“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:14).
When we read the Bible today, we have the decided advantage of hindsight, or as Paul Harvey said, we know “the rest of the story.” We have the record of God’s activity and know the outcome. Don’t you just wish you could tell the disciples, in the hours between His death and resurrection, that hope is not lost and Jesus will rise from the dead? Or wouldn’t you like to yell to Eve – “Don’t touch that fruit!” I have always wanted to tell Sarah and Abraham, “Please be patient with God in this, you will have a child.” Oh, what peace this world would have if only we could warn them of the future consequences of their actions. This thought really struck home with me while I was reading the story in Mark 9:17-27 of the father who took his son to Jesus for a miracle. I invite you to take a moment and read the account to get the scope of the story.
Now I want you to put yourself in this father’s shoes – or sandals – and look at the scene again through his eyes. He is a loving, but very worried father. His son is under the control of spirit that is causing the boy to harm himself, throwing him into fire or water to kill him and causing him to convulse and foam at the mouth. (Many scholars believe the child had epilepsy.) Now I’m a mom, and simple fevers, cuts and scrapes don’t phase me, but this – this would be terribly frightening and disconcerting. No doubt they have carried their child to countless doctors and religious healers, and probably spent all their money hoping for a cure.
Think about this from the father’s perspective – in real time – as he stands before Jesus with pleading eyes, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). The father doesn’t have our vantage point to know how this will end, he has no guarantee of healing to hang his hope on. All he has are scraps of others people’s stories of their encounters with Jesus– and a plea that the rabbi will do the same for his boy.
Stay in the moment as we see Jesus turn to the child and speak with authority, “I command you to come out of him and never enter him again” (v. 25). Watch through this father’s heart as “the spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out” (v. 26)” But wait, what did Jesus do? The boy looks dead – like a corpse! The father brought his boy to Jesus and Jesus made everything worse.
Now, freeze this scene right here and consider with me, how many times you and I have been in the same place. You brought your problem to Jesus in hopes that He would help you. You pray and plead with Him. You’ve heard of others’ testimonies of the wonderful things He’d done for them, and you hope He will do the same for you. And what happened next? It all got worse instead of better. And so the questions start: “Did I pray wrong?” “Did God not hear me?” “Does He have something against me?” “Why does He do good things for others, but not for me?” Now, in addition to our problem we have all this anxiety and we’re wondering, “what just happened and what do I do now?”
You see, just as the father lived out his story in real-time, you and I are also living out our story without the advantage of a written script that tells us how it all ends. All we know is, right now, in this moment, it all seems hopeless. Jesus has let us down.
“But Jesus . . .” these are the most precious words in the Bible to me. When all seemed more hopeless than before, Mark said, “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet” v. 27). Wonder of wonders, the boy is not dead – he is alive – and healed! He runs into his father’s arms with a smile of triumph. The stunned father bends his head to kiss his child, and then looks at Jesus in amazement. “My child . . . my child is alive?” “My son is healed?” “Surely,” he muses to himself, “this is no ordinary rabbi!”
My friend, may I remind you not to give up on Jesus before the miracle is complete. That moment when all seems lost, just as it was for this father, may be the moment before all is found again. I have some dear friends whose grandmother wrote a song that said “Don’t give up on the brink of a miracle . . .” I think that is wonderful advice. Bring your problem to Jesus, give Him room to work, and don’t give up until He pronounces the miracle fulfilled.
Mighty, merciful, awesome Father – how often we give up before You are finished working in our situation. Please remind us that miracles always end with glory, so if we haven’t seen the glory of God displayed, we must wait and trust that it all still rests in Your hands. Amen.