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A little thought for Lent

In my effort to get back on track in reading the Bible I came across this little tidbit, from Mark 17:14-21:

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

A couple of things jump out at me here.  First, verse 16:  “And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”  Let us not forget that only a few chapters earlier, in Matthew 10:1 we see the Apostles were sent out with “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.”  So the disciples had been given the authority to cast out demons but have run into a case they could not solve.  This had to be demoralizing and confusing to the Apostles.  Something did not add up – either this demon was more powerful than Jesus or there was something wrong with them.

But in the midst of this confusion Jesus injects one of the most harsh statements you will find on His lips, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?”  “Faithless and perverse.”  Certainly the Apostles must have been cut to the quick, not to mention the people around Him.  The words hurt to read even now, at least in part because they reflect how far we too have fallen.

He did not, however, leave this tongue lashing as His last statement.  “Bring him here to me.”  Despite all the failings in those around Him, Christ’s mercy overwhelms all.  With what seems like no effort the demon is cast out and the boy is cured.  The demon the Apostles could not budge is cast out by Jesus and the Apostles are left, I suspect, rather speechless.

Unable to understand how all of these preceding events add up the disciples ask Jesus to explain what has happened – why could they not cast out this demon even though they only recently been given the authority to do so?  Jesus’ reply must have been stunning.  “Because of your little faith.”  How often do we fail to believe that what Jesus has promised us He can – no, will – do?  Are we not often like the Apostles, willing to do some or most of what is asked of us but afraid to go the final distance and be completely committed?  This Lent let us take that extra step, be not faithless, but have faith “as a grain of mustard seed” and see the wonders God will work through us.

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