In my God Time today, I felt ready to move on from Mark 9:14-24 and its story of the demon-possessed boy’s dad. But apparently God felt differently. Even though His Holy Spirit impressed upon me to start reading at verse 28 (the start of a new scene), He knew I still needed to fully bring home the application of 9:14-24 into my own current life!
Verse 28 is where the disciples ask Jesus why they had not been able to cast out the demon possessing the boy. I immediately thought, How good of them to be willing to learn and grow from their mistakes! Indeed, this is a good trait for anyone to have.
But then, because I knew what comes next, I realized their eagerness to learn was limited. In verse 32, they have a new topic that they also don’t understand, yet they are unwilling to ask for more information and explanation. I think they don’t want to know more because it’s an unpleasant topic for them: Jesus is saying He will die, and that doesn’t fit with their Messiah expectations!
This got me to wondering about their motives, especially in light of the topic in verses 33-37! In these verses, the disciples don’t want to answer a question Jesus asks of them, for the answer would require confessing to arguing about which one of them was the greatest!
So, let’s review. The disciples are eager to learn how to cast out demons—a phenomenal feat, for sure! Yet, they’re not so eager—the Scripture says they “were afraid” (v. 32 NIV)—to learn more about Jesus’ death, which would surely mean the end of their Messianic hopes of overthrowing Rome and re-establishing an independent national Israel. The fact they were arguing about who was the greatest amongst them clearly reveals they still had visions of grandeur in mind for themselves.
Hmmm. Maybe their eagerness to improve their exorcism skills was motivated by the same motive to be the greatest?!?! That would also be the same motive causing them to not want to know more about something they don’t want to have happen because it messes with their plan.
Motives and questions. Questions and motives. Questioning the motives of our questions.
Meanwhile, here in the 21st century, I’ve had my own burning desire to ask some questions. Ever since my brainstorm with the previous passage (Mark 9:14-24), I have found it so overwhelming that I’ve longed to ask one of my Bible college professors about my conclusions. Even though the research I was able to do indicated my conclusions were not clearly wrong, I still wanted reassurance that I hadn’t abused the Scripture or stepped into some heretical direction. Consequently, I’ve spent the past few days contemplating the who, what, when, and how to this idea of contacting an old professor.
I’ve also been praying for God to show me what to do. And today, He answered. Through the next passage (vv. 28ff), He has called me to do the work of questioning my motives. Exactly why do I feel this need to ask for a professor’s help? Instead of letting my thoughts and feelings bounce around all over everywhere, I needed to get them into order. So, I did.
Long story short: I realized I had two conflicting thoughts/feelings. One part of me wanted to reach out to someone for reassurance, for someone to basically hold my hand and affirm that I’m doing my exegesis well, and/or that someone else has already concluded the same or, at least, that no scholar would prove me wrong. Boy, that would just make me feel so comfortable! Outside affirmation has long been something I have relied on. I really like it when my external world lets me know that I’m doing well.
On the other hand, I felt the call to act in faith, to trust that what I had received was from God, that I had learned and remembered what my Bible professors had taught me years ago. It’s amazing how a person can claim to have faith yet be so frightened when called upon to exercise it!
Behind our feelings are thoughts that can/will influence those feelings and subsequent actions. So, I tackled the one logical thought that kept popping up—the one about accountability. Logic supported the option to seek reassurance from outside of myself because that could be considered the accountable thing to do. For basically the same reason, logic warned that to step out with just faith and my limited knowledge could be considered arrogant and as unwillingness to submit to wise counsel.
Does anyone else see the problem with that logic? Yes, I do desire to be accountable, so I retain the right to change my understanding of anything I proclaim should I discover that I was not correct. But something about my logical argument did not seem right.
The insight I got from Mark 9:14-24 is not a typical understanding of this passage. It’s deep and, therefore, unfamiliar compared to the usually more basic, children’s church understanding too many Christians live on. So, naturally, the unfamiliar seems scary.
But I know myself too well. I have spent too much of my life relying heavily on the approval and reassurance of others before being decisive. This logical argument (to continue with this pattern as a way of being accountable) was sounding more like an after-thought justification than a true reason. It was not ringing true with my spirit.
If that wasn’t enough to convince me, the fact that this logic was basically against faith was. Where’s the line between stepping out in good faith and holding back in hopes of getting more affirmation? It’s not like I immediately blogged my insights while the emotional high was still flush in my face. It’s been days now of contemplation and prayer about posting this. So, this is not zeal without wisdom. And while my access to Bible study resources and commentaries is limited, I did work with what I have. Besides, how much research can a person realistically do?
And then, like it was a sign from Heaven, yesterday’s Daily Prompt word for WordPress bloggers was “cacophony.” I nearly lost it when I saw that! After all, what are the chances that I would use this rare word in my God Time journaling and then, within a week, it’s the Daily Prompt word?!
So, despite the lack of abundant typical affirmation from my external world, and despite the logic of my internal world, I’m choosing to believe that what I received is exegetically sound enough to share. And now you know what it took to publish “Faith Greater Than Life’s Cacophony.”
Thanks for reading!
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