Today, in Numbers 27, we read of Joshua is appointed to succeed Moses. Notice HOW the authority of Moses is transferred t Joshua.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; cause him to stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight.
You shall invest him with SOME OF YOU AUTHORITY that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.”
And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; he took Joshua and caused him to stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands upon him, and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses.
With the laying on of hands the authority of one, in this case Moses, is transferred to another, in this case Joshua. Of Course, the Apostles were born and raised Jewish. They would have been taught this idea from childhood. They would have understood what the meaning of the laying on of hands was.
Jesus came to us in a Jewish context. God built the Jewish culture from the ground up. He instituted Jewish practices, in part, so that Christian practices could be understood in the proper way. Jewish things did not disappear with the coming of Christ, rather they are fulfilled. That means they still exist but in a new more perfect way. The Passover becomes the Last Supper and the Mass. The forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of animals becomes the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Christ. The bread of the Presence, the manna in the desert, and the unleavened bread of Passover become the bread of life in the Eucharist. The Ark of Covenant becomes the new Ark, Mary. And the laying on of hands to appoint high priests and kings becomes the laying on of hands to confirm converts, appoint Bishops and heal the sick.
Notice, that the passage specifically says that authority is transferred to Moses to Joshua, so that all the congregation may obey. The laying on of hands is a public act it is done by the priest in front of the whole congregation. This is so the people can know who the authority is transferred to and therefore who legitimately speaks for God and therefore who to follow and obey. This is part of discipleship. To be a true follower of Christ one must obey him in all things, including obedience to his rightful representatives on earth. For us, particularly as Americans, the idea that we could have unelected “royal” type leaders is upsetting and difficult to fathom, but this is how the Lord arrange things. Should we question that wisdom?