At first glance, it appears a noble thing that Jesus’ disciples kept such careful guard over the orthodoxy of Jesus’ ministry. They found someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name who was not a part of their group and not under their control, and they demanded that he stop. Yet Jesus saw through His disciples’ hypocrisy. The disciples themselves had been given the power to drive out demons as well (Matt. 10:8), yet they had failed miserably (Mark 9:28).
How it must have embarrassed the disciples to have publicly failed to cast out a demon from a young boy. Yet, here was someone successfully exorcising demons who was not even regularly with Jesus as they were. They should have been concerned with their own lack of spiritual power and vitality. They should have felt convicted by their Lord’s stinging rebuke at their lack of faith (Matt. 17:20). Instead, they focused on others. Rather than repenting of their sin and grieving over their spiritual impotence, the disciples attempted to hinder someone who was enjoying spiritual success.
At times, it is easier to diminish others’ spiritual victories than to honestly confront our own failures. Jesus’ response to His disciples must have surprised them as He said, “Do not forbid him” (Mark 9:39). He assured them that “he who is not against us is on our side” (v. 40). Have you learned this vital lesson? Are you able to genuinely rejoice in the spiritual victories of others? Are you encouraging those who serve the Lord in a different way or who belong to a different group than you do?