I believe, help my unbelief

Mark 9:14-29

September 13th, 2009


            It really was supposed to work, I mean they had done it many times before.   Jesus appointed them to do among other things to preach and drive out demons.   Sure we question the existence of demons in our world today, but this sort of questioning must have seemed silly to those in Jesus day, of course there are demons.  Of course Jesus had already rebuked a demon who recognized him before anyone else, and Jesus would say “Be quiet, get out”, and out they came (Mark 1:26).  He would drive out many and not allow them to speak (Mark 1:34).  Jesus was even mistaken for the prince of demons by the teachers of the law, to which Jesus says in effect, what are you crazy “a demon driving out demon”.  It is at this point Jesus says those words quoted by Abraham Lincoln “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand”.  Jesus took legions of demons, and sent them flying into the pigs as the pigs went to their death.  The disciples themselves were sent out preaching, and they had already driven out demons (Mark 6:13).   Yet, this time it didn’t happen, so here you have two great religious groups the disciples, and teachers of the law arguing with each other, and in the mean time a man who has a chronically demon possessed child has once again hit a dead end getting help for his son.   Then in walks Jesus, and everything changes.

            Picture yourself in the shoes of the following three scenarios.  First, the disciples.   What had been working, wasn’t working, and now they were confronted by those who thought they knew better.  They thought they could help, by virtue of their past abilities, but this time they could not.   Secondly, imagine you are the man with the young child demon possessed.   He probably has tried everything, but because everything has failed he is racked with doubts on anyone, and even approaches Jesus “If you can do anything”.   Then imagine, you’re the child, probably the most difficult thing to imagine of the three.  Talk about being helpless.   Unimaginable, was the devastation which happened to this boy, as this outside spirit took over.   In each of the three scenarios what do you do!    What do you do, when there is nothing more you can do?   

            In walks Jesus, and while people flock to him, Jesus doesn’t begin with a “hi, how are you”.  He doesn’t even say “how can I be of help”.  He says “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you?   Earlier he says to his followers “Are you so dull” (mark 7:18).   Jesus chastises, not his broken followers, but followers that falsely believed that somehow, someway the blessings, healings, and bringing of the kingdom has something to do with them.   Later he says, these demons can only come out with prayer.  Not implying that there are different approaches for different demons, but rather in prayer you recognize that I’m the help, I’m the one who will heal.  To the disciples he reminds them in very strong terms, that there abilities to do even the miraculous, come from his authority, and not there own.   We in the church would do well to hear, and believe the truth that Jesus does this.

            You move from the “overly focused on their ability” disciples to a man who got to feel for.   If there was ever anyone who had a right to doubt the quick fixes, the advice, the doctor ideas and religious ideas for his sons condition.  It was him.  Maybe a little light went on when the disciples of Jesus came forward, but once again in a devastating blow  they can’t get the job done.   This man too struggles to believe.  He says to Jesus, “If you can do anything”, take pity and help us.”    Translation, not sure you have the power to help, I mean my sons condition has stymied many before you.   Jesus does respond with compassion “how long has he been like this”, but when the man approaches Jesus thinking that maybe he is less then he says he is.  Jesus does the same thing to the man, as he does to the followers.  “f you can?  Everything is possible to him who believes”.   If is what Satan used toward me, if you are the son of God turn this bread to stone”, if you are the son of God fall down and worship me”.  There are no ifs with Jesus, when he speaks he does what he says.  There is no if with his forgiveness.  There is no if with his love.  There is no if with his compassion, and his power, and his strength.   What does the father do, turn away, having been caught in his unbelief.   No he does what is perfect in relation to Jesus.  He is honest.   Lord, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief.   Lord, your spirit has shown me you are it, you are the one, but I also don’t believe it.   What a marvelous, honest confession, and one that you and I can hold on to, as we encounter a variety of situations that are beyond our control.   What does God call for, honesty.  Honesty, in recognizing the truth of Jesus transforming power, but also honesty in acknowledging our failures.

            Now picture yourself in the boys situation, we have no words from the boy, only his situation when the demon does his thing.   The boy is completely in the hands of Jesus.   What does Jesus do, he mocks the demon, he calls him deaf and dumb.  And then says even though you can’t hear me, I’ll make you hear me, and out you come never come out of him again.   In not time at all, the demon does what Jesus say, and out he comes.  The boy, is lifeless, but what does Jesus do to this lifeless body, he takes him by the hand and lifts him up.  You and I are here today, because Jesus has taken you by the hand and lifted you up.  It may not be a demon that has drug you down, but that sense of powerlessness in the face of an insurmountable problem sure has.  Jesus who went Calvary and lives to intervene for his fallen creatures is here today lifting you up and saying you have life in my name.  To followers who have assumed that our life in the church is our doing, remember after calling us to the truth, he lifts us up.  Like the little girl who people thought had died he says get up.

            I am well aware that this text bring out many questions, like what if someone doesn’t get better when we pray, does that mean our faith isn’t strong enough.  Or what about the existence of demons today.  While these are worthy to discuss, lets leave those alone for now, and simply hear the truth of a Savior who enters our stories, and changes everything.  While immediately it may be fruit basket upset, in the end he takes us by the hand and says get up.  If this is true for his followers, the child’s father, and especially for the child, it is also true for us.   Amen.