“… I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24
The situation described here in Mark is Jesus healing a boy with an unclean spirit. Jesus, Peter, James, and John were coming down the mountain after the Transfiguration described in Mark 9:2-13. As they approached the disciples they observed a great crowd around them and scribes or teachers of the law were arguing with them.
The discussion centered around the child suffering from an unclean spirit which seemed to manifest itself in the child with symptoms that we might associate with epilepsy or seizures. Maybe the scribes were disputing the disciples’ ability to cast out spirits. In Mark 6:7 Jesus had sent out the disciples two by two with authority to drive out demons. In verses 6:12-13 Mark indicates that they were successful in going out and preaching that people should repent, in driving out demons, and in anointing many with oil and healing them.
This concerned father had brought his son to them with anticipation that the affliction of his son might be cured. The disciples, however, were unable to remove this demon from the child. When Jesus asked them the problem the man came forward and said that he brought his son to Him because he had a spirit that made him mute; he also described the other life-threatening symptoms.
Jesus then asked that the boy be brought to Him and described those nearby as a faithless generation. Upon seeing Jesus, the spirit caused the boy to convulse. Jesus further inquired of the father of the history of the affliction and the father responded with further description. The he said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
In verse 9:23 Jesus responded, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.” The father cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
The father’s response might be typical of both you and me. He brought his son before Jesus and the disciples, perhaps grasping at straws in an effort to cure his son. But in his mind, the father may have been thinking, “I’m going to do this but it probably won’t do any good.”
Too often I find myself hearing, reading, or thinking of God’s power but in my finite mind I think, “How could that possibly happen?” or “How could God be concerned about my problem?” I tend to want to know how or why something works or what the motivation is behind the response I am receiving or expecting.
Hebrews 11 describes the necessity of faith and verse 6 says that without faith we cannot please God and to draw near to Him we must believe that He exists. Hence, the dilemma, faith is never perfect. As believers in Christ we often falter. God anticipated our lack of faith because in Matthew 17:20 Jesus describes, “… if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed…” you can do great things like move mountains. Also in Luke 17:6, Jesus says that with faith you can uproot mulberry trees and cast them into the ocean.
I find great solace in realizing that though we are far from the perfection that God desires for us, He is still able to do great things in and through us. Romans 8:26-28 says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness; when we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. That is very comforting.
Back to the miracle at hand, when the disciples asked Jesus why they could not drive out the demon, He responded that “this kind can come out only with prayer.” Andy covers this in more detail in the blog post here (available on Oct 26)