November 4/5, 2017
Jason Meyer | Mark 6:7-13
And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 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.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.—Mark 6:7–13
One of the great themes of this Gospel is Jesus’ authority. One of the prominent points in the first few chapters is the conflict between heavenly authority and all other authorities. The authorities and rulers of the demonic realm are no match for heaven’s champion as he comes and routes the demons—even a legion of them in chapter five. We see a different picture when it comes to human authority. Human authorities are blind to the identity of Jesus. His family rejects him as crazy, the scribes reject him as demon-possessed, and his hometown takes great offense to him.
Right after the rejection in his hometown of Nazareth, he sends out the disciples. This section has a foreboding quality about it, and there is a foreshadowing of what to expect. Indeed, we are going to see in two weeks that this is the beginning of another one of Mark’s sandwiches. He sends out the twelve here (6:7–13), and they return to him in Mark 6:30. The “bread” is the disciples are sent and the disciples return. What happens in the middle? The beheading of John the Baptist (6:14–29). Talk about a foreboding foreshadowing of the rejection that Jesus and his messengers will receive!
Here we see Jesus give authority to his disciples (Mark 3:13-19) a second time. The disciples are given authority to preach, cast out demons, and heal—like a trial run for the mission of the disciples that will take place after his death and resurrection. These verses about the disciple’s commission come in three stages: (1) the call, (2) the charge, and (3) the conclusion.
And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
1) He called the twelve and began to send.
Mark 6:7 has to be read in the light of Mark 3:13–15.
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
The terms “called” and “send” are the same terms used in Mark 3:13–14 when Jesus called the disciples and sent them. Mark 3:15 has the identical emphasis on Jesus giving the disciples authority to cast out demons or unclean spirits. That insight leads to a new detail about this sending that was not in Mark 3. They were sent out two by two.
2) ‘Two by Two’
Jesus instructs them to travel two by two. Why? Certainly we can see the wisdom of this strategy for the sake of support and protection and camaraderie. We actually try to arrange this when we send out church planters (Cities Church has Jonathan Parnell, David Mathis, Joe Rigney; Word of Grace has Paul Pryzblowski and Tyler Mykannen; Northfield has Jonathon Woodyard and Kevin Dau; Boise, Idaho, has Ryan Eagy and Don Straka; Rochester, Adam Pohlman and a co-pastor; Albert Lea, Dave Zuleger and Nick Roen).
But there is also something deeper happening. Remember that this whole narrative is about getting the word out that the Kingdom has come and it is time to repent. There is judgment coming and a case is being established here. Two by two would satisfy the biblical requirement of two or three witnesses in legal actions (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19).
3) He gave them authority over unclean spirits.
This is one of Mark’s clearest signs for the coming of the kingdom. The overtones of Isaiah 49:24 are felt here: The Messiah has come to rescue the prey from the mighty and to plunder the strong man’s house (Mark 3:27). Matthew has the same theme and directly connects them together in an explicit way in Matthew 12:28–29:
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Point two shows us that Jesus did not just give authority to the disciples, but a charge to the disciples that filled with detailed instructions. The details may surprise you.
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 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.”
These verses really are amazing and unexpected. I would want a little more detail on how to cast out evil spirits. Instead, Jesus gives them a detailed explanation of their packing list. Why did Jesus give such detailed instructions?
1) What they must take (vv. 8–9) …
Let us start with the instructions for what they should take in verses 8 and 9.
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics (one tunic).
The four items Jesus requires the disciples to bring are identical to the items God commanded the Israelites to bring in their flight from Egypt in the Exodus. This is Exodus apparel: cloak, belt, sandals, and staff in hand:
In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover—Exodus 12:11
The urgency and haste of this mission has the overtones of judgment. God is about to act. He is going to reveal something every bit as important as the Exodus. But this time the judgment will not fall on the Egyptians, but upon the Israelites if they do not repent.
2) What they must not take (vv. 8–9) …
Another note of amazement here is what not to take.
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.
They don’t take bread, bags filled with provision, money to purchase provisions, and no extra tunic (verses 8–9). They must not take extra provisions that would make them independent of the people to whom they minister. This is not something that is prescriptive for all ministry trips. Indeed, as we saw last week from 3 John, people go out and need support from the church because they accept nothing from the Gentiles. They depend upon God burdening the hearts of Christians within the church to be generous.
The point here is that these twelve disciples go out and are totally dependent upon the One who sent them. They go out (as physically impoverished) and proclaim the spiritual poverty of those to whom they preach. They are an acted out parable and it will become evident very fast if people are receiving or rejecting their message by whether or not based on how they are received or rejected.
3) Wiping off their feet (vv. 10–11) …
And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 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.”
This is a prophetic gesture that communicates a massive and tragic irony. “Jews shook the dust from their feet when they returned to Israel from Gentile territory” (see m. Ohol. 2:3; m. Tohar. 4:5; Garland, Mark, p. 242). The tables are turned here with this gesture. When they act out this gesture within the land of Israel they are saying that this place is not part of God’s people—it is a pagan place and will be cut off from God unless they repent. This fits with the irony of the Exodus apparel—this time it is not the Egyptians under judgment, but the Israelites.
