Jesus Have Pity On Us

Jesus Have Pity On Us!: Mark 9:14-29
Pastor John Nicholas
Sunday September 13, 2020

Last week, we spoke about the trip down from the mount of Transfiguration.  How Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop.  They had seen Jesus in glory with Moses and Elijah.  They had spoken about Elijah and how the anointed one, Christ must suffer and die.  That as the scripture prophesied, the Son of Man, Jesus, must suffer and die and will be raised on the third day.

We talked, as they did, that this is the hope for sinners, that Jesus would accomplish all the things that were prophesied in scripture.  That He would be the suffering servant, the Lamb of God.  And in doing so He would save all those He came to save from God’s wrath and hatred of sin.

Jesus has instructed them, this inner circle.  They have seen things that will take them into their roles as witnesses to Jesus and His teaching.   He is preparing them to be the foundation of the church and they have been told to be silent about the things that they have seen.  Now we are at the end of this narrative, this pericope.   

All Things Possible

14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.

They have come down from the mountain, the four of them.  Jesus, James, John, and Peter.  To a scene that perhaps surprised at least three of them.  A crowd was gathered about the remaining disciples.  And there was an argument apparently between the scribes and the disciples.  Something had the two camps divided and Jesus and the three were witnessing the results.  

As we think about this scene, we can almost imagine how this played out.  While three of the disciples were experiencing the transfiguration and intimate fellowship with Jesus the remaining nine were doing something in the local town.  And this something led to this argument with the religious leaders, the keepers of orthodoxy.  One of the most famous paintings in the world, once considered the most perfect painting, Raphael’s The Transfiguration depicts this.  The majesty of the mountaintop and the ugliness of the argument at the base of the mountain.  Obviously, they had been doing something while the four were absent.  And this is Peter’s witness to what had happened.

15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.

The result of the return is that they are noticed.  Not only noticed but the crowd is amazed, surprised by their sudden return.  More specifically they are noticing that Jesus is back.  He has returned.  Now we must stop ourselves and not paint a picture of the glow of the transfiguration remaining on Jesus’ face.  Certainly this would betray the command to keep silent about what happened on the mountain.  Instead we must look at this as an unexpected appearance at a certain time.  The Greek here tells us that their reaction was trembling amazement.  In other words what was happening now, the argument had been consuming the scene and hence the arrival of Jesus surprised them.  Perhaps they saw Him as the arbiter of the dispute.  

Running to Him you could almost imagine what was happening.  A heated argument between the ones who follow Jesus the Rabbi from Galilee and the scribes who are seeing/calling out something that is wrong.  But Jesus has returned.  He is a Rabbi and not just a scribe.  Thank goodness you are back.   Please will you settle this argument and  tell us who is right because you have the authority to do so.

16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?”

The rush and crush of the crowd around Jesus.  The excitement for His return and the desire to have the argument settled.  Jesus responds as we all would – ‘what are you arguing about?’  What is the issue?  One could naturally assume that the question is being directed to His disciples, since they are following Him and not necessarily towards the scribes.   But it could be addressed to the scribes, recognizing that perhaps they are the cause of the issue.  Or it could be just a general question to the whole crowd and all who are there.  Nonetheless there is His desire to get to the bottom of the issue.  At least to find out if His intercession is necessary.  

17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute;

And the answer arrives.  Not from the disciples.  Not from the scribes.  Not from the crowd as a whole.  But from a single man who steps forward.  A man who says that his son is possessed by a demon and he needs the help of Jesus.  The way this narrative is presented, from Peter’s witness, does not address the argument directly, but it shows the driving factor.  This man who has a son suffering from possession is the issue at hand.  The father says nothing about the argument, but he does demonstrate his desperate need.  The man answers the questions by saying, ‘I’ve brought my son to you for healing’.

The simple statement of his greatest need.  Healing for his son.

Now this is certainly not outside the realm of possibility.  Jesus is well known in His travels with regard to His abilities and the miracles that He has wrought.  And casting out of evil spirits is well within His known abilities.  It has been seen since the beginning of His ministry Mark 1:21-28, Mark 5 – the demoniac.  But perhaps on a more interesting note, and more relevant to the issue at hand, the disciples had been able to cast out spirits too.  One need only look at Mark 6:7-13.

Mark 1:21-28 (NASB)

21 They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. 

22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 

23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 

24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 

25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 

26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 

27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

Mark 6:7-13 (NASB)

The Twelve Sent Out

7 And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 

8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 

9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 

10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 

11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 

12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 

13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

Without reading any further a careful reader should be able to surmise the issue at hand.  There is an argument between the scribes and Jesus’ disciples and a man has come forward with a son who has an evil spirit.  If we were to stop here, even the most green detective would say that the problem is that the disciples were unable to cast out the spirit and the scribes are calling them out.

