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Sent by Jesus

Mark: the Kingdom of God Is at Hand  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:22
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Jesus sent the 12 apostles in community and with His authority for the sake of proclaiming His message.

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Sent by Jesus Introduction, Outline, & Prayer There are two kinds of people in the world, those who like to plan and those like to be spontaneous. I definitely belong with the planners. I wouldn’t say that I always enjoy planning—it can definitely get exhausting—but I do prefer it over spontaneity, which is always chaotic and stressful to me. So, when I go on trips, I need to have answers to questions like: “Where am I going? Why am I going there? Who is going with me? What do I need to pack?” and, “What am I going to do once I’m there?” Since Jesus couldn’t possibly be placed in the spontaneous group because He possesses all wisdom and knowledge, He would clearly be with us planners. And, true to form, He provides answers to questions like these in our passage today. In point one we’ll look at the Mission Directives He gave to the twelve apostles (vv. 7–11) and in point two we’ll look at the Mission Status Mark provides (vv. 12–13). “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And 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.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” (Mark 6:7–13). Point 1: Mission Directives (vv. 7–11) The Sending Begins I say this regularly from the pulpit: at ekklesia we believe there are no arbitrary, unnecessary, or out of place words in the Holy Bible. This is God’s book and there’s nothing He wants added to it or subtracted from it. With that in mind, I really wanted to understand why God put the word “began” in v. 7, “[Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). Why not say, “Jesus called the twelve and sent them out two by two”? Doesn’t that have the same meaning? Why mention that He “began” to send them? What does that word add? What detail does it communicate? I think we find the answer earlier in Mark when Jesus first called the twelve, “[Jesus] appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14–15). So, “phase one” in Jesus’s plan for discipling these 12 men was simply to be with them—and they had been together almost nonstop since He appointed them. “Phase two” was sending them out to preach with the authority to cast out demons, which is exactly what happens in our passage today. So, God inspired Mark to write that Jesus “began to send them out” to clarify that this is the moment Jesus began implementing the second half of His plan for the 12, which would continue on in their lives. In fact, being sent by Jesus became part of their identity. The verb “send” and the noun “apostle” are translated with two totally different words in our English Bibles, probably to acknowledge the unique role these men played in the history of Christianity. But in Greek, the language Mark wrote this book in, the verb “send” and the noun “apostle” come from the exact same root. If we were to translate “apostle” literally, Mark 3:14–15 would read, “[Jesus] appointed twelve (whom he also named [sent ones]) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…” It’s the same situation with the verb “farm” and the noun “farmer.” Farmers are those who farm. Farmers:Farming::sent ones (apostles):being sent. It’s the sending that makes them apostles, something they could never be without the sending. The point is, Jesus wanted these men with Him so that He could eventually send them out as His representatives. That sending has now begun both in community and with Jesus’s authority. The Packing List In vv. 8–9, Jesus covers their packing list. I’m a minimalist when it comes to packing—I always try to pack light because it means carrying less—but, obviously, Jesus is the ultimate minimalist, “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.” Jesus didn’t say, “Pack light,” He said, “Pack nothing”—no food, no possessions, no extra clothing, and no money to buy any of those things at any point. He does make one exception, though—He allows them to take one and only one extra item. I’m guessing that made the 12 both excited and relieved until they discovered that one item was a staff. When you hear “staff,” don’t picture an awesome, powerful staff like Moses used to split the Red Sea or Gandalf used to rescue Théoden. Picture a long stick camp counselors use on 5-mile hikes. I’m not even sure why they exist… I’ve never once in my life been walking and said, “I could really use a stick right now.” If you’ve ever read or seen Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the main character discovers that the one essential item for intergalactic travel is a bath towel. That’s what this reminds me of: the one essential item for an evangelistic mission is a stick… really? I think the fact that a staff is basically useless is kind of the point. By depriving the 12 of anything useful—even essentials for staying alive—Jesus means to highlight the sufficiency of God’s provision and guidance for those whom He calls and sends. We need to be careful here, though. I don’t think Jesus means to make this the standard for all missions and evangelism. It doesn’t mean that a real missionary has nothing but the clothes on his back, sandals, and a stick. In other words, missionaries who bring luggage with them to other nations are not cowardly, unfaithful, or disqualified from their ministry. I think, in this instance, Jesus was providing a unique and momentary opportunity for the 12 to trust and rely upon His authority and provision. The Itinerary In vv. 10–11, we discover the basic itinerary for their trip. “And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And 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” (Mark 6:10–11). What do most people say when they finally find something they’ve been looking for all over the place? “It’s always the last place you look!” When you think about it, that phrase is almost meaningless. Everyone finds missing things in the last place they look because no one keeps looking for things they have already found. Wherever you find it is necessarily the last place you look for it. No one ever says, “Hey I finally found it! Let’s keep checking to see if it’s somewhere else.” I’ll admit, v. 10 sounds similar to me, “Stay there until you depart from there.” That is always universally true, isn’t it? I will always be in a place until I leave it—there’s no other option. Jesus is not confusing here—we are the ones confused because hospitality was radically different in Jesus’s time and culture than it is in ours. It would be surprising today if someone agreed to host two strangers, claiming to have a message of repentance from God, for as long as it takes them to share that message with the entire town. But in Jesus’s day, it would have been surprising not to host such people, especially because they would be fellow Jews claiming to represent the same God. So, “Stay there until you depart from there,” meant, “Lodge in the home of whoever first receives you as their guests and stay in that home until you leave that town.” In other words, “Don’t