A Stubborn Foe Routed.
That is the parable teaching. Now a look at a plain out word from the Master’s lips. It is in the story of the demonized boy, the distressed father, and the defeated disciples, at the foot of the transfiguration mountain. Extremes meet here surely. The mountain peak is in sharpest contrast with the valley. The demon seems to be of the superlative degree. His treatment of the possessed boy is malicious to an extreme. His purpose is “to destroy” him. Yet there is a limit to his power, for what he would do he has not yet been able to do. He shows extreme tenacity. He fought bitterly against being disembodied again. (Can it be that embodiment eases in some way the torture of existence for these prodigal spirits!) And so far he fought well, and with success. The disciples had tried to cast him out. They were expected to. They expected to. They had before. They failed!—dismally—amid the sneering and jeering of the crowd and the increasing distress of the poor father.
Then Jesus came. Was some of the transfiguring glory still lingering in that great face? It would seem so. The crowd was “amazed” when they saw Him, and “saluted” Him. His presence changed all. The demon angrily left, doing his worst to wreck the house he had to vacate. The boy is restored; and the crowd astonished at the power of God.
Then these disciples did a very keen thing. They made some bad blunders but this is not one of them. They sought a private talk with Jesus. No shrewder thing was ever done. When you fail, quit your service and get away for a private interview with Jesus. With eyes big, and voices dejected, the question wrung itself out of their sinking hearts, “Why could not we cast it out?” Matthew and Mark together supply the full answer. Probably first came this:—“because of your little faith.” They had quailed in their hearts before the power of this malicious demon. And the demon knew it. They were more impressed with the power of the demon than with the power of God. And the demon saw it. They had not prayed victoriously against the demon. The Master says, “faith only as big as a mustard seed (you cannot measure the strength of the mustard seed by its size) will say to this mountain—’Remove.’” Mark keenly:—the direction of the faith is towards the obstacle. Its force is against the enemy. It was the demon who was most directly influenced by Jesus’ faith.
Then comes the second part of the reply:—“This kind can come out by nothing but by prayer.” Some less-stubborn demons may be cast out by the faith that comes of our regular prayer-touch with God. This extreme sort takes special prayer. This kind of a demon goes out by prayer. It can be put out by nothing less. The real victory must be in the secret place. The exercise of faith in the open battle is then a mere pressing of the victory already won. These men had the language of Jesus on their lips, but they had not gotten the