Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-20
Peace be with you!
There is something annoying about the street corner preachers who hold a Bible in one hand and shout verses to passersby. Don’t get me wrong: the street corner preachers are not all bad. Their goal is to bring non-believers to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But I find myself wondering if their approach will actually achieve the desired response. They often come across as judgmental and disinterested in actually knowing and loving the people to whom they preach.
The disciples have witnessed another man, who is not a follower of Jesus, perform an exorcism in Jesus’ name. The disciples are outraged that a man who does not believe would use Jesus’ name. How could he be so vain to use another’s man name to appear more powerful? You cannot just use Jesus’ name superstitiously to perform miracles! Before I go on, I should tell you there were other exorcists, healers, and miracle workers during this time in history. Jesus was not unique in doing exorcisms, healings, and other miracles, but he did these things on behalf of God the Father. When Jesus sends his disciples out, they perform exorcisms, healings, and other miracles in Jesus’ name for God the Father. So when the disciples see another man perform an exorcism in Jesus’ name, they are disturbed.
The disciples tell Jesus about the man performing the exorcism in his name and how they tried to stop him (Mark 9:38). You would think Jesus would thank his disciples for attempting to stop the man. Jesus has warned his disciples about false prophets.
How many times have you said or thought, “That is not how we do it”? You call a new pastor, and she wants try a new coffee or a different worship schedule. I am guilty of analyzing sermons I hear in church, especially if I go to a different Christian denomination. The other week I went to a Bible church where the pastor attempted to give a sermon on building walls to keep the Devil out based on the book of Nehemiah. Unfortunately, the way the sermon came across resulted in miscommunication. The pastor seemed to be suggesting that I should build relational walls in my life to keep Satan out of our lives, which is all fine and dandy until we build walls to keep people who follow him out of our lives, and therefore we prevent the spread of the good news. I believe building walls is a more of a sinful motivation (blocking God’s love and good news from others) rather than building up relationships in love. Needless to say, it is a sermon I am still arguing with. “I wouldn’t preach a sermon that way!” I proclaim to myself.
Jesus has an unique insight. Even if the man does not intend to lead people to know him, Jesus knows other people will wonder who Jesus is and will come to know him. Just his name will lead people to him. In the sermon I heard, maybe it was just the thing someone else needed to hear that day. Maybe God used it in a way I couldn’t anticipate.
As Christians, we fall into the trap of thinking our way is the right way. If others do not believe the same way we do, we want to bring them to know and love Jesus the way we do. We get so caught up in our own traditions and ways of thinking that we forget other faith traditions have their own important aspects to their followers, and Jesus came for them as well. Jesus is warning his disciples to not get stuck in one way of thinking. When we do, we keep the good news from spreading, because we close our hearts to other people. Our narrow ways of thinking become our stumbling blocks. Jesus calls us to keep our hearts open in order to spread the good news. This does not mean we have to accept every idea or religion that comes along, but it does mean that we should never demonize those who believe differently, but we should love and befriend them. For those who are not yet believers in Jesus, God may open up an opportunity to talk with them about faith. But if we approach them with a megaphone and judgment, why would they want to listen to us? In Jesus Christ, we have been given love for those who are different from us. Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live out that love!
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for keeping helping us to keep an open mind in order to spread the good news. Help us to get out of our narrow ways of thinking so we can allow the good news to flow through us. Remind us the good news is for all, not just those who think and believe and look like us. Thank you for setting our hearts free from being so judgmental so that we can be freed to spread the good news. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Can God work through others involved in different faith traditions?
2. Who can use Jesus’ name? When can they use his name?