(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
Mark 6:7-13 – Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil 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 tunic. 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, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, 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.
During his ministry Jesus was training his twelve Apostles so that they could share the gospel message. Jesus taught them through the parables that he spoke to the crowds. The disciples would ask him later about the meaning of these parables. Jesus took the time to carefully instruct these twelve men on the meaning behind the pictures that he used in the parables.
The disciples had also seen miracles that others did not get to see. For example, once when Jesus and the twelve had been traveling across the Sea of Galilee, a terrible storm came up. Jesus was sleeping in the stern and the disciples thought they were going to drown because of the storm. In their desperation they woke Jesus up. Jesus rebuked the storm and the sea became very calm. The disciples were so amazed at this miracle that they said, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
These men, who had heard the parables and seen the calming of the storm, were the ones whom Jesus chose to send out. When Jesus sent them out he also gave them the power to perform miracles. He “gave them authority over evil spirits” (6:7). The disciples used this power. “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (6:13). Jesus could have sent them out without this power. But the power to perform these miracles was a strong testimony to the fact that they had been sent by God. Jesus’ miracles showed that he had divine power. The disciples’ miracles showed that they had been given divine authority.
Even more important than the power to do miracles, the twelve Apostles had been given a powerful message. “They went out and preached that people should repent” (6:12). The message of repentance has two purposes. First, it uses the law to lead people to see their sin. Hopefully the person has sorrow in their heart because of their sin against God. Then the second part of repentance is the gospel. The contrite sinner is pointed to Christ for forgiveness. This is a powerful message because it overcomes sin darkened hearts and the Holy Spirit creates faith in Christ.
We can see an example of a powerful message of repentance in the Old Testament. Think about when King David fell into the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. When Bathsheba was found to be pregnant, David tried to cover up his sin. He brought Bathsheba’s husband Uriah home from the war and tried to convince him to spend the night with his wife. When Uriah refused, David sent him back to the war and gave orders to the army commander to put Uriah on the front line so that he would be killed in battle. At that time in his life, David was not repentant for his sin.
The prophet Nathan came to David and told him a story that was designed to get David to repent. Nathan told David about a rich man who had stolen the only lamb that had belonged to his poor neighbor. The rich man had taken the lamb to prepare it for a meal for one of his guests. David was enraged and wanted the rich man put to death. When Nathan told David that David was the rich man, David confessed his sorrow over sin. Nathan then told him that the Lord had taken away his sin. The message of repentance which Nathan had preached had turned David from impenitent sin back to an attitude of sorrow over sin and a realization that he was forgiven.
What is the powerful message that Jesus has given to us? It is the same message of repentance that he gave to his twelve apostles and to his prophet Nathan. He does not give us the power to perform miracles like he did with his disciples. He doesn’t need to give us that power. He has given us the message of repentance. When we talk to people about Jesus, we want them to realize first that they are a sinner. Because of their sin they do not have a good relationship with God. God’s law demands that people be sinless. If people are sorrowful over their sins, they might ask us what they can do. They will want to know how they can get into a good relationship with God.
Then we share the wonderful Gospel message with them. We share the message of how Jesus came into the world and lived the perfect sinless life that we could not live. He died the death that we deserve. His death paid the price for all of our sins. He rose from the grave three days later. This resurrection is the proof that God accepted his payment for all of our sins. Because of Jesus we are now in a right relationship with God. God looks at us and sees the righteousness that Jesus has earned for us.
We don’t have to do anything to earn this forgiveness. The powerful message that God gives to us worked in our hearts and created faith in us. The same message can work in the hearts of people who hear us share the gospel. Whether or not the message has an effect does not depend on us and how well we share it. No, God is the one who grants success to our work.
When Jesus sent out the disciples he took steps to make them realize that he was the power behind their ministry. He told them to take nothing with them except a staff, no bread, no bag, no money, not even an extra tunic. They could take their staff, a good pair of sandals, and the clothes they were wearing. They had to trust in God and the power of the Gospel as they went along their way. If they were going to have a nice place to stay it would be because of the success of the gospel. When people rejoiced at hearing the gospel, then the disciples would be welcomed into their homes.
Whether they were welcomed or not welcomed, whether people listened or did not listen, was not because of the disciples. God was the one who worked on the hearts of people. Either the Holy Spirit would create faith in the hearts of people or the people would reject the message. If they had faith, then they would give the disciples a place to stay until they moved on to another area. If they rejected the gospel then they would not welcome the disciples. The success of the gospel would not depend on the speaking skills or the charisma of the disciples. No they would be successful if God created faith in the hearts of people. On the other hand, they would not be successful if people rejected the Word.
God is not responsible if people reject this wonderful message that he gives us in the gospel. It is the fault of the person if they don’t believe. Imagine this: Let’s say that I had one million dollars. I then took that one million and put it in a bank account set aside for you. One day I tell you about the money and that it is all yours. If you trust that I actually did that, then you will use the money. You would have done nothing to earn that money. It was a gift and now you have all the benefits of it.
Perhaps though, you did not believe me when I told you that the money was there waiting for you to use it. You thought it was too good to be true. So you continue to live your life like you don’t have the money. The million dollars is there, but you get no benefit from it because you rejected the fact that you had it. This picture gives us an idea of what it is like when people believe or reject the gospel message. God has earned forgiveness and eternal life for all people through the work of Jesus. When God creates faith in the hearts of people through the message of Christ, then those people get all the benefits of forgiveness and eternal life. When they refuse to believe it, they receive none of the benefits and are still on the path to hell.
We have the wonderful gospel message to share. When people reject that message, we are sometimes tempted to blame ourselves for this rejection. We might think that we did not explain it clearly enough. We might think that if we only told them in a more exciting way or if we were a more talented person we could have convinced them. This is a sinful way to think. Ultimately if we dwell upon this kind of thinking it could lead us to stop proclaiming God’s Word. When people reject the message we need to remember that it is not our fault. It is their fault. Their own sin rejected Jesus.
When they do believe, it is entirely the work of the Lord Jesus. Through his Gospel, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to work on the hearts of people. He tells us through Isaiah that his word will not return to him empty but it will accomplish what he desires (Isaiah 55:11). God desires the salvation of all people. When we proclaim his Word, God the Holy Spirit will work on people’s hearts. Remember that our role is to be God’s messengers. We simply deliver the message about Jesus, God works through the message. God will grants success to the message of the gospel.