Jesus’ friends have come across someone “casting out demons in your name”. It sounds as if they tried to stop him because they thought he was jumping on the bandwagon, or maybe giving himself a status that in their eyes he hasn’t earned? They had, after all, just had the conversation with Jesus about who was the greatest – perhaps they were trying to change Jesus’ mind? Status was important to the disciples and here was a man using Jesus’ name and casting out demons.
Last year the Gospel choir I sing with was asked to sing backing vocals for a Neil Diamond tribute show. I told everyone, because I was excited, that I was singing at the theatre, but I stressed to everyone “it’s not the real Neil Diamond though,” not because I was disappointed, but because I didn’t want them to think it was the real one. Possibly because I didn’t want them to think it was VERY important, just a little bit important. I don’t think the real Neil Diamond minds too much about tribute acts; after all, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, don’t they? The tribute actor isn’t trying to fool anyone, they know he is a tribute and it will become apparent that while he won’t be authentic, he will be almost as good, and the songs will still be the same.
Perhaps that’s how Jesus felt – it isn’t about status, and those people casting out demons weren’t doing it in their own name, they weren’t pretending they were the Messiah – they were using Jesus’ name; and apparently it was working. False prophet – or tribute?