“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. – Mark 9:38-42
Today’s topic is a cup of water. This innocuous everyday item is elevated to a rather lofty position by Jesus. The disciples are concerned that people were “driving out demons in your name”. I am not sure what was in the hearts of the disciples, but it seems there are a few possibilities: 1) they were jealous of these people successfully driving out demons when they could not; 2) they were concerned that the people doing it were not members of elite inner circle and privy to the same teachings they were; 3) they thought these people might be outside their “control” and might do something that would be counter to Jesus’ teaching; or 4) something else I have not figured out yet.
Jesus responds to their concerns with an assurance that one cannot bear good fruit with bad intentions, “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” It seems Jesus is saying in essence the fruit of their actions speaks for itself and true miracles and wonders can only find their source in God. Unfortunately history is full of examples when horrible things were done in the name of religion and even in the name of Christ, but these would in my opinion qualify as “bad fruit” and not what Jesus was talking about here.
The we arrive at the water reference and the humble cup of water, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”. This simple cup of water takes on new meaning as an outward sign of an internal heart that acknowledges that: 1) there is a Messiah; 2) He has come in this Man Jesus; 3) those that choose can “belong” to Him; and 4) belonging brings with it a “reward”, which is in fact dwelling with God for eternity.
The open acknowledgement that there is a Messiah, and Jesus is that Messiah, is a “secret” that Jesus has been somewhat hesitant up to this point to reveal. His disciples, those Jesus interestingly refers to here as “little ones”, are learning every day what “belonging” to Him looks like and what it will require of them. The “reward” Jesus is referring to here is not a gold star in our Sunday School workbook but salvation itself and an eternal place with God in Heaven. This “cup” is a hidden well for sure.
Jesus ends this water wisdom with a warning, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” So from Jesus’ perspective we are all “little ones“, not because we are lowly cave dwellers here on earth that are less than God, but because we are infants in our understanding of the spiritual realm that He is teaching about.
The take home message for me from today’s passage is that something as simple as a cup of water can hold eternal life and deep spiritual truths when held by the hands of Jesus.
Prayer: God help us to take the cup of Living Water that you offer us every day so that we can live our lives in Your name.