And since we have the whole story we know that this is the issue at hand.

As an aside it is interesting that there is no mention of the scribes trying to cast out this spirit.  They were known for such things.  But in this instance their only concern seems to be the disciples lack of ability which reflects on their rabbi – Jesus.

18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”

The man gives Jesus the symptoms of the possession.  Things that appear to be epileptic in nature.  But we must be careful not to dismiss this merely a case of epilepsy but to take it at face value as something of a spiritual nature that is manifesting itself in the material world.  The evidence in the description is one that leads us to believe that there has been a lifetime struggle with and spirit.  The fact that this spirit is, as we will see later, attempting to destroy an image bearer of God.  

And the father admits that the disciples tried and they could not cast out the spirit. 

19 And He *answered them and *said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”

Jesus’ response is somewhat curious.  He does not directly address the possession or the argument, but instead seems to cast a statement out to the crowd.  A catch all statement about the unbelieving generation and perhaps a statement about His soon to come departure.  A lament.  Not necessarily frustration on the part of Jesus but more likely it is a lament with regard to the nature of sin that infects the world.  The sin that clouds the mind and blinds them to seeing Jesus for who truly is.  How could someone know the teaching of the patriarchs and the prophets, taught in the synagogues by the rabbis/scribes, and not see who Christ is.  In Paul’s writing we will find that they should have seen.  They should have known that Jesus was fulfilling and will fulfill, on the cross and at the tomb, all of scripture – 1 Cor 15:3,4.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NASB)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died  for our sins according to the Scriptures,

and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

The lament of ‘how much more can I do, show, so that you will believe?’

The result – ‘bring him to me.’

Bring the boy to me.  Let me see him.  The one who is enslaved by this spirit. The one who has no life.  Bring him to me. The creator.  The life giver.  The one who restores.  The one who saves.  Bring him to me.  Come all who are broken for healing.  Come to Jesus.

20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

In the presence of divinity, the spirit reacts violently.  This is a mute spirit, makes the boy mute, and apparently is itself mute.  The reaction shows that this is not just a medical condition but one of a spiritual nature.  That the spirit has set house in the boy.  And the closeness to Jesus brings out this immediate reaction.  We see the reaction of the spirits to Jesus throughout the scripture.  All seem to recognize His divinity one the people around do not.  And although this spirit cannot speak its reaction testifies to Jesus.

21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.

This question is fascinating not because of its simplicity but because of what it implies.  But what it shows about Christ.  The question is not one of time but one of bondage.  And that is what Jesus is looking for.  The boy has had this issue from childhood and so has the father.  They both have been enslaved by this mute spirit since the boy’s childhood.  For lack of better terms they are in desperate straits.  They went to the disciples and were unhealed.  Their lives have been consumed by this spirit and now they are before the great physician.  The one who can truly heal.

22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

More of the symptoms show up here which demonstrate the spirits desire to destroy an image bearer of the Triune God.  This is also more evidence that points beyond epilepsy and to true possession.  

The father’s desperation shows up here and also the lack of faith since the disciples of Jesus failed.  If you can help us.  Your disciples couldn’t and now we doubt that you can too.  But we are so desperate.  My son and I have suffered for so long.  Humble before the father’s last hope.  The last hope he has.

Interesting that this plea doubts Jesus’ ability to save them.  Whereas we see that Jairus believed that his daughter would live (Mark 5:23) and that the Syrophoenician woman knows that just the crumbs of Jesus are enough to save her daughter (Mark 7:27-30).  But this man, having experienced the failure of the disciples, doubts.  His only plea is if you are able, Jesus.  

Mark 5:22-23 (NASB)

22 One of the synagogue officials named Jairus *came up, and on seeing Him, *fell at His feet 

23 and *implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.”

Mark 7:27-30 (NASB)

27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 

28 But she answered and *said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 

29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 

30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

It is not surprising.  He had probably heard that Jesus was in the area, maybe in his own town. And went to find Him.  After all Jesus’ deeds went before Him.  And what does the father find?  Jesus is not there, but a bunch of His disciples are.  Surely, they can help.  But they couldn’t.  Failure marked their attempts.  And now that failure reflects on Jesus.  Hence the father’s plea, if you are able.  If you are able to do anything, please have mercy on us.  The desperate plea of a man at the end of his rope.

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

Jesus turns the plea back to the father.  Jesus, still the compassionate lamb of God turns the issue of faith back to the father.  Perhaps implying, ‘why are you even here if you don’t have faith?’

Now we must be careful examining this situation.  We must NOT assume that the faith of the father affects the ability of Jesus to heal.  That is certainly not the case.  Jesus does not get a power infusion from the father’s faith.  But instead Jesus is pointing to something else that is going on here.  The father’s faith has waivered in regard to God’s ability to save.  That is the issue.  Is Jesus the God/Man?  Is the He the Son of Man who will save?

