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"John spoke up, 'Master, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped Him because he wasn't of our group.' Jesus said, 'Don't stop him. If he's not an enemy, he's an ally.'
"When it came close to the time for His Ascension, He gathered up His courage and steeled Himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for His hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that His destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality.
"When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, 'Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?' Jesus turned on them: 'Of course not!' And they travelled on to another village." Luke 9:49-55 (The Message)
Talk about selective hearing! James and John's attitude was proof that they had not taken in a word Jesus had said about true greatness.
What had these men learned from their association with Jesus? From non-religious guys who were part of the "out" group as far as their religious leaders were concerned, they had developed the idea that they were now part of a new "in" group!
They were very protective of their status as followers of Jesus -- disciples of the newest and most popular rabbi in Israel. Although He had many followers on the fringe, Jesus had not invited anyone else to be part of the "in" group and they wanted to be sure that no one gate-crashed their party.
Anyone of the "them" group who happened to "get" what Jesus had been teaching and act on it was frowned on, not encouraged, because he was not one of "us". They proudly announced to Jesus that they had put a stop to a man's enthusiastic participation in doing the "kingdom stuff" by casting out demons, thinking that He would applaud them for their loyalty to Him. They were not anticipating the surprising rebuke they received for their trouble! 'Don't stop him,' Jesus said. 'If he's not an enemy, then he's a friend.'
James and John were such fiery characters that they had earned the nickname, "sons of thunder". To protect their inner circle they were prepared to use their new-found authority to incinerate people who dared to oppose them, especially the hated Samaritans! Thinking that Jesus would applaud their outrage for the snub they had received, they wanted His approval for their plan to wipe out the village.
What did Jesus think of these goings-on from His disciples? For all their response to His teaching and demonstrating His yoke, they were still thinking and acting in exactly the same way as they did before they met Him. It seems that everything He taught them bounced off them like a ball off a wall. In fact, an "outsider" had caught on to what they, the "insiders" had missed. To cast out demons "in His name" meant that the unknown man, who was not a disciple, was doing what their rabbi did in the disposition of their rabbi.
How sad that many of Jesus' self-proclaimed "followers" today have just as much of a "we - they" mentality as the disciples had. Being a Christian is being part of an exclusive "club" and to be a Christian minister is to have an elevated position in this club.
To get the real picture, let's go back to Jesus' visual aid on greatness. He insisted that to be truly great, one must use one's position to elevate others, not to put them down or lord it over them. Get down to the level of the lowest and treat them with dignity and respect.
Jesus was the greatest and truest model of what He taught, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV).
Are you as selectively deaf as the disciples were?
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