Greetings Woodland Beach Community Church. I miss being able to be there with you this year but I look forward to when I can join you in-person once again. Although we are apart we have the same Holy Spirit able to apply God’s Word into our lives.
Both Matthew (17:14-21) and Mark (9:14-29) record the story of Jesus’ healing of a boy with an unclean spirit. Jesus, along with Peter, James, and John are returning to the rest of the disciples after they had spent some time on a mountain. As they approach the crowds they can tell there is something causing a commotion. Jesus asks what is going on and one of the men in the crown answers, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” (Mark 4:17,18) Then Jesus responds with a pretty sharp rebuke; “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?”. Why did Jesus respond like this? This situation of a possessed person coming to Jesus and the disciples for healing was not uncommon. It had happened multiple times previous to this; the disciples themselves had traveled around casting out demons at a previous point (Matthew 10). I would assume that in this instance the disciples did the same thing they had done before, except this time it didn’t work. So why did Jesus rebuke them?
There is a clue back in Mark 9:14, which says that the disciples were arguing with some scribes. What do you think they were arguing about? I don’t know exactly what the argument was about because the text doesn’t say, but it happened right after they tried to heal the boy and failed. What I do know is that arguments are almost always because we are thinking only about ourselves. I am guessing that they were defending themselves as to why it didn’t work, maybe accusing or blaming something or someone else.
There is a lesson here for us. I want you to think about how the father and the boy felt as they listened to the disciples argue with scribes. They were both suffering and they came for help, yet clearly the disciples were more concerned about arguing than caring for them. If this was the father’s first encounter of Jesus and His disciples, what do you think he was feeling?
This time of COVID has been a challenging time for many and there are many who are suffering; yet, I am hearing a lot of arguing. There is so much criticism, complaining, and even anger being voiced. I think that as Christians we need to stop and make sure that we are not simply arguing our own opinion, and in doing so damaging the reputation of Christ and His church.
Back to the story; thankfully Jesus returns at that moment and notices that it is the father who answers Him when He asks what is going on. The father explains how his son is suffering, and how the evil spirit tried to kill his son by throwing him into water or fire. Then the father pleads with Jesus, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (vs 22). I love Jesus’ response, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” This is such a comforting verse for us; it reminds us that Jesus is all powerful; there is nothing He cannot do. If this time has been challenging for you, remember that HE CAN!
It is interesting that Jesus rebukes the arguing disciples by calling them “faithless” when they were unable to heal the boy; yet Jesus tells the father, who had just met Him for the first time that, “all things are possible for one who believes”. The father’s response to Jesus is one of my favourite in the Bible, and it has so much application to us, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (vs 24). You see he believes intellectually, that is why he immediately cries out “I believe”; but then as he reflects he recognizes that there is still doubt in his heart.
Do you ever struggle to feel in your heart what you know to be true in your head? It is the lifelong struggle moving the truths of God from our head to our heart and it happens through perseverance as we apply the truths of God’s Word in the experiences of life by faith. We believe that what God has said is true and we don’t’ give up.
I think this is why Jesus rebuked the disciples and called them faithless; instead of seeking Jesus when things didn’t work out the way they thought they should, they chose to argue and blame and make excuses as to why they weren’t able to heal the boy. The father never gave up; it’s not because he had more faith than the disciples that Jesus could heal his son, it is because he knew he didn’t have enough faith to do it on his own, and so he had to depend fully on Jesus.
When the disciples went to Jesus later to ask why they were not successful in healing the boy, Jesus responded that they needed to pray. Prayer is communion with God; it is not just putting in your list of wants as though God is a vending machine. God wants a relationship with you; He wants you to seek Him and to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.
Jesus, I believe… please help my unbelief.
God Bless, Mike Stanley