Everything Is Possible
Key Verse 9:23
“‘If you can’? said Jesus. “’Everything is possible for him who believes.’”
Jesus had gone up to the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples, and had been transfigured— changed in appearance— from a haggard looking Jesus into a bright shining prince of heaven. For a few moments Jesus true image was revealed, and the three disciples who were with him saw it. He stood there in majestic glory talking with Moses and Elijah who had come to talk with him. The disciples who saw all this, stood there captivated by the glory of the kingdom of God. We cannot imagine such moments where all the earthly stuff, all the things that make life hard and unsatisfying, are totally insignificant and irrelevant, and joy and peace are there as if forever. Surely they wanted to remain there forever. But when that moment in heaven in the presence of God was gone, Jesus returned to his human form and began to descend the mountain. All we can say is that they needed to hold on to the memory of these moments because they would now return to real life. And real life isn’t all that pleasant in comparison.
Look at verses 14-18. When they arrived at the foot of the Mount, there was a great commotion going on around the remaining nine disciples. Apparently some religious leaders were arguing with them about something. A distressed father had brought his troubled son to the disciples and had asked them to heal his son who was possessed by an evil spirit. But the demon did not leave the boy. Of course, they had tried to. But they couldn’t drive the evil spirit from him. At first, they were sure they could do it. But after trying many times to cast the demon out, they gave up. Then, the religious leaders who carefully watched the whole scene got involved. Perhaps they took this opportunity to make fun of the disciples and taunting them for this terrible failure. We really don’t know what words were exchanged between the disciples and the religious leaders. But an argument sprang up which was drawing a lot of attention. And all this was happening in front of the miserable father and his tormented boy. The argument was like an insult to this grieving father— like a knife driven even deeper into his heart.
It seemed as if the only winner in this argument was the devil. The religious leaders criticized the defeated disciples. The disciples justifying their failure with many excuses. All that was the work of Satan sowing seeds of doubt and of failure and of despair and of hopelessness into the whole lot of them. Then suddenly Jesus arrived at the scene and everything was about to change. When they saw him, the crowds rushed to greet him. Look at verse 16. “What are you arguing with them about?” Jesus asked. Jesus wanted to know what kind of trouble the devil had been working while Jesus was away. Jesus wanted to undo whatever the devil had done. In a sense, this is the reason Jesus had come— to give his life— to free us from the oppressing work of the devil— to release the captives of sin free. “What are you arguing with them about?” were Jesus’ determination to bring order into the chaos all around.
We don’t know how long Jesus had to wait for an answer, since neither the religious leaders nor the disciples were willing to say anything. The religious leaders were clearly antagonistic towards the disciples but they would not admit it. And the disciples were clearly defensive in their response but they wouldn’t admit it either. Finally someone had the courage and the incentive to say something. Look at verses 17,18. The father of the possessed boy spoke up. His few words say a lot. He told Jesus about his desperate situation— that his son was possessed by an evil spirit. The son had all the symptoms of what we know to be epilepsy. But it’s truly amazing that the father did not say that his son was sick with a disease. He was sure his son was possessed by an evil spirit. It certainly doesn’t mean that all epileptics are demon possessed. It simply means that this father was able to distinguish that his son’s behavior was more than simply a medical issue. It was demonic. What’s also amazing is that the father did not try to cover up the truth about his son. The son may have been an embarrassment to the father, someone to lock up for life. But his father loved him and was honest in exposing his son’s problem as the work of evil spirits. Some parents would cover up their children’s troublesome behavior with pretenses. They not want to deal with the pain associated with the truth regarding their children. It is too painful to accept the truth, and a whole lot easier to ignore it and cover it up or even disguise it as something else— sometimes even as a phase in life. But this father didn’t. He was a man in pain because of his son. But he was also a man of spiritual integrity. He valued the truth of God above his own honor and beyond his own pain. Simply, he really loved his son. When a father or mother love their son or daughter, love is expressed sometimes through painful truth not through pretenses.
