JESUS SENDS OUT THE TWELVE
Key Verse: 6:7
“Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.””
Today, Jesus sent out the Twelve into the mission fields after he was rejected at his hometown and John the Baptist was martyred for rebuking king Herod. We like to hear the message but do not like to repent. That is what happened to the people of Nazareth and Herod. I pray that we may repent when we hear the message. May God bless us to deliver the exact message of God in the fall semester and to raise up many Bible teachers who will do the work of Jesus at UMCP.
PART I. A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR (1-6a)
Jesus did many great miracles and preached the kingdom of God in the region of Galilee. Finally, he returned to his hometown. He was no longer a carpenter from Nazareth. He was accompanied by his 12 disciples, returning as a teacher surrounded by his students. It should have been a fantastic homecoming as a national spiritual leader like Mike Phelps who will get a hero’s welcome upon returning to Baltimore later. But it was a humble homecoming. There was no media coverage or a welcome ceremony. When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. Jesus’ message had power and authority. When people heard him, they were amazed, and said many amen. They said, “Wow, the message is powerful.” Then they should have accepted his teaching with personal repentance. I think hearing is easy but it is hard to repent. Personal repentance must be accompanied with hearing the word. What happened when they did not repent? They turned negative on Jesus. They began to attack Jesus by saying, “Where did this man get these things?” They questioned the source of Jesus’ power and wisdom. They called him the carpenter, despising him as a common laborer. They called him Mary’s son, referring to the circumstances of his birth. They pointed out that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were ordinary people just like them. How did Jesus react to their rejection? Look at verse 4. “Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’” Jesus responded to their rejection with the proverb that a prophet is not appreciated at home. He was like an Old Testament prophet whose words were often rejected and who was dishonored most by those who knew him best. Dishonoring God’s servant by hometown people is not unusual. It is common even today. We have to respect and honor God’s servants because they were chosen by God. The more we know them, the more we respect and honor them. We have to see them in the sight of God not human backgrounds. In verse 6, Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. This time it was Jesus’ turn to be amazed at the failure of his own people to respond to the good news. They were blind in their own prides and fixed ideas. It was their tragedy. They failed to recognize the promised Messiah who stood among them and was ready to bless them. The people of Nazareth represent Israel’s blindness.
What a contrast they make to those who just believed. Jairus just believed in Jesus’ word and fought against fear. Then he experienced the power of Jesus to raise his daughter to life. A bleeding woman touched Jesus with faith and was healed of her chronic disease. The hometown people had a great privilege to experience the power of God through Jesus. They missed this great opportunity to receive spiritual blessings. Mark says that Jesus could not do any miracles there. The sick remained sick, and the demon-possessed remained as they were. These people missed Jesus’ tremendous blessings.
How we see the work of God is very important. God works through people who have weaknesses. If we want to dig for someone’s weakness like presidential candidates, we can always find something. Even Jesus, who is perfect, was despised based on his human background! However, if we acknowledge what God is doing, even through imperfect human beings, we will be blessed. Tommy P. accepted M. James P. as his Bible teacher in spite of his Korean accents. He overcame human prejudice and cultural barriers and had beautiful fellowship. Then he became a good shepherd to Sammy C. God opened his spiritual eyes to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and responded the calling of Jesus. He repented his selfish life when he heard the word of God. Now he is a missionary to Indonesia and a blessing to many Muslim students. His life testimony moved many students’ hearts and they repented also by confessing their sins. M. Peter L. speaks English very slowly but Landry listens to the word of God through 1:1 Bible studies. Landry is growing because he respects Peter as the servant of God. We have to see God’s servants in the eyes of God not human eyes. When we hear the message, we should respond with repentance. Then God will bless us to grow in the word of God. We will experience the power of God because of our faith in Jesus.
PARTII JESUS SENDS OUT THE TWELVE (6b-13).
Jesus was not discouraged by the rejection of the hometown people. Look at verse 6b. Jesus was going around the neighboring villages teaching. Other people were waiting for him in other villages. Jesus continued his preaching ministry in spite of rejection. The death of John the forerunner of Jesus did not silence the message of Jesus. How? Jesus called his disciples in order to send them out to preach the good news and heal the sick. Jesus trained them to be future spiritual generals. After his ascension to heaven, his disciples would carry out his message. No king would be able to silence Jesus. Now, it was time for them to receive the field work training. Jesus called the Twelve to share in his own task of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and calling for repentance. The Twelve will represent Jesus as his successors. Look at verse 7. “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” We learn several things from Jesus who sent out the Twelve.
