19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:19-24 NIV)
In previous passages, Jesus has just come down from the transfiguration and finds the other disciples embroiled in an argument with the religious leaders because the disciples were not able to cast out a demon from a boy.
In today’s passage, Jesus expresses His emotion, wondering how long it will take the disciples to understand and practice their faith. Jesus does not despair or lose hope – He simply tells the disciples to bring the boy to Him.
When the boy arrives, the demon in the boy sees Jesus and throws the boy into a convulsion. Jesus does not panic; instead, Jesus calmly talks to the boy’s father about the boy. Jesus asks the father how long the boy has been having these episodes. The boy’s father tells Jesus that the demon has been trying to destroy the boy since childhood.
Jesus’ question to the boy’s father shows Jesus’ care and compassion. Even though Jesus was frustrated with His disciples, He did not allow that frustration to spill over into His interaction with the boy’s father or the boy.
The boy’s father ended his comments to Jesus with “if you can do anything…”. The man had come looking for Jesus with high hopes that Jesus could help his son. After the disciples were not able to cast out the demon, the man’s hopes were shattered and he had doubts that even Jesus could help his son. In his lack of faith, the man tried to put the burden of proof on Jesus’ ability to heal the boy.
Jesus addresses the father’s lack of faith head-on. Jesus makes it clear that the boy’s healing is not dependent on Jesus’ ability to heal him. Rather, the boy’s healing is dependent on the father’s ability to believe. Jesus has not promised that He will heal the boy; He is addressing the father’s lack of faith first.
The father understands Jesus’ statement and immediately replies, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24). In this brief interaction, we see Jesus addressing the father’s sin of unbelief, and the father’s confession and repentance of that sin. The father gathers up what little scraps of faith he has and offers it to Jesus, in essence telling Jesus, “here is all the faith I possess – please take it and multiply it into something greater, something that only You can do!”
How do we see this situation? How would we have responded? The man’s faith was shaken because his eyes were on the disciples, mere men, and not on God. The father was looking to them to heal his son, and his faith was shaken when the disciples could not cast out the demon. The father approached Jesus as just another man – thus, his expression of doubt as to whether Jesus could help his son.
So how do we see and approach the church and believers in the church? Do we put them on the same level as God, expecting them to help us with our life issues and burdens? And if they fail us, does their failure affect our faith?
May we honor our church leaders and other authorities over us, but may we place our hope and faith in God alone. May we not make idols out of other people, but rather keep our eyes on Christ for our hope and our salvation.
May we see Jesus as God, and not as just a man. This is no guarantee that Jesus will fix everything that we bring to Him; His ways are higher than our ways and we may not understand or see the bigger picture of what God is doing behind the scenes. When we see Jesus as God and not merely as a human, it simply means that we can trust Jesus with the situation and the outcome, regardless of what that outcome may be.