“And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”” (Mark 9:17–19, ESV)
We see mainly three individuals in the story of the boy under the influence of an unclean spirit. We see:
- A desperate father
- A demon-influenced son
- An apparently impatient and frustrated Jesus.
I want to think about impatient and frustrated Jesus for a minute. That is how he appears doesn’t he? There is an argument going on between some of Jesus’ disciples and some scribes and a crowd has gathered and things are hectic and out of control and we eventually discover that all of this is due to the fact that a man brought his son who is influenced by a demon and Jesus’ disciples could not cast out the demon.
Jesus’ reaction seems to demonstrate his frustration with the crowd/disciples/scribes: O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? I wonder if we are reading this situation correctly if all we see is impatience from Jesus. I think Jesus knows exactly what he is doing and he has this reaction, not first and foremost because of impatience or frustration, but because he wants to teach the crowd/disciples/scribes/this desperate father something.
Look what happens when Jesus calls the boy to himself and deals directly with the father:
If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us, pleads the father.
Jesus says: ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
In the Greek the word that is translated “faithless” and the word that is translated “believes,” come from the same Greek root word meaning “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance” [Louw-Nida]. The “faithless generation” was a generation that did not believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance. Jesus then turns around and gives the crowd/scribes/disciples/desperate father the antidote to being a “faithless generation.” The antidote was belief, which is to say complete trust and reliance on Jesus.
Throughout the gospels and whenever Jesus is teaching and wherever he is calling men to faith and belief, it is always in himself. He isn’t calling them to believe in something like the greater good, or believe that mankind can be a good force, or even believe in belief. He calls them to belief in a person and that person is himself.
I think that Jesus, as he always did, was using this incident to teach that the problem that virtually every person witnessing this incident had [scribes, disciples, crowd, desperate father, demon-influenced son] was that they had seen or heard of his works, they had heard his teaching, they should have believed, they should have understood that he was the Son of God, but they did not. They were faithless. They were unbelieving.
It’s in light of that fact that we get a better understanding of Jesus’ reaction. How long would he have to bear with this generation who had the privilege of hearing him teach, seeing him heal, watching his life, and they still did not believe in him. If all of that didn’t produce faith, what would?