In my last post, The Bad Samaritan, I compared the Apostles James and John (unflatteringly) with Chester, the over-eager, insecure and sycophantic terrier who idolizes Spike the bulldog in a couple of classic Looney Tunes from the 1950s.
And apparently, that wrong-headed zeal in Luke 9:51-56, that prompted them to offer to wipe out a whole village of Samaritans who rejected Jesus, was not an isolated incident.
In Mark 9:38-41, John and other disciples (presumably including James, since these two often seem to be together) saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but put a stop to it, “because he was not one of us.”
The Zebedeesons mess up again, and get a bit of a tongue-lashing from Jesus for their trouble.
But really, can you blame them? Jesus’ position on this sort of thing is still pretty baffling 2,000 years later.
In the Mark 9 rebuke, Jesus uses the phrase, “whoever is not against us is for us.” But in Matthew 12:22-28 – another exchange related to the exorcism of demons, Jesus declares “whoever is not with me is against me.”
Do these two verses contradict each other? Not from a strict denotative perspective – both divide the world into two categories: pro-Jesus or anti-Jesus. But the connotation of the Mark passage (I’m not specifically anti-Jesus; therefore I’m pro-Jesus) sure feels a lot more comfortable than that of the Matthew passage (I’m not specifically pro-Jesus; therefore I’m anti-Jesus), doesn’t it?
But while you’re thinking about that, think about this: In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus has this to say:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
I gotta tell you; this passage scares the crap out of me. I’d much rather focus on the Mark 9 passage than this one, which suggests that many who appear to be ‘for’ Jesus are actually against Him.
When I read this passage, I can’t help but wondering, What if I think I’m in the ‘for’ group, but I’m really an againster?
Or is that exactly what the devil wants me to think? (Clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of you.)
Or is THAT exactly what the devil wants me to think? (Clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of me.)
The exercise of trying to make sense of these verses and their implications on my eternal destination is pretty self-defeating, so I tend to try not to think too much about this passage.
But that’s a little like trying not to think about pink elephants, so maybe it’s time for a closer look.
Peace be with you.