“I believe; help my unbelief”

The boy was in a terrible state. He was “possessed by a spirit that robbed him of speech,” Mark 9:17, and “Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground (and into water and fire to kill him, verse 22). He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid” (verse 18). If I was that boy’s Dad I’d be heart-broken watching my boy being played with like that by a vicious demonic spirit.

But Dad knew about this phenomenal Rabbi who actually drove demonic spirits out of people and the people fully recovered. The Rabbi’s disciples had the same power too (Mark 6:13), so when a group of Jesus’ disciples arrived in their village, Dad took his son and joined the crowd that gathered to meet them. But when he asked the disciples to heal his son, they couldn’t do it.

But why couldn’t they? Up to this point Jesus and his disciples had never failed anyone who’d asked for healing. This man, then, had every right to believe his son would be healed, and he did believe too – until, that is, the healing didn’t happen.

That’s when the Dad’s mood changed. He was quick to tell Jesus that his disciples hadn’t healed his son, and his tone became doubtful and desperate in verse 22: “Please, please help us – IF you can,” he says to Jesus. Well, of course Jesus could help them, and Jesus quickly reminded the boy’s Dad of that in verse 23, that “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Believes what, though? Believes what God sent Jesus to the Jews for, to deliver them, forgive them, heal them and restore them. Believes that Jesus really was the Messiah predicted in their Scriptures who would come to save them. Believes that everything the Jews had been hoping for and dreaming of through all the years of their misery under pagan rulers was now possible. Their Messiah had arrived. Therefore, everything was now possible – the salvation of their nation, the forgiveness of their sins, their chance to repent and be the nation God had called them to be. And what more proof did they need that Jesus was that Messiah than all the healingx and driving out demons he and his disciples were doing?

At which point the Dad’s desperation switches from wanting his boy healed to wanting his belief healed. He went about it the right way too, by asking Jesus directly for help with “my unbelief” (verse 24), because as Jesus said in verse 29, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” To really cotton on to what God sent Jesus for needs direct help from Jesus himself.

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