That same story continued in the book of Acts with Paul and Barnabas. The Gentiles rejoiced and those ordained to eternal life believed, but the Jews persecuted Paul and Barnabas:
But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.— Acts 13:50–51
They are being offered eternal life and they are rejecting it and therefore they are being rejected. What will the conclusion of this story be?
So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
1) Kingdom Proclamation—authority to proclaim and receive repentance.
The disciples are now doing what Jesus did. What did he preach? Remember Mark 1:14–15?
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
In that sermon, we asked why Jesus connected the gospel of God with the kingdom of God? Do you remember the answer? You can probably guess the right answer when you get stumped: “I bet Isaiah said something about that.”
You are right. One Old Testament text explicitly ties together the proclamation of the gospel (good news) with the Kingdom (the reign of God): Isaiah 52:7 ...
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes [preaches] peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes [preaches] salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Therefore, the good news of God’s reign or the gospel of the kingdom is the good news that the living God has come and invaded history (remember the tearing of the heavens) in order to save humanity. The Kingdom has drawn near because the King is here. Now he has sent his emissaries—his disciples—to expand the proclamation. The core of the message: Repent.
This continues the theme of judgment and the role of the emissaries of the King. Emissaries of the king would go into “enemy territory ahead of an advancing army to warn the enemy of certain destruction unless they accepted the proffered terms for peace.” [See Gordon Hugenberger, “Preach” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 3:942]. Therefore, the king would invest the herald with the power to “either accept surrender on behalf of his king or to declare war if those terms were rejected.”
What are the terms of peace? Repentance. What is that? Repentance is a response of total realignment. It confesses that your whole life has been out of alignment with God. Your whole life is marked by rebellion—trying to be your own king (call your own shots, go your own way); do your own thing, in your time, for your pleasure and honor. Repentance goes deep—it cuts to the heart—and says, “I have been wrong at the core” as a rebel against God. Luther said that the Christian life is not a singular act of repentance, but a life of repentance. What does ongoing repentance look like in your life?
But people did not merely hear the teaching of the kingdom of God. They also witnessed the signs of the kingdom of God: casting out demons and healing the sick. The coming of the Kingdom means deliverance from the demonic and deliverance from disease and sickness.
So we come to the main point of the passage in the conclusion of these verses.
Main Point: The preaching of the Kingdom and the signs of the Kingdom belong together as a unified witness.
The disciples were armed with Jesus’ authority and then they obeyed Jesus’ commission. Obviously, this is the same dynamic at work in the Great Commission. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18–19).
Let’s be careful then in how we apply this passage. There is a crucial question before us. Is this story merely descriptive (describing what happened)? Or is it descriptive and prescriptive (prescribing what should still happen today)?
I want to be very careful how I explain this point. I believe that these two realities: The preaching of the Kingdom and the signs of the Kingdom still belong together. But we must be clear on how they fit together. These two realities are not equal. The priority must go to the preaching of the Kingdom. But even though they are not equal in priority and distinguishable in meaning, they are inseparable in God’s plan. They are not lumped together like a pile of sand. There is a priority of one over the other, but there is also a package—not one without the other. Therefore, this passage helps us avoid two ditches today.
The Preaching of the Kingdom and the Signs of the Kingdom Belong Together
Ditch #1 – The signs of the Kingdom without the preaching of the Kingdom.
This is a ditch because Scripture is very clear that the signs of the Kingdom are not enough (there must be preaching).
Judas was one of the twelve. He preached that people should repent. He cast out demons. He healed the sick. That is scary. Signs and wonders prove nothing about someone’s character and spiritual health.
2. Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21–23
Jesus gave this same stern warning in Matthew 7:21–23 …
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Paul warns in 2 Thessalonians about the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders and wicked deception (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10). Signs and wonders are not enough.
Ditch #2 – Preaching of the Kingdom without the signs of the Kingdom.
Signs and wonders do not detract from the cross, but take us deeper into the cross.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke record numerous occasions when demons are cast out. The Gospel of John only has one time when Satan is cast out:
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.— John 12:31–33
Jesus’ death on the cross is the moment that the demons are disarmed and defeated. Jesus saved us and made us alive and forgave all our trespasses:
By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.—Colossians 2:14–15.
We don’t need to fear them. Fear the One who can throw both body and soul into hell with them. Without the forgiveness of sins in the cross of Christ, our sin puts us in the same place as them as rebels against God—faced the prospect of everlasting misery and endless torment—the same torment as the demons experience. Their defeat and our victory take place at the same place: the cross.
