Mark 6:6b-13 And He was going around the villages teaching. 7 And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
Up to this point, Jesus was a one-man ministry. This became increasingly impractical though as his popularity and fame increased. Now, in every town he entered, large crowds rushed to meet him and plead for his help. His compassionate desire to assist them, and his impending death, resurrection, and ascension, made it necessary for him to begin delegating his ministry to others.
Jesus had been instructing his twelve disciples since he selected them many months before. He now began the next stage of their training – he sent them out on a short-term mission as his personal representatives. (Note that the verb translated “send” in 6:7 is apostellein, from which comes our word apostle.) As they went, they learned much about following Him. Later, the Twelve met back with Jesus to debrief and report how their travels went (Mark 6:30). The lessons they learned at this time would prove invaluable about 18 months later when Jesus commissioned them to a life of full-time service (Matthew 28:18-20).
The lessons Christ taught his Apostles are just as relevant and priceless for us as we serve Him today.
1. Trained to Do God’s Work (6:6-7, 12-13)
The Apostles were to carry on the same work they had watched Jesus doing over their many months together. Their primary role was thus one of preaching, specifically calling people to repent (literally change their thinking) towards God. (vs 12). This was exactly the same teaching that John the Baptist and Jesus has brought (Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15). In addition, the twelve healed the sick (vs 13) and cast out unclean spirits (vs 7) – signs which God used to validate their preaching message. Jesus gave them all the authority (exousian) needed to do these things (vs 7), which means both the right and also the power to do them (Mark 2:10).
Though we are not Apostles, we today are also called to proclaim the message that Jesus taught – a message of repentance and faith. Everyone needs to know about the eternal life that is offered them through Jesus Christ. In our work, families, and communities we are each missionaries, commissioned by God to declare this good news to those we encounter. Though we cannot heal the sick and cast out demons as the Apostles did, we can demonstrate the same compassion of God towards a suffering world. Though we may sometimes feel unworthy or unqualified to speak about the Lord to others and to represent Him to this world, we can go forward in faith knowing that Christ has bestowed his authority upon us for these eternally significant tasks (Matthew. 28:18-20).
2. Trained to Trust God’s Provision (6:8-10)
The Apostles needed to learn that they could fully rely on God’s provision as they served Him. In order to teach them this, Jesus did not allow them to take most of the things a traveler would normally have carried when they embarked on their short-term missions trip, including food, money, a change of clothing, and a carry bag. They were to travel completely empty handed, with nothing but the clothes on their back, except perhaps for a walking staff. They were not even to make any plans for lodging. They had to rely entirely on the care of the Lord as shown through the spontaneous daily generosity of the people God would bring their way.
God did provide, and this was a powerful lesson for the Twelve. They had each left behind established careers to follow Jesus, but through this exercise they learned that God really would provide their “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) as they served him.
Note that this was not a permanent injunction against taking extra items when traveling to serve the Lord, since Jesus later instructed the Apostles to bring these very same items with them (Luke 22:35-36. “And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, …”).
This should also not be misunderstood to teach that all who serve the Lord are entering a life of poverty Paul the Apostle would make this clear in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 where he wrote “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
The important lesson was simply that they could trust God fully. As they served Him wholeheartedly, not trying to please men but pleasing god, God would meet their needs.
We can also trust God to provide for us today. Jesus told a crowed in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This is God’s promise for us. Let us only do our part to seek Him first.
3. Trained to Handle Rejection (6:11)
One more important lesson Jesus wanted his disciples to learn is shown in verse 11. Though some people would joyfully receive their teaching (6:10), others would stubbornly reject it (6:11). In places where they found no welcome, they were to publically shake the dust of the road off their feet and move on to a new place.
We too will undoubtedly face rejection as we serve Christ. We should not be surprised when this happens (John 15:18, 1 John 3:13). We are also not to curse those who are opposed to us. Instead, we simply move on to bring His message to others.
How is Your Training Going?
Like Christ’s early disciples, we are still in training. 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
How are you doing in your training? By God’s grace, may we follow the example of the Apostles as they followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), faithfully carrying on his work, trusting in his provision, and responding maturely to rejection whenever we encounter it.
(A printable formatted copy of this and other Capitol Bible Studies is available online at http://www.capitolcom.org/california/studies.)
(c) 2014 Frank Erb