I had just bought my favourite Teochew-style fish carpaccio and mince pork congee from Maxwell Food Centre and was driving home when Jesus spoke.
Who is the ‘you’ in the passage ‘If you can, all things are possible to him who believes’?
What kind of question was this, I wondered. “You, Lord?” I answered. “Correct”, Jesus replied.
And the ‘him’ in ‘to him who believes’?
“You again, Lord?” I replied, and I felt him smile.
All this while I had the impression that my belief was crucial for God’s work to happen, but Jesus turned this right on its head.
I was excited for, if what I was hearing was true, this would count as another encounter with Jesus, a new revelation. However, I feared these thoughts could also be mere figments of my imagination.
I raced to check the Bible when I got home. I had read Mark 9:23 and heard it preached many times. I always understood ‘you’ and ‘him’ to refer to Man. Consequently, ‘you’ and ‘him’ also referred to me: all things are possible to me so long as I believe.
But was this really what Jesus meant?
On the contrary, no. Instead, Mark 9:23 in The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation by Rev. Dr. Alfred Marshall) showed Jesus referring to himself.
The ‘to him who believes’ in Greek, literally means “to the (one) believing or the believing (one)”. Also, the Greek word for ‘believing’ is singular. Reading this confirmed the reality of the message I received earlier that morning, and I sensed the warmth and joy of Jesus' smile again.
I then felt led by the Holy Spirit to meditate on the discourse between Jesus and the father in Mark 9:23.
Initially, the father wasn't certain if Jesus could do anything for the situation he and his son were in. He was desperate to find a solution to save his son from being hurt, abused and destroyed by the spirit that possessed him.
"But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" the father pleaded with Jesus, and how often it is we feel the same!
Sometimes, the trials of life seem so impossibly difficult for us that when we cry out to God, we don't even know if we can believe He will answer our prayer.
But Jesus is always faithful, and any plea to him for compassion always evokes a loving response. In this situation, Jesus decided to bring healing not just in a physical way but also in the spirit.
Before healing the boy, he spoke to first heal the tension of belief and unbelief that was within the father. "If you can?" Jesus replied, "All things are possible to the believing one." Even if you can't see the end, even if you don't believe anything can be done, he believes and he can help you.
The father’s response and plea, “I believe, help my unbelief” can now be appreciated as an honest cry of admission of who he was and where he was in his belief of and in Jesus, in particular, as to whether all things are possible for Jesus. I would paraphrase the cry as; “I believe in you Jesus, that all things are possible to you, the One Who believes. However, there is much within me that does not believe in you. So, Jesus, you help my unbelief of and in you. Have compassion on us, help us.”
As I meditated, I found myself crying out to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief”.
In the moments following, I felt a load lifting from my soul. I no longer felt ashamed or awkward of the mixed emotions of belief and unbelief within me. The tension of belief and unbelief within me no longer inflicted me with a sense of guilt, failure or inadequacy. I sensed rightness.
Emerging from this, the words ‘I believe, help my unbelief’ took on a new freshness and significance for me.
They allow me to honestly express who I am and where I am in my relationship with God without fear or condemnation.
They become an open invitation to Father, Holy Spirit and Jesus to come into my life, to enable me to believe into Jesus.
They make me more conscious and aware of Jesus’ life and belief resonating with and into my life. As such, my relationship with him becomes that much more real, relevant, easy, light and not burdensome.
And the same invitation is open to you. I believe you will be surprised at what Jesus desires to do and will do for you, with you and as you, as you invite Jesus into your life with your cry, ‘I believe in you Jesus, you help my unbelief’.
In Jesus’ Name, for Jesus’ sake, come, Holy Spirit, come.