Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/08/15 Sermon - What Do You Do With Your Unbelief?

“What Do You Do with Your Unbelief?”

Mark 9:14-29


Before I begin my message today, I would like you to consider the following questions:

How much faith do you think you have?

I mean, on a scale of 1 – 10 where 1 is very little faith, and 10 is as much faith as anyone needs to survive, what number best represents you, today?

Now that you have that number in your head, 

How much faith is “enough faith”?

What number between 1-10 do you think is enough? I mean if we were going to put a letter grade on your amount of faith, would you get an “A”, a “B” or “C”? Now remember “C” is average so that would be somewhere around a “5”.

Well, after studying this passage, I would say that Jesus assessed the people in this story and they didn’t pass. Their level of faith was below a 5, and I base this on Jesus’ statement in verse 19, where he says, “O unbelieving generation,” And if we think about it people haven’t changed much in the past 2,000 years. When we look at the different people in this passage, I think you will agree with me, that we have the same type of people around us today. The question is, which one of these people in this story, do you relate to most? And why?

Let’s go through the story.

Last week we left Jesus and three of his disciples coming down a mountain, after experiencing Jesus’ transfiguration.

In case you weren’t here or you don’t remember, Jesus has just revealed to Peter, James and John his true identity. He has taken the three men up on a mountain and transfigured into the brilliant, white God head, and had a conversation with Elijah and Moses. For Jesus, it has been a return to his original self, the one he left behind to become human. I am not sure we can really imagine this, but if you have ever been to a third world country, for any length of time and then returned back to the United States, you may have a glimpse to how Jesus was feeling. For myself, after living in a third world country there are two things I remember as being glorious upon my return.

In my “real” life, back in the states, I could take a hot shower and drink clean water. Upon returning, those two things seemed like heaven to me.

So we have Jesus, who has just had an opportunity to re-experience his heavenly body and is reminded of who he really is, God’s Son and we have his three disciples who experienced the whole transfiguration thing but are still confused, and have been sworn to secrecy. They meet up with the other 9 disciples who have been left behind. And it is almost like they are reliving when Moses returns from receiving the 10 commandments.

They return to find that Things have gone amuck! 

The nine disciples have been trying their best, so it seems, but they have managed to get themselves into a major pickle. Jesus and the three disciples come on to the scene while the 9 disciples are being interrogated by a group of Jewish religious teachers of the law. Jesus is seen by the crowd and they immediately gravitate towards him.

As the teacher and religious leader of the nine men, Jesus immediately confronts those arguing with his men and asks what is going on?

Can you picture this? It is like a parent walking up to a group of children being bullied, and their child is the one being bullied and the father steps in between the two groups and demands to know what is going on.

Notice neither the teachers of the law or one of the disciples has the courage to answer. Instead, the man who feels responsible for starting the whole thing, raises his hand and speaks up. He explains that he had brought his son, who is possessed by an evil spirit, to see if Jesus would heal him. Jesus wasn’t around, so the man asked his disciples to get rid of the evil spirit. But the disciples could not.

Thus, the argument, the taunting, the harassment from the Jewish religious leaders. You see, we’ve had bullying around for centuries. The Jewish leaders were doing their best to discredit the disciples by arguing with them and demonstrating how their faith doesn’t work, as they were unable to heal the boy.

Jesus takes in the scene and notice his response, in verse 19, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

I am not sure if this demonstrates Jesus’ human side or his heavenly side, but his response makes sense to me knowing that he has just returned from his Heavenly reminder of what life was like before coming to earth and being human. These may be rhetorical questions, but I think they reveal the emotional feelings truly going on in Jesus’ mind.

“Oui, you humans are so petty, so difficult to work with.”

So they bring the boy to Jesus. And like so many times before, as soon as the spirit inside the boy sees Jesus, it freaks out, because this evil spirit knows exactly who Jesus is and unlike the humans in the story, this evil spirit is frightened. So the boy gets thrown around, foams at the mouth, and falls to the ground.

