June 26, 2016
So this week, my daughters began working for Operation Christmas Child at Samaritan’s Purse. I’m pretty excited about that since I’m a huge fan of OCC. You see, OCC annually distributes millions of shoeboxes filled with gifts for children around the world – as an entrée to introduce them to the greatest gift, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Well, my daughters were hired to be Church Relations Associates. Their job is to call churches to make sure they know about OCC and the Decision America tour. So they started on Tuesday with a little training. Carey Gregory taught them how to access the database of churches, and how to conduct the phone calls. Then, he demonstrated – he made some phone calls while the girls watched. Then, much to their horror, he gave them the phone and said, now, you try it. And they’ve been doing it the rest of the week. You see, it wouldn’t make any sense to be a church relations associate if you never talked to churches. They were trained to call churches – then they called churches. You see, it would make no sense to get the training, if you never performed the functions of the job. And it would make no sense to get a paycheck if you didn’t dial the phone. You know, drop by once a week on payday to pick up the check. No, after training, you’re expected to do the work.
Again, it would make no sense to call yourself a church relations associate for OCC if you never talked to churches about OCC. And yet how often do we do that very thing? We call ourselves Christians – followers of Christ – but never talk to others about the Christ we’re following. Sometimes, I think we want to enjoy all the benefits of being Christians – forgiveness of sin, joy, God as Father, Jesus as Savior, eternal life – but we never seem to get around to the responsibilities of being a Christian. You know, stop by once a week and pick up a paycheck.
We’ve been in a study of the Gospel of Mark – learning about and from Jesus. Mark doesn’t begin his gospel like Matthew and Luke – with the birth of Jesus. He just gets right to it. After being baptized by John the Baptist, and after John was arrested – which we’ll talk about next week – Jesus began His ministry. He came preaching the gospel of God – The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. He started doing all kinds of miracles to prove who He was. The kingdom was dawning – it was right there in their midst. His first miracle – in this gospel – was driving out a demon. Right at the outset, Mark wants us to know, Jesus wants us to know – Satan’s kingdom and his days are numbered. There’s a cosmic battle going on – and Satan will ultimately lose. Jesus came to deal with sin and its destruction – demons and disease and even death.
Along the way, Jesus is forgiving sinners and calling them to be followers – to be with Him. Don’t miss that – to be with Him. That’s the best part of the Gospel – in fact, that is the Gospel. We are reconciled to God and get to be with Him. Mark has already highlighted the Twelve – Peter, Andrew, James and John and the rest. In fact, we read these words in 3:13-15:
13 And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. [so Jesus called – and they came. But to what end?]
14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him [that’s great] and that He could send them out to preach,
15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.
Don’t miss it – He called them to Himself so they could be with Him – enjoy a relationship with Him, so they could watch Him, be trained by Him – so that He could send them out – in short, to do what He was doing. You see, to be a follower of Christ is to be with Him, and be sent by Him. Now again, the casting demons out is putting the kingdom of Satan on notice – the Kingdom of God is here. And you’re out. And His healing is certainly to provide relief, but also to prove who He was, and to deal with the consequences of sin – again sickness and death.
Now, if He sent them out to do what He was doing, and chapter 3 tells us to preach – what do you suppose they were to preach? What He was preaching – the time is now, the kingdom is here – repent – turn from your sins – and believe the gospel – the good news of what God has done through Jesus for sinners.
One of my commentaries says it this way: everyone likes that Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” But many forget that same Jesus said, now, having come, to be with Me, and I’ll be with you to the end of the age – having come, now go. Go and make disciples of all nations. There’s work to do. By the way, this same author also suggested there is a difference between being a disciple – that’s a follower – a learner – and being an apostle, in the general sense of the word. An apostle is one sent with a message. In that general sense, we are all to be ones sent with the message of our King – His kingdom is here. So here are my questions, are you a disciple of Jesus? And most of us would respond, absolutely yes. Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? Have you joined Him in the work? Or do you stop by once a week on Sundays for a paycheck? (analogy falls short)
You see, we continue in Mark 6 today, and after being rejected by His own hometown, and His family, Jesus continued His ministry. He left Nazareth and those who rejected Him, and was going around the surrounding villages and teaching. Don’t forget – this is a central theme in Mark’s gospel. While it contains less actual teaching of Jesus than the other gospels, Mark makes clear teaching was His central ministry. He taught with authority, and proved His words by His miraculous works. But now, it’s time for others – namely, those who have been following, observing learning, being trained – it’s time for them to pick up the phone and dial. To join Him in the work. Which brings us to our text today – Mark 6:7-13 – let’s read that.
