It takes time to believe. The disciples of Jesus needed time to believe in him and understand the meaning of his life, death and resurrection. So did the man in today’s gospel from Mark who asks help in his unbelief. So do we.
As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” Mark 9:14-29
Where are we now?
Since the Christmas season we have been reading in our lectionary about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee from Mark’s Gospel, which ends with Chapter 9 this week at the beginning of Lent. Through lent we follow him, from Matthew’s Gospel mostly, on his journey to Jerusalem where he says he will die and rise again.
What does Mark’s gospel tell us he has accomplished so far? His disciples still do not understand him, Peter certainly doesn’t. (Mark 8, 27-33) Despite miracles and his inspired teaching, his own family and hometown turn away from him. (Mark 3,1-5; 6, 1-6) Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem come to Galilee to dismiss and condemn him.( Mark 7,1-15)
Yet, Jesus goes on to Jerusalem, with his disciples and with all of us. The lenten season’s readings and feasts will take us, like his disciples, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Lent also calls us, as Jesus does in today’s gospel, to prayer.
Will this lent and Easter turn more people to join him? Maybe. The world we live in is a lot like Galilee and Jerusalem. Still, like the disciples who first followed him there, we’re going up to Jerusalem. There will always be transfigured moments to lead us on.
In today’s gospel listen to a merciful God. “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?” Jesus says. Yet then he says “Bring him to me.” And he cures the young boy possessed from childhood. He helps the half-believing father.
Is he unique? Isn’t faith itself always half-believing, always marked with the unbelief that comes from who we are, finite human beings who only see so far?