Jesus had said to the twelve that some of them who were standing there wouldn’t taste death until they saw the kingdom of God come with power. Immediately after saying that, he took Peter, James, and John and went up on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before them. His appearance changed. He became whiter than anyone or anything they had ever seen. Just as amazing, Moses and Elijah came down to talk with him about his coming death. No wonder Peter was confused and not knowing what to say, said something anyway that turned out to be the wrong thing to say. He said, “It’s good for us to be here. Let us make three tents, one for you, one more Moses and one for Elijah.” He likely was thinking of how great it would be to just stay up there on the mountaintop and see these marvels of God. But God spoke to him out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” What a powerful message for all of us. Many times what we need to do is listen rather than trying to think of what we will say. That is especially true when the one speaking is God.
Jesus and the three apostles headed down off the mountain. Jesus explained to them on the way that John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to appear. He told them to not tell what they had seen until after his resurrection. But when they reached the bottom of the mountain, they saw a commotion going on among the people and the other apostles. A man seeing him rushed to him with his son who was possessed of a demon. He told Jesus that he had brought him to the apostles for them to heal him but they had tried and weren’t able to cast the demon out. Jesus seemed weary with the apostles for their lack of faith and growth. He asked, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”
When the father described the situation of his son he said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and into the water. If you are able please heal him.” Jesus responded, “If I am able. All things are possible for him who believes.” The father answered, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus rebuked the demon and demanded it to come out of the boy and never return. The demon threw him to the ground and left him looking as though he were dead. Some of the people around him said, “He is dead.” Jesus took the boy by the hand and lifted him up and he was well.
Put yourself for a moment into the place of this father. He had watched his boy attacked by the demon over and over again. The seizures, the foaming at the mouth, the falling into the fire or into the water and all the torment that went with it had to torment the dad day and night. Every parent has at some point wrestled with the question of what should I do when they watched a child deal with illness or some form of the disease and the parent had no idea what to do to help. They held them, prayed for them and often cried out to anyone who would listen for help. It seems very real when he said to Jesus, “Lord if you are able, heal my son.” Can’t you imagine how many doctors and priest he had carried his son to see asking for help and probably many of them believed they could help? Doctors may have given medications or herbs for the boy to take, but he didn’t get any better. Priest, likely prayed diligently to the Father to heal this boy and bring relief to the whole family. But he didn’t get any better. The very hope that your child can get better, that anyone can help begins to fade from you. So, when he heard from friends or neighbors about Jesus and all the people he had healed with all kinds of problems, even demon possession, he had a flicker of hope. But even with that hope, his doubt likely grew when the disciples tried to cast the demon out and were not able. No wonder he said to Jesus, “If you are able.” It reminds us of the time the leper said to Jesus, “If you are willing you can make me clean.” Between the two of them, they raised the questions that so often fill our hearts. Is God willing and is he able to heal or solve the problems I have?
Jesus answered the leper by saying “I am willing” and reached out to touch him and cleansed him of leprosy immediately. With the father, he pointed to there being no lack of ability on his part. “All things are possible for the one who believes.” He put the real question back to the father by saying, “If you believe, all things are possible for the one who believes.” His point was clear, it wasn’t a lack of ability on his part, the real question was did he have the faith to put his trust in the Lord for the healing. I love the integrity of this man. He declared, “Lord, I believe.” It would have been so easy to stop right there and let the feelings in his heart stay hidden. But he didn’t do that. He spoke up to plead, “Lord, help my unbelief.” Haven’t you walked in this man’s shoes at times? Haven’t you had the times when you wanted to believe with all your heart and longed to cry out to God how deep your faith was in him. But if you were honest with yourself and with the Lord you had to admit that your faith had holes in it. You needed to cry out, “Help my unbelief.” Jesus never turns away those who have honest doubts and questions in life. But he often turns away those who have a pretend faith that hides what is real in their life.
Certainly, the doubt faded completely away when Jesus cast the demon out and gave the boy back to his dad completely healed. But it brought a whole different set of doubts and questions from the 9 apostles who had tried to cast the demon out and weren’t able to do so. It wasn’t a lack of power. Jesus had given them the power to cast out demons, heal sicknesses and diseases. Why then did their power fail them in such a crucial hour? Jesus explained it is “because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.” Mark’s account of this event adds another detail that is important. He pictured Jesus saying to them, “This kind only comes out through prayer.” The implication was that while Jesus and the three with him had been on the mountain praying, the 9 apostles down in the valley hadn’t been praying as they should and their faith had wavered as a result. Even the power of God is limited in our life and actions by a lack of prayer that leads to a lack of faith. It mixes the prayer and faith together when we have the heart to say to Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”