Jesus Sends out the Twelve
“[Jesus] 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’ ” (vv. 10–11).- Mark 6:7-13
Though rejected by most of the people in the town of Nazareth (Mark 6:1–6), Jesus did not end His mission in Galilee. Instead, there is a real sense in which He extended it. As we see in today’s passage, after His time in Nazareth, Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, to heal, and to have authority over unclean spirits (vv. 7, 12–13). When the Twelve and Jesus ministered side by side, they could preach the gospel in only one locale at a time. By sending the disciples out to minister, Christ made it possible to reach many different places at the same time.
Note that Jesus “gave them authority” (v. 7). This was not a mission for any ordinary follower of our Lord; rather, Jesus sent them with the right to speak in His name. In that day, Jewish leaders and teachers could send out representatives who had the authority of the sender; when the representatives spoke, the commissioning agents spoke. That was the kind of authority our Lord gave them for their mission. The verb used in Mark 6:7, apostellõ, confirms this, as that was the Greek term used for sending out representatives who had the authority of their commissioner. Thus, the preaching mission described in today’s passage foreshadows the official commissioning of certain men to teach with divine authority and give new revelation during the foundational period of the Christian church. We are referring, of course, to the Apostles (John 14:26; 17:17–19; 21:19–23).
In sending out the Twelve, Jesus commanded them to travel light and to rely on the generosity of the people in the towns that they would visit. Given that Mark 6:30 indicates that this was a defined mission with only a temporary length, we are not to apply all of what Jesus says to every church mission. Therefore, for example, it is not necessarily a lack of faith to raise money for a mission before embarking on it instead of relying on help once we get to where we are going.
For the most part, travelers in the ancient Near East could count on strangers to show hospitality and put them up for one night or longer. Jesus, however, anticipated that some would not receive His disciples (vv. 10–11). If they were rejected, the disciples were to shake the dust off their feet, an action that symbolized that the locale was unclean and subject to divine judgment. By rejecting the gospel, such towns, if they remained impenitent, sealed their doom.
The action of Jesus’ disciples’ shaking the dust off of their feet did not symbolize that everyone who rejected them was at that moment irrevocably doomed. Since the people would have understood the action as marking them off as unclean, it would give them something to think about. We must consistently warn people of the wrath of God even when they reject us. Later, they may think on that warning, and God may use it to bring them to faith.
Passages for Further Study
2 Kings 4:8–17
3 John 5–8