Please Help The Unbelieving Me

July 30, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 9:14-29

1. A certain father brought his sick child to Jesus' disciples. Going by the father's words, he said his child was possessed by a spirit, was being pulled down to the ground anywhere and everywhere, was frothing at the mouth, and stiffened his body as he ground his teeth. [These] are symptoms of "epileptic seizures." It says he's been like that since he was a child. For a long while his child has been suffering. Of course, the father must have suffered along with him. Thinking, "Please help my child somehow!," he must have exhausted every means. Yet, he couldn't do a thing. After that he brought his child to where Jesus' disciples were. He had probably heard rumors of Jesus and his disciples, that they could heal the sick and drive out evil spirits. However, although he had asked for help from the disciples, the disciples were not able to set the son free from the evil spirit. Whereupon, Jesus returned back from the mountains bringing the three men, Peter,James and John with him.

What An Unbelieving Time Period!

2. "I asked your disciples to drive out a spirit for me, but they could not," said the father. Whereupon, Jesus replied to him, "What an unbelieving time period! How long will I be with you? How long must I endure you? Bring the child to me," (verse nineteen). Why wasn't the child set free from the evil power? Jesus says that it was a problem of faith. He said they had no faith.

3. However, if we simply take that statement alone, looking at those who have suffered a long time, we may find some who will propose that "The reason your problem has not been solved is you don't have enough faith." Or, it may not be directed to others, but some may blame their own selves saying that. "It's a problem because my faith isn't rock solid." And they may think jealously of those with unwavering faith, of those who claim confidently "I believe." But, is Jesus taking issue with that type of [problem]? When Jesus said, "What an unbelieving time period!," was the Lord making a sigh? I think that we need to give careful consideration to this matter.

4. With that, first, let's give ear to the words that Jesus gave to his disciples. The disciples asked Jesus, "Why couldn't we drive out that spirit?" Then Jesus gave them this answer, "As for things of this nature, you can never solve them unless it comes through prayer," (verse twenty-nine). This statement, when you turn it around the other way, means that the disciples had tried to cast it out without depending on prayer. When the suffering child was brought in, when the father had made the request, "I wish you would help me,' didn't the disciples even pray? Did they try to help him on their own power? Could such a thing even be possible though they were disciples of Jesus? When we go back and re-read this gospel book, we can see quite clearly situations that were like that.

5. There had once been a time when the disciples were sent out on a preaching mission by themselves. Forming groups of two, they went around the villages. [The things they did] at that time are written about like this, "The twelve went out, and they preached in order to cause [the people] to repent. Also, they drove out many demons, and healed many of the sick by anointing them with oil," (6:12-13). That's what it says. They had success in that they had helped other people. In verse thirty the scripture says, "Then, the apostles had gathered where Jesus was, and they completely reported to him the things they had done and had taught." Doesn't the figure of them, returning triumphantly and reporting their results with an air of victory, come up into your mind's eye?

6. Of course, all of their work had depended on the authority that Jesus had given them. When they had cast out the demons and had healed the illnesses in those places, it was all done in dependence upon God's power. God had worked through them. In their own heads the disciples should have understood that. But, one can easily understand that their hearts had more than likely changed. What if it were actually you? What if we could help someone and we were thanked by [every]body? Going another step with this, what if we could do it over and over again? Wouldn't the thought enter our minds? - Nothing to it, "I helped them." As if it was my own achievement!

7. And another thing that's clear is that when they thought they were the ones who had done the helping of the people, their interests gradually moved to themselves. They got to the point where their awareness was directed upon themselves as doing the helping and not on the Partner they needed for the help. That's what actually happened to the disciples. We'll see that when we read today's passage of scripture. Does the scripture say what the disciples were doing when Jesus returned? It says they were debating with the scribes of the law. Ignoring the suffering parent and the suffering child, they were debating. Perhaps something was said by the scribes of the law about their not being able to set the child free. So, they were defending themselves with all their might. The debate with the scribes took priority because their concern was only upon themselves and not the child.

8. Had the concerns of the disciples been directed upon the actual suffering of the father and the son, it probably wouldn't have been that way. If the child had not been set free from the evil spirit, they would have had to have prayed, "O God, please help somehow or other!" All of the disciples would have had to continue in prayer, seeking for God's mercy on behalf of the father and the son. As they sighed over their powerlessness and their inability to help, they would have had to pray continuously asking desperately that the power of God alone be at work for them. But, they did not pray.

