“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. (Mark 9:16)
Whenever I read the story in Mark 9:14-29 I am reminded of the Israelites at Sinai. Moses went up Sinai to be with God, and left on her own, Israel turned quickly to idolatry. Here, Jesus leaves nine apostles on their own while he ascends the Mount of Transfiguration. The next thing he knows, they’ve gotten themselves into an argument.
A man with a desperately ill adult son has brought his boy to Jesus for healing – but Jesus isn’t there. So the father settles on the nine disciples. Here, the details of the story become sketchy. What becomes prominent however is NOT the inability of the disciples to heal the son, but what they spend their time on instead – arguing with the scribes.
Arguing gets a lot of press in Mark. The people argue with each other about who Jesus is. The Pharisees argue with Jesus. The disciples argue among themselves. And now, the disciples argue with the teachers of the law.
Jesus doesn’t argue. He just heals the boy.
Later, when the disciples ask “why” they couldn’t do the healing, Jesus says the healing could only come about by prayer.
Do you get the contrast? The disciples could have accomplished more had they spent less time arguing and more time in prayer. Around us are people desperate for hope. They won’t find it among a people who spend their time bickering. They will only find it in a confident people who in times desperate and otherwise have their eyes focused heavenward on the only hope there is.