It was time for His disciples to become apostles – sent ones. Called ones to become sent ones. Followers to become doers, learners to become practitioners. Let’s make our way through the text, and we’ll make some appropriate applications along the way. We’ll follow this outline:
- Call to the Work (7)
- Instructions for the Work (8-11)
- Success in the Work (12-13)
Now the twelve had been with Jesus for awhile now – maybe up to a year. They had seen Him work, they had heard Him teach. So He summoned or called them to Himself and began to send them out, literally, two by two. This became the practice in the early church – Saul and Barnabas, Barnabas and John Mark, Paul and Silas. You see, sending them two by two would provide mutual encouragement and companionship, a sharing of the work, accountability, and it likely had to do with the OT law in Deuteronomy that said a testimony is confirmed in the presence of two or three witnesses.
A relevant application for us is to do the work together. Find someone with whom you can partner – who can go with you, pray with you, encourage you, hold you accountable – and reach out together. Strength in numbers.
Notice, Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits. That’s interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it was His authority to give. He didn’t have to get the authority from God – He was God, and give His own authority. And second, this authority or power is over unclean spirits. Compare that with verse 13, we see unclean spirits are actually demons. In Mark, this has been an important display of the coming of the kingdom of God – power over the forces of evil. There is a comic battle going on – and followers of Jesus have authority over demons and demonic activity. That’s why Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God, which our ladies are studying in their Bible study.
We are told by Peter that our enemy like a roaring lion prowls around looking for someone to devour. But, we have the armor of God – the shield of faith by which we can extinguish his attacks – and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God by which we do battle. So, we resist the devil, Peter says, standing firm in the faith.
James tells us ominously to resist the devil and he will flee from you – but he doesn’t leave us there with hand to hand combat. No – he says in the next verse, draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. The best way to defeat the devil is to focus, not on him, but on our Christ, who has already defeated him. We draw near to God – He draws near to us, and the devil flees. We’ve seen that, haven’t we? Jesus shows up, demons bow, proclaiming His Lordship as the Son of God. The devil and his mission stand defeated.
This brings us to our second point – the instructions. When Mark says, and He instructed them, the word in actually much stronger in the Greek. I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word instructions, I think of something optional. Kind of like helpful hints. Everyone knows if you’re a real man, and you buy something which requires assembly, you don’t read the instructions. They’re just helpful hints – you don’t really need them – at least until after you’ve put it together and you still have some pieces left.
I remember when we first moved here, we painted our house. My dad went and bought a Wagner power roller, and assembled it. As smart as my Dad was, that was a mistake. My brother was the first to use the roller – that was also a mistake, that is, if you were in his shoes – literally. You see, we were all in the living room, David has the power roller strapped on, full of paint, and begins pushing the button, rolling up and down on the wall. We’re all watching, and nothing happens – nothing was coming out. We wait and wait, and finally someone looked down. The hose had come out of the power roller, and every time my brother pushed the button, the paint poured out, down his leg, and was by this time filling his shoe and puddling up around him. There was a little chaos, and about that time, my dad walked calmly over to the box, pulled out a hose clamp, and said, “I suppose that’s what this is for.”
Instructions. We think of them as helpful hints. But the word here has a lot more bite than just helpful hints. It was used in a variety of settings. First, in the military world, if a superior wanted to give instructions to a subordinate, this word was used. When you think of a officer giving instructions to a subordinate, you don’t think of helpful hints – listen, if you don’t mind, if you have time, would you go take that hill? It would be helpful to our cause. No, we don’t even call them instructions, we call them what? Orders. That’s the word.
In the legal world, the word was used of a summons. Now, if you get a summons to appear in court, you don’t think of it as a helpful hint – you’re bound by it. If you don’t appear, they’ll arrest you. The point is this, these are not just suggestions, these were commands, orders, Jesus was giving to His followers as they were getting ready to do the work. And what were the orders?
