Jesus, Peter, John and James are coming down from the mountaintop. Jesus has just finished telling this small group to keep quiet, for a time, about what happened on the mountaintop. They approach the place where the rest of the disciples and a crowd have gathered. The disciples had been ministering to the people in Jesus’ absence. Jesus had given them the authority to do so a while back. As they approach though, something is obviously wrong.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this event in Jesus’ ministry. You can find Mark’s account in Mark 9:14-29. Luke’s record can be found in Luke 9:37-43. There are many things that are recorded by all three of these gospels, but not a lot of the miracles make the cut across them all. All three accounts tell of the demon’s final hurrah on the way to Jesus and also mention Jesus’ remarks about the multitude being faithless. John’s is the only gospel that doesn’t record this event.
I think of all three telling’s, my favorite is Mark’s. Jesus interacts more with the father here than in the other accounts. I have always loved the personal touch in Jesus’ encounters. We are in Matthew right now though so let’s look at Matthew’s account today.
Jesus put a lot of emphasis on faith in today’s story. In Matthew’s account the father is not asked about his faith, like Mark’s does, but Jesus heals the boy anyway. The disciples’ faith was apparently in their way when trying to help this boy. Jesus said that if their faith had been like the grain of the mustard seed they would have been able to help him. Jesus says that that kind of faith could move mountains!
So what kind of faith is that, and where does mine fall on the spectrum? Is the mustard seed used as an example because of its size or its hardiness? Is it because of the dichotomy of size difference from beginning to end? I have been looking at Google and have found much hardier seeds mentioned. I have also found smaller seeds sited. As to the difference in size, that is a bit trickier. I don’t know where to go with my “scientific evaluation” of Jesus’ comments. In my search, I came across one website that I believe puts an end to this line of searching. It is Christiananswers.com and the topic was the mustard seed. Suffice to say, I’m tired of trying to figure this out the “scientific examination” way.
I want to look at this miracle through my heart instead. Here is a father of a “boy” who was brought to Jesus for healing. I put boy in quotes because in Mark’s telling Jesus asks the father how long this has been happening. The father’s response is that it has been going on “since childhood.” This leads me to believe that the “boy” is at least in his late teens. This is a LONG time for any parent to watch their child suffer. One minute is too long for those of us who love our children.
This father has most likely tried every available option out there. He is desperate enough to try anything! So he hears about Jesus and how He has been healing anyone who comes to Him. Did he come to Jesus the first time he heard about Him or did he think about what he heard for a while? His hopes had been dashed so many times already. Did he dare try again? Was it all a big hype? What would happen if this didn’t work? But he loved his son so much that he had to at least try.
When he gets to where Jesus was reported to be, he finds Jesus’ disciples instead. Jesus is not with them. He hangs back a bit and watches as Jesus’ disciples pray for other people and they receive healing. “Oh, PLEASE God, let them help my boy.” He waits for his turn and then presents his son to Jesus’ disciples. He describes his son’s problem and asks Jesus’ disciples if they can heal him. “We will try”, says Andrew as he steps forward and puts his hand on the boy’s head. Andrew begins to pray.
The boy starts cursing at Andrew. Bartholomew joins Andrew and they continue to pray. The boy then starts screaming at the top of his lungs. “This is not working”, thinks Bartholomew. Andrew whispers to Bartholomew, “I sure wish Jesus were here.” “Me too brother”, is Bartholomew’s nearly inaudible reply.
Some of the Scribes standing nearby decided to throw their two cents into the mix. They start telling Jesus’ disciples that they are phonies and have no business trying to perform miracles. Matthew points out all the people who have already been healed today. “Parlor tricks”, says one Scribe. “NOT SO!” yells a man who was crippled but now walks whole. “Then prove it!” says another one of the Scribes.
Matthew joins Andrew and Bartholomew. A look of desperation passes between the three of them as and they pray for the boy again, invoking every word of authority they can remember from their time with Jesus. The boy continues to scream. Jesus’ disciples don’t know what to do. The leader of the Scribes spits, “Worthless, pathetic, pretenders…”
The father of the boy stands beside his son. His heart is breaking. Is this another dead end? If only Jesus were here. Maybe He could heal him where His disciples couldn’t.
