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For and Against, part 1

May 25, 2006

Matthew 12:30 (Luke 11:23), Mark 9:40 (Luke 9:50)

First, a clear understanding of the texts must be grasped. It may help to draw pictures as you read through Matthew 12:30 (Luke 11:23) and Mark 9:40 (Luke 9:50). It aided me a great deal when I sought to understand these four verses. We will briefly examine the context, break-down and relation of these four.

Jesus speaks each of these four passages. In the first, Matthew 12:30 (which is an exact duplicate of Luke 11:23), Jesus is again rebuking the Pharisees for their lack of understanding. They have just accused Jesus of working with/for Beelzebul (Satan). Jesus explains blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He continues by using the analogy of the strong man and his house. He then speaks this verse, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters”. Jesus categorizes the Pharisees and Satan as ones against Him, the ones who scatter.

In the second passage, Mark 9:40 (which is stated similarly in Luke 9:50), John has just reported someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus says the man should not be hindered, “For he who is not against us is for us”. The man casting out demons in Jesus’ name is not working against Jesus. He is doing the same work as Jesus. Because this man is not working against Jesus, he is on His side.

There are two categories as we break-down the passages. In Matthew, there are the “not with Me” (also called the “against Me”, and described by their activity of not gathering and therefore scattering) and the “with Me” (by implication). In Mark, there are the “not against us” (also called “for us”) and the “against us” (by implication). The first category in Matthew, “not with Me”, pairs with the implied category of Mark, “against us”. The second, and implied, category of Matthew, “with Me”, pairs with the category in Mark, “not against us”. We see that there are really only two sides, with Jesus and against Jesus. There is no overlap. Further, the activity of those against Jesus is to scatter, the opposite of Jesus’ work of gathering.

In part 2, we will look in more detail at these passages and at their application, which may be a third part…

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