Those "Other" Sinners
by Robert F. Turner
"And John answered and said, `Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us'" (Luke 9:49).
Answered what? The word may mean, "began to speak" but Vine says always "where something has preceded, either statement or act to which the remarks refer." The Harper-Bagster Lexicon says, "in N.T. to respond to certain present circumstances." What "brought on" John's remarks about the man he had "forbidden"?
The preceding verses show that the disciples had been disputing about who among them should be greatest, and Jesus had rebuked them for their pride (See Mark 9:33-37). John is not named specifically, but other passages say James and John accompanied their mother when she asked Jesus to seat them in high positions in His kingdom (Matthew 20:20ff). Was the woman alone in her desire for greatness? I believe the sons must share the blame and that John (perhaps James, also) was enough involved in the arguments about greatness that Jesus' rebuke carried a special "sting."
Is it not a well established trait of human nature that when the sermon fits, we try to change the subject? Our personal defense is to launch our own attack upon someone else. If, in this new battle, we can make our former critic an ally, perhaps he will forget all about the fault he saw in us. The shoe fits -- so we try to find a different shoe, for someone else.
When John felt the sting of the Lord's rebuke to pride, he "answered" by saying, in effect, "Master, we (James also?) saw this 'outsider' doing wrongly, and we really jumped on him. We let him have it!"
Even if John's judgment was right and his actions respecting the second man justified, this would not remove John's fault. How embarrassing to discover he was again wrong. Jesus said, "Forbid him not ..."
Will we never learn -- a second error does not correct the first -- we cannot grow by causing others to appear smaller -- and, final judgment is on an individual basis, by One who sees and knows our very thoughts.