(Mark 6:1-13 ESV ) “He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. 7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff– no bread, no bag, no money in their belts– 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 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.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”
Good morning, Mr. and Ms. Christian. Your mission is to represent Jesus Christ. You will be sent to places you’ve never been before. You will meet people who reject the Savior. As the heavenly Father sent Jesus to bring you back to God, so you will be sent by Jesus to bring people to his love.
That’s not exactly how it happened for the twelve apostles. But Mark reports in our Gospel that Jesus sent them on a mission. How would you respond to that message? Jesus sends the Twelve out to spread the news about him in Galilee. Jesus also sends us out as his representatives. That means we can think of our Christian life being like a trip. So it’s natural to ask: What’s it like to travel for Jesus?
Let’s start to answer that question by asking another: If you were going on a trip for Jesus, what would you take in your suitcase? What would you pack for this spiritual trip? A Bible? A Catechism? What else?
If we were following Jesus’ instructions for the disciples’ trip two thousand years ago, we wouldn’t use a big suitcase. We wouldn’t need a good-size satchel like this. We wouldn’t even grab a clothes bag like this one. We’d just take the clothes on our backs, plus a walking staff. (Read vv 8–9.) 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff– no bread, no bag, no money in their belts– 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.
When We’re “On the Road” for Jesus,
We Take Just What We Need.
We’d travel light. Why? Our text suggests four reasons.
But wait! That’s not the kind of trip I want to take right now! It’s the middle of summer. I’m ready for vacation! How about you? A pastor once told how people from cities on the East Coast would retire near his church in upstate New York . . . and frustrate him. These were talented Lutherans who had been active in their old congregations. But since they had retired from their jobs, they wanted also to retire from being active in church—their old church as well as their new church. They were ready to journey for Jesus—so long as it was a vacation and not a business trip!
I understand that. Sometimes middle-aged as well as veteran members need a break from years of serving in the church. But I don’t think, from God’s viewpoint, this means we go on vacation as Christians. If we need a break from working for Jesus, that probably means we need to go back to the basics: being in worship and Bible study. When you use the hymnal or the Bible to grow as a Christian, you still are traveling for Jesus.
Even if we’re tired, we still can serve in ways that take less time or energy or work. Even if our work seems simple—like praying for others—we are working for Jesus. We still are sharing his love, the love that sent Jesus to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. We can share that love until the day we enter eternal life. We travel light, first then, because our focus is that we have a job to do.
No, we don’t need a lot of luggage for this spiritual journey. Neither did the disciples. Jesus tells them to depend on God to provide a place to sleep each night. That’s what the part about not taking a “second tunic” means. People of Jesus’ day would add another piece of clothing in case they ended up sleeping outdoors. Jesus expected his apostles to be guests of the people they visit. In effect, he says, “Don’t take food. Don’t take money to buy food. Don’t worry about shelter. Trust God to provide for you.”
Trusting God to provide is tough as we journey for Jesus. If we say, “I don’t travel anywhere overnight without making motel reservations,” we miss the point. Jesus wants us to use our brains and experience when we live as his representatives. What Jesus doesn’t want us to do is to put together a backup plan in case he doesn’t come through the way he has promised.
That’s why the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Martin Luther said that faith first of all is depending on God to come through with his promises. When we travel through life with faith, we are turning control over to God. We serve to the best of our ability, but the Holy Spirit is making all the real travel arrangements. We travel light because we travel in faith.
In v 11, Jesus warns his disciples about rejection when he says, “If any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you . . .” We twenty-first-century Christians may be closer to knowing firsthand about rejection than our parents or grandparents. These days we almost assume that many people won’t welcome us sharing our faith. They simply don’t want to hear anything about Jesus. They may not want to admit they’re sinners who need a Savior.
Today in America there are many who despise organized religion. They see churches as oppressive, standing in the way of abortion and a libertine lifestyle. This is perhaps the real reason for all the celebration and rejoicing after the Supreme Court declared a week ago that marriage is not just the union of one man and one woman for a life-long union of fidelity, commitment and the procreation of children as God has ordained. The issue goes way beyond merely same-sex marriages. It is heralded as a landmark of freedom and equality, another step in freeing society from the oppressive control over our lives by religion. We must not swallow this lie. The attack is really against Christ. This is what Jesus forewarned us of when he said, “If any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you…shake off the dust from your feet.”
It means that the door has been opened a little wider for the government to impose its anti-Christian ethics on the country in every aspect of American life, from the military, to employment, to education. Those who have a traditional view, God’s view of marriage and natural law, will simply be painted as crazy. Those who perpetrate this philosophy will seek to drive us Christians from public life and classify us as illegitimate.
Now is not the time for us to be afraid or to be ashamed of what is true and pure and good, or to be silent. Now is the time for watchfulness, prayer and dedication to teaching and confessing clearly the Word of our Lord, which stands forever. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” says God (Romans 12:21). In this congregation truth must always abide no matter the cost along with love and empathy for those who have been deceived by this lie. Now is the time to embrace with compassion those who have been ensnared in sin and to reach out to them with the Gospel of God’s grace for their salvation. This we will do.
It will not always be an easy journey. Because Jesus talks about the disciples experiencing failure, we can know we won’t always succeed. But we can be like Thomas Edison, who is remembered for many inventions. Probably most of all, for the first commercially successful incandescent light bulb. Edison failed thousands of times before his laboratory got it right. He said that if he found thousands of ways that didn’t work, each failure still was a step forward toward the solution.
We’re better off than the famous inventor. Not only can we learn on our spiritual journey for Jesus when we don’t succeed, but we also have God’s promise that the Holy Spirit will use even our failures to get his will done. We can travel light because rejection does not equal failure.
That message which we are sent to bear is all Good News for you and me, because we are sinners. It is Good News for those still lost in sin. The message of Christ is not one of oppression that stands in the way of freedom. It is the message freedom. It is the message that frees mankind from sin, not accuses and condemns them. It is the message that God’s Son trades our imperfection for his holiness on the cross. We receive his forgiveness and promise of never-ending life as a free gift.
More than that: this love of God—which makes our life worth living—is a gift we share with others so they can know their lives also are worth living. That’s why we are sent. Even though it’s not Christmas, like the angels at Bethlehem, we have “good news of great joy” (Lk 2:10).
As we travel through life, sent by Jesus, it’s not what we carry in our hands that’s important. What matters most is what we carry in our hearts . . . and share through our lives: the love, forgiveness, and peace of Jesus. Because Jesus sends us with that Good News to share, we can travel light. Amen.