Series 23


by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portion: Mark 9:38-41; Commendation: Verse 39)

Mark 9 records some challenging experiences in the lives of the disciples of Jesus. We may be surprised that these first disciples were often so unspiritual, and needing to pray the prayer of Psalm 51:10; are we less surprised that we are so much like them? Their spirit was wrong – and so is ours sometimes.

  1. In Mark 9:5-6 we have the CARELESS spirit.
  2. In Mark 9:10 we have the BLIND spirit – compare verse 32.
  3. In Mark 9:28-29 we have the POWERLESS spirit.
  4. In Mark 9:33-34 we have the PROUD spirit.
  5. In Mark 9:38 we have the SECTARIAN spirit.

A careful study of these verses will bring us to the portion set for this study – Mark 9:38-41. It contains seven lessons, of which the first is this:

1. Advancement in God’s Kingdom comes by taking the lowest place.

Read verses 33-37 and notice that the Lord knew what was in the hearts of His people (look up Luke 9:47) so He asked the question in verse 33 – which caused the disciples to feel ashamed – verse 34. He then set a little child in front of them and spoke to them of humility – look up and compare Matthew 5:3; Luke 14:11; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5. If we are the Lord’s disciples, then there is one great lesson He would have us learn – look up Matthew 11:29-30. It is only when we take the lowly way, and seek to learn the lesson of true humility, that strife, unrest, passion and pride go out of our lives, and in their place we find rest for our souls! The second lesson is this:

2. Even the best of us is in danger of speaking and acting carelessly and wrongly.

Verse 38 tells us, “‘Teacher,’ said John…” This is very striking. Had it been Peter or Judas we might not have been surprised; but it was John, the one who was perhaps nearest to Jesus, the disciple whom Jesus loved – look up John 13:23. It is very easy for any of us to fail the Lord badly, as Moses did, when he spoke out of turn – look up Psalm 106:33; as David did, although he was the man after God’s own heart – look up 2 Samuel 11:27; or as Paul and Barnabas did when they disagreed – look up Acts 15:39. All this leads us to say three things. First: how patient the Lord is with His children! Second: we must be patient with one another – look up James 5:9. Third: when we are conscious of failure we must confess it to God (1 John 1:9), and we must confess our faults to one another (James 5:16). Now notice a third lesson:

3. The Lord employs a great variety of workers in His service.

In verse 38 the disciples noticed a man who “was not one of us.” We must recognise the fact that in the Lord’s work there are many different kinds of workers. This should not surprise us, especially when we read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, and compare 1 Corinthians 12:4-18. Here we are specifically told that “there are different kinds of gifts”, “different kinds of service”, “different kinds of working”, and so on. We should thank God that all round the world today He has His witnesses, and they are all different in race, place and face – but they are all one through grace! As we move among the Lord’s people let us be careful to recognise this great truth.

4. Rigid sectarianism is an abomination to the Lord.

In verse 38 John said to the Lord, concerning this man driving out demons, “he was not one us”. But at once our Lord gave His commendation – verse 39. The disciples were concerned because this man, who evidently believed on the Lord and was working in His name (otherwise Jesus would not have commended him), was exercising a powerful ministry. They thought they were the elect and no-one else counted; they were indignant that anyone not belonging to their little inner circle should be using the name of the Lord. How much of this hard, unloving spirit exists among Christians today! Many think their little group is right and all others are wrong! We need to stop criticising, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, and actively draw near to other believers in Christ, whatever their label. We belong together with all who truly are the Lord’s, and we must seek to put into operation the motto – “All one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

5. Demon-possession is as real today as it was 2000 years ago.

The man mentioned in verse 38 was driving out demons. The New Testament records many instances of demon-possession, and on a number of occasions our Lord exorcised demons, as in this very chapter – Mark 9:14-29. There is no question that much of our present day mental illness, and probably much of our physical illness also, is caused by satanic influence. The Devil is still the great enemy of mankind; we are apt to underestimate his power, and frequently we are misled because he does not reveal himself as “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), but as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) – look up Ephesians 6:12. Why, then, are we so powerless to exorcise evil spirits and to free those who have been brought into bondage by the Enemy? – look up Mark 9:28-29.

6. Our God is still the God of miracles.

Verse 38 tells us of a man performing a miracle, and in verse 39 Jesus confirmed the fact. The man was only the instrument, for God was doing the work through him. But all this leads us to ask: Do miracles still happen today? Yes, of course they do! Quite apart from the fact that we have seen miracles, we have in God’s Word many wonderful prayer-promises, a great number of them in the words of the Lord Jesus, which urge us to pray for and to expect miracles – for example: Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:23.

7. All service in the Name of Christ is seen by Him and will be rewarded.

This surely means that we should do everything in His Name, even the common tasks of everyday, for – look up Colossians 3:17, and compare 1 Corinthians 10:31.