Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
This week’s Gospel reading is from Mark chapter nine. I’d like to use it briefly to practice a skill which all Christians should have. Please bear with me. In the passage, a crowd has gathered around a father and boy. The boy’s father has described a problem, which he says is an evil spirit. The description of symptoms looks a lot like epileptic seizures. Jesus, by his command, appears to bring healing to the boy.
Now, enter on the scene the disputer of this age who says this was merely a medical condition. After a seizure the person seems normal. All Jesus’ words did was to provide a little time until the seizure passed, then the boy was fine. Jesus could get the credit for healing. It’s all made up. The talk of evil spirits was just a cultural expectation. Therefore, the disputer today says, Christianity is just a sham. The outcome would have been the same regardless.
Let’s unpack this a little bit. First, observe that the putative author of Mark’s Gospel was an eyewitness or a long-time companion of an eyewitness, Peter. Disciples hungry for power would more likely have invented a story in which they would be the heroes, not the sadly faithless people who missed the boat and couldn’t do any good for anyone. There really isn’t an element of self-preservation in this story. It has all the marks of a true confession.
Second, there were multiple witnesses around. Some of the witnesses were hostile witnesses, the scribes. If this were a made-up story, they would have to be persuaded as well or the story could not survive without serious questions being raised.
Third, the command of Jesus provoked a new attack. This isn’t how epilepsy works. It looks more like a fairly desperate attempt by a spiritual power to retain influence in the boy’s life. When under threat of expulsion, the symptoms worsen, so much so that the boy seems to have died. Once again, there are a number of witnesses. It isn’t the kind of thing you forget easily. If someone is trying to make it into something it isn’t, you are very likely to complain, but we have no evidence of disputes.
What’s the logical conclusion we come to? The report in Mark’s Gospel is a credible eyewitness report of something which really happened in the presence of hostile witnesses who agreed about what happened. The events show all the signs of being supernatural in origin. And we have Jesus’ word that it was through prayer that the boy was rescued from an evil spirit. The wisest interpretation is to assume that the events really happened as we are told in the text.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.