The best thing about vacation is that for a few days, or weeks, all of the troubles of everyday life seem to melt away. At least that’s what we want right? We want to be able to not worry about the things back home, because we just want to relax. We want to just enjoy not having responsibilities, or people needing something from us. But there can be those nagging thoughts in our minds about forgetting to do something. And we get these questions that can fill our mind, and we don’t relax the way we should. You know those thoughts: did I leave the iron on. Did I lock all the doors? Is there enough food for the animals? And the list and questions go on and on and on in our mind.
I don’t know about you, but that’s why when we leave for a vacation, or leave for over night trips, that we painstakingly prepare. We go through lists of what needs to be done. And we rack our minds to make sure everything that needs to be done is done. And when you’re fully prepared, the weight of worry seems to be lifted from your shoulders, and the trip does what it is supposed to do, relax you. And that feeling is wonderful.
But here’s the thing, that’s not how God necessarily works, and we’re going to see that today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 6 starting in verse 7.
Now we’re coming to a stopping point in the book of Mark. All summer we have been working through Mark. In fact this is our 20th week. And now because Mark takes a bit of a break in it’s progression, it’s the perfect time for us to do it as well. Instead, starting the first Sunday of December, we will begin our walk towards Christmas. And then after that we’ll be jumping fully into the last aspect the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church. The life aspect.
But as we get into Mark chapter 6 verse 7, we’re coming to the end of the second phase of Jesus’ ministry. The first phase was Jesus teaching and showing who he was to the general public. The second phase was Jesus starting the preparation of his disciples to participate in his ministry. And that’s where we are, Jesus is about to send his twelve closest disciples off on their own for the first time. Jesus has taught them to be good soil, and they have seen what it means to be hard packed against God, what it means to be shallow in your faith, and what it means to be choked by the things of this world.
They have seen Jesus’ power in healing people, and how he has dealt with demons. They have seen that in order for them to grow in their faith, they have to take this next step of sharing. They have seen Jesus do small things, and enormous things.
Now they have to take everything that Jesus has taught them and put it into practice. No longer are they to be in the background, it’s time for them to do as Jesus does.
So let’s pick up with Jesus’ final command to them before he releases them to the work of the Kingdom.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure 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 shirt. 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, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet 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.
Now, because we’re not going to have our sermon discussion tonight, I want to break this passage down a little more than we normally would.
Let’s paint the picture of what’s going on. In the middle of Jesus’ teaching ministry, he calls the twelve closest disciples and pairs them off with each other. Who went with who, we don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that they went two by two. But why doe Jesus do this? Well, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves…” So Jesus sends them off two-by-two for protection and support. Simple as that.
The text goes on to say that Jesus, “gave them authority over impure spirits.” Jesus is extending his authority to this disciples. This same authority that caused the spirits to be in fear of Jesus, is now extended to his disciples in their work.
Next Jesus gives them pretty specific instructions. And if you want to see a more detailed account of these instructions, they can also be found in Matthew 10, and Luke 9. But these instructions are important because of the context of Mark. Now think about this, everything we are about to see here, all comes out of what Mark is trying to help us understand about Jesus. About how Jesus interacts with humanity and how we are to respond to God. We are to be good soil, we are to be sharers of God’s word, we are to be reliant on God to grow his word in people. All this is proceeding Jesus’ instructions here. If we fail to see the connecting tissue, we will not grasp the whole of where Jesus is coming from in his direction here.
Starting in verse 8 Jesus gives a list of things to bring and things not to bring on the disciple’s journey. Let’s list them and them analyze them. The first thing Jesus says is to bring a staff. These were usually a self-defense tool. Kind of like today, we carry knives, or conceal carry a firearm. The staff was to fight off bandits and help you hike over difficult ground. This staff goes back to the two by two, that we just talked about. The disciples were to protect each other on this journey.
But then Jesus lists three things not to bring. No bread, no bag, no money. So what do each of these mean? The bread, the bag, and money are all closely related. The bag was a traveler’s bag, which held provisions for trips. It’s where the bread was stored. If Jesus were to say, don’t bring bread, the disciples might have thought this was a fasting trip. But Jesus couples the bread with the traveler’s bag and with money. Meaning that Jesus wanted them to rely on God for their provision. They were going out with no food, the bread; no supplies, the bag; and no way to get these things on their own, the money. This wasn’t a fasting trip, but a faith trip. They had to rely on God for their provision.
So Jesus is telling his disciples to protect and support each other, but do this by trusting in God. You might have to defend yourselves on the road, but God is the supplier of everything you need. It’s almost as if Jesus is giving them a little comfort by having human support in the way of another person and a staff, but the goal is that they would learn to rely on God for everything.
