symptoms, but the other Gospels add to the list:
- Seized by a demon or evil spirit (Mark 9:18)
- Made him scream suddenly (Luke 9:39)
- Robbed of (coherent) speech (Mark 9:17)
- Turned the boy deaf (Mark 9:25)
- Convulsions (seizures, Matthew 17:15)
- Made him rigid (Mark 9:18)
- Foaming at the mouth (Luke 9:39)
- Grinding or gnashing teeth (Mark 9:18)
- Frequent attacks (“suffering greatly,” Matthew 17:15)
- Relentless attacks (“hardly ever leaves him” Luke 9:39)
- Falls into fire or water (Matthew 17:15)
- Will be lethal (“is destroying him,” Luke 9:39)
Since the nine disciples in Caesarea Philippi couldn’t drive the demon out, it’s even possible that the scribes were taunting them or mocking them over their powerlessness. Yet the scribes didn’t do anything helpful, either. Perhaps they even accused the boy or his father of a sin that brought on the demon.
Sometimes pastors are asked to come and help when doctors and nurses are at a loss. We go, and we pray, but I used to wonder whether families were disappointed when we did not at least attempt to perform a miraculous healing. I have prayed for a miracle, and I have prayed for the success of medicine. But we lay everything in God’s hands; what he will accomplish, he will accomplish without my waving my hands or raising my voice to say the Lord’s Prayer in Greek or in Old English. And leaving everything to the hands of God is all we can do. Normally, a miracle will not affect the faith of the one who is afflicted, and if there is miraculous healing that takes place, a physician is bound to either take credit for it or to explain it as best he or she can. And so the faith of the family is robbed of the miracle, anyway. And so we are left to be content with the gospel, and I am more than content with the gospel of Jesus my Savior.
It is Jesus who rescues us from the worst afflictions: the power of the grave, the power of the devil, and the power of sin. If I suffer today from an allergy, or tomorrow from cold, flu, Corona virus or cancer, I will still put the health of my body into the hands of the Lord. If you say, “Ah, but then you are lost,” I will reply with faith: “No. I pray the prayer my wife and I taught our children and that I still pray to this day: “If I should die before I wake, I know that, Lord, my soul you’ll take. Amen.”
Pastor Timothy Smith