The Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43

The Weakness of Our Faith

This account of the possessed boy and his father is especially moving, because we can easily see ourselves in it.  The beloved son of this distressed father is truly in a pathetic way.  The demon seizes him making him foam at the mouth, unable to hear or speak, and even casts him into the fire and water to destroy the poor boy.  This teaches us that sin, the world, and the devil are always working together to destroy us.  There can never be a truce with any one of them.  The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy; Jesus comes to give us abundant life (John 10:10).  Sin cannot be placated; it must dominate.  We must be killing sin or sin will be killing us (John Owen, The Mortification of Sin).

Jesus and his disciples were coming down from the mountain after that marvelous unveiling of Jesus’ true glory.  Mark reports that the crowd was greatly amazed when they saw Jesus.  I wonder if this was because some of the glory was still glowing from Jesus’ face, as was the case with Moses whenever he had finished speaking with the LORD (Exodus 34:29-35).  But this also tells us another hard truth: we can’t stay on top of the mountain.  The Lord will give us blessings of spiritual refreshment from time to time, but then we must come back down from the mountain to minister in the mud and muck of the real world.  But praise God that He does give us these blessed moments that we may find strength to carry on.

But the real lesson of the passage is in the pitiful cry of the father for his son.  Jesus tells the father, “All things are possible for one who believes.”  And then the father exclaims in such a way that every Christian can understand, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  How many times have I said this in my life?  The fact of the matter is that we lack the faith to live in this world that beats us down and ever wars against us.  We know we are weak.  But that’s when we say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  Why?  Because his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  And the wonderful thing is that Jesus honored what little faith this man had and healed his son.  And that’s what our Lord has done for us time and time again: It wasn’t because we were spiritual heavyweights that God answered our prayers; it was because we are so spiritually weak and feeble.  But he calls us forward, to allow those answered prayers to encourage us to deeper faith and consecrated lives.  Then shall we see mountains moved; then shall we be “astonished at the majesty of God.”

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