Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
(Mark 6:6b-13 NIV)
After leaving His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus and His disciples begin another ministry tour through Jewish villages. Up to this point, Jesus has been preparing His disciples, first calling them into ministry, then watching Jesus preach repentance, teach in parables, and participate with Him in ministry.
In today’s passage, Jesus gathers up His disciples and sends them out in pairs to minister to the many towns of the region. This launching of His disciples into ministry was precisely what Jesus had purposed to do when He called them to ministry (3:14-15). Jesus sent them out in pairs to fulfill the Law’s requirement to provide two or more as witnesses to a matter being true (Deuteronomy 17:6). Jesus wanted to ensure that the disciples had credibility and integrity in their witness of Him and His works.
Jesus gave very explicit instructions to His disciples:
- Take a staff (walking stick) – there will be a lot of walking.
- Wear sandals – there will be a lot of walking.
- Don’t bring money – your needs will be met.
- Don’t bring food – you will be fed.
- Don’t bring an extra bag – you are not collecting anything – this is not a fundraiser.
- Don’t bring an extra shirt for sleeping – you will be provided for (sleeping indoors).
Jesus’ instructions were clear – His disciples were to rely on Jewish hospitality, not on their own provisions. This was a test of faith as well as the societal norm, not to mention an opportunity to minister to the people they were staying with as well as the villagers.
Jesus was also teaching His disciples about contentment and gratitude. Jesus told them to not to jump from house to house but to remain wherever they went to first when in a town. The disciples were to give, not to get; they were to trust God and not seek their own comfort and contentment. This was not a vacation – this was to be about ministry.
Jesus also warned the disciples about rejection. Just as the townspeople of Gerasenes had asked Jesus to leave, and just as the people of Nazareth had turned on their hometown son, Jesus knew that some villages would reject Jesus and His disciples’ ministry attempts. If this was the case, then Jesus told His disciples to treat the village as if it were a Gentile village and shake the dust off their feet as they left town, leaving the dirt, uncleanness (sin), and hard-heartedness of the town behind them. They were to move on and leave the judgment in God’s hands.
Verses 12 – 13 tell of the disciples’ ministry – proclaiming Jesus’ message of repentance, and the restoration of people to wholeness through exorcisms, prayer, and healing. As we shall see, verse 30 is the final report on the disciples’ short-term ministry trips.
As followers of Jesus, may we carry the message of repentance and share it wherever we go. May we remember that repentance is not feeling sorry for our sins, or that we were caught committing a sin, but that we are sinners by our very nature, in desperate need of a transformation from the inside out, the change only Christ can provide.