Willing...abandoned...bold. If you were to read those words in a 'Help Wanted' classified, would you be qualified for the job? Stephen's teaching from Mark 6 reports that Jesus called on his disciples to live up to that calling. Can we meet the challenge of following Christ like that today?
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“A DISCIPLE’S JOB DESCRIPTION”
(This part of the sermon not read by Pastor Davey) Before we have our scripture reading, I’m going to ask you to pick up your Bible, turn to Mark, chapter 6, verses 7 through 13, we will be reading this morning. Please stand for the reading of the Lord’s holy word. Mark, chapter 6, verses 7 through 13. “And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; and commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And He said unto them, ‘In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorra in the day of judgment, than for that city.’ And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” You may be seated.
(This part of the sermon by Pastor Davey) There is something exciting about doing something for the first time. Perhaps you remember your first airplane trip, the first time you boarded that plane. I can remember that time. If there was ever a point in my life when all of my sins were totally confessed, it was at that time. Perhaps you remember the first time that you slid behind the wheel of that car and you drove on your own power. Of course, there were probably a couple of people driving in the back seat with you and someone beside you but you remember that first time when you drove. Perhaps some of you, those of you who are married here, remember the first date you had with the person that you would end up marrying. We celebrated, just recently, the anniversary of our first date. I shocked my wife by remembering that. December 7th, eleven years ago. That’s an occasion, though, that I think I might choose to forget because I almost “nipped it in the bud” on that first date. I’ll tell you what happened. I showed up on her doorstep, decked out to kill. I was extremely impressive looking in my pinstriped suit. Now, my pinstriped suit was the big, fat pinstripes and it was, kind of, an aqua blue suit. I loved that suit. Nobody else liked it but I thought it was pretty sharp. And the real catcher was those cream and blue saddle oxford shoes that I was wearing with that pinstriped suit. I know you’re thinking, “They went out of style a long time ago.” And, that’s true but I took longer to catch on, I guess, because I had those things on. I had on a dark, dark royal blue shirt with a snowy white tie. (knock, knock) I knocked on the door and Marsha came to it and I don’t know if she knew whether she should cry or laugh. She told me later that that occasion was just about our last date. But, at any rate, it worked out.
Well, we are coming to a first time in the lives of these disciples because Jesus Christ, for the first time, is going to send them out all by themselves. And, I imagine, when He called the meeting, they have just completed two years of intensive training, He, perhaps, may have called that meeting and said, “Men, I am going to now send you out two by two.” I imagine that Thomas fainted and Philip probably began to cry. Peter was, perhaps, the only one who said, “Lord, it’s about time because I’ve been ready for almost two years now.” But, it was probably a frightening time in the experience of being a disciple because, for the first time, they would be without Jesus Christ. They’re doing the teaching. Kind of coming up alongside of Him, taking control of the situation. Jesus was going to now send them out. And I want us, because you and I are to be disciples, to take a look at this passage of scripture and discover some fascinating principles that we can apply to our lives, that translate, not only from the first century but, all the way to the twentieth century on being a disciple. For some of you, you may be new disciples for Christ. For some of us, we may have been living for the Lord for a few years. But let’s discover together some principles that will help us as we enter the arena of discipleship.
Look back at Mark, chapter 6, and let’s start with verse 7. “And He called unto Him the twelve”. Luke adds, perhaps, that there were at least 70 here. We’re not sure, but probably 70 in total. But He begins to send them forth by two’s. The word “send,” is the little Greek word “apostello,” which we get our word “apostle” from. Every disciple, at some point in time, becomes, in one sense, an apostle. An apostle is merely, “a disciple who is sent or commissioned.” Now, to be a literal apostle, you would have needed to be an eye witness of Christ or, perhaps, His resurrection. So, you and I would not call ourselves apostles, other than the fact that we are being sent by Jesus Christ. It says here that He, “began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits”.
If you have notes, I want to give you three qualities that we can discover, in this passage, about disciples. And, I think, the first quality, you could jot into your notes, is the quality of willingness. You know, they had every opportunity to say, “Lord, I’ve come just this far now and no thanks, no commissioning for me. I’ll return to Capernaum or I’ll go back to Galilee. I’ll go back to my hometown. I’ve learned some tremendous things from you. It’s been a wonderful two years. But, no thanks! I’m finished.” But, we have, in scripture, the record that all twelve agreed. There was a willingness.
