Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 194. But what about…?
Mk 9:38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Before we get to Jesus’ response we need to observe something of the query that John brings to Jesus. Note it is John who, in those days, was also called a Son of Thunder (Mk3:17), obviously a fiery sort of individual with his brother James. The disciples, obviously apart from Jesus, had come across a man who had been delivering people from demons and he had been doing it in Jesus’ name – but he wasn’t one of the ones called by Jesus to follow him.
Now all of us tend to be suspicious of people who don’t come from ‘our group’. Some of us are deeply suspicious of others who are not qualified like we are. The disciples had already taken on a proprietary feel about Jesus and we suspicious and perhaps looked down on others who wanted to do the same as they were doing but not with them. It’s fairly understandable because we’re all a bit like this. If you’re a trained counsellor you are suspicious and maybe even critical of those who counsel other without credentials. If you are a lawyer you would definitely be critical of unqualified people giving legal advice.
And so the disciples take it on themselves to rebuke and challenge this man even though he was obviously successful in delivering people! (There wouldn’t have been any questions if he wasn’t achieving anything!) We don’t know what they said but we could hazard a guess: “How dare you use our master’s name; you’re not part of our group. Stop doing what you are doing!”
Now the fact of the matter was, as I’ve already just suggested, that people were getting delivered. Now there is no magic involved in deliverance. it is simply the power of God coming against the power and presence of the powers of darkness and dispelling them from human beings. Deliverance is God using an individual to deliver another individual and so if deliverance had been taking place through this man, we have to assume that it was God working through him, because as Jesus said in another context, Satan wouldn’t cast out his own people (see Mk 3:23).
No, this had to be a work of God going on even though it was not being done directly by Jesus. This man was obviously a believer in Jesus to some extent because he realised the power and authority that came with the name of Jesus; he believed in Jesus and was just getting on doing what obviously came natural to him and we must suggest it was because God had prompted him. All of this had obviously passed the disciples by as they get caught up in their defensive action to preserve the apparent integrity of their ministry. Missed it!