Good morning! Turn with me to Mark 6.
One time in school I was sitting in class in a large lecture hall. It had tiered seating and probably over 50 students in there. Everyone was talking and fiddling, catching up while positioning their bags and getting out notebooks. The professor walked into the classroom from a door at the front of the classroom. He set down his things and began to speak. He was soft spoken, and he was down below us, and so he was pretty ignorable, and nobody really paid him any attention. Everyone kept talking and fiddling and ignoring him…until one moment. He said something like, “As for the upcoming test…” TEST. At that word, the whole classroom froze. It actually startled the professor and he looked up from his notes kind of shocked. Because in an instant, in a split second, we had gone from a rowdy group of 50 to complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. Why? Because he said the word “test,” and that meant we were on the hook. I’m sure whatever the professor had been saying before was good and interesting, but when he said something that directly involved us, we were all ears.
Today, we come to a passage in Mark 6 that directly involves us, and I hope you will be all ears. You see, today we won’t just be watching Jesus’s mission as it unfolds in Mark. Today, we will be hearing about our mission. Today, Jesus will get the twelve apostles involved in his mission. Christ’s mission will become their mission. And though the mission of the Apostles had some aspects that are specific to them, we know from the rest of the NT that the mission and pattern he gives them is handed off to future disciples, including us. So, today Jesus is talking not only about the apostles’ mission but about our mission.
This is like that moment in a meeting when you’re kinda daydreaming, only half listening to your boss, and then they say your name. And your adrenaline spikes, and you sit up straight and say, “What? What did you say?” Today, Jesus is calling your name. You’re up! He’s going to tell you about your mission in his mission. He’s going to tell us about our mission.
So let’s read Mark 6, and make sure we understand what our mission is.
 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.  And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”  So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.  And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. (ESV)
So, what do we learn about our mission? Just a few learnings and we’ll be done. We learn…
The mission is delegated. (v. 7)
Jesus delegates to the disciples. We read in verse seven, “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two…” This is how the mission goes forward, through his delegates. In fact, these twelve in particular are called “Apostles,” which has a very similar meaning to our word “delegate.”
Jesus loves to do this. Jesus loves to get his followers involved in his work. The twelve apostles are certainly unique; they uniquely represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and they have a unique level of authority here, but Jesus delegating the mission is not unique. In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples on the mission. At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives what is known as the “great commission,” enjoining all disciples everywhere to join in the mission. And as we move into the early church, we see the apostle Paul referring to the church as the body of Christ, with Christ being the head. And what does a body do? It carries out the willed actions of the head, acting like a delegate. Jesus loves to get his followers involved in the mission.
And he still does this today. Jesus still invites you to participate in the mission. He still calls people to himself, forgives them, heals them, and then recomissions them and sends them out. In fact, when Paul talks about the church being a body, he says that means every person has a role, a job, a calling in this kingdom work. Maybe you’re a pinky toe. Maybe you’re a nose. Maybe you’re an elbow. But it doesn’t matter. You have a job, and it’s an important job because everything in a body works together. Christ has delegated his mission to you. Maybe you will preach. Maybe you will provide a meal. Maybe you will help setup. Maybe you will be the lone Christian presence at work. But you’re in. Christ loves to delegate the mission, and so you’re in.
And by the way, this delegation means Christ’s grace to you might look like another person. Christ’s grace to you might look like Tommy on your caller ID. Christ’s grace to you might look like Bunko night at Becki and Jon’s house. Christ’s grace to you might look like dinner at Barry and Cathy’s. Christ’s grace to you might look like a counseling appointment with Scott. Or a haircut with Sharon. Or a bike ride with Stephen. Or goodie bag from Rhonda. Why? Because Christ has delegated his mission. Christ now has many what Luther called “masks.” So don’t miss his grace right in front you.
The mission is delegated. But it is not symbolic or just a nice gesture. The mission is also authoritative.
The mission is authoritative. (vv. 7, 12-13)
Jesus gave his apostles authority, and we see this authority displayed in the miracles. In verse seven we read that not only did he call them and send them, but he “gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” And later, we read in verses 12 and 13 that sure enough, “they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” Now, why is that miracle authority important?
It’s important because the authority of the miracles confirms the authority of the message. It would be super easy to go to a nearby village and say you’re with Jesus and start teaching. Anyone could do that. And the villagers would be left wondering whether this person really was a delegate from Jesus. But when they worked miracles of a caliber and frequency unique to Jesus (in all of Israel’s history!), then it was a dead giveaway that they really were with Jesus.
The other night we watched The Count of Monte Cristo. The story goes that a young man, Edmund Dantes, is falsely imprisoned and sent away for years. He escapes and returns to seek revenge on all his friends and associates who did him wrong. When he returns, he is able to work his plan because no one recognizes him. Years have gone by. He is wisened by time and trials. His hair is worn differently. He has a different name; he is now the Count of Monte Cristo. He has facial hair. He speaks in a different manner. He is also rich beyond imagination and framed by lavish clothes and a vast mansion. And besides, they all thought he was long since dead. So no one recognizes him, not even his former fiancee. Though she notices and wonders at the similarities, she doesn’t know it’s him until one night, when at a dinner party, he does something only Edmund Dantes ever did. Have you seen the movie? Do you remember? He absentmindedly begins to twirl his hair with his finger, an old tic. And in a flash, his former fiancee knows it’s really him. It’s a dead give away. It’s an unmistakable confirmation that he is the real thing. The miracles the apostles did were that tell tale moment. The miracles were the dead give away, the unmistakable confirmation that they were the real deal, that they were the true delegates, the true spokesmen of Jesus. Because only Jesus drove out demons and raised the dead with such power and frequency, and now these apostles had that same authority.