First, Jesus had a vision to spread the gospel through his disciples. Jesus loved his disciples as his own family members. They were all very dear to him and he wanted to be with them always. However, the purpose of their calling was not merely to hang around with Jesus. It was to spread the kingdom of God to Israel, and later to the world. To attain this vision, Jesus helped them step by step. Until now, Jesus had shown them his divine character and example of serving through life together. It was an observation period. They were learners of Jesus. Now they were entering the practical training period. It was time for them to practice what they learned in the real world. They would go out and do what they had seen Jesus doing. Originally, the disciples were selfish and narrowed minded nationalist. They were dreaming about the kingdom of Israel restored by King Jesus. They were seeking human ambition with fierce competition. But Jesus taught them true greatness by serving them one by one. Slowly, they were transformed to become the servants with the mind of Jesus and to become missionaries with Jesus’ vision. Jesus constantly made progress in fulfilling his vision. Proverb 29:18a says, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Prophet Joel said in Joel 2:28c, “Your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Vision is different from our petty desire because it is from God. Prophet Isaiah said in Isa. 54:1-2, “Sing, O barren woman…Enlarge the place of your tent…” It did not make sense for the barren woman to sing and enlarge the place of her tent. It makes sense for her to mourn and shrink back. But Isaiah had God’s vision for Jesus to expand his kingdom to the ends of the earth. So he encouraged the barren woman to sing. Men of God’s vision see the future not the current situation only. God showed his vision through 2008 Purdue conference by granting us more than 3000 attendees as the answer of our 3000 times prayers. God blessed us to have his vision to send out 100,000 missionaries by 2041. God is training us to have that vision constantly.
Jesus teaches us not to be habitual or to merely seek church welfare. Bible students must grow to become Bible teachers. We should help them step by step to know Jesus and learn Jesus’ servant heart. Later, they can go out and preach the gospel. That’s God’s vision. Our YDJ have great potential to grow as future spiritual leaders. They need to practice by going fishing on the campus. In God’s time they can be sent out as missionaries to pioneer new chapters. Last week God sent M. Moses Chang as a missionary to Belize. I wanted to keep him here as my spiritual companion. But he left to his mission like Abraham not knowing where he will stay. He was simply obeying Jesus’ command based on Acts 1:8 and he is also keeping his vision in God. God blesses us when we work for his vision step by step.
Second, Jesus sent his young disciples by faith. Jesus’ disciples were spiritually young. They had been with him for only a short time. They were often fearful. They did not yet know how to pray. Still, Jesus sent them out for a short-term mission. Jesus did so by faith in God Almighty who was with them to protect them and use them. We need this kind of faith to send young people out into the mission field, even for a short-term mission. They may be young spiritually, but we must see them with the eyes of faith, as Jesus does. Our JBF/HBF team went to a short term mission trip to Mexico last year. After the mission, all members grew spiritually and they are still talking about Mexico. I thank God for giving JBF/HBF teachers vision for their students. We must send many young men and women to the mission fields with faith that God will be with them and use them. Who knows? They may become missionaries in the future.
Third, Jesus gave them authority over evil spirits. The only thing Jesus gave them was authority over evil spirits. Jesus now passes on to the Twelve his own authority over the evil spirits. Jesus displayed this authority throughout his ministry. Once, Jesus preached in a synagogue in Capernaum. An evil spirit caused a man to react strongly against Jesus. Then Jesus said, “Be quiet! Come out of him! The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. As we know, demons do not move by the number of the Olympic gold medals. But at one word of Jesus, demons are driven out by force. This is the authority of Jesus. Jesus gave this authority to his disciples.
In light of Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ authority was not given permanently. We see in chapter 9 that the apostles failed to drive out a demon from a boy. Then Jesus taught them that they needed to pray. Jesus said in Mark 9:29, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” We should depend on our past experience because we become proud when we do so. We must renew our spiritual power daily. For each Bible study, message, conference, or special event, we must come to Jesus in prayer to receive his authority. Prayer is our spiritual weapon to renew our faith in Jesus.
Fourth, Jesus sent them two by two. When Jesus sent the Twelve, he sent them two by two. Sending them two by two would provide the disciples with mutual support. Also at that time the testimony of one unsupported witness was not valid. (Deut. 17:6, 19:15) At the same time God’s work is not done by one person in a spectacular way. God’s work is done through coworkers who share the suffering and give God the glory. Two people strengthen each other and share fellowship together while visiting campus for fishing. When a husband and wife pray together with one prayer topic, there is a work of God in the family. Where two fellowship members come together and pray, there is a work of God in the fellowship. However, if each person insists on his or her own way only, the work of God is greatly hindered. We must learn how to support each other with humble minds in Jesus to be fruitful.
