Further Corrective Counsel
WHILE Jesus and his apostles are still in the house in Capernaum, something besides the apostles’ argument over who is the greatest is discussed. This is an incident that may also have occurred on their return to Capernaum, when Jesus was not personally present. The apostle John reports: “We saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us.”
Evidently John views the apostles as an exclusive, title-holding team of healers. So he feels that the man was performing powerful works improperly because he was not part of their group.
However, Jesus counsels: “Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; for he that is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink on the ground that you belong to Christ, I truly tell you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
It was not necessary for this man bodily to follow Jesus to be on his side. The Christian congregation had not yet been set up, so his not being part of their group did not mean that he was of a separate congregation. The man really had faith in Jesus’ name and thus succeeded in expelling demons. He was doing something that compared favorably with what Jesus said was deserving of a reward. Jesus shows that for doing this, he will not lose his reward.
But what if the man was stumbled by the words and actions of the apostles? This would be very serious! Jesus observes: “Whoever stumbles one of these little ones that believe, it would be finer for him if a millstone such as is turned by an ass were put around his neck and he were actually pitched into the sea.”
Jesus says that his followers should remove from their lives anything as dear to them as a hand, a foot, or an eye that may cause them to stumble. Better to be without this cherished thing and enter into God’s Kingdom than to hold on to it and be pitched into Gehenna (a burning rubbish heap near Jerusalem), which symbolizes eternal destruction.
Jesus also warns: “See to it that you men do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” He then illustrates the preciousness of “little ones” when he tells about a man who possesses a hundred sheep but loses one. The man will leave the 99 to search for the lost one, Jesus explains, and on finding it will rejoice more over it than over the 99. “Likewise,” Jesus then concludes, “it is not a desirable thing with my Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.”
Possibly having in mind his apostles’ argument among themselves, Jesus urges: “Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another.” Tasteless foods are made more palatable by salt. Thus, figurative salt makes what one says easier to accept. Having such salt will help preserve the peace.
But because of human imperfection, at times serious disputes will occur. Jesus also provides guidelines for handling them. “If your brother commits a sin,” Jesus says, “go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” If he does not listen, Jesus advises, “take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.”
Only as a last resort, Jesus says, take the matter to “the congregation,” that is, to responsible overseers of the congregation who can render a judicial decision. If the sinner will not abide by their decision, Jesus concludes, “let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.”
In making such a decision, overseers need to adhere closely to instructions in Jehovah’s Word. Thus, when they find an individual guilty and worthy of punishment, the judgment ‘will already have been bound in heaven.’ And when they “loose on earth,” that is, find one innocent, it will already have been “loosed in heaven.” In such judicial deliberations, Jesus says, “where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” Matthew 18:6-20; Mark 9:38-50; Luke 9:49, 50.
▪ Why was it not necessary in Jesus’ day to accompany him?
▪ How serious is the matter of stumbling a little one, and how does Jesus illustrate the importance of such little ones?
▪ What probably prompts Jesus’ encouragement for the apostles to have salt among themselves?
▪ What significance is there to ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’?