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Help My Unbelief

A Commentary by Constance Vanides

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23, 24)

Martha and Mary, with their brother, Lazarus had hung around Jesus, loved Him, accepted Him, and believed in Him as the Christ. The Gospel writer, John, makes a point of saying, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5)

How curious, then, when Lazarus was sick, Jesus’ response to the sisters’ pleas to come was to deliberately delay His leaving for two more days!

    “When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’” (John 11:4)

Upon His arrival in Bethany, Jesus was received by Martha first and then by Mary with the accusation, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, 32b) And, softening her attitude somewhat, Martha continued, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:22)

Belief? Martha did indeed know (head knowledge?) that Jesus was the Christ and understood the theological implication of His coming into the world. However, her reaction to Jesus’ command to “Take away the stone,” (John 11:38) was not exactly one of clear-cut trust, “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39b)

We can identify with Martha and Mary and the weeping “comforting” Jews with them. “Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’ And some of them said, ‘Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?’” How often do we, too look at situations from only our emotional point of view?

Any wonder that Jesus “groaned in the spirit and was troubled” by their unbelief. He wept! How long does it take for us as well to really know the omnipotent Lord of all in every situation that confronts us? Yes, even death itself! Do we really know the Jesus who conquers death and brings us into new life?

Lest you still believe that Jesus was weeping because He had lost a friend, read the other instance where Jesus wept. He had entered Jerusalem that “Palm Sunday” riding on a lowly donkey. Most bibles refer to the scene as “The Triumphal Entry”. His disciples were overjoyed as many people had seen and heard about the raising of Lazarus, joining with them in acknowledging Jesus as their Lord. But not all. He was verbally attacked by those who did not believe.

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41, 42) Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of their unbelief, just as He wept when His friends could not totally comprehend how big their God was! Again, is it any wonder Jesus wept as He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem?

What about us? Jesus continues to call us to believe, “…with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b) And we are reminded of the prophet Jeremiah’s prayer: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

Finally, I want to be like the father whose son was healed, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”

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© Constance Vanides