And when he had called to him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out…
This was a grand historic occasion indeed. The honoured but ever-comparatively feeble and now dimmed, dying, or dead schools of the prophets are to be succeeded by a scion of Christianity that marks at one and the same time its noblest and most amazing human institution, and Heaven's most condescending gift and human trust. Now begins "the great company of preachers" of the New Testament. They began with twelve;. they very soon grew to seventy; and authorized provision was made by him who first called them, and first "gave them commandment" for their indefinite, "innumerable" increase, by the one method of prayer, their prayer to the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his "great" harvest. With what sublimest of simplicity is it said in the first verse of the following chapter, "When Jesus trod made an end of commanding his twelve disciples"! The commandments were not ten, and, whatever their number, neither were they like those ten master-instructions of the old covenant, and of all time, till time shall end. These commandments breathed the very breath of love, of sympathy, of help. They were charged with trust, and that trust nothing short of Heaven's own-confided trust. The endowments of mighty powers of gift and of grace were enshrined in them. A glorious honour gilded them with deep, rich light. But throughout them, without a break, there ran the "commandment" that meant caution, warning, an ever-present dangerous enemy, thick dangers through which to thread the way. For this necessity, protection and even the very essence of inspiration were the promises vouchsafed. In some analysis of this "commanding of his disciples" we notice -
I. FIRST OF ALL, CHRIST'S PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY IN REGARD OF THE PERSONS WHOM HE COMMISSIONS. Once "he called" them; now "he calls them to him;" he "sends them forth;" and before they go, he "commands them, and he gives them power. Of this authority two things must be said, and unhesitatingly. First, that what it seemed and what it was to these original twelve disciples, such it ever has been since, and still is, toward those who are their true successors, whether they are the successors of such as Peter and John, or of such as Judas Iscariot. Secondly, that the authority in question is one unshared and undivided, except as it is shared and divided, in whatever mysterious way and in whatever unknown proportion, with those very persons themselves, who either first pushed in to volunteer the solemn responsibility, or put themselves in the way to court it and to consent to accept it. The ordination of Judas Iscariot is not less a fact than that of St. Peter; and so has it likewise travelled down the ages of Christendom to this hour. Before this phenomenon we justly quail, and just are we dumb; but we cannot deny it.
II. CHRIST'S PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY IN RESPECT OF THE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH THOSE HE COMMISSIONS ARE TO FULFIL THEIR ALLOTTED WORK. These are such as follow: Firstly, absolute independence of any supposed dictation on the part of those to whom their mission is. Secondly, absolute undoubting reliance on himself for guidance and protection, and in the last resort for all that is necessary for "life." Thirdly, the exclusive use and encouragement of moral influence over and among those who are to be visited and preached to, and whose spiritual and bodily sicknesses and diseases are to be ministered to. A most interesting and significant exemplification of this same principle is to be observed in the direction given to the disciples to accept hospitality; not only this, but to lay themselves open to the offer of it; nay, to inquire for it, but never to force it. And this exemplification is perhaps yet more powerfully established in the external symbolic, but still moral condemnation, directed to be expressed towards those who refused to "receive them," as also to "hear their words." Fourthly, throughout all that might seem to merely superficial observation special and artificial and supernatural - a religious and grateful obedience to what wise nature and true reason must dictate. They are sent forth "by two and two" (see St. Mark's account; see also of the seventy, Luke 10:1). This is
(1) for the manifest and natural advantages of conversation and mutual support; as also for the yet greater gain of complementary support; that is, that where the characteristics of one lay in one direction, those of the other lying in another direction, would contribute largely to the whole stock. So Bunyan, in his great Master's track, herein sets off his two pilgrims, and they remain together to the end - men of the most diverse character and most diverse Christian adaptabilities. And
