Summary: "I believe, help my unbelief" is a confession of sin and of faith that takes real courage to make. In the Cross we know what God’s response to us is and forever will be.
Today the Word of God that engages us is from Mark chapter 9. In the middle of these verses is one God-Inspired phrase that has been a real help to me on my own journey of faith. Words spoken first by a man who had the courage to be truly honest with himself, and honest with God. Stripped of all pretense, or piety, or posturing he speaks so plainly, “I believe, help my unbelief!” This is real, raw, gut wrenching truth, and it speaks to life in a real, raw, and gut wrenching world.
The statement itself is loaded with tension. There is present in this man faith and unbelief. But he doesn’t hide it. And I’m glad that he doesn’t. Because don’t we all live with this kind of tension in our lives? We live as those who have the saving blood of Jesus poured out for us, and giving us the promise of forgiveness, life and salvation. And yet, don’t we still live with the daily struggle against sin? Don’t we still live in a very real world full of very real disappointments, and failures, and temptations? The truth is, in this world, we don’t always win.
What I love about the account of Jesus healing this boy is WHERE we find it in Scripture. You have to understand that each of the Gospels is organized a little differently. One Gospel may have a very chronological approach, while another is grouped according to different themes. Sometimes there is a regional focus, or an emphasis on either reaching Gentiles or Jews. But in each of the first three Gospels, this story is found in the exact same place.
It’s important that we understand that this account is always found immediately following the Transfiguration of Christ. Why does this matter? Well, the Transfiguration of Jesus is where we are transported, along with Peter, James, and John to witness a sneak peak, a preview of the heavenly reality that is waiting for those who have been redeemed by Christ’s grace. And it is an awesome sight. Jesus is physically changed. He still has a physical body, but it is different, glorified, shining whiter than anything known to man. And on top of that, Moses, and Elijah are by his side in glory as well.
It is such an awesome sight that Peter doesn’t want the experience to end, and graciously offers to build tents for them all to live in on that mountain. It’s the very picture of the other-worldly, and we don’t want to leave, even as we just read about it. But here’s the deal. At the VERY TIME that all this is going on, something very different is happening to the 9 guys who didn’t go with Jesus up that hill. It wasn’t other-worldly, it wasn’t heavenly. It was harsh reality, the dregs of living life in this world, and experience drenched not in longing to stay, but rather in strife, and disappointment..
The men walked down the mountain of Transfiguration, “And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them.” A heated argument is raging all because a man brought his boy to be healed of a demon possession, but the disciples were unable to help. So the scribes rushed in to take advantage of the situation, to make the disciples look silly, and trivial in front of this big crowd. It had to be a truly crass scene.
Grown men, holy men, shouting at one another. Men throwing theological arguments back and forth, all the while, one man in the crowd can hardly watch. You see, his heart had been broken once again. He knew the feeling well. But yet it never seemed to make it less raw and dark, no matter how familiar he had become with the disappointment after so many years. If he were just fighting to help himself, and for his own problems, he would have given up years ago. But he wasn’t fighting for himself, he was fighting for his son, trying to help his boy. He would allow himself to get his hopes up, knowing that more than likely they would be dashed, because his son needed him to, so he would always try one more time.
But so far, nothing had worked. So far, he had no reason to have faith that anything could work. It’s not that people didn’t want to help, it’s that no one knew how. His son’s problems weren’t normal. He had demonic, epileptic like fits. They were malicious in nature and on more than one occasion, this father had seen this messenger of hell try to kill his son from the inside. We read some verse from the lesson. Listen and imagine how devastating this must have been for this dad: