Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on Mark 6:7-13

Following Jesus

by D Morland

Scripture: Mark 6:7-13

Following his rebuff in Nazareth, far from being discouraged Jesus pushes on with his plan to visit as many of the villages of Galilee as he possibly can.

The twelve are about to be sent out and they need to know that rejection is part of what will happen. Unbelief is the context in which the Christian mission has to operate. Rejection will take place again and again.

The disciples learnt in Nazareth that communicating the truth was not going to be easy. That there would always be some that no matter how much information they were able to give them would refuse to believe.

It was not following a moment of warm acceptance but following a moment of rejection that Jesus sent out his twelve to face the rest of the villages of Galilee.

The account of the work of the disciples actually finishes at verse 30. It is there that they report back to Jesus on their work and experiences. So this story jumps from verse 13 to verse 30 and what we have is another occasion where Mark has placed one story inside another. Mark has placed the story of the murder of John the Baptist (v14-29) inside the story of the preaching tour of the disciples.

Why has Mark done that? Surely it is in order that we might consider what the death of John means for those who chose to follow Jesus. As the disciples go out they need to know what happened to another of those who went out for Jesus. They are to be under no illusions that the world is waiting with open arms to receive them.

We share in the work that both John and Jesus are doing and we can be sure we will taste some of the resentment that they tasted too.

The second half of verse 6 is the start of this next section and again we are reminded that the heart of Jesus work was teaching. Jesus went from village to village teaching. Jesus may have healed the sick but that is not what he set out to do. He set out to preach and healing was subsidiary matter. The defining element of Jesus work is teaching. And the disciples are to now model on him and do likewise.

It must have been less than a year ago that Jesus called some fishermen, a tax man and other various folk to follow him. We might think the sending of the twelve a bit premature. What we have seen of them to date has not been reassuring. Back at Capernaum they thought he ought to concentrate on healing while he wanted to concentrate on teaching (1:37- 38). When Jesus was touched in the crowd by the woman who was haemorrhaging the disciples failed to sense what Jesus needed to do (5:31). During the storm on the lake they did not think that he was capable of saving them (4:38). Jesus does not wait until his disciples have it altogether before he sends them out. Flawed as they are they are sent into action. Because the effectiveness of the message is not dependant upon the perfection or the merits of the proclaimers. If it were then the all the sermons preached by less than perfect preachers would have not communicated the truth. But we know they have. One of the tragedies of the church is ministers who have fallen morally. Awful though their actions are we cannot deny the fact that in spite of their corrupt private lives what they have proclaimed from the pulpit has still opened the way to Jesus for many of their listeners. Their lives although a living contradiction of what they proclaimed did not weaken the truth of what they taught.

Sending out inadequate folk typifies believers in every age who are sent out by Jesus. And it is true that no matter how much one has studied theology and no matter how great a college one has been to one is never prepared for ministry. Jesus is always calling us to that for which we are not adequately prepared. And it is only in awareness of the truth of that that we can experience the our reliance upon him. If we think we have all we need to do the work then it will be upon our capabilities and cleverness that we will depend. But the power that changes the world can never lie in the poor simple proclaimers. It is in the message that the power lies.

In fact Paul said that the weaker he was the more obvious it was where the power lie (2 Cor 12:9). We are nothing more that earthen jars that contain real treasure (2 Cor 4:7). Paul does not want to wow anyone with the force of his personality. He does not want people to trust him but to trust Jesus.

And lets never forget that the credibility of our message is not dependant on the beauty of our churches. The gospel message is still the same good news whether preached in a cathedral or a run down rented school hall.

Jesus sends his followers out in the same way that God sent Gideon out. That is with totally inadequate resources for the task (Judges 6&7).

And on the other side no matter how gifted we are we do not have it within us to bring anyone into a relationship with God. The power to do that lies with God and that is why he is quite happy to use you and I.

The sending them out in pairs conforms to Jewish custom, as Solomon said, “two are better than one… if one falls down his friend can help him” (Eccl 4:9-12). The early church adopted the practice also of not sending anyone out on their own (Acts 3:1 & 8:14 & 11:30). And if we are going to do anything in or for the church it is important not to do it alone. Always find someone to work with you are make sure you are in a team. By going as two they were going as a mini community and in that tiny community the would have opportunity to express the values of the kingdom.

Also under the OT law two witnesses were needed to establish the validity of something (Num 35:30). So Jesus wants each village to hear from two witnesses concerning him.

