What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Mark 9, verses 16-19.
This one is tough for me to understand. On first read (even after dozens of readings, in fact), it’s hard for me to shake the idea that Jesus is just being harsh. He’s being harsh with the stranger from the crowd, and He’s being harsh with His disciples. In reality, Jesus is telling it like it is. Read more about Him and you find He always does that. My struggle with the verses comes from the lenses through which I view them.
Some context please. Jesus walks up and a crowd rushes him. In the crowd, the teachers – the folks who are supposed to be translating God’s love for God’s chosen people – are arguing with Jesus’ disciples, presumably because they, the disciples, are a veiled threat to the power structure of the ‘church.’ Up walks a man who wanted a miracle from the disciples, and he needed one. His son was demon-possessed, but the disciples could do nothing about it. They tried all the tricks Jesus had taught them about driving out demons but nothing happens.
Jesus response? “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you?” You can almost hear the impatient exasperation in Jesus’ voice. You can picture Him being weary, as if He’s saying to Himself, “they just don’t get it, do they?” He sees His disciples, those men in whom He’s invested so much time and trust, and they’re registering a big zero on the healing front. He sees His trusted teachers, trying to score points off those Disciples, trying to find a way to hold onto their power, get rid of Jesus, and not incite a revolution all at the same time. He sees His cherished people, the apple of His eye, who are needy and always wanting more, more, more; wanting more of the miracles but missing the miraculous love of God behind them.
Our response to Jesus? “Man, he’s pretty harsh.” Now, I’m not out to start some ‘feel sorry for Jesus’ movement, but drop back ten and consider how He must have felt. As fully man, He’s worn out, honestly asking Himself and those around Him “how long will I put up with you if you refuse to believe in My heart.” As fully God, He’s exercising mercy and patience yet again. As both, He’s providing a lesson for us in how to do all those things. It’s ok to feel worn out, to express when we’re at wit’s end, when we don’t know what else to do. Yet, when we recognize those feelings coming on, it’s even more ok to breathe in and out, and ask how Jesus would want us to act. I’m betting that mercy and patience are what He would usually counsel.
Lord, forgive me for misunderstanding You and Your meanings. Grow my understanding of You and help me to temper my responses.
Read Mark 9, verses 14-29.