Luke 9:49 (ESV):

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

The 12 (and later the 70) only started healing people and casting out demons AFTER Jesus "gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases."

The Holy Spirit had not been sent yet, so with what authority was this person acting?

I am not questioning the good will of the anonymous healer. Was he an imposter Jesus would have stated so.

What I'm really wondering is that people didn't need a direct command (or mandate) from Jesus to act in His name?


5 Answers 5


DEV--Don's Edited Version

The answer to your question comes from Jesus, and also from the words of John in the verse you quoted.

  1. John's words: John assumed that because the unnamed exorcist was not in the inner circle of the Twelve that his exorcism could not therefore be on the "up and up."

  2. Jesus' words: In essence, Jesus told John (and all the other disciples who were present during the "Who is the greatest?" incident),

"Hey [he didn't say 'Hey'], if that person you speak of exorcised demons in my name successfully, then he must be one of us, even though he is not a member of this particular group of twelve disciples."

I think many Christians (and I count myself among that number) assume that the only disciples who performed miracles in Jesus' name were those whom Jesus sent out (or commissioned, as in Mark 6:7, Luke 9:2 and 10:1) to precede him and pave the way for him by preaching the kingdom and by performing miracles such as exorcisms and perhaps other works of healing. This assumption may not be warranted, particularly in light of Jesus' words; namely,

"'Do not hinder him [i.e., the man who cast out demons], for he who is not against you is for you'" (Luke 9:50)

In other words, Jesus could very well have commissioned this man on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps for whatever reason this man could not "follow along with"--as John put it--the Twelve or some other recognizable group of Jesus-followers (e.g., "the 70" in Luke 10:1), so Jesus permitted him to heal people in Jesus' name.

I think it unwise to assume, for example, that this man was a nonbeliever (similar to Simon Magus in Acts 8:9 ff.) and a "Lone Ranger" who was performing miracles without Jesus' sanction. Jesus could very well have sanctioned him to perform these miracles. Moreover, as I've suggested above, Jesus seems to have assumed that since the man performed miracles "in Jesus' name," that he was indeed "one of us"--meaning the Twelve and all his other disciples, even if John did not recognize him as such.

In conclusion, there is no reason of which I am aware why this "lone wolf exorcist" was any more in need of the sending authority of the Holy Spirit than were the Twelve. After all, the Holy Spirit did not commission the Twelve (and others); Jesus did. On the authority of Jesus, the Twelve and this unnamed disciple were given the ability to heal. The power to do so undoubtedly came from the Holy Spirit, but the disciples were not even aware at this point that there was such a person called the "Holy Spirit." That awareness came later (e.g., in John 15).

Additional Thought/Addendum

Jesus had a way of surprising--shocking even--his closest followers and disciples. Example par excellence: Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, in John 4:4-45. This woman had a number of strikes against her, at least from the disciples' perspective:

  • She was a she. In other words, she was a second- or third-class citizen, as were most women in those days (with a few exceptions, to be sure).

  • She was a member of a despised people group, the Samaritans, whom the Jews considered to be a bunch of religious half-breeds--which was partly true, since after the divided kingdom and the subsequent exile of Israeli Jews, Samaria was "seeded" with the importation of foreign colonists who brought their own syncretistic views of religion to Palestine. Consider Wayne Brindle's comments:

"The development of Samaritanism and its alienation from Judaism was a process that began with the division of the kingdom of Israel, and continued through successive incidents which promoted antagonism, including the importation of foreign colonists into Samaria by Assyria, the rejection of the new Samaritan community by the Jews, the building of a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim, the political and religious opportunism of the Samaritans, and the destruction of both the Samaritan temple and their capital of Shechem by John Hyrcanus during the second century B:C. The Samaritan religion at the time of Jesus had become Mosaic and quasi-Sadducean, but strongly anti-Jewish. Jesus recognized their heathen origins and the falsity of their religious claims."

  • She was a woman of questionable morals. (Today, a bigot would probably label her a slut!)

  • She was alone with Jesus and conversed with him in a give-and-take discussion, which could have lasted an hour or more. Pious Jewish men simply did not talk with women in public, let alone have a religious confabulation. Unthinkable!

  • She gave Jesus a drink of water from her own bucket, which to the Jews of Jesus' day would be unthinkable (just think of the ritual uncleanness of it all!).

Nevertheless, Jesus, John tells us, "had to pass through Samaria" (4:4). Why? Because a Samaritan woman had a divine appointment with her soon-to-be Savior and Lord! Jesus could have bypassed Samaria as he travelled from northern Israel to southern Israel, as did his fellow Jews, but he was never one to depart from the path his Father had chosen for him. Furthermore, his Father and he shared a love for outcasts, outsiders, the foreigner, the stranger, and the alien. Why else would the Law of Moses contain so many instructions regarding the humane treatment of non-Hebrews with whom the Israelis interacted.

