14And when they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the scribes arguing with them. 15And immediately all the crowd, on seeing Him, were greatly surprised and hurried over and greeted Him. 16And He asked them, “What are you arguing about?” 17And someone answered Him from the crowd, “Teacher, I brought my son to You; he has a dumb spirit. 18And whenever it attacks him, it dashes him to the ground and he foams and the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes stiff, and I asked Your disciples to cast it out, and they were unable.” 19And He responded to him saying, “O faithless generation! How long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” 20And they brought him to Him. And seeing Him, the spirit immediately threw him into convulsions and he fell on the ground and rolled around and foamed at the mouth. 21And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening?” And he said, “From childhood. 22And often it casts him into the fire or into water in order to kill him, but if you can, help us; have compassion on us!” 23Then Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can!’ All things are possible to the one who believes!” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25Then Jesus, seeing that the crowd was gathering fast, rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter into him again!” 26And with crying out and much convulsing, it went out, and the boy was as a corpse, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27But Jesus took his hand and lifted him up, and he got up. 28And His disciples came to him in the house and privately asked Him, “Why were we unable to cast it out?” 29And He said to them, “This kind does not come out except by prayer [and fasting].”
Immediately following the spectacular mountaintop experience of yesterday’s readings comes a moment of frustration: a man has brought his son to be exorcised. Many of the symptoms described seem consistent with epilepsy, though not all. Jesus’ response to the crisis is a little bewildering; it is possible that He was frustrated. He had just experienced the divine communion and validation on the mountain, and now at His descent back to earth He is faced with His followers’ helplessness and ineffectiveness—all with the Cross looming ominously ahead. But the common task of setting free the prisoner was just as important to Him as the atonement He was to achieve as well, and He turns Himself to the work. The exchange between father and Jesus is noteworthy; Jesus implies that faith makes things possible, and the man—long accustomed to being beaten down by the natural world, asks for help in overcoming his own unbelief. Lest we judge him too harshly, let us remember that we are products of Western culture, which has all but ridiculed the notion of miracles right out of our own religion. As Barclay puts it: “Most of us are cursed with a sense of the impossible, and that is precisely why miracles do not happen.” But Jesus came to rectify that, too, and so He does. When His disciples ask Him about it privately, He explains that a bit more work was needed for this particular task. Most of the best early manuscripts do not contain “fasting;” the Greek text leaves it out—hence my own translation leaving it out here.
The devil is still tormenting us on the earth today. He doesn’t always have to do so with ostentatious displays of demonic possession; he can do his work more quietly in a culture that doesn’t really acknowledge him. He can sneak in with discouragement, disillusionment, doubt and frustration. He can whisper quite effectively to us in that part of the week in which we are between encouraging “mountaintop” experiences in church and are in the valley. Like the father, many of us are long accustomed to being on the losing end of the natural world. We are unwitting victims of whatever circumstance inflicts itself, and we don’t truly believe. We are, like Barclay said, “cursed with a sense of the impossible.” But Jesus’ words are as true today as they were in the first century: all things are possible to one who believes. His power is supreme.
What if we were to be infused with a sense of the POSSIBLE today? What if we were to re-adjust our internal gauges to expect the POSSIBLE because of the One Whom we serve? What if our lives were not lived as victims of circumstance, but as living testimonies to the power of Almighty God on a daily basis? “All things are possible to one who believes.” Do you believe this? As Westerners, we need help with our unbelief. And He is there to do it. At our church, we are seeing Him meet the natural world with supernatural. Like as Americans, we need help with our unbelief.
The power is not yours, but God’s, and He’s all too ready to rescue you. All things are possible to one who believes. Do you believe that today?