Mark 9 contains a verse that I wish didn’t have to be quite so meaningful to me. You may be familiar with the scene where it appears: following the transfiguration, Jesus finds his disciples unsuccessfully attempting an exorcism. The father of the demon-possessed boy brings him to Jesus, begging Jesus to help, if possible. When Jesus responds that all things are possible to him who believes, the man cries out: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (24).
Is Jesus Christ omnipotent? Today’s chapter might seem to suggest otherwise, because dang if the Son of Man can’t catch a break. Following a heated disagreement with the Pharisees over traditions and hand-washing, Jesus once again seeks out some alone time, but even in the remotest regions beyond the boundaries of Judea and Galilee, trouble still seems to find him, in the form of a Syrophoenician woman with a demon-possessed daughter.
Today’s chapter could easily be the subject of two entries, as it comprises two events: an exorcism in the wilderness of Gerasa, and a resurrection at the synagogue official Jairus’ house. We could spend two days on them, one after the other as we have with other chapters, but I’m inclined to take them both in a single post, straddling the two and hoping I don’t lose my footing.
Mark hits the ground running. Unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t concern himself at all with Jesus’ birth or childhood. He jumps right into John the Baptist’s ministry as Jesus’ forerunner, and before the reader has a chance to draw a breath, Jesus has gotten baptized, been tempted in the desert, called his first four disciples, and cast out a demon.
Luke 9 starts with Jesus sending out the apostles to cast out demons and heal diseases. He instructs them to travel radically light–no bag, no cash, no food, one change of clothes, bare necessities. And as they go from village to village bringing healing, they’re also preaching the gospel. What are they saying? What are their words?