Matthew’s gospel records how Jesus started training his disciples for their work when he would no longer be with them. Today’s chapter 10 starts, “And he 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”. What are “unclean spirits”?

The parable in 12:43-45 illustrates that it means an unclean mind – and that there is no value in clearing the brain of ‘unclean’ thinking and then putting nothing positive in its place. Ways of thinking show themselves in resultant actions; aimless ways of thinking lead to no future in the life Jesus offers; spiritual thinking is an essential part of a disciple’s life.

Jesus gives his disciples a foretaste of the powers of healing they will have when he is no longer with them: they are told to go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick …” (verses 6-8). He says, “if anyone will not receive you and listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house …” (verse 14) adding, “it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah” than for that town. (verse 15).

This is because the people of that town had witnessed divine power and heard the divine message. God’s principle is that “everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). This is why Capernaum which had witnessed so many of his miracles, would have no future (11:23). On the other hand, Sodom, where Lot went to live and witness was a city which Abraham initially thought could have “fifty righteous” (18:24) – Jesus said the “day of judgment” will be “more bearable” for them. What about for us?

Today, with such an abundance of evidence of the intricate marvels of creation – but a widespread determined attitude to say that everything in some way, sort of created itself, what must God’s attitude be? It is clear: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds …” (Psalm 14).

Jesus states the two options; there is no middle way! “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before by Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (verse 32). Food for serious thought.