book a stay with a bunch of homes all over town and then choose the one you like best. Stay in the first one offered to you. Accept that person’s hospitality and partnership because God is providing for you through them and God will honor and bless them for providing what you need.” In order to find those homes, at least part of their itinerary was to go house to house in the village, introducing themselves and delivering their message. Again, it would have been surprising for people in their time and culture not to host them. However, Jesus instructed them on what to do if they were not received. So, Jesus clearly expected people not only to refuse them hospitality but to refuse to even listen to what they had to say. When that happened, they were to “shake off the dust that [was] on [their] feet as a testimony against [the people of that town.” The cultural norm in that day for Jews returning home from Gentile territory was to remove the dust from that territory in order to avoid the possibility of contaminating Jewish territory. James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, PNTC (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2002), 181. This was a cultural custom, not a biblical command but Jesus took that cultural custom and used it against those who refused His message and messengers. It was scandalous for the 12 to do this because these would have been testifying against Jewish villages. Any Jewish village that did not receive or listen to them, they basically told, “Because you have refused the message of the one who sent us, you are in the same position as the Gentiles—cut off from God and His promises of salvation.” Point 2: Mission Status (vv. 12–13) So, we know that Jesus sent the apostles out with a message because He tells them what to do if people refuse to listen to them. And we find the content of their message in point 2, “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” This is exactly what Jesus did, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14–15). It’s also exactly what John the Baptist did, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Repentance—taking God’s view of our sin, acknowledging its evilness and our guilt, and turning from it with God’s help—was absolutely essential to the message of John, Jesus, and the apostles. Last week’s passage told us the status of Jesus’s mission in Nazareth, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching” (Mark 6:5–6). We concluded that Jesus couldn’t do many mighty works not because His hands were tied by human unbelief but because they would have accomplished something contrary to His purposes. His purposes were to bring people to repentance and faith and to honor and glorify Himself; however, His wise words and mighty works only offended the Nazarenes and provoked them to dishonor Jesus. So, as far as God’s power was concerned, Jesus was able to do mighty works whether they believed or not. However, as far as His allegiance to His own purposes was concerned, He could do no mighty work because He was constrained by His own desires to work for His own glory and not against it—even if that meant not doing mighty works. But now look at the status of the mission of the 12 in v. 13, “And [the 12] cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” Jesus in Nazareth: no mighty works, only a few healed. Jesus’s apostles in the villages: many mighty works, many people healed. Why? It’s not because they had power that was greater than Jesus’s. They had received their authority from Jesus. If it had relied on their own, nothing would have happened. What was it then? The people in the villages where the 12 went must have honored God by responding to their message in repentance and faith in ways the people of Nazareth didn’t. The difference didn’t lie in the ministers but in the people to whom they ministered. Application: Representing Jesus Wisely Applying this passage is a bit tricky because it describes what Jesus did once with the 12 on one evangelistic mission; not what Jesus always does with the church on every evangelistic mission. Put another way, this passage is a description of what happened in one instance, not a prescription for what must always happen in every instance. So, we apply this truth not by going out in pairs with nothing but a tunic, sandals, and a stick but by looking for the timeless wisdom behind those circumstantial commands; the wisdom that expressed itself in those particular ways then but might look different today. I want to mention 4 points of timeless wisdom here. Make disciples in community I mentioned last week what application is. Let me also add that it is not the time for the pastor to tell the church what they are either neglecting to do or doing wrong. Sometimes there are elements of truth to that but application aims at reminding, encouraging, motivating, building zeal for good works by the power of the Spirit through God’s word. (I know for a fact that there are many of you are doing this—I praise and honor the Lord for His grace to you and thank and honor you for your obedience to Him). Many of you are involving your households in the effort to love your neighbors. Joseph has done a wonderful job using the Threads of Hope ministry not just as a fundraiser for missions but as a context for getting involved in our community for the sake of sharing the gospel. If you’re having trouble, pair up with other people who can help you. See yourself as a “sent one” We are certainly not Apostles in the capital “A” sense. But I think the concept of spending time with Jesus to be sent by Jesus certainly carries over. We need both phases. One without the other won’t work. It’s not a private, religious experience that isolates us from the world. It’s also not a social mission that requires no relationship with Jesus. Leave where you are not received In his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, J. I. Packer does an excellent job capturing what it looks like to ignore this point, “…the indiscriminate buttonholing [confronting people at random], the intrusive barging in to the privacy of other people’s souls, the thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant strangers who are longing to get away—these modes of behavior, in which strong and loquacious [excessively talkative] personalities have sometimes indulged in the name of personal evangelism, should be written off as a travesty of personal evangelism. Impersonal evangelism would be a better name for them! In fact, rudeness of this sort dishonors God; moreover, it creates resentment, and prejudices people against the Christ whose professed followers act so objectionably.” J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012), 81–82. The gospel message that calls for repentance and faith is not a siege weapon used to trap people or a battering ram used to clobber them into listening to us. Jesus didn’t say, “And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you…” follow them around and keep talking louder and louder until they do. Convince them that they need to repent by arguing with them. No, He instructed them to leave and I think it is best if we do the same. Proclaim the message of repentance 5
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