February 20, 2017 – Mark 9:14-29
You can watch and listen to this sermon by clicking here.
Take a trip with me back to Mark chapter six. Jesus called the disciples, “and began to send them out two by two and he give them authority over unclean spirits.”
Their confusion is understandable, then, when in chapter nine they ask, “Why could we not cast it out?” It says right there that he gave the Twelve authority over demons.
So why didn’t it work with this boy?
Jesus’s answer is revealing: “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
“Teacher,” the boy’s father calls, “I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.”
Again, Jesus’ response is revealing. “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.”
“You faithless generation!”
We don’t know how exactly he said it. We don’t have any “non-verbal” clues. It can be tempting to manufacture our own, but forget any imagined tone of voice—just look at the words.
“How much longer much I put up with you?”
“This kind can only come out through prayer.”
The disciples and the scribes had been arguing, but their arguments only point toward themselves, a natural response when we feel like we’ve got something to prove.
While attempting to defend their own efforts, they forgot that it’s really about prayer.
“If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us,” the father cries.
He’s in an impossible situation. He’s come to a group of supposedly-certified healers and they’ve not been able to do anything for his son.
His faith it’s at the breaking point. “If you can do anything, Jesus, please just do it!”
That “if” language doesn’t exactly exemplify the unblemished faith that we all strive for, but nevertheless it is the reality of our own days and nights.
Every day we stare into the faces of faithless people, and we too lose faith. In an effort to reclaim that faith we often look to ourselves. Sometimes we are as sure as we can be that we will be saved by our own efforts, that we have all the prayers, all the faith—ALL it takes.
It’s not about winning an argument in order to *prove* that we have the ability. It’s not about us.
It’s about prayer, and faith, and God.
Jesus tells each of us: you have the power to be self-aware enough to recognize that it’s not about you.
He reminds us that we still need God.
He reminds us not of the basic truth that God can do anything through us, but rather he calls to mind the complex realization that we cannot do anything without God.
We depend on a God who wants what is best for us.
Do you hear it?
Our participation in God’s glory is not limited to our inwardly-focused testimony, “I believe.”
Rather it is more fully realized in the courage of our humble refrain: O God, “Help my unbelief!”