Mark 9:38-41 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.
Immediately after Jesus revealed to His disciples that He was going to the cross we see how ill prepared they were for His departure. First, they flipped the teaching of Jesus to fit their pre-existing ideas of what the Christ should be like. Secondly, they showed the pride that remained in their hearts as they had been told a secret by Jesus of whom no one else knew. And now thirdly, they show their jealousy of someone who was not of their own special group.
The secular world teaches in many ways that jealousy is a good thing. Those who are so driven to rise to the top in sports, entertainment, business, etc. often do so as they are looking over their shoulders. They may be passionate and competitive but often underneath it all is a constant comparing themselves to those around them and a sense of insecurity. Often unhappiness is revealed if anyone rises above them and gets the recognition that they are striving for. Usually when someone rises to the top they compromise their beliefs to achieve their goal. They do whatever it takes to become successful and to receive the accolades of their fellow man.
But not so with those who are in the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught the disciples just before this passage in verse 35, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” There is no concern for the Christian to compromise their beliefs to achieve the top for the Christian never makes this their goal. Our goal is to glorify God in any way that we are called to serve Him and it does not bother us if someone else in the Kingdom of God receives more recognition than us. For we do not desire our own glory but that God would be glorified through us. This is a profound truth and removes any desire for us to become better than anyone else if we are truly living within this reality. We are not concerned about the unbelievers around us who may walk over us as they are clawing their way upward. We are not looking for the recognition of man but of God Himself. We are content just that we are in His Kingdom and that we can serve God in any way. We are so thankful for the salvation that Jesus Christ provided for us in dying upon the cross in our place and we are amazed that He would choose us to carry on any of His work here upon this earth in furthering His plan of salvation in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are content simply in our relationship with God as we are right now at this very instance and we rejoice in Him! While we still desire to grow in holiness and to honor Him in a greater way and to love Him even more than we do now, we have peace with God even now. And because we have peace with God we are not jealous over anyone. We have complete trust in God and our relationship with Him. We do not struggle with insecurity or fear. We are satisfied. We are content. We are full in Him and yet we desire to know Him more, please Him more, and to love Him more. We have all that we need and yet we seek Him.
But the disciples were not yet in such a place of trust and faith in their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In all of this we see that the disciples still had a shaky foundation. They have a very limited view of the Kingdom of God and yet I’m sure they all thought that they were ready to rule in God’s Kingdom. They desired to be at the top and were influenced by the religious leaders in Jerusalem in how to get there. Their understanding was limited. You can see how the things of God can only be spiritually discerned and are foolishness to the world for they are often the very opposite of what we expect. Who would expect that to receive a child in Jesus’ name would be receiving Him? Who would expect that someone would get a reward for simply giving a follower of Jesus a cup of water? These are not great and amazing acts and yet they can bring glory to the infinite, all powerful, all knowing, ever present, unchanging, all loving God.
Imitation is flattery. This man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name was trying to copy what he saw either Jesus or the disciples do. Was his understanding limited? Yes. Absolutely. He was not among those who were directly following Jesus. But so were the disciples yet limited in their understanding. How often is the very thing we condemn in others a reflection not upon the one we accuse but upon our own condition? How blind we can be to see the true state of our own heart!
Why would Jesus allow this man to cast out demons in Jesus’ name if his understanding was so limited? Ultimately to bring Himself glory. To show love and compassion to the people who were set free. Also, to draw them to Himself as well as the man who was used to set them free. And finally to show the disciples that the Kingdom of God did not belong only to themselves. God is always working through others to complete His purposes. There is only one way of salvation but there are many people beyond ourselves whom God is using in this world to fulfill His purposes in advancing the Kingdom. Often they may be people that we believe have a limited understanding of God and His plan of salvation. While that may be true the reality is that all of us are limited in our understanding of the infinite God. The born again Christian knows Jesus Christ. They have repented of their sins and their sin nature and have looked to the Son of God as the only means of their salvation as He died for them and rose again that they may have new life in Him. They are true followers of Jesus as the disciples were and yet their understanding is still limited. They are still growing in their walk with God.
If the disciples only knew where Jesus was leading them. As Jesus was going to the cross He was bringing the disciples with Him. They would yet be refined by fire and they did not know it. They would be brought lower: lower than they could comprehend. Jesus knew what was needed to purge these evil desires from their hearts. While now they were deciding who among them was the greatest and jealous over another man it would not be so as Jesus died upon the cross. As Jesus died the disciples would flee. They would be afraid for their lives. They did not understand what Jesus was doing. They would be filled with guilt and shame and there would be no jealousy at this point. But as they were brought low Jesus was preparing them to be leaders in His Kingdom. The way up is down. Don’t believe that God cannot use you because of your low estate. Seek Him with all your heart and God can glorify Himself where you are.
Pastor Murray Hack