It seems significant that this new phase happens almost directly after the disappointing visit to Nazareth, as though the lessons to be learnt at Nazareth were a necessary pre-requisite – perhaps to prepare them for when the response to their preaching would be far less than enthusiastic.
So Jesus calls the Twelve apostles to Himself, and commences to send them out two by two to preach the necessity of repentance for entering the kingdom of God. In sending them out Jesus imparts to them a share in His own authority over unclean spirits. This indicates that there is a co-dependence of preaching with delivering people and situations from evil (and vice versa) for either to be effective.
They had seen Jesus preach, heal and deliver sufferers from evil spirits, and now they had a test run of doing it themselves.
The passage doesn’t say what Jesus did while the 6 teams went out in different directions on this mission ‘with training wheels’. Probably Jesus spent that time alone in prayer interceding for them and for the people they were to preach to; waiting for them to return to a previously agreed rendezvous place and time.
But the thing that strikes all of us is how little Jesus permitted them to take on the missionary journey. They don’t have to go bare-foot; but may wear sandals. Perhaps that is because heavier shoes may slow them down and increase fatigue. Apart from that, all they can take with them is their missionary companion, the authority Jesus has given them, and a staff.
The word used in Greek for ‘staff’ is ‘rhabdon’ and is does mean rod or staff, but it can also mean sceptre or staff of authority.
Any kind of walking stick is useful when traversing rough terrain, and for keeping up the endurance on long distances. I’ve followed the journeys via social media of some friends walking the Camino, and they all start out without walking sticks, and they all have walking sticks before the end of the first week.
A good solid rod or stave is also useful for protection against brigands and wild animals.
Maybe the aspect of a staff also representing the authority Jesus has given them now seems more plausible, especially remembering how God used Aaron’s staff and Elisha’s staff.
However we cannot forget that travelling light permits a person to travel much faster than if they have anything on them to weigh them down. This has something to say about the urgency we should feel for spreading the good news of Jesus, and the urgency Jesus must have felt to issue such instructions – that anything that slows us down has to be jettisoned.
To our surprise, and definitely to the Apostles’ surprise, they were very successful on this training mission; they preached, they evicted devils and brought God’s healing to others.
That’s the difference going out with the authority of Jesus makes.
We shouldn’t even consider going on mission without it; without some kind of commissioning by those in leadership in the Body of Christ.
Our other surprise should be that these three things are considered by Jesus and by the communities who were the seed ground for this Gospel of Mark as Normal on a missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel.
Please God, may our New Normal when this time of pandemic is over be this kind of Normal – Your kind of Normal. Amen.
Holy Apostles of God, please pray for us, and especially for all bishops, since they are particularly authorised by Jesus for mission, and to lead mission in His name. Amen.
Holy Apostles of God, please pray for us too, that preaching repentance, healing and deliverance from evil may return to being Normal for all believers in Jesus. Amen.
Holy Apostles of God, please pray for all whom Jesus is calling to Himself at this time, that they be given the grace of a whole-hearted Yes when He sends them on mission, thoroughly dependent upon His providence and authority. Amen.
Holy Apostles of God, please pray for those who have been given a missionary mandate by Jesus, but who have not yet gone where He has told them to go, or who have become disheartened and discouraged along the way. May they be given fresh hope, and fresh anointing from Your Holy Spirit to completely fulfill the mission You, Lord God, have given them. Amen.
P.S. I came across this excellent blog-post on the ministry of the prophet Elijah, it is well worth a read: https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/lessons_elijah/
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