August 31, 2020 – Monday
Mark 9:21-24 NIV
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.
22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
This event began in verse 14 where a father with a boy who is possessed was brought to Jesus’ disciples, but they could not help the boy. This is told in verses 17 and 18 as we read here, A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
Jesus had something to say about this leading up to our verses for today. He started by saying, “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Who was Jesus rebuking as an unbelieving generation? While He is clearly addressing the father with Bring the boy to Me, the unbelieving generation is primarily directed at the teachers of the law that were arguing with the disciples back in verse 14. It is not just the teachers of the law, but those the teachers of the law had convinced in this generation to be faithless, so they could not believe. Recall faith, pistis, is the root word for believe or believing, pisteuo. Is it any wonder we read in Hebrews 11:6, And without faith, it is impossible to please God. It is no wonder Jesus is indignant.
Then in verse 22 the father says to Jesus, But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us. The father is desperate to have his son helped, but begins by expressing a lack of faith and belief with if you can. Jesus replies with, I believe, incredulousness and a certain sadness at the lack of faith and belief, If you can? Then Jesus continues with a statement of fact and faith, Everything is possible for one who believes. Everything. There is no doubt in His statement. Everything is possible for one who believes. The father responded by answering immediately with I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! The father’s faith has grown into belief, but he knows his belief is not what it should or could be so he cries out at the end, help me overcome my unbelief!
This is not unlike us as modern (?) day Christians. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says that when the father cries out help me overcome my unbelief, he is asking Jesus to Supply thou the defects of my faith. Give me strength and grace to put “entire” confidence in thee. Everyone who comes to the Saviour for help has need of offering this prayer. In our unbelief and our doubts we need His aid, nor shall we ever put sufficient reliance on Him without His gracious help.
Now responding to the father’s belief and His own compassion for the boy, while a crowd was running towards them Jesus rebuked the impure spirit You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again. Later, The disciples asked Him privately, Why couldn’t we drive it out? It was a natural questions as He had given them the authority to cast out demons earlier in chapter 3:14-15 where He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Thus, His answer in this chapter in verse 29 surely surprised them, This kind can come out only by prayer [some versions prayer and fasting].
While there is much commentary on His answer, the most commonsensical one implies they were taking their authority for granted. Wiersbe put it this way, The authority that Jesus had given them was effective only if exercised by faith, but faith must be cultivated through spiritual discipline and devotion. This makes great sense to me as all too often when things are going well, we frequently begin to neglect our spiritual disciple and devotion until things are no longer going well. Then we begin to take seriously Paul’s directions in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Indeed.