Well, first He tells them what to take and what not to take in verse 8 and 9. At first glance, it seems a little over the top. Micro-management. You’re going to tell them what pack, and what not to pack? Look at it. Basically, He tells them to travel light. He tells them to take nothing for the journey, except a staff. Now, Matthew’s parallel account, we read Jesus said, don’t take a staff. Is that a contradiction, a mistake? Many think so. Very simply, just like He told them not to take an extra tunic, here He probably means, don’t take an extra staff. Or others suggest Jesus is saying, you can take a walking stick, but not a rod for self defense. Whichever, it can be easily explained.
So, take a staff, but no bread, no bag – no backpack, since there won’t be anything in it – no money – literally no coins in their belt. Simply take sandals – again, another account says no sandals, but likely means, you only need one pair. And all accounts agree, don’t take two tunics. One is enough. What is this about? Why these detailed orders? Why this micro-management? It’s about dependence. It’s about trust.
Take a walking stick – but don’t take a rod for self defense – I’ll take care of you. Don’t take provisions – I’ll provide. Don’t take money – you won’t need it. Don’t take extra sandals or clothes – I’ll take care of you, I’ll provide. The point is, I’m calling you to the work, and I’ll give you everything you need for the work. Just like I take care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field – I’ll take care of you. No need to worry. I will take what little you have, and I will use it for My kingdom. Don’t rely on yourself, rely on Me.
I have to tell you how personally convicting this is. If Jesus said this to these guys then, I wonder what He would say the western church today. I wonder how much our acquiring stuff has distracted us from the mission. (Story – Acts 3, Thomas Aquinas, Pope) Don’t be self-reliant, be Christ-reliant. Further, don’t we normally make sure we have all the resources we need before we start doing something God calls us to do? God says, go – do this ministry, that ministry, and we begin counting the cost. Can I afford it? Do I have the resources? Do have the time? Do have the skills and gifts? What does it mean to be a fully-devoted follower of Jesus? Here, Jesus is teaching trust. What I call you to do, I will enable you to do – with all the resources, spiritual gifts – all that you need. It was Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China who said, God’s work, done God’s way, will not lack God’s supply. Is He calling you to serve in some way? You’ve come to Him, now He wants you go, as it were, to serve. Will you trust Him, and serve?
Well, next Jesus gives them instructions or orders regarding their visits to various towns. First, He says, wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Jesus, first you’re telling me what to pack, now you’re telling me where to stay? What does that mean? There was a Middle Eastern hospitality that actually exists to this day which would take in travelers. You would show hospitality to those traveling through your town. In fact, early on, this is how traveling preachers of the gospel were taken care of. They would show up and could count on someone showing hospitality. Again, here we see the issue of trust. You don’t need a rod, someone will take you in. You don’t need bread, someone will feed you. You don’t need a extra tunic for cold nights, someone will provide shelter. Trust Me, Jesus says.
But, if someone takes you in, stay there until you leave. What is that about? Well, you might be tempted to work your way up the social ladder if someone gives you a better offer. Someone offers you their meager accommodations and food, and someone wealthier comes along and says stay with me – you’re tempted. Who wouldn’t want a feather bed instead of a straw mat? Who would want a steak instead of bread and water. Jesus says, don’t do that. There are likely two ideas here – don’t be thinking of yourself and how you can work a system to gain more. It’s why later both Paul and Peter will say, elders, church leaders, should not be those who are in it for the money. Again, the contemporary church could stand to learn from that principle.
But not only that – don’t show favoritism. Favoritism – prejudice of all types is condemned. James describes it this way in James 2 – don’t reserve the best seats in your gatherings for the wealthy and make the poor stand at the door or sit at your feet. Don’t show favoritism. Accept those who accept you without regard to personal gain. Again, this is an important ministry principle. We care for people regardless of their socio-economic status – we care for people regardless of what they can do in return, in fact, expecting nothing in return. All are sinners in need of a savior.
So, stay with those who accept you. But, verse 11, just like I was rejected in Nazareth, so also you will visit some places who not receive you either. They won’t accept you, they won’t listen to what you have to say. When that happens, when you leave, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them. This is shocking. It was a practice familiar to the Jews. When they were returning to the holy land from a Gentile area, they were to shake the dust off their feet lest they contaminate the holy land. It was a sign of their being irreligious and under God’s judgment.
