One Of Us?

One Of Us?: Mark 9:38-41
Pastor John Nicholas
Sunday October 4, 2020

Last week, we discussed the entry of Jesus and his disciples into the city of Capernaum.  He had been teaching His disciples which led to a discussion amongst themselves about the who was the greatest of the disciples.  Jesus teaches them about being a servant first and foremost.  As He came to serve.  And finally who speaks of receiving those in Jesus’ name as a child.  Not looking to the greatness of an individual but with the simplicity that one comes in only being able to confess Jesus’ name.  Receive them like this.  It dovetails to the greatest question of earlier.  As David McKenna notes, “As a servant loses his identity by serving others, he takes on the identity of his master.”

This gives us an interesting jump into the next teaching.  One we should keep in mind as we talk.

Mark 9:38-41 (NASB)


Dire Warnings

38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.”

Here is John, the only time Mark mentions John alone.  Mark’s recording of Peter’s teachings.  One of the three on the mountaintop.  Boanerges – a son of thunder.  This John is the one speaking to Jesus.  Right after the child and the question of who is the greatest.  Perhaps due to embarrassment of this situation John is speaking up to show Jesus that they do have ‘right’ thinking. Maybe this is the reason.

John does not identify when this occurred or where.  So is does have the appearance of a response to Jesus’ reaction to who is the greatest.  John pointing to their reaction to an ‘unauthorized’ exorcist.  This man’s crime – he was not following the disciples.  Note that he was not following the disciples.  John is making this the point, he was not one of us.  One of the ones that were chosen by Jesus.

They, we don’t know if it was all or a few, had seen this man casting out demons and had told him to stop.  Seems like a fairly reasonable reaction considering that they were chosen by Jesus and had previously been given the authority to cast out demons; barring one exception.  They were part of an exclusion club.  They had authority, they followed Jesus, and He did amazing things.

But this man was out there on his own doing the thing that they had been authorized to do, by Jesus.  This man was stepping on their toes.  He didn’t have the membership card.  He didn’t know the right people.  Or did he.  Is there something more happening here? Something that can’t quite be seen.  Something deeper.

We see a similar situation in Numbers 11:16-30.  Moses and the Israelites.  Moses is frustrated because what he is asked to do, leading the Israelites, is too much for him.  In v14 he tells God that the burden is too great.  So 70 elders are elected per God’s command.  In vs24-25 it says that God placed the Spirit upon these men and they prophesied, but only once and never again.

And you will say, “what does this have to do with John and Jesus and the exorcist?”  We must read on in numbers, starting at v26.  We find that two men, Eldad and Medad, men who were elders, but did not go to the tent of the meeting.  They were prophesying like those at the tent of the meeting.  But these two men were out in the open.  In the camp.  Not in the authorized area.  And  a young man goes and tells Moses and Joshua wants them stopped, restrained.  But Moses says no because wouldn’t it be great if all of Israel were prophets, proclaiming God’s word.

Numbers 11:16-30 (NASB)

Seventy Elders to Assist

16 The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.

17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone.

18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat.

19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days,

20but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.’

22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?”

23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent.

25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.

26 But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp.

27 So a young man ran and told Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.”

29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”

30 Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.

And we will shortly see that Jesus himself will rely on this story as He teaches them.


39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.

Now Jesus responds to John’s statements.  To John telling Jesus of the good they have done; trying to stop someone who was not of them.  Who didn’t have the calling they had.  Who didn’t follow behind the rabbi like they were.  Who didn’t have Jesus’ dust on them.  Look at what we have done in your name Jesus, we have protected the mission!

But the response they get is not the one they expected.  Instead of an atta boy they receive a kind of rebuke.  ‘Do not prevent/forbid/hinder him’.  That’s Jesus’ first statement.  Whatever you do, do not stop this man.  We can almost picture the looks on the disciples faces.  Perhaps incredulity, perhaps shock, perhaps faces that reflect question marks.  Again, they were doing what they thought was correct by what they had learned or thought they had learned, and now they find that they have erred.  “Don’t stop him.”