How does healing take us deeper into the reality of the cross? Listen to the way that Matthew uses Isaiah 53 to connect physical healing to the spiritual healing in the wounds of Jesus:
That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”— Matthew 8:16–17
The healing of the wounds extends to both our spiritual ills and physical ills. At first glance, this confuses us. Does that mean that all Christians will be healed because of the blood of Christ? The answer is “yes.” He purchased our complete healing. In heaven, there will be no souls with any sickness! And you will receive a resurrection body—do you think it is going to get sick? Why will you get that kind of body? Do you think the cross purchased a healed soul, and you have to earn a resurrection body? The blood buys them both!
This emboldens us to pray for healing now. We know it will happen, but we don’t know the timing. Perhaps God would be pleased to bring some of that healing power into the hear and now as a prophetic preview of the greater healing to come.
A church that proclaims the precious blood of Christ in the gospel should have a category for casting out demons and healing. The same thing is true of the sovereignty of God and the kingdom of God. These categories and concepts should not be divorced—the Sovereign is the King—sovereignty and kingdom belong together.
We are little bit like the Cracker Barrel. One comedian asked if the Cracker Barrel had omelets. The answer was “no.” He said, “Well, do you have eggs, cheese, peppers, and sausage.” Yea. “Well do you think you could just combine them?”
We have all the ingredients. Are we willing to put them together as a church?
Comfort and Warning—the Exodus (Passover) and the Cross (Lord’s Supper)
At this point in the Gospel of Mark, the people heard a message of repentance (see the problem clearly), but they did not yet see the purchase for sin clearly because the cross is still on the horizon. We can see the full problem and the full solution today. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The cross and resurrection are the only solution for the problem of sin and the wages of sin (death). Jesus paid sin’s price and then cancelled the power of sin’s wages by defeating the grave.
So as we move into the Lord’s Supper today, we are turning from the picture of the Passover Meal to a greater meal in the Lord’s Supper. Listen again to the Passover meal and the preparation for it ...
In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.—Exodus 12:11–13
This time the blood of a physical lamb does not go over the doorpost and cover a family temporarily. The infinite blood of the Lamb of God covers the whole person forever! We are washed in the blood and drenched in mercy with no end—the blood never loses its power to save.
I don’t want to give you false assurance here. If you believe that obedience to Jesus is optional, then you don’t know Jesus. You don’t know him as Lord; you don’t know him as Treasure; you don’t know him as the Supreme Satisfier. Followers of Christ don’t make peace with sin, and they don’t use the blood to make excuses for sin. Then you mean you have no fear of God, which is impossible because in the new covenant, purchased by the blood of Jesus, God puts the fear of himself within us so that we don’t turn away from him (Jeremiah 32:40).
Those who have entered the kingdom of God hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is why we are so devastated when we sin and go after the false promises of pleasure found in sin. The taste becomes so bitter compared to the sweetness of our Savior. For those who are fighting sin with the fear of God within, there is real assurance. We don’t go through the motions in this meal. We actively remember the ground of our hope. Let us think through the basis of this assurance by using the Exodus story as an analogy. D.A. Carson shared this analogy in “How Long O Lord?” at Bethlehem’s Conference for Pastors in January 2016.
Picture two Jews, by the name of Smith and Brown. Remarkably Jewish names. The day before the first Passover they’re having a little discussion in the land of Goshen, and Smith says to Brown, “Boy, are you a little nervous about what’s going to happen tonight?”
Brown says, “Well, God told us what to do through his servant Moses. You don't have to be nervous. Haven’t you slaughtered the lamb and dobbed the two door posts with blood—put blood on the lintel? Haven’t you done that? You’re all ready and packed to go? You’re going to eat your whole Passover meal with your family?”
“Of course I’ve done that. I'm not stupid. But, it’s still pretty scary when you think of all the things that have happened around here recently. You know, flies and river turning to blood. It’s pretty awful. And now there’s a threat of the first-born being killed, you know. It’s all right for you. You’ve got three sons. I’ve only got one. And I love my Charlie, and the Angel of Death is passing through tonight. I know what God says; I put the blood there. But it’s pretty scary, I’ll be glad when this night is over.”
And the other one responds, “Bring it on. I trust the promises of God.”
That night, the angel of death swept through the land. Which one lost his son?
And the answer of course is … Neither.
Because death doesn’t pass over them on the ground of the intensity, or the clarity, of the faith exercised. But on the ground of the blood of the lamb. That’s what silences the accuser.
The blood silences the accuser of the brothers as he accuses us before God. He silences our consciences when he accuses us directly. How many times do we writhe in agony asking if God can ever love us enough, if God can ever care for us enough after we have done such stupid, sinful, rebellious things after being Christians for 40 years?
What are you going to say, “Oh, God, I tried hard, you know. I did my best. It was a bad moment”? No, no, no.
I have no other argument! I need no other plea! It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me!
This assurance is in a person. As we take communion, let us pray that we can grow in our distaste for the sin that crucified our Lord and eat and drink as those who hunger and thirst for more of Christ and more of his likeness.
Main Point: The preaching of the Kingdom and the signs of the Kingdom belong together.
Pray for a grace to bring together the preaching of the Kingdom and the signs of the Kingdom personally and corporately at Bethlehem.