When I was 14 I got a bicycle. Not just any bicycle, it was a Trek 800 Sport! I had no idea what any of that meant, but I was sure it meant better than my best friend’s Trek 800 Mountain edition. What’s that even mean? Mountain edition? Sport is something to be proud of. One day I was on my own riding my bicycle home from my friend’s house- you know that one with the mountain edition. I was riding past a park and I saw some older kids I knew. Well naturally they would be impressed with my bike, but I was upping the wow factor today. Today I was feeling saucy and was going big. So I took my hands off the handlebars, and I looked over at them and I waved. After all I wasn’t going to do this for nothing. I wanted cool points. Then, I slammed into the back of a parked car. I think God was teaching me something that day.
So Jesus takes his disciples: Peter, James, and John down the mountain after the transfiguration. Jesus comes down the mountain and find the disciples arguing with the crowd. Then! He scolds these disciples! Just like that! He’s clearly frustrated with them. So what’s the problem? A man in the crowd asks Jesus to heal his son. He says the disciples tried and couldn’t do it. Jesus calls the disciples faithless and tells them it would have been possible if they believed.
Now if I’m honest, this verse always bothered me a bit. I took a quick read here and felt like if I can’t say get rid of my own seasonal allergies, what business did I have with praying for healing? And what did that say about my faith if I didn’t have this confidence?
Now if we fast forward to the last verse with the disciples and Jesus privately together it all becomes clear. Jesus says that the demon could only be called out through prayer and fasting. Do you know what that means?? It means that these disciples who in chapter 6 were given authority to cast out demons and perform healings in jesus name- that is in prayer, they were doing it wrong. If he tells them that demons only come out through prayer- it’s because they were trying to cast out demons without prayer- without God's help. They were walking around trying to cast out demons and heal by their own power. They decided that they had earned favor with Christ from their time with him and they now had power like his.
Wait a second… they thought they had power like his? Like jesus? Like god? That reminds me of something. Remember the serpent in the garden? If you eat this fruit you will be like God! Don’t you want to be like God? Haven’t you earned it? Don’t you know best? I wonder why these disciples did not get invited up the mountain for the Transfiguration?
The rules have always been pretty simple and straightforward. First- you have this whole amazing perfect garden but I’ve kept one tree for myself don’t eat the fruit. Then the rules changed leaving us eventually with just ten rules. Just ten! No sweat right? Then you’re driving down the road and cars are passing you and yet you get pulled over. Ready to honor your parents and all authorities? Then you hear that a coworker got fired. You’re not sure exactly what happened, but you have some suspicions. So do you use your speech to build up a vulnerable fellow person, or to tear them down further? Saturday night was rough. You tried to get things done. Nothing worked right. You were up so late. Then the alarm goes off for church. Do you still set time aside to honor God? Or do we in these situations and countless others make a snap decision all too often and decide that we know best?
But Don’t we know best? I know I thought I did that day passing the park before I was laying in the street. What’s amazing here is not that these disciples are caught up so easily and quickly, it’s how often we are in exactly the same position.
So the father- the one with the possessed child says to jesus after he scolds the disciples, “help!” I imagine the disciples are standing there thinking something like- “this is a really strong one, Jesus, you’ll see.” How often are our prayers exactly like this?? We ask God for something, but really, deep down we have already decided that he can’t. It isn’t possible. It won’t happen. We put God into our human box of limitation all the time.
So Jesus sits with the father and learns about the situation. He does not simply perform a miracle and move on. People matter. So Jesus learns about these people in need and then, after they know him and his love and compassion for them individually in their time of need he says to them that all things are possible with belief, then their hearts are changed, belief is planted, Jesus performs the miracle, their lives are changed. This struggle of this boy. It has been happening for many years. Jesus changes their lives that very day.
Jesus does the same for us. Jesus promises to be with us every day, every struggle, every moment of pride, he is by your side. Jesus loves us and responds to all our situations of need and brokenness. Jesus responds to the father that day. Jesus responds to the crowds. Jesus responds to the disciples. Jesus responds to me laying next to a parked car with a bruised ego. Jesus speaks to you in the car pulled over for speeding. Jesus responds to you when the rumor comes by, when the alarm goes off. When we need some help because we can’t do it on our own when we’re broken and the rules are more than we can accomplish.
Jesus defeats weakness, unbelief, and evil. His instructions to the disciples that day were not to simply follow the instructions step by step. The instructions were to rely on him. Jesus’ message to us is exactly the same- believe and rely on him. He has done all the work ever needed with his life death and resurrection to redeem you and any series of prideful situations that you may find yourself in. And so he speaks to you today in your need, just as he spoke to this father in his, “what do you mean if I can? Anything is possible with belief. Amen