(by Aaron Sellars)
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Jesus wants hospitable disciples, not standoffish disciples (Mark 9:38-41)
We need to be humble as the Christian life is about Jesus, not us. We need to receive and be received as a child. And what about people who aren’t like us? What about people a bit different? The disciple John tries his hand at this one. He thinks he can stump and get Jesus to agree with him. He questions Jesus about someone who is not following the disciples, who might not be doing the things they are accustomed to doing. Jesus doesn’t put up with John’s inquiry though.
The Master, Jesus, is shown to be more inclusive than his disciples. On top of being humble disciples, a disciple of Jesus is to be hospitable and not standoffish.
Jesus’ point is we should not only receive a child as Jesus, but we should receive all that are on Jesus’ team. Anyone doing something for, or on behalf of, Jesus were to be recognized as allies. I could just mention a church or two in OC and you could think of reasons why they are not good. You probably already did. A denomination, a pastor could lead you to the same conclusions. We are more concerned about ourselves and how we do things and what we believe than what Jesus thinks about these churches, denominations, and pastors.
The disciples were more concerned about protecting their exclusiveness, than being open and welcome to those who were still proclaiming and following Jesus. A key phrase in this passage is “we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” (9:38). Notice there is no mention as to whether or not he followed Jesus; rather, the concern was whether or not he followed “us.”
Once again, as Jesus was the greatest example of humility, he is also the greatest example of hospitality. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:32-33). God did not have to come. He didn’t have to die. He chose to, however, in order that he might gather together a people. He died so he could reconcile to himself men and women from every tongue, tribe and nation. If we cannot be hospitable today, heaven is going to be pretty uncomfortable. Heaven will be made of people that will be different than us, with different skin colors, different languages, and different tastes and ways of doing things. Are you prepared for this?
How do we respond to Jesus’ call to come with him—in hospitality? We respond by looking to Jesus. We look to Jesus, remembering who he is, what he has done, who we are, and what he is calling us to do in light of this. Jesus sets the example for us to follow. He will not ask of us anything he is not willing to do himself. He was and is hospitable. And he welcomes all to join his mission. Does that mean if we have a coworker who is a believer we can join him on mission? Yes. Does that mean if we have believing neighbors, we can include them and join them on mission for Jesus? Yes, even if they are not a part of our particular tribe, group, or generation. We can also include the people in our community groups, or small groups, in what God is using us for. God is not after religious groups or tribes, he is after a Church—a people for himself! If we embrace an attitude of humility, then we can hardly have feelings of jealousy for someone else through whom God is at work. We are all on the same team. We aren’t lone rangers.