Let’s contrast this with some biblical history.  Look at Daniel 3:16-18, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refuse to worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar and they are threatened with being cast in the fiery furnace.  What do they say?  That they believe that God will save them.  But even if He does not, they still believe.  This is a testimony of what faith looks like.  Not what the person will get from faith but trust in God as sovereign.  That His will is greater and better than my will.  

Daniel 3:16-18 (NASB)

16 , Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Or perhaps the most detailed picture of what faith looks like, a story from the Old Testament that I mentioned last week.  Turn with me to Numbers 21:4-9.  The strange story of the bronze serpent.  How the Israelites complained to God about what He had provided after they had been brough out of slavery. Hear what happens.  Punishment for denying the great work that God had done.  V6 tells us that He sent poisonous snakes into their camp, resulting in the deaths of many.  Their punishment because of their sin against God.  And they plead for salvation.  And the merciful, grace filled God gives it to them.  In a shadow of Christ to come when they look at a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole they are saved – v8,9.  The faith in the bronze serpent is NOT what saves.  It is the faith that God will save that saves them.  That is what faith looks like.

Numbers 21:4-9 (NASB)

4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.

5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

The Bronze Serpent

6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”

9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

And when we think about the man’s words to Jesus and Jesus’ response we cannot help but think of these pictures of faith.  These pictures give us the picture of absolute trust in what God is going to do.  If I just look to God He will save.  That is it.  Turn from looking away from God and look to Him.  His will is greater than your will.

Jesus is calling the man to trust in God.  To turn away from his worldly thinking and to trust in the Lord.  That the man’s amount of faith in God is not what causes salvation but the turning to God and trusting (to the best of our ability) is how a God-fearing man should act.

24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

This leads to the humble confession of the man.  That he needs help with his unbelief.  Please Jesus help me.  I am no Moses; I am no Elijah. Please help my unbelief.  Please help me!  So desperate is this man.  The disappointment he experienced with the nine disciples.  Please Jesus Help Us!

One can almost hear behind his cry, I’m trying to believe but I have nothing left.  My cup is almost empty. There is merely a drop of faith left.  Please help me.  We need to be saved.

What a response to Jesus.  It reminds us of Matthew 5:2-3 -blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are those whose entire dependence is upon God.  Blessed are those who are like beggars before God who provides them with everything.  Blessed are those who know that everything that they have is from God.

Matthew 5:2-3 (NASB)

2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here we see the father.  Poor in spirit but perhaps even more so knowing that any belief that he has needs to come from God.  From Jesus.  The humble honest cry for Christ.  The cry for God’s grace to come upon them.  The father interceding for his son.

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

Not only is there a crowd around them, but more are coming.  Seeing this Jesus reacts.  Why now at this moment?  We could surmise that He wants to handle the situation before the crush of the crowd increases.  Before it becomes more of a scene.  

Jesus speaks the words of rebuke.  Not only commanding the spirit to leave the boy, but also commanding the spirit to not return.  To not return.  Just like the warning in Matthew 12:43-45.  Jesus completely saves.  Casting out the spirit.  

Matthew 12:43-45 (NASB)

43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it.

44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.

45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!”

The immediate response of the demon.  No demon can stand before the divinity of the creator God.  It violently leaves the boy’s body.  Jesus demonstrating His sovereignty.  That big word, a prolepsis of what is to come when Jesus is raised and seated at the right hand of the Father – Ephesians 1:21-22.  

The boy is not dead but gives the appearance of death.  This is the result of the deathly spirit leaving his body.

Ephesians 1:21-22 (NASB)

21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 

22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.

Jesus just spoke to Peter, James, and John of He Himself being raised from the dead. Here is the image of Jesus the Christ.  Raising this boy from the death that he and his father had to new life.  They had not lived before, because of the evil spirit.  But now they are in new life.  They have been resurrected and as Wessel says,  “The dethroning of Satan is always a reversal of death and an affirmation of life.”

28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”

Jesus and the disciples move off to a private place; away from the crowds, the throngs of people.  The natural response to the positive results of Jesus in comparison to the disciples – why didn’t it work for us?  There are two different groups of disciples here. Those who were on the mountaintop and those who were unsuccessful in casting out an evil spirit.  Those who were on the mountaintop were not surprised by Jesus’ success; they had just seen Him glorified.  And seeing the glorified Christ would give them immense confidence in Him and who He truly is.  

But the ones at the base of the mountain didn’t have the same experience.  They had failed in their attempts and they were called out by the scribes.  They were in the struggle at the bottom while the others had seen the glory on the mountaintop.  Jesus why weren’t we able?  Why did we have a failure of ability?

