This is the sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. The sermon text is: Mark 6:7-13. The sermon theme is: Jesus Sent His Disciples On A Mission Here is the Written Sermon.
Jesus Sent His Disciples On A Mission
This is your mission, if you choose to accept it. When I was younger and I used to watch TV, that was a phrase I used to hear. There was this show on TV called Mission Impossible. And at the beginning of every one of those episodes the head-spy would hand an envelope to other spies. And he would say those words: “This is your mission, if you choose to accept it.”
In the words we read this morning Jesus was doing much the same. He was sending his twelve disciples on a mission. We read in Mark 6: “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” (Mark 6:7 NIV)
Now already in these words that Jesus speaks we realize that the mission Jesus was sending his disciples on was much, much different than the mission the spies went on. Notice in the words that Jesus spoke what he did not say. He did not say: “This is your mission if you choose to accept it.” There was no option to opt out. Jesus was sending them. And they were going.
And with these opening words we see that when Jesus sent them on a mission he also sent them with a promise. So then, what is the promise he gave to his disciples? He sent them. Jesus sent them. They didn’t send themselves. The people they were sharing God’s word with weren’t the ones who chose and sent them. No, Jesus was the one who sent them. In that official sending is the very real promise. If Jesus sent them he will also be with them.
And so, their mission had a promise. These twelve had the promise from Jesus that he would be with them even when he was away from them. But as we read further, not only did their mission contain a promise, it also faced obstacles: “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 tunic. 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, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”” (Mark 6:8–11 NIV)
The first obstacle Jesus’ mission faced was from within Jesus’ very own disciples. He tells them that the only possessions they can take with them was the walking stick in their hands and the sandals on their feet. No food. No money. They couldn’t even bring an extra shirt for the cold, dry nights.
Why is it that he commanded them to not bring these extra items? We find out in the next verse. When they go into a village they will heal the sick and preach God’s word. And the Lord would provide people there who would invite them into their homes. They wouldn’t have to worry about extra money, food or even clothing because they would be taken care of by the people who received the message they preached.
Now, my brothers and sisters in Christ, that required trust. What Jesus commanded the twelve required absolute trust that Jesus would provide. And when you think about it, nothing has really changed. The pastors in our church body go to school for years and years. Then, on Call Day, they are told where they are going to serve. And blindly, even joyfully they simply trust that Jesus will provide for them and their families. They see on the call form where it says that they want the pastor to lead them in evangelism. And they humbly trust that the same congregation that called them will provide the money to do evangelism and the manpower to help the pastor.
And if you haven’t realized it yet, here is where Christ’s mission faces another obstacle. One obstacle is in the heart of each of these twelve men Jesus was sending out to share the gospel. Would they cling to Jesus’ promise? Or would they give into despair? But the other obstacle is in the hearts of the people Jesus sent them to serve. It’s one thing to hear one of these twelve and say “amen.” But, how much more difficult is it to not just hear them, but then also receive them and support them?
When I read these words I think of this last Maundy Thursday. Our sister congregation, Bethany hosted the Seminary Choir. They had a dinner for them to thank them and to get to know them better. But they made a mistake. The people who planned for the dinner didn’t know about the vast amount of food seminary students can consume. So they didn’t have enough food.
The men in the seminary choir were about the same age as these disciples. When this pair of men showed up in town, it was one thing to say “amen” to their sermon. It was another matter entirely to receive them into your home. It required trust too. It required trust that the food, clothing and other provisions these two men consumed would be replaced by their Lord above.
And where there are these sorts of obstacles within a congregation, there is where Satan can do his work best. When a pastor stops trusting that if Jesus sent him, he will also provide for him, that’s when sin can trap him. That is when a pastor starts saying “They want our church to grow, but they don’t even come to Sunday School. They want me to do evangelism. Don’t they realize that if we don’t reach our church budget we can’t do evangelism? How can you send out cards to invite people to our church when there isn’t money to do so?” And so, pastors think this and even say this. But did you notice the change in pronouns? Instead of saying “we” and “us” he says “they” and “them.”
And just as the pastor is trapped by sin, so too are the people in the pew. It is ever-so tempting for the person in the pew to say “at least when these two guys showed up, they might have eaten all the person’s food, but at least they left. At least they moved on to another village. This guy—this pastor stays. And what do we have to show for it?” And again, notice the shift in pronouns. Instead of saying “we” and “our,” there is that temptation to say “he, him, that pastor.” And you too can fall into the same trap of sin as I can fall into.
And we all know where it leads to, don’t we? It leads to a pastor yearning for greener pastures in a different church than the one Jesus, himself sent him to. It leads to a people who don’t provide money for or involvement in evangelism. And finally, the last place it leads to is Jesus, himself shaking the dust off of his feet and taking his word elsewhere.
So Jesus sends his twelve on a mission. But there are obstacles, aren’t there? But here is where we return to where we began. Jesus sent them with a promise. He promised them that since he was sending them he would be with them. And in our closing verses we hear that he was faithful to his promise: “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.” (Mark 6:12–13 NIV)
The twelve went out, two by two, and what was their message? What was their sermon theme? Repent! That was their sermon theme. And that also was Jesus’ fulfillment of his promise. For, before each pair of men could tell others to repent they, themselves, on their own had to repent. And repentance isn’t something we conjure up from within ourselves. Repentance is a gift from God. Jesus moved each pair of men to repent for their lack of trust. Through what these pairs of men preached Jesus moved people in these villages to repent too. They saw their sin. They saw Jesus who took away their sin. And Jesus does the same to us today. Today we see the times we have not trusted Jesus. We see our sin and are sorry for it. And then we cling to the promise that Jesus has taken away our sin.
Jesus was with them to move them to repent. But Jesus was also with them to move them to appreciate. These people were like sheep without a shepherd. Even worse than that, these people had shepherds who fed them spiritual poison along with their food. And then, one day, Jesus sends a pair of men into their village. And what do these men say? They tell them boldly and clearly that they are sinners. They tell them that they cannot earn salvation with their hearts. And they cannot earn salvation with their hands. They tell them that Jesus takes away their sins by being perfect in their place. They tell them that Jesus would take away their sins.
You can put yourselves in their shoes, can’t you? Many of you can remember what it was like to come to this church from no church. Others of you can remember what it was like to come to this church from a different church—a church where you pastor was feeding you spiritual poison along with God’s word. And you arrive at the same place these people did so long ago. You have this deep appreciation. For you know where you used to be and where you are now.
Through his word, Jesus moved the people to repent. And through his word he moved them to appreciate the unearned gift of salvation given to them. And finally, through his word, Jesus moved them to provide and to pray. The people provided for the work of the church. And they prayed for the work of the church.
And that is my invitation to you. Provide for the work of the church. Give your money joyously and generously. For Jesus has promised to be with you. And pray for the work of the church. Pray for your pastor now and whatever pastor you might have years down the road. Pray that he would trust Christ’s promises. Pray for yourselves too—that you too would trust these precious words of Christ and not give into fear. Amen.
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