Secondly, I think there is another quality here, and that is one of abandonment. Abandonment. Perhaps I could give you some reasons why we could speculate He sent them out two by two. You could jot into your notes two things. First of all, I think, it was perhaps to provide a balance. You know, here is Peter, the impetuous one. I imagine He paired Peter, the man of faith, with Thomas, the man who doubted, so that they could complement one another. There was a sense of balance, I think, the way that Jesus type-cast them and we don’t know exactly how He sent them out. But, secondly, I think, He sent them by two’s for encouragement because it was going to be very discouraging to go out without Jesus Christ, to go out on their own. And if He had sent them one by one, sure they could have gone to twice as many places, couldn’t they have? But, I think the Lord knew, they needed the encouragement and the accountability of having someone along, either to get them out of the sack or to encourage them when difficult time came. So there was, perhaps, for balance or, I think in addition, encouragement.
But, we also notice that there is a real sense of abandonment. Look at verse 8, “And” - He - “commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.” Now, the kind of sandals here were, evidently, the other kind of shoe, there were two kinds in this day and time. There was a boot, made popular by the Romans. And then, there was a simple sandal with, perhaps, a matted grass sole or a piece of leather with some thongs drawn through it to attach it to the ankle. It was a very simple shoe, a sandal. That’s what they were to wear here. The scrip, you see it translated in the King James, perhaps yours may translate it “bag.” It’s the word “pera,” which refers to, interestingly enough, the beggars bag. You see, it was common, in that day, for a proselyte or for a priest, of some secular or pagan religion, to have with them the “pera,” or the beggars bag. He would go about so that people could contribute to his cause. And he was always with that bag unfolded and ready to receive. Jesus said to these men, “You represent Me and the Christianity that we will share but I don’t want you receiving. I don’t want you to be professional beggars. I want you to go with the attitude of giving.” So, there was a real sense of abandonment. The cloak, all of these pieces of clothing are very interesting and we won’t take time to get into all of them but, the cloak, that they were not to take two of, was a rather large piece of material that was, literally, seven feet in width. And they would double it over and they would have three and a half feet folds and it would, kind of, fold under the arms. You know, I thought, that’s the perfect garment for the Christmas and the Thanksgiving season because you have room to expand. You have three and a half feet! And about the time somebody comes up and asks you if you’ve put on a couple of pounds, you’ve actually put on 200 and nobody knows because you’ve got all of that three and a half feet. Well, these men, it was very simple, in other words, it was nothing more than a hole cut in the neck and holes cut in the arms. And they would carry about and do their business in very simple garb. There was more professional attire. There were nicer things to wear. But this, that they were commanded to wear, was so simple. I imagine that they would be like the Monks of yesteryear, who would travel about simply clad. These were the disciples. A real sense of abandonment.
Thirdly, you could jot into your notes that, there was a sense of boldness. Look at verse 12, “And they went out, and preached that men should” - appreciate them. “They went out, and preached that” - they should be popular with the masses. No. “They went out, and preached” - a very unpopular message. “They went out, and preached that men” - and women - “should repent.” There are two words for preaching or teaching. One word is “didaskalon,” which refers to simply imparting the truth, you simply give out the facts. And then, there is the word “kerugma,” which refers to giving out the facts and then drawing the verdict. “All right, you’ve heard the facts of the kingdom. You’ve heard who Jesus Christ is. You have heard the message. Now, I want you to understand that that message has a verdict and that verdict is to repent.” So they had to be bold men. And, I think, they would not be, necessarily, appreciated.
Turn back to Matthew, chapter 10. Hold your finger in Mark and turn to Matthew, chapter 10. Look at verses 7 and 8, “And as ye go,” - Jesus says, in this amplified or further detailed story - “preach,” - to them - “saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Now, you need to understand, as you read this, we can observe that they were not to create a message. They were not to go out and tell people what they thought. They weren’t to preach personal opinion. They weren’t to go out and gather a crowd around them and tell them what each disciple thought was right. No. They were to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They were not to create a message, they were to deliver a message that Jesus had already given them. Then He says, in verse 8, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received” - so don’t charge for preaching - “freely give.” - it out. A sense of real boldness.
