John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us (Mark 9:38-40).
“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me” (Matthew 12:30).
So which is it? There seems to be a direct conflict here. In the first instance, there is man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and yet he is not one of Jesus followers. In the second example Jesus draws a line in the sand and says those hearing need to be active followers.
The example aren’t exactly parallel, so they aren’t contradictory as they first appeared to me. In the case of the man using Jesus’ name to cast out demons, he is using Jesus’ name, so therefore he must be offering some allegiance to Jesus, even if he doesn’t understand the whole Gospel or all the implications of what he is doing. Paul says: “No one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). To be casting out demons in Jesus’ name clearly recognizes Jesus as Lord — at least lord of the demons.
In the second passage, Jesus is really directing his scorn at those people who think it is really enough not to opposes Jesus. They owe him no allegiance, but they aren’t getting in his way either. This is a very timely word, because the Western world is full of people who are indifferent toward Jesus or even pay lip-service to him, and they think that will be enough to please God or get into heaven or at least not make the “universe” angry at them. I dare say millions of people shuffle into churches on Sundays across the globe who see church as something to be endured or an obligation or as if somehow by just showing up Jesus will be happy with them, but they are in no way prepared to offer Jesus any allegiance or serve him or sacrifice anything for him in any way or to seek a relationship with him. According to Jesus’ own word, this doesn’t cut the mustard.