Their work is to do exactly what Jesus has been doing, that is proclaiming the good news of the kingdom in the dozens of villages of Galilee. Their primary task was to preach or proclaim the good news of the coming of the kingdom (v12). And as with Jesus they were also to deal with evil spirits and with sickness. They were to do good and care for any who stood in need of their help.

There is only one of Jesus and if possible Jesus no doubt would have gone to every village himself. But that is not possible and so the disciples go in his stead. They go as his representatives. The go to his work. Those villages that received these disciples and not Jesus did not get an inferior visit. They said and did exactly what Jesus would have done. They are an extension of Jesus.

If Jesus lived here in Beaconsfield what would he do? If we have it right it would not be much different to what we are doing. He would preach and teach. He would do good. He would spend time with the sick and he would listen to the troubles of those doing it tough. He would take casseroles to those who needed help he would make sure that we had something available for teenagers with nothing to do on a Friday evening, he would organise a craft morning where folk could form friendship and be in community, he would make sure kids had an opportunity to hear the story of the love of God.

The twelve went out to preach and they went out to do good, just like they had seen Jesus do. And wherever Christians have gone they have proclaimed the message and they have immediately got involved in bettering people’s lives.

By the way, under the law operating in Palestine at that time if you commissioned someone to do something then in the eyes of the law what they did was considered your action. So if you sent someone down to the market to buy you a donkey and they bought it in your name then as far as the law was concerned it was your donkey and not the actual person who purchased it. The point is the way Jesus sent out his disciples means that if they get into trouble for anything they say the blame will fall on Jesus.

When it came to preaching they did not have to create a message. All they had to do is say what Jesus said. Preaching is the same. All a preacher has to do is say what the bible says. We do not have to be novel and worry about what on earth we are going to say.

Jesus gives them quite specific instructions. First they are told what to take in verses 8 & 9 and in verses 10 and 11 they are given some instruction on how to act.

But these instructions are for this project only. He is not laying down regulations that all who go and do something for Jesus only go in the clothes they stand up in and take no money. This was a short term project to a very limited area. On the other hand there principals for all who serve Jesus here.

Travelling lightly and accepting whatever accommodation we have is an abiding call to the Christian community to keep our lives simple and not become entangled with what this world has to offer. We follow one who for our sake became poor (2 Cor 8:9).

Jesus expects his missionaries to concentrate more on the message than on good accommodation. If we go with a message of life and death there would be something incongruous about worrying over accommodation. The travelling light means that they have minimal worldly cares and worldly cares always blunt the urgency of our message.

They are to take nothing but a staff, which would be used as both a walking stick and something of weapon against wild dogs and other animals that occasionally menace others walking out in the countryside; one tunic a belt and a pair of sandals. And that is it.

They were not to take food, or money nor even an extra tunic. All they stuff that might make them feel secure was to be left at home. A second tunic to keep off the night chill were not to be taken. Not even a bag to carry stuff in was to go with them. The point is they are to trust God to provide provision for each night. They can assume that they will never be sleeping outdoors they need never fear not having a home to stay in each night.

The minimal amount of stuff being taken was a signal of dependence upon God. The most startling particular is not so much on what they were to take but on what they were not to take. Other than the barest essentials they were to take nothing. They were to place their trust not in their supplies but in the one who was sending them.

Everything we do for Jesus should in a sense be beyond us. We are meant to have that feeling that if he does not come through we will go under.

If they had an elaborate support system they need not go in dependence upon him. But they can go knowing that he will no more fail them than he would the birds of the air (Mat 6:25).

In the sermon on the mount Jesus points out that all the wealth of this world does not last. It all rots away. So do not over value it. By the way we thought he was exaggerating didn’t we? Well the economic melt down of the last month is a rather sobering illustration of the fact that he meant what he said.

Jesus says do not let material things be the ultimate in life and do not worry about them. Jesus' argument is that material possessions have minimal ultimate significance. Therefore we should let our money go freely. Do you enjoy electric light at night? Do you enjoy hot running water? Do you enjoy having power to run a TV, and a radio, and a heater? We, when the electricity bill comes in, do not begrudge one cent of the bill. Our goal is not the hoarding of money. Send off your cheque and put a little thank you note in with it, thanking the electricity company for there goodness in giving you electricity. Such thinking will help you not get too concerned about losing some of your money.

In the sermon on the mount Jesus said if God is the one who has given us our bodies then surely He will also give us all that we need to sustain those bodies. The gift of life is the greater gift. The gift of food and clothes the lesser gift.

