Summary: Proper 19 B. Christ is the source and power of our faith. It is in and through Him that all things are possible.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our lesson starts with a curious phrase, “and when they came to the disciples.” So, who is the “they”? Just before this Jesus had gone up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John. There he was transfigured before them in glory, and Moses and Elijah appeared. Now Jesus and the three are making their way down the mountain, and joining up again with the other disciples. And so, when they came to the disciples, they found them in an argument with the scribes. The scribes, you will remember, were the ones who copied the scriptures, and they were closely associated with the Pharisees. Since they spent so much time with the scripture copying it, they also learned a lot of it, and were considered as authorities of a kind. Let us say, at the least, the scribes were opinionated.
So the crowd of people who were hanging around the disciples and the scribes see Jesus coming, and they run up to Him before He can reach the disciples. So Jesus asks tthe crowd, “What’s going on here? What is this argument about?”
And out of the crowd a man speaks up. “Teacher,” he says to Jesus. “I brought my son to you, because he has an evil spirit, so he cannot talk, and it attacks him and gives him convulsions.” But, as we know, Jesus was not there when the man first came, because Jesus was up on the mountain. “So I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to.”
“Bring him to Me.,” Jesus said. They are bringing the boy, and the spirit sees Jesus, and it causes him to have a seizure and foam at the mouth, and become rigid, and stiff. Jesus then asked the father, “How long has this been going on?” “All his life, and it tries to burn him and drown him, too. So, please, if you can do anything, have mercy on us.”
“If I can do anything?” Jesus replied. “All is possible for the One Who believes.” Thinking Jesus is talking about him, the father says, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
It sounds mixed-up doesn’t it?: “I believe, help my unbelief.” But it’s right. It’s true. The man did believe. Remember, he had brought his boy to Jesus to be healed. We see his faith in action, by what he did. He certainly wouldn’t have brought him to Jesus because he didn’t believe. So, he believed. Then Jesus isn’t there, and he lets the disciples have a go at it. Or, they might have insisted on having a spin. And although the disciples had cast out demons before, remember Mark chapter 6, Jesus sent them out, and they did miracles and cast out demons and healed many people. But now, here, today, they cannot.
When the disciples cannot do it, then the father of the boy, who had been believing, is discouraged. And because in those days the ability and inability of a disciple was a reflection on the teacher, he thought that since the disciples were not able to cast out the demon and heal his son that Jesus might not be able to, either. So when he is finally in front of Jesus, and asks Jesus to heal his boy, the father added, “if you can” to his request. “If you can, have mercy on us, and heal him.” So doubt and unbelief had overcome him.
This is why Jesus responds, “What do you mean, if I can? All things are possible to the one who believes.” The father instantly understands that Jesus had seen his doubt, his unbelief. So he cries out, “Yes I believe,” and now, instead of asking for asking for healing, the man asks for faith. “Help – heal, cure – my unbelief.”
We get it, don’t we? We get it how the man had belief and unbelief at the same time. We have had doubts, moments and times of not believing. We have been there, and not done that: not believed that is. What times? Oh, the trying times. The times when life is hard. The times when we are at odds with our spouse and we hope that the Lord will keep us together. The times when the month and the money aren’t equal, and we can neither shorten the month nor stretch the money, and we wonder not only how the Lord will provide, but whether He will. Or when we hear that report of the doctor. We believe, yes, but … Or when our loved one is not with us, and the ache and the pain, and … ?