Mark 9: 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This is an interesting story. “Someone” (v.17) brought his son to the disciples asking for healing. The disciples couldn’t do it. In response to Jesus’ question about the boy’s history with these convulsions the father says in v. 22 “but if you are able to do anything…”. The operative word here is “if”. In other healing situations there is bold confidence that Jesus can heal, but not here. In v.23 Jesus seems to be taken aback. If you are able?! But the man acknowledges his lack of faith “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This last statement seems like a contradiction of sorts, but I get it. The man demonstrated some measure of faith by asking for healing in the first place, but that word “if” betrays some reservation. Then Jesus says, “All things can be done for one who believes.” Based on context I have to believe he’s referring to the father’s incomplete faith. The boy’s father believes, but some doubt persists. Yet even partial faith was enough for Jesus to act. The gospel of Matthew adds a bit more detail to the story. When the disciples ask him why they could not cast out the demon Jesus replies,
Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
If faith the size of a mountain were required I would be in bad shape. But Jesus says that a very small amount of faith is enough to move mountains. I know there are people reading this blog post who are staring at a mountain or two in your life. Me too. Let this reflection minister to you today. A little faith goes a long way with the Lord.
Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief. Amen.