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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What do you mean IF?

21-22He asked the boy's father, "How long has this been going on?"
   "Ever since he was a little boy. Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!"   23Jesus said, "If? There are no 'ifs' among believers. Anything can happen."   24No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, "Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!"
(Mark 9:21-24)

To begin with a little background on our passage today, Jesus has come into a crowd of people, some onlookers, others simply waiting "for their big chance" to see the Miracle-Worker himself.  Some of the disciples had been "working" in the crowd healing the sick, delivering the bound - but there is a certain boy with a diagnosis so debilitating that has plagued him since he was very young that the disciples just don't "seem to be able to heal".  The crowd is huge - and it is filled with "religious scholars" (likely the Pharisees) who are there simply to "cross-examine" each of those who "get their miracle".

Jesus was literally "flocked" by hundreds of onlookers almost everywhere he went.  It was as though he had "groupies" who appeared in whatever region he was traveling.  Many were genuinely hopeful for some type of "touch" from the Miracle-Worker they had heard about and witnessed themselves. They were probably there, not so much because they recognized the one before them as the Messiah, but because he was touching lives and those lives were never the same again.  I have a "label" for people like that - lookie-loos - they are there for the "spectacular" not necessarily for the true heart worship.

The father of this boy is desperate to get his boy some attention - his boy had a significant need that moved this father.  We are not sure from what is recorded if the father actually believed in Jesus' authority as the Messiah, or if he had just joined the crowds in hopeful anticipation that there might be a miracle for his son.  What we do know is that we see Jesus in conversation with the father about the disease and debility of his son.  Look at the desperate plea of this father:  "If you can do anything for us....DO IT!"  

His pleas do not fall on deaf ears or an unmoved heart - Jesus turns to the father with the heart of the healer and the mercy of the Savior.  What appears to almost be a small "chastisement" of the father's desperate plea, we see Jesus saying:  "IF....what do you mean IF?"  Yesterday, I shared that God desires, even yearns, to hear the desperations of our heart.  There is something "connective" about sharing at that level of honesty - it is likely what got this father and son noticed by Jesus that day.  Jesus wanted to clarify this father's faith - that is the purpose of his words directed at this father.

When Jesus confronts our doubts, fears, or frustrations head on, his words build our faith.  Look at the change of faith that comes as Jesus confronts the father:  "Help me with my doubts!"  There is nothing more powerful in the hands of Jesus than the honesty about our doubts.  His desire is to move us into fullness of faith, not keep us in the depression of doubts.  Just as certainly as Jesus changed the father's perspective on his son's situation, Jesus can change the perspective on ours.  It is done in the moment of true sharing of our desperation.

The words of Jesus are powerful - ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!  In the hands of Jesus, all things are possible.  What we see as the most impossible challenges are nothing more than a speck of sand on the seashore of impossibilities Jesus has already shown himself powerful with.  We need only be in the right place - in the presence of Jesus.  We need only be in the right frame of mind and heart - desperate to have our faith grow.  Then....ANYTHING can happen.  What we see as impossible takes on a different perspective when Jesus helps us deal with our "IFs".  The world has no solutions for our "IFs" - but Jesus does!