I think the overall quality that we could give for these disciples, and for you and me, is that a disciple must be totally reliant on God’s supply. It’s almost as if Jesus is making it difficult to be a disciple. He is, in effect, saying, “I don’t want you to pack your bags. Don’t take extra apparel. Don’t take extra shoes.” In fact, when He says to take the stick, there are two kinds of sticks. There’s the club, which was used for protection. And then, there is the stick with a crook used for walking. He says, “I don’t even want you to take the stick for protection. You take the one that’s used just for walking. In other words, I want you to be unencumbered. Just hit the road and KNOW that your Father is with you.”
Let’s see what happens. Well, the Lord, back in Mark, chapter 6, unlike, perhaps, the manager of the sales force that you may work for. After he gives you all of the facts, he tells you, “Look, the world is waiting for you. I mean, they can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say. You won’t be turned down. You just get out there and, if you go through the plan just right, man, you’re going to have them in the palm of your hand.” Jesus Christ didn’t do that. He prepared them for a realistic response. And there are two of them. The first one was the response of hospitality. Look at verse 10, “And He said unto them, ‘In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.” Luke, chapter 10, amplifies this just a little bit and let’s us know that when they arrived in town, they were to seek out someone who respected God. They hadn’t heard the kingdom program, per se, but they knew God, the God of their fathers. Perhaps they were loyal to the Abrahamic covenant. And, when they heard the disciples, something in their heart opened up to these men and they offered their homes as hospitality.
You know, one of the most exciting events in the life of my wife and I was when we came to this town. We’d raised about $600 dollars a month support. She went to Atlanta and I came here. And we came not really knowing of anyone who could provide hospitality, we’d never met you. But there was a couple that I had met several months earlier. When I came into town, I called them on the phone. I had planned to go to Goldsboro and spend the night with a missionary home. And in Dallas, looking at a map, Raleigh looks real close to Goldsboro. In fact, I thought it would be about a 30 or 40 minute drive. But they left out, on that map of course, all the red lights and the speed limits and so, in effect, it was actually more than an hour. I tried it the first night and got lost. I never got there. I came back, after spending the night in this hotel that is of ill repute. I came back to Cary, called the businessman that I know, the only person that I knew in Cary, and he said, “Hey, where are you staying? Who’s taking care of you?” And I said, “Well, I’m driving to a missionary’s home.” And I was optimistic at that point at night. Well, he called me back a little later and he said, “I’ve talked to my wife. We want you to stay here.” So for thirty days, they opened their home to me. They fed me. They washed my clothes. They gave me the upstairs. That was a beautiful illustration of what these men were to expect. What you and I should expect, as a body.
You see, we can translate that, by way of application, to us. We provide hospitality to those who are engaged in a full time ministry, perhaps as a missionary. And it’s been exciting to see this little church provide for three families in our church body who are engaged in full time ministry. They are not working to support themselves. They are working, by way of counseling or on the campus of N.C. State. We are showing them hospitality. That’s fantastic! So, we as a body, can see people coming into this town, perhaps to go to another country or wherever, and we can provide that hospitality, in that sense. But, these men were to go into these towns and they were to preach. Hopefully, after they preached once or twice, somebody would invite them into their home.
Now, He gives them three little rules of hospitality. You could jot them into your notes. First of all, they were to choose the home carefully. Luke adds that you need to be careful that there is a son of peace in the home. In other words, don’t take the first invitation, necessarily. Make sure that these people are really concerned with the gospel. And He says, once you’ve chosen that home, look at the last part of verse 10, “there abide till ye depart from that place.” In other words, don’t be picky. You know, don’t get into that home and walk in with a menu. “Well, if you’re going to keep me, my favorites are baked potato and steak, medium well, green beans, and apple pie and a little ice cream. And then in the morning, a couple of eggs, and bacon, well, forget the bacon, perhaps grits or whatever.” Well, you give your menu and you say, “By the way, I take a nap after breakfast and your bed, in the master bedroom, looks more comfortable than this little cot, I’ll take that one.” No. You go to this home, not wanting to receive but to give. The first home where there is a son of peace, if it’s a shack and they are drawing water from a creek, you go there and stay.
But you notice, He says, “Stay until you depart from that city.” And that’s interesting. In other words, once you’ve converted someone, who may be the banker in town, once you’ve converted someone who has an estate, perhaps a much more comfortable surrounding, don’t leave the shack. “I don’t want jealousies arising in this little body. Don’t embarrass My name. So you stay there until you leave the city.”
Thirdly, they need to be concerned. The other gospel accounts relate to us the story that their healing ministry and their teaching ministry is to begin in the home that’s provided hospitality. Tremendous rules of hospitality.
