Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples
Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7 And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick - no food, no traveler's bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.
10 "Wherever you go," he said, "stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate."
12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.
Jesus multiplies his ministry by sending out his twelve closest followers as his personal representatives. Their efforts mirror those of Jesus, as they preach repentance, cast out demons, and heal the sick.
Began sending them out (Mark 6:7)
While Jesus' sending out the twelve apostles was in many ways a unique event416intended to prepare them for their future task of taking the Gospel to all the world,417 there are a number of important principles that apply to every believer in every age:
Strategic support. Traveling in pairs would provide a greater degree of protection, as well as allow them to cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time. "The six pairs of apostles could thus cover Galilee in six different directions."418
Accountability. Jewish law required that a claim be verified by at least two witnesses. Serving as each other's witnesses, the apostles would be accountable to one another and, more importantly, accountable to God's law.419
God-reliance vs. self-reliance. "The orders which Jesus issues are to teach the apostles absolute dependence upon their Lord who sends them out."420 Rather than purchase extra supplies for the trip, they were to rely solely upon God's providence.421 This would include accepting the hospitality of other people, but not begging. (Along these lines, the "traveler's bag" may refer specifically to "a 'beggar's bag' used to collect food or money."422) And the disciples were to remain in one house - in contrast to "the practice of religious philosophers in the ancient world who went from house to house begging."423 Thus Jesus' directions were "against luxury in equipment, and also against their providing themselves with what they could procure from the hospitality of others."424 Jesus' "directions are not intended to inflict hardship on the disciples but to relieve them of all worry regarding their bodily needs."425 Reliance upon God is also seen in the use of olive oil. Although it had many everyday uses, it is likely that within the context of the apostles' ministry it was intended to serve as "a symbol of the presence, grace, and power of the Holy Spirit," thus implying that God, not the apostles, was the source of healing.426 (To our knowledge, Jesus did not use olive oil when he healed, and neither did the apostles following the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.427)
Right priorities. Evangelism is literally a life or death matter for those who hear the Gospel. And so evangelists "must not be fussy about food or accommodation,"428 to include avoiding skipping from house to house in search of ever better accommodations.429 (The staff ["walking stick" NLT] the apostles carried may have served as both a walking stick ["Every traveller and pilgrim carried his staff."430] and "an emblem of authority."431 )
Decisions have consequences. Those who hear the Gospel are responsible for their reaction to it. The disciples' chief concern was to present the Gospel "faithfully and carefully."432 To reject the Gospel is to place oneself in dire danger, as evidenced by the apostles shaking the (unclean) dust from their feet - a symbolic action declaring that the Jewish hearers "were acting like pagans in rejecting the disciples' message"433 (see Acts 13:50-51).434 One source notes how the dust from the disciples' feet was intended as a witness against those who had rejected them - it proved that the disciples had actually been there, but had been forced to leave when their Gospel message was rejected.435
A change in direction. The apostles "went out and preached that men should repent" (v. 12, NASB). The NLT correctly captures the meaning: "So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God." To repent is "to change one's way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness."436 It involves simultaneously turning away from what is wrong and turning toward what is right. While our Christian walk and witness begins with a definite act of repenting, repentance is nothing less than a daily process as we seek to become ever more Christ-like in our every thought, word, and deed.
Common Goose Sense
Working together to spread the Gospel does not require a college degree or years of on-the-job training. In fact, it really takes only a little common "goose sense."
Geese, you see, have an incredible way of pulling together to get the job done. In that respect, they can teach the Church a thing or three.
Working Together: When geese fly in a "V" formation, every bird creates an uplift for the one right behind it. In this way they cover much more territory than any one bird could cover flying alone.
Staying Together: If a bird happens to fall out of formation, he immediately feels the drag and resistance that goes with flying alone, and so quickly rejoins the formation.
Leadership Rotation: When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in order to rest and to give a fresher, stronger bird a chance to lead.
Encouragement: Geese honk as a way of encouraging those up front to keep going.
Caring for the Wounded: If a goose becomes sick or is wounded and falls out of formation, two other birds will follow him to the ground and will stay with him until he is either well and able to fly or dead.437
??? When and why do we tend to separate ourselves from others? What can Jesus' commissioning of the twelve teach us about how we can and should work together in spreading the Gospel?