Scripture:Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John: Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:1-4)
Reflection: The first thing the reader will note about the above passage from Matthew’s gospel is the change from Mark’s apostles to Matthean disciples. In fact, there may have been three different groups who followed Jesus: apostles, disciples, and followers. By the time Matthew’s gospel was written in the eighties of the first century, the three different groups had been melded into one group identified as twelve disciples, twelve apostles, or twelve followers. This is the only place in Matthew’s gospel where the author even calls the twelve apostles. Furthermore, the reader will notice that the mission of those sent is primarily healing, like that of the Matthean Jesus. Instead of casting out Markan demons, Matthean disciples have authority over unclean spirits, which were thought to make a person ill, in addition to curing every disease and illness.
The author of this work omits Mark’s Sons of Thunder designation for James and John; he further softens their turbulent personalities by portraying their mother asking for positions on the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom instead of the Markan brothers asking for the same positions. While Mark mentions a Matthew in his list of apostles, Matthew’s gospel indicates that he is Matthew the tax collector; Mark does not identify him as a tax collector because the name of the tax collector in Mark’s gospel is Levi. Matthew’s gospel keeps the Cananaean designation for Simon (not Peter), most likely thinking that it correctly identified one who was zealous for the Jews in the 66–70 CE war with Rome. However, there are no political concerns expressed in Matthew’s gospel.
In Mattean understanding, the disciples are healers. A spirituality of mission has plenty of room for a healing ministry. At first one may think of the healing work of doctors, physician assistants, and nurses in hospitals and home care ministry. However, there are also hospice workers, who walk with both the dying and family members at times of terminal illness. Adult children who take care of their parents at home or visit them in nursing homes and acute care facilities are serving as ministers to the sick. There are those who assist those with mental illness, either professionally or amateurishly. The author of Matthew’s gospel sees such ministry as characteristic of Jesus’s disciples, and so should modern followers.
Journal/Meditation: What is your healing ministry?
Prayer: Rejuvenating God, through the ministry of Jesus, you brought healing to the whole world. As a disciple of your Son, keep me faithful to his curing work. I ask this through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.