38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. Mark 9:38-41

Although discipleship is exclusive, Jesus made it clear that it is open to everyone. No-one is excluded provided they fulfil the conditions. On the other hand, the disciples were still competitive in their attitude and unwilling, at this stage, to open ranks and include “outsiders” with the same big-hearted generosity as their Master. They saw a potential disciple as competition and stopped him from driving out demons in the name of Jesus.

Who was this person? The Bible does not say. It was obviously someone who had been in the crowd, had witnessed Jesus’ miracles, heard His teaching, acknowledged who He was and understood His authority. He may not have grasped everything about Jesus, but enough to imitate Him with astonishing results – and the disciples didn’t like it so they squashed the beginnings of his discipleship.

Isn’t that exactly what Jesus had been illustrating by embracing a little child? There was potential in that man because he had “got” something of what Jesus was modelling and put it into practice. Jesus was annoyed with His disciples for trying to extinguish the small flame of faith in the man’s heart. If someone is not an enemy, he is an ally. If he acted in the disposition and yoke of Messiah, he should be encouraged and nurtured, not squashed and discarded like an unwelcome bug.

Jesus added a tender touch that is so like Him and reflects the heart of God. On another occasion He commented that the Father notices when a sparrow falls. Here He reveals God’s heart again – the Father notices and rewards the simple act of giving someone a cup of cold water in His name. The key is “in my name”. Acting out of the disposition of Jesus, authorised by His command, connects us with the source of energy that empowered Jesus to bring “up there down here”. Jesus brought the other world with Him when He came. He showed it to His generation and now He wants us to show it to ours in the same spirit as He did.

Luella Campbell

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