“And He answered them and said, "Oh unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" (Mark 9:19)
One time in each of the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus posed the question, “How long shall I put up with you?” It would seem that the source of all longsuffering, that is Jesus, had his eye upon the end of His tolerance. Whatever it was that brought Jesus to ask such a question must have been a very great evil! What could make the Son of God, who willingly paid the price for men’s sins, want to end His time on earth?
Clearly, it must be a great sin that brought Jesus to an end of His enduring patience. When we think of great sins we usually think of Adolf Hitler who hurled the world into a world war. Perhaps, it is the heinous sin of rape, which is a violent crime against a woman. Possibly, a sin of mass proportions could cause Christ to endure no more; maybe a sin that hurts multitudes of people by steeling their fortunes and savings. In fact, the sin that brought Jesus to the end of His endurance was the sin of unbelief. The first question that Jesus asked in (Mark 9:19) was, “Oh unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you?
God had to endure man’s fall into unbelief since the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden; but then God darned the human form, entered a body prepared for Him, and shared life on earth as a man. As a man Jesus walked with men. He abhorred sin as the son of God, and triumphed over every temptation placed before Him as the God/man. It is impossible, however, for us to imagine the patience that Christ possessed as a man. As the infinite God His patience has limits as eventually it must give way to His justice; even in salvation His justice is satisfied in Christ’ sacrificial offering. But as a man He exercised incredible restraint as He beheld daily an assault upon God’s character through the unbelief of men.
The sin of unbelief can be executed in various ways. Just prior to this incident, for instance, Peter when on the Mount asked the Lord, “Let us build three tabernacles, one for you (Jesus), one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” The Father interceded from the cloud and said to Peter, “This is my beloved Son, Hear Him.” Peter beheld miracles daily of every kind, the likes of which the world had never seen; Jesus fulfilled scores of Old Testament prophecies right before Peter’s eyes, and yet Peter lumped Jesus in with two mere men. A failure to recognize the infinite difference between the Son of God and a sinful creature is the result of unbelief. Then the scribes argued with the disciples of Jesus about a demon possessed boy, no doubt they were happy that the disciples could not cast out the demon. The jealousy the scribes exhibited toward Jesus and their callousness toward a suffering child was the result of unbelief. The boy’s father desired that his son should be rescued from the demon that terrorized him, so he pleaded with Jesus for help. He came up short, however and said, “…If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus replied, “If you can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.” Unbelief caused this father to doubt Christ’ ability to heal his son.
In a primitive culture of 2,000 years ago people had no problem discerning that a boy was possessed by a demon, and he was because Jesus’ cure was to cast out the demon and order it to never return. But in this enlightened age of ours the very last thing anyone considers as a problem would be demon possession. Much has been written in times past, that is up until about 200 years ago, on the subject of spiritual warfare, but in our age it is almost non-existent. We are told that Jesus dealt with the problem and it is not a problem anymore. Such a view about demonic activity is the direct result of unbelief. The New Testament is replete with references to demon activity, today however, every reference of Satan is interpreted as if it were a synonym for sin. When God uses the word Satan in the scriptures, He means Satan and not sin.
Unbelief can be exercised in many ways, and as sinners even the redeemed can be unbelieving at times. It takes the Spirit of the living God to move a man forward in saving faith. Paul summarized it well when in (Romans 1) he quoted an Old Testament verse, “The just live by faith.” Or put another way, “By faith the just shall live.” The key to the abundant life is saving faith, which takes Jesus at His word, and trusts God for everything in life. Anything else is an offense to God.
The way that Jesus dealt with unbelief was to put it to death; this He did when He died upon a Roman cross. There in His own body He put sin to death, even the patience killing sin of unbelief. The way we overcome the sin of unbelief initially is to receive the promise of eternal life in Christ and be saved by Him and not ourselves. The way the redeemed overcome the sin of unbelief on a daily basis is to go on seeing ourselves as the sinners we naturally are and continue to rest in Jesus’ promises to endure with us until we go to be with Him or He returns at the end of the age. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him for the death of unbelief and the new life of faith in Jesus Christ.