I have a surprise for you today! Immediately after the worship service, I’m going to pair each one of you up with one other person and you are going to go out door to door evangelizing the neighborhood! Are you excited?! Maybe some of you might be but I suspect most of you hear that and you get what might be called SPS - Sweaty Palms Syndrome. The thought of going to complete strangers and telling them about what Jesus did would be a daunting challenge. You might not know what to say or what to do! You might not feel prepared!
With that bit of fear lingering in your minds, we look at what happens next in Mark’s gospel. We saw a couple of weeks ago that Jesus was back in Nazareth with his disciples and the townspeople had rejected him. It was not a good homecoming for Jesus and his disciples had seen that and felt that rejection of Jesus as well. And so what does Jesus do? After going around to more villages, he says, “Ok, guys! It’s time you go out there and do this without me!” I can about imagine the disciples’ response! And yet they go after getting some final instructions from Jesus. Let’s read of how this happened and what happened as a result. Let’s read Mark 6:1-13.
I. The mission itself is described in verses 6-7.
Jesus had been teaching in his own home town and other villages in the area. Now Jesus decides to expand the mission and sends the disciples out two by two. Jesus did this in order to follow the guidelines given by Moses years ago. In Deuteronomy 19:15, God said, “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If two people said the same thing, it would be taken as truth. If just one disciple came to a village and proclaimed the message of Jesus, people may think he was weird; however, if two were to say the same thing, they would be listened to.
As Jesus sends them out two by two, he gives them authority to be his delegates. In Judaism, the one who was sent out with a person’s authority was to be received as if he were the sender himself. For example, if we had a fellowship dinner and a child went to the kitchen and asked the people working in the kitchen for a platter of cookies, whoever was in charge in the kitchen would likely not give the child the cookies. But if I sent the child for the cookies and that child said that she was getting them because I needed them, she might have a better chance. Jesus sends the disciples in his name and authority as his representatives. The disciples had the authority to preach, heal and cast out demons. It would be impossible for them to do any of these things on their own. They are sent out to proclaim the kingdom with the authority of Christ himself.
Now while we are not the Apostles, this is what we are called to do as well. We are to be busy proclaiming the kingdom of Christ in many ways. Some of you are working with Tusculum School or in the Community Gardens and having the opportunity to be witnesses for Jesus in those ways. Some of you are doing this on your own by simply telling others the reason for the hope that you have inside you. We all are proclaiming the kingdom in various ways. And for us, as well as the disciples, our authority comes from Christ. We are representing the living Lord Jesus and serving Christ with his authority. Make sure that you realize this and continue on in whatever God has called you to do as you serve in his kingdom.
II. The instructions for doing this are given in verses 8-11.
First, Jesus teaches them something about their physical needs. He gives them a list of what they may and may not bring along with them. They may take a staff, a walking stick, to help support them as they are walking and to protect them from wild animals. But they are to take no food for they are to depend on the hospitality of others. They are not to bring a bag. This may refer to a kind of knapsack filled with things that one may need while on the road and so Jesus is saying that they are not to take any traveling provisions with them. It may also be a bag a beggar would carry to use for begging which would then mean that Jesus’ disciples were not to be begging for food or money. They are to bring no money used for expenses; not even a small amount. They may wear one pair of sandals and only one tunic, a kind of undershirt. Travelers would carry an extra tunic in case they were stranded between towns at night for it would provide some protection from the cold night air. Jesus’ list has even less than the barest of necessities.
Then Jesus gives some instructions on the hospitality that God would provide for them. Verse 10 says, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” It may be that the disciples are staying in a rather simple house and someone offers to put them up with someone who has a much nicer home. Jesus says they are to stay put as long as they are in that village. They are not out traveling to seek comfort for themselves, but to serve the Lord.
Finally, in verse 11, Jesus gives them some instruction about how they may be received. Jesus says, “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” Some people will ignore them or be hostile to them. In such cases they are to shake the dust off their feet. It was customary for pious Jews who had traveled outside Israel to remove from their feet and clothing all dust of the alien lands in which they had traveled. As they came to the borders of Israel, they would stop and carefully brush all the dust off their clothes and sandals. This way they did not bring the pollution of pagan lands into Israel. By shaking the dust off their feet, the disciples would be saying that that particular village was pagan and foreign to God.
These simple instructions are helpful for us today as well. Jesus here teaches us something about the things that tend to encumber us. It is easy for us to get so weighed down by material things that we cannot promote the kingdom very effectively. Our houses, cars, clothes, even family, are so important to us but sometimes their demands pull us away from the active work of the kingdom. Such things are not bad in themselves but if they become excuses for why we cannot work in the church and kingdom, then that is wrong.
When we work and serve in the kingdom, we must learn to travel lightly depending on God completely for all of our needs. We are not to rely on our own abilities and efforts. God will provide for us in all our needs as well. Jesus’ words also remind us that our message is important and urgent. We are bringing something that will determine a person’s eternal destiny. Traveling lightly underscores that urgent message.
III. Finally, the results of this mission are given in verses 12-13.
In verse 12, Mark reports that the disciples simply obeyed. They went out and preached that people should repent. Their goal was not that people would just be sorry for their sins. They urged people to turn their lives around to follow Jesus. The disciples had no idea that this meant that Jesus would have to die and rise again. But they urged people to believe in Jesus and follow Him. They preached the kingdom as they understood it. Notice that Mark does not report on their success in their preaching. We don’t know how many people believed in Jesus as a result, but that is not the main point anyway. The point is to preach the gospel and leave the results to God and the Holy Spirit.
Mark does report, however, that “they drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” They couldn’t know if people would believe, but they could still bring the kingdom in a physical way because they had the power and authority of Christ in them. They could relieve people of the problems and evil spirits they had. They could do things that would show that God’s kingdom was here to bring salvation to people in every aspect of their lives. They brought the message in words and deeds and found great success.
It is a picture of what we often do with those around us who are not believers. We are going through life so fast and we are so busy taking care of ourselves. But the fact is that there are people who are in danger and hurting and we have an answer that they may need to hear about God’s love and grace. So let’s use whatever gifts God gives us to serve and proclaim the good news.
We all are called to continue the mission of the kingdom but here’s the comforting part. First, remember that God has saved us and redeemed us; it is not up to us! What an amazing thing God has done for us in Jesus, but now what? We don’t build the kingdom, but we can be used by God to build his kingdom. So let’s respond to God’s grace and the gospel in a way that reflects our gratitude. And I know we are tired, but I’m not asking you to do more. I’m asking you to think about what God has done and is doing and be excited! Think of how you can express to others the joy you have in response to God’s good news for you and then pray for ways to share that good news with others.
We are imperfect just as the disciples were imperfect in their mission. They didn’t get it at all, but they still loved Jesus and went out. It will be hard work at times and we will make mistakes as we work. But God calls us to be faithful in the task that he has given us. God can and will use us in spite of our imperfections and weaknesses to build his kingdom.