Could You Really Take Only a Staff?
Jim Lewis standing with a staff at Green Lake Conference Center

Mark 6:6-13 = 6-(Jesus) was amazed at their (those of His hometown) unbelief. Then, Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7-He called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8-He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9-He allowed them to wear sandals, but not to take a change of clothes. 10-“Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11-But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” 12-So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

You know, normally when you look at verse 6 (first 2 sentences), you would think they should be 2 different verses. But I believe there was a reason they kept them together…in fact, I’m willing to believe that Jesus’ going out from village to village, and then sending His 12 out to continue and help with the spreading of His Word, may have been sparked by the unbelief of those in His hometown.

Imagine, “if they won’t listen to me at home, then I’ll take My message to the rest of the world” (as was what Paul did when his people, the Jews, rejected the Gospel…’since y’all continue to reject this awesome news, I’ll take it to the Gentiles.’).  OR, maybe it was sparked by Jesus’ amazement of their unbelief, figure, His own people don’t believe, how much worse or far gone the people not from home? Notice that the only miracles Jesus was able to do were healings. Why? Because of all who He is, and of all the great words He spoke, all He was known as by people was a great healer. So if Jesus, God’s Promised Messiah, has finally come, and is only recognized as a healer, then something needs to be changed in His method of sharing His message, and something needs to be done fast, for His ministry would only last 3 years.

So to cover more ground, Jesus called His 12 to Him. I wonder if also, maybe the reason Jesus sent out His 12 so early in their time with Him was because He figured that with the new message, if people wouldn’t listen to Him because they knew Him growing up, maybe new faces would help the spreading of His message and teaching. Also, as I’d mentioned before, Jesus was training His disciples for future missions. And so sending them out so early in their discipleship training would also express the urgency of getting out there to share.

Now here’s the tough part: Take nothing for the journey except a staff. Don’t take any bread (food), no bag (possessions), no money for your belts, no extra clothes, and wherever you go, stay with somebody until they kick you out, basically. All you may take with you are the sandals you currently have on your feet, a staff, and the clothes on your backs.

That’s a tough order! Do you think you could do that, especially in a world of technology, right? Have you ever attempted to pry a teens’ fingers off their phone, or the eyes of even adults off the many apps of their smartphones? Have you ever set down your phone for a full hour and not looked at it or any other piece of technology during that time? How about not carrying any I.D. on you? How about not taking at least a backpack of things with you on a week to month-long trip (not even a toothbrush-eeewwww)? Also no credit card, cash, or debit card…nothing with which to buy food? And finally, finding somebody who will listen to your message, as well as take you in during your stay? Maybe if they know you, but what about total strangers in other towns?

Though they didn’t have the technology back then that we have today, I’m sure each of these things were distractions in their own sort, maybe not like texting while driving, but in that it totally challenged them to fully focus on the Lord for their provisions. We have often heard that the more focus you have on your stuff, the less focus you have on Jesus. Jesus wanted them to live as ones who not only talked the talk, but also walked the walk…practiced what they preached and made an impact by the way they not only spoke, but also lived. This would also separate them from the Teachers of Religious Law (Pharisees), who Jesus talked about in the Gospel of Matthew, who enjoyed walking around in their splendor, showing off their stuff and their holiness, and often worked real hard to look holy, but who were really just putting on a show.

You know, for over 15 years now, I have been reading books and talking with people who continue to talk about how Christians don’t do well at representing God as He’s portrayed in the Bible, don’t stand for anything, and really do not stand out among the rest of the people of the world. I mean, seriously, if God is really so much more different from everything out there, every religion, every faith, every doctrine, every idol, every god, etc., then you would think that His people would reflect these differences also, and totally stand out among the rest of the world…but many of us don’t, do we?

When the people in Jesus’ hometown rejected Him as being nothing more than a healer, He realized a need to change His strategy, or approach. A new urgency was revealed, and Jesus plowed at it full force, not by Himself, but by sending out His disciples. If you have given your life to Jesus, then you too are one of Jesus’ disciples, and He has called you also to Himself and to take on the urgent mission of telling people about Him. Not in the passive way that many Christians in America do today, but in a bold manner, as the Christians we read about in other countries. As the people in Jesus’ day, people today also see Him only as something so much less than what He is. And if our own friends and family will not listen to us, then we need to go out and tell others in other places where they don’t know us. And when we do, we need to be sure that there are no distractions to the ministry, so that when we explain about relying on Jesus for everything, we can represent Him as so much more than how people have been told about Him already. He’s not just a healer, He’s not a genie in a bottle, He’s not way up there watching from afar, He’s not just a great teacher with awesome advice…He’s God in the flesh; Jesus is God in the flesh; 2nd person of the Trinity; Savior to all who accept Him; Lord to all who love Him; Provider to those who trust in Him…and so much more. He accepts all who believe, but demands a response from us. He loves us where we are, but loves us too much to let us stay there. We are to be (become) Holy as HE is holy. He offers costly grace, the grace that bids us to come and die, and only those who deny themselves (their ways, their lives, their pride, their sins, their lifestyle, their distractions, their culture, etc.) are worthy of being His disciples. He offers the free gift of salvation, but you must take hold of Him with both hands in order to receive it. Jesus is not how the world sees Him, but SO MUCH MORE. And it’s up to us, His disciples, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to go out there and show this to them, and share the Truth about who Jesus really is.

Reflection:

  1. Can you imagine being without your cell phone for a whole week, month, or even day?  How hard do you think that would be?  Why would it be so difficult?
  2. What do your friends say about who Jesus is/was?  How is this different from what the Bible says?  How is it similar?
  3. Do you think we really understand the urgency of sharing Jesus with others? Think about/discuss some ways that you could/should represent Jesus better to the world.  How could you help them understand the Truth about Him?

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