The presence of Jesus does not resolve all questions, but it allows
the honest admissions of fear and doubt.
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (v.24)
In Christian circles, it is often heard that “Jesus is the answer,” or that “all doubts are erased in the presence of Jesus.” Now these may be partially true in some circumstances. But what the story of the father whose the son suffered from torment of an unclean spirit shows, coming closer to Jesus and being in his presence doesn’t always bring answers and doubts don’t magically disappear.
In fact the opposite seems almost the case in this story. At the beginning, the father likely had confidence that Jesus and his disciples could solve his problem. But the disciples failed and Jesus wasn’t anywhere near. By the time Jesus arrives on the scene, the whole situation had turned into a fiasco with the disciples and the scribes arguing. The father is no longer certain that even Jesus could do anything about his son.
The son is brought to Jesus. Where is the father…? The text doesn’t say. I imagine that the father is close to his son. Violent convulsions hit the son. The father is desperate. He is in the presence of Jesus. He admits to his fears and expresses his honest doubt about, yes, Jesus. Jesus offers words of assurance. A glimmer of faith is restored – just enough for the father to grab and hold, and offer a prayer mixed with hope and fear.
One of the messages of this story is that as we draw closer to Jesus, it’s okay if our questions and uncertainties don’t magically disappear. Maybe it is in the very presence of Jesus where it is safest to express our fears and doubts, about Jesus himself, even.