Jesus then starts to get some basic information, he asks the father how long this has been happening.

The next thing that happens is so real. I have seen this occur many times in my ministry as a Chaplain at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Picture it, you have a father, whose son has been thrown into fire, into water, who has gone through excruciating pain, for years, and has just had a horrendous episode, again, right in front of everyone. The father has brought his son, in desperate hope that this man named Jesus can heal him. They have been, who knows how long, waiting while the nine disciples try to heal him, and can’t and then get into an argument with the other religious leaders, while his son is getting worse not better.

Jesus then asks a question,that may sound rather ridiculous to the father at this point. What difference does it really make how long the son has been like this? Now the father is exasperated, confused and maybe a bit peeved at this entire experience. I suspect he is at his wits end. So the father answers Jesus, truthfully,

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Can’t you just hear the despondency and the beginning of hopelessness the father is experiencing?

Jesus picks up on it right away. Jesus comes back with,

“If you can?”

“Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Then comes one of Mark’s favorite words,


Immediately, the boy’s father exclaimed,

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

At this point a larger crowd is forming and Jesus wants out of the crowd business so he demands the deaf and dumb spirit to leave the boy and never return. After some convulsions and antics the evil spirit comes out and the boy is left much like a corpse. Those around them thought the boy was dead, but Jesus goes to the boy, takes his hand and “lifted him up”, the same Greek word used when Jesus is “lifted up” during his resurrection.

Jesus and his disciples go indoors and it is during their conversation we hear “the rest of the story”.

See, the disciples were confused as well. Hadn’t Jesus previously sent them out, two by two, to heal people and drive out evil spirits? What had gone wrong?

Jesus’ answered them by saying, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Whose prayer? What prayer?

This is the second time in the book of Mark, Jesus sites the reason for miracles and healings not happening, is due to the unbelief of those receiving the miracle or healing.

The first time Jesus encountered this was when he was in his hometown of Nazareth. If you go back to chapter 6, verse 5-6, you’ll read “He could not do any miracles there (Nazareth), except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.”

The prayer needed is for everyone. Jesus comes off the mountain, and not one person is even beginning to comprehend who he is and what he is doing there.

The prayer is not only for the miracle or the healing, the prayer is for the faith to allow it to exist.

In this incident, the prayer specifically needed was against a deaf and dumb spirit. Which was the very problem for each person in this story. The religious leaders, the disciples, the father and the crowd were deaf to the words Jesus has been sharing and they were dumb to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst and they couldn’t see Him for who he really was.

All because of faith.

Could that be part of our problem today? Are we spiritually deaf and dumb? Do we need to remember the Messiah is in our midst, the Kingdom of heaven is near, do we know him for who he really is, or are we like the Pharisees and know Jesus for who we want him to be?

So, let’s go back the questions I asked at the beginning?

How much is “enough” faith?

It seems to me, the amount of faith is not the only criteria.

Matthew 17:20 reads,

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The reason nothing is impossible isn’t because of our level of faith,

Today, instead of looking at our faith, perhaps we should be like the father in this story and confess our unbelief. I think it was the contrite heart of the father that changed the entire scene of this story. As soon as the father admitted his humbleness and inadequacy, Jesus was able to heal the son.

You see, Jesus doesn’t just go around performing miracles for the sake of performing miracles. Sure, God can do whatever he pleases. We forget that the miracle isn’t always the central focus.

God’s focus is and always will be “restored relationship”, with his creation, with you and with me.

The fact is, that little boy that was healed, that experienced that exorcism, eventually died. Regardless of the miracles we experience, ultimately, what is necessary is for us to hear, and to see, exactly who Jesus is and who God is, and with whatever amount of faith we may have, we need to continue to nurture our relationship with Him.

Let’s pray.







Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.


Jude 1:24-25