So, the mission that went out with these apostles had authority from Jesus, and that authority was proven and authenticated by their working of the same miracles he worked. Now, what does that have to with you?
This authority is important because you’re holding in your hands a book that contains the writings of the apostles. And don’t you want to know if these writings are the real deal? Don’t you want to know if these stories and their explanations have any kind of authenticity and authority? I do! Well, we know they are authentic and authoritative because the early church knew these were from the apostles. And they knew the apostles were the real deal because they had seen the apostles work Jesus-like miracles. And the early church rejected writings that weren’t by apostles.
So, the mission went forward in the apostles with the authority of Jesus, and that’s important because the New Testament was written by the apostles. But there’s more. The mission is also…
The mission is urgent (vv. 8-10)
The disciples are to go lean and mean. We’re told, “ He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics” (Mark 6:8–9). This gear is reminiscent of the Exodus (ESV Study Bible). On the night of the passover, when the Lord would visit judgment on the firstborn of Egypt but pass over the Israelites and free them from their bondage so they could make their exodus from Egypt, the Lord told the people to eat their last meal in Egypt like this: “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover” (Exodus 12:11). Here, with the twelve, we get the same feeling. The time is short! Go now! Don’t doddle! And Jesus also tells them, “…Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there” (Mark 6:10b). The idea is that they should accept their lodgings and get to work (Lane, 1974). It is not a vacation; they aren’t to trade up for better lodging. Just find a good place to stay, stay, and get to work. The mission is urgent. Now, we live 2000 years later, but…
That urgency has not gone away. The time is still short for a number of reasons. In the NT, the emphasis is on the nearness of Christ; he’s so close that he could return anytime. It’s like he’s circling the block, and we don’t know when he’ll come in, but he’s right there! So be ready! If you’re not a believer, change your mind and follow Jesus, because when he gets back, he will judge, and it will be too late then. We still live in that urgency. And then, in the OT, the emphasis was often on how near your death is; here today and gone tomorrow. So, either way, the time is short. He’s coming to meet you, or you’re going to meet him. Either way, the time is short, and we too should live with a sense of urgency to share the Gospel.
What does it look like to live with urgency? One of the best analogies I’ve heard is the analogy of living in wartime (Piper, 2003). In wartime, you still go to bed, have breakfast, go to work, go to church, and even go to a baseball game. But everything is touched by the war effort. Maybe you save your gum wrapper to recycle it for tin. Maybe you say a prayer at bedtime for the troops. Maybe you enlist. Maybe you spend a little less on that outfit and use the leftover money to send a care package to the troops. So, in some ways life is still life, and yet now everything is touched by the war effort. And I think that’s a good picture for us. The kingdom is here. The invasion has started. Christ could return any minute. Sure, we still go to the game and enjoy each day the Lord has given us, but every detail is touched by the mission and its urgency. Maybe we don’t spend as much on that outfit as we would, but take the extra money and send it to a missionary. Maybe say a prayer for our lost neighbor at bedtime. Maybe we don’t get as worked up about kids sports stuff because we know the mission is more important. Or maybe we just make sure whatever activities we are doing, we do them to the Lord and the mission. Why?
Because the mission is urgent. It’s delegated. It’s authoritative. And it’s urgent because the time is short. The mission is urgent. We see the mission is also word and deed.
The mission is word and deed (vv. 12-13)
Word: Jesus sends them out with a message. We’re told, “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). What was the mission that continued beyond Jesus? What is the mission that still continues? The mission includes the proclamation of a message of good news that addresses our ultimate needs. At this point in the story, the disciples went forth proclaiming the Kingdom of God, that God’s rule and reign were breaking into this world to rescue it, and that all people everywhere should repent of their sinful, self-centered lives and turn to God and to his Messiah, Jesus. To that, we now add the incredible details of just how the Kingdom was breaking into this broken world and making all things right. As the story unfolds, we will see that the way the world would be rescued would be through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus gave his life as a ransom to pay our debts and to free us from the bondage of sin, satan, and eternal death. He undid what Adam did, and lived a life perfectly surrendered to God, and then he offered himself in exchange for us. God accepted that exchange. And now, for anyone who would come up under the care of Jesus, they too will be protected under that umbrella of redemption that Jesus has provided. This is the good news. This is the word we share.
