Good Morning!(For those of you wondering – they only needed 16 jurors this week so they let the remainder of us go. My jury duty is completed. We will have our Tuesday morning class this morning!)
6And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Do you see the transitional phrase this time? “Then he went among the villages teaching.” This phrase moves us from the scene at Nazareth into the next topic, where Jesus teaches the disciples by sending them out on a special mission. These twelve do not fully understand all that Jesus represents just yet – they continue throughout Mark to show their lack of understanding, to fail spectacularly. Jesus does not wait for them to be perfect before he sends them out, gives them a mission. They will learn something in the doing.
He sends them two-by-two; in Jewish law (Deuteronomy 17:6) two witnesses (adult, male witnesses) are required to validate witness. Thus, by going in twos they validate the message. He gives them authority, to witness, to teach, even authority to exorcise the unclean spirits and to heal the sick. When pastors are ordained, a part of what the Bishop says is, “Take thou authority” – take authority to order (lead) the church, administer sacraments, serve the body, and preach the Word.
Jesus told the twelve to travel light; they were not to be encumbered by carrying along even extra supplies. Their only resource was to be the authority Christ had given them. Traveling light also lent an air of urgency to the mission. Now, I don’t think this means that we should enter ministry, or a mission, without preparation. I think what he was teaching the disciples was to trust God to provide – those they served would give them food and lodging and an extra cloak if it was needed. When they arrived in a place, they were to stay with the first person who invited them, and not to shop around for better accommodations. Hospitality was important in those days – most travelers stayed with families along the way; inns were few, and most average people could not afford them. The twelve were to rely on the hospitality provided. They were learning to rely on God.
What if they were not received? What if the people rejected their message? They were to leave that village, shaking it’s dust off their feet. When the Jews traveled outside Israel (actually, what we call Israel was Judea and Galilee, or Palestine, to the Romans) in those days, on returning they shook the foreign soil off their feet, avoiding carrying the unclean into Judea. The gesture implies that the very soil of the place that refused the message of Christ was unclean. But it also says that the missionaries are not responsible for the rejection – they have presented the message; the people there may accept or reject it. It is never forced. (A lesson history did not absorb!) If the message is rejected, they are to go on to the next place, where it may be accepted.