My point is this: John--and perhaps the other disciples--did not realize at the time he registered his opinion about the "interloper" who was casting out demons in Jesus' name that Jesus' compassionate heart had room for outsiders and interlopers, such as the Samaritan woman at the well, and also the Syro-Phoenician woman whose daughter was plagued by a demon:

"Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold , a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying , 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.' But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying , 'Send her away; for she crieth after us.' But he answered and said, 'I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' Then came she and worshipped him, saying, 'Lord, help me.' But he answered and said, 'It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.' And she said, 'Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered and said unto her, 'O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.' And her daughter was made whole from that very hour'" (Matthew 15:21-28 KJV).

In conclusion, the people to whom Jesus reached out may not have fit the mold of "disciple material" which was in John's (and others') mind, but then Jesus was not big on molds. Jesus was more interested in people's hearts, and he was an equal opportunity Savior, Healer, and Lord, and not just to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

  • 1
    Sorry rhetorician, but I can't agree with your answer. I assume John means all the people travelling with Jesus with "follow with us". Also, I think Jesus would have stated clearly, especially to the 12, if he had mandated someone else.
    – algiogia
    Feb 27, 2015 at 17:31
  • Does the choice of words: "could very well have", "unwise to assume", "I've suggested above", "seems to have", "no reason of which I am aware," etc. mean that this is just a personal opinion? Would you be able to cite anyone else who holds a similar opinion, and does it answer the question? Feb 27, 2015 at 20:36
  • @DickHarfield: You're right, in that I've put a good many qualifiers in this answer, such that I sound as if I'm simply registering some unsubstantiated opinions. Rest assured I am not. First, the more significant quotation of the two is Jesus's, not John's. Jesus was saying clearly to John that the "outsider" exorcist had Jesus' approval. Can I prove that Jesus vetted the man personally? No, but John gives us some insight into the unrecorded works of Jesus: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, Feb 27, 2015 at 22:26
  • which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25 NAS). Having studied the Bible in depth for over 55 years, and having acquired a comprehensive grasp of the Scripture's central theme (viz., "the things concerning [Jesus]"--Lk 24:27), I think I'm entitled to use some sanctified imagination in suggesting what "other things . . . Jesus did." Moreover, the four evangelists give us some easily overlooked insights of how Jesus reached beyond Israel in healing and saving people. I'll edit my answer accordingly. Feb 27, 2015 at 22:35
  • @algiogia: No offense taken, as I'm sure no offense was given. In a sense, Jesus DID at least VET the exorcist who cast out demons in Jesus' name. He MAY not have done so in a face-to-face encounter with the man, but he certainly makes a prima facie case for having vetted the man by saying the exorcist was on the good guys' side. The proof: he cast out demons successfully in the name of Jesus! See my comments to DickHarfield, above, regarding John 21:25. You might also want to check out my edited answer. Don Feb 27, 2015 at 22:41

The answer to your question may be right there in the same chapter of Luke:

Luke 9:12 through 17 NKJV Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place." 13 But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people." 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each." 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Many People had already seen Jesus perform miracles and in the incident above this happened right after his having preached to them. It is possible that one of those in the crowd was receptive to his preaching and became a disciple. God knows the heart of people and Jesus may have known that it was a convert even though John did not.

God is omnipotent, Omniscient, and omnipresent. There is a tendency among we humans to accept the humanity of Jesus, but are sometimes negligent in assigning Deity to him in his life on Earth.

Christ as the third part of the Trinity had the authority, with the consent of the Father, to delegate that power to his disciples.

Matthew 28:18 through 20 NKJV And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

also it is important to remember that Christ exists not only in the material realm, but also in the Spiritual realm where there is no time.

Psalm 90:4 NKJV For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

and also:

2nd Peter 3:8 NKJV But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Jesus exists even today as both man and God, the two cannot be separated as they are one and the same in the Spiritual realm. And as the Spirit Deity he was with them even as he is with us today.

John 17:11 NKJV Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

Jesus could give them the power to do those things just as the Father has the ability to endow not only Jesus but anyone with certain power and authority as he desires.

This a result of faith:

Matthew 17:20 NKJV So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Jesus had on at lest one other occasion sensed the faith of one who was not closely following him.

Matthew 8:8 through 10 NKJV But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.


It is very much possible to perform miracles in the name of Jesus without actually having relationship with Jesus himself.

Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:22-23, NIV)

  • 1
    Claiming to have performed miracles is not necessarily evidence that any have actually been performed. Jesus never endorses their claims.
    – mojo
    Mar 3, 2015 at 6:52

I believe that this person could have been one of the 70 Disciples that followed Jesus. I came to that conclusion now, or I would not have asked the question. In other words, have Faith, why worry about what Jesus did. My question came from Luke 9:49


Ummm how could it have been powered by the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent? The exercising of the demon was clearly done through the power of the name. As it is written, there is power in the name.

  • 2
    The Holy Spirit had not been sent to live within the spirits of the people of God's church, but that doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit couldn't come upon people as he did during Old Testament times.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 7, 2021 at 2:57

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