‘Overcome my unbelief’

“I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” said the anguished father whose son was held captive by an evil spirit. His son had been having fits for years and the spirit refused to go. As the father pleaded with Jesus he had faith, but wished he had more. Do you sometimes feel like that? How do you think Jesus would respond to that? Would he be angry or compassionate? What follows is an imaginative but possible rendering of this story in Mark 9:14-29.
As Jesus and his closest three; Peter, James and John arrived at the base of the mountain they saw a large crowd arguing. In the middle of the crowd were the rest of the disciples and the teachers of the law. When the disciples and crowd saw Jesus they ran to him. Jesus looked at them and then at the teachers and asked, “What are you arguing about?” But before his disciples could answer a man in the crowd said “Teacher, I brought my son, who is possessed by a spirit that 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 the spirit out, but they couldn’t.”
“O unbelieving generation, “Jesus replied, “How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Peter could see the frustration in Jesus’ eyes. Couldn’t the people see what was going on here? Everyone was arguing while a spirit held a boy captive.
Eager for any help he could get, the father brought the boy. But as they approached the spirit saw Jesus and panicked throwing the boy into the customary fit. Even from a natural perspective this was not good. Fits can have natural causes, but this one was responding to the presence of God.
“How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked. “From childhood” replied the father. And Peter could see the anger rising in Jesus’ face. The enemy was doing his worst; he was tormenting an innocent child. But how did he get the opportunity? Had the family consulted a medium or spiritist (Deut 18:11)? Had they engaged in witchcraft (Deut 18:10), or sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 10:20)? Satan often appeared as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), and the spirits under his control knew how to disguise themselves as deceased ancestors, spirit guides, and other seemingly good beings.
“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us, “pleaded the father as Jesus looked at his boy. “If you can?” said Jesus raising his eyebrows “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Both he and the father knew they were speaking of trust in the God of Abraham. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” said the father. Jesus looked back at him as if to acknowledge his raw honesty. This was the kind of spiritual transparency he had found in the prostitutes and tax collectors, but not the teachers of the law. It was where real faith began.
A bigger crowd was now running to the scene. They had seen the boy having a fit and Jesus standing over him. They knew of Jesus’ deliverances and wanted to see this one for themselves. But this was not a show, and Jesus was not a showman. So he spoke to the demon before the crowd got there saying, “You deaf and mute spirit. I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked throwing the boy for a final time. And then all was quiet. The boy lay still as a corpse. In fact a few people next to Jesus said “He’s dead”. But the boy lay still until he became conscious that his control had returned, and then opened his eyes to see the warm face of Jesus looking down and a hand extended to assist him to his feet. The torment was gone, everything seemed wonderfully colourful, and peace was trickling back into his soul. Then for the first time in many years his father heard him speak. The deaf and mute spirit had gone.
“Why couldn’t we drive it out?” the disciples asked later when they were alone. They had cast other spirits out, why was this different? “This kind only comes out by prayer,” said Jesus reflecting on his connection with the Father. The disciples looked at each other. Certainly this made sense; Jesus was always making time to be alone with the Father, and because of this he was able to step into the disorder and confusion seeing what the Father saw and speaking what the Father spoke. It was a lesson for the future. This was Jesus’ calling, and this is ours.

Other Illustrations used: The Mexican Witch Doctor| Discerning the Holy Spirit vs evil spirits | Children and imaginary visitors | The Authority of a Soldier | Delivered from Nightmares

Word to the congregation: Heaven is open and Jesus is standing to do his work

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