“If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:23).
The exhausted, defeated father could do no better. “If you can...” Life had rendered the poor man faithless. Hopeless. Joyless.
He had brought his ailing son to the disciples, knowing that they had performed miraculous acts of healing for other needy folks. He had hoped that they might bring relief to his overwhelmingly bleak existence. When they couldn’t help, the daddy’s hopes were dashed, again.
Day after day, year after year, the wicked spirit had played havoc on the lad’s body and spirit. The epileptic-like seizures and spasms came unexpectedly. Often “he fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth” (Mark 9:20). In the market. On the road.
“Many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him” (Mark 9:21).
There’s no mention of the mother. That makes me wonder. Had she left them? Had life become unbearable for her? Was the pain that she saw in her child’s face too much? Or, had her unexpected death at such a young age left her baby in a single-parent home?
Leaving the mountain-top experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus had returned to the lowlands. That’s what Jesus does. He comes down. He comes near. It’s called grace.
Peter, James, and John were with Him. “When they reached the crowd, a man approached and knelt down before him. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him’ ” (Matthew 17:14-16). Luke records the man’s anguished plea. “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, because he’s my only child. A spirit seizes him; suddenly he shrieks, and it throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; severely bruising him, it scarcely ever leaves him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t” (Luke 9:38-40).
“I beg you ... he’s my only child” (Luke 9:38). “Lord ... have mercy” (Matthew 17:15). “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:23). Somewhat incredulously, Jesus said to Mr. Hopeless, “ ‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!’ ”(Mark 9:23-24).
“Help my unbelief!” That’s a prayer we ought to practice. Jesus answers every prayer. Sometimes “yes,” sometimes “later,” and sometimes, “no, but ‘My grace is sufficient’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here, Jesus’ immediate and affirmative response brought peace, joy, and sweet relief.
The evil spirit “came out, shrieking and throwing him into terrible convulsions. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up” (Mark 9:26-27). At the Lord’s command, evil is vanquished! At His touch, life and liberty are graciously restored.
“I do believe; help my unbelief!”
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.