As Jesus and the small group of disciples are coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration, they meet quite the scene. A man has brought his son to Jesus who is oppressed by a demon that frequently throws him into convulsions. Fascinatingly, I’ve always pictured the son as a young lad but the man’s response when Jesus asks how long it has been going on may well suggest that he isn’t quite so young, maybe even an adult. If so then we are looking at a vulnerable person whose affliction is robbing them of their independence (v21).
Other accounts highlight Jesus’ response that the type od situation requires much prayer and fasting and that is likely to prompt a a few questions. However, as Mark doesn’t highlight that, I want to focus instead on the man’s words
“I believe, help my unbelief.”
Earlier, Jesus had lamented that this was an unbelieving generation. I would suggest that this is a description not just of the people immediately around in his time-span. Rather, generation refers specifically to the people of God, as a whole under the Mosaic Covenant. Jesus is reflecting here past warnings and challenges that so often God’s people hardened themselves against him (see Psalm 78).
That gives context to the man’s response. Jesus draws out of him a profession of faith in a context where faith seemed absent and impossible. In so doing, he encouraged the man to also confess his weakness. His struggle.
It is sometimes said that what matters is not so much the strength of a person’s faith as the strength of the object or person on which that faith is set. This is such an encouraging thing for you and me. Some of us have faith which is constantly rock solid and unquestioning. Some of us sometimes struggle with doubts and anxiety. That’s true both in terms of our response to the Gospel generally and our response to specific promises.
It is good to know that Christ responds to our faith, however weak and feeble it is. However, note something else. The man doesn’t just say “make allowances for my unbelief.” He confesses his unbelief and asks Jesus to help him. One of our desires should be that God will grow our faith so that we learn to trust him more and more.