There is a reason behind what Jesus is saying.  And it should go without saying that Jesus, as the Word, never speaks and errant word.  All words that Jesus speaks are the word of God.  And when He speaks here there is an obvious backward view to what we just read in Numbers.  Jesus says, “that there is no one that can do such a thing and then reject/deny me thereafter.”

Now a couple of things as we exposite this passage.  Number 1 Jesus is not implying that there is power in His name.  In other words, there is no power in repeating a name without the faith that goes behind it.  It is important to remember that in the ancient world there was a belief that being able to say the name of a spirit allowed you to control/command that spirit.  We see this in Acts 19:13-16, the seven sons of one Sceva were using Jesus’ name, attempting to use the name, believing that there was power in the name, and they were ‘called out’ by the demons – saying that they were not recognized.  They had tried to use the name of Jesus, as sort of a talisman, to cast out a demon and were punished because of it.

Acts 19:11-16 (NASB)

Miracles at Ephesus

11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,

12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”

14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.

15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”

16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

With that idea cleared up, when Jesus is saying that the man is doing a miracle in His name it is not the name that has power, but the object of one’s faith.  In this instance Jesus is telling them that the ability of this man is not rooted in the man but rooted in Jesus.  Jesus is the root and the fruit is shown in the fact that the demons were cast out.  The disciples, in their limited thinking/understanding, had assumed that because the man was not known to them and that he was using Jesus’ name that he was merely a Jewish exorcist.  They had failed to see the root and the fruit relationship.  Jesus, on the other hand, is pointing them to the root of the dynama, the ability, it is Him.

Therefore to forbid this man to act in faith was a reflection on Christ, not on the man.  In stopping this man they were in reality attempting to stop the work of Jesus.  Hence Jesus’ rebuke.

Number 2 points to the character of the man who is casting out demons in the name of Jesus.  By doing this work the man is pointing to the character of Jesus and his belief in the same.  Now we do not know the full story of the man, only the actions that he has done.  However, we can reflect upon this and understand what it means.  Since being able to cast out demons is not rooted in the name but is rooted in faith we can understand that this unnamed exorcist is a believer in Christ.  That he may have been an outlier with regard to apostolic inclusion, nonetheless he is exhibiting fruit that betrays, in a positive way, his true belief in who Jesus is.

The result is that Jesus, using what would be seen as a humorous, proverbial saying, says, “look, if this man has this faith in Me, he will be unable to be my enemy.”  The disciples are hearing that they must look at the fruit to understand inclusion in the kingdom.


40 For he who is not against us is for us.

Jesus finishes this thought in verses 40.  The oft repeated, in various iterations, ‘whoever is not against us is for us’.  And the converse in Matthew 12:30 – “He who is not with me is against me.”  As the apostles, the foundation of the church, the witnesses to the resurrection, they are being called to see things differently.  They are called to look at to whom people ascribe their faith.  To look beyond words to know who is part of the family of the kingdom of God.

Matthew 12:29-30 (NASB)

29 Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

The Unpardonable Sin

30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

This will become more and more important as they move on with the church after the ascension.  There will be many who will profess the name of Jesus but have no faith or love of Him.  There are those who call the name but have no saving belief.  It is the difference in knowing about Jesus and actually knowing Him.  Look at Matthew 7:15-20, where Jesus tells them at the sermon on the mount that you will know them by their fruit.  This man has demonstrated the fruit of his belief for there would be no way he could have done such an act without it.  Hence this man is with us, on our side, a follower of Me.

Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB)

A Tree and Its Fruit

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 

17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 

18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.


41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.

