The question from Jesus for today comes from a story of a desperate parent and a suffering child. (Mark 9:14-23) Nothing squeezes hope out of you like the times you search for help for someone you love and find none. I have been on that journey more than once. The pit of nowhere-else-to-turn is a dark and scary place.
In today’s story, the son had a seizure disorder. In Jesus’ day the only explanation they could muster was to blame the falling, guttural grunts and rigid body on an evil spirit.
No doubt the father had heard about miraculous healings at the hands of Jesus. Trying something new was better than trying nothing. So he brought his son to Jesus.
Bring the boy to me.
At least Jesus was willing to see the boy. Willingness to help is help in desperation.
The boy had another fit. I think the father was glad that Jesus could see for himself how bad and dangerous this unknown possession had become. That’s when the father revealed the depth of his lost hope with the words,
If you can do anything, take pity on us and help.*
May I suggest three reasons why the father played the “if” card? I think we all find ourselves in the sandals of the father at one time or another.
Self protection. The father was tired of getting his hopes up only to be emptied of hope again. He asked for the least when he his afraid to ask for the most.
Past experience. Isn’t past is prologue? His past experiences built a wall that hope for something new couldn’t scale.
Attempted Humility. Too much humility sounds like doubt. The father was willing to settle for anything. The statement came from a place of fear more than humility.
What do you mean, if I can?**
And there’s the question we must answer for the countless times we have taken our requests to Jesus from our wounded and desperate journeys. What do we mean by throwing up if in the face of Jesus? Are we being logical? Respectful? A little hopeful?
Do we have amnesia? Jesus is the storm-stiller, the sight-giver, the limp-remover. However, when we hold on to what He can do more than who He is, we have made a disastrous turn. He can do the anything that makes the biggest difference. Does your faith allow Him to choose the anything?
The good news in this story and ours, Jesus didn’t bother with discussion or buy-in. Debate would not help the boy. He simply went to work. He commanded the spirit to leave immediately. After one more violent shriek and convulsion, the boy went limp, so limp they feared him dead.
Jesus stood him up, a quieted boy who had a new life to live because Jesus does not stay away when we ask with if.
What are you afraid to ask for today? What closed closet of dead hope do you hide in? What Jesus does when you ask for His anything is more than you could think to ask. Find new hope in the sweet surrender to His unbounded resources and unfailing love. Then, you will live a new life, too.
* Mark 9:22, NIV
** Mark 9:23, NLT