Help My Unbelief
In the name of the Father, and of the † Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A Suffering Family
In today’s gospel reading we hear about a family who was suffering. One of the children, a son, was afflicted with an evil spirit, a demon that controlled his body. This spirit prevented the boy from speaking. It caused him to have convulsions where he fell to the ground and rolled around uncontrollably.
The boy would foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and his body would become rigid. The situation was terrifying. Often the boy came close to losing his life as the demon inside him would throw him into a fire to burn to death or into a body of water to drown.
Out of Love
Friends and neighbors were helpless as they witnessed the family’s pain and anguish. A loving father had heard about someone who might be able to help. He brought his son to Jesus, but Jesus was off with three of his disciples praying.
The other disciples tried to be helpful; they tried to cast out the demon. Even though Jesus had earlier given the disciples power to cast out demons they were unsuccessful. Perhaps they had slipped into thinking the power was their own and not power that had come as a gift from God through Jesus.
When Jesus returned from his time of praying, the father went to him and pleaded his case. He told Jesus about his son. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
He was pleading not just for his son, but for the whole family; “have compassion on US and help US” he said. The tragedies in life don’t just strike one person they strike whole families, they strike friends and neighbors. If your son or daughter, father or mother, sister or brother hurts, you hurt. If your friends hurt, you hurt.
We see that in our own congregation. When one of our members hurts we all hurt. When we pray for each other we are praying that the Lord would have compassion on all of us. So the father prayed to Jesus that he would have compassion on the whole family.
He prayed with hope that Jesus would be able to help. There was no where else to turn “If you can?” was his desperate plea. It was full of both belief that Jesus could help and unbelief that no one could help.
If You Can
Jesus turned to the man and said, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.” With those words Jesus was saying to the man, “Trust in me.” With the word “If” the man had shown his doubt, the side of him that didn’t believe that even Jesus could help.
Immediately the man answered, “I believe, please help my unbelief!”! Of course the man believed, otherwise he would not have come to Jesus for help. But the tragedy was so big, so horrible, that part of him did not believe anyone could do anything.
Jesus, however, was not just anyone. Jesus was the Son of God who had taken on human flesh and blood. Jesus was true man, different in only one way for all others. Jesus had complete trust and faith in his heavenly Father.
Jesus believed that with the blessing of his heavenly Father he had the power to heal this boy, to cast out the demon that possessed him. So we read Jesus answered the prayer of the boy’s father. The demon was gone. Trough Jesus all things are possible.
It is relatively easy for us to come to this place, this sanctuary, this resting place from the world and from all its troubles. It is easy to say, “I believe.” It is easy for us to say the words of the creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. It is easy to say we believe in the sacraments.
We too, however, find ourselves saying “If.” Sometimes we find ourselves filled with doubt and even unbelief. Sometimes the circumstances of life test our faith and tempt us to say, “I don’t believe.”
Unbelief comes in many forms. It plays no favorites and plagues all people. Unbelief is found in the atheist who says there is no god or the agnostic who from day to day is uncertain. They both let their reason teach them rather than listen to the word of God.
Unbelief is found in the person who says, the important thing about faith is that it is sincere. The hijackers on 9-11-2001 were sincere in their faith, but their faith was in a god who was designed by their own reason and not the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
Unbelief comes when we grow tired of dealing with the tragedies of life when they seem to get worse rather than better. Unbelief tempts all of us when we pray. We are tempted to tell God to answers our pray according to our will. If God does not answer that way we are tempted to complain and say what good is faith.
Our unbelief may come from thinking God is too remote or too busy to know our needs. We don’t trust that God knows what will best show his compassion. Praying “If you can,” instead of “your will be done,” is a sign of our unbelief.
Unbelief comes from thinking that the suffering and death of Jesus was not enough to take away our sins. It comes from lack of faith in God’s Word and his sacraments. Unbelief comes from not giving the Holy Spirit time to strengthen our faith.
You and I have come to church today to see Jesus and to say to him, “I believe, help my unbelief.” We confess our unbelief when we confess our sins, the sins that come from a heart that does not want to belief in God.
On the other hand, we confess our faith, our belief in God, when we confess the creed, the Apostles’ or the Nicene, it doesn’t matter. They both proclaim the God who created us, who redeems us, and who gathers us together as believers, as children of the heaven Father. They proclaim the God who speaks to us only through his Word.
“I believe, help my unbelief,” that’s our prayer today to Jesus. We turn to him because we cannot believe on our own. We cannot strengthen our faith on our own. Jesus Christ, must bring us to faith and put away our unbelief.
Jesus is the answer to our unbelief. In Hebrews chapter twelve we read, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” Heb. 12:2
Jesus Is The Answer
Jesus has answered our prayer. He has helped our unbelief. Our unbelief us sin. Jesus died for our sin. He took with him all the sins we confess, all the sins we forget to confess, all the sins we don’t even recognize as sins.
- When our thoughts, words, or actions say to God, “IF” instead of “I believe,” Jesus died for those time. He takes away our sin.
- When we challenge the way God answers our prayers, his reasoning over our reasoning, Christ shed his blood to wash away our sins.
- When we fail to love and forgive as we have been forgiven, Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for us.
Jesus helps our unbelief by sending his Holy Spirit into our lives to strengthen our faith, our belief in him. That’s why he has gathered us together here so that he can strengthen our faith as we hear what he has done it all for us.
Jesus did not send the boy’s father away and tell him to come back when his faith was stronger. He does not send us away today, he simply tells us about God’s grace. Jesus tells us in his Word about his love for us and his all atoning sacrifice for us.
In Isaiah chapter forty-two we hear how Jesus will treat those who say to him “I believe, help my unbelief.” This is what it says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Is. 42:3 Jesus daily has compassion on us. He graciously he cares for us each day.
Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. Jn. 3:17 He did not come into the world to crush those whose faith is weak; he came to give us forgiveness and life. He did not come to push us away from God’s kingdom, but to gather us together as God’s children.
In the name of Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria