Mark chapter 6 starts with the story of Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth. While there, He and His disciples go to the synagogue where He teaches. Many heard Jesus and were amazed. Not amazed by His authority that leads them to belief. This amazed is disbelief. The townspeople questions who He thinks He is to impart wisdom and perform miracles. This Jesus is the carpenter and illegitimate son of Mary. The people think they know His story and His family. They aren’t going to give honor to a boy of dishonor. The people are offended that this hometown boy would think He has authority over them.
Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” Being rejected, Jesus walked away. He didn’t spend time trying to convince them. He didn’t try performing more miracles to win them over. He didn’t feel defeated and take their disbelief personally. He just walked away to go to someplace that would accept His teaching.
Jesus left and went to other villages teaching and performing miracles. Jesus saw that the work was too great for just Him. There were more people to hear His message, to be healed and to be set free than He could reach on His own. Jesus called together His disciples to pair them up and send them out to cover more ground then He could do if they were all together.
Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs of two. Jesus had started calling His disciples in pairs, beginning with Simon and his brother Andrew. He called an even number to send them out in pairs. This is likely due to the danger of traveling alone at that time and also adhering to the legal requirement for 2 witnesses. So, there was safety in pairs. And, the partners’ witness to what Jesus has said and done carries weight with those they encounter. This partner missionary model becomes the model for the post-Resurrection church with mission partners like Paul and Barnabas and Peter and John.
Jesus commissions these mission partners giving them His authority. The disciples’ mission is never independent of Jesus’ mission. Even apart from Him, they participate in what He has been sent to us to do: to proclaim the nearness of God’s Kingdom. Jesus was given authority by God to heal, exorcise demons, forgive sins and grant eternal life. Jesus passes on this authority to the disciples when He commissions and sends them.
Jesus says to take only a staff and wear sandals. The disciples aren’t to take any bread, bag, money or extra shirt. These instructions are meant to distinguish the disciples from well to do neighbors and magicians. Carrying an extra shirt would be a sign of social status. People seldom had multiple sets of clothing and having an extra shirt would be a sign that they may have money. Their tunics were precious and expensive. They lasted a long time.
They should not be seen as prospering from the Gospel. They shouldn’t have a bag to put money in because they shouldn’t take money for what they do. Magicians were paid for what they did. The disciples should be seen as different from these charlatans. Physicians were expensive and unreliable. The disciples should also be set apart from physicians so that the people being healed and witnessing healings should know that their power comes from God, not medicine.
Jesus told the disciples to seek out a home where they would be extended hospitality and stay there until they leave that town. Jesus wanted them to stay in one house so they didn’t look like they were moving from house to house to house trying to stay at the nicest house in town. They should be grateful for the first sign of hospitality and not try to gain from their welcome.
Jesus sent the disciples to houses in the villages, not synagogues. The synagogues had shown Jesus some welcome in the beginning of His ministry, but, as time goes on, Jesus was less well received. Jesus sends the disciples to the houses away from the influence of the synagogue leaders where people would be able to hear the disciples’ witness.
If the disciples arrive in a town where they are not welcome and people don’t believe in what they say, Jesus tells the disciples to move on. They are to shake the dust off their feet and walk on. The disciples would have dust on their feet, because no one had offered them hospitality which would have included washing their feet. Shaking the dust off your feet was a sign of cursing a place. Perhaps the disciples didn’t need to curse the place with shaking off their foot dust. They were already cursed by not believing.
Jesus’ unspoken words were do not be discouraged if you’re rejected. He said just carry on. Jesus knew His words and deeds were not always believed and His disciples may receive the same response. But, he tells them, “it’s not worth staying.” Jesus had too been rejected, but was not discouraged. This is one more example that Jesus sets for the disciples that He calls them to the same.
Jesus had stopped trying to reach the people in the synagogues where they had gathered for religious practice. Jesus knew that the best way to reach the people was to go to where the people were able to hear the truth. People weren’t receiving Him in the synagogue, but they were responding to His message by the lakeside, in their homes, and around the countryside. That’s where He did ministry and that’s where He sent the disciples.
The Church can learn something important from this model. People don’t come to church to believe. They come to church, because they believe. People who come to church are ones who already have faith. They find faith out there and come to church to know more. Church attendance is an act of faith that one already has.
Our society is so entrenched with talk of Christian faith. We hear Gospel songs sung on popular TV shows. We see mangers set up around town at Christmas. We watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special. We hear presidential candidates talking about their faith. But, just because we hear all this Christian talk, doesn’t mean that everyone has heard the Gospel. And, just because people believe in God, doesn’t mean they know who Jesus Christ is.
The difficult job of Discipleship is that we are called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who have never heard the Good News before. We often feel ill equipped to do the work. We don’t know what to say about Jesus. We think we don’t know the Bible well enough to talk about it.
New people aren’t going to come to faith if the only place we preach the Gospel is inside the church. The Gospel spreads through the Church when the Church is out preaching the Gospel. The Gospel spread where people are, in their homes, at work, at the grocery store, café or post office. A desire to know more and develop a relationship with Christ leads people to the church, but faith has to start out there.
Let’s start with something basic. Who here has invited someone to church in the past 6 months?
Who here has talked to someone about their faith who is not a member of a church?
There’s the source of the problem. If we’re not talking about our faith, if we’re not even inviting people to church, the church is not going to grow. We can’t sit here on Sunday mornings and wait for people to come to us. We can’t worry about the future of the church and do nothing.
Another problem is that church folk think it’s the preacher’s job to do evangelism. The problem is that as much outreach work as I do most of the people I encounter already go to church. There are 2 people I’ve established relationships with that are believers but don’t go to church. One I have talked to about coming to church. She wants to come to raise her children in the church but doesn’t know if she’ll feel welcome and what to do with her kids if they don’t sit and behave. The other I am working on. Her faith is very important to her, but she doesn’t yet see the value of faith in community.
If the church is going to survive, I’m not talking just about Bethany First Christian Church, I’m talking about all our small churches in town and around America who on the decline, if the church is going to survive, we need to claim Jesus’ commission of the disciples as our own. We need to be willing to risk rejection and talk about what Jesus means to us.
We don’t have to worry about saying the right thing or knowing the Bible well enough. We simply have to be willing to talk about our faith. Tell someone about something God got you through. Tell someone a story about how you have witnessed healing or been healed. Tell someone about the ministries we do that give people a little freedom from their poverty. Tell someone that you know God’s love through the fellowship and prayer of your church family. Tell someone about a sermon that spoke to you or a prayer we prayed or a special hymn. For the love of God, just tell someone something.