How easy it is to quote this scripture, yet how difficult to believe!
The father who brings his deaf and mute son to Jesus says, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
Jesus rebukes him. “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”
After Jesus casts out the evil spirit within the man’s child, the disciples ask why they could not do it.
Am I not believing enough? Am I not praying enough? Is that why certain impossibilities in my life remain unchanged?
Or is there another possibility?
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB
Just as God did with Paul, who did believe and pray, does He allow certain thorns to remain to reveal His grace and keep me reliant on His strength and not my own?
More than possible.
So how do I reconcile Luke 1:37 in my heart and mind?
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38 NASB (emphasis mine)
The word impossible here is the Greek verb adunateo. It means to be unable. The derivation comes from the adjective aduntos, which means unable, powerless. The verb form appears in only two places in scripture: Luke 1:37 and Matthew 17:20.
And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
What did Jesus mean “Because of the littleness of your faith”?
When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]
And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. Matthew 17:14-23 NASB (emphasis mine)
The same derivation of impossible is used in the story of the father who brings his deaf and mute son to Jesus for healing and when Gabriel tells Mary she will be the virgin mother of Jesus. Did both of these parents question God’s ability? Yes. Did it take much faith for them to believe He could do it? No. Were they or any other human able to accomplish what God could do? No.
So again, why, if Jesus can remove the deaf and mute spirit from the boy, does He not remove Paul’s thorn? Perhaps the greater question is, why did Jesus not remove His own?
Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face. Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:1-11 NASB
The greatest impossible act of God was fulfilled through Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. Only through faith and prayer is anything possible as seen in Mark 9:14-29 and Matthew 17:14-23. But, when by God’s authority a thorn remains as it did with Paul and with Jesus, His strength is revealed.
With my own mustard-seed faith, my paltry prayers, my piercing thorns, I hope in nothing less.
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