Cost of Discipleship

SynopsisTo be a disciple means to take up one’s own cross daily and follow in his steps, including death as a martyr Mark 6:7-13.

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The paragraph recorded in Mark 6:7-13 marks the start of the third major division of the gospel of Mark. In it, Jesus commissions the twelve disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God throughout the region. At the end of this chapter, they return to report all that they had done.

The gospel of Mark places the story of John’s execution between this paragraph and its conclusion in verse 30. This is done to prepare the reader who would follow Jesus for the rejection and persecution that inevitably results from that decision. To emulate Jesus and to proclaim his message is to give offense. The reader who wishes to follow him needs first to count the cost if he or she is to have any hope of seeing the decision through to the end.

(Mark 6:7-13) – “And he summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and he was giving them authority over the unclean spirits and he charged them that they should take nothing for a journey except a staff only: no bread, no satchel, no copper coins for the belt; but, having put on sandals, ‘and you should not put on two tunics.’ And he was saying to them, ‘Wherever you may enter into a house, there be remaining until you depart from there. And whatever place may not welcome you nor hearken to you, having departed from there, shake off the dust under you feet for a witness to them.’ And having departed they proclaimed in order that [men] should repent, and they were casting out many demons and were anointing many sick with oil and were healing” (cp. Matthew 10:1-5, Luke 9:1-6).

Jesus “began to send them forth.” The verb rendered “began” indicates that Jesus sent the Twelve out on more than one occasion; this verse records the first time he did so.  The Greek verb apostellō or “send forth” is related to the noun apostolos from which the noun “apostle” is derived.

Jesus sent the disciples to preach, to cast out demons, and to pray for the sick. Note that their mission was to preach and to perform miraculous deeds. The disciples were given Christ’s authority; their mission was an extension of his. As Jesus was his Father’s representative, so his disciples were his envoys. Sending them “two-by-two” reflected the requirement of the Mosaic Law that required a testimony to be corroborated by two or more witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Jesus Instructs the Disciples
Jesus Instructs the Disciples

The “tunic” mentioned refers to an inner garment worn by a man like a shirt, not to his mantle or outer cloak. The items Jesus told the disciples to carry, a staff, belt, sandals, and tunic, as well as what they were not to carry, correspond to the instructions given to Israel on the original Passover night in Egypt:

In this manner, you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is Yahweh’s Passover” (Exodus 12:11).

The disciples were sent to announce something to Israel far more foundational and important than the original exodus from Egypt. Like the ancient Israelites, the disciples were unencumbered with anything that might impede their journey. Just as there was urgency in Israel’s flight from Egypt, so there was urgency in the mission of the Twelve to the villages of Galilee. Worldly cares and possessions would hinder the urgency of their mission.

Having no supplies for a long journey made them more reliant on God for provisions and protection. It was common for a Jew traveling through Gentile lands to shake the dust off his feet when he arrived home so that no “unclean” pagan soil would pollute the land of Israel.

The command of Jesus to do this before leaving the Jewish villages that rejected the disciples was tantamount to declaring them Gentile territory and, therefore, ritually unclean. The implications of his words to a first-century Jew were deeply offensive.

With the coming of God’s messiah, there can be no presumption of salvation based on geography, nationality, or ethnicity.

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