I have a grandson with epilepsy. So, when I read an account like we have today in our Gospel lesson, I especially take notice. Jesus had been up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. Meanwhile, the other disciples were in charge of taking care of things below. They dealt with a man whose son would have seizures so badly that he would hurt himself when they occurred. Although the disciples had experienced healing people before, they could not do it in this instance. Jesus, of course, comes down and takes the seizures completely away from the epileptic boy. The disciples, understandably, want to know why they were not able to heal the boy.
I’m not sure they were prepared for Jesus’ answer. He bluntly told them that the reason for their ministry inability was because of their little faith…. Ouch! What is more, Jesus said to them that even if they had a faith as small as a mustard seed that they could move mountains…. Double ouch! Jesus was teaching a couple of very important lessons.
First, ministry cannot be reduced to a technique. Perhaps the disciples thought they could do exactly what they had done before, say the right words and do the right gesticulations, and the healing would come. But it didn’t because God does not bow to formulas; he responds to faith. So, then, the second lesson is that the issue is not the amount of faith but where the faith is placed. If we put stock in our proven methods for healing or doing ministry or living a certain way, then God is put outside the equation. Faith, when placed even in the smallest way in Jesus, can result in some very big results.
Maybe we all need to completely re-evaluate the way we pray and do ministry. Do we depend upon particular phrases or words, or do we throw ourselves upon the sheer mercy of God in Christ? Have we had success before, and now rely on the proven process, or do we persevere in prayer knowing that only Jesus can bring the needed healing to our lives and our loved ones? Realizing the impossible can only happen when we divest ourselves of the possible.
Merciful God, I believe in Jesus; help me in my unbelief! Without your grace I cannot take another breath or one more step. I desperately need you or I will be completely undone! Have mercy upon me so that what arises from my life is all your doing, and not mine. Amen.