Luke 9:49-50 (NIV) “Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
The disciples were feeling good to be part of a very privileged group – not only chosen out of all of Jesus’ followers to be His inner circle (and thus almost certainly destined for greatness), but also specifically invested by Jesus with authority to do miracles and cast out demons (Luke 9:1-2).
But when they saw someone driving out demons in the name of Jesus (and being successful at it!), that exclusivity felt threatened. If just anyone could invoke Jesus’ name and cast demons out, it would make their own abilities less special, and perhaps their positions less secure. (After all, the majority of them had just spectacularly failed to drive out a demon!)
Jesus’ answer was surprising: “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” They didn’t understand it then, but Jesus knew that it would only be a few weeks before the tide of public opinion would rapidly turn against Jesus and against His followers, and then it would be to their definite advantage to have others in their corner.
Jesus was looking at the larger picture. If somebody was casting out demons in His name, that was an indication that that person had faith in Jesus’ name, and would not quickly turn against Him or His followers (Mark 9:39-40). Like Moses before Him, Jesus longed to see the day when all people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and able to do amazing things (Numbers 11:29). That would be the ideal, the sign that the kingdom of God had really reached the whole of humanity.
But the disciples were only seeing a very small picture, which had their personal advancement at its center. That would change after the day of Pentecost, but in the meantime, Jesus had to keep urging them to see things differently .
Father, in Your kingdom there is no place for us to build our own kingdoms. In Your kingdom there is no exclusiveness and no cliques, but an open door for all who will trust in You for salvation, and who are willing to obey You as Lord. In Your kingdom, we are all valuable parts of Your one body, all with different callings and abilities, but no one more important or with a more direct line to you than another (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Help me to live out that reality today. Amen.