Monday, 25 August 2014

I Do Believe...

"And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?" And someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able."
And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me."  And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
And Jesus said to him, "'If you can'! All things are possible for one who believes."
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out..."
~Mark 9:14-26

What is the big teaching point behind this story?  What truth do we learn about Jesus?  I think we learn a lot from the father of the boy.

Jesus has just been up on the mountain with Peter, James and John. While up their Jesus is transformed as His deity (His Godliness) bursts forth and His glory is revealed - Luke says "His faced changed..." and "His clothes were flashing as lightning" - it's like as they are praying the Godly nature of Jesus must burst forth and his glory cannot be hidden.  What a privilege for Peter, James and John to see that. For us reading the Gospels it is one of those high points where we really get to see that Jesus is God, not merely a man, and we can read about the glory of God, the goodness of hope and heaven and get a glimpse at the eternal realm.

But then as they return to the rest of the disciples they are confronted with the reality of the brokenness of the worldly realm we all live in.  There are arguments, all because the disciples couldn't cast out a demon from a boy.  Just the sickness and possession of the boy is a blatant contrast to the glory of God seen in Jesus' transfiguration - but then add to that the fact that when the boy is brought and Jesus isn't around the disciples for some reason cannot heal him, and then the local religious leaders take that opportunity to use it to discredit and argue about their effectiveness.  Human hopelessness, rebellion, disbelief and lack of faith/relationship with God all rolled into one, at the foot of the mountain where Jesus had so recently shone with his Godly glory (so much so that a bit must have remained because people were amazed just at the sight of him in verse 15).

Jesus also goes from discussing the fulfillment of his earthly mission with Moses and Elijah to lamenting about the people around him; "How long do I have to put up with you lot..." even Jesus is struck with the stark reality of the world He has come to dwell in.

Raphael's painting The Transfiguration actually captures the contrast well.

And the poor father is living daily in the reality of that broken and painful world isn't he? Every day he saw the brokenness in his son, the fits, the possession, the pain he would have felt as a father knowing there was nothing he could do to help his son.  He hears that there is a teacher travelling around who can heal, who has cast out demons and he must have had this amazing glimmer of hope enter his heart as he thinks of how this Jesus could help him son.

But he arrives to find his disciples there, but Jesus not.  He places his faith in the disciples and asks them to heal his son, but they cannot. What went wrong, did this man put his faith in the disciples and not in Jesus to heal, but then that would mean the disciples didn't correctly communicate that it was faith in Jesus that allowed them to heal (remember this is after Jesus sends out the 12, so of the 9 that didn't go up the mountain some of them would have cast demons out before). So were the disciples relying on the fact they'd done it before instead of stopping and committing it to the faith in Jesus once again.

Either way something is amiss with the faith connection and the believing healing power that had been expressed before by the disciples.  And it is only when the father meets Jesus that we see those errors in faith, explanation of belief or self dependence more clearly.  The father says to Jesus; "If you can..."  Jesus replies "If?... all things are possible for those who believe..." and the father immediately puts his faith in Jesus alone.

"I do believe! Help me with my unbelief!"

That's it, that's the key! Even the disciples needed in that moment to look to Jesus and say; "Yes we believe, help us with our unbelief" - it's the answer to all the problems in this story - even the scribes in their arguing and hardheartedness desperately needed to say "We believe" because they were the opponents to Jesus.

Whatever spot you find yourself in your life, this cry is needed. At one point in our lives we must all cry that out to be saved, but even after we are saved it is something to continually focus on and cry out because we continuously need help with our unbelief.  Today we all desperately need Jesus, whether we are on the mountaintop reveling in the beauty of his glory, or tumbling among the brokenness and hurt of this world; whether you have never grasped the grace that Jesus offers, or you understand the impact that grace has on your life; whether you are new to this whole 'Christian' thing, or if you have had a faith your entire life... we all desperately need Jesus, He is the only one who changes our lives, who gives us peace and grace, who can heal hurt, correct paths and restore life.

Turn to Him today - whatever your situation - and tell Him you do believe, and you need help with your unbelief.

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