Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.
When I first read this verse, I wondered what the disciples were thinking. Notice, they did not try and stop the man because he was not following Jesus, but because he was not following them. They were trying to preserve the purity of the Jesus movement by silencing the ministry of an outsider. They were surprised when Jesus rebuked them.
But are they that much different than most Christians today? Don’t most Christians feel their brand of Christianity is the correct one? Just look at all the different denominations that proclaim they are Christians. When the Christian Church began in ancient times, celebrated on the day of Pentecost, there was only one Christian Church. As time went on, Christians could not agree about what they believed and started splitting the Church into smaller Churches.
In the year 1054, there was a major split. The Eastern and Western Churches had not trusted or respected each other for many years. The real problems came when the Western Church changed the words to the Nicene Creed. The original version affirmed the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father, through the Son”, but the Western Church changed it to “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son”
The final schism came when the Western Church made clerical celibacy a universal rule and celebrated communion with unleavened bread. This split still exists today.
Then in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg starting the Reformation. The reformation came about in a large part due to corruption in the papacy. One of the things that brought it to a head was the selling of indulgences. The man in charge of selling indulgences in Germany was a Dominican named John Tetzel. His claim was that the indulgences they sold would make the sinner cleaner than when coming out of baptism and cleaner than Adam before the fall, and that the cross of the seller of indulgences had as much power as the cross of Christ. He claimed buying an indulgence for a loved one who had died would immediately free their soul from purgatory.
The Reformation was not intended to split the Church as much as it was hoped it would bring the Church back to an early way of doing things, one more in line with the teachings of Jesus. But it did cause a split, another one that exists to this day.
Looking at the history of Protestantism shows many more splits as different denominations came into existence. These include the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Anabaptists, The Congregationalists, The Anglicans and the Episcopalians. It sometimes seems as if we are dividing the Body of Christ into ever-smaller pieces, because we can’t agree with what it means to be Christian.
Like everything else, there is more than one way to look at this. While we have created more denominations rather than having an intact Christian Church, having so many different denominations allows more people to worship God with like-minded people.
But, our Gospel lesson is not about dividing the Church, it is about Christ being larger than the Christian Church. Jesus responds to his disciples not to stop him and that anyone who not against us is for us. Jesus is our Lord, our Savior, but Jesus is not ours, we belong to Jesus. Jesus paid for us by giving his life for us. But Jesus didn’t just give his life for us Presbyterians, or just for us Christians, but he gave his life for all humanity.
I recently read a Statement of Faith I would like to share with you.
We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired, verbally and completely inerrant in the original writings and of supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and life.
We recognize the value of traditional Jewish literature, but only where it is supported by or conformable to the Word of God. We regard it as in no way binding upon life or faith.
We believe in one sovereign God, existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, perfect in holiness, infinite in wisdom, unbounded in power and measureless in love; that God is the source of all creation and that through the immediate exercise of His power all things came into being.
We believe that God the Father is the author of eternal salvation, having loved the world and given His Son for its redemption.
We believe that Jesus the Messiah was eternally pre-existent and is co-equal with God the Father; that He took on Himself the nature of man through the virgin birth so that He possesses both divine and human natures.
We believe in His sinless life and perfect obedience to the Law; in His atoning death, burial, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, high-priestly intercession and His personal return in power and glory.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son; that He was active in the creation of all things and continues to be so in providence; that He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, and that He regenerates, sanctifies, baptizes, indwells, seals, illumines, guides and bestows His gifts upon all believers.
We believe that God created man in His image; that because of the disobedience of our first parents at the Garden of Eden they lost their innocence and both they and their descendants, separated from God, suffer physical and spiritual death and that all human beings, with the exception of Jesus the Messiah, are sinners by nature and practice.
We believe that Jesus the Messiah died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice; that all who believe in Him are justified, not by any works of righteousness they have done, but by His perfect righteousness and atoning blood and that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.
We believe that Israel exists as a covenant people through whom God continues to accomplish His purposes and that the Church is an elect people in accordance with the New Covenant, comprising both Jews and Gentiles who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Redeemer.
