“And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two . . .” (Mark 6:7a ESV)
Mark moves his narrative swiftly. The sixth chapter of his gospel began with Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth and getting rejected in the synagogue. Up to this point in Mark’s account, the disciples have played a secondary role for the most part. We considered their calling in chapter 2. Other than that instance, Mark only mentions their being with Jesus through these events and their reaction to him. They were taught, they were confused, they were even tossed around in the storm. But now, they are about to take a more active role. The pop quiz they managed to endure in the boat has prepared them for this moment.
Our text, Mark 6:7-13 records Jesus’ sending out of his disciples. He gives them very specific instructions: he gave them authority over demons (v7), told them to take nothing except a staff (v8), he gave them specific clothing choices (v9), and told them what their conduct should be concerning where they stay (v10-11). Mark then tells us what they did with these regulations – they went and proclaimed that people should repent, cast out demons, and healed the sick (v12-13).
Those three activities mirror those of the Lord Jesus. Like him, they preached repentance; like him, they cast out demons; like him, they healed the sick. In these ways, the disciples were nothing short of representatives or ambassadors for Jesus. Everything he had taught them and modeled for them up to this point has been instilled in them, preparing them to go and do likewise. With God-given authority and a commission from the Master himself, the disciples went into the villages to imitate the works of Jesus Christ.
The Twelve disciples are a pivotal, transitional group in the context of redemptive history. As pivotal, they set the standard as the first followers of Jesus and a model for all who would believe on him. As transitional, they are the link between the Old and New Covenant peoples. Like the tribes of Israel of old, there were 12 of them. Jesus, the Son of God, did what Israel did not do, namely, perfectly obey God. Now, as the true Israel, Jesus gives his authority to 12 men to carry out his mission. A new mission, a new covenant, and new people, who are made new by the gospel – this is what we witness in these few verses of scripture.
The first and foremost aspect of this mission is to call people to repent. The other activities, whether casting out demons or healing the sick, were subservient signs that accompany gospel preaching. As New Covenant disciples of Jesus, we must be careful to keep the gospel the main thing. Healing and spiritual warfare have their place, as do music ministry, kids’ ministry, fellowship meals, and the various other things the church does; but if these things are not an outgrowth of the gospel, they may very well be overemphasized and replace the primacy of the gospel. As representatives of Christ, the message of the gospel is the first priority.
What a blessing it is to be counted among the followers of Christ! If you have not received this message yourself, do as the disciples preached you ought to do – repent! If you, however, are following Christ, then meditate on how the Lord of this Universe would count you and me – with all our imperfections and blemishes – to be his representatives! What a holy privilege!