9. Indeed, it wasn't just the disciples alone. There was not a single one there seeking in earnest prayer for God's mercy on behalf of these two and keeping their focus on their suffering. It wasn't just the disciples who were in debate to preserve their own standing. The scribes of the law were the same as well in their provoking the debate on, taking the fact that the child wasn't healed as grounds for attack. The crowd was the same as well in their surrounding them on the outside and gazing at them, at the debate between the disciples and the scribes of the law. Nobody cared about the suffering of these two, the father and the son. There was no one there to seek in prayer, to seek for God's mercy on their behalf, to believe that God would show compassion on them.

10. This is the figure of the people upon whom Jesus was looking. Therefore, the Lord sighed and said, "What an unbelieving generation!" If "faith" is unwavering conviction and confidence, the disciples had that to the core. They were thinking they could set the child free. They didn't have a doubt. Or, if "faith" has the same meaning as piety and devotedness, then the scribes of the law could claim they were deep in faith because they were God fearing and devout. But, Jesus looked upon their condition and sighed over it. "The faith" which Jesus was looking for out of them was not that type of thing.

Please Help Unbelieving Me

11. When we read the conversation between the father as he is depicted after this, it will become clearer still. The people brought the son to Jesus. Whereupon, he had a convulsion, fell to the ground, turned over and over, round and round, and spewed forth froth. The Lord asked about the child, "About when did he get like that?" The conversation after that is written in the scriptures as follows. "The father said, 'Since he was a young child. A spirit has tried to kill my son and has many times thrown him into fire and into water. If it is possible for you, please have compassion on us and help us.' Jesus said, 'Are you saying, If it is possible [for me]? Anything is possible to the one who believes.' The father of that child immediately cried out, 'I believe. Please help the unbelieving me.'," (verse twenty-three).

12. The father did not say, "Please show compassion to my son." He understood quite clearly that he himself also must be shown mercy. He himself must also be saved. Therefore, he implored, "Please show mercy to us both and help us."

13. To that father Jesus said, "Are you saying, If it is possible? Anything is possible to the one who believes." Jesus was not "criticizing" him for not believing cocksure perfectly. Jesus knew well that this man wasn't capable of saying "If it is possible [for you]" as a hastily made statement. Because he had no power. For he was worn out by now. He had no choice but to beg and to cling for mercy by just believing God. Indeed, he could hardly even "believe." Jesus encouraged this father to steadfastly seek and to believe in God's mercy, "Anything is possible to the one who believes." That's how he drew out from that father the words that he truly needed to say. He drew out from the mouth of this father, stricken with powerlessness, this cry from his soul within him.

14. What the father said was the self-contradictory incoherent cry of "I believe. Please help the unbelieving me." All the father could do was but to say that and to cry out his request. Because there was nothing he could do on his own. Because even though his son was suffering, there was nothing to be done for him. "I believe. Please help the unbelieving me." Having said that, he threw himself before the Christ. He threw himself so powerless, himself so even unable to believe, before the Christ. Weren't the differences between [this broken father] and the disciples of Jesus and the scribes of the law clear? When Jesus heard this, he set the child free from the wicked spirit. From that self-contradictory incoherent cry and "the faith" that said, "Please help the unbelieving me," the world where "Anything is possible to the one who believes," as Jesus had said, was certainly opened. This is the faith for which Jesus was looking.

15. Indeed, it wasn't the father alone. Please recall in which persons Jesus had found faith. Jesus often stated "Your faith has saved you." To which persons did Jesus say that? For instance, there was the woman whose bleeding had not stopped in twelve years. She slipped into the crowd and approached Jesus with a desperate mind, she touched Jesus' clothing from behind. The Lord said, "Your faith has saved you." There was the blind beggar named Bartimaeus. When Jesus happened to pass by, he began to cry out, "O Jesus, son of David! Please have mercy on me!" Even though the people scolded him and tried to make him be quiet, he cried out louder and louder. Jesus said to him, "Your faith has saved you."

16. Even though everyone of us may have thoughts where we're not so cocksure in our faith within our hearts, that's not the problem. Standing as a believer with hardly any confidence in ourselves, we don't need to worry one bit. What Jesus wants is not that we puff out our chests and say "[I] believe perfectly." We are to become people who admit our own powerlessness, admit our weaknesses, admit that we are worn out, and look to God steadfastly from there. We are to become people who admit that we must have Jesus save us, [we are to become people who] admit honestly that we cannot even believe indeed at times the God who is saving us, and [we are to become people who] earnestly seek to and cling for the mercy of the Lord. The Lord will grant us faith - like that father who cried out, "I believe. Please help the unbelieving me." Then, the Lord will reveal his deeds.