Why is there evil? How we respond to that question determines a lot. Some, when they think of evil shake their fist at God, blaming him for all that has slipped sideways in the world. And to some degree, I understand this. God is sovereign. Nothing happens with out his okey dokey. And that leads us to all kinds of conundrums. Yes, evil is present. Yes, God is sovereign. But evil is about our choice to rebel against God. And God, in his sovereignty allows us to rebel. But evil is about us slipping sideways; shaking our fist at a holy God and determining with our little rebellious hearts to turn away from him toward all manner of lesser and therefore evil things. We trust in ourselves. We trust in other gods (education, sex, science, power, money, and the list is almost endless). But the bottom line is we have no one to blame but us – mankind is at fault.
Luke 9:37-43a is a strange tale of the battle between good and evil. So, the next day, after a night of Jesus hanging out with Moses and Elijah, Jesus comes down the mountain with Peter, James and John. And when they arrive at the bottom of the mountain a large multitude meets him. They arrive, but the crowd meets him – Jesus. They are there to see Jesus. Peter, James and John slip into the background of the story. And isn’t there exactly where we should be – in the background of the story? I want Jesus to be in the foreground of my story. That sounds right. Anyway, you have Jesus and you have the often-present large crowd. And then you have a man crying out his desperation. It is important to hear the desperation here.
The concern is his only son. This is emphasized several times in Luke. A parent’s only child (the widow of Nain’s only son; Jairus’ only daughter). Don’t get me wrong, no matter how many children you have you would be desperate if they were in any danger. Our hopes and dreams are often wrapped up in our children. And if there is only one, and that one is hurting – that is our only hope and dream. This man screams out “Teacher, I am begging you to look closely at my son – my only son.” The problem is an evil spirit. I know. Many sources will call this epilepsy. And the symptoms are epileptic in nature. Okay, but is this about a superstitious misunderstanding of a neurological condition? I don’t think so. I think this is about a demon. Even if the disciples, or the father, made a misdiagnosis, which is completely possible, I don’t believe Jesus did. This is about a nasty spirit that is tormenting this man’s son. This is about his desperation; about his lack of ability to do anything about it; about his watching as his son is battered about by a malevolent demon.
The disciples were not able to cast out this spirit, which is interesting since Jesus gave them authority over all the demons in verse 1. Even more interesting is Jesus response. He blurts out with a rebuke, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?” I mean, “What?” Jesus is taking them back to Old Testament Scripture. In Deuteronomy 32, in the song of Moses, Moses rebuked the people for being a perverted and crooked generation in verse 5 and for being perverted and unfaithful in verse 20. The overall gist of the song is that the people of Israel have trusted in other gods and themselves and have been, well basically unbelieving and perverted. Why is there such a thing as demon possession? Why is this young man being tormented? Jesus is saying, “Rebellion is why.” But it is more than that. Why can’t the disciples cast it out? Maybe, they had begun to trust in their authority more than the source of that authority. That seems to be one of Moses’ points in his song. The rebellious people tend to look at God’s victory as their own. So, why evil? Rebellion. Why inability to confront evil? Rebellion. As the young man approaches Jesus the demons slammed him to the ground and convulsed him. Jesus rebuked the spirit and it left and the boy is healed and the people are overwhelmed.
One of the things we are intended to see here is the difference between the disciples’ failure and the success of Jesus. Jesus success is because of the greatness – mighty power, grandeur – of God. Yes, there is evil in this world. And it is intent on harming, bruising, and maiming. And when we trust in our ability to handle, to deal with, to vanquish evil, we will fail. The evil is there because of rebellion. Your inability is because of misplaced trust. Trust in God then. It is his power – his good – that will conquer the demons of this world. Don’t rebel, holding firmly to your own intelligence or power. Let go of all that and trust God.