Now, the Lord didn’t stop there. He goes on and He says, “I want you to know that, not only will you be received by some but, you will be rejected by others.” Perhaps you’re a new believer and something that has, literally, blown your mind is that you’ve gone back to your job, after accepting Christ, and you’ve soon discovered that you can talk about anything but Jesus Christ. You can talk about the weather. You can talk about the election year coming. You know, you can talk about the football season and who you think is going to win. And you can talk about everything. But the moment you bring Christ into the picture, many times you are not going to be received, you are going to be rejected. So be prepared.
Notice what He says. He says, in verse 11, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you,” - don’t be surprised, just - “shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them.” I want to give you two things. First of all, I think He is telling them not to take it personally. Not to take it personally. You see, these individuals are rejecting Jesus Christ. Now, it was the custom, in that day, for a pious Jew, once he had traveled through a Gentile region or a city, before he entered the Holy Land, he was to take off his sandals and slap them together and clear the dust because he didn’t want to bring defiled dust into Jerusalem. And so, they would always do that. Whenever they left a Gentile home, before they would come back, they would take off their sandals and they would get rid of the dust. As if to say, “These people are despicable and I don’t want even the dust of their city to enter this holy city.” That’s exactly what Jesus Christ is telling them to do. “If you go into a city and you preach and they reject you, you need to understand that they are rejecting Me and you treat them as a pagan. They are accountable. And if they don’t receive you, you just take off your sandals and you slap them together and, in effect, say, ‘You are accountable for the message that you’ve received and I want to rid, even my sandals, of the association I have had with you.’” Boy, what a powerful statement!
Secondly, it seems that He implies that they should not take it lightly. “Don’t take it personally. They are rejecting the message of Myself.” Secondly, don’t take it lightly. Look at the middle part of verse 11, “Verily I say unto you, ‘It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorra in the day of judgment, than for that city.’” Why is that? Because they had been given, I believe, further revelation. Sodom and Gomorra had revelation, no doubt. They had Abraham and they had Lot, who lived in the city, who perhaps told them of God and the covenant. And they rejected that and God held them accountable. But these people are going to hear the kingdom message. And, if they reject that additional revelation that has made it SO clear that He’s here, the King is here, their accountability is going to be much greater.
And my dear friend, that makes it even more incredible to you and to me, by way of accountability. You and I have even more revelation. And you that hear the sound of my voice and reject Jesus Christ, are extremely accountable for receiving it. And if it is rejected, it will be worse for you than for Sodom and Gomorra. I’ve never been east but I understand that the south end of Jordan is charred. I was listening to one man, just recently, as he spoke of his travels there. And scientists are trying to figure out how to explain all of the burned rock and the parched land, as if there had been a volcano erupt. And there is no volcano. And there is speculation that that was the location, there in the south end of Jordan, of the cities Sodom and Gomorra. God’s judgment did fall. He promised it would. My friend, we have a judgment promised to those who reject Jesus Christ that will be much more terrible than the charred rock and the parched land. We’re talking about eternal destiny. So He said, “Be prepared, not only for hospitality, but for hostility.”
Now, not only have we seen the qualities that the disciple must evidence and the responses they can expect but, I want you to notice, in chapter 6, verse 30, the rejoicing that they should experience. Now notice carefully, this verse. “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done,” - underline that word in your text - “and what they had taught.” Did you catch the order? They came back to Jesus Christ and they told Him everything that they had done. “Oh, and by the way, we taught a few things too.” In Matthew’s account, Jesus Christ specifically told them to go out and TEACH and THEN to do miracles, healings, exorcisms, raising from the dead. Do you notice how these disciples had gotten so caught up, like you and I do, with the results. They came back to the Master and the first thing out of their mouth was, “Thousands came. People were following us. You would not believe it! Oh, and you need to know as well, that we did teach a few things. But what a result! And Lord, you would not believe the fact that the demons were subject to us through Your name.”
There were two kinds of rejoicing in this passage. And I want you to turn to Luke, chapter 10, and see the response of the Lord to the disciples. Hold your finger in Mark and turn to Luke, chapter 10. Verse 17, is where we will begin. “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name.’ And He said unto them,” - fantastic, great! No, what did He say? - “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions,” - perhaps a figurative way of speaking of demons - “and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not”. The demons are subject to us. And there is a lot of rejoicing going around, even today. “Oh, look at what we’re doing! Man alive, the demons are subject to us through the name of Christ. You wouldn’t believe what’s happening. People are being healed. All of these things are going on. Fantastic!” And you know what’s happening? The same thing that happened in the hearts of the disciples and the same thing that can potentially happen to you and to me when we major on the experience and we diminish the doctrine.
