The twelve disciples had a passive role in Jesus’ early ministry. They listened to Jesus, learned from him, and followed him around the countryside and across seas. But Jesus had more planned. He had work for them to do.
Read Mark 6:7-29.
Jesus sent his disciples out to announce his coming. Just like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, so did his disciples. They were his publicists. They called people to repentance, freed the possessed, and healed the sick. Jesus delegated to them what he was doing already, what people crowded around him for. The people came to Jesus, and now he sent his disciples to the people.
You may note that this story shows Jesus’ power was transferable. He wasn’t some superhero with special powers only he could control. He could actually share his ability to banish demons and heal diseases, perhaps because of the intensive time the disciples had already spent with him.
Power alone wouldn’t guarantee acceptance though. Not everyone accepted Jesus or his teaching, and he knew his disciples would face the same challenge. If they would be welcome everywhere, then why would he give them instructions on what to do when they were not?
John the Baptist was also unwelcome. He criticized Herod for marrying his brother’s wife (Matt. 14:4). He was killed for speaking the truth. Herod was apparently not threatened by John because he “heard him gladly.” He was also afraid of the public backlash if anything happened to John. But Herodias did feel threatened. She wanted John gone. She did not want to repent for marrying her husband’s brother.
Not all good teachers will be respected or treated like they deserve. Some people don’t want to hear the truth because it might mean they are wrong or have to change. They would rather be left alone to do whatever they want, despite the possible consequences. Fun facts: Herod’s domain was later attacked by the kingdom of his ex-wife, whom he left for Herodias. Soon after, Herodias’ mischief led to the Roman emperor banishing Herod to Gaul. Not a wise marriage on Herod’s part.
Jesus knew that his disciples would be rejected, like John and himself, but there was good news too. He sent them with nothing but staffs in their hands and sandals on their feet. Just the minimum tools for their travel. I will be traveling this summer, and I’ve been working on my packing list for months. I can’t imagine leaving with nothing more than a hiking stick and shoes. But leaving with nothing more than a staff and sandals meant they would have to trust God on their journey. It meant there would be people to receive them in their homes and listen to their message.
Some people would ignore, criticize, or chase the disciples out of town. But it would be worth it for those who would listen, repent, and be freed and healed. That gives me hope. No matter how much opposition I might face for my faith and following Jesus, God will open the right doors and provide the opportunities he means me to have.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus, John 16:33