The time had come for Jesus to expand his ministry. For that he needed the help of others, so he selected twelve men as his spokesmen and sent them out to “the lost sheep of the house is Israel.” These Twelve were assigned the responsibility of announcing that the kingdom of heaven was at hand – but that was not all. They were also to heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons (Matt. 10:8). It seems that the spreading-the-kingdom-message part could be done fairly easily but the healing, bringing people back to life, and casting out demons was another story! That’s quite a different task. For this they would need some power outside of themselves, a supernatural enablement. Such things simply do not happen in what we call normal life.
Of course Jesus knew this, so, as the text says, he “selected twelve disciples and gave them the authority to cast out demons and cure diseases and illnesses of every kind.” (Matt. 10:1. The account follows.) The Greek word for authority means “the right to control” which in turn implies the power necessary to accomplish the task. Scripture teaches that God is the ultimate source of all authority. He is the potter who, from a shapeless lump of clay, can fashion anything he likes (Rom 9:21). He has granted this same authority to Jesus. Matthew writes that the resurrected Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (28:18). Jesus in turn grants to his disciples the authority to heal and cast out demons. They are to fulfill their mission not in their own strength but by the supernatural power given to them by God to accomplish that which otherwise would be impossible.
The question I raise is to what extent has God given this sort of authority to the church in our day? Can we carry out our responsibilities using natural gifts or is something supernatural required? When we are sent to console a grieving mother who has lost a young child can we affect anything in our own strength or is each occasion an opportunity to minister grace and help that depends absolutely upon the supernatural presence of God? I believe it is the latter. God is still active in and through his “staff” of believing Christians to heal the full range of spiritual ills that plague the ever-expanding body of Christ.
To put it succinctly, God still selects his “twelve” and empowers us to do his will. His compassion is expressed through his emissaries. His redeeming love is announced through his prophets. He grants to us sinners transformed by his redemptive love the authority to do what he wants done. We are those empowered by God to “heal” in every sort of way. It’s all part of living a Christ-like life.