It Is What He Speaks

September 12, 2021
By Rev. David French

If you don’t believe or trust in something, does that mean that something is powerless? That is, what role, if any, does my faith have in validating what I believe? For example, If I don’t believe that gasoline is flammable, does it mean that gasoline isn’t flammable? Does gas require my belief to give it its flammability? Of course not, gas will burn whether I believe in it or not!

It is with that idea in mind that we consider our Gospel lesson for this morning. “I believe; help my unbelief!” First let’s consider the timeline of this prayerful confession in verse 24 by this desperate father that leads to the actual healing of his possessed son in verses 25-27.

Many assume this father is simply asking for “more faith” so that Jesus can perform this miracle. They look at this miracle of life like a recipe to be followed. We have all the ingredients: the possessed boy, Jesus, His Word, and the dad’s faith. But … it’s not coming out right. At first the blame is put on the disciples. The problem must be with them, but Jesus doesn’t see it that way. In fact, Jesus openly confronts the father and really the rest of the crowd by calling them faithless.

That leads to the question, “What role did the man’s faith play in the healing of his son?” Did the man’s faith add to the miraculous healing process? It’s a fair question. If we come at this from a “logical perspective,” the answer appears to be “yes.” After all, the man asked for help. When confronted with his unbelief, he confesses his faith and asks Christ to overcome his unbelief, and then the boy is miraculously healed. It only stands to reason that the father’s prayer was answered. His prayer about his lack of faith was answered with “more faith,” giving the “miraculous healing recipe” that last little “boost” it needed to make the miracle happen.

But, that’s coming at it from a human perspective using sinful human logic. What does God’s Word say about such wisdom? My friends, it is only the arrogance of our sin that leads us to believe God needs our help. God, however, is very clear from Genesis to Revelation that He is, in and of Himself, completely in charge. He’s the master potter and we are the lifeless lump of clay He breathes life into. Our almighty God does not need any help from us to accomplish His will.

The truth is, it’s that sinful foolish arrogance that frustrates Jesus when the dad literally said to Him, “If you truly have the power to make this happen ….” But isn’t he just asking Jesus for help? No, he’s not. The Greek makes that very clear. That little word “if” is a huge indicator of his faithlessness. If you think about it, this is all but the same language Satan used when he tempted Jesus after forty days in the wilderness. “If you are the Son of God, make rocks into bread ….” It’s the same language Satan spoke through the people at the foot of Christ’s cross on Good Friday. “If you truly are the Son of God, save yourself and come down off your cross.”

It’s this conditional faith, which is no faith at all, which brings about Jesus’s rebuke, “If I can.” It’s as though He’s saying, “If you had faith, you would already know that I most certainly can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Think about that for a moment. As Christians, we do confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord of all, that He can do anything, and that He will always provide us our daily bread. But, do we do we really believe that? Don’t be too quick to answer. Remember, you can fool yourself, but you can’t fool God, which brings us back to the opening question: “What role, if any, does our faith have in validating what we believe?” Does our faith put Christ, His forgiveness, and eternal life in the bread and wine of His Supper? No! It is Christ’s body and blood because Christ put Himself there. That’s why Paul is so clear in His letter to the Corinthians saying those who do not discern the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine are eating drinking judgment upon themselves. Christ says He’s there, and yet many say that no, He isn’t, making Him out to be a liar!

Does a parent’s faith put Christ in the water of baptism? Does it add to the recipe of salvation, giving this simple water combined with God’s Word and promise that extra little “something” it needs before it can be called a “real” baptism? Again, you know the answer. Baptism is a precious and holy gift, able, all by itself, to bring pardon and peace because it has been connected to God’s Word. It is what He speaks.

Now, does faith have a role in our salvation? Absolutely, but it doesn’t make our salvation. It’s not an ingredient in the recipe. Faith is the confidence that God’s recipe is complete. There is nothing to add. In fact, adding to God’s recipe only takes away from the blessing it promises. 

Picture true saving faith like a life-jacket. My holding on to a life-jacket doesn’t enable that jacket to keep me afloat. It floats with or without me holding on all by itself. My faith or my holding on doesn’t give the life-jacket that little “something extra” it needs to become a life-saving device. I simply hug that life-jacket with the strength God gives, knowing it can and will save me. The faith worked in us by God the Holy Spirit is no different. It simply hugs Christ alone. It holds tight to His Word and Sacraments and the promise of forgiveness they speak because saving faith holds to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone, and that is, as you can read in the ribbon mural above my head, by grace through faith alone.

My friends, when it comes to your salvation, your pardon, your peace that surpasses all human understanding, Christ, and Christ alone, has already done all that needs to be done. Salvation is not a recipe that requires your ingredient in order for it be all it can be. Jesus took, past tense, took each and every one of your sins upon Himself in the waters of His Baptism and paid for them with His crucifixion. As He hung on the cross, He suffered our well-deserved punishment; and with His blood, He paid in full the debt owed to God the Father for each and every sin found in the heart of each and every person who ever was or ever will be born into this world. He had to.

The penalty for sin is so great that it can only be taken away with the death of God Himself. Jesus, true God and true man, paid that debt in full, removing our cloak of death and replacing it with His robe of righteousness, which is the gift of complete forgiveness, and with that, a place in heaven, offered to each of us by name as the waters of your baptism were poured on your head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is not because of any great work of righteousness accomplished by humanity, but simply as a gift given for one reason, our God’s unconditional love for you, His precious child.

In His name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 9:14-29
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