What if I can’t believe?

Read Mark 9:14-32.

Three of the disciples had just seen something miraculous — Jesus transfigured before their eyes and talking with Moses and Elijah. Wow! What a sight. They talked about it all the way down the mountain.

And at the end of their walk, they hit bottom. Which is what usually happens, isn’t it?

That’s when they met up with the rest of the disciples, who were in an intense argument with teachers of the law.

No more talk of transfiguration, or Moses, or Elijah…just Jesus trying to break up a fight — of good Jews, no doubt.

It centered around the broken heart of a parent over a child. He had come in all sincerity to those disciples for help. He was looking for someone to heal his son of this horrible spirit that had possessed him from birth. Oh, how it tormented the child, and thus the father, as well. I cannot imagine.

But Jesus’ disciples didn’t help, couldn’t help. They were helpless.

Why? They’d driven out demons before. Remember how excited they were after he sent them out two-by-two? God had done wonderful things through them in those days. But today, it just wasn’t working.

That’s when Jesus’ rebuke came:

O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? 

Ouch. Was that for the disciples or the father? Or both? Either way, it had to hurt.

Then he asked for the boy to be brought to him. The odd thing was, he didn’t heal him right away. Instead, he watched, as the evil spirit threw the child into a convulsion, leading him to fall to the ground and foam from the mouth. Why didn’t he just heal him?

Instead, he asked the father a question:

“How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood” came the reply. But then the father added, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“If you can?” echoed Jesus.

Jesus knew the man’s heart. He knew that he was not fully convinced that Jesus could heal. After all, his disciples had failed, so maybe he’s not as great as he’d heard. The doubt had to be dealt with.

“Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Then the father cried out what should be our heart’s cry:

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus, now able to heal because of the trust given to him, did it. The child was made whole and restored to his loving father.

In a private moment, the disciples learned that it really wasn’t their fault or lack of belief. “This kind can only come out by prayer,” he told them. Post-Pentecost, they would face even greater challenges, but with the power of the Holy Spirit on their side. For now, they were just watching and learning from the Master.

Where do I fall on the spectrum of belief? Do I doubt Jesus can do anything, or do I believe he can do anything? Just as the father’s lack of faith hindered Jesus from acting, is my doubt keeping him from working wonders in my life? In the lives of those around me?

I think of how many stories of Jesus’ healing started with “your faith has healed you.” It’s only after he said that, was the blood flow stopped, the blind given sight, the lame made to walk, the dead raised.

He can. He’s willing. He’s able. He’s just waiting.



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