“Help my unbelief!”
Today’s text follows the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain of Tabor, and it was “on the next day” when they came down from the mountain if we look at Luke’s gospel. Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John, approaching the other nine. As Jesus was approaching, he found them surrounded by a great multitude, and the scribes were disputing or discussing with them. Perhaps, scribes questioning, if not ridiculing, their inability to cure the demoniac boy who was presented to the disciples, and insinuating doubts even of their master’s ability to do it; while disciples were strongly defending their master’s honor, referring to his past miracles in proof of the contrary.
Jesus asked them in vs. 16, “What are you arguing with them about?”. Vs. 17, “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.” We know from this text that a father brought his boy who was unable to speak because of demon possession. Whenever the demon spirit seizes the boy, he was thrown on the ground foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. We find from vs. 21 on, the boy had been mute and deaf from his childhood and, whenever the seizure happened, many times, he was thrown into water or fire that almost killed him.
Demon spirit disabled people from functioning in society. We know from this account, this boy was fine when he was born, but from sometime in his childhood, ever since demon spirit possessed him, he was not able to hear or speak and was thrown into the fire, water or on the ground whenever evil spirit seized him. In this time and age, when everything is seen from science and medicine, we no longer use the language of demons, demonic spirit or work of Satan, but we use, instead, medical and social science terminology such as anti-social or self- destructive behavior, anxiety disorder, suicidal or serial killer, if I name them few randomly. We hear stories of our children who used to be so gentle and obedient but no longer manageable of their anger, no longer listening or speaking to people around them but living in their own shell. We hear our children becoming hostile and no longer living as a member of the community but living in their own imaginative world. Shooting spree at school or at public places is a work of the demonic spirit, work of Satan, –hate crimes, work of Satan. It is time for us to seriously pray for our children in our own homes and in our community for the protection of our children from evil spirits.
Healing cannot happen without fasting and praying. Jesus’ disciples witnessed numerously of Jesus healing and casting out demons. Yet when they were presented a sick child, they could not heal the boy. We hear healing stories through the Bible and sermons, and we sometimes eye witness healings, yet if we do not experience healings in our lives, it is because we do not pray and fasting. Fasting is an act of self-denial, denying our own strength, but depending on God’s strength. That is why fasting is so important. If we hear no longer healing stories in the name of Jesus around us, it is because we do not pray and fasting. It is time for us to pray and fast.
Healing cannot happen if we do not have faith. Jesus healed the boy in the story after the father cried out, “I believe that you can heal, if my faith is not strong enough, please help me to have the faith you want!” We generally approach Jesus with half doubt and half hope for our heart’s desire like the father in the story. At first, the father said to Jesus, “If you can heal, please, help us!” He was saying in a way, ‘It would be nice if you could heal, if you cannot heal, I would not blame you’. Instead of this not –cold nor- hot attitude in seeking God’s favor, Jesus required an absolute faith from the father who wanted so badly of his boy’s healing. Without it, even Jesus could not heal. God’s power can be manifested in people’s faith. Jesus did not perform many miracles in Nazareth because of their lack of faith. Many times, Jesus first asked people who were seeking healing whether they believed that Jesus has the power to heal them, or he checked first whether they have faith in Jesus’ power (Matthew 9:28, Mark 2:5).
As I mentioned, healing lies in the faith of the seeker. Sometimes, Jesus did not heal people directly but just commanded them to do a certain action in obedience. John 9:11, After Jesus spat on the ground made some mud with saliva he put that mud on the eyes of the man blind and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Only when he obeyed and washed in the pool, he was healed. There was a man whose wife suffered and was dying from cancer. A local pastor was invited to pray for his wife, and in the process of praying for his wife visiting regularly, that local pastor was given the instruction from God one day after Holy Spirit powerfully made that pastor praying for him and his wife, –that God wants to discipline him through his wife’s sickness and that healing for his wife will come if he obediently prays and fasting regularly in humility. When husband heard the instruction, he flatly refused to obey God’s command to fast. This same pastor prayed for another person who suffered greatly from terrible toothache. He could not eat, even touching his face causing shooting pain severely. No matter what he did medically, his pain did not subside. This pastor relayed the message from God that God wants him to pray, setting some time aside regularly for his toothache to go away. He did not obey; he decided to pull that tooth out, instead. After the extraction of his tooth, he began to have pain again. Then this pastor reminded him of God’s message and told him, “You have tried everything else medically possible, yet you still have pain, why not try God this time for a change?”. He decided to obey God this time because he had no other option. About two months later, when this pastor met up with him again, the man with toothache shared that the pain was gone. Healing lies in the faith of the seeker, and that faith in God is to be demonstrated, at times, through obedience to God and his commands. The other day, I was contacted by someone who was having a marital problem with his wife; he asked me to pray for him and his wife. I told him, I can only help him by praying for him, but it is he who needs to pray. At that, he became angry at me and making demands to pray for them. I told him, “It is you who God wants to discipline and refine, not me. It is not my faith that is at stake here, it is your faith that God wants to see.” Do we have faith in God that God has the power to heal us? Do you suffer from diseases that doctors cannot help you much? Have you tried God?
Lastly, we have to beware that our life failures and disappointments can get in the way for us to seek God. The father in our text probably had sought help and tried everything but failed each and every time before he came to Jesus. He finally came to Jesus who has the power to heal any kind of sicknesses and diseases, yet, he could not fully trust that Jesus could heal his son out of fear that he might be disappointed again. That was why he had that attitude, “If you can heal, help us!” But Jesus cannot meet anyone who comes only half-way, –with half doubt and half hope. Jesus demands all the way having absolute faith in the Almighty God that God has the power to do anything. “What do you mean, if you can, with God all things are possible!” For us to experience God, we need to meet God having absolute faith in him, coming all the way passing through our trials, failures, and disappointments. Are we ready to experience God’s power and miracles in our lives? Let us pray to God to overcome our unbelief resulted from our life disappointments and failures. Amen!!