“Whoever Is Not Against Us is For Us”: What Jesus Meant
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John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40)
Well, we can see in this Gospel reading that here right in the middle of the Galilean ministry, effectively the earliest part of Jesus’s ministry, Jesus has already been making disciples.
We see in both Mark’s Gospel and in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus commissions the apostles, and gives the apostles power over evil spirits. The power to heal and to do miracles in his name. And so very clearly in Mark the apostles are given this power, and Jesus is already starting this missionary church. This is even way before the commissioning of Peter, at Caesarea Philippi.
Now in Luke’s Gospel we get a little bit more understanding of this passage. Mark doesn’t spell it out, but in Luke’s Gospel we have the commissioning of the 70. Jesus gives this power to cast out demons and to heal through the power of the Holy Spirit in his name. But he doesn’t give it only to the apostles.
He’s doing it for 70 other disciples who he sends out two by two and they come back and they say, “Wow, oh boy, the demons were responding to your name! And we were there casting out those demons and healing people! It was just great! And preaching the word.”
And Jesus says, “Don’t rejoice so much that you have cast out demons in my name and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t rejoice so much that you’ve got this power of the Holy Spirit to do these extraordinary things. Rather rejoice that your names are in the kingdom of heaven.”
Now, all that being the case though, we can see in this passage from Mark that Jesus is forming this Church early on, right in the Galilean ministry.
And there’s a fellow, and this fellow has somehow, he’s seen Jesus and somehow, he knows his name. And in Semitic culture, names have power. It not only describes the essence, but by using the name, the power of that person. The power that they manifest, which in Jesus’s case is the power of the Holy Spirit. So that the power of that name actually issues forth.
So, this guy apparently decides, Hey, I mean this guy’s doing these miracles. Maybe I can do miracles through the power of his name. He goes out and what’s he doing? He’s healing people through the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ name.
And of course, John and the other disciples, they catch that guy doing it, you know, and they come and practically complain to Jesus about it: “You know, we saw this guy and he was working miracles through your name! Boy, did we shut him up. You know, we told him don’t do that.”
Whoever is Not Against Us is For Us (The Main Takeaway)
Jesus very gently says, “Here’s a guy who really does want to do good. He’s going to do a mighty deed. He’s going to do a miracle in my name.” (We don’t know whether that was casting on a demon or healing a person or whatever you might have been doing.) “But here’s a guy who’s doing this in my name. How can he speak ill of me if he’s using my name to do good, to heal people, to do this mighty deed? How can he do this mighty deed, inauthentically, and still have the Holy Spirit work through him in my name? Don’t worry so much about this. This is not the exclusive club. This is the inclusive club, that is to say, our ministry is open to people who want to use the name of Jesus to heal.”
You can heal. I mean the whole charismatic movement practically is based on this fact that the spirit will actually be moved through the name of Jesus and people who have faith to be healed. Absolutely. We believe this. It’s a ministry then that Jesus wants to open up to everyone.
Why? Because if people see this healing power manifest, then people are preaching through the Holy Spirit. And doing so beyond as it were, their own natural capacities. And people will see the power of the Holy Spirit manifest. They’re likely to go, “hmm, this guy, Jesus, he’s an interesting guy. This is a real powerful name.” And this is spreading the word. And what happens when we spread the word that the name of Jesus is powerful, powerful to do mighty deeds? When people see that, what do they do?
They think, “I’ve got to know more about this guy.” And it’s the entree. It’s the entrance way, the preaching, the healing that uses the name of Jesus and the teaching in his name and the healing in his name. So, all manifests through the name of Jesus.
And of course, Jesus says to his disciples, “Don’t dissuade them. This is the inclusive club. Let them be my disciples too. Not just the 70, not just you. But we’re going to do this with everybody who has faith in me and because they have faith in me and use my name authentically to do these things in my name. Let them be my evangelists and disciples too. Because of course they will not speak ill of me. They will get people to follow me as they have.”
And so of course, we are all disciples. Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here, and we all know the power of the name of Jesus in our own lives and in the lives of our own evangelizing.
And of course, go out and do likewise. Bring the word through the powerful name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the world around you, through your faith. And of course, you will reap fruit thirty, or sixty, or a hundredfold.