We get to hear Jesus’ instructions to His disciples as He sends them out into the “mission field.” He first equips them for the job, pairs them up, and then gives them their marching orders.
Mark starts out by first telling us that Jesus paired the disciples up. By paring the disciples up Jesus built in accountability, support, and security.
When it comes to accountability, Jesus knew there was a rotten apple in His barrel from the beginning. So sending that rotten apple out alone was NOT a good idea. Jesus protected His message by making sure the messengers were acting according to His standards. Not selling their services and such. Each person in the pair would hold the other one to the standards that Jesus set.
Going out in twos ensured moral support as well as assistance in recalling all Jesus had taught them. No one can remember everything but a second person can help in recalling what one might forget. Also the crowds seeking help from Jesus were so large that having a second person would cut the “wait time” in half. Jesus handled working incredibly long hours when ministering because He had the Holy Spirit holding Him up. The disciples didn’t have the Spirit living in them yet so they didn’t have the physical stamina Jesus did.
Security might have been a smaller concern because, when Jesus sent them out, God more likely than not watched over them very closely. There were bandits on the roads and the Pharisees were actively trying to stop Jesus’ message. These two entities alone posed a danger to a single traveler. Having a companion discouraged many would be attackers.
Mark quickly states Jesus’ most important preparation, at least in my mind it is. Jesus gave His disciples authority to do the works that He was doing. I don’t know if they were told to pray, “In Jesus’ name….” or exactly how they were to exercise the authority Jesus bestowed on them. But this authority is what made the work they were sent to do possible. In and of themselves they had no authority and the demons and illnesses didn’t have to obey them. This authority was key.
The message they were to carry was almost the same message John the Baptist proclaimed. John called for repentance and baptism, while Mark tells us Jesus’ disciples only called for repentance. Did they share any of Jesus’ teachings, like love you enemies or judge not lest you be judged?
Jesus ended His preparation by telling them what to pack for their journey. He told them to pack NOTHING for their journey. Talk about an exercise in trust! They had to trust God for their everyday needs as well as providing the message and miracles they would be sharing. Jesus didn’t let them make a backup plan. They had to have faith.
Jesus’ instructions about places receiving them or not could easily be seen as a warning to His disciples. Jesus wouldn’t have talked about what to do in the event they were not welcomed or their message not received if He didn’t know they would encounter this situation. Jesus fully prepared them for this eventuality. He gave them a sign to use as well as ensuring they would show restraint in their behavior towards those who opposed them. They were to treat those who refused to listen as kindly as those who accepted what they had to say. That too was Jesus’ hallmark. However, their refusal to listen would be marked by the physical sign of the disciples shaking the dust off their feet. And that refusal would forever be recorded in Heaven and an accounting made in the end by God on judgment day.
So off Jesus’ disciples went, to share the message and minister to the people. I’m sure they were excited to finally be able to help Jesus in His work. All that time at Jesus side finally put to use. Were they afraid of failing too? Another reason to have teams of two. To bolster each other’s faith.
Father God, thank You for watching over Jesus’ disciples as they went out. Thank You for confirming with signs and wonders that they were sharing Jesus’ message and under His authority. Jesus, thank You for the preparation time You put into Your disciples. This was their first mission for You. Thank You that You didn’t wait until after Your resurrection to send them out. You provided training while You were still available to correct any issues and to further refine their skills. That training was essential for the birth of Your church; Your body; Your bride.
Thank You that You are still training me every day. I may never be out there performing miracles, but the
“mission fields” You send me on require training directly from You too. Training only Your word and Your Spirit can provide. Keep me always looking to You for my lessons.