Reading the engaging text of Matthew 10 today, I thought about a different version: “Proclaim as you go, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Calm storms, increase food supplies, turn water into wine, walk on water.”
That would be an intriguing angle on Jesus’ ministry and his message about the kingdom of heaven, providing us with another thought-provoking challenge. Do we need any more challenges – well, here is one!
I think it would be a perfect mix:
- ‘Calm storms,’ symbolizing peace and mastery over chaos, would be a powerful demonstration of the peace that the Kingdom of Heaven brings, going far beyond natural and human-made turmoil.
- ‘Increase food supplies.’ This spectacular miracle would highlight God’s provision and abundance, directly addressing physical needs and scarcity and would symbolize God’s capacity to provide generously.
- ‘Turn water into wine,’ first seen at the wedding at Cana, it would bring obvious joy and celebration, representing the transformation from the ordinary to the extraordinary and display the abundant joy found in the Kingdom.
- ‘Walk on water,’ this would have everyone busy at the swimming pool! It’d be a brilliant way of demonstrating dominion over the natural world, symbolizing authority over the physical realm, showing that God’s Kingdom is not constrained by earthly limitations.
Nevertheless, I think I would find those as difficult to do as the original set, which shows us that whether it is increasing food supplies (remember, Jesus did tell the disciples to give the crowd something to eat—it can be done!) or healing the sick, the fact is Jesus considered that with His empowering, we are up for the task – but we have to put our hand to the plough before anything will happen. “I believe” without a bit of action just won’t cut it. Faith without works is our downfall, especially in today’s day of enlightenment!
This new set of miracles would carry the potential of fresh, profound symbolic meaning and would powerfully demonstrate the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, especially in our society today, but the crunch is, the original set—healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons—meet huge needs that are prevalent today. Society and culture has changed, but the needs of mankind have not! Yes, we have hospitals that can go a short way to answering the needs of our day, but nothing changes lives like an encounter with the manifest presence of God that is demonstrated in the original group of miracles.
The original miracles performed by Jesus and his disciples were not just signs of power; they were also deeply compassionate responses to the suffering they encountered. They were direct actions that countered the effects of sin and brokenness in the world—disease, death, social ostracism, and demonic oppression. In doing so, they vividly illustrated the Kingdom’s transformative impact on individual lives and society.
Matthew 10 starts by telling us that Jesus called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. At its core, this was what healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons was all about: authority over what they would face as they went out to tell about the Kingdom of God, and authority to heal the devastation it had wrought, no matter how extreme.
Today, it’s easy to view the 12 disciples as being in a distinct position from us. They spread a message that the Kingdom of God was near, yet they were unaware of the full gospel mystery soon to unfold. They didn’t know about Jesus’s sacrificial death, His resurrection, ascension, or the justifying and renewing power we now understand in Him.
They were also unaware of the empowering Holy Spirit that would come at Pentecost. Despite their limited knowledge, Jesus commanded them (including Judas) to perform miracles like healing the sick and raising the dead. Here we are today, looking backwards at their exploits that shook the world. The challenge of Matthew 10 is still laid before us, just as it was for them and the key to responding to this gargantuan challenge remains the same: faith. We have authority in the great commission, but regardless of the level of authority bestowed upon us, faith is what makes the miraculous possible!
May 2024 be another year of opportunity for us to be the radical disciples God called us to be, and experience an unprecedented outburst of the things that we cannot do, leading many to faith in Jesus!