This triggers something in John the Apostle, something that might have been niggling at him for a while, because the words are ‘Ioannes ephe’ ‘John said’. This carries more weight than the more usual ‘Ioannes eitte’, and ‘ephe’ includes connotations of declared, which could include ‘blurted out’.
“Teacher we saw someone else driving out (ekballonta) demons in Your name, and we tried to stop/prevent/hinder/debar (ekolyomen) him (she/it) because he/she does not accompany us (ekolouthei).”
The first ‘him’ (auton) is definitely masculine 3rd person singular. Neuter or feminine 3rd person singular would have been different words. But even Bible Hub’s use of Strong’s 846s’s doesn’t seem to limit the use to masculine only viz ‘Strong’s 846: He, she, it, they, them, same. From the particle au; the reflexive pronoun self, used of the third person, and of the other persons.’
The second verb, ekolouthei, is 3rd person singular, which leaves the ‘he/she/it’ wide open.
Just as a veil has been placed over the ‘someone’ and over whoever and how many of the apostles/disciples constituted the ‘we’ who saw and the ‘we’ who tried to hinder; the ‘auton’ could be a veil as well. Who has never said ‘him’ with their lips, but inferred ‘her’ with an inflection, a roll of the eyes or a conspiratorial smile?
Why was this niggling at John so much that he had to bring the topic up?
Was it because someone else was doing deliverance ministry?
Was it because they (unspecified exactly how many apostles) tried to shut it down?
Was this question niggling at someone else, and John got co-opted to ask the question because he was the least likely to fall out of favour with Jesus?
Prior to this, in Mark 3:15 the apostles were authorised by Jesus to cast out devils. Then in Mark 6:7-13 the apostles get sent out in pairs as missionaries, and they cast out many devils.
Therefore the crowds have seen people other than Jesus, in the authority of Jesus, casting out devils. They have seen the words and the actions done by the apostles, and have also seen the results. At least one person among those crowds was paying careful attention to this; or had received reports of these apostle-initiated deliverances from a friend or relative.
We then see in Mark 9:18 that the apostles (how many?) had been unsuccessful in casting out the spirit of dumbness from a boy.
From Matt 12:27 we know that a ministry of exorcism pre-existed among the Jewish people, because Jesus asks the Pharisees, ‘If it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?’
It is extremely interesting that John says ‘we saw someone’, when he could easily have said ‘we saw a man’. And even more interesting is the reply of Jesus, ‘Do not stop (kolyete) him/she/it/they/them (auton). No one who performs/works/constructs (poiesei) a miracle (dynamin) force/miraculous power in My name can quickly turn around and speak evil of Me.’
Neither John nor Jesus excludes anyone from ‘someone’; Jew, Gentile, child, woman or man.
With the ‘No one’ Jesus includes everyone.
And yes, it is possible for Jesus to have placed a similar ironic emphasis on ‘auton’ as John might have done. Nod nod, wink wink, I get the message you are trying to convey to Me, and which you want to keep from the majority of the apostles lest they be scandalised.
So who would the apostles have felt they had the right (and duty) to boss around?
A Jewish expert in exorcism? No.
A Jewish man? Unlikely.
A Gentile man? Maybe.
A woman? Likely.
A child? Likely.
Who would the apostles have considered to be ‘not one of us’?
A non-disciple? Possibly.
A Gentile? Definitely
A woman? Possibly.
A child? Probably not thought of in ‘us and them’ terms.
Who could have been at desperation level with a demonic situation, but not confident enough to ask Jesus or the apostles for help, yet enough of a believer to know the power of the Name of Jesus, and willing to pray and to try anything to resolve the situation?
A youth? A woman? A Gentile? Any combination of these?
Someone thoroughly grounded in faith in Jesus, who heard or saw that ordinary people were by faith using the power of Jesus to cast out devils, were immensely encouraged by this, and who when confronted with the demonic confidently stepped out in faith – and were successful.
It matters not who exactly they were (age, gender, nationality), - and being male isn’t excluded from that either -; but it does matter that this ‘someone’ gave an amazing demonstration of faith in the name and mission of Jesus, and it does matter that we are open to the possibility of God using anyone in this manner.
Could you ever hope to shut someone down who had discovered this?
Someone who had seen and heard the power of God released through his/her co-operation?
Not on your nellie. No way Jose.
Can you imagine Jesus being absolutely delighted with the news of the faith and ministry of this ‘someone’? Can you imagine Him mirroring the response of Moses in Num 11:28-29?.
‘Two men are prophesying in the camp. My Lord Moses, stop them!’ Moses answered, ‘Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of God were prophets and the Lord God have His Spirit to them all!’
While the ‘someone’ could have been anyone from these ‘not one of us’ groups, I’ve been particularly struck that it could have been a woman.
This ministry of exorcist has officially been confined to a subset of ordained men, who have particular authorization from a bishop, and special training. This is wise and prudent.
But the lesser ministry of deliverance has since Mark 16:17 ‘These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in My name they will cast out devils’ been open to anyone with sufficient faith in Jesus.*
You could even, based on Genesis 3:15 ‘I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel’, say that holy women might even be exceptionally gifted in this area.
Could it be that just as the majority of women are good cooks, but the great chefs are men; that the majority of good exorcists are priests, but there are a few exceptionally gifted women, with the Mary, the mother of Jesus in the lead, who far excel them?
The bottom line is:
You must not stop those God is using – whoever they are.
What does that mean, practically, for us?
Firstly, that all of us should be praying for an increase in faith.
Secondly, that there’s a lot of evil in this world that needs to be cast out, and that we should be willing and open for God, if He so chooses, to do that through us.
Thirdly, that we should be on the lookout to encourage anyone operating in one of the Holy Spirit’s charisms, especially if God has called them to a ministry of deliverance, and to choose to support them rather than thinking about how to shut them – and the associated weirdness that can be part and parcel of such a ministry – down.
Dear Heavenly Father, the faith of this ‘someone’ is astonishing to us, as is Your powerful response to his/her faith in Your ardent desire to set people free from the tyranny of evil spirits.
Please forgive me for my lack of faith in You, in Your goodness, and in Your absolute power to save. As the disciples said, we too say, ‘Increase our faith!’ ‘Increase my faith!’.
Upon all those who are already Your ministers of exorcism and Your ministers of deliverance, and upon all those whom You are calling into these ministries, pour out a double portion of Your Holy Spirit. Under the increased anointing of the Holy Spirit may they be more than twice as effective in these ministries as they have ever been before. Please send these frontline warriors of Yours extra protection and extra assistance from Your holy angels. May none of them ever become casualties in this battle for the salvation and deliverance of souls.
Should you want to call me in this ministry direction, or to any other charism-based ministry, my answer is Yes. I want to co-operate with You to the very best of my ability. Please enable me to do that. Please take away my fears, and the fears of all whom You are calling into battle formation against the enemies of our souls. Please grant us a share in the holy confidence You gave to this ‘someone’.
Please show me how, and help me, to recognise when Your holy charisms are at work through others, and inspire me with ways to meaningfully support and encourage them. Amen.
Mary, mother of Jesus, Help of Christians, Mother of Mercy, intercede for all of us. Amen.
* You might say, what’s the difference?
An admittedly poor analogy might help.
It is a bit like the difference between a sacrament and a sacramental, except that it is more the difference between a sacramental with the full backing and authority of the ‘Church universal in time and space’ and an ordinary sacramental activated by faith. For lower level cases, the ministry of deliverance will be sufficient; for anything beyond that the ministry of exorcism is needed.
Thank God for both types of ministry being effective in His Name.