Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mark: Transfiguration, man with a demon, me musing on autism again

Mark 9:1-24 in which Jesus goes up a mountain with three friends, gets transfigured to what he looked like before he left heaven, scares his friends, and then he comes back and gets ready to heal a man with a demon.

I wrote the following a couple years ago as I still try to develop a theology around special needs.  My brother has autism, and so I have a huge heart for autism and aspberger's and anyone on the spectrum.  It is different in everyone and ranges from people who mostly function in society independently to folks like my brother who probably will not do so.  It is not to label or offend people: just to muse.

One specific Bible account displays a young man who could have autism.  In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus meets a man with a demon possession.  Here are words Matthew Henry uses to describe him: “possessed with a dumb spirit”, he cannot talk, “is speechless”, “the spirit tears him”, “he foams at his mouth and gnashes with his teeth,” “he pines away, is worn to a skeleton, his flesh is dried away.”

Andrew relates to this guy because he does not talk.  For most of his life, he never had a seizure, but in 2015 he began to have them.  He does not waste away.  He eats plenty and gets good exercise.  If he had no restraints, he would probably walk out into traffic or into a proverbial fire.

Matthew Henry wisely explains that the demon-possessed man and Andrew are no different than anything else.  The man’s father told Jesus that he has had the demon since childhood.  “We are all by nature children of disobedience,  and in such the evil spirit works, and has done so from our childhood.”  He quotes Proverbs 22:15, “foolishness is bound in the heart of the child.”  “Nothing but the mighty grace of Christ can cast it out.” 

All people play with demons and follow into sin.  All sickness is a result of Adam and Eve’s fall.  You called Jesus to come heal a more visibly sick man, but you and the whole human race need healing, too.

John MacArthur preached a sermon on this passage.  It is archived on  He titles the sermon “All Things Possible.”  Jesus told the man’s father that, “all things are possible to him who believes.”  The dad tells Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

People live in a world where God is invisible, inaudible, and all they can see are the calamities, catastrophes, and tragedies brought about by death and destruction.  It takes divine intervention for people to believe that God has a plan, planned this from the beginning of creation, and will bring it to perfection in his timing.  I praise God for his patience as people ask him if he can heal knowing fully that he can.  The grace poured through Jesus helps people to believe in the most hopeless circumstances.

MacArthur cites many verses.  2 Corinthians 5:7, “We walk by faith not by sight.”  Galatians 2:20, “We live by faith in the Son of God.”  Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

That last verse convicts because before God saves us, we do not have faith, and we cannot please God.  We must ask Jesus to supply our belief, or we will never please God.

It is good to note that this episode in Jesus’s life immediately follows his trip to the Mount of Transfiguration.  This was the first time Jesus enjoyed the privilege of seeing his complete heavenly home since Mary gave birth to him as a baby.  He had not seen his home in more than thirty years, and now God the Father granted him the privilege to bask in an environment free from sin and imperfection before he made the trek toward his gruesome crucifixion.  He also got to talk to glorified saints: Moses and Elijah.  In his mercy, Jesus allowed Peter, James, and John to experience this glimpse into perfection.

In Chapter 8, Mark recalls the episodes where Jesus had to rebuke his disciples for their hard hearts.  During their days of learning under Jesus, they still struggled with trying to be the greatest and not believing that Jesus could feed 4000 even after he had already fed 5000.

He took Peter, James, and John, and opened up the heavens for them to erase any doubt from their minds that any of them would ever be as great as Jesus.  He brought them down the mountain only to see that the rest of his disciples still argued about being the greatest.  On top of that, a distraught father wanted them to heal his son.  In their self-perceived greatness, they could not do that, and they gave the Pharisees present more reason to doubt their Messiah and his power.

Here we are again, in Jesus’s absence.  He lives in heaven.  Many people who love Jesus have gone with him to enjoy that world.  We are left here to help the sick and cure people from their demons.  We cannot do that because we do not believe that Jesus can heal them, and we keep trying to look to our own greatness, and greatness that we do not have.  We do not have the faith to please God. 

I know in my own life that I have never healed Andrew.  Like the man’s father, I doubt that Andrew will find healing before Christ returns to earth.  When Jesus does come back, I know that he will bring Andrew to perfection.  Until then, I interact with Jesus’s followers.  Some do try to help but look to worldly methods for answers that only God has.  Others sit by and count Andrew as a mistake and useless to society.  Everybody knows Andrew, even if he goes by another name and even if it is not the same person that I write about.

In conclusion, the people who do work to help people with special needs should ask Jesus how they can look to Him in their quest.  How can we do that?

The people who do not see the least of these as worthy of their attention, especially ones that claim to follow Jesus, need to reevaluate their relationship with the Lord and see that our perfect Savior takes time for these people.  His true follows do the same.  Why do you not value life and consider yourself any less disabled than those?

John Calvin said, “God will never forsake us, if we keep the door open for receiving his grace.”  ( I hope that those words will encourage everybody who reads this.  God’s grace is available for both the Pharisee and the well-meaning disciple.

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