Mark 9:14-29 (CEV)
Jesus Heals a Boy
When Jesus and his three disciples came back down, they saw a large crowd around the other disciples. The teachers of the Law of Moses were arguing with them.
The crowd was really surprised to see Jesus, and everyone hurried over to greet him.
Jesus asked, “What are you arguing about?”
Someone from the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought my son to you. A demon keeps him from talking. Whenever the demon attacks my son, it throws him to the ground and makes him foam at the mouth and grit his teeth in pain. Then he becomes stiff. I asked your disciples to force out the demon, but they couldn’t do it.”
Jesus said, “You people don’t have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
They brought the boy, and as soon as the demon saw Jesus, it made the boy shake all over. He fell down and began rolling on the ground and foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
The man answered, “Ever since he was a child. The demon has often tried to kill him by throwing him into a fire or into water. Please have pity and help us if you can!”
Jesus replied, “Why do you say ‘if you can’? Anything is possible for someone who has faith!”
Right away the boy’s father shouted, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was gathering fast, he spoke sternly to the evil spirit that had kept the boy from speaking or hearing. He said, “I order you to come out of the boy! Don’t ever bother him again.”
The spirit screamed and made the boy shake all over. Then it went out of him. The boy looked dead, and almost everyone said he was. But Jesus took hold of his hand and helped him stand up.
After Jesus and the disciples had gone back home and were alone, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we force out that demon?”
Jesus answered, “Only prayer can force out that kind of demon.”
Yes, there is lots of stuff in there – but, oddly, I am not distracted by any of it. I can look at that package of densely packed stuff and mutter to myself, “meh – none of that is distracting me today. On another day, maybe, but not today.”
Why? Well – because one phrase leapt out at me and has been rolling around my mind all day.
“I believe. Help my unbelief.”
It’s an odd phrase! But have you ever been struck by a phrase and felt it chime so completely with you that you can say “YES! YES! YES!” even though you are not totally sure what it means?
That’s how I have felt today.
I had a look at the Greek – cos that’s the way I roll – but I didn’t find it helped that much! Why would it?
I had a quick squizz on the interweb – but that’s almost always a mistake when trying to find out puzzling things about the Bible. The Christian Interweb is totally owned by people who seem petrified that if we cannot always explain the Bible in such a way that we can make it simple and consistent – shackled to a pretty narrow view of who God is and what Scripture is then the sky will actually fall in! I am sure God is grateful for their unerring (but spectacularly un-necessary) defence, but – strewth – give yourselves a day off!
Yes, yes.. all of this is very familiar vague and woolly Phil-speak, but this is a GEM and it just HAS to be as it is.
“I believe. Help my unbelief.”
How many of us have not FELT this many, many times? It speaks to the glorious truth that we have the capacity at the same time to act with stunningly bold and spontaneous faith and yet at the same time to be frail and shallow and faithless humans.
It’s like that gloriously true and yet apparently contradictory Welsh response: “I’ll do it now, in a minute.”