God did not have to give you the gift of life. You did not ask to be born. You do not keep your heart beating, you do not keep your lungs breathing. This is all the work of God. Every heart beat is an act of God. If God has done all this then we can rest assured that He will now provide in the small matter of some food to eat, and some where to sleep.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Heb 13:5). If you knew you could cope with anything at all that is likely to come to you in the future, what would you have to worry about? Nothing! So if God has promised to never leave you or forsake you, what have you to worry about? Security is not in having lots of things, it is in knowing that you will be able to handle whatever "things" come your way. Security is the product of knowing we can handle whatever it is that life throws at us. At the end of the day security is not in having money in the bank at all, it is in knowing that with nothing in the bank you will still be okay. Should you lose all your money tomorrow would you, in fact, be less secure than you are now?

And let me say the more we concentrate on doing God's will the more worry will be banished from our lives. The things of this world are not worth worrying over. We are to be those who seek the kingdom. This matter of the kingdom is to be a dominant feature of our lives. That Jesus returns today is more important to us than anything else that could happen today. We want Jesus' return more than we want anything else today. We long for the coming of the kingdom. We long to see folk coming into the kingdom. We long to see our friends, and family, and neighbours come and meet God. In other words the thing that makes us tick is not lots of good meals and new clothes, but the good news about Jesus being spread abroad. Our number one ambition is not to be rich, but to be more and more righteous. Obviously we must work to raise finances to feed ourselves with, but the making of money is not our primary goal, it is only a secondary goal.

As they arrived at a village with nowhere to sleep and no food to eat they are either going to arrive full of fear or they are going to arrive full of faith. And as Paul was to later put it, “do not be anxious about anything but in everything, with hearts full of thanks let God know what you need (Phil 4:4).

The four items that they are allowed to take are the four items that God instructed the Israelites to take on their flight from Egypt. Their last meal in Egypt before they all abandoned everything and headed out to the promised land was the Passover meal. And this meal which was eaten on the evening of the last night in slavery was eaten fully dressed for the journey. In fact the meal had to be eaten in hast (Ex 12:13). God said, this is how you are to eat; with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand (Ex 12:11).

The point is the dress of the disciples as they go out to preach is identical with the sort of dress worn at the time of the Exodus. So these four items recall the haste and the expectation and the excitement of the Exodus. The disciples must be as free from encumbrances as were the Israelites who moved off to serve God in a new venture.

The walking stick was also the sort of staff that a shepherd would use. Fishermen would have had no need of one but a shepherd would and this was their new calling. They were about to start forming up a new community and they would need to shepherd it.

Jesus also tells them how they are to behave. First they are to accept and stay with the hospitality of the first home that receives them. One of the ways they are to live out their trust in Jesus’ provision is to trust the provision of those who meet their needs because they have come in this name. The first home that receives the is to be the home where they stay whether it be a poor home or a rich one.

They were simply not to dishonour a home by accepting more comfortable provisions offered by an other host. They are there to teach not enjoy the hospitality.

Jesus knew that there would be some places where they will be rejected. There are going to be villages where no hospitality will be offered.

If a village will not have a bar of them they are to move on and shake the dust off their feet as they leave.

Jews travelling abroad were required to shake themselves free of the dust of foreign places as the crossed back into Israel as a symbolic sign that they are bringing nothing into the holy land that will pollute it. It is also to totally disassociate for the heathen and their ultimate judgment.

So to shake the dust of a particular village off you is to symbolically say that the village was heathen. Every time they did this they were making the point that being a Jew is not what it is all about. As Paul was later to put it, not all who descend from Israel are Israel (Rome 9:6).

Paul carried out this injunction when he decided that preaching in the Jewish synagogue in Corinth was a waste of time (Acts 18:6). Paul pushed on to those who were interested.

We must never feel responsible for those how chose not to have anything to do with Jesus. If we take too much responsibility we will end up trying to coerce. It is God’s call and its their decision as to how they will respond. This is one of the reasons why I never give public appeals. Such appeals are far to open to subtle and not so subtle pressure. If we believe God is at work and if we believe the message has been clearly spelt out then we can safely leave our listeners to interact with God without any theatrics from us.

What was the result of this mission? Mark does not have to tell us. We can all see the church with its 2 billion members. One third of the world’s population. The mission of the twelve goes on and we are in on it and it is unbelievably successful.

Source: A Sermon Preached at the Beaconsfield Baptist Church on Sunday 19 October 2008

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

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