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Jesus came on mission, lived on mission, died on mission, and left his disciples — including all of us who follow him today — on mission. Conversion is about commission, not just salvation, because we’re not saved to be saved, but saved to be sent. Redemption is a life-saving rescue, but it also involves a profound rewiring and repurposing. We are saved to go out into the world for the glory of our Jesus — to make him known as our Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure.
How is that mission accomplished? What plan did Jesus bring to make himself known in the world? Well, it began with a small group of confused, unqualified, and unknown men that walked with Jesus — and even one of them betrayed him to death.
Jesus “called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). Jesus could have chosen the experienced, well-educated teachers of the day. He could have commissioned the crowds that gathered in city after city — thousands and thousands of people. Instead, he picked twelve seemingly random guys, stayed with them his whole ministry, and sent them out to speak on his behalf.
Sent by Jesus for Jesus
These twelve “went out and proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). They were men with a message, summarized here in one word: repentance. “Repent” appears just one other time in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus announces, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Repentance — turning away from sin, from other gods, from lesser treasures — is the fitting response of a sinful people to the good news of a holy, sovereign, and gracious God.
It was a condition for salvation (Luke 13:3, 5), but it was so much more than a condition. Repentance is living, breathing, and believing faith. Why would we continue walking in sin when we’ve seen the path of life, when we’ve heard the gospel — the medication all our sin-sick souls so desperately need? This was the message in the disciples’ mouths. There is a Name that loves the unworthy, redeems the hopeless, heals the sick, and conquers every evil. His name is Jesus.
Sent with Nothing, and Yet Everything
Before the disciples went out with the news, Jesus “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” (Mark 6:8). Why make them live and serve like homeless guys? They certainly didn’t have to. They had the bread, the bags, and the jackets. Jesus has just given them authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7) and the ability to heal the sick (Mark 6:13). Why would he intentionally make their journey so hard, hungry, and precarious?
To make and keep them humble and dependent on God. Those entrusted with the greatest news in the world and empowered to be lights where they live will always be tempted to be proud and self-reliant. It’s a profound, but pervasive irony that fruitfulness so often causes us to forget the sovereign love of God upholding and empowering all our ministry. One way to avoid the trap is to intentionally forego safety and comfort, even safety and comfort we can afford to provide for ourselves.
Sometimes we need to make ourselves trust God for what we need tomorrow, instead of structuring our lives to only need him every once in a while, when an unexpected crisis comes. Leave what you need at home, and know that you’ll have what you need. Your Father loves you more than you know and has more at his disposable than you could possibly fit in that bag — or house, or 401K (Matthew 6:33–34).
Sent to Stay and Invest, Not to Bail
Jesus went on to say to these messengers, “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” (Mark 6:10–11). These disciples — as well as his disciples today — will meet two kinds of people when we go into the world for Jesus. Some will receive us and listen to what we have to say. Others will reject us — cut us off and close the door.
If they will listen, Jesus says, do not leave too quickly. Stop, stay, and invest where the word of God is welcomed. Don’t feel the need to move on to another house and another house. If they’ll have you and this gospel, be willing to stay awhile. This was likely a shorter trip for the twelve, but the principle applies today in fast-moving, over-scheduled society. Make room in your day, your month, your priorities to sit with men and women who will hear God’s word. Don’t be in such a hurry that you can’t patiently invest where God is moving in the ears and hearts of those around you. When he opens a door for the word (Colossians 4:3), walk through it.
Sent to Speak, Not to Save
Some will not listen. We should expect this in a world enslaved to sin and blind to the beauty of God. Don’t be shocked when you hear, “Thanks, but no thanks,” or worse. It doesn’t mean you necessarily picked a bad time or said it wrong. The gospel is the most offensive news you can bring — even though it’s also the sweetest, most true, most hope-filled news anyone could hear. You are wicked to your very core, broken in every way, and destined for unending wrath at the hands of an all-powerful God. And your only hope is in one message and one Man, no other. No wonder the world so often scoffs and screams at Christianity.
Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to stay until their audience surrendered. No, he said some will listen and others will not. I am not sending you to save, but to speak. I — and I alone — am the one who saves. Our commission is not to create listeners, but to discover them, and then make disciples of them. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . they will listen to my voice” (John 10:14–16).
Sent to Simply Change the World
How long were the disciples gone? We don’t know, but it seems like it wasn’t long. And there were only twelve of them, just six sets of two. That’s probably smaller than your small group. So how much could they really get done? The next verse says, “King Herod heard of it (the ministry of the twelve), for Jesus’ name had become known” (Mark 6:14). They went out, six pairs of poor, ordinary, untrained, unlikely spokesmen, and what God was doing through them rose to the attention of the highest official in their land. Through their small and simple ministry, Jesus’s name became known in that city.
God will reveal his fame even through his bread-less, bag-less, penniless, but faithful followers. God will exalt the name of his Son through us — going before us in the hearts of our listeners, then sending us to speak the good news to them, all the while promising to go with us and provide us with everything we need along the way, and finally fulfilling and completing all that he calls us to do. Jesus’s name will be known, and believed, and treasured. May it happen through me.