“For the one who is not against us is for us.” – Mark 9:40
We are born as creatures who are dead-set against the Christ. From the Fall of Adam onward, we are born to trouble as sparks fly upward [Job 5:7]. We born to trouble in so many ways, and there is no greater trouble than to be against the Christ. Saint Paul lists some of our troubling ways in the second chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians. Whereas Christ is the sinless personification of life, we on the other hand are born dead in trespasses and sins [v 1]. Instead of following Christ the Lord, we, who now possess a fallen nature, walk in the steps of His enemy; we are naturally following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit (Satan) that is now at work in the sons of disobedience [v 2]. As corrupt human beings, we were conceived in our mother’s womb to behave contrary to our Lord’s holy standards, and thus grow to naturally break one commandment after another, living in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind [3a]. Indeed, we were not naturally born as children of God, but we were born as children of wrath, like the rest of mankind [v 3b]. In no way, shape, or form could we be considered on the side of God; on the contrary it is quite clear we were born set against Him.
So if we are conceived and born against the Christ, how can Jesus claim someone—anyone—could be not against Him? Jesus unequivocally explains that the one who is not against us is for us [v 40]. There are only two sides to the issue of Christ; we are either against Him or we are for Him. We are either on His side of the fence or we are on Satan’s side; there are no fence-riders. How can it be that we who were born and naturally live on the wrong side of the fence, could somehow be for Jesus—existing on His side of the fence, ceasing to be against Him? Clearly some people are no longer against Jesus, and thus somehow these people have been brought to His side of the fence. This is a miracle of the Holy Spirit. We are saved and brought to Christ’s side of the fence by faith, and faith comes by hearing by the Word of Christ [Rom 10:17]. People who have been brought to Christ’s side of the fence must have been exposed to the innately powerful Gospel, and the Holy Spirit must have worked faith—however immature—within such people. In Sunday’s Gospel we find two examples—not examples that we would expect—of people who were brought to Christ’s side of the fence, and thus they were no longer against Him.
The first example of people brought to Christ’s side are those who were not actively following Jesus like the Apostles were following Him; nonetheless, they were performing exorcisms in Jesus’ name. Obviously these exorcists were not doing such exorcisms like the apparently money-grubbing sons of Sceva in the book of Acts (19:14ff). The sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in Jesus’ name, and the demon-possessed man turned on them and pummeled them. The sons of Sceva apparently did not have faith in Jesus. The exorcists recorded in Sunday’s Gospel clearly had a faith in Jesus; they were on His side of the fence. This is evident because it is in speaking of these exorcists that Jesus gives the assurance, For the one who is not against us is for us. These amateur exorcists no doubt had much to learn, but they clearly had a faith in the Christ. They were no longer—as they had been from their birth—against Him.
The second examples of people brought to Christ’s side of the fence are the “little ones.” Such “little ones” may be any person with an apparently immature knowledge of the faith, but it seems likely that since Jesus had just placed a child in their midst (vv 36,37), He is speaking of small children. Luke records how mothers were bringing even their infants to Jesus, that these little ones might receive His blessed touch [Lk 18:15ff]. As Jesus—the Word made flesh—touched these infants, what greater blessing could He give them than faith in the Christ? Those who deny the possibility of infant faith are those who try to make faith into a personal decision, a meritorious act. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus identifies the faith of these little ones: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea [v 42]. Observe that Jesus identifies certain little ones—yes even babies—as those who believe in Him. Thanks be to God that because of Christ’s death and resurrection anyone, even a baby, is able to be brought to His side of the fence. They are miraculously connected to Jesus, brought to believe in His identity and in His death and resurrection for their eternal salvation. They are no longer set against Christ, therefore they are for Him.