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God’s Word for You

Mark 9:28-29 This kind of demon

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 2, 2020

28 After Jesus went into a house, his disciples inquired of him privately, “We were not able to drive it out.”

“Inquired” implies a question, but the sentence we have from the nine disciples is not phrased as a question. Still, it seeks an answer, the way that a judge or an attorney (or a mom) might make a statement that requires a response. In effect, the disciples were saying, “We’ve done this before” (Mark 6:13, “they drove out many demons”), so what went wrong this time?”

The matter still concerns us today. Why weren’t the disciples able to do now, in chapter 9, what they did so effortlessly in chapter 6? Jesus was not present in either case. What was the problem?

29 He said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out except by prayer.”

The disciples were not relying on faith in Christ, but perhaps on something like their past success to drive out this demon. Earlier they were sent out to heal and drive out demons (Luke 9:1), but at this time they were doing nothing more than waiting for Jesus and the other three disciples to return down the mountain. Yet Jesus says something more. He talks about what kind of demon this way.

The word “kind” in this sentence is genos (γένος), which is a word usually meaning “a people” (1 Peter 2:9; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 29:32 ), “race” (Martyrdom of Polycarp 14:1) or “nation, nationality” (Esther 2:10, 3:13). At various times, unbelievers are called children or offspring of the devil (John 8:44; Acts 13:10), and we understand this genos to mean that this is a type or variety of demon, not a member of a family of demons. What makes this demon different from any other? One answer is that it could be the form of possession or attack on the child: this demon had made this child a special project or victim throughout the child’s lifetime. So this demon is, in a manner of speaking, no different from any other, and yet Jesus uses the word “kind” (genos) referring to the way in which it should be handled by the one who ministers to the child.

A better answer to what kind of demon this was lies in its abilities. The focus of Jesus on the kind of demon, the genos, is a reminder that some demons are more powerful than others. This one was very powerful, and would not be driven out easily. We encounter something like this in Acts when the seven sons of the chief priest Sceva were going around trying to drive out demons until one day one of them answered: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” and then the man possessed by the demon jumped on the sons of Sceva and beat them up (Acts 19:15-16).

There will be times when we are able, as sanctified Christians, to have some little victory in our lives of faith, resisting a temptation or some other spiritual achievement. But we must never forget that this is done by the power of God and not by our own thinking or choosing. When we fall into thinking that we are the ones who accomplish anything for the kingdom of God, we will fail just as surely as anyone who tries to put gas in his car from the side opposite the filler neck.

Professor Lenski very neatly breaks Jesus’ statement into explaining Jesus’ words into a positive and negative explanation, what went wrong and what would go right: “By pointing to the unbelief (recorded in Matthew) Jesus shows the negative cause of the failure; by pointing to the prayer of faith (recorded in Mark) Jesus states the positive means of success” (The Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel p. 386).

I don’t expect that the average Christian at home will have many opportunities to drive out a demon. But we should take this account to heart by remembering that whatever we do we should do out of faith and for the glory of God, no matter what that task is. You are God’s child, God’s genos. And that is a kind not easily overcome by the devil or his mob. Keep putting your trust in Jesus.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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