Mark 9:21-24 - Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This passage has a lot of interesting elements. The disciples had already taken a shot at healing this boy. It didn’t work out so well. They were probably feeling a little less than superhero at this point. Then they got scolded by Jesus, which in my experience, is hard to hear. Not only that, but Mark portrays Jesus as pretty exasperated with the whole human thing.
Then we turn to a dialogue between dad and Jesus. This situation is fast paced. The crowd is getting into it, Jesus is getting ready to fix the day’s mistakes…and this poor dad is wondering if he made a mistake. Jesus asks the dad a question to engage him. And poor dad…he says the “if clause”. Standing before the Messiah he puts his doubt right out there.
When I think ahead to the fantasized major spiritual moments of my life, there are no “if clauses”. Jesus says, “Go!”, and I am there. There is no hesitation and no doubt. I am the perfect little believer in futureland. Now, if I have to look back over my spiritual history, that is where you would see the “if clauses”. In pastville, I have openly expressed doubt, worry, frustration and anger, and ifs.
Standing before Jesus, I want to be able to say, “No, I do not doubt you. You are the One. I believe that you can do all things.” In reality, we think and sometimes pray, “If you can, would you consider, if this falls in the realm of your whole will thing.”
I don’t think that Jesus was really offended by dad’s responses. I think that He was requesting a point of clarification from dad…engaging the heart of this man. We have to keep in mind that Jesus could have walked right over to the boy, spoken to him and it would be over. Instead, he spoke to dad.
As a result of this dialogue, Jesus is healing based on the faith of another person. We see this with parents asking for healing in the gospels. That is a pretty big deal for parents out there. It is literally the idea of standing in the gap for your child.
Another interesting thing is that he healed this child even though the dad admitted his unbelief. Hmmm, seem odd?
Unbelief is not a bad thing. It isn’t helpful if we shove it down deep. Jesus can handle us saying, “I just do not get this and I would like to, so help me believe”. He is much bigger than we give Him credit for. Dad said, “I believe, I do, ok, well, maybe I don’t believe a little”…and Jesus healed his son who had been tortured from childhood. Dad probably believes now.
Jesus did tell him, though. Jesus said that for people who believe, anything can be done. He can use us mightily when we believe that He is already fully present in a situation. It is worth praying our doubt, asking for help where we come up short. Jesus expects it and He honors it. He does not withhold from people who stay in this conversation of unbelief. He might just be waiting for a chance to show us why we should believe.
Father, thank you for never turning away from us in our unbelief. Allow us to see unbelief in our lives and confess it to you. Do amazing things today through the humility of this act.