“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Mark 9:22
If the question the disciples asked was understandable, the father’s question, although disturbing, was even more understandable. This father had one great desire, to see his son healed. He had brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples, and they had failed him. Thus, he grew even more desperate.
From the text of Mark it appears that the man knew very well who Jesus was. He told Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son.” Perhaps when he did not initially find Jesus, the Father had sought help from the disciples. “I asked your disciples,” he said, “to drive out the spirit, but they could not” (Mark 9:17-18).
This experience was not good for the man. He moved from the faith that had caused him to seek Jesus, to the doubt that caused him to say, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (22). We don’t often see Jesus indignant with those in need, but here He speaks quite directly.
“‘If you can’?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
The man must have taken loss of his senses, but I think I understand why. The failed power of Jesus’ disciples had cast doubt on Jesus’ power. “Since the disciples couldn’t,” the father reasoned, “perhaps the master can not.” This may be faulty logic, but it is also understandable, for Jesus had given His disciples “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases” (Luke 9:1). Their failed power was seen as His failed power.
Inescapably, the lives of Christians testify not just about their power, but also about God’s power. If the world sees God as powerless, perhaps it is because they see us as powerless. We can appeal to reason, appeal to common sense, but in the end they will look to us for confirmation of the truth we speak. If our lives are graceless, loveless, compassionless, essentially, powerless they will assume that we have no true power behind our words of truth. They will assume that our God is powerless.
It was indeed a good question the disciples asked, “Why couldn’t we drive him out?” They couldn’t drive him out because they lacked the power of God. They couldn’t drive him out because that one would leave only by prayer.
For the moment, put aside the thorny question of which ones will only go out by faith and pray as though they all require prayer. Pray without ceasing (1Thes. 5:16). For in all things, large and small, we need power from God. We dare not take for granted the power we possessed yesterday will be sufficient for today. We must wake daily not independent, but in dependence.
What of Jesus’ question, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you” (Mark 9:19)? We of weak faith, we who often suffer from unbelief, we who lack power and fail to pray answer, “Please Lord, just a little longer. Just a little while longer.”