The father also told Jesus that he had come seeking the help of Jesus’ disciples. And that’s not a small thing either. He not only recognized his son’s spiritual problem. He also recognized that the solution can only be in Jesus. Since Jesus was not there, he was sure that Jesus’ disciples were equipped with the ability to help him in his desperate situation. He came trusting Jesus to help him. He came trusting Jesus’ disciples to help him. He was sure that while no one could help him, God would help him through those chosen to serve him. He had a measure of faith that cannot be ignored. He knew the solution for his problem, and he had the right attitude to come to Jesus. He was a man different from most people. Most people put their whole trust in man made solutions. But the truth is that not all problems are of human origin. If a man loses a dog, he might find him if he goes out looking for him. If his house collapses, he might build it again. But if a man loses his son or daughter, it isn’t that simple. Even if he finds them, what can he do about their rebellious minds and hearts? If a man loses his wife, or a woman her husband, what human solution is there to remedy this disaster? An illness can be cured with medicine, but what kind of medicine can compel a husband to return to his wife if she had betrayed him? An injection? A pill to wipe her bitterness away? Not all problems are of human origin. And therefore not all problems have a human solution. But foolish men only hunt for solutions on earth when the solution can only come from heaven. It’s like trying to catch the air with one’s hands. But this father was different! He was not a fool. He knew that the solution to his son’s problem could only come from Jesus. At the same time, he was also sure that Jesus’ disciples could help him. They must help him!
He was right in coming to Jesus, and upon not finding him to ask the disciples for help. It was their obligation before God to help this man. This was his thinking, what was on his heart— that that if the disciples cannot do anything for him, no one can. His faith depended on their own faith and their ability to serve God’s purpose. So he came to them— and to his dismay, they weren’t able to help him. Look at verse 18 again. “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” His words did not reflect faith any more. His words reflected a deep sense of disappointment and giving in to something he was not willing to accept— the fact that no one could help him. Jesus saw the man’s deep despair. Jesus saw that the evil spirit had been successful in crushing even the little faith that the man had. It had also been successful in crushing the spirit of the disciples as well. Everyone was defeated by this one annoying evil spirit. When Jesus looked at the despaired father— and the defeated disciples— and the arrogant religious leaders— and the apathetic crowds, his stomach knotted and his face filled with irritation at the pathetic scene. His disciples— the father— and all kinds of people— all were subdued by one troublesome evil spirit. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. How could they have been brought so low in defeat and failure? How could the disciples, blessed with the spirit of God, taught by Jesus himself— be brought so low in spiritual humiliation by one nasty spirit? Jesus was furious that they had all been leveled to the ground and were beaten up by a little boy.
Read verse 19. “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” These words are the reflection of the pain in Jesus’ heart. And Jesus didn’t leave anyone out from this rebuke, not even his disciples, not even the father himself. He called them all “unbelieving”. He accused them all of being filled with a spirit of unbelief. He groaned that they all had no faith. Jesus never once blamed the boy for what he had become— demon possessed. Even if the boys had been blameworthy, Jesus never once alluded that the boy was to blame for his situation. Jesus addressed mostly the father and the disciples for their lack of faith. Jesus saw the boy’s problem as the sign that the generation itself was unbelieving— filled with a spirit of doubt and unbelief. Jesus saw the boy as the sign of all people’s degenerating faith. According to Jesus, the boy’s problem was that no one had any faith. According to Jesus, the father had no faith. According to Jesus, the disciples couldn’t help the boy because they too had no faith. What Jesus said, “You are all unbelieving people”.
Unbelief or lack of faith is no small thing. Faith is that power of God that can work to accomplish what no man or woman can with their bare hands. But when a man or woman lose their faith, it is worse than losing the air that we breathe. When faith is gone, we can only see what is possible and what is impossible— and nothing more. In that situation we live and move within the limits of what is possible and what is impossible. It is possible to find a job when one is well educated, so we go out looking for a job. If it is impossible to mend a relationship, then we do not even try, because in our eyes, it is impossible. When faith is gone, we can do nothing. When faith is gone, we cannot even find God even if we look for him. When faith is gone, there is nothing in our life but frustration and defeat and failure and hopelessness and after that— the grave. No wonder Jesus was furious at the generation. They had no faith, because they saw only what their eyes showed them.
