Sent By Christ

June 20, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 6:1-13

Sent Without A Cent

1. Today's gospel reading is the story about Jesus' sending the twelve disciples out into the towns and the villages. This is a sort of practice run, a rehearsal [for them]. Pretty soon, on a future day, the disciples would be sent out on their own. After Jesus was crucified, and after he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit and be sent into the world as the church.

2. Nevertheless, don't you think what Jesus did was overly extreme and radical as a rehearsal [for their future commissioning]? The Lord commanded the disciples, "Bring nothing with you except for a walking stick! Don't bring bread or money!" The point is that he was sequestering every possession of the disciples at the time of his sending them out. The disciples were not going on a mission near-by. They were setting out on an evangelistic journey, in which they would go from village to village for a number of days. It was a brand new experience for the disciples. What's more, even though it was to be a trip during which troubles were predicted even under normal circumstances, he dared to send them out without a single penny. It was a ridiculous thing to do.

3. Yet, the reason Jesus did this to his disciples was probably because had he not done so, they could never have learned. We can see in this passage that there are at least three things that the disciples had to learn [before] they are soon sent into this world in the true sense [of their greater mission]. It is what we must learn as well. If we suppose that Christ is sending Shoei Church, [our church], into this passing world, then there is something that we must learn by all means. If we suppose that each one of us is being sent into this world, that we may serve Christ, and that we may serve people, then there is something that we must all surely learn. If we are working for someone's salvation, if we desire to be useful to the Lord for someone to turn to God, for someone to be set free, for someone to be healed, then there are at least three things that we must make every effort to learn.

To Learn How To Do Team Work

4. First, "we are to do team work." In the sending of the disciples, the first thing we need to pay attention to is that they did things "in teams of two." Traveling in twos was a common custom among the Jews. It is found frequently in scripture. There is also the reason that traveling alone was dangerous. Yet, if avoiding danger were important, then he would not have done something like sending them out penniless. Greater meaning [for us] is packed into [his] sending [them] out in pairs, which is, that Jesus did not require an individual and independent work from them. They would [eventually] be sent out into the [entire] world, and would love and serve the people. But before that, he required the disciples to fulfill these things among themselves. Before setting out into the world of society, he required the disciples as close peers near to each other to love each other, to serve each other, and thus, to work together, in collaboration as a team.

5. Who decides the makeup of the teams? Jesus does. Jesus is the doer behind "making teams of two." They do not get to choose somebody they got along well with. Jesus is the one who made the teams of two. So, it was possible to get paired off with someone with whom you did not get along well. To work in cooperation with someone else is not necessarily always easy.

6. As a matter of fact, the disciples were not interested in each other at the beginning when they got together. Jesus got them together. So, there would be some among them who did not get along well with each other. For example, one of the disciples was "Simon the Zealot." The Zealot party was a nationalist extremist group that waged war for liberation from Rome. However, Matthew (also named Levi) was also among the disciples. He was a former tax collector. [Tax collectors] were those who served Rome and the Herodians, betraying for money the national pride of the Jews. The flock of disciples, you could say, were [a group of men] in which ultra nationalists and traitors to one's country lived together. They were sent out of that [group] in teams of twos, which Jesus had picked. This was a test for the disciples.

7. But then what did Jesus do? At the moment Jesus sends them out, he confiscates their possessions. It puts them in a hard spot. But, being put into hard times is not necessarily a bad thing. When you have food and things, it leaves room for arguing, but when you get in a spot where you don't even have food, then all you can do is help each other. Ruptures occur as people go it alone. When all on their own [people] are helpless, [so] they will work together. In that sense, "poverty" is a school wherein we can learn how to work together. We can also make the case that by taking away their stuff Jesus drove them into the school for learning how to do team work.

8. Thus, the first thing that the people sent by the Lord had to learn how to do was "to work together." When we suppose that we are put into poverty or into a situation we are helpless by ourselves, it may be for the purpose of our learning how to cooperate with each other.

To Learn How To Humble One's Self

9. What we should learn second is that "we are to humble ourselves." The Lord required that they go "without either bread, or bag, or money in their belts." But then how were they supposed to live? The Lord said, "Wherever [you go], when you go into a certain house, remain in that house, until you travel out of that land!," (verse ten).

10. In Jewish society back then, since giving shelter to travelers and playing host to them was considered to be a religious virtue, [Jesus' instructions] were not strange. Jesus was speaking this way with this custom in the background to his words. In short, he is saying, "Just as everyone does, receive assistance from anyone who will provide it at your destinations!"