Jesus goes on in verse 9 to add one more thing to what not bring, and one more thing to the bring. Jesus says to wear sandals, but to not bring an extra shirt.
Now the shirt is easy. Most travels took an extra shirt when they journeyed, so if they couldn’t find an place to stay for the night, they wouldn’t freeze to death sleeping outside. So Jesus is telling them to again trust God for provision. In this case the provision of housing for the night.
But what about the sandals? And I have to say, I probably spent more time asking this question than I probably needed too. But it seemed so out of the the blue. I mean, take a stick for protection, okay got it. Don’t take certain things to rely on God, okay, got it. But then Jesus says, take sandals. And my question is, wouldn’t that be apparent? Wouldn’t wearing sandals be an obvious thing?
So I began questioning this command of Jesus. And I have to tell you, there isn’t much on the footwear of the common Jewish person circa first century Israel. Out of the four pieces of information that I did find, only one seems to fit within the context of Jesus’ command to wear sandals. At least two times in Scripture footwear is connected with captivity or being a fugitive. David fleeing from his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 15:30, tell us he did so barefoot. In Isaiah 20:2, Isaiah is commanded by God to walk barefoot, as a symbol of the Assyrian’s eminent capture of Israel.
So is Jesus making the point that they are free? That they are not captives to this world and not to worry, because God is taking care of them? Or am I reading to much into it, and Jesus is just stating the obvious, and saying, don’t forget your shoes, like a parent reminds their child?
See, way to much thought on this small part.
But Jesus goes on to tell them how to treat the the town and houses they will come to. If a house accepts them, they are to stay there. If a town rejects their message, then they are to leave there, shaking off the dust from their feet as a sign that the town has chosen to reject the gospel and God.
And then Mark tells us that the disciples went out, and did what Jesus had shown them to do. They preached that people should repent. They cast out demons, with the authority that Jesus had extend to them, and they healed many people.
This was all done, because they did as Jesus commanded them. They followed his instructions. They took what they were supposed to, and left behind the things they were not. And they trusted God for everything.
And here is where it comes to us. Preparation is key to victory. Jesus prepared his disciples for a year. Day in and day out Jesus taught them what they needed to know. Jesus showed them what they needed to see. The disciples saw how Jesus’ teaching worked in the lives of the people he encountered. And when it came time for them to go out on their own, they trusted Jesus’ commands on what to bring and what not to bring. And they were successful.
But here’s the thing, all the preparation that Jesus did with his disciples, all hinged on one thing in the end, trust. Did the disciples trust Jesus? Sure the message was good, and the ability to do amazing works of casting out demons and healing people was miraculous. But none of it was possible, without their trust in Jesus.
The disciples could have easily went out and took bread, the supply bag, and money. They could have take another shirt with them just in case. But they didn’t. All that they had experienced with Jesus: the calming of the storm, the healing of the demon possessed man, the healing of the woman, and bringing the little girl back to life, all of it taught them that the greatest teaching of Christ that they needed to implement in their lives was that they could trust Jesus.
It wasn’t the casting out demons, the preaching, and the healing of people, they needed to learn. It was simply trusting that Jesus wasn’t leading them the wrong way.
And that’s the same for us today. The greatest obstacle that we face in our lives, is not demonic forces, social upheaval, or the unknown of the future, it is simply do we trust Jesus or not?
Do I trust Jesus with my soul? Do I trust Jesus with this nation? Do I trust Jesus with my children, spouse, parents, job and the list goes on and on. Or do I not. Because it’s trust in Jesus that will take us through the hardships that are to come. It is trust in Jesus that will be needed as we look for the provisions we need in our lives.
So the question today is can you trust Jesus or not? It’s our tendency to worry about what is out there and we try to prepare for every problem that might come up. Just like we worry about making everything perfect before we leave on a trip.
Now, we should have the preparation, Jesus prepared his disciples, but in the end, what are we trusting in? It is the preparation, or the God who has prepared us?
My challenge for you this week is simple, I want to invite you to take something. Go and grab an old sandal. And then write on it this verse from Isaiah 52:12, “But you don’t have to be in a hurry. You’re not running from anybody! God is leading you out of here, and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.”
My challenge is to take that sandal, put it up somewhere you see as you leave your home, and every time you see it, ask God to help you trust him as you face the day that is before you. Let us be the people who are prepared to meet the day, but who are also God’s people who trust solely in him.
Now may God help you to trust in him for all that you are in need of, so that he becomes everything you need. Amen.