Embers and Flame

by Scott Vance on September 13, 2021

Mark 9:14–29 (ESV)
14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
This narrative takes place right after the transfiguration of Jesus and the account is recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel as well but here in Mark, we get the greatest detail.   What’s interesting is the focus of each account in the different Gospels.  In Matthew’s account, the focus is centered on the disciples.  In Luke’s Gospel, the focus is centered on the astonishment of the people as the majesty of God is revealed.  Here in Mark’s Gospel, the focus of the passage centers on the conversation between Jesus and the father of this boy.
The father has a big “if moment” as he encounters Jesus.  To understand this, we must be clear about the focus of this encounter.  Often people will read a passage like this and focus on spiritual warfare, but this isn’t about spiritual warfare, this is about faith and people who are struggling to have faith (the crowd and the disciples included).
The focus is on the father’s faith and at this moment, his faith is broken.  His son’s condition has been relentless, and things are desperate.  The father has hit the metaphorical “faith wall” and his faith is nearly exhausted.  It’s like the eying embers of the wick of a candle.  His faith is on the brink of being snuffed out.  He had a small flame when he brought his boy to the disciples, but their inability has weakened that flame to just an ember when the father comes before Jesus.  This is why he says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (verse 22).
The “if” of the father are the last bits of his faith as he begs Jesus for help.
The response “If you can!” of Jesus is not a rebuke, it’s just bouncing the question back to the father.  And then…, Jesus encourages the desperate father to have faith, “All things are possible for the one who believes.”
The father’s reply is wonderful.  We can almost imagine him holding up his hands to Jesus, presenting to Jesus the last little bits of faith that he possesses.  “I do believe, help my unbelief.”
I love Jim Edward's comment on this conversation regarding faith.  Edwards wrote, “True faith is always aware of how small and inadequate it is.  The father becomes a believer not when he amasses a sufficient quantum of faith, but when he risks everything on what little faith he has, when he yields his insufficiency to the true sufficiency of Jesus.” 
Edwards goes on to note that, “True faith is unconditional openness to God, a decision in the face of all to the contrary, that Jesus is able.”
The father took the little faith he had and tied it all to Jesus, and Jesus fanned it into a flame.
It’s the same for us.  When we hit that wall, when we come to the point that we’ve exhausted everything, and we have nothing left to give and we feel as if we hardly have any faith left in the tank…, when that happens…
Don’t hesitate, don’t be afraid, do the one thing that you can do at that moment, and humbly trust Jesus.
Jesus is never put off when all you have is just a little faith to give. 
He will take it, hold you and your little faith to Him, and His strength, healing, and peace will fill your heart and soul.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers!


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