Jesus demonstrated His authority when He sent out disciples in His Name. When He first sent out the Twelve, they received from Him the power to cast out demons and cure diseases, but in doing these miracles, their primary purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-2). These were His handpicked men who had, up till now, seen Jesus perform similar supernatural acts and wonder at them, but this was something entirely new. To be granted the ability to do what only God could, must have astounded them!
Having been sent out, the disciples became apostles, i.e. “sent ones.” The text in Luke or the similar accounts in Matthew 10 and Mark 6 don’t tell us much as to the reaction of the Twelve when they returned. Jesus had warned them that going in His Name would mean persecution because of the hatred that many would heap upon them. For those who listened and believed, blessings would come, but for those who didn’t, the wrath of God would fall. Upon their return, Jesus brought the apostles together to a place where they could rest. Instead, the crowds followed and the feeding of the five thousand ensued. In the face of the overwhelming need to supply food to so many, the apostles completely forgot everything they’d just experienced. They had worked miracles, but apparently the thought of something supernatural happening in this instance escaped them. It took God’s revelation to Peter that Jesus was the Christ (Luke 9:20) after the fact to remind them. Still, they didn’t truly understand who Jesus was or who they were in Him.
For Jesus to expand the influence that God had sent Him to wield, sometime after sending the Twelve, He appointed another 72 (or 70 depending on the translation) to go to every place in Israel that He would eventually also go (Luke 10:1). This number ties in with the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 and is likely a foreshadowing and representation of those Gentile nations that would also receive the Gospel. Whether the number is 72 or 70 depends on how a couple nations are counted, and is ultimately immaterial. What we subsequently see in Scripture is the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts. God tasked him with going out to proclaim the Good News to the known world at that time. When we look on a map at how Paul’s three trips progressed, they basically swept from east to west, and at one time or another touched each of the nations in the Genesis 10 Table of Nations. Eventually, Paul had one nation remaining that he believed God required him to go. That was Spain, i.e. Tarshish. It was for that reason that Paul was adamant in his letter to the Romans that he would make it there, stopping by to visit Rome on the way. The book of Acts doesn’t tell us whether or not he got there, but extra-biblical sources indicate that he did; then he returned to Rome where he was killed.
As with the Twelve, the 72 likewise had God’s power resting upon them. They did remarkable miracles and brought many into God’s kingdom. It’s doubtful that their amazement was any more than that of their twelve predecessors, but Luke gives us a glimpse into their reaction upon returning. Luke 10:17-20 recounts:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Look at all they did in the authority Jesus invested in them! They had such joy (and perhaps a bit of pride in having done such things?). But, Jesus wanted to make sure their priorities were straight. He hadn’t given them these abilities to exalt themselves or to provide a show to an interested crowd. No. The purpose He had appointed them was to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The miracles were simply a means of convincing the people that God and His presence were truly in their midst.
As for this set of apostles (for they also should be considered as such), Jesus wanted them to understand the most important aspect of all this for themselves. Because of their faith and faithfulness, their names were now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven. Nothing else mattered.
So it is with us. God might impart miraculous gifts to some of us who believe because He has tasked us with a certain purpose. But, we are to remember that these healings, and casting out of demons, or whatever else may occur, are all from the wellspring of God’s mercy and grace. None of us who may do such things accomplish them in our own power. Thus, for pride or arrogance to swell within us is an inappropriate response.
We should respond to anything that God gives us with both humility and thankfulness. In all circumstances, whatever may happen, we should praise Him as the author and finisher of our faith, and the One who has all power and authority in heaven and on earth. We shouldn’t look at and exalt ourselves in any way; instead we should give all glory to God and what He has done in our lives through Jesus Christ to bring us into the kingdom.
We revere Him, and Him alone, because He is worthy.