Verses 8-11 are mission manual. Let’s see how Jesus instructed his disciples.
Look at verses 8-9. “These were his instructions: Take nothing for the journey except a staff, no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.’” The urgency of their mission required that they travel lightly. They were to depend on God to provide food and shelter. God’s work is not done by money. God’s work is done by the Spirit of God through those who depend on God. When UBF ministry began in Korea, students were very poor. People thought that student ministry could not succeed. But they were wrong. God blessed UBF ministry because they depended on God completely. Now we see that more than 1,500 missionaries have gone out to over 80 nations of the world through UBF ministry. To be fruitful gospel workers, we must depend on God, and God alone.
Look at verse 10. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. Jesus’ disciples should not move around seeking better accommodations or better people to live with. When God leads them to a house, they must stay there and make friends with that person or family. They must commit themselves in one place until the gospel is planted there. Then the seed of the kingdom will grow and bear fruit in that community for seasons to come. When Paul went to Philippi, he met Lydia and stayed at her house until he left that place. Lydia’s house became a house church for Philippi. (Acts 16:11-15) We have to maintain this principle instead of looking for a better house with an air conditioning and a clean bath room and a refrigerator with a lot of food.
Look at verse 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.” The disciples are Jesus’ ambassadors. The message they bring is Jesus’ message of salvation to people. The disciples must honor Jesus with their preaching, regardless of the response. At the same time, the disciples must respect the right of people in the mission field to make their own decision about the message. Jesus’ disciples should not push people to believe or change their message to make it more acceptable. They must deliver Jesus’ message as it is and let people respond. People who do not welcome them or listen to them are rejecting Jesus. So the disciples should not take rejection personally. Those who reject Christ have no other way of salvation from God. The disciples must shake the dust off their feet to warn them and move on to share the message with others.
Let’s see what happened. Look at verses 12-13. “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. The disciples preached the same message that Jesus and John the Baptist had been preaching: that people should repent. It was not easy to deliver this message. John had been beheaded for this. How could the disciples, who had been so fearful to do this? They were inspired by Jesus’ courageous faith. In preaching, they did not just say, “I suggest that you may repent” They preached that people should repent, including themselves, their listeners and King Herod as well. Repentance brings salvation. The first church was born when 3000 people repented after they heard Peter’s message of repentance. Young or old, we need to repent of our sins. Someone may say, “I repented three years ago.” Others may say, “I don’t need to repent because I am a missionary.” That’s wrong. We need to repent daily when we read the word of God. Then we can refresh and renew our faith and see the kingdom of God. Then revival will come. God is holy and righteous and will judge sin. At the same time, God loves us and has reached out to us in Christ. God wants to forgive our sins and change us in the inner being to be holy children of God. When we simply turn to God for help, he will give us grace to live a new life. The disciples’ simple message of repentance and forgiveness was accompanied by God’s power. Demons ran away from them and many sick people were healed. There was a great work of God throughout that region. Jesus’ ministry grew to the national level. King Herod heard the work of God through the mission work by the Twelve.
PART III THE DEATH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (14--29)
In verses 14-29 we find the story of King Herod beheading John the Baptist. King Herod was a leader for the nation and should provided moral guidance for the nation as an influential leader. But he became a symbol of corruption and immorality. He committed adultery by taking his brother’s wife Herodias. He beheaded John the Baptist in order to please a little dancing girl and dinner guests. Look at verse 20. “Because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.” What was his problem? Though he was an evil king, he liked to listen to John because he was a righteous and holy man. Once again people like to listen to the word of God but they do not like to repent. This is the same problem we face in America. There are so many Christian radio stations in the USA and there are millions of people who listen to the message. But there are not many people who repent. If all those who listen to the message repent, America will be truly a great nation without any violent crime and corruptions. This teaches us that a king without the truth is nothing more than a slave of sin and a source of bad influence. It also teaches us that a woman who has no fear of God and no respect for her husband can ruin a family and a kingdom. It further shows us that the world of the time was very dark. In spite of all opposition, the kingdom of God was advancing, overcoming the evil of the world.
In conclusion, we face many rejections from the world when we preach the gospel of Jesus. We also confront many corruptions and violence from the evil men. But we know that they cannot silence the message of Jesus. The message of Jesus will be proclaimed through the disciples we raise in each generation until Jesus comes again. It is important for us to raise up Bible teacher and missionaries who can represent Jesus and deliver the message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. May God bless us to deliver the message of repentance in the fall semester! Let’s follow the wisdom of Jesus who raised and sent his disciples to advance the kingdom of God.