Here, in this last verse, Jesus is not only pointing to the fruit but the results.  He is telling them that everything that is done in relation to glorifying Jesus, and Jesus is glorified when one is found int Him, that this reward will not be lost.  In other words those good things that were done as a result of Jesus, Ephesians 2:10, are never lost.  They find themselves into the new heaven and the new earth.  The outward pouring of the results of the inward change by God on the man’s heart are shown by the fruit which is born, because of their attachment to the vine, which is Christ.

Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Turn to John 15:1-8.  Jesus’ dissertation of the vine.  Notice how He says in v1 that He is the true vine.  He is the one through which life flows, He is the root of faith.  Now v2 tells us that every one that is in Him is one that bears the fruit of Him.  This is key, how do you know that you are a believer – is their fruit being born in your life.  Please note that this is not a statement of quantity but of quality; no matter how small.  V2 continues to tell us that the fruit bearing branches are pruned to produce more fruit.  But those who bear no fruit are not part of the vine at all, and they are discarded.

John 15:1-8 (NASB)

Jesus Is the Vine—Followers Are Branches

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 

5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 

8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Skip to v4 and we hear that the branch is only able to bear this fruit because of the vine, in other words it is because of Jesus that there is fruit bearing.  It is not because of the branches desire, our desire, it is because of the Jesus, the true vine.  In fact the branch can do nothing apart from the vine.  Hear this, there are no good works without Christ in your life.

The result of lack of being found in the true vine is found in v6 – those dead branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire.

Isn’t interesting that John was the one who approached Jesus about this exorcist and He is the one who writes these words of Jesus in the gospel of John.  John, guided in his writing by the Holy Spirit, goes on at length about Christ’s teaching about vines, branches, and fruit.  We cannot help but think about the man casting out demons in the name of Jesus and His teaching about this man.  The man was demonstrating himself to be a branch attached to the true vine.  Without this attachment he would not have been able to do the miracles that he was doing.

John then has preserved this idea of fruit in his gospel.  Showing that all good things are only done through being bound and abiding in Christ.

When Jesus says that nothing will be lost it is a reflection of what is pouring out from Him into the lives of those who believe in Him.  As we close in this section, note v8 that the Father is glorified by the fruit, that those who are found in Christ will bear much fruit.  And that the bearing of fruit is one that shows to which vine they belong.  That an orange tree will not bear apples but oranges.  And in this case the fruit of abiding in the true vine of Christ will show the evidence of belonging to Christ.  This fruit will be a reflection of who Jesus is.  And this is shown in v10 – that the fruit will be shown in keeping the commandments, not in the manner of a drill sergeant, but in the manner of one who values them because they reflect God’s character and because Jesus kept them.

So we come to the conclusion of the story of the unknown exorcist.  When we look at this narrative we can see a reflection of ourselves and our action towards those who claim Christ.  Maybe we deny those who claim to know Christ in having fellowship with us.  Being a Christ follower is not a gray issue.  It is black and white.  There are no partial believers.  There are only believers or non-believers.  Saved and not saved.

The issue at the start of this story is one of exclusivity.  The disciples were claiming it, seemingly forgetting the previous passage of welcoming the little children.  Not drawing the connection between what Jesus taught and what was happening here.  The issue more than likely was focused on the power of the exorcism and perhaps the jealousy of being able to do something that they had thought belonged only to them.

I found a very helpful illustration from the life of the Baptist FB Meyer:

”God called him to serve in London at the same time as Charles Haddon Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher who ever lived. So, despite his ability and hard work, Meyer would stand outside his church and watch the carriages flow by to Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle. Later in his life, it happened again, as G. Campbell Morgan eclipsed Meyer’s success. When they spoke together at conferences, vast crowds listened to Morgan, then left when Meyer was to preach. Convicted over his bitter spirit, Meyer committed himself to pray for Morgan, reasoning that the Holy Spirit would not allow him to envy a man for whom he prayed. He was right. God enabled Meyer to rejoice in Morgan’s preaching. People heard him saying: ”Have you heard Campbell Morgan preach? Did you hear that message this morning? My, God is upon that man!”

We can see this amongst ourselves if we inadvertently start to treat the church as a club that is exclusive.  To a degree it is an exclusive club, a club for sinners who are saved by God’s grace.  Sinners who have been found in God’s mercy.

Now another key for application here is that the cross has not happened.  That the cross has not been seen nor has the resurrected Christ been seen.  So the differences that they see are clouded compared to us.  They are not dealing with doctrinal issues.  Nor the effects of the cross.  Nor the penal substitutionary atonement.  Their encounter has been with one who trusts in Jesus.

Jesus has warned, or instructed on the for us/against us.  It is far more evident to us on this side of the cross.  We see the whole story.  We see the sacrifice.  We see the lamb.  We see the empty tomb.

Therefore, the for or against must be judged in that light.  Who is Jesus.  Lord or teacher?

Doctrine does matter. Sound doctrine divides truth from error.

We see the effects in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost where he says that it was THIS Jesus whom you crucified.  As specific Jesus.  The 100% God, 100% Man Jesus.  The one who satisfied God’s wrath against sin for all who would believe.

But hold on, doesn’t the scripture say, “judge not lest ye be judged?” (Matthew 7:1-6)  But as Conrad Mbewe notes, if we read this passage as one with pure regard to judgment as we understand it we read it as if I don’t judge anyone else then God won’t judge me.  But in this instance Jesus is using the word synonymously with condemnation.  He is speaking towards those who condemn but pass no judgment on their own actions.  Therefore we should have a spirit of repentance in order to judge wisely and we see this played out in v6 where Jesus calls them not to give what is holy to that which us unholy which indicates clear judgment.  Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we are called to judge carefully.

Matthew 7:1-6 (NASB)

Judging Others

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 

2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 

3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 

5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Care must be taken.  Many voices out there will claim the name of Jesus but when we look close we can see that they are actually worshipping the creation – people, organizations, things.  We certainly see it when we watch the news.  Yet a number of these people would claim the name of Jesus just to get agreement from us.  It looks good and sounds good but is it good?  Since good only comes from knowing and being found abiding in Christ that is our benchmark.  Are the things of God being upheld?  Is God being honored?  Is Jesus Lord of everything in a person’s life?  Is God’s law valued/upheld?

“When we profess God’s name but do not live answerably to it we take His name in vain.” – Thomas Watson

We are called to be Bereans (Acts 17:11).  It requires us to know what a believer looks like.  It requires us to judge the fruit.

Acts 17:11 (NASB)

11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

And this is so important for us today.  There are many that would claim that they are doing things in the name of Jesus.  Yet they are preaching a different gospel.  I look around this room, in our congregation, which is not large and I see all sorts of ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds represented.  What I see is a bunch of sisters and brothers that are united in Christ.  Sisters and brothers that know the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.  Sisters and brothers that know that Jesus is Lord of all.   That means everything.  That there is one savior who paid the price for our sins once and for all.  That through this savior we are all united into a common family – Christians.

As we move to the second part of the conclusion we need to remember that Jesus calls us to serve not to act entitled or privileged; we need to operate from a point of gratitude.

Linked to the previous passage and last weeks we then see a behavior of gratitude that permeates the life of the believer.  We should desire to be with other believers as the secular world loses its appeal.  And in being with believers and ministering to other believers these things are seen as ministering to Christ Himself.

Please remember that the lives of believers were bought at an unbelievable high cost.  And those saved by Christ are part of His church and are bound to Him.  Therefore how we treat other believers reflects in how we view Christ.

We saw this in the beginning of this passage where the actions of one man showed who he followed – Jesus.  Yet because he was not part of the group of disciples they sought to stop him.  Jesus on the other hand validates the man’s beliefs and further states that all you do for those of mine, these will be part of the reward of heaven.  The treasure that does not rust or rot – Matthew 6:19-21.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 

21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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