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WITH JESUS OR AGAINST HIM?

 

Question: How may one reconcile Matthew 12: 30 with Mark 9: 40?

 

            Matthew 12: 30: ‘He who is not with me is against me, . . .’

            Mark 9: 40: ‘[W]hoever is not against us is for us.’

 

Answer: The context of each passage gives a clue to the understanding of these seemingly contradictory statements.

 

Prior to our Lord’s declaration recorded in Matthew 12: 30, the Pharisees had attacked Him for doing good: ‘eating’ on the Sabbath (vs. 1-8), and healing on the Sabbath (vs. 9-14). So vindictive were they towards Him that they contemplated His assassination (v. 14).

 

In response, Jesus went to a different locality to continue His healing (vs. 15-21). The Pharisees followed, and when He healed the demoniac they accused Him of working for the very devil He was exorcising (vs. 22-29). It was at this juncture that Jesus condemned their wilful interference, launching into a harsh assessment of their unsympathetic motives and set forth the consequences of opposing His ministry (vs. 31-45).

 

In Mark 9: 40, Jesus responds to the officiousness of His own disciples who had censured the man casting out demons by His authority because he did not belong to their inner circle (‘he was not one of us’, v. 38). Our Lord’s response, ‘Do not stop him’ (v. 39), was open-handed. His words recorded in v. 41, ‘anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ’, serve both as a rebuke to those sectarian Christians who deny salvation to any not associated with their particular grouping; and, additionally, as an encouragement that anyone who recognises Christ as Saviour and King is justified by faith, regardless of doctrinal creed. A foreshadowing of this magnanimity can be found in the words of Moses, recorded in Numbers 11: 29 (link here).

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