Luke 9:37-43 (CEV)
37 The next day Jesus and his three disciples came down from the mountain and were met by a large crowd. 38 Just then someone in the crowd shouted, “Teacher, please do something for my son! He is my only child! 39 A demon often attacks him and makes him scream. It shakes him until he foams at the mouth, and it won’t leave him until it has completely worn the boy out. 40 I begged your disciples to force out the demon, but they couldn’t do it.”
41 Jesus said to them, “You people are stubborn and don’t have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you?”
Then Jesus said to the man, “Bring your son to me.” 42 While the boy was being brought, the demon attacked him and made him shake all over. Jesus ordered the demon to stop. Then he healed the boy and gave him back to his father.43 Everyone was amazed at God’s great power.
Couldn’t Do It
What happens when you pray for a miracle and it doesn’t come?
When you pray for a job, but months go by without even an interview?
When you pray that you will get to be in a relationship, or pray for healing for the relationship that you have, but nothing seems to change?
When you pray for someone to get better, but instead they get worse?
When you pray for healing, but instead the person dies?
Does it mean that God isn’t up to the task?
Does it mean there’s something wrong with you?
I don’t know exactly what’s happening in this story. It’s a story that’s repeated in Matthew and in Mark, and each time it’s told, it comes out a little differently – who doesn’t have faith, what should the disciples have done if they wanted to be successful in healing this boy. But the point I want to make is that for this man and his son and the disciples, there had been a period of time while Jesus was up the mountain where this healing simply couldn’t be done.
Eventually, Jesus comes back down the mountain.
Eventually, Jesus reaches out and calls for the boy.
Eventually, Jesus heals the boy.
Apparently Jesus was perfectly capable of healing even this child, in spite of the lack of faith that he was frustrated by.
But there was a period of time between when the father asked for healing and when Jesus reappears that gave room for doubt. There was a period of time between when the disciples prayed for healing (and didn’t see it happen) for them to begin to doubt.
And I think it’s important for us to know what we do with our faith when the thing we think we should be able to do, or the thing we want to do, we can’t do.
Does it mean there’s something wrong with me? Apparently not – even a group of stubbornly faith-lacking people isn’t enough to stop Jesus from being able to heal. Jesus’ capacity to heal is not limited to the people’s capacity to be humble or to have faith.
Does it mean there’s something wrong with God? Again, apparently not. When Jesus shows up it is only a matter of a few moments before the demon is out of the boy and he is healed and restored to his father.
However, as someone living with a chronic illness, with two children with autism and a child buried at just three weeks of age, for me this vision of Jesus caring past all of his frustration reassures me. God’s love and compassion for me and for my kids and for those I care about is not dependent on my faith or lack of faith. It’s not dependent on whether I’m still broken or whether my life is the perfect example of shalom. We live in a world where sometimes the Kingdom has broken in and sometimes it hasn’t arrived yet. But there is nothing we can do to set us outside of Jesus’ desire to bring healing and wholeness to our broken reality. Sometimes we just have to wait a little while longer for eventually to come.
- Have you ever prayed and asked God for something only to get a ‘no’?
- Have you ever heard someone tell you that maybe God didn’t answer your prayer because you didn’t have enough faith? Or because there was some secret sin in your life that you needed to confess?
- What does it change if we start to accept that there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love for us?