Fourth Sunday of Lent

Mark 9:17-31


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 17  And one of the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit;


18  and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able."


19  And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me."


20  And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.


21  And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood.


22  And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us."


23  And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes."


24  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"


25  And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again."


26  And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead."


27  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.


28  And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?"


29  And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."


30  They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it;


31  for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."

17 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἷς ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπε· διδάσκαλε, ἤνεγκα τὸν υἱόν μου πρός σε, ἔχοντα πνεῦμα ἄλαλον.


18 καὶ ὅπου ἂν αὐτὸν καταλάβῃ, ρήσσει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀφρίζει καὶ τρίζει τοὺς ὀδόντας αὐτοῦ, καὶ ξηραίνεται· καὶ εἶπον τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου ἵνα αὐτὸ ἐκβάλωσι, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσαν.



19 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῷ λέγει· ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος, ἕως πότε πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἔσομαι; ἕως πότε ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; φέρετε αὐτὸν πρός με. καὶ ἤνεγκαν αὐτὸν πρὸς αὐτόν.



20 καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν εὐθέως τὸ πνεῦμα ἐσπάραξεν αὐτόν, καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐκυλίετο ἀφρίζων.


21 καὶ ἐπηρώτησε τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ· πόσος χρόνος ἐστὶν ὡς τοῦτο γέγονεν αὐτῷ; ὁ δὲ εἶπε· παιδιόθεν.



22 καὶ πολλάκις αὐτὸν καὶ εἰς πῦρ ἔβαλε καὶ εἰς ὕδατα, ἵνα ἀπολέσῃ αὐτόν· ἀλλ᾿ εἴ τι δύνασαι, βοήθησον ἡμῖν σπλαχνισθεὶς ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς.



23 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ εἰ δύνασαι πιστεῦσαι, πάντα δυνατὰ τῷ πιστεύοντι.


24 καὶ εὐθέως κράξας ὁ πατὴρ τοῦ παιδίου μετὰ δακρύων ἔλεγε· πιστεύω, κύριε· βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ.


25 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἐπισυντρέχει ὄχλος, ἐπετίμησε τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ λέγων αὐτῷ· τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἄλαλον καὶ κωφόν, ἐγώ σοι ἐπιτάσσω, ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ μηκέτι εἰσέλθῃς εἰς αὐτόν.


26 καὶ κράξας καὶ πολλὰ σπαράξαν αὐτὸν ἐξῆλθε, καὶ ἐγένετο ὡσεὶ νεκρός, ὥστε πολλοὺς λέγειν ὅτι ἀπέθανεν.


27 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς κρατήσας αὐτὸν τῆς χειρὸς ἤγειρεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀνέστη.


28 Καὶ εἰσελθόντα αὐτὸν εἰς οἶκον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν κατ᾿ ἰδίαν, ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό.


29 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τοῦτο τὸ γένος ἐν οὐδενὶ δύναται ἐξελθεῖν εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ νηστείᾳ.


30 Καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντες παρεπορεύοντο διὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἵνα τις γνῷ·


31 ἐδίδασκε γὰρ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται εἰς χεῖρα ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀποκτανθεὶς τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἀναστήσεται.



Larger Thought Unit

Since this reading and the reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent are from the same unit as the 3rd Sunday of Lent, the reader should refer back to the previous reading and what is stated there.  What is important in this reading is that it follows immediately after the pericope of the Transfiguration and a discussion about the coming of Elijah before the messiah.  The disciples, who had remained behind while Christ took Peter, James, and John with him up the mountain, are shown as incapable of fulfilling the commission which Christ had given them on two earlier occasions—to cast out demons and heal the sick (3:15; 6:7).  In this context we hear Christ exclaim: “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you?”  After this episode Christ again will launch into his 2nd disclosure that the Son of Man is being betrayed and will be killed and rise on the 3rd day.  Unfortunately our reading breaks at an odd spot in verse 31 when it should continue to verse 32 (But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him).



The message offered to the Gentiles (notice the reference to the ‘crowd’ in v.17 and to Galilee in v.30) is a word of teaching (notice the address to Jesus as teacher in v.17 and the remonstrance that the disciples did not put their faith/trust (ἄπιστος) in Jesus’ word/teaching, which is as fully authoritative as the Law and the Prophets [v.4]). The disciples’ lack of faith is contrasted with the faith of the Gentile father (v.23).


The disciples’ inability to heal lies in that they have not yet accepted Jesus’ summons to spread his word beyond the confines of Judaism. Peter wanted to confine Jesus to the mountain with a tent in the company of Moses and Elijah, e.g., the Law and the Prophets. However, the disciples were asked to listen to (obey) the teaching of Jesus who alone remains with them (vv.7-8). His teaching, which the disciples will fully comprehend after his resurrection (v.10), is that they had to come down from the mountain (v.9) to follow Jesus to his death and resurrection (v.31) and, beyond that, ultimately to the Galilee of the Gentiles (Mk 16:7), where he is now already leading them (9:30).  This is the teaching of Jesus (v.31: he was teaching his disciples) that the disciples were earlier asked to hearken to. Unless the disciples are willing to gather with the Gentiles ἐν προσευχῇ (to raise, in the same locale and in unison, their prayer to the one Father of all], there will be no healing for the Gentiles and, more importantly, the disciples themselves will be condemned as a “faithless generation” (v.19), that is, as the “adulterous and sinful generation” to whom the disciples are supposed to preach the gospel without shame (8:38).


Further resource

Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.1: Paul and Mark, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 1999; p.192.

Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.2: Luke and Acts, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2001; pp.72-73.

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