And this word speaks to your greatest need. You may think your greatest need is what’s happening this week at school. You may think your greatest need is a girlfriend. You may think your greatest need is food. You may think your greatest need is a promising career. But all of these things are passing. These are not your greatest need. Your greatest need is an answer for death and eternal separation from God. No mere human has overcome death, and no mere human has ever climbed into heaven to restore fellowship with God by their own efforts. You need a savior. You need a way of rescue. And this word they proclaimed, and this word we still proclaim, provides the way. The good news that Jesus is the savior is the news you need. He will remove your sins from your record, and he will restore you to friendship and everlasting life with God. In the mission, this word is proclaimed.
But notice that the mission also includes deeds. They don’t just say our thoughts and prayers are with you. They do something. We read, “And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” (Mark 6:13). Earlier, we noted that these miracles authenticated the message, and that’s true, but they’re also meant to be a blessing. If you just wanted an impressive sign, you could zap lightning or something. But the miraculous deeds that accompany the word are consistent with the word. They are demonstrating the good news, giving a foretaste of the redemption and healing God wants for you.
So, know your current needs matter to Jesus. I listed concerns that are not ultimate, but the good news is Jesus cares about those smaller issues too. While your ultimate need is not a career, God cares about your career and will guide and provide for you. While food is not your ultimate need, God knows you need food and will provide. This is why it is such good news that we can be reconciled to God through Christ, because God is our Father, and he cares for us and provides for us as a father should.
And we should also do good deeds. Though we may not work miracles to authenticate the word, we should nevertheless do good works that commend and adorn the gospel. Like Christ and the twelve, we should address ultimate needs through the preaching of the Gospel, but like Christ and the twelve, we should demonstrate the reality of that good news through acts of love and charity. In this way, the mission is two-pronged: word and deed.
The apostle Peter says that if a husband and wife hear the Gospel, and the wife gets saved and the husband rejects the word that she should continue in good deeds towards her husband (1 Peter 3:1-2). Why? Because those good deeds, Peter says, complement the Word and can lead the husband to Christ. The wife, of course, is not performing any miraculous healings or driving out demons, but her quiet, loving, persistent witness still has a power that demonstrates and authenticates and commends the Gospel message. For many of us, with friends and family who may know the word but not the Lord, this way of deeds will be our best plan. It will be your persistent love, your endless grace, your unflinching care, your relentless integrity, your willingness to admit your wrong and ask for forgiveness that will authenticate the Gospel to your child, your friend, your spouse, your coworker.
So let us remember that the mission is always the word of good news but always also accompanied with love and good works.
One final note on the mission. As it turns outs, the mission is rejectable.
The mission is rejectable. (v. 11)
People will reject the mission. Jesus knows and implies that some people won’t receive them. Though they represent Jesus, though they have his power and authority, though they come to bring good news and to help people, some will reject the mission. You would think that surely this mission will be successful at every turn. Surely people everywhere will receive them with joy. But some will say no thanks. Some will say not in my backyard. People are either so stuck in the darkness or so in love with the darkness that they won’t come into the light.
And Jesus allows this rejection. You might think with all this power and authority, maybe Jesus would say if they reject you, call down fire. Or, if they reject you, make them get baptized anyway. But he doesn’t say any of that. He says, “And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11). They do shake the dust off, which is a way of saying to the people they are wrong. At the time, Jews were to shake the dust off when leaving a foreign town so as not to literally and symbolically bring foreign influence into Israel (Edwards, 2001), so by shaking the dust off, the twelve were indicating that those rejecting them were outside the will of God and his people. But ultimately, they leave. People are allowed to reject the mission.
We too should remember that people will reject the Gospel and we are not asked to enforce it. Seeing the twelve go through this, and indeed this happens all through the early church in the book of Acts, it helps temper my expectations in our day. In our crazy day, when what is bad is called good and what is good is called bad, when truth is exchanged for lies, we should go boldly forward in mission, in word and deed, and yet, we should not be surprised when people reject it. People will reject it. Like Paul, we may linger for a long time in one place, pleading with people, reasoning with people to accept Jesus, but like Paul, there will come a time when we need to move on. Rather than become angry and bitter, we are to give them to God, and move on. We can keep praying, keep being nice, but we move on. One final note on this point…
That the mission is rejectable has important implications for any nonChristians here. This means that God will not force this on you. I have heard atheists say that if there is a God when they at last meet him they will excuse themselves by saying that God had simply not given them enough evidence. But you see what is baked into that kind of thinking is the assumption that God would make his existence undeniable and that a real God would so confront someone with evidence that they couldn’t’ possibly reject him. But God doesn’t do that. He does take a step, many steps, toward you, but you have to step toward him. He will let you reject him, but he will welcome you if you come to him. So I would urge you to take a step towards him today. Maybe it’s as small as whispering a prayer to him today, but take a step towards him, however small that step may be.
Conclusion: Join the mission
For all of us this morning, I invite you to join the mission. Receive it in your hearts. And then join in. His kingdom and his healing through Jesus are going forth in this mission. Don’t miss out! Don’t miss the fun! Don’t forget the urgency and opportunity! Let’s join in! Amen.
Edwards, J. R. (2001). The Gospel according to Mark. Eerdmans.
ESV Study Bible (2008). Crossway.
Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel according to Mark (2nd Revised ed. edition). Eerdmans.
Piper, J. (2003). Don’t waste your life. Crossway.