29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

Jesus simply states that prayer is the answer.  That there is a genus, perhaps a hierarchy, of these spirits and that some require a different technique.  Something more than just words.  For them.  That they must put their trust in their relationship to God and their reliance on God.

Much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego they needed to pray to God and trust that His will would be done.  Matthew notes that Jesus says that they had little faith, Matthew 17:20.  Indicating that if only they would have had the faith of a mustard seed they could move mountains.

Matthew 17:20 (NASB)

20 And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

Again this is not about quantify of faith but object of faith.  When things didn’t go as they thought they should (i.e.- before they had just used His name) their faith wavered.  Instead, Jesus implies that they should not have doubted, but kept looking at Him.  Like the Israelites looking to the bronze serpent.  Look to Me and trust, yea of little faith.  

The idea of prayer is the expectation that God’s will will be accomplished.  That they need to be beggars before God, Matthew 5:3.  They, perhaps, had relied upon their abilities and not the object of their faith.  

Matthew 5:3 (NASB)

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So what do we do with this narrative?

Why did Peter find this to be important?

Why did Mark find it necessary that the church of Rome must know this story?

Let’s first look at how this starts.  Jesus and the three had just returned from the mount of Transfiguration.  Peter, James, and John discussing what they had just seen.  And when they arrive in the town they are met with a crowd and a group of scribes arguing with the remaining disciples about their failure to cast out an evil spirit.

But the failure of the disciples, although important, is not the main point of the narrative.  The issue at hand is the father and his son.  These two are the focus of this story.  And why?  There has been the attempted destruction of an image bearer of God by an evil spirit.  As a result of these attacks, which have been happening since he was young, both the father and the son were affected.

Both the father and the son show the signs of bondage.  That they were enslaved by this spirit.  The desperation is shown in the father’s plea for any help that Jesus could give.  The father and the son had sought help from the disciples and had been left in a state of dejection.  In this case the father is seeking healing for the son.  And the help has eluded them.

Circle v22 in your bible.  This is the crux of this story – “Jesus have pity on us and help us!”

22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

This is the story of the gospel.

Jesus have pity on us and help us!

God, in the solution to the problem of sin, provided for this.  His son, Jesus, was always the answer and the means of grace and mercy for sinners.  

That cry by the father – take pity and help us.  The humble cry of the one who has no other option.  The plea of the one who has run out of time.  The finality of knowing that there is nothing that you can do to fix your situation.

The father and the son, neither could do anything to remove the spirit.  We do not know where or how often the father had sought help, but based upon these verses we can surmise that he had sought help often and had run out of options.

Jesus have pity on us!

Jesus have pity on me!

Jesus have pity on me!


We are also in bondage.  

We are also enslaved.

We are in bondage and enslaved to sin.  There is nothing that we can do to remove sin from our lives.  

We are all slaves to sin whether we recognize it or not

Sin clouds (ruins) everything that we think, say, and do.

And this is where we need grace and mercy.

We need it like the father and son in this story.

We are all in desperate straits with our sin

Quickly approaching the shoals in our sin covered/infested ship 

We will be dashed against the rocks for an eternity because of the sin which is in our lives

The sin which separates us from our creator

A number of years ago John W. gave us the experiment – wake up tomorrow morning and see how long you can go without sinning.  

Most were out within minute of waking up.

Sin is in us, so deeply engrained, that it is impossible for us to remove it

Not to mention our willingness to sin.

Our desire to seek the things which will kill and destroy

That we will seek out the smallest pleasure in sin not realizing that because of it we will drink an ocean of God’s wrath.

Jesus have pity on me!

And He does.

Turn with me to Romans 5:8 – for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

Romans 5:8 (NASB)

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus takes upon Himself our sins

And in turn we put on His righteousness

He says to the Father that He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and He does so willingly

Jesus’ pity, mercy, grace for sinners is incalculable 

It is a glorious thing when we realize the sorry state that we are in

That all our pride, righteousness, and good works is like filthy rags before a righteous and holy God

People love the miracles, the food, demons cast out, healing, but they hate the word of Christ

We pray for gifts but hate the instruction

And then to realize that Christ, Himself, did for us what we could not do for ourselves

That He did take pity on us!

Colossians 2:13-14 – the debt that we have accumulated has been nailed to the cross

13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Do you think of yourself as a good person?

Do you deny that the work of Christ on the cross was necessary for your sin?

I encourage you if you think this way to examine the scripture.

You will find that you are living in rebellion to God

I would then tell you to pray and reach out to God.  

To cry out to Jesus that He will have mercy on you.

That you will be free from the penalty of sin.

That you will accept Him as Lord and savior of your life.

And that you will be re-born in Him.

You see it is not the quality of your faith it is the object of your faith – JESUS

Pray, Observe, Apply.

×Note: To download, click the button. If it doesn't work, right click, then click "Save Link As." Download only works if media is stored within this site. Download Video

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top