Further Notes on Matthew: Chapter 10
Jesus has been performing many miracles of healing, but in chapter 9 he begins to run into resistance from the religious authorities. Why? Because he has claimed the authority to forgive sin. In fact, he has strongly implied that to forgive sin was his primary purpose in coming.
That word, "coming," seems somewhat mysterious in this context. Jesus was speaking and healing in his home counties, not in some far away place to which he had "come." But when he uses that word, he reminds us that he is, or at least claims to be, the coming one that John the Baptist had spoken of.
John had associated this coming one with a kingdom. Jesus, claiming in a not-so-veiled way that he is that one, proclaims relentlessly that that kingdom is indeed "at hand." Christ's miracles of healing only display that kingdom's nearness, signaling that, yes, this kingdom-stuff is for real.
So what have we so far? Jesus heals many, associates healing with forgiveness (a controversial premise) and associates himself -- the one who heals -- with the God-like authority to forgive. Finally, Jesus passes on this combined ministry of proclamation and healing to his disciples. They are to ) proclaima Christ's message that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And, 2) perform miracles: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons, etc.
This is yet another stunning fact and unveils to us still more about the nature of Jesus' work and ministry. Note: these men to whom Jesus has assigned a ministry--what Paul would later call a ministry of reconciliation--are to do everything Jesus did. They will proclaim the same kingdom message. They will perform the same kinds of miracles. And just as Jesus has met resistance, so shall they. In fact, they’re going to be flogged, dragged into court, etc. But Jesus tells them that the Spirit will be speaking through them at those times, so they shouldn't be afraid. "Endure," he says. Hang in there. God will take care of you.
You see how in each chapter since Jesus’ ministry began he has ramped thing up, revealing more of his power, and hinting more plainly at what is to come. Now in assigning his authority to others, he is once again displaying the very fact that his authority is not of this world. Everything they do they will do in his name. Their authority is derivative of his. How great then is this man’s authority? So great that he can task it to others, and now fishermen and tax collectors are raising the dead, casting out demons, etc. This little ballyhoo in Galilee that so concerns the religious authorities is now, by means of these disciples, going to spread throughout Israel. And the way people respond to these sent ones -- either accepting or rejecting them -- is taken as their response to Jesus himself. The disciples 'represent" Jesus, act as his official ambassadors, and so are responsible for the message they carry -- it must be Christ’s message and no other. If they "harvest" souls for the heavenly kingdom, it will be in Christ’s name. If they suffer persecution, that too will be in the Master’s name. So be it.