Can you imagine doing that to fellow Jews? You’re irreligious because you reject God’s Son, and you are under His judgment. Jesus said, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. It’s a testimony of their coming judgment. They have heard, they have seen, they have rejected. Shake the dust off your feet. These are hard words. In fact, in the parallel passage in Matthew, Jesus says it will be more tolerable in the judgment for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
That’s significant. When we think of Sodom and Gomorrah, we think of the most reprehensible of sinners – those who did not show hospitality, in fact they were homosexual rapists. But Jesus says, there’s something worse – hearing and seeing the gospel, and rejecting it. It will be more tolerable for Sodom than for you. Shake the dust off your feet – their righteous judgment is their responsibility. I find it very interesting today that we certainly don’t want to offend anyone, so we seldom talk of sin and the judgment to come. Here, they give a clear statement that would have shocked, offended – and perhaps brought some to repentance.
Which brings us to our last point – the success of the work. In verse 12, we see they went out and preached that people should repent. And we remember, that is the message Jesus was preaching – repent, believe the gospel. Now notice, verse 7 didn’t say anything about preaching or healing for that matter – just authority over unclean spirits. But here, we read the first thing they did was to preach repentance. Why? Because the message of the kingdom is paramount. That’s ultimately what apostles, sent ones, are sent with – the message of the King. Think of it this way – if you heal someone, but they don’t repent and believe the gospel, all you have is a healthy pagan. If you drive out a demon, but they don’t repent and believe, all you have is a delivered unbeliever – a free sinner – still enslaved to sin. This is why I love OCC – they take gifts to needy children – but they need more than a slinky. They need Jesus.
The gospel is paramount. And the works they did in verse 13 authenticated the message. Sure, it mercifully made sick people healthy and possessed people free. But healthy and free to repent and believe.
Again, in verse 13, we see they were casting out demons, unclean spirits in verse 7. And then here, we see the only place in the gospels where anointing with oil is mentioned. Sure, James tells us in James 5 if people are sick, they should call for the elders of the church to anoint with oil in the name of the Lord and pray for them – but this is the only place we see it in the gospels. Then, olive oil was used medicinally. That’s not likely what is happening here. Rather, the oil was symbolic of the presence and power of God. The important point is this – they healed people – with the authority of Jesus.
Which brings us to our conclusion. Let me quickly review three or four principles we learn from this text:
- Jesus Himself identified others in whom He could invest, disciple, train, and send out. We, too, should identify people in whom we can invest, to see workers intentionally multiplied.
- Second, we should seek to cultivate a simple lifestyle and avoid becoming enamored by the fleeting things of this world. The Scripture is full of warnings about the dangers of wealth and accumulating stuff. The bottom line is, it becomes a distraction to that which is really important.
- Which leads to the third principle. We should depend on God rather than our own resources. We remember that Paul wrote in Philippians that he’d learned to be content in all circumstances – because God would provide according to His riches in glory. Whether we have much, or little, we can be content, doing all things through Christ who strengthens us.
- And last, we are reminded to not show partiality – favoritism – prejudice in Christian ministry. Rather, we should treat others equally, regardless of social status, ethnic identity, wealth or influence. There is to be no male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile – for are all one in Christ.
So, I want to encourage you as we close to get to work. Christianity has enough spectators who enjoy the benefits of belief, but never seem to fulfill the duties of belief. But Jesus calls us to Himself so that He can send us out in His name.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. I don’t think ready. I haven’t had enough training. I’m not prepared. I don’t have what it takes. Let me remind you who Jesus was sending out in Mark 6. Up to this point, and actually through much of the rest of the gospel of Mark, these guys are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They are often asking the most inane questions. Even though it granted to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom, after Jesus explained His teaching, they often stood there with the lights on, nobody’s home look. Over and over in this gospel, Jesus says to them, are you so dull? Don’t you get it? Is your faith so small? My point is, you don’t have to have all together – you don’t have to have it all figured out. All you have to know is that He called you to Himself – and you’ve spent some time with Him. Now go tell others what Jesus has done for you. In His name, in His power and authority. Some won’t believe, but some will.