(2) for the almost creating, but at any rate the setting high honour on the observing of the relation so novel then - spiritual brotherly affection, Christian brotherly affection. How many causes and motives may unite, have united, men together "by two and two"! How rare this once was! how grand has been its career since! What diverse ages - age itself with youth itself; what diverse characters the gentlest and meekest with the strongest and impetuous - the enumeration were almost endless - has Christian work, the simplest work "for Christ's sake," bound together in alliance as indissoluble as sacred! Fifthly, the practical memory of the fact, that as Christ's supreme, final ministry has for its achievement the redemption of soul and body, so that of his apostles, follow it however humbly, at however great a distance, is for the healing of the sicknesses of the body as well as of the sin of the soul. Perhaps it may be said that in nothing has the career of Christianity more vindicated its worthiness than in this - in that, without a "miracle" worked by human intervention for eighteen centuries, those institutions, and that individual charity, that come of the very breath of Christ's own Spirit, have achieved a stupendous mass of mercy for the body of men down those centuries bereft of literal miracle, that leaves far, far behind all the glories of the miracle age. Sixthly, that there should be an order, however inscrutable for its method, and however inscrutable for its justification (as men would be sure to say or to think), according to which the nations of the world were to be visited with the proclamation of the "kingdom of heaven nigh at hand," and with the priceless blessings of that kingdom. Note how facts have been bearing this out in complete harmony with it all the time, since those words fell on the ears of the disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." The enfranchising word has, it is true, gone forth in one respect to the very opposite effect now. It went forth round the whole world as Jesus ascended. But what a history to muse, to wonder over, "to be still and wait," and to pray over - the sure but unknown growth and devious spread of the kingdom! The "way" of that kingdom as it travelled after the "beginning at Jerusalem," past and present, and perhaps for long yet to come - it must be said even of it, as of him, who only knows and who only governs it, "Thy way is in the sea, thy path in the mighty waters, thy footsteps not known." Our voice, our mission, our commission, is, beyond one inglorious doubt, to all the world; but who is it teaching and constraining and compelling the order of our doings and of our goings in this grand enterprise? Surely an order there is. We do not stumble on in guilty darkness; we do not hurry on by mere "good luck;" neither do we march on as an army in its strength and in our own strength. We are practically as surely bound by the unseen hand that guides and threads our way over the world as were the first disciples by this spoken word. We ought, after praying to know it, to follow the one as implicitly as the disciples did the other. Seventhly, the principle distinctly laid down that spiritual work is worthy of its reward. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:11-18) enlarges on this very principle. The ministers of Christ were to hold that it was the duty of the people to support them. What must be the deeper departure from right of those who rob, or would wish to rob, what has been given, and given from age to age, cannot be imagined; this is not even contemplated here. Let it be distinctly asked on what ground, on what authority, the spiritual labourer is "worthy of his meat" at the hands of that world which does not in the ordinary sense ask his labour or for long time value his works, the reply is that it is on the ground of the paramount authority, the authority of Christ. But the dictum of Christ on this thing must especially apply to those who "are worthy," who would wish to rank themselves among "the worthy," and profess to belong to his kingdom. Eighthly, the highest sanction of the principle or' unstinted, ungrudging "freeness of giving," in what they have to give, on the part of the ministers of Christ, who themselves undeniably have received so freely.
III. CHRIST'S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE COURSE OF HIS CHURCH AND KINGDOM; AND THE HOSTAGES HE GIVES HEREIN OF HIS OWN ABSOLUTE AND INTRINSIC AUTHORITY, BY THE BOLD AND FULL DESCRIPTION OF THAT COURSE, AS IN THE FULLEST SENSE THAT OF A DEEP REVOLUTION, A REVOLUTION THAT WOULD REND TO THEIR FOUNDATIONS Tile STRONGHOLDS OF HUMAN SOCIETIES, HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS, WITH ALL THEIR LONGEST CUSTOMS AND FIERCEST PREJUDICES.
IV. THE CALM, IMMOVABLE INTREPIDITY OF ATTITUDE AND OF SOUL THAT IS TO MARK THOSE WHO SHALL SEEM THE CHIEF ACTORS IN THIS MORAL REVOLUTION. This is to rest upon: Firstly, the forearmedness of forewarnedness. Knowledge of themselves, of the enemy, and of him who fights by them, in them, for his own grand works; and who will not fail to fight for them, by himself, and all necessary unseen power. Secondly, the confidence that the Spirit of the Father shall be with them, and speak in and for them at each time of need. Thirdly, in memory of that Master, who is "above the servant " - a memory that has often shown itself so omnipotent an impulse and source of strength, Fourthly, with ever-present memory of the infinite disparity between the ultimate sanctions involved, viz. that of those who can kill the body but can no more, and of him who indeed can kill both, but of whom it is in the same breath said - He notices the fall of a sparrow, and counts the hairs of the head of his servant. Fifthly, that noblest incentive of the safest ambition that was vouchsafed in the words of incredible condescension, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." This for some and all. And sixthly, also for some and all the words of tenderest promise, "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Thus forewarned, thus forearmed, thus taught, thus given to fear with godly fear, and stimulated thus with promise and present assurance, it might well be that human "weakness" should be, as it was, as it often is, "made perfect in strength." - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.