verse 20 “So they brought him. 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.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.” (New International Version)
How I love the less-than-perfect people of the Bible! The characters who falter and fail and show the wrong emotions are the ones who seem so believably human, the ones that most of us can honestly relate to at one time or another. So it is with the father in this passage who cries passionately “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Jesus often meets us at our points of weakness, where we see what we would wish to be and what we truly are.
This is a deeply emotional passage. One can feel the father’s anguish across the centuries. He has watched his son suffer the torment of demonic possession for years, fearing for the boy’s life. It is desperation that has drawn him to Jesus, not faith. Yet in his desperate love he honestly acknowledges his lack of faith and desire to possess it. He weeps. He cries out to God.
Jesus perhaps did not want to add to the man’s anguish by questioning his faith. Rather, he wanted to draw the man into relationship with him first. This story reminds me of the incident with the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment (Luke 8:43-48). Jesus had her acknowledge her actions, not because He wanted to embarrass her, but because he wanted her not just to be healed, but to be whole in Him.
Jesus knew this unnamed father’s love for his son and his deeply unselfish desire for the child’s wellbeing. How much more is the love of our heavenly Father towards each of us?
All over the world there are mothers and fathers in grief and despair over their children’s lives. Their children may be dependent on drugs or alcohol, they may have turned away from the faith that was lovingly imparted to them, they may be ill or disabled, or have made wrong choices that have severely impacted their lives. The parents of these children might well be asking “Do I really believe that God can make a difference?” Yet in every case, God is there, waiting. Situations are not always resolved in the way that we would wish, but we are assured, via God’s promises in the Bible, that He will be present with us, that He will provide for our needs, and that we will know the joy of life in eternity with Him beyond this earthly one.