He answered [the father of the demon-possessed boy] and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
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.”
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:19–29)
Belief can grow from unbelief. The boy’s father, the disciples, the people witnessing his convulsions all had a problem: they suffered from unbelief. Jesus saw the problem for what it was and marveled at it. Had they forgotten who their God was? Was their rescue from Egypt and the words of their prophets that far in the past?
Demon possession appears only in the Gospels and Acts. No stories of demons inhabiting people appear in the Old Testament or elsewhere in the New. The symptoms of demon possession vary widely, ranging from intensified strength, to deafness, to fortune telling. Here, the demon has taken the child’s speech and seems intent on causing him physical harm.
Facing his child’s suffering, the father of the boy was desperate enough to admit to Jesus what Jesus already knew: that he didn’t believe. And rather than continuing to pretend, the father finally asked Jesus for help. He believed that Jesus could help him believe. Even Jesus’ disciples lacked faith. But unlike the disciples, the father asked Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief—thereby acknowledging that he believed Jesus could cure even a lack of faith. Perhaps granting the father faith was the greatest miracle that occurred in this story.
Certainly Jesus healed the boy and removed the demon plaguing him. But more importantly, God restored faith to a father who had lost it but wanted it back desperately.