The disciples were having a slight problem casting a demon out of a little boy. They thought they had this kind of thing under control, after all, they had done it before. But this one was being tough. And it’s in this failure that the scribes spoke up. Their big problem though was that the scribes were concerned with the theological implications of the situation. Christ was concerned with the faith of the people and the healing of the boy. That’s a fairly important distinction.
When Jesus asks what was going on, the father of the boy explains the situation in detail. He makes the situation very complicated and tries to give Christ every possible detail. (This is one of the healing stories told in the Gospels and whenever I read one I try to reflect on just how diverse they can be. Sometimes the infirmed come to Jesus, sometimes he goes to them first. Some seem to show great faith and some seem to show no faith. In one case, a man’s friends do all the work for him and speak in his place.)
Christ, who rarely lets a teachable moment slip away, admonishes his disciples, those people who should know better. The disciples seem to still not be fully grasping the Kingdom of God. They seem to have brushed aside the importance of prayer. For it is prayer that is the lifeblood of relationship. Those words we speak are just a byproduct of our relationship with God. Christ puts such an extreme emphasis on belief because belief and prayer interact with each other and intertwine into something beautiful.
After this discussion, Christ asks, for some reason, how long the boy has been in this condition. The father goes further into detail and it is here that he almost gets himself into trouble. He ends his explanation with the phrase, “If you can”. Uh oh. “If you can??” Christ appears to take a bit of offense at this questioning of what he can and cannot do. Again we see the relationship and importance of prayer and belief. His answer to the man is that all things are possible. This is certainly not a blank check or a way to manipulate God. It is the promise that all things done in the authority that God gives us are possible to the one who believes.
I really do appreciate the father’s recognition of his faux pas. He works quickly to correct his slight and speaks the inner workings of heart. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” And I love that Christ meets the man where he is in life and accepts his unbelief but loves him enough to not let him stay in that state. And the boy is healed.