A Study of Mark 9:23
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).
This chapter begins with an account of the transfiguration. There was the presence of Moses and Elias glorified, and the voice in their presence: “This is My beloved Son: hear Him.” What He has to say, the interpretation He puts on the law and the prophets, the mind of Christ in them – that is what we have to hear. For instance, take one in the prophets – “them of old time” (Matthew 5:21). Jesus says, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). This is His teaching by the gospel, though it was allowed in that law to hate an enemy. Thus there have arisen many mistakes through not knowing the mind of Christ in single expressions of Scripture. We are to “hear Him,” whatever He says.
The disciples with Him were overpowered with His glorified presence, so as scarcely to know what they did or said. At the same time the other disciples below were in perplexity and doubt, trying to cast a devil out of a man, and he would not go. How often do the Lord’s people try to cast out an evil spirit! and it will not go for all they can do.
Then the father brought his son to Jesus, and told Him of the failure; yet though there had been a failure in his case, he was right after all, he had a real case. None come to Jesus with a real case, and are disappointed; never one real need that is not regarded. How many times we come, nine out of ten, and have no point or no meaning to our prayers, feeling no necessity! We know these prayers are not acceptable to Him; therefore He brings us to feel the real need, the true position we are in. This is one of His gifts by the Spirit – to show us our present need, our real position, and bring our prayers to a crisis: “I cannot do without Thee.”
Two things make the earnestness in us. The Lord may hide His face, and we not be troubled much about it. But (1) to feel He is hiding His face, and (2) to have a desire kindled to see His face, these two make a present need; and there is prayer. So it was at first the feeling of being without a God, and the feeling of wanting that God to be ours, was nearly always present; and it was these two that made the earnestness we used to have. Prayer is real need; it may be in few words, or none; but there is the soul’s necessity in it. The conviction that we know very little of the truth, and the desire to know it, make a need. The Holy Spirit gives the knowledge of our present need, and that need never ultimately ends in disappointment. Time after time the soul may be brought to lift up its eyes to the hills whence cometh its help, and may be strengthened again and again; and in this are as many disappointments as helps. But the LORD is drawing the soul on, till it is brought to a crisis; and then, if the thing is done at all, it must be the arm of the LORD that does it. “LORD, save, or I perish.” “LORD, help me.”
When this man came to Him with his son, the LORD seemed still to delay, and already there had been a failure. At last the man said, “If Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” None can do anything now but Thou; have compassion on us, or there is no hope. And the LORD answered him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” That is, the failure is not in My blood; there is no question about its power to save to the utmost. There is no failure in the Fountain, in its efficacy to take out the foulest stain. The failure is not there; nor in My righteousness, that it will not make the most spotted, leprous soul pure and spotless; nor in My power, or in the virtue of My word to heal; I need no help from circumstances; all things are at My command. Nothing is too hard for Me. The failure is not in Me. If there is no way, as with Israel at the Red Sea, I will make a way. It shall be said, “The LORD … hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:1 and 21). When you come there, when the thing is impossible apart from God, that is the crisis when He will work. None come there and fail. Jesus rebuked the dumb and deaf spirit in the man’s son: “I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.”
None but the LORD’s people know the weakness of their faith, and the impossibility of what they believe being done, apart from by God. It was not the leadership of Moses and Aaron, nor anything else, but the LORD alone who made a way in the sea. When you feel this or that is impossible in itself – it has been long coming to that point perhaps, but now it is an impossibility apart from God – that is the time when He works alone. In providence or in grace the LORD will do all He has promised, though you cannot see how. “I will lead the blind.” Though they are blind, they shall go the right way, not take one wrong turning; and they shall find at last, He hath led me by the right way, that I might go to a city of habitation (see Psalm 107:7). He waited before He fulfilled the promise to Abraham, till it became past hope, and naturally impossible, because He does not need any circumstances to help Him.
You are not in that crisis every day, nor every month, nor every year, nor every dozen years of your life; but if the LORD is bringing you there in any trouble, it will surely end in deliverance. The faith is in both God’s will and power; God gives it. When He gives it, it is done to faith, if not in deed; and it shall be done in deed. Faith depends only on God. “All things are possible to him that believeth,” is the same as saying, “All things are possible to God.”
Joseph Hatton – 1884