In Mark 9 John and the other disciples encounter a man who was going around doing good and working in Jesus name, he was working on the same side as the disciples.
His works spoke for themselves; we’re not told that he ever met Jesus or any of his disciples previously but his faith in his unseen saviour resulted in the power of the Holy Spirit being channelled through him to relieve suffering and yet they turned against him and prevented him from working.
Do we see God’s Church as only those churches who agree to our particular statement of faith? Are Evangelicals the only true Christians? Does the Church belong to Reformed churches or Eastern Orthodoxy? Anglican or Roman Catholic? Methodists or Baptists? Or to put it another way…Whose Church is it anyway?
The Church doesn’t belong to any particular group or denomination, the true Church belongs to Christ. But history shows that we often become jealous not for Jesus but for our branch of his church. Too often we’ve made an idol of our own peculiar way of doing or seeing things. Christians persecuting Christians for no other reason than that given by John in Mark 9:38; because he was not one of us.
Moses faced a similar problem when two elders; Eldad and Medad started prophesying in the camp in Numbers 11. Joshua, the man who was next in line to lead the nation, came to Moses and asked him to stop them; Moses replied:
Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them! (Num 11:28)
Who was Joshua jealous for? Was it for the sake of Moses, was it himself? It certainly wasn’t God. Christ’s in Mark 9:39 response is similar:
“…no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me for whoever is not against us is for us”
If he’s working in Jesus name then he’s not likely to be found speaking badly of Jesus and his movement, Paul completes the sentiment in Philippians 1:18 and takes it even further because he’s speaking about people working from false motives:
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
There’s a war on, and if Jesus Christ himself says, as he does in verse 40, that the man is working on the Lord’s side who is anyone to argue? We can go further if we compare Mark 9:40 (whoever is not against us is for us) with Matthew 12:30 where Jesus says
He that is not with me is against me
All these statements taken together declare that there is no neutral position when it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ and our chosen side in this war.
Sometimes we might see many evils resulting from religious dissensions and divisions but we mustn’t let that prevent us from rejoicing if Jesus is glorified, and if the works of the devil are defeated and souls are saved. It’s too easy to think small when we think of the church but it’s bigger than we can imagine, God is bigger than we can imagine and this war is bigger than we can imagine too.
It appears that the disciples didn’t comprehend what Jesus had called them into. The war is real and the actions that we take here and now in this temporary home of ours can and do have eternal consequences. They, like us, need to realise what is really going on and start thinking strategically like Moses, Jesus and Paul.
This remark on this passage makes interesting reading, particularly considering it’s author was a dissenting 17th century French Roman Catholic theologian:
Christ suffers many things in his Church which are done without his mission; but he makes them contribute to the establishment of his Kingdom” (Pasquier Quesnel)
This isn’t that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ but that the work of the church is down to Christ and not man, and he will use diverse means and people to perform the will of God.