SENDING FORTH THE TWELVE
When Christ set out to build His kingdom upon earth, there were many different strategies which He could have used. He could have waved His hand and erected a giant city with streets of gold and mighty ramparts. He could have sent forth His holy angels to announce the news in every tongue and in every land. He could have written His message upon the clouds for all to see. But He did none of these things. He had a different strategy.
Men were His method. The Gospel of Mark opened with Jesus selecting a small handful of men through whom He would change the world.
Mark 3:13-19 tells of the initial appointment of the Twelve. Now we read of their first sending out. This is their first commission. It serves as “on the job training.”
They had followed Him. They had watched Him do the work of ministry. Now it is their turn. Like a mother eagle pushing her babies out of the nest, Jesus is going to send forth the Twelve on a short-term mission trip.
After this mission trip is over, the Twelve shall come back to spend a great deal more time being personally taught by Jesus. Indeed, they are going to learn better after this time because they are going to get a taste of what they really need to know.
There is nothing like experience to teach you what you don’t know. That is why high school kids think that they know everything. They haven’t had the experience to teach them what they don’t know.
A STRATEGIC COMMISSION
And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits (Mark 6:7).
They were sent out in pairs. Six teams of two. Why? Certainly they could have covered more ground if they had gone out separately. But there is an important reason for them being sent out in pairs. It is a “one another” principle.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will life up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
The New Testament is filled with such “one another” passages. The point is that we are never meant to “go it alone.”
Notice also that they were given authority. This authority was over the realm of unclean spirits. This authority carried with it the power to cast out demons.
There is another lesson here. It is that God never calls us without giving us the power to accomplish the task. Do you remember the last thing that Jesus ever did before ascending to heaven? He gave a final commission to His disciples. And in that commission was a promise of power. They would receive power from the Holy Spirit. We have the same promise of God’s Spirit. And we have the same resource for God’s power.
What is it that God is calling you to do? Whatever it is, God will also provide the power to do it.
A HUMBLE PREPARATION
...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.” (Mark 6:8-9).
Rabbinic law ordered that when a man entered the Temple courts he was to put off his staff and shoes and money belt. As Jesus sends His disciples out to do a holy work, He gives similar instructions to them - but allows them to wear sandals. They were to travel lightly. And their wallet was to travel lightly, too. They were not to be in the ministry for the money. They were not sent out to do deputation work, raising money for their support on the mission field. Instead they were to depend upon the Lord and upon the hospitality of His people for their upkeep. They were to limit their support. Even though they might possess greater resources, they were to limit that which they took with them.
There is a principle here. Whatever you own owns you. Most of us have too much stuff. All that stuff hinders us. We spend altogether too much time taking care of our stuff.
What would happen if you lost all of your stuff? Would you still be able to praise God? If you would not, then you have become enslaved to your stuff.
This is true of all Christians, but it is especially true of those whom God has called to shepherd His church.
A DECISIVE RECEPTION
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.” (Mark 6:10-11).
The rabbis were never to place a price upon their teaching. This did not mean that their teaching was considered to be worthless. Rather it was to be considered priceless. The physical needs of the rabbis were to be met by the people to whom they ministered.
The Talmud speaks of the blessings given to those who meet the physical needs of the rabbis.
“If a man entertains a rabbi in his house and lets him enjoy his possessions, Scripture accounts it to him as if he had sacrificed the daily burnt offering.” (Berakoth 10b).
Paul would later set forth this same principle for the church, teaching that “the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).
The principle is that the minister of the gospel is not to be concerned with the meeting of his material needs. Those needs should be met by those to whom he is ministering.
Rabbinic Law stated that when an Israelite left the land of Israel and traveled abroad and then returned, he was to stop at the borders of the land and shake the Gentile dust from his clothes.
The implication in this passage is that anyone who did not accept the message of the apostles was to be considered on the same level at a pagan Gentile.
AN EFFECTIVE MINISTRY
They went out and preached that men should repent. 12 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. (Mark 6:12-13).
The ministry of the Twelve is a mirror to the ministry of Jesus. They did exactly what they had seen Him do throughout His ministry. We have seen three major aspects to the ministry of Jesus in our study of the Gospel of Mark.
Casting out Demons
Healing the Sick
Credentials of the Messengers
What they are to SAY
What they are to DO
1. Preaching of Repentance.
The disciples were to go forth and make an announcement. It is not really an evangelistic crusade. They are not to engage in apologetics. It is not their job to convince the would how wrong it is. They are not reformers. They are announcers.
We have not been called to win arguments or to get people to dress like we dress or to talk like we talk. We have been called to proclaim a message.
The message is a call to repent. This was the message which Jesus always preached. It is the message which the disciples preached. And it is the message that was preached throughout the book of Acts.
What is repentance? Let me suggest several aspects.
a. The word translated “repent” (metanoeo) is a compound of the words meta (“after”) and noeo (“to think”). It literally means “afterthought” or “change of mind.” But its meaning does not stop there. It always carries with it the idea of a change of purpose. In the New Testament, this always includes a turning away from sin - a repudiation of the old life of sin to take up a new life of service toward God.
b. Repentance is a gift of God, not merely a human work. The early church spoke of God granting repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25).
c. Genuine repentance involves the intellect, the emotions and the will. It is not limited to any one human faculty - it involves the whole person.
d. Sorrow in and of itself is not repentance. Judas felt remorse for his sins (Matthew 27:3) but he did not repent. Likewise, the rich, young ruler went away sorrowful (Matthew 19:22), but he still went away.
e. Repentance is not a one-time act. The repentance which takes place at conversion is merely the beginning of a progressive, life-long process.
f. Paul called men both to repent as well as to perform “deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).
2. Casting out Demons.
In verse 7 the Twelve were given authority over unclean spirits. They used this authority in casting out demons.
3. Healing the Sick.
Added to this is that they were anointing these sick with oil. This evidently served as a sign of the healing ministry of the Spirit.
The healing of demon possession and of various other sicknesses was to serve as the credentials of the Twelve. They have no credentials from an accredited university. They have no degrees behind their name. Their degrees are from the Lord.
There is something significant about these particular credentials. After all, Jesus could have given the disciples the ability to leap tall buildings with a single bound or to be faster than a speeding bullet. But these particular credentials were people-oriented. They were credentials which met real physical needs.
Now let’s make this personal. What are your credentials? I don’t mean what kind of degree you have received from an academic institution. And I don’t mean that you have some ability to heal the sick or to cast out demons. I mean what is there in your life that can only be explained in the terms of the supernatural? Do you have credentials from the Lord? And are they people-oriented?
It matters not in the long run what degrees you may be able to hang on your wall or what letters you can place along side your name. What matters are your heavenly credentials. And the people whose lives you have touched with the gospel of Christ.