“And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:23–24, ESV)
The desperate father’s reaction to Jesus words, All things are possible for one who believes, is the reason that he is one of my favorite characters in the gospels. Perhaps I identify with him because he is a lot like me.
The man understands Jesus’ words to him. He is in a hopeless position with a boy who is under the influence of the demonic which is out to destroy the boy. Jesus tells him that there is a way forward for him and for the boy, the way of belief. The man understands in his heart, but his head hasn’t quite caught up with his heart yet. He believes, he wants to believe, he wants to think that Jesus really can free his son from his bondage to the spiritual forces of darkness, but his head is having a difficult time with what his heart wants, thus his all to human and honest cry, I believe; help my unbelief!
I love this. I can’t think of a better more honest answer than the one that comes out of the mouth of this father. He admits his problem, his head simply can’t wrap itself around the fact that Jesus can simply make his life-long, awful, hopeless problem go away with a command. He also admits his belief. He does believe in his heart that Jesus can do what he says, even if his head hasn’t quite caught up yet. At this moment he is doubting his own doubts and this is important to grasp.
It’s inevitable that when someone comes into contact with the message of the gospel that they are skeptical about it. I heard about a man who came to faith by picking up the Bible and beginning to read it when he was in a difficult life situation. Afterwards, he began to attend church and even talked his unbelieving wife to attend an Easter service with him. At the service there was a clear presentation of the gospel and as the pair walked out of the meeting, the wife turned to the husband and asked, “Is that what you believe?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“You’re crazy,” was her response.
She understood in her head the gospel message, but it made no sense. She was skeptical of it. She did not believe. She was not convinced. The way forward for her and for any skeptic is to be as skeptical of one’s skepticism as one is of the gospel message. Tim Keller explains:
The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens. In fairness, you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs — you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared. [The Reason for God]
The man’s wife couldn’t bring herself to doubt her own doubts and so, at least for the present, her mind was closed off to the message of faith in Jesus.
This father who was willing to do anything to help his son, came to doubt his own doubts as to whether or not Jesus could help his son. The end result for him:
“And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:25–27, ESV)
The unclean spirit had to obey the Son of God, and he did obey. The man received back his son in his right mind and completely free.