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 deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
This is an interesting insertion – it seems to be unrelated to what has gone before or comes after – or is it? The disciples had been talking among themselves, arguing about who was greater among them, now they do not like that someone else is infringing on their status as Jesus disciples. They had been unable to cast out the demon causing the boy’s convulsions; now this stranger is successfully casting out demons in Jesus’ name. It was not uncommon for magicians and sorcerers in that day to invoke the names of foreign gods to cast out demons – part of a “magical incantation”. The disciples are not only jealous of the man’s success, they are likely also genuinely concerned that he is passing on a message that is not true to Jesus’ message – that he is somehow using Jesus’ name in vain.
But Jesus says, don’t worry about it! If he does a deed of power in my name today, he cannot turn around and say something bad about me tomorrow! If he is not against us, he is for us. And then Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you have the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” Whatever is done for Christ’s sake – teaching, preaching, casting out demons, or even offering a cup of cold water – is a good thing, Jesus says. He casts the net wide – but are there things that would be offensive to Jesus when done in his name? Does he weep to hear judgement, misogyny, cruelty and exclusion proclaimed in his name? Did he cry out at the crusades and the inquisition?
On the other hand, putting ourselves in the disciples position, do we sometimes work against one another? Are we sometimes worried that someone else has more people in their church? Or is doing something different in Jesus’ name? Yes, as the pastor, I find it difficult not to be jealous, or to feel wounded, when people go to other churches on the island, but shouldn’t I be glad they are going to church somewhere? The other churches are not our competition – there is lots of other competition for us to be concerned about here in the Lower Keys! Could we not work together more? Ecumenical efforts mean that we are all working together in Jesus’ name.