John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon after ward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Good Evening Gentle Readers
This passage is nestled between two exchanges where children feature in Jesus’ remarks to his disciples. What might children have to do with this rogue exorcist that concerns John?
In the passage just prior, Jesus rebukes his disciples for thinking about status and honour. He places before them a child and teaches them that the lowly should be their focus. Because children had no status in that culture, Jesus uses them as an example of the outcast, the poor, the marginalized. Then, in the passage just after this one, Jesus speaks of how important it is to protect children and vulnerable people, to raise them up and not let them fall to harm.
What is Jesus up to here? He is trying to get his disciples to stop thinking about themselves and to realize they should be about service to others, especially the poor.
But, as usual, the disciples don’t get it—in this passage, they’re still thinking about who is in and who is out. They are stuck in the old categories: Who is with us? Who is against us? These are questions about status and belonging, and they reveal the disciples’ jealousy and intolerance.
Jesus blows apart their thinking: God’s circle is much wider than theirs, so they should not worry about who is in and out. Anyone who does anything to assist their mission of bringing forth the kingdom is welcome—no matter if they were in or outside the group of “followers.” And his bigger point stands: stop navel-gazing and look around at all the good work there is to do in service to others. Stop thinking about our group and who belongs and who doesn’t belong and what honours we might receive.
Is status and belonging an important concern where you live or work or learn or worship? What is Jesus saying to these situations?
A good antidote, in my experience, is service—it helps me move beyond established borders and boundaries. Helping to serve meals at a soup kitchen puts me in touch with people I’d normally not speak with, and there is a richness to those encounters because we’re meeting each other on the common ground of our human dignity, rather than letting false social constructs of status separate us. I often experience the Lord in those moments.
I would say, go out, and let people know who you are with…..
Take Care and God Bless