Scripture: Mark 9:14-29
Key verse: (24) “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Reflection: “How much longer must I put up with you?” These are not words we expect to hear from Jesus, yet it is his response when he learns of his disciple’s failure to heal a boy who lives with horrible seizures. A crowd has gathered and is arguing. We’re not told about what. Then Jesus shows up and a father brings a complaint to Jesus that his disciples have not been able to heal his son. Jesus’ response is less than pastoral. “You faithless generation,” he says, “how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?” Then he calls for the boy to be brought to him, and at that time he has another seizure. “If you are able to do anything, we’d sure appreciate it,” says the father. Apparently that was not the right thing to say, either. “If I’m able!?” exclaims Jesus. Christ’s ability is not to be questioned. His disciples might not be able, but he is able. There is no question about that. The only question is whether or not the father believes this. The father responds, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I love the father’s honesty. God knows I’ve been there. Faced with an incredible challenge, feeling helpless in the face of it, believing God is present in it, yet unable to resolve the challenge. I believe, help my unbelief. I’ve felt it in the challenges facing our society. So many faithful Christians call Charlotte home, yet we remained divided along racial lines, apparently unwilling to integrate our lives. I believe, help my unbelief. So many faithful people, so many generous people, so many gifted business leaders who know what it takes to get things done, yet we cannot solve the affordable housing dilemma. I believe, help my unbelief. So many loving families who care deeply for one another, yet according to a recent article in The Atlantic magazine, teen depression rates are at all-time highs in our nation. I believe, help my unbelief. I’ve been where this father finds himself, have you?
The good news is, that’s good enough for Jesus. He heals the boy, though it doesn’t happen easily. His disciples ask him why they couldn’t pull it off, and Jesus responds, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” What is the prayer? The closest thing to a prayer that’s said in this passage is the father’s plea: “I believe, help my unbelief.” Thank God for that.
Prayer: “I believe; help my unbelief. I believe you are Lord; help my unbelief when I live as if I am a self-made person. I believe you are Savior; help my unbelief when I turn to false gods for my salvation. I believe you are the Messiah who brings the reign of God to the world; help my unbelief when I accept this world as it is and do nothing to join your transforming work. I believe; help my unbelief. Amen.”
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].