Now, there are at least four or five different views surrounding verse 18, as to what the Lord meant, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Perhaps the Lord was referring to, “Oh, you think that’s really something. You cast out a little demon. I was in heaven and I saw Satan fall.” But I’m afraid all of the views, there was one that I particularly appreciated because it seemed to grasp the context of the passage. Jesus “said unto them, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’” If we go back and just imagine in our minds the disciples, perhaps filled with pride, “Lord, the demons are subject to us! You won’t believe what we are doing! Hundreds of people are following us.” And Jesus Christ says, “I want you to understand that Satan fell out of heaven because he manifested in himself the same thing that I sense in you. Pride.” Don’t rejoice in all of that. You know, I can just imagine one of the disciples, he’s got his belt. “Lord, I’ve got four notches on my belt here. Those are four miracles of healing. And over here, I’ve got seven notches. Seven demons. Look at that, Lord!” And the Lord said, in effect, “I am not impressed.”
In fact, if you want to rejoice, rejoice in this, your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. There is proper rejoicing. Boy, you know, when I saw the passage and the reference, the book of life, and I want to turn your attention, you want something to rejoice about? Turn to Revelation, chapter 20. As you serve as a disciple, you want to rejoice? Boy, you get your eyes on the experiences and on the results and it’s very easy to become discouraged because they fluctuate so much. But this rejoicing is constant. Notice what He says in chapter 20, verse 12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This it the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” You want to know why you have a tremendous burden for those lost relatives, and those friends, and those associates who have never come to Jesus Christ? Perhaps you are here and you don’t know Him. You want to know why that person has been praying for you and so concerned with your spiritual relationship. It’s because he knows Revelation, chapter 20. Whoever is not found written in the Lamb’s book of life, will face an eternal death.
Turn over to Revelation, chapter 21, verses 23 to 27. “And the city” - speaking of heaven - “had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Ladies and gentlemen, if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, it didn’t get there by osmosis. It didn’t start to fade onto the page as you began attending church. It didn’t begin to fade onto the page as you began to turn your life around and treat your mate with respect. It didn’t fade onto the scene once you decided, “I need to be a better person.” It was at one moment in history. You don’t need to know the date or the time or the hour. You just need to know that there was a moment in time when the sovereign hand of God wrote YOUR name into the Lamb’s book of life. And you want to rejoice in your Christian experience, as you are a disciple and those reject you and they reject your message and there are some that receive your message? You want to rejoice? You rejoice if your name, sometime in history, was written, never to be erased, from the Lamb’s book of life.
Well, back to Mark, chapter 6. I imagine that, if Jesus had been like most men, He’d have said, “Great men! Let me straighten out some theology. Now, hit the road again. That’s fantastic! All of the results. People are following. In fact, this time, I’ll send you out one by one and let’s cover twice the territory.” Look at Mark, chapter 6, verse 30, “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus,” - their adrenaline was high - “and told them all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And He said unto them, ‘Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while’”. There isn’t a company in the world that has this kind of strategy. Not a chance. If there are results, hire more people, take on some more work. But, when you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ, there is a balance between ministry and rest. You know, sometimes my friend, it is as spiritual for you to take an hour nap as it is for you to spend an hour in prayer. Sometimes, it can be as much the will of God to take a break, as it is to preach the gospel or to speak to someone on the job or to be involved in ministry. What is the key? What is He teaching? Balance, between ministry and rest, relaxation. The time when you’re invigorated, you have time to just meditate, don’t take any books along, don’t say, “Well Lord, I fell guilty if I’m just laying here, so I’ll pray.” Just close your eyes and try something new, rest. I read one man who wrote, “There is a high distance between the thin wire of fanaticism and the hard floor of realism.” Oh, I know, “I’d rather burn out for God than rust out.” Well, that’s logical, either way you’re out. So there is the balance that Jesus Christ was giving to you and to me by His disciples.
Let me close with two questions. First of all, are you a believer? Have you had the gospel come to you? Have you had it given to you that Jesus Christ died for you? Have you received it? If you are a believer, are you a disciple? One who is following after Jesus Christ? One who is presenting the kingdom message by way of life, by the way you live, by the way that you speak?