“’…if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘ I believe; help my unbelief’” (Mark 9:22-24 ESV)!
The boy had been oppressed by a demon, which caused him to have epilepsy since he was small. I imagine that his father and mother had tried every doctor around looking for a cure for their son. I know I would have.
When my son was a month old he became ill. He had a raging fever of over 105º F. His mother and I raced him to the hospital. I would have done anything to help him. I remember feeling so helpless and powerless, and this sickness only lasted a couple of days. Fear gripped me as I prayed in my desperation. I understand this father’s heart.
There’s a great lesson in this story that we don’t often hear discussed. When the man came to Jesus in desperation and said, “if you can do anything…”, Jesus turned the tables. He said, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes (emphasis mine).” Jesus’ disciples, destined to turn the world upside down, who had been with Him since He began His ministry, had tried but failed to cast out the demon. And yet Jesus tells the man, “You’ve got this!”
That must have come as a shock to both the man and the disciples. Of course, Jesus knew that He was going to cast out the demon and heal the boy, but as He often did, He took advantage of a teachable moment.
The man had obviously heard about Jesus’ power to heal. In bringing his son to Jesus he demonstrated that he had somefaith. But he wasn’t under any delusions. He knew that he was not up to the task. The length of time that the boy had been in his condition had, if anything, only worn down the man’s faith. But his faith had received a boost when he heard about Jesus.
He spoke the truth when he said, “I believe”, and he recognized his need when he said, “help my unbelief”.
Jesus told us, “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 ESV). I can’t begin to number the times that I have come to God in prayer holding on to the tiniest bit of faith. Each time I remember this man and his response. He had faith in Jesus, but he recognized his need for more, and he looked to Jesus to fill in what was missing.
Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). The man’s faith, all that he had, was rooted in Jesus. “All things are possible for one who believes” must always begin with faith in Jesus. And when we need Him most, He supplies our every need “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV).
Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Thanks Tim, this is such an apt Scripture for this season. Certainly there have been deadlier pandemics in world history than COVID-19, but this is the most challenging one in my lifetime in terms of loss of life, world-wide spread, and lingering illnesses. It is human to wonder “Why” this is happening and “What?” is God up to. We can even begin to doubt whether God is here at all. We must keep going back to Jesus … “Lord, I believe,” “Help me with my unbelief.”
In light of the abundance of uncertainty and fear it’s great to know that when we go to the end of our faith, He will always meet us where we are. Thanks, Mark!