Just then Jesus and His small group come walking up. The man sees Jesus’ approach and runs to Him. He falls on his knees in front of Jesus. “Please Jesus, have mercy on my son! I love him so much and he is all I have in this world. He is an epileptic and has been tortured severely by this illness his whole life. I brought him to Your disciples and they couldn’t help him. Will You help him please?”
Jesus looks over and sees His disciples standing toe to toe with a group of Scribes. Matthew is red in the face as he yells out, “Jesus Himself gave us authority over every disease and over demons!” Then what’s wrong Galilean boy? Why can’t you help this one? Jesus’ authority wearing off?” says another Scribe. Matthew says nothing more but stands there with fire in his eyes.
Jesus surveys the crowd and laments the evidence of their faith in front of Him. The scribes have inflamed the crowd with their comments and many are questioning the disciples. Those who have been healed are backing Jesus’ disciples. NO ONE is going to convince them otherwise. They know within their own bodies of the power of Jesus, even if it flowed through His disciples instead of directly from His hands.
Jesus ordered that the boy be brought to Him. While on the way, the boy begins another of His seizures. Jesus doesn’t let that influence Him. The boy’s torment is at an end. Do your worst demon, your time is up!
Jesus speaks to the demon and commands it to leave. One last violent convulsion and then the boy lays there as if dead. The crowd looks on with mouths hanging open. “Jesus killed him!” one of the Scribes shouts. Jesus steps over to the boy and takes his hand. As soon as their hands touch, the boy stirs and begins to sit up. The father falls to his knees and envelops his son in his arms as tears stream down his face. “Thank You Jesus! Thank You so much! My son if finally whole!”
The Scribes are silenced. They have nothing to say in the face of such evidence. They quickly withdraw. The crowd surges around the father and son clamoring for information. Jesus turns and walks away. The disciples all follow Him. Andrew catches up beside Him and asks the question burning in his heart, “Why couldn’t we heal the boy? What were we doing wrong?”
“Your faith is too small. You let doubt creep in. If you would have had steadfast faith, even as small as a grain of mustard seed, you could have moved mountains. With that kind of faith nothing would be impossible for you”, said Jesus
Matthew, Andrew and Bartholomew hang their heads as the follow Jesus away from the crowd. “How do we get that kind of faith?”
Father God, that is my question too. I trust You with so much of my life, but there are portions I hold back on. Being scarred by the background of “name it and claim it” teaching, I’m afraid to step into a place of “that kind of faith.” What is that kind of faith like anyway? Does it mean EVERY disease, no matter what, have to be healed? Does it mean there will be no more problems? I sincerely doubt the second answer. The disciples seemed to grow into “that kind of faith” after Your resurrection, as evidenced by the lame walking and other stories. Did they actually grow into “never a doubt” kind of faith? Am I reaching for something that is unattainable? Did Paul have it?
What do I do with my doubts? I seem to be filled with them, especially when it comes to miraculous healing. I don’t doubt that You can and probably still do work in this way, but not in my life. Oh, how I wish I had the faith of the mustard seed here. For my eyes. For Steve’s brain. For the everyday aches and pains. Instead I find myself on the “His grace is sufficient” side of things instead. I think I have more faith in “You are my provider” issues than the healing issues. Maybe it is because I have seen You hand in this area of my life more. I am not “mustard seed faith” here either because I still try to help out a lot, but I do ultimately trust You to take care of us. I know that, no matter what happens, we will be ok here. I think it is a difference of expectation too. When it comes to finances, I don’t have to be rich or even have all the money I want or need in order to know You are in control. I prefer having all the bills at least met, but I have even seen You work there amazingly! But when it comes to healing, I want it to be complete.
How much is a lack of faith and how much is it “My grace is sufficient?” Lead me by the hand into whatever You have planned for me. If it is faith building, please be gentle. I feel like I’m praying for patience here. We all know what that brings! I want to please You with my whole life, so whatever You plan on doing, I will follow. Please calm my fears as You build my faith.