Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:24
He came to find Jesus. He brought his son who was calm this morning but still unable to speak. The fit last night was severe and intense, the boy thrown to the ground where he writhed uncontrollably, foaming from his mouth, and gnashing his teeth for hours. He watched all this helplessly, unable to even restrain the boy from lunging into the fire. Finally in the early dawn, he convulsed into rigidity before falling into exhausted sleep. These fits, which began when his son was a small child, had increased in frequency and severity over the years. Countless doctors and priests and rabbis shook their heads in futility when confronted with evidence of these horrible seizures, and the father could no longer deny the irrefutable, hopeless reality that a demon possessed his beloved son.
He had heard of Jesus, everyone in the villages around Caesarea Philippi heard the miraculous stories told about this itinerant rabbi now teaching in their region. He had tried everything else; there was nothing left to lose. So, he came with his boy to find Jesus. But Jesus was not there. He had gone up into the mountains with three of his disciples and had not yet returned. His remaining disciples listened as he poured out his anguish to them, they witnessed a mild convulsion, and they attempted to cast out the demon to no avail. A crowd then formed around the disciples and the Pharisees and teachers of the law as they engaged in a loud argument with shouts and finger-pointing drowning out the silent weeping of a defeated father. His despondency was a thick, dark cloak covering him and his boy whose spent limbs twitched spasmodically as he lay hurt and forgotten in the dirt.
Suddenly, a hush fell over the crowd when someone spotted Jesus coming towards them. The disciples pushed through the crowd with self-importance before everyone else, including this desperate father, ran to meet Jesus. The air crackled with expectant wonder. What would Jesus say about the Pharisee’s accusations of wickedness? What would Jesus say about the inabilities of his own disciples? What would Jesus do? Jesus wasted no time as he addressed his disciples directly, “What are you arguing with them about?”
Emboldened by desperation, the father answered the question after describing his son’s demon possession, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” Was it exasperation he heard in Jesus’ voice or weary sadness that prompted his reply, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” The father went and lifted his boy from the dirt and fully supported his weight as they slowly made their way to Jesus. They were just within sight of Jesus when the spirit threw the boy to the ground again and he rolled around in convulsions, his mouth foaming in agony. It was only compassion that the father now heard when Jesus asked him how long his son had been this way, a compassion that lifted the cloak of hopelessness from his shoulders. “From childhood,” he answered. “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.”
Jesus smiled at the father then and tenderly looked deep into his eyes. “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Without hesitation, with tears streaming from his eyes, this persevering father fell to his knees and exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” In that moment, every burden fell from this father’s shoulders, and he understood that it was the long-awaited Messiah who looked into his eyes and spoke with power and authority to rebuke the evil spirit in his boy. “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The shrieking from that spirit was deafening; the convulsing that gripped his boy violent; the silence that followed portent as his boy lay lifeless and unmoving. Then Jesus reached down and took his hand, lifted him to his feet and restored him to his father whole and complete. Father and son embraced sobbing their praise to God.
Later when they looked for Jesus, they found he had gone indoors with his disciples. As they walked past the open doorway, they heard the disciples ask, “Why could we drive it out?” Smiling, they understood completely the reply Jesus gave them, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” They experienced the power of heaven that day as Jesus restored a broken, disfigured body to youth and vitality; as He filled a broken, unbelieving spirit with faith and worship; and as this father and his son met God’s Son in an everyday moment and encountered mercy.
Jesus, thank You for this lesson in believing faith. Thank You that nothing is impossible for You. Thank you that You are the God of restoration in my own life and that every time I meet You in the ordinary moments of my day, I encounter Your mercy. Like this father, I beg You to increase my faith today as I trust You alone with every “impossible” in my life. I love you, Jesus.
- What strongholds of defeat and despair do you need to entrust to Jesus today? What “possible” do you need to believe Him for?
- When have you found yourself stricken and rigid with fear, insecurity, anger, depression, or…? How have you experienced the healing and restoring touch of Jesus in those times?
- How will you respond to Jesus’ invitation to spend more time in prayer and fasting this Easter season?