Luke 10.16. He’s still talking to his disciples, because he’s sending them out around the countryside to do the work and spread the message. Again we see that he practices what he preaches. He doesn’t wait for people to come to him—he goes to them. And he doesn’t tell his disciples to sit around and draw people. He sends them out to go to them. He is always seeking, always going, always active in pursuing. No one can ever blame Jesus for sitting around, doing nothing about people. He is always out there after them. He is training his followers to be the same way.
V. 17. Here’s the shocker of all shockers: they succeeded. Since when can normal people heal others and cast out demons. Where did THAT come from? There’s only one possible source, and that’s God himself. I think the disciples were more surprised than anyone else that it actually worked.
V. 18: “Jesus replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’ ” This is an expression to say that his kingdom was under significant attack. It’s not like Satan has an office in heaven.
But, Jesus says, there’s more (19). Authority and power are available to you for more of this stuff. “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” This sounds a lot like Gn. 3.15. It also sounds a lot like “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” It’s all figurative of the warfare between two kingdoms, and the superiority of the one that the disciples represent. They have power both offensively and defensively, symbolizing complete dominance. Again, as every image we have of Jesus, is one of total and unchallengeable authority.
“But don’t get uppity,” he warns in v. 20: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This sounds a lot to me like Mt. 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” You see, it’s not what you do that counts, but if you are saved. It’s not your spiritual gifts, but your spiritual state that matters. See also 1 Cor. 13.1-3. Look at Acts 19.13-16—in this case the demons did not allow non-believers to drive them out. So these in these texts are people who are actually “following” Christ, and Jesus is empowering them to drive out demons in his name, and yet they are not truly his followers and part of his kingdom. Isn’t THAT interesting? Jesus gives them power to do stuff when they aren’t true followers! See also Lk. 10.20. No WONDER people get confused. So some people in the church seem to have godly power and godly ways, but they are not true followers. Remember, God also worked through those who preached with the wrong motives (Phil. 1.18). This strikes a common biblical note, viz., how close to spiritual reality one may come while knowing nothing of its fundamental reality (e.g., Balaam; Judas Iscariot; Mk. 9.38-39; 1 Cor. 13.2; Heb. 3.14; 1 Jn. 2.19).
What needs to be understood, then, is the reason: the WHY. Why would Jesus deliberately add to the confusion by empowering the hypocrites that contributes to misleading people? It’s bad enough that the church has hypocrites in it, but to find out that God has given them authority and empowerment that feeds the problem is even worse.
Jesus never requires that those who speak in his name be perfect, or be better than others, or have their act together. He apparently does not even require that they are true followers or complete in their dedication without a hint of hypocrisy. He speaks to all, and acts through very broken people. From one mentality that creates a sheer mess of his church and gives them a terrible reputation. From another perspective it shows his mercy and grace. You can’t have light without shadows.