Human eyes cannot see the evil spirit working say in a relationship to destroy it. Eyes cannot see a rebellious steak in a child developing into a future disaster for the family. Eyes cannot see how doubt is scattered like seeds in the hearts by an evil spirit bent on destroying them. With human eyes no one can see anything. But faith is different. Faith is the spiritual eyes that see God and see God on his throne, even when they cannot see him with their human eyes. Faith is to see that the Lord is above all and over all things on heaven and on earth. Faith is to see that where there is Jesus, no evil spirit— no doubt— no failure— and no despair can remain. Faith is to see the possible even in the middle of the impossible. Faith is to believe right in the middle of doubt. Faith is to see and believe that faith is the power of God to fulfill what God wants us to do— and not with the hands, but with the power of faith to do the impossible things for God. This is why Jesus was so angry with his disciples and with the father. They had let their faith fade away in the face of the all the doubts this evil spirit was sowing all around through the boy.
Jesus asked the father about the boy’s condition. Jesus already knew everything about the boy. But Jesus wanted to build up some faith again in the father’s heart. Look at verses 21, 22. When Jesus asked the father “How long has he been like this?” the father answered, “From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” He had come to Jesus with faith. But after the disciples’ fiasco, his faith had been beaten down to the ground. While Jesus spoke to him, the boy was thrashing on the ground. The evil spirit was trying very hard to extinguish whatever faith he had left in his heart. But Jesus’ words helped him regain his faith in Jesus. He regained some! But his words, “If you can do anything”— these words tell us that he was still in despair. Jesus should just abandon him for his utter disrespect for Jesus. But Jesus didn’t. It’s what he had come to do. He came to help us grow in our faith until we could overcome our most desperate circumstances.
What did Jesus then say to him? Let us read the key verse 23. “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” To our Lord Jesus, nothing is impossible, and everything is possible, simply because he himself is the author of life. But how could he get it into the father’s heart to believe this truth without question! It was not that there was no faith left in him to believe. The problem was that the father had let too many doubts cloud his faith. Jesus believed that this man could have faith to believe that it was possible for his son to be healed. Now he needed to believe. He needed to make a leap of faith at Jesus’ stern words. People think that a leap of faith is some dangerous adventure in an unknown territory. But a leap of faith is not a leap into some deep dark void. It is simply a leap God’s hands, and into Jesus’ embrace. Ultimately, in all honesty, a leap of faith is all we have. We have nothing else in this world to bring us to God nor to bring God to us. It is faith alone that works like an unseen power bringing what we cannot imagine right into our hands and hearts. It is faith alone that can bring us to God— to undo the damage the devil has done in us and around us. We only need to trust God that what he says is true. When Jesus says, “everything is possible for him who believes” these words are true—not for someone else, but for me. We need not examine them— but just believe them. And when we do, we begin to do things through faith— and surely nothing is impossible.
Look at verse 24-27. The father confessed his sin of unbelief and asked Jesus to help him believe— he said: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And Jesus cast out the evil spirit from the boy and restored him to perfect health. God wants to work among us to heal and to restore anything and everything that sin had damaged— whether in us or in others, or around us. God wants to do his mighty work right where the evil one had sown doubt and fear and despair. God wants to banish them and to replace them with faith and assurance. But God wants us to be honest enough to recognize our unbelief where it is— and to make a leap of faith— to believe that all things are possible for you and men— if we grow in faith. Faith is a tremendous power given by God to you to defeat and to conquer and to overcome anything and everything in life. We must believe this— simply because Jesus commands us to believe. There are also many people in this world, young and old, troubled by something or another. No need to blame them at all, just as Jesus did not blame the boy, so also let us not blame, but let us have the faith and the strength to accept Jesus’ words “you unbelieving people. Stop being defeated by your doubts and all that the devil does to discourage you. Just honestly repent of unbelief and deeply believe that everything is possible when you believe— because I the Lord speak truth to you.” Look at verse 28,29. When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast the troubling spirit out, Jesus was clear that they had not prayed. They had depended on themselves to help this boy, when Jesus wanted them to depend on him. Prayer is the best expression of faith. If we pray, God will do impossible things among us.