Meanwhile back on the ground… As Jesus and the three ‘privileged’ leaders return to rejoin the rest of the apostolic band, they saw a great crowd gathered around the nine disciples, with the scribes arguing with them.
It doesn’t take much to start a religious argument, does it? A great number of ‘religious’ conflicts have turned violent, with each side justifying their use of violence. Haven’t there been enough religious ‘wars?’
On this occasion Jesus pressed the disciples with a question. “What are you arguing about with them?” The issue at hand was a man with a son who was possessed with an evil spirit, manifesting itself with physical impairment. As this man had sought deliverance for his offspring from the hands of the disciples, they reached their inability.
Jesus expresses his burden over the faithless, powerless generation in which he was living. “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
This encounter revealed the ‘spiritual’ roots of the conflict as the forces of evil were met by the Master of righteousness. In a plea of desperation, yet uncertainty, the father of the troubled boy pled for any remaining compassion and help in the heart of Jesus. Jesus responds my calling for faith, and the halting ‘believer’ shouted a cry of ultimate trust. In mercy, the Saviour acted and the child’s suffering ended.
This occasion provoked further questions in the minds of the disciples. If they were followers, if they had delegated authority, what had hindered the exercising of that spiritual authority on this occasion. Jesus summarizes their spiritual powerlessness with insight into their lack of the spiritual discipline of prayer.
How often do we continue to struggle and strive, even enter into religious arguments, rather than pray? I meet leaders and followers who seem to be ‘itching for a fight.’ If Christ were to press us with the question he asked his early followers, how would we answer. “What are you arguing about with them?” IF we gave ourselves to prayer as much as we do to arguing, we’d be in better spiritual shape, don’t you think?