The disciples see someone who has been out and about working miracles, specifically they are casting out demons and it seems with good results. It seems that this guy had at some point heard about Jesus, maybe witnessed him in action and maybe he had even encountered Christ’s healing power himself. Whatever had happened, it had enough of an impact on him for him to want to go and make a difference himself and to try and to share more widely the healing power of Jesus.
Now, notice two things
- That he doesn’t presume that he himself has special power and nor is he seeking to draw attention to himself.
- That this is not some mere formulaic use of Christ’s name as happens in Acts … Instead, this seems to be based on a genuine belief that there is power in the name of Jesus.
… But he isn’t one of the disciples. He’s not on the team either as part of The Twelve or of the 72 who were also trained up, commissioned and sent out by Jesus. The disciples are wound up by it. Jesus is utterly relaxed. There’s probably a side lesson in the practicalities of releasing people to serve. If we want to see the Gospel multiply and gifts to flourish then we cannot hold on too tightly and try to control.
I think too that this helps us get an insight into how people respond to the grace of Jesus. People can be at different stages of believing, acting and belonging. Faith response can be messy. Of course, it was better for this man to be spending time with Jesus, of course it was better for him to belong and to be part of the team -but he wasn’t there yet. Mind you, even when close up and involved in the team, the disciples seemed to really struggle with grasping Jesus’ teaching.
And the point Jesus wanted the disciples to get:
40 For the one who is not against us is for us.
He says that it’s pretty difficult for people to genuinely act in his name and then suddenly turn against him. He says that people who seek to serve and love the body of Christ will receive reward.
There are things that we need to be on our guard and watch out for. We need to guard against wolves. We should save our energy for that!