1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In our verses for today, the Lord Jesus makes Apostles – one sent forth to represent an official – out of His disciples – a learner, an adherent, a follower. Jesus often grants graces by degrees – and so He does here. It is fitting for men to be tested for a season before proven trustworthy to be entrusted with greater honor.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalms 84:11 (NIV)
He had been preparing and readying them for this superior work as they followed after Him. Taking them along with Him was their classroom if you will. Certainly, the best preparation for the work of ministry is communion with the Lord Jesus. Following the Master is paramount in ministry – why would anyone want to follow our ways? Only Christ is worthy of following. Disciples begin by following Him in His humiliation yet later in His glory and honor. Those who serve Christ must also sit at His feet as He opens their understandings of the Scriptures - making wise the foolish and making plain the mysteries of the kingdom as well as empowering them with His Spirit - enabling them to do His bidding. We can do nothing eternal in and of ourselves. Teachers must first be learners and disciples of Jesus must be equipped with His Spirit for the works He has prepared in advance for us to walk in. We cannot give what we do not possess:
26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26 (NIV)
“The nearer we get to Christ, the more intensely missionary we become.” Henry Martyn
These guys had followed Jesus – counting the cost. They had left professions, they had left family responsibilities and now the Master ordains them to be His ambassadors bringing into fruition His Word to them – “I will make you fishers of men.”
19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matt 4:19 (NIV)
Next He bestows upon them the authority to bring into submission evil spirits as well as to heal all diseases and sicknesses. Only Jesus Christ can grant such authority – all power is His without limitation. The supply of heaven is more than adequate for the demands of this spiritually deprived world. It was our Lord’s desire for His disciples to offer that supply to the hungry masses. Jesus came to destroy the devil and his kingdom and His ambassadors were given power to destroy the works of the adversary as well. The miracles of healing would serve to verify and confirm their doctrine – that it was indeed from God as well as to show the sufficiency of the power of Christ.
“Sin is the sickness of the soul. It is deforming, weakening, disturbing, wasting, and killing, but, we bless God, not incurable. Jesus Christ is the great Physician of souls. Wise and good people should be like physicians to everyone around them; Christ was so. Souls that are sick with sin need this Physician, for their disease is dangerous; nature will not help itself. No mortal can help us; we have such need of Christ that we are eternally ruined without Him.” Matthew Henry
The number of apostles was twelve – the same as the number of the tribes of Israel. It is a great honor that their names are left on record yet an even greater honor – the Lord states – that their names are written in heaven. Interestingly, each time the apostles are listed Peter, because of his prominence, is mentioned first and Judas, the betrayer, last. Tares are mentioned with the wheat as well as wolves among the sheep. They were also listed in pairs as they often were sent out in twos because two are better than one as they are serviceable to each other and more serviceable for kingdom advancement. I love the fact that Matthew humbly calls himself the tax collector – the life that Jesus took him out of. It is good for us to remember what we were before Christ called us. There are some we know only by their name on the list – not all are as celebrated or as famous as others.
"If God has fit you to be a missionary, I would not have you shrivel down to be a king." C.H. Spurgeon