John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." Luke 9:49-50 Just a moment ago in Luke's Gospel, the disciples were being rebuked because they had failed to cast out a demon from a young man. Now the disciples find a man who "was not part of their number" who was having success at casting our demons in the name of Jesus and they try to stop him. But Jesus does not agree with their behavior. What is going on here? Jesus has given "the twelve" disciples power and authority and He has sent them to cast out demons. I think it is clear that the reason Luke tells us about "the twelve" being sent out is due to the fact that the twelve represented all of Israel. Jesus was not creating an exclusive group of people by identifying the twelve. Quite the opposite, actually. If the twelve were sent out, it meant that all of Israel who had faith in Jesus was being sent out. The thing that marks one out as being a disciple of Jesus in this story is not a particular ordination service or badge of commissioning. The badge that marks a disciple of Jesus is the badge of authority that comes through faith alone. We are told nothing about this other exorcist in the story accept that he was successfully casting out demons in Jesus' name. This means that he was acting with faith and because of that faith, he was acting with authority and he was in fact part of Jesus' movement. Jesus' ordination of the twelve was never meant to keep other people out. We will see this obviously in the next chapter when Jesus commissions seventy-two disciples to go out to evangelize. I think the twelve were wanting to be an exclusive bunch which is why they tried to stop the man who was not one of them. This is sadly the way most of us work, even in ministry, as corrupted human beings. Competition and the need to feel important often hinder us to our own detriment. After all, if the goal was casting out demons in Jesus' name, this unnamed disciple could have been a help to the twelve who had just recently been rebuked for their failure to do the same. Instead of rejoicing in this man's faith, the twelve tried to shut him down.
"We tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." But Jesus answered the disciples saying: "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." How well we would do to forget our brothers and sisters denominational status or clerical collar and instead look at the fruit of their labors. Are they for Jesus or against Him? Are they casting out demons or contracting them? Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Let us not exclude the much needed laborers simply because they do not follow along with us. If they are having success in doing the work that Jesus called us too, maybe what we need to do is join up with them? What we need is unity and coworkers. What we do not need is competition and pride among the family of God.