If Jesus Can?


Jesus casts a demon out of a boy

"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"

"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
—Mark 9:19-23 NIV

If you've been following along with the McCheyne Bible reading program, you will have encountered this passage in the last few days. The NIV translates that last verse differently than most other versions, but I like the way it reads in that translation. It drives the point home.

"'If you can'?" said Jesus.

When I picture this encounter, I can see Jesus taken aback. He looks at the father of this demonized child with an unverbalized question spanning His face, Did he just say what I thought he said? It's not hard to envision Jesus shaking his head in response. O unbelieving generation….

Nothing has troubled me more in the last few years than the truth that we American Christians sound too much like the boy's father in this passage from Mark. "If" crops up repeatedly in our prayers. It's a carefully placed word—a qualifier that serves as our out when things don't go as planned. A convenient way of not being disappointed with God when the answer to our prayers is not what we'd hoped.

But who is the disappointing one here? The Lord or us? Is His response "A few things are possible for him who believes" or is it a more forceful answer?

Why then do we believe for so little? Why do we let our eyes tell us what is real rather than letting Christ reign?

In my post about the miraculous stories surrounding the revival occurring in India, a commenter said that she longed for them to be true. That broke my heart. I think it should break the heart of every person in America who claims to be a Christian. What's so damning about the truth behind that statement is that it doesn't have to be that way. We don't have to settle for crumbs from the Master's table. Adding the qualifier "if" is the primary reason we are where we are.

The father of the boy answers Jesus one verse later:

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
—Mark 9:24

Immediately. Did we catch that? The father knew he'd underestimated Jesus and immediately saved face. His petition is instructional.

How much do we believe for great things from God? Shouldn't our daily prayer be that Christ in His fullness overcome our unbelief? Or are we content with Jesus looking into our eyes and wondering how we can believe for so little?

If Jesus can? Of course, He can!

12 thoughts on “If Jesus Can?

  1. Anonymous

    I guess there always is the challenge of knowing that you’re praying within God’s will. But at the same level – that becomes a cop-out.
    Can Jesus give me a ferari for my birthday?
    If Jesus can? Of course, He can!
    It doesn’t mean he will though..

  2. Ray

    Dan — I am reading M’Cheyne’s plan as well, and just last night as I reviewed my reading this very verse jumped out at me…

    And for the same reason — Thanks for the post!

  3. Steve S

    With regard to the anonymous comment above, I think Jesus’ answer to the man shows us that in the area of physical healing, it wasn’t a question of whether or not God was willing. No one ever came to Jesus for healing and was told that it wasn’t God’s will.

    Jesus did not correct the man and say, “‘If you can?’ You should be asking if it’s God’s will.”

    I’m with you, Dan, on the simplicity of reading this stuff and how easily we complicate it with our additions!

    Great post!
    steve 🙂

  4. The Christian Woman

    Oh dear, I didn�t know that my comments on the revival in India would place me in your next post. I hope you don�t think that I don�t believe that such miracles could happen, it�s just thus far in my Christian walk I have not personally witnessed them. Is that my fault? Should I be out there trying to heal the blind or paralyzed? Could I raise the dead?

    I actually discussed this with my husband last night and wasn�t sure if these kind of miracles happen out in the isolated villages of India because those people need to witness such things to believe the gospel (as occurred in Acts to confirm the message of the Apostles who had no bible at the time) but not here in the US because we have easy access to information from which we can believe. Or is it that our faith here in the US is too weak? Or is it just me? Is everyone else here directly witnessing these kind of miracles?

    I guess I�m wondering Dan if you are saying that my own faith is weak (based upon two short comments, and making me one of the �claims to be Christian�) or that I�m a typical American Christian who isn�t hanging with the right crowd?


  5. Travis


    I understand what you mean… but I don’t buy the “we don’t need confirming miracles anymore” argument. Each new generation is confronted with the Gospel afresh; I cannot piggyback on my grandfather’s firsthand experience anymore than I can Moses’.

    Dan, thank you!

  6. Carrie,

    Please don’t think I was saying anything specifically about you and your faith!

    Here’s exactly how I meant my comment:

    I was saddened because so many people (you included) are dying to see the kind of moves of God that seem to be everywhere else but here. That shouldn’t be the case that this longing goes unfulfilled—unless God is gathering up a whole group of Christians here whose longing will be the very reason that they get down on their knees and start weeping for this kind of massive move of the Spirit to sweep through our nation.

    Have I seen miraculous, can’t-be-explained-by-science kinds of moves of God? Yes, a few times. But I, too, want to see real, lasting revival come, the kind where there’s not enough room in every church in town because people have to be there or else. It makes me sad, too, that we settle for less here in America. I think our unbelief is part of the problem. I’m all for people who expect more than the status quo.

  7. Richard

    Revival does not happen overnight. Revival happens when people pray, surrender everything to God, and continually obey Him. How long does it take before God sends revival? I can only tell you that at my church, a group of us met once a week every week to pray. We’ve been doing this for two years. We are now seeing the Holy Spirit move in ways that I did not think were possible. So for us the formula was 1) A group of committed Christians get together to pray at least once a week every week. 2) Each individual must come to the place where they have surrendered, are surrendering, and will continue to surrender to God. 3) Patience.

  8. The Christian Woman

    Thanks for the explanation, Dan. That is what I was hoping you meant, but wasn’t sure.

    Thanks to Richard for the advice on praying for a revival.

    It all gives me alot to think about.


  9. Gina


    You are so right. I think this is a huge issue. It is a viscious cycle. We believe little and therefore we experience little and because we have experienced little, we continue to believe little.

  10. Jennifer

    Wow, so much to mull over here. I pray using “if” as a qualifier all the time. Not in the “if you can” kind of way, but the “if it’s your will” kind of way. Is that wrong?

  11. rev-ed

    I think any claim of fantastic miracles should be met with some kind of skeptcism. Let’s face it, I’ve heard more false reports of healing, dead being raised, etc. than I could ever hope to shake a stick at. I’m more than happy to give credit to God, but I’m not going to give him credit for things which are the inventions of evil minds. Pardon me if I have a little of the Show-Me state in me. My doubts are not in Christ, but in the false prophets and healers.

    As to Steve’s comments… are you then saying that God will heal in every circumstance?

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