Series 18


by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portions: Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-42)

In Luke’s account of this miracle it would seem that the key sentence is in the first part of verse 43. The boy’s deliverance was the result of a mighty demonstration of the power of God, and quite naturally everyone was amazed at what happened, as we would be today if we witnessed a similar working of the Lord. Notice that Luke’s account of the incident may be divided into four sections:


In Matthew 17:15 the father said that his son “has seizures”; verse 18 tells us that Jesus delivered the child by rebuking “the demon”; and Mark 9:17 tells us that the boy was possessed by “a spirit that has robbed him of speech”. Clearly this was a case of demon possession, and the description given of this boy’s condition reminds us forcibly of the way in which the Word of God describes the condition and plight of the natural man, the unregenerate man – look up Ephesians 2:2-3. Unregenerate people are under the dominion of Satan; it is very unpopular doctrine, but it is scriptural. Every unsaved person is controlled by a spirit of evil, just as this boy was controlled by an evil spirit, and in Luke 9:39 and 42 we have a description of the way in which Satan controls the lives of men and women.

  1. 1. It “seizes him”. This gives us the idea of captivity – look up 2 Timothy 2:26.
  2. 2. It “throws him”. Look up 1 Peter 5:8.
  3. 3. It keeps on “destroying him”. Compare John 10:10.
  4. 4. It “scarcely ever leaves him”. There was no rest from his cruel attacks.

We must be very careful not to give too much attention to the Devil, for – look up 1 John 4:4; but on the other hand we must be careful that we do not underestimate his power.


If our child were in the same mental and physical condition as this boy, would we not be filled with anguish and deep concern? Verse 38 tells us that the plea of the parent was sincere, definite, urgent and pathetic, for he was pleading for his “only son”. It is a great thing to hear a child pray, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child”, but perhaps it is greater to hear a parent praying as this man did – verse 38. There would be fewer prodigal sons if there were fewer prodigal parents! Have we a deep concern for the spiritual welfare of our children, and other people’s children, who are growing up in an age where Christ is rejected, God’s holy laws are disregarded and the Devil is gaining ground on every hand? Do we so live before our children that our example will influence them for the kingdom of God? Above all, do we pray to the Lord for His power to be manifested in the hearts and lives of children whom God has entrusted to our care?


Verse 40 makes very sad reading, but it is true in the experience of many of God’s servants. The verse speaks of failure – “they could not…” – in spite of Luke 9:1! Why were they so powerless? Why did they fail in this moment of opportunity and challenge? There would seem to be three reasons:

  1. 1. There was lack of Faith. Verse 41 tells us this. They did not have faith to believe that the Lord would work through them and grant deliverance in this needy case. Do we not fail for the same reason? We ask, “Can God…?” (Psalm 78:19), and we doubt the Lord’s ability to put forth the mighty power of God. We are filled with unbelief – see what He said in Matthew 17:19-20, and compare Matthew 13:58.
  2. 2. There was lack of Prayer. Matthew 17:21 tells us this. Certain kinds of situations require special, urgent and persistent prayer, and if there is a deficiency of prayer there must be a deficiency of power. Evidently these disciples were powerless because they had not prayed enough. When David Brainerd preached to the Indians, thousands of them were broken down before the Lord and cried out for mercy. Why? Because before he preached, Brainerd prayed fervently, sometimes for days on end. How challenging these words are to our own hearts and ministry, which is often powerless and fruitless in consequence!
  3. 3. There was lack of Fasting. In Matthew 17:21 we have the authority of the Lord Jesus for saying this. Fasting denotes such an intensity of desire and purpose that we are willing to put aside even legitimate things in order to see God and His blessing; it means to deny ourselves of secular and secondary things so that spiritual power may be released, that souls in bondage may be delivered and that people may be amazed at the mighty power of God. Look up and compare Exodus 19:14-15; 2 Samuel 12:16-17; Esther 4:16; Jonah 3:7-8; John 7:53 and 8:1; 1 Corinthians 7:5. How far are we willing to deny ourselves of quite lawful and legitimate things in order that the face of God may be sought in earnest, persistent prayer?

The measure of our obedience to the Lord determines the measure of His blessing experienced and enjoyed in our lives – look up John 2:5, and compare Acts 9:6.


We see this in verses 41 and 42; and the glorious fact is that His power is just the same today. Or is it? Let us face this question as we conclude this study. Has the Lord Jesus altered? Is the Holy Spirit less powerful? Is the Word of God less effective? Look up Psalm 110:3, and remember that the words, “you will receive the dew of your youth” mean that our Lord Jesus is the eternal, unchanging One – Hebrews 13:8. The question we should, therefore, ask ourselves is this: Are we, His people, willing in this, “the day of His power”, the day of “the mighty power of God” (Luke 9:43 KJV)?