So, Jesus took three of his twelve closest disciples up a high mountain. How did his other disciples feel? Were they sad to be left behind or relieved that they didn’t have to climb the high mountain?
Whatever their feelings at being left behind, their quiet was shattered as a frantic father came along seeking help. He was searching for Jesus who he needed to heal his son but when he realized that Jesus wasn’t there, he had asked the disciples for help instead.
The disciples soon diagnosed the problem. It became clear that this terrible illness and other problems were being caused by an evil spirit.
The disciples had met and dealt with evil spirits before and so they probably felt confident as they tried to send the spirit away. Jesus had previously sent them out giving them authority over demonic powers (Mark 6.7) and when they had used this authority they had driven these spirits out of people (Mark 6.12).
The disciples must have been so confused when they couldn’t drive the spirit out of the son. After all, it had worked before with other people so why not now? Something that had been natural for them previously now was seemingly beyond their control.
When they couldn’t drive out the spirit, chaos erupted in the crowd with the religious leaders started to argue with them. These leaders hated Jesus and they didn’t waste any time putting the boot (or the sandal I suppose) in, probably telling the disciples that they were following the wrong person and that God was showing them this in their failure.
Jesus returned from the mountain top and he immediately brought peace to the situation.
The frantic father asked Jesus to help his son,
‘Have mercy on us and help us, if you can’.
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
How did the disciples feel when they heard this? They had failed to drive the demon out but were now being told that anything is possible.
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!
Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of the son and it was all over. It appeared so easy, that the disciples later asked Jesus why it hadn’t worked for them.
Was Jesus’ reply confusing, frustrating or helpful?
‘This kind only comes out by prayer’.
The strange thing was that Jesus didn’t pray, he told the spirit to come out of the son.
So what did Jesus mean? Some of the copies of Marks gospel have the words ‘and fasting’ on the end of Jesus’ statement. The discipline of fasting allows people more time to pray and shows their commitment to God. Was Jesus saying that we can only overcome the powers of evil when we are reliant on God rather than our own ability.
Did the disciples approach the situation thinking that they had done this sort of thing before? Did they include God or leave him out of their spiritual battle?
Why were the disciples so foolish as to believe that they could accomplish the things by themselves that God has previously done through and around them?
It’s easy to become so confident in what has gone well before that we leave God out of it. When we take God for granted and try to cope alone, things usually go wrong.
The father has the opposite experience to the frustrated disciples. He does believe in Jesus and he can see that Jesus has power but he also sees that the spirit afflicting his son has power as well and so he decides that honesty is the best policy.
‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’
I believe that Jesus is God and that he is Lord of all. I believe that he is more powerful than anything else, but then sometimes things go wrong and I doubt.
When we experience these moments of disappointment and chaos, will we start to argue with the other religious people around us. Do we play the blame game or do we cry out to God like the father does affirming our faith and asking God to help us to overcome our unbelief.
You see, doubts are natural and one of the most unhelpful things in some churches is that doubts are discouraged and frowned upon. Doubts are often a taboo subject with those that express them being told off and shunned.
The father expressed both faith and doubt. He called on Jesus to help him to overcome his doubt and rather than criticising or shunning him, Jesus acted and brought freedom and healing.
Will we come to God and be honest about our faith?
Will we make sure that we are reliant on God rather than assuming that we can accomplish things that we have done before by ourselves?
Why would we be so foolish as to believe that we can accomplish the things by ourselves that God has previously done through and around us.
Today, I hope you will join me in expressing afresh our faith in Jesus.
Lord we believe!
Today, I hope you will join me in expressing our doubts and questions to God so that he can help us to overcome them.
Help me overcome my unbelief!
May we continue to pray to, trust in and rely on God.
You can read about what happened for yourself in Mark 9.