We believe that Jesus the Messiah will return personally in order to consummate the prophesied purposes concerning His kingdom.
We believe in the bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust, the everlasting blessedness of the saved and the everlasting conscious punishment of the lost.
This Statement of Faith did not come from a Christian Church or organization, although it certainly sounds like it could have, but from an organization called “Jews for Jesus”. This organization has offices worldwide and identifies as Jewish. They follow the Jewish faith, but recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They follow the teachings of Jesus and they too belong to Jesus. Jesus gave his life for them.
I would also like to share a song I heard recently. I almost didn’t listen to this because it is a rap song, but the lyrics caught my attention.
This ain’t a song about bottles in the club
This is about a role model filled with love. A teacher, a preacher with guidance from above
Sent to represent a message of peace like a dove
In the west they call him Jesus, in the east they call him Isa Messiah, Christ…the same person that you speak of
Ask me why I wrote this song I will tell you because
There’s too many people silent, it’s time for me to speak up
The son of a virgin, they say it is illogical Probably improbable but God made it possible
Gabriel told Mary that her son would be phenomenal
His voice was always audible,
The opposite of prodigal,
He overcame the obstacles, people attacking him
He was a walking hospital, with healing he was passionate
He cured the sick, raised the dead, shout out to Lazarus I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth
If we don’t have peace, we’ll end up in pieces
Treat people the way that you want to be treated
If you do believe it, sing it and repeat it
I am not afraid to say that I believe in Jesus
Jesus…I believe in Jesus I am not afraid to say that I believe in Jesus
Jesus…I believe in Jesus I am not afraid to say that I believe in Jesus
I’m just a follower of Jesus
What that means is: I follow what he teaches
I’m not the type of person that just wants to give speeches
I’m trying to be the person that will practice what he preaches
Yeah, ’cause I’ve observed people just say the words
But faith ain’t a noun, it is more like verb
That’s why I wrote this verse, to remind us to serve
‘Cause if you haven’t heard, faith is dead without works
How can we say we believe that God exists If we always act the opposite, it’s ominous How we only care about our own accomplishments, and we’re quick to break our promises We gotta put a stop to this
We all sin, I know that we are human But we cannot keep on using all the same excuses Now it is the time we need to prevent the abuses Listen up, I got the solution
Why does our religion always have to cause division?
In reality we’re all more similar than different
Jesus wanted unity, but nowadays it’s missing We have to use our vision if we want to do his mission
Can’t we see we’re all children of Adam, brothers and sisters? If you don’t agree, then you haven’t read the Scriptures
Picture when Jesus comes back to Jerusalem Will he be happy with the way that you’ve become?
We’re living wrong but today’s a new dawn So sing along to this song, like David singing the Psalms Now raise up your arms, give alms with open palms Jesus brought us a message to follow until we’re gone
Shout out to my dad and mom for blessing me in my youth God’s essence is the proof that his message is the truth And this song was just a lesson to remind me and you To ask ourselves this question, what would Jesus do?
After I heard this song I looked it up on the internet to learn more about it. I found that it was written and performed by Mo Sabri, a Muslim. I, like many others according to the comments I read thought how wonderful that he has converted to Christianity. But he hasn’t. He identifies as a Muslim and he follows Jesus’ teachings.
Mr. Sabri is not alone, there are many Muslims that still practice their faith but also follow Jesus. Jesus isn’t for us alone. Jesus is for all humanity and all humanity has been invited to follow him, to live as he teaches us to live.
So, does this mean we just drop our guard against those who would harm us? Absolutely not, there are people, of all faiths, who use their faith to hurt others.
But what it does mean is that we are all God’s children and even though we disagree about some things, some very important things, we are called to love each other as Christ loves us. We have more in common with each other than we have differences. Christ gave up his life willingly, not just for us, but for all people and invites all people to follow him. As Christians, we try and do just that, but so do some of our Jewish brothers and sisters and our Muslim brothers and sisters. Jesus is not ours, we are his, and we are not alone Thanks be to God.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!