Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Matthew 10:1 - "And having summoned his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits..."

When I'm watching a movie about a master and his disciples, there's a certain narrative I expect to see that goes something like this. Potential disciple approaches master and requests training. Master reluctantly agrees. Disciple goes through a rigorous training program where he must prove his worth. Through many doubts and moments of despair, disciple emerges fully trained to the master's satisfaction. Lastly, disciple must show he is at least equal to the master's ability, either through some competition or confrontation with an adversary. The movie "Kung Fu Panda" did a great job of parodying this standard storyline.

We've covered nine full chapters of Matthew and the storyline has gone nothing like the movies. Jesus calls his disciples, they don't approach him or try to convince him of their worthiness. Then as Jesus goes around doing his astounding miracles and attracting all sorts of acclaim, the disciples are almost invisible in the story. We haven't heard anything about their "training." We haven't heard about certain ones who are emerging as more potential than the rest, volunteering bright comments to show how enlightened they're becoming. The only major part the disciples have played so far was when they freaked out during the storm as Jesus slept in the stern of the boat. Not a very convincing snapshot of their potential.

Now we come to chapter ten and suddenly Jesus is handing them the authority to do the same miraculous deeds he's been doing up to this point, casting out demons and healing every kind of disease and sickness. Where did that come from? What did these guys do to show they are worthy of such a gift? Couldn't Matthew or the Holy Spirit or somebody at least make a better effort to convince us that these guys deserve to hold such incredible power in their wimpy little hands?

It doesn't make for a good Hollywood script because the plot line must be written so that the viewing audience is convinced that the Great Gift of the Master is being placed in the hands of a Worthy Recipient. The guy with the piercing intellect or the knowing look in his eye. The one disciple who didn't panic as Jesus slept during the storm. But no, there are no standouts. They all panicked, they've all been lackluster.

And maybe that's exactly the point. Jesus calls unspectacular, unimpressive, lackluster disciples, who will probably allow this transfer of powers to go completely to their heads and think it implies that they are much more awesome than they really are. Jesus knows that too, and yet he still lets them go and minister in his name. So it is with us. Jesus gives us everything first, then it's only much later on that we realize how little we deserved it, and even now how little we deserve to be serving in his name.


  1. "it's only much later on that we realize how little we deserved it"

    So true! And I suppose that is the big lesson Jesus' disciples must prove mastery in. We know they eventually did. We have a gospel narrative written either by them or taken from their tradition and point of view; it does not succumb to the basic temptation to preserve their own reputations, inflating their own accomplishments or signifigance.

  2. Yes, that's a great observation. That in itself is a testimony to their resulting humility, how far they ended up coming since the days when they were disputing among themselves which was the greatest.