11. Receiving assistance from others means that you must bow your head. It means you must lower yourself with respect to others. The disciples were put into that kind of situation and under those kind of conditions. What's more, each time they set their feet into a new village, they were made to humble themselves all over again. Before they do anything, they must first have someone else give them lodging. They must have someone else give them [food] to eat. They enter into the villages as these weak men. Since they are penniless, they need help in doing things.

12. Thus, before the disciples are on the giving end of things, Jesus first made them be on the receiving end of things. He required them to enter the villages as weak men in need of help. Put another way, it is that the Lord did not permit the disciples to enter the villages like the strong helping the weak, like the higher class teaching something to the lower class.

13. People who find it a joy to serve others often hate to put themselves on the receiving side. They only want to put themselves on the giving side. But there is a pitfall to that. Once, in a meeting at a certain volunteer organization, I was asked to give a speech. The people who were gathered there were folks who had worn themselves out for others for many years. But after the lecture when we were eating, I heard more than one person say, "I don't want other people to do favors for me, to give me assistance." That made an impression on me. I couldn't help but wondering that something was odd about that.

14. "I don't want other people to do favors for me." Without even realizing it we may find ourselves saying that too. But the people who only want to put themselves on the giving end are not able to live with others in the true sense of things. As equals, standing on the same level, they cannot mutually share in the major things with other people. That's how some are. I would venture to say that the people who don't want other people's assistance don't make good workers for God.

15. I can make the same case when it comes to telling the gospel to people close to them. I'd say there are not a few folks among the people now assembled here in this place who are the only Christians at home. I'm sure you want to tell your family about God's grace, you want to tell them the gospel. But, perhaps, before [you do that], you may first have to humbly say to your family, "Please help me!"; because there are often times that [our] pride and high-minded attitudes, [our] placing ourselves higher up [than they are] without even knowing we are doing that, becomes a hindrance to the proclamation of the gospel. The second thing that the ones sent out by the Lord had to learn was that, that "we are to humble ourselves." When [he] makes us weak and in need of help, it may be for the purpose of our learning how to "humble ourselves."

To Learn How To Hope For God To Work

16. And the third thing we're supposed to learn is that faithfully and steadfastly "we are to hope for God to work." As I already mentioned, the disciples were compelled to enter the villages as weak men, men in need of help. They could no longer act like they themselves were persons with authority, as persons of a higher standing. They could not act like they themselves were persons with power. However, the very reason that they had become that way is they had their hopes only in God alone. [They hoped] that the authority of God would appear in [their] midst. [They hoped] that the power of God would appear, that the work of God would appear. And truly then, through these disciples when they were the way they were supposed to be, as beggars, the authority of God so different from the authority of human beings did appear.

17. Please look at verse twelve. Notwithstanding they entered the villages as weak men in need of help, and in truth, notwithstanding they were assisted by others, the following is recorded about their labors. "The twelve went out and proclaimed messages to cause the people to repent. And [then], they drove out many evil spirits, and healed many of the sick by anointing them with oil," (verse twelve). Many evil spirits were driven out. Many of the sick were healed. What does that mean? It means that repentance broke out among the people before [the exorcisms and the healings did]. It means that faith took place; because in the places where there was no faith, even Jesus could not do mighty works, (6:5-6). The people had accepted the words of the disciples and had believed the gospel.

18. It is clear that this did not derive from the disciples' authority and power. It could only be attributed to God's power. When someone is set free from evil spirits, it does not come out of the disciples own power, but one can only say that it comes from "the powers against the unclean spirits" which Jesus had given to them, (verse seven). When someone is healed, one can only recognize that it is not your own power, but it is the work of God's spirit. It ought to have been clear to the eyes of the disciples because on their own they did not have anything to offer to the people.

19. We must carefully evaluate whether the church is truly delivering something from God, or whether it is only delivering something that humans can offer, or whether that which is being revealed in the church is truly the power of the very word of God itself, the very authority of God, or whether just some human power and authority is being put on display.

20. If we suppose that only what humans are offering, only a display of human power is being seen, then maybe we have much too much of so much. Therefore, like the disciples, we need to have [our stuff] confiscated by Jesus. We need to be put in a place we're our own power won't do. We need to be put in a situation where we must humble ourselves. We must learn how to steadfastly hope for and await God's power.

21. Or else we could make the opposite case. Perhaps [we may need God] to arrange it that we depart from this place mindful of our weaknesses, our powerlessness, and our poverty, and also be ill at ease in our walk all week. Yet, out of all that, we would be able to learn how to be faithfully expectant for God to work.

22. Thus, Jesus caused the disciples to learn at least three important things by his sending them out without a cent. It must have been something that the disciples had to learn over and over again when they would later serve the world as the church. And it is something that we who are here in this place must also learn over and over again, that the reason we are sent by Christ is to truly serve the world.