In Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, and Luke 9:37-43, the Bible describes Jesus Christ performing a miraculous exorcism for a boy who was possessed by a demon that had tried to kill him. Jesus and his disciples met the boy as they were walking in the valley near the foot of Mount Tabor, where the disciples had recently witnessed another miracle -- Jesus' Transfiguration -- on top of that mountain.
Although the disciples had tried to drive the demon out of the boy themselves before asking Jesus to help, they were not successful. Jesus taught them about the power of faith and prayer when he successfully performed the exorcism himself. Here's the Bible story, with commentary:
Begging for Help
Luke 9:37-41 begins the story by describing Jesus and the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration (Peter, James, and John) joining the other disciples and a large crowd of people at the foot of Mount Tabor: "The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, 'Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.'
'You unbelieving and perverse generation,' Jesus replied, 'how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.'"
Jesus, who says in the Bible that he is God (the Creator) incarnate, expresses anger at the fallen state of his creation. Some of his angels have rebelled and become demons who work for evil purposes instead of good, and those demons torment human beings. Meanwhile, human beings often don't have enough faith to believe that God will help them overcome evil with good.
The day before this, the miracle of the Transfiguration had happened on Mount Tabor, in which Jesus’ appearance changed from human to divine and the prophets Moses and Elijah came from heaven to talk with him as the disciples Peter, James, and John watched. What occurred on the top of the mountain showed how glorious heaven is, and what happened at the foot of the mountain revealed how much sin can corrupt the fallen world.
I Do Believe; Help Me Overcome My Unbelief!
The story continues this way in Mark 9:20-24: "So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, 'How long has he been like this?'
'From childhood,' he answered. 'It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'
'If you can? said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who believes.'
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
The boy's father's words here are so human and honest. He wants to trust Jesus, yet he struggles with doubt and fear. So he tells Jesus that his intentions are good and asks for the help he needs.
Come Out and Never Enter Again
Mark concludes the story in verses 25 through 29: "When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. 'You deaf and mute spirit,' he said, 'I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.'
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, 'He’s dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, 'Why couldn’t we drive it out?'
He replied, 'This kind can come out only by prayer.'
In his report, Matthew mentions that Jesus also talked with the disciples about the importance of approaching their work with faith. Matthew 17:20 says that Jesus replied to their question about why they couldn't exorcise the demon by saying: "...Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"
Here, Jesus compares faith to one of the tiniest seeds that can grow into a strong plant: a mustard seed. He tells the disciples that if they approach a challenge with just a bit of living faith in prayer, that faith will grow and become powerful enough to accomplish anything.