Jesus has completed His first phase of on the job training with His disciples. He is getting ready to send them out to work “in the field.” They needed one more thing before they were ready to go though. They needed the ability or authority to do the work He has for them. I wonder what exactly happened during this presentation of the “tool belts.”
Matthew goes into great detail about their instructions for their work, which we will look at starting tomorrow. But he doesn’t go into detail about how Jesus actually imparted His authority to His disciples. Jesus “gave them authority over uncleans spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (verse 1). I wonder if His impartation of His authority was through the laying on of hands.
Laying on of hands has been used to convey the transfer of authority, blessings, spiritual gifts, and healing throughout the old and new testaments. The first mention of laying on of hands is done to confer blessing is in Gen. 48:12-20 when Israel blessed Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. This was to convey a blessing and speak about their future. In Numbers 27:18-23 Moses conveys God’s authority to Joshua by the laying on of hands, as instructed by God himself. Multiple times in Jesus’ walk He is reported to have laid His hands on an individual to impart healing. Paul mentions laying his hands on Timothy to impart spiritual gifts in 1 Timothy 4:14. In Acts 6:1-8 the Apostles lay hands on Stephen to set him apart for ministry, conveying to him the authority necessary for his new work.
We can clearly see that laying on of hands was practiced throughout biblical history and was done so before God and at His command. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this is how Jesus imparted His authority to them. Did He address them as a group (like a graduating class) or individually (as when each steps up to receive their diploma). If He addressed each one individually I wonder what He would have said. Maybe He spoke about their mission to them as a group but then gave each His own personal blessing and equipping. Would He have spoken about their character and how He would use it in His work? Because Jesus was personally acquainted with each of these men, I would expect a very personal blessings from Him, if this is how He conveyed His authority to them.
We don’t get details on every one of Jesus’ disciples but I imagine He had a few words for each. Did Jesus caution Simon Peter to take a few extra seconds to think before he spoke? Did he ask Andrew to help his brother in that area? Did Jesus tell James and his brother John to tone it down a bit so as not to live up to their nicknames of the Sons of Thunder? Did He commend Philip about his early faith and talk about His first meeting with Nathaniel? Is Bartholomew actually Nathaniel? Did Jesus remind Thomas to keep an open mind and not be so quick to doubt? Did He remind Matthew that no matter what his past, his place was secure with Him? Did He caution Judas about the love of money leading one astray? I wonder what He said to Thaddaeus (who is believed by bible scholars to be James the lesser), James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot. We don’t hear much about these disciples in the gospels but we know Jesus valued their commitment to Him. Please check out Christianity About.com for information on the twelve apostles. What they present interested me.
Jesus’ newly equipped laborers are ready for their marching orders. They have just completed phase one of training and received the tools they will need for their work. Next up is to lay out their job descriptions in terms all of them can understand.
Jesus, You never leave us without the proper tools when You assign us a job. Your Holy Spirit is our main “tool.” His presence in our lives is to lead us and guide us in keeping the Father’s will. I’m sorry I often turn His volume control down. My frustration over simple things is probably a manifestation of having the “mute button” on for Him. Please help me remove that button from my control panel and listen consistently instead. I want to walk in Your plan for my life. I need Your presence just to make it through each day. I need the fruits of Your Holy Spirit operating in my life continually. It’s time I start “fertilizing” that tree.