Then calling to him his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to treat every sickness and every infirmity.
Every time I read this I am floored by this action of extending his authority to the disciples. Because of their firm belief, of their unshakeable faith, he bestows upon them these fantastical gifts of healing and authority over demons. Powers which will dissipate once even a hint of doubt sets in. Much like when Jesus calls Peter out of the boat to walk on water. For the first few steps he does indeed walk on water. But then his confidence and his faith crumble and he begins to sink.
These twelve Jesus sent forth and gave them instructions, saying: Do not go on the road to the Gentiles, and do not go into any city of the Samaritans. Make you way rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
Why not reach out to Gentiles and Samaritans? It is not time. First they must got to the lost sheep of Israel. They must strive to corral them back into the fold of God. It is only later, once Israel refuses the shepherd, Jesus, that the invitation is extended to the lost tribes. I think of the parable of the man who invites his friends to a feast and none of them come, so he then extends the invitation to the town’s beggars who all arrive in fashion; well, all but one.
As you preach and say that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the infirm, raise up the dead, make lepers clean, cast out demons. You have taken a free gift; give a free gift.
Interesting that Christ sets them up to heal and cast out wicked spirits first. Then he mentions preaching. Preaching the news that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. As they heal the people, they also present the Gospel to them. Entering into such service for Christ is a gift. He heaps upon them these great talents. Because of their belief, their faith, they are able to heal, exorcize demons and preach the Gospel. And yet this gift is short-lived.
We know that when Christ comes down the hill after the transfiguration, the disciples are being confronted because they lack the ability to cast out a demon. Their faith has been shaken. And Christ must being them back into the fold because of their lack of faith. And their need for additional instruction.
My desire is to devote myself to Christ; to develop an unshakeable belief; a faith that is solid—such that I could focus on nurturing God’s gifts to me so that I might give a free gift to others. That I might demonstrate Christ through his word through healing and helping others to loose the demons in their own lives.
Source: The New Testament – translated by Richmond Lattimore