The man held tightly as his son thrashed about. Tears poured from his eyes as he struggled against the violence. Pain shot up his arm as teeth locked on. Involuntarily, he let go, then watched as his precious child rolled into a table, knocking the legs out from it, and collapsing it on top of himself. Suddenly, everything was quiet except for a plate slowly completing its spin.
The father lunged for his son, lifting the table up and throwing it back. There was blood coming from the boy’s head and mouth, but he was breathing – at least he was breathing. Carefully, he lifted his son from the floor and carried him into the next room where he laid him on his bed. He’d deal with the blood later. For now, it was just best that the boy sleep. In sleep there was peace.
It had been four years since the first attack. Typically, the seizures paralyzed him so that he became stiff, stretched out, as if every muscle in his body was straining to get longer. Sometimes, they were of the more violent type, like what happened today. Over time, the attacks had taken their toll. The boy’s little body was always bruised and the scars had begun to multiply. The worst was his left arm that bore the bright red burn damage from when he had rolled into a cooking fire.
“Why my son?” he whispered angrily toward his boy. “Why did you choose him? Take me. Take anyone else. Please, just leave my child alone.”
There was no response. There never was. He hadn’t heard a word from his boy or whatever was inside him since the day of the first incident. Kneeling next to the bed, he prayed until he slept.
He awoke the next morning stiff and sore. Looking up he saw his son sitting up on the bed looking down at him. Deep down in the emptiness of the boy’s stare, he could see a flutter of life and a wisp of desperation.
The man’s brother came bursting through the door. “Jesus is here! We’ve got to go – now!” The man had heard of Jesus, heard that He was a wise teacher, heard that He sometimes healed people. Without saying a word, he grasped his son’s hand and ran out the door. For the first time in two years, he felt hope.
But he was too late. By the time he reached the crowd, word was spreading that Jesus had already left with three of His followers. The desperation that he had seen in his son’s eyes seemed now to fly into his chest. The emotions churned and welled up until they burst out of his mouth.
The crowd turned his way, shocked at the vehemence of his exclamation.
“No,” he called out again. “Where did He go? I need to find him.” Holding tightly to his son’s hand, he pushed through the crowd – his brother trailing behind him. “Tell me where he went.”
After shouldering and elbowing his way through the first few layers of people, the crowd began to part for him. Soon, he was standing in front of a group of men who seemed to be in an argument with some Pharisees. Those are Jesus’ men, he thought.
“Where did He go?” the father asked, grabbing hard the arm of the man nearest him.
The argument stopped. All eyes turned.
The man whose arm he held said, “He’s gone. We’re not sure when He’ll be back.”
“I know He’s gone. I asked where He went.”
“What is it that you need?”
“I need the Teacher,” the man replied, feeling his anger beginning to get out of control. Then, he felt his brother’s hand on his shoulder, and his anger because despair. He looked around at all the accusing eyes on him. He looked down at his son who was staring at the ground. Releasing the man’s arm, he whispered, “I’m sorry.”
In his other hand, he felt his son’s grip tighten, then his arm began to shake. He had time to utter the words, “Lord, please…” before his son screamed, pulled free, and dropped to the ground. The wound on his head from the night before opened up and blood began to flow freely.
The father looked at the nearest Jesus’ man and yelled, “Do something!”
The Jesus’ man looked at his partners for support. They looked back with the same clueless look.
“In the name of Jesus, I command you to come out,” one of them said, stepping forward. Soon the others joined in. “In the name of Jesus, I command you to come out. In the name of Jesus, I command you to come out.”
Meanwhile, his son had gone rigid and was foaming at the mouth. The man dropped and held him close. As the ineffective litany continued, the crowd began jeering Jesus’ men. The Pharisees called curses from heaven down upon them. As the volume rose, the man turned his face toward his son and whispered over and over, “I love you. It’s going to be okay.”
The noise stopped. The father looked up and saw another man at the edge of the crowd watching him. Waving his brother over, the father passed him his son. Then he walked to this man whom he had no doubt was Jesus.
“What’s all the arguing about?” Jesus asked.
“Teacher, I brought you my son. He has a spirit that has taken his speech and does that to him,” he said, pointing back at his boy. “I asked your disciples for help, but they weren’t able to do anything.”
Looking at his disciples, then at the crowd, Jesus said, “You unbelieving generation. How long do I have to put up with you?” Then turning back to the father, He said, “Bring your boy here.”
Hope. It’s so powerful, yet so fragile and so devastating when it’s taken from you. The man allowed himself a spark of it, but only a spark.
The brother carried the boy over, but as soon as he got close the boy went into a wild rage. His arm struck the brother knocking him backward, and the boy dropped to the ground. Jesus knelt next to him.
“How long has he been like this?” He asked, watching as the boy convulsed.
“For a couple years now,” came the man’s strained reply. Then, mustering what little hope he had, he asked, “If you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us.”
Jesus looked up at the man with a bemused look on his face. “If you can? If? Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Falling to his knees, the man exclaimed, “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief.”
Jesus smiled, then turned to the boy. “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.”
There was an unholy shriek that sounded from inside the boy as he violently shook. Then all became still.
He’s dead, the man thought as he saw his boy’s seemingly lifeless body.
But then Jesus took him by the hand. The boy’s eyes opened. Jesus lifted him up to his feet, then pointed toward the man.
“Papa!” the boy cried, then ran into his father’s arms.
There is no “if” in faith. Lord I believe that’s true – please help my unbelief.