October 20 – Matthew 17 and Mark 9: Are you for us?Today’s Tasting: Matthew 17 and Mark 9
In today’s readings, Matthew and Mark both tell of Jesus’ transformation. In their descriptions, his face “shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light”. While he was in this state, Moses and Elijah joined him and God spoke to them saying “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
In both books, the disciples who were with Jesus – Peter, James, and John — asked him about the teachings that said Elijah must come before the Messiah comes. Jesus tells them that Elijah did in fact come, but he was not recognized. He tells them he was abused just as the Son of Man will be made to suffer. The disciples understood Jesus to being saying that Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist.
After the transfiguration, Jesus and disciples go back down the mountain to find a crowd gathered. There was a boy whom they were trying, unsuccessfully, to cast out the demons. In Matthew, Jesus scolds them for not having enough faith, telling them “if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed…nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 1720-21). In Mark however, he tells them that “this kind–of demon– can only be cast out by prayer” (Mark 9:29).
Mark goes on to tell about some who were casting out demons in the name of Jesus and how the disciples told them to stop because they were one of them. Again, Jesus reprimands them telling them that “no one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us” Mark (9:39-40). Jesus goes on to explain that anyone who helps a follower of His will be blessed; however, anyone who causes a follower to stray would be better off if they were thrown into the sea with a rock around their neck. He goes on to tell them to remove anything that causes them to sin, for it is better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven maimed than it is to be in Hell will all your parts.
Today I want to chat about Jesus’ statement that “anyone who is not against us is for us”. What does that mean? The familiar modern version of this is “anyone who is not with us, is against us”. That is a completely opposite assumption from what Jesus was teaching. Jesus was telling us to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Our modern day version speaks more of guilt until proven innocent.
Since Mark is talking about folks who were not disciples but who were casting out demons in the name of Jesus, let’s look at these phrases as they relate to modern day Christianity and the Church. Have you ever heard someone say “they’re not really a Christian because they don’t believe in ____________ (insert something like Baptism or speaking in tongues)” or how about “that denomination is wrong because they aren’t ____________ (insert a different denomination)” or what about “those folks down at XYZ Church have it all wrong, they __________ (insert any belief or action)”.
Are these types of thoughts in line with Jesus’ teaching that “anyone who is not against us is for us”? We may not all worship the same way, just as the non-disciples may not have been casting out demons the way the disciples would have, but at least we are all worshiping. Just like in the times of Jesus and the disciples, there are plenty of folks out there that are truly against us…is it right for us to pick on the ones who are not just because they may not be doing it the way we would? As Christians we need to stand united in Jesus’ belief that “anyone who is not against us is for us” and love and support our fellow Christians instead of tearing them down.
What can you do to help bridge the gap that is dividing us?
Tomorrow’s Delight: Matthew 18
Hugs & Blessings,