Bible Reading Blog — February 15, 2016

15 Feb

Today’s Readings — Deuteronomy 22-25 & Mark 9:21-29

When Jesus casts out the unclean spirit from the boy in Mark 9, we see the very interesting interchange between Jesus and the boy’s father . . .

21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 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.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

“I believe; help my unbelief!” has long been the cry of the desperate heart. We sometimes  understand ourselves most clearly when we are cut to the core with inward struggles or outward trials. So here this father, in his desperation, calls out to Jesus for help. He knows what he lacks (wholehearted faith) and he knows where to find it (Jesus), so he calls out for help. And God meets him, bringing healing to the son.

When the disciples ask Jesus about this healing later, we read . . .

28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
We see no evidence here that Jesus prayed, however. He simply says to the unclean spirit, “come out and never enter again.” Jesus doesn’t pray, He commands. The only thing in this passage we might liken to a prayer is the phrase of the father of the boy who was healed, “help my unbelief!”
So in this case, the prayer Jesus is referring to must be the prayer life Jesus cultivated outside this event itself, or the prayers Jesus offered during the healing which are not recorded in the text, or perhaps the prayer of the boy’s father for greater faith. Regardless of the prayer in view here, it is apparent that faith is a critical element of this passage. “All things are possible for one who believes” (9:23). This phrase from the mouth of Jesus should be taken seriously. But I admit it is hard to take it seriously in a world of Alzheimer’s and ALS and cancer and children with leukemia. Thus we too must cry out, “help my unbelief.” One thing I know for sure is that this kid who was healed later died. Death is part of the deal in a fallen world. No healing can undo it. But I sure you have probably wish sometimes Jesus would touch us again like we see in the gospels. Maybe you’ve beaten yourself up over your faith, thinking if only you’d have believed more strongly your loved one would have been healed. But consider the man in this story. He had very much a faltering faith, yet Jesus healed his son. So I don’t think it is all about how much faith we have. Jesus said even a mustard seed like faith can bring great things.
What do we do with all this? With the confusion, sadness and struggle of living in a fallen world? Three simple words . . . Help My Unbelief.

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