There is an argument going on. It’s between the teachers of the law and a large crowd, and it centres upon a young boy who has been possessed by a spirit. The disciples were first asked to drive out the spirit, but they could not do it.
Word spreads that Jesus is around, so everyone rushes to him. They are ‘overwhelmed with wonder’. Who wouldn’t? This is a guy who was gaining a reputation. It’s not difficult to see why – walking on water, healing the sick, making five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish stretch so that five thousand could be fed (with a little to spare!).
Could Jesus do something similar for this little boy? Jesus asks his father how long the boy has been subject to this spirit. ‘From childhood,’ he answered. In desperation, this man knows Jesus has the power to overcome this spirit, but doubt lingers in heart as to whether He will. ‘But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ Jesus’ response is immediate. ‘If you can? Everything is possible for him for who believes’. The man’s response is just as immediate. ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
And at that, at the command of Jesus, the spirit came out. The boy was free.
Or was he?
The boy didn’t look free. ‘He’s dead’, many said.
As I thought about this, I wondered if hearts, including the boy’s father, began to sink as this rising sense of hope and expectation suddenly paved way to disappointment. The spirit has gone, but the boy has died. This was not what was meant to happen.
In response, Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet. This boy was not dead. He was more alive than he had been in years.
How much does this story resonate with our lives as people who are seeking to know and follow Jesus? We seek God and we begin to see something special happening. Hope rises, faith increases, joy abounds. But suddenly, something happens and the dream or vision or hope seems dead. Has Jesus let me down? Nothing seems to be happening. ‘I thought you were helping me?’, we ask.
The thing is, we just need to wait a little longer, for Jesus stands ready to reach out His hand and lift us to our feet. And as we rise, we will see that we are more alive that we ever were, because something is happening. Something very special.
Although in life all hope and expectation can at times seem dead, this story reminds me that Jesus is never absent. He may feel absent, but in fact He remains very near, tenderly refining every corner of my life so that it greater reflects Him.
And when that happens, something truly special is happening, for I am becoming more alive in Him.
‘Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, The Message).