Jesus’ Friends and Foes

Did you ever wonder who you should consider your friends?  Well, so did the gospel writers and they may have disagreed with each other.  It seems that Matthew was a bit more inclusive than Mark.  And, well, Luke appears quite conflicted. :-) 

Exclusive Verses:

  • Matthew 12:30 & Luke 11:23 –> Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Inclusive Verses:

  • Mark 9:40 –> Whoever is not against us is for us.
  • Luke 9: 50 –> But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’

I thought a picture would help illustrate this classic biblical contradiction.  But in all fairness, do you think we could reconcile these purported sayings of Jesus by imagining him saying:  “Look, if an unbeliever is doing good, they do my work.  But those who do evil are against us.”

What do you think?

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10 Comments

Filed under Philosophy & Religion

10 responses to “Jesus’ Friends and Foes

  1. societyvs

    I am not sure I find that Matthew verse that ‘excluding’.

    “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

    It’s a matter of the context and choice. Just prior to this passage Jesus is being accused of being part and parcel with the devil (for his exorcism work)(in Matthew’s version). The sentence, meant to show some form of strength and integrity on his part, is an answer to those kinds of accusations.

    I think we have all had this happen to us – we are accused of being something we know we are not. We usually don’t answer in a way that leaves the question open for debate. That’s what I see Jesus doing there.

    It’s also to lay claim to something – he is doing the work of God, not the work of the devil. I get the attitude about that incident and how Jesus could percieve people going against him – even people he may have seen as compatriots.

  2. Ian

    So we’ve got two stories here.

    Luke 9 is telling the same story as Mark 9 (albeit in a slightly different context). It seems to be suggesting that some people, cash in on Jesus renown as a miracle worker and claim to be his disciples. Like me publishing a book called ‘Purpose Driven Family’. Here Jesus says – yeah, so what? If they are actually doing the miracles, its all good.

    Whereas Luke 11 is retelling the Matthew story. I’m not sure Jesus here isn’t referring to Beelzebub. He is saying – am I doing these miracles by God’s power or the Devils? If by the devils then you’d expect people to be worse off at the end of it, because anyone who doesn’t build with me scatters. (the obvious implication being – I’m doing it by God’s power).

    I think it is a stretch, in context, to read any kind of universal message of salvation into either of these passages. Both are obviously answers to a particular response to a particular question.

    Incidentally, and OT, Luke 11:27-28 is one of my favorite little asides in the gospels. I can totally hear this exchange happening. Unfortunately, it fails the normal tests of historical criticism, so we can’t say that it was very likely.

  3. dreadpiratescetis

    Yar! Welcome to the Synoptic Problem. Mark be scrawling first. Matt, being the pirate that he be, scrawled based on looking at Mark and did not find this phrase to be to his liking, so he changed it. Luke may have had his spyglass on both Matt and Mark’s scrawlings and sometimes splits the difference. I be liking yer thought of “”Look, if an unbeliever is doing good, they do my work. But those who do evil are against us.” That be universal and more in line with how I think.

  4. Ian

    You think Matt 12 is a synopsis of Mark 9? Interesting.

    Matt 12 might have been based on a Q story that in turn was based on some more primitive source that Mark also used, the two routes to Luke (one via Q, one via Mark) spawning two separate stories from one. But that’s far more speculation than is healthy.

    Your scenario makes more sense if you believe in the Farrar hypothesis, where Luke uses Matt. Which by your hint, you probably do.

    Still, they don’t look close enough to me :)

  5. I don’t think unbelievers are the objects of both statements. Luke 9 regards believers (though not among the core Disciples) and Luke 11 regards unbelievers. Mark 9 regards believers (see Phil. 1:17-18 for parallel) while Matthew 12, I think, is reiterating Luke 11.

    I wonder if, for Jesus, “doing my work” is not simply serving others, but serving God the Father through serving others. If so, then could good works done without regard for the Father be considered “doing my work”?

  6. Temaskian

    Sharp of you to have noticed this. And… great diagram!

  7. Temaskian

    So Christians who read more of Mark and Luke would tend to be more friendly, lol.

  8. @ Temaskian : Thanx

    @ Ian, Society, Pirate & LB: Thanx for filling it out. You help make my point that real exegesis is not as simple as the diagram implies — it takes filling out from context.

  9. societyvs

    “So Christians who read more of Mark and Luke would tend to be more friendly, lol.” (Temaskian)

    If the diagram were accurate that would be true…however Matthew is the one with the actual sermon on the mount…which is the gospel I enjoy the most. And I think I am pretty nice?

  10. Very impressed with your studies, Sabio….wow. This is very intriguing to study and look into. I have to think about this a little before I can comment at length.

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