Mark 9:19-24

THE CRY OF FAITH

Mk. 9:19-24

“O faithless generation!” Jesus answered. “How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear you? Bring him to me!” They brought him to Jesus. When he saw Jesus, the spirit immediately sent the boy into a convulsion, and he fell upon the ground, and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, “How long is it since this happened to him?” He said, “He has been like this since he was a child. Often it throws him into the fire and into waters for it is out to destroy him. But, if you can, let your heart be moved with pity, and help us.” Jesus said to him, “You say, `If you can.’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”

This passage begins with a cry wrung from the heart of Jesus. He had been on the mountain top and had faced the tremendous task that lay ahead of him. He had decided to stake his life on the redemption of the world. And now he had come back down to find his nearest followers, his own chosen men, beaten and baffled and helpless and ineffective. The thing, for the moment, must have daunted even Jesus. He must have had a sudden realization of what anyone else would have called the hopelessness of his task. He must at that moment have almost despaired of the attempt to change human nature and to make men of the world into men of God.

How did he meet the moment of despair? “Bring the boy to me,” he said. When we cannot deal with the ultimate situation, the thing to do is to deal with the situation which at the moment confronts us. It was as if Jesus said, “I do not know how I am ever to change these disciples of mine, but I can at this moment help this boy. Let me get on with the present task, and not despair of the future.”

Again and again that is the way to avoid despair. If we sit and think about the state of the world, we may well become very depressed; then let us get to action in our small corner of the world. We may sometimes despair of the church; then let us get to action in our own small part of the church. Jesus did not sit appalled and paralysed at the slowness of men’s minds; he dealt with the immediate situation. As Kingsley had it,

“Do the work that’s nearest, Though it’s dull at whiles, Helping when we meet them Lame dogs over stiles.”

The surest way to avoid pessimism and despair is to take what immediate action we can–and there is always something to be done.

To the father of the boy Jesus stated the conditions of a miracle. “To him who believes,” said Jesus, “all things are possible.” It was as if Jesus said, “The cure of your boy depends, not on me, but on you.” This is not a specially theological truth; it is universal. To approach anything in the spirit of hopelessness is to make it hopeless; to approach anything in the spirit of faith is to make it a possibility. Cavour once said that what a statesman needed above all was “a sense of the possible.” Most of us are cursed with a sense of the impossible, and that is precisely why miracles do not happen.

The whole attitude of the father of the boy is most illuminating. Originally he had come seeking for Jesus himself. Since Jesus was on the mountain top he had had to deal with the disciples and his experience of them was discouraging. His faith was badly shaken, so badly shaken that when he came to Jesus all he could say at first was, “Help me, if you can.” then, face to face with Jesus, suddenly his faith blazed up again. “I believe,” he cried. “If there is still some discouragement in me, still some doubts, take them away and fill me with an unquestioning faith.”

It sometimes happens that people get less than they hoped for from some church or from some servant of the church. When that happens they ought to press beyond the church to the Master of the church, beyond the servant of Christ to Christ himself. The church may at times disappoint us, and God’s servants on earth may disappoint us. But when we battle our way face to face with Jesus Christ, he never disappoints us.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MARK

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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