Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Beloved in the Lord, do you have enough faith? “All things are possible for one who believes,” says Jesus in our text . Oh, really?! Then why is it that so often life seems impossible? Why won’t cancer go away? Why is marriage so hard at times? Why won’t the kids behave? Why can’t I find a job? Why did God take my loved one away from me? Why do we still have to die? Why is it that our faith CANNOT move a molehill, much less a mountain? All things are possible for the one who believes? What can this possibly mean?
Too many have suffered unnecessarily with dread, and damning condemnations throughout many times in their life because they have taken this particular verse in scripture and turned it into a divine mandate; in other words too many have seen Jesus say; “All things are possible for one who believes” and wrongly thought that this was somehow attainable through hard work, fervent prayer, earnest confessions and high praise. But Jesus is not saying that all things are possible for us if we Christians believe. Take into account Jesus disciples… you know those guys who had previously been given power and authority to heal and cast out demons, the ones who learned at the feet of the Savior for years, look at what happened to them. A desperate father with a demon possessed son could not be soothed and comforted by the faithless and weak disciples. This father had gone to Christ’s men, expecting, hoping that they would be able to cast out the demon that sought to kill his son, but their strength was not sufficient, their faith as grand as it might have seemed on the surface was not enough to cast out demons. And so Jesus comments to his disciples the words which we’d never expect to hear from God himself. “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?” I have taught you again and again, I have freely given you power over evil spirits, sickness and disease and yet you do not trust the great gifts that have been given to you.
The disciples don’t get it; and so they are subject to the condemnation that James speaks about in our Epistle lesson; for you know that those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. And the truth revealed to us in Mark’s gospel is that none of us get it either. But there is one in the text who does. We see this one explained in verse 20 of our text; “When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.” The Demon is the only one in this text who sees Jesus for who He really is and this isn’t the first time the demons have recognized Jesus either. In Mark 1; “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” So too in Matthew 8: “two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” These are only two instances among many in the Scriptures. The demons see Jesus for who He is but dear Christians the scriptures tell us that seeing is not faith; for Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that: “We live by faith not sight.” Yet it was sight that the disciples, the crowds and even the father in our text were banking on, it is often our sight that we bank on as well. All strength, these individuals thought, to cast out demons was to come from some sort of actual manifested strength, some sort of self-conjured courage and each of them was left wanting, with doubt and uncertainty. The disciples were left chastised and rightly disciplined, the father was left in despair by the inability of the disciples and it leaves only two foes standing toe to toe. Jesus stands toe to toe with a demon and Jesus reminds us that against this formidable foe strength only comes from the One who believes. This is what the father of the Demon possessed boy confesses to our Lord and Savior and His confession is your’s too.
In times that you are stymied by illness, by guilt, by temptation by the wiles of the devil, by sickness, by suffering; do not rely upon your powers of positive thinking, these are the methods of popular psychology; do not rely upon yourself to conjure enough faith and belief to get you over the hump. Do not look for ways and means to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. Instead remember the confession of the despairing father in out text, for if you rely on your own strength, your own understanding you will be left with no certainty. We confess with the Father in our text; Lord I believe, help my unbelief. What the Father says is this… I do so earnestly believe, BUT dear lord, my son has been possessed by this demon for as long as I can remember, this demon has often cast my boy into fires and water, this evil spirit has sought the demise of my son, and I too have been pulled to the brink of unbelief because I do not know if he shall ever be cured. If you can be merciful to me and my son, dear Jesus please do so.
My friends, how is this any different than the confession that perhaps you have made at the sick bed of a loved one? How is this any different than the long dark nights you have spent wondering if God really hears your prayers? How is this father’s hesitancy any different than ours when we pray… If you can Jesus… please cure this cancer… please take this suffering from me… dear Jesus if you can. To which your Lord and Savior still replies: If you can? Everything is possible for One who believes. And dear friends it is here that we understand that Jesus is saying that all things are possible for Him. We do not have perfect faith and belief. Jesus is the one who truly believes, He is the one who casts out demons, the one who heals the sick and raises the dead, who knows each of us by name and has numbered every hair on our faithless heads. The very ONE who has gone to the cross because of our unbelief and sin to slay our foes for us, to cast out demons and the power of the Devil, to conquer the death that our sin brings to us and to remind us that we need not fear death for He is the first born of the dead; reminding us that there will be countless others. He has gone to the cross laden with your sin and mine and has put that sin to death with Him. He has fulfilled the prophecy spoken about by Isaiah: I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. He has done this for you and me, that we may not be disgraced though we find we are tormented by the suffering of this world. He has done this so that in the midst of scorn and ridicule in this world because of our belief in what He has done for us that we may be guarded and protected by Him. He has died and risen again because our faith fails daily and our belief is weak. He has died and risen again, and still comes to you right now, in order to set your faces like flint, so that you may know that no matter what happens to you this side of heaven that you will not be put to shame. He who has vindicated you is near. Who or what shall contend with you or me? Who really is your adversary? Is it sin, or temptation, guilt and shame which have been put to death in Him? Shall demons, who are conquered foes, haunt your lives, does disease or sickness stand a chance against you or I who have been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ? Let our adversaries come, for Christ has over come them. Let suffering beset us; for our suffering has meaning and purpose because Christ has first suffered for us. Let the call of death sound it’s trumpet, for it no longer has dominion over us who have been promised the resurrection. These things we believe, Help O Lord, our unbelief. Amen.