ControlAltDispute's Blog

Able to Resolve

Posted on: August 24, 2009

“I’m not sure it’s even possible to resolve this one!” 

Very often the reason someone seeks a Christian mediator is that they are seeking not just resolution, but reconciliation.  It could be that there was a business venture or a marriage that has taken a bad turn and people who were once friends are now . . . not.  Both sides want healing (whether they express that or not); but frankly, they’re not even sure if it is possible.  It often seems like “too much” has happened for anything to be “fixed.”

In Mark 9:14ff, we read the well-known account of the incident where a man in a large crowd approached Jesus to tell him that he had a son who since childhood had been possessed by a spirit who caused the boy to do terrible things.  The father explained that he had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they were not able to do anything.  Then he said to Jesus:  “If you can do anything, please help us.

Stop right there.  What is your first thought about that question or the man asking it?  My first thought (unfortunately) was:  “What an idiot.  ‘Son of God,’ remember?  Water into wine, blind seeing, lame jumping, dove descending . . . Hello?

Upon further reflection, however, that criticism is too harsh to impose on a contemporary of Jesus.  When we look at the scenario now, we bring with us our entire knowledge of the New Testament.  We know all the players, the plot, and even the surprise ending.  This man did not.  We have almost no idea what this man had heard about Jesus, except that somewhere he had been told that Jesus and His disciples could perform some types of miracles which included dealing with demon possession.  He probably was skeptical when he first heard this, but for some reason he made the trip to find out for himself.  We deduce from this that he necessarily had some measure of “faith” no matter how small.

What happens when he finally gets there?  The disciples strike out.  Nada.  Nothing.  They can’t help his son.  For some reason, though, the father doesn’t turn around and go home (wonder why . . . ?).  Instead he invests more time and energy in getting directly to Jesus.  (We aren’t told how much more time or energy, but it might have been considerable.) 

When he gets to where he’s told Jesus is, he makes his way past the large crowd — I think it fair to assume that means he purposed to and did something more than everyone else in the crowd just to be able to get within speaking distance of Jesus.  Again, I think this is painting a picture of a man possessed of some amount of faith.  In my mind, I see a man who is tired after expending all this effort and when he finally gets to Jesus, what does he see?  Nothing special.  Just a man.  His followers are failures and their leader is . . . plain.  Can we, then, blame him very much for wondering aloud “Are you able?”  I mean, Jesus probably doesn’t appear any more able than His disciples.

What, however, about us?  We know who Jesus is so is there any post-resurrection application of this story for us?  You see, the question of Christ’s ability has been answered once and for all.  No thinking person can ask that question ever again.  It is now perfectly clear who Jesus was and that He was and is today able.

If anyone asks today whether Jesus is able, they are asking the wrong question.  If one must ask whether Jesus is able, then one should instead be asking “Who is Jesus?”  The answer to the “who” question – which is much more important anyhow – moots the “able” question.  I think this is Jesus’ point, by the way, in His response in verse 23 (paraphrasing):  “What do you mean ‘if’ I can?  If you believe I am the Son of God, then you know that all things are possible for me!”  Jesus is very clearly saying “Who do you think I am?  If you think I am the Son of God, then you have your answer to the ability question, don’t you?” 

[Side road:  I know that some read verse 23 differently.  Some interpret it as saying that “all things are possible” for someone who has enough faith.  So we try to work up more and bigger faith so we can “do” more and bigger things.  I do not think that is what is going on here at all.  The context of this verse is on Jesus’ ability, not on the boy’s father’s ability.  The boy’s father did not enquire how he could gain the ability to heal his son:  If the boy’s father had asked that question, then I would agree that Jesus might have been telling him that all things would be possible for him if he had more faith (although that would give me a problem with Jesus’ other teachings that the size of the faith is not the issue (e.g., Luke 17:5, 6)). 

‘Nother Side road:  Also, I wonder if Jesus, when he spoke of the need for “belief,” was looking out of the corner of his eye at the very disciples who had failed to cure the boy.]

Though the ability issue is settled, there is still an application today for this story.  The big question for today is no longer:  “Jesus, are you able?”  It is, instead:  “Jesus, are you willing?”  Personally, I do not remember at any point in my Christian life asking if Jesus were “able” to do something:  It never even crossed my mind that there might be a limit on what He could do.  I have often, however, in my own life wondered if He were willing to do something.  This is the much harder question.

Lord, this one is sick” or “Father, this situation is unjust” or “God, it would really be great if” – all these describe situations in which God is eminently able to act.  The question for today concerns His desire or His will for the particular situation.  This, I believe, is where the issue of our “belief” comes in today.  Perhaps it could be viewed this way:

Pre-Resurrection:  Do you believe Jesus has the ability to ________?

Post-Resurrection:  Do you believe Jesus is perfectly working out His plan regarding ____________?

The perspective we need to develop today is that the-God-who-is-able is carefully implementing His plan – a plan that no man and no spirit can thwart.

Do you believe that?  (If you are theologically liberal in your thinking, you might not!  You might hold to the idea that God has given man such “free will” that God has no control in certain areas:  God “hopes” certain things will happen, but He really doesn’t know if they will or not, and He can’t do anything to frustrate man’s “free will.”  Liberal theology is very scary.)

Conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist:  Do you believe that God is carefully executing His perfect plan in all its particulars?  Seriously? 

So this is a blog site about conflict and situations gone awry.  You’re thinking right now of a situation that is way messed up.  Do you really believe God is implementing His plan in that situation?  If you are like me – no insult intended – then you have the head knowledge to get this question right on a written multiple choice exam, but maybe your actions and fears don’t match up quite so well.  Do you ever say (with me): “God, I know you are in charge in a ‘big picture’ kind of way, but this particular situation right here really looks like a mess to me!  Here’s what I’m thinking needs to happen . . . .” 

This is where the next verse (24) comes into play for us today.  Note how the boy’s father says:  “I do believe; help my unbelief.”  Belief in what?  In Jesus’ day, the belief might well have been in Jesus’ ability to do something.  Today, however, the object of belief must no longer be on God’s ability, but instead on His having a perfect plan – a plan that is better than the one you’re currently devising. 

Do you believe the-God-who-is-able has a perfect plan?  Even for that situation?  Did you act like you believe that?  Do you, like me, have trouble with that last question?  Then pray with me: 

“God, Your ability is not the question anymore.  I know You can do it all.  I also know You have a plan – and I know it’s a far better plan than the one I have.  I do believe that; help my unbelief.  Help me to believe it so perfectly, that I act that way.” 

[I believe in gravity.  So much so that I base all my actions on that belief, unhesitatingly, and without question or even a thought that it might not be true.  Why then is it so hard to believe that the God who created (and sustains) gravity has a plan and to base all my actions on that belief?]

 . . . and always remember how loving Jesus was to the man who lacked belief and admitted it.  He cast out the demon, the boy looked as though he were dead, and then Jesus extended His hand, raised the boy up, and restored him to his father.  He won’t be any less loving towards you now.  (Did I mention His plan is better than yours?)

So, take your situation “to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, [and] to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire


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