I’ve been wrestling with Mark 9 for several weeks now particularly vv.33-50. I’ve already posted about 33-37 here. And I expect to be able to do at least two other posts on this text.
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
–Mark 9:38-41 From: The Holy Bible: English standard version
Vv. 38-41 are, I think, particularly timely for me. I have been very convicted about writing polemic posts of late regarding the Southern Baptist Convention. It is something I am trying to avoid—sometimes I just can’t help it. I don’t think we should avoid strife at all costs. (Jesus was pretty peaceable up to a point.) This is what I mean by timely.
The disciples, having just been rebuked by Jesus for arguing about who was the greatest try, I think, to ‘get back some points’ by telling him about something they had done. In v.38 John says “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” See how humble we are? We were guarding your name by humbling telling this other fellow that he had no business using it. “he was not following us” he wasn’t part of our group. He doesn’t toe-the-line the way we do. HE wasn’t COOL like we are.
But Jesus, at this point (v.39) says, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” Do not stop him. There is an inclusiveness, then, about the name of Jesus that allows for doctrinal differences. There is a point where we as Christians look at an activity done by another group that claims the name of Christ and we say, “That is ministry. That is done in the name of Christ.” Christ knows those who call on his name. He knows which things are actually done ‘in his name’. That’s part of being God—you know everything.
We don’t have that luxury, however, and when we reach that point there are times when we just have to rely on the Gamaliel principle. That’s an easy one. You remember in Acts? When Peter and the other Apostles were arrested and subsequently brought before the Council to be chastised? When they instead reminded them that they had crucified their Messiah the Council was ‘enraged and wanted to kill them’. But Gamaliel had this to say:
37 “After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
–Acts 5:37-39 (ESV)
I’m all for not opposing God. Some need opposing right now! Some don’t. But way before we start throwing stones I think its important to spend some time on our face to examine ourselves. Do we have the right motives? Are we in danger of opposing God? I don’t think that’s a good idea for any cause. There are some things that we can’t be sure about that will flounder only in the absence of conflict. What I mean is that some people, ideas, or movements thrive on arguments and publicity generated from bombastic statements. Are they a flash in the pan? Are they here to stay? God knows, we don’t. We can barely fill out a day planner with any certainty that we are going to be able put checks in boxes by the end of that day. Besides, Jesus gives us the test for ‘strapping on our swords’ (I.e., David and Abigail’s worthless husband): In v.40 He says, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” Are they well and truly against us? Are they fighting against the gospel?
The other thing is that God, the Sovreign God of the Universe, can, in fact, take care of himself.
Just sit on that one for a minute OK?
I’ll save v.42-50 for next week.
Other Posts In This Series: