Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Caught by My Daughter

In my sermon on Mark 9, I spent a great deal of time and preaching zeal on Mark 9:40, "for the one who is not against us is for us."

My 13 year old daughter is reading Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will. In it, Luther lays hard claim to Matthew 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me."

What are we to make of these two sayings of Jesus?  Clearly, the statement, "He who is not against us, is for us," is a much milder statement than, "He that is not with me is against me."

The context is the key. In Mark 9, a man is casting out devils in the name of Jesus. Since it is working, we should assume that he is actually working by the power of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples want the man to stop because he is not expressly following or traveling with them.  Jesus says that anyone who does a miracle in his name will not then lightly speak evil of him and that the one who is not expressly against us is for us.

In Matthew, Jesus had been doing miracles, casting out demons. The Pharisees claimed that He did this work by the power of Beelzebub.  They had already declared against Jesus. In that situation, Jesus says that he who is not for us is against us.  The Pharisees had already made their position clear, they were opposed to Christ.

So, the difference in the two passages is clear. The Matthew passage is for those that have declared open hostility to Christ. The Mark passage is for those brothers and sisters that are working in the name of Jesus but are clearly not completely with us.  The former are to be rejected and judged. The latter need to be received and taught.

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