Mark 6:7-13

On Mission for Jesus

Jesus begins to fulfill his promise to his disciples that they would become “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).  So far the disciples have followed Jesus around Galilee and the surrounding area witnessing but not fully participating in his ministry.  Now they will be sent out themselves.  Jesus preached and healed and exorcized demons, and now so too will his disciples. We might immediately ask Were they ready for this?  So far in Mark’s gospel the disciples have not exactly emerged as an altogether competent bunch.  They’ve hindered his mission (Mark 1:36-39); they’ve failed to grasp the meaning of a foundational teaching of Jesus (Mark 4:13); they’ve failed to trust him when it mattered most (Mark 4:40).  Are they really ready to be sent out on mission?   But we trust that Jesus knows what he is doing.  Three words characterize their mission:  authority, dependency, urgency.  We’ll examine each.

#1 Authority

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  Mark 6:7

Authority is one of the main descriptors of Jesus’ ministry.  People everywhere are astonished at the authority with which Jesus teaches.  Where did this man get these things? they ask. It is not just that Jesus taught with authority, he acted with authority as well.  We live in a boastful world of big talk.  Many can speak with authority but Jesus also acts with authority.  He speaks a word to the sick and they are healed.  He commands the demons and they listen.  He rebukes the wind and the sea and there is immediate calm.  He even claims the authority to forgive sin.

The disciples have witnessed this authority on many occasions.  They have at times been comforted by this authority and on other occasions been afraid of it.  And now that authority is given to them.

Jesus did two things for the disciples.  First he called them and then he sent them.  He gathered them to himself and then he sent them out.  Some take joy in being called by Jesus but forget that they have also been sent by him.  Some know they are sent by Jesus but forget they are called to be with him.  We need to remember both.  Every Christian is called to be with him and also sent out to be on mission for him.

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

So Jesus sends them out with authority over the unclean spirits.  Success in the disciple’s mission will not depend on their ability to perform perfectly but rather on the authority that is given to them.  The same is true for us.  We have authority in the mission that Jesus has given to each of us.  It is an authority that is not rooted in ourselves but rooted in his Word.

#2 Dependent

8He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.  Mark 6:8-10

Imagine packing for a trip.  You have your clothes, your toiletries, various forms of entertainment.  And Jesus comes to you and says Leave all that behind. You’re going to take just the basic essentials. No bread, no bag, no money.  For the disciples, who perhaps were apprehensive to begin with, this must have come as quite a shock.

What is Jesus doing here?  He is teaching his disciples to trust his provision of their needs.  Later he will ask them to reflect on this trip “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” (Luke 22:35).  The disciples respond saying they lacked nothing.  Jesus instructions here are meant to teach them to depend on his provision.

Dependency is a posture of our heart and therefore it is something that is practiced more than it is taught.  We all depend on something or someone.  Jesus makes it difficult for his disciples to trust their own ability or clever planning or anything in themselves.  Jeremiah reminds “that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps (Jer 10:23).” Sometimes we get reminders that this is indeed true.  Jesus intentionally puts his disciples in a situation where they must depend on him.   From the provisions they take (and don’t take) to the homes where they will sleep, the disciples must depend on what God will provide.

Why is it important that we learn dependency?  Because without it we become proud and arrogant in our success.  Because without it we can become paralyzed by our own weakness.  The disciples are sent out in the authority of the name of Jesus and dependent on the provision of Jesus.

#3 Urgent

11And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.  Mark 6:11-13

When it comes to the mission the disciples have received, there is no time to waste on material possessions.  Jesus also tells them not to waste time in a place where they gain no audience.  Move on Jesus tells them.  There are other places who need to hear the gospel.  He reminds us elsewhere that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37),” so keep moving Jesus says!

Shake off the dust from your feet and move on.  While this has become a proverbial saying in our day, for the disciples this was a visible act they were to actually do.  It was a meaningful act because orthodox Jews of the day had a practice of shaking the dust from their feet when they travelled out of a Gentile region.  This act signified that the places which rejected the disciples were just like the rest of the despised Gentile world. When Jews witnessed this as the disciples left their town, it certainly would have made an impression.

We see the urgency displayed in their preaching ministry as well.  Mark does not tell us the content of what they preached, only that they called people to repent.  Repentance is an urgent matter.  There is eternal life to be gained and eternal judgment to be avoided.

Discussion Questions

  1. Given what we know about the disciples so far in the Gospel of Mark, why might some find it surprising that Jesus is sending them out now?
  2. Just as Jesus called the twelve to himself and then sent them out, so he calls us and sends us out as well. In what area do you most need to grow: (1) in knowing that you have been called by Jesus or (2) in knowing that you have been sent out by Jesus? How can you take steps to grow in these areas?
  3. Why do you think Jesus sends the disciples out two by two rather than potentially reaching more places by sending them out one by one?
  4. Jesus gives the disciples authority. Describe the ways you see the disciples using authority in this passage. In what ways does Jesus give us authority as well? How can we learn to rely on that authority more?
  5. What provisions are they allowed to take? If you were in their shoes (or sandals), how might you feel about these limited provisions? What lesson do you think Jesus is attempting to teach the disciples?
  6. How were the disciples to handle the rejection that they would meet along the way? What can we learn from this as we too face rejection?
  7. How do the disciples demonstrate urgency in their mission for Jesus?
  8. In the sermon we said the disciples went on mission for Jesus with authority, in dependence on God, and with urgency. Which one of these three areas is most relevant for you? How can we cultivate these things in our lives?





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