If You Can Believe
Text: Mark 9: 14 – 29
Proposition: To believe in God the Father is not just to believe in what He can do for you, it’s much more a belief in Who He is and His kingdom come.
Introduction: Todays sermon is called, ‘If You Can Believe’ and it is somewhat of a dangerous title. To some it might invite the thought that if we just believe in anything hard enough then we will get it, that we deserve it because we believe. That thought presumes that we know what is really best for us. ‘If you can believe’ is a statement Jesus once made to man surrounded by the darkness of a hopeless situation. We’re going to look at his story in just a moment but first let me begin this morning with a quote by Timothy Keller, from his book ‘The Reason For God’. “We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what He is going to do with that power. Jesus' miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.” Have a look at Mark 9:14-29.
I. The Presenting Problem, Persistent Chaos. Jesus has just been with Peter, James and John on a nearby mountain where the radiant glory of Who He is was revealed. Peter and the two others had just seen with their own eyes Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. They had heard with their own ears the voice of God the Father speaking directly to them, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.’ (Matt. 17:5) Then Jesus had cautioned them to tell no one about these things until after He had been risen from the dead, a phrase that rocked their understanding and their expectations. The world to come had just flashed before their eyes and now they were back in the dust and chaos of today. They descend down the mountain and as they approach they can see a crowd of people and the scribes are there disputing with the disciples. The moment the crowd sees Jesus they run towards Him eager to hear, eager to see His power. Jesus knows what chaos looks like, He sees it curling upwards like smoke in the dispute that had just been happening. He asks the scribes what the dispute had been about but they don’t answer fast enough. A father in the crowd shouts out the answer, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.” The father explains how his son is brutalized by this mute spirit that renders the boy deaf and mute and assaults him with destructive seizures. The issue, the cause of the dispute between the scribes and the disciples is likely that neither group could cast out this demon. That’s the presenting problem, a demonized boy none seem able to help, a persistent chaos that ruins life despite the best efforts of the scribes or the good intentions of the disciples. Jesus asks the father of the boy how long this has been happening. “And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’” Persistent chaos beats people down, it seems relentless and ruthless and it leaves people staring into the face of God saying, ‘If you can do anything have compassion on us…”. That is the world this man lived in and it is still the same world today. Persistent chaos comes from the fallen state of mankind into sin. It makes us vulnerable to Satan’s devices, it establishes itself more and more in the system of this worlds rebellion against God. That’s the presenting problem, the persistent chaos of a world where we have sought to replace God with ourselves. So have a look at what Jesus sees when He looks at this feigned omnipotence of the persistent chaos of sin.
II. The Right Response, If You Can Believe, All Things Are Possible…
This is an invitation to see the world that Jesus sees, the world He came to redeem, the world that is promised in the phrase, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. The ‘All things are possible’ is not a promise of escape from suffering or a promise of wealth and prosperity because of your belief in deserving it. Instead, it is a belief in and absolute surrender to the person of God the Father. Look at the response of the boy’s father as he hears these words of invitation from Jesus, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Whenever we put the caveat on God, ‘If you can do anything, help me’, He hears that cry but sees the unbelief at the same time. So He puts the same caveat on us, ‘If you can believe…’. Can God do anything, Yes He can. Can you believe, Yes you can. The amazing thing about an alive faith in Christ is that for the first time you can see your own unbelief lurking in the shadows of your heart. You could never have seen that before, when you weren’t a Christian, when you didn’t believe, but now you can. Unbelief is fueled by fear, by doubt, by anger, by lust, by unconfessed sins of all kind that run into the persistent chaos of this world. In fact some have even said that unbelief is the root of all sin (Piper) which would infer that since all have sinned, all struggle with unbelief of some form. We overcome the persistent chaos of a fallen world when we see past it to what Jesus intends for us. It is as Keller noted, “…Jesus' miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.” You have overcome the world through your belief in Him and in the way you recognize your own unbelief, appealing to Him to not only expose it to you but then to enable you to move past it. All things are possible to him who believes because it no longer focuses on the barriers in life but on the grace and love of a sovereign God who does have compassion on us and is most willing to help us. Trust more in Him than in what you want from Him. All things are possible as He chooses what is best for you.
III. The Evidence and Efficacy of Christ’s Belief.
Immediately after this Jesus heals the boy and restores him to his father and explains to the disciples that the faith to cast out this particular type of demon requires strengthening by prayer and fasting. Much can be said of that, yet what I want to direct your attention to is what Jesus said next. “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” Hidden in these lines is the action of redemption, it’s why Jesus would be killed. Hidden in these lines is propitiation, the paying of the cost of the sin of mankind by Jesus. The imputing of our sin onto Him would become the door of salvation for you and I and Jesus saw that moving towards him like a tornado.
So I would submit to you that for Jesus the call to believe was a far, far greater challenge than it is for you and I. Did Jesus ever doubt that the Father loved Him? Not at all. Was the essential unity of the Trinity ever changed or broken because of sin being placed upon the Son, not at all. Yet what is also true is that Jesus belief in the Father and in the Father’s promises would cost Him everything. Jonathan Edwards, an 18th century preacher, preached a sermon entitled, ‘Christ’s Agony’ in which he states, “To the first Adam God said—obey me and I will be with you. But he didn’t. To the second Adam he said—obey me and I will forsake you and cut you off. Yet Jesus still obeyed.”
Jesus believed in what the Father intended and all things were made possible. Jesus knew the toxicity of sin and the wrath of the holiness of God against sin. That sin was about to be put on Him and He knew it’s presence would take Him to death and then, greater than death, to the confines of hell. Listen to how Calvin expresses this, “Not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that He paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in His soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man. Surely no more terrible abyss can be conceived than to feel yourself forsaken and estranged from God; and when you call upon him, not to be heard.”
And in this place of utter loss the Son of God still obeyed the Father, still believed in the purposes of Him being there. This is the great miracle of redemption that the Son believed the Father even to the depths of hell and by His act of taking our place we are redeemed. Jesus paid the price in all ways for us. It is as Keller said, “…not just a challenge to our minds but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.” (Keller) If you can believe, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. All things are possible to him who believes.