When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The Lad at the Foot of the Hill

The next day after the vision of the King of Glory, two very different groups of people were approaching one another from different directions. One was our Lord and the three disciples coming down the hill, the other was a man and a boy making their way along the valley.

This boy had something strange and dreadful the matter with him. Sometimes at home his mother would hear a loud cry of distress in the next room, and running in, would find the boy in the middle of the fire. And he would say that somebody had pushed him in; but there was nobody in the room except the lad himself. Close by his house was a deep pond, and the boy was always getting into it. The moment he found that no one was watching him he would run and jump and throw himself into the water, so that many times he was almost drowned. And he would say that somebody had taken him by the shoulders and thrust him in; but nobody was ever to be seen who could have done so mean a thing. Then, when he was playing with the other boys, something would happen which was not in the game. He would suddenly give a cry, and fall upon the ground and gnash his teeth, and foam at the mouth. And he would say that somebody had knocked him down, but not a hand had touched him. Besides all this, he was deaf and dumb. Never a word could he either hear or speak. And he kept growing weaker, pining away, so that it seemed as if he must soon die.

The secret of it all was that he had an evil spirit; that is, as we say nowadays, he had times of being violently crazy.

Of course, his father and mother had called in all the doctors, and even the ministers; for the ministers were sometimes able to cure crazy people. But none of them had helped him. At last, the news came that the prophet of Nazareth was in that neighborhood. The lad's parents did not quite know who the Prophet of Nazareth was: for some said this and some said that about him. There was a rumor that the people of his own country had cast him out. All agreed, however, that he was very kind, and that he had expelled many devils. So in the early morning of that day, the father spoke to the boy, making motions with his hands, and told him that they were to take a long walk, and that at the end of the road they would find one who would make him well, so that he should no longer fall into the fire or into the water.

But the two reached the foot of the hill before the Master and the three came down. Only the nine were there. Meanwhile a crowd had gathered. There were friends of the family who had come along to see the cure, and many idle persons such as are always ready to follow a crowd, and some of the ministers. For although it was a heathen country, some Jews were living there. The father said, "Where is the prophet?" The apostles answered, "He is in the mountain. Last night he went up, leaving us here to wait for him." "When will he come down?" "We do not know; perhaps to-day, perhaps not till to-morrow. What do you want?" "I have brought my sick son. You are the Prophet's disciples, can you not cast out a devil?" "Oh, yes!" they said, "we know how to cast out devils. Bring the boy to us." So the boy was brought, and the multitude pressed in on every side, and Matthew and Andrew and the others prayed and made motions, and tried to do what they had seen the Master do, but all in vain. The boy lay upon the ground in great distress; his father was in despair; and the disappointed people were becoming more and more angry. "These men are impostors," some were saying. "Shall we not stone them?"

All this time our Lord was coming down along the quiet road beneath the trees, with the three disciples beside him. But as they neared the foot of the hill they began to hear loud voices, as of men in a dispute, and now and then a scream, as if there were some one in distress. And presently they came in sight of the noisy crowd, who were shaking their fists in the apostles' faces. And somebody looked up, and cried, "There is the Prophet now!" and they all ran to meet him, and when they beheld him they were greatly amazed, like the people of the old time who saw the face of Moses shining as he came down from Sinai, and running to him, they saluted him. And he asked the ministers, "What is the matter? What is the question which you are so bitterly debating?" And while they sought for words with which to answer him, the father came. "Master," he cried, "I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; and wheresoever he taketh him he teareth him; and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away; and I spake unto thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not."

And the Master looked at the disciples, and what he saw in their faces troubled him greatly. For he saw that they were thinking of themselves. We know that, because of two confessions which they made the next day. They confessed that they had been disputing among themselves which was the greatest. They confessed, also, that they saw a stranger who was doing what they could not do: he was casting out devils. And they stopped him. That is, as the crowd came, the nine said, "Now we will show them what great power we have. We will work a miracle; we will cast out this devil, and amaze them." The thought in their hearts was not one of pity for the father and the boy. They wanted, as we say, to "show off." Not for the lad's sake, and not for the Master's sake, but for their own glory, they purposed to do this deed of healing! We may guess, too, that Andrew said, "I am the one to lay my hands upon him, for I was the first apostle of you all;" and that Philip answered, "No, I am the one, for the Lord himself went in search of me and called me;" and that the others made claims each for himself, saying, "I am the greatest." And the result was that there was no miracle. Neither God nor man responds to that selfish spirit.

Our Lord was greatly grieved. His heart was full of the thought of his coming death, wherein he would give himself for the good of men; and here were his disciples interested only in themselves. It made him feel his loneliness, in the midst of people who were so far from understanding him. "O faithless generation," he sighed, looking in the faces of the excited apostles, "how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" And he turned to the father. "Bring thy son hither." So he brought him, and one of the lad's bad fits came upon him, and he fell upon the ground, rolling over and over, foaming at the mouth. And he asked his father, "How long ago is it since this came unto him?" And he said, "Of a child; and ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the water, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." Now that the apostles had failed, the man feared that the Prophet would fail also. But our Lord said to him, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." And the Lord said, "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and return no more into him!" And the deaf spirit heard, and the dumb spirit cried out with a loud voice, and the lad lay suddenly still with shut eyes, so that many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And the father and the son went home, hand in hand, praising God and full of gratitude.