It seems surprising that Jesus, the omniscient Godhead in bodily form (Col. 2:9) would ask from a mortal man whom he foreknew and predestined (Rom. 8:29) before He could find out how long an ailment has troubled the young boy. Does that suggest that Jesus did not know about the boy's situation?

A somewhat similar question He asked the blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:51: "...What do you want me to do for you?" but this may be explained that the question was asked perhaps to offer blind Bartimaeus the right of making a choice of what he wants as a free moral agent.

However, in the case of Mark 9:21, it sounds as if it was a question deliberately asked in search for an answer for something that appears not to be known before.

Hence, my question: Why did Jesus ask the father of the boy with unclean spirit: “How long has this been happening to him?”

3 Answers 3


Your question already contains an answer that Jesus could not not know that what He asked. Similarly, when Father asked Adam: "Adam, where are you" (Gen 3:9), He of course knew with the Son and the Holy Ghost together, where Adam was; and When Jesus asked "who has touched me, for a power has came out of me?"(Luke 8:46), of course He knew who has touched Him; or when He approached a fig tree to eat fruits when there was no season of fruits (Mark 11:13), He of course knew that there would not be figs but only leaves, so seeing there were no figs was not a surprise for Him. When He asks such questions, or does such deeds as to feign His ignorance, these are for some pedagogical and instructive reasons. Thus, after excluding as absurd the possibility that omniscient God's omniscient Son could not know something, then we can reason safely about any pedagogical reason for such His questions. Here it can be that Jesus wants to show and inform the audience that healing of the demon-possessed boy is not some light affair, but it is a serious malady that has started long time ago, from his childhood, so that people could treat this miracle with a due respect and attention. There can be many other reasons, but this is what sounds soundest for me now.

  • 1
    Right, Jesus asked so the disciples would know and so that the information would be recorded in Mark's Gospel,
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 26, 2018 at 8:52
  • Cf. John 11:42. Oct 26, 2018 at 16:49

In Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, we see Jesus stating that there was something He did not know.

Jesus came to live as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. Though He never stopped being God, He laid aside the expression of His deity and took the form of a man (Phil 2:5-10). The Bible says He emptied Himself. However, Jesus was filled with power from the Holy Spirit prior to His wilderness experience (Luke 4:1). As our perfect High Priest, (tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin - Hebrews 4:14-16) Jesus lived on Earth as a mortal man, filled with the Holy Spirit. While on Earth, He only knew that which the Father revealed to Him, did what the Father commanded Him, and said what the Father told Him to say.

  • I meant 13:32. I've correct it. Thank you! Apr 1, 2020 at 18:13

I will go a little further to say The Lord needed to expose the background of the affliction, in order for us to understand the remedy He supplies in verse 29 - that this kind of long standing demonic affliction will require a dimension of The power of The Holy Spirit only unleashed by prayer and fasting.

The disciples at the time did not fast (Mark 2:18) and we know could not watch in prayer for even one hour (Matthew 26:40).

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