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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark

Two by Two

 

Mark 6:6 And Jesus marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

Last week, we witnessed Jesus return home to Nazareth for Mother’s Day.  But Jesus did not receive the warm, encouraging visit he wanted.  Instead, Jesus was rejected.  He was welcomed with skepticism.  His hometown could not get past Jesus as one of them.  “He can’t be that great… he’s from Nazareth.”  At least they recognized their own lousy congregation. 

Last week, the point we made from Jesus going home for Mother’s Day was, we need to do better than Nazareth.  We need to be a better congregation than they were.  I think we are.  The banners on the ceiling are evidence of that.  Tonight at 5:00 is our Senior Banquet.  We believe the kingdom of God belongs to the kids.  We have intentionally become a congregation that welcomes the children and any others who need to find a home.  We are a place where our kids are welcomed and I hope, always feel welcomed.

Back to the Gospel of Mark.  This verse, Mark 6:6 is a transitional verse. Mark divided his Gospel into three sections; 1 -5, 6-8, 9-16.  In each of these sections the flavor changes. 

In the first 5 chapters of Mark the disciples are with Jesus…

Mark 1:17-18 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."  And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 2:15 Reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.

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…

Mark 3:7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea

Mark 3:9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready

Mark 4:34 But privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Mark 5:30-31 "Who touched my garments?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd…”

Mark 6:1 Jesus went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.

In these first five chapter Jesus, first, calls his disciples. Jesus, then, appoints the 12 apostles.  Jesus demonstrates his power over creation, and evil and brokenness and even death.  His disciples are with him and watching and learning and are often scared to death at what they see Jesus do… Jesus touches lepers, Jesus calms storms, Jesus casts demon pigs into the sea, Jesus raised this little dead girl, Jesus was rejected at home.  In the first 5 chapters Jesus is tight with his disciples.

But in chapter 6, the disciples graduate, sort of.  They do continue to be with Jesus throughout the rest of the book.  But in chapter 6, beginning in verse 7, for the first time, they are sent out on their own.  They graduate.

Mark 6:7-11 And Jesus 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." 

This sounds like a graduation of sorts or at least an examination.  They have been watching and learning, and now it is time for them to go out on their own and advance the kingdom.  Jesus like a mother bird, pushes them out of the nest to see if they can fly.  

His instructions to them are a bit odd.

--Two by two makes sense.  They can work together.  There is the whole Old Testament thing of two witnesses.  They are to be witnesses to the people of who Jesus is.  It the people reject the message, then they are two witnesses to testify that they did.

--No bread, no money, no suitcases, only one tunic… fortunately, they do get two sandals.  These instructions are a bit odd.  Don’t make any preparations… Go and depend on the people to take care of you.  I’m not exactly sure what to make of this, except that it was a short mission specially for the 12.  They aren’t gone for long.  It is a time of intense training and learning to be dependent upon God for help.  That is understandable… we need to learn to depend a bit more. 

--But they are to travel from town to town and proclaim the kingdom of Jesus.  They do this by driving out unclean spirits.  There must have been lots of demons all over the place.  Everywhere they went they drove Satan out.  Visible, powerful, advancing the kingdom!  The disciples were given the authority to exercise demons!  They could bind the strong man and plunder his house.  That is what the kingdom is all about plundering the house of Satan to release from bondage those who are wrapped up in evil! 

Anyway, Jesus sends out his apostles two-by-two to graduate from being only with Him to advancing the kingdom for Him!

Listen to how they did.  The disciples in the Gospel of Mark often get it wrong, but here the disciples get it right.

Mark 6:12-13,30 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. 30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.

It worked.  The disciples graduated.  The disciples traveled to the surrounding towns preaching repentance. “Get ready for something big.  Get ready to make a complete change of who you are.  Get ready to change your vocation.  Repent the kingdom is coming.”  They apostles backed up their message by casting out demons and healing the sick! 

Their return was overshadowed by the death of John the Baptizer – more on this next week…  So, the disciples’ return was not commented on.  But it had to be with some satisfaction that the disciples came back to Jesus and told him all that had happened.  “Jesus, we did it.  We cast out demons just like you taught us.  We were bold.  We told people to repent.  The sick, no problemo.  It was great being your guys!”  

It was a powerful graduation.  Jesus sent his disciples two-by-two to advance his kingdom.  They were successful!

I want to make two observations about this story.  These two observations I hope will make one point.  Every Sunday needs a Sermon.  Every Sermon needs a Point.

The first observation is specific.  Just like Jesus, we prepare our kids to be sent out to advance the kingdom.  Last week, we observed that we need to be a congregation that loves our kids.  We need to be the kind of church where the kids own the kingdom.  The next step in that thought is that we prepare our kids to go out into the world.  We prepare them to do more than just survive. Our goal is bigger than just hoping they will stay Christian… keep going to church.  Our goal should be to prepare our kids to go out into the world to advance the kingdom! 

We could rewrite our scripture…

LACOC 6:12-13,30 So our kids 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. 30 When they return home, they tell us all that they had done and taught.

That should be our goal in teaching and training and having them watch us… We graduate our kids to be His disciples!  We train our kids to bind the strong man and plunder his house!

The second observation is broader…

It is a broad observation about God.  God uses humans to accomplish his will.  This seems to be the way God operates.

--Adam and Eve were commissioned to care for creation, God could have done that himself, but he used humans.

--Noah built a boat, God could have given him a nice boat.  But Noah built it.

--Abraham was to be the godfather of all God’s children. Why? To be the blessing.

--Moses was sent to Pharaoh to deliver his people.  God used Moses.

--The judges, the kings, the prophets were all used by God to rule and teach and lead his people.

--Then, today in Mark, Jesus sends out the apostles to do his ministry.

--Then, as Jesus returned to heaven at the Ascension, Jesus left us with the kingdom!

It seems that it would have been more efficient for Jesus to have stayed on earth.  It certainly would not have taken 2,000 years if Jesus did it himself.   But that is not the way God has chosen to operate.  God coaches us up and leaves us in the game… to win or to lose. 

This seems like a significant point… God, for who knows why, has chosen to advance his kingdom on earth by using humans.  Granted, we have been given power and authority and the Holy Spirit and all kinds of gifts.  But, God has chosen to leave it up to us to preach repentance and cast out evil! 

God is using us to advance His Kingdom on earth!  That seems significant. 

There are a couple of passages that have recently taken on new meaning to me considering this observation about God using us to do his will.

First, is 1 Corinthians 15. The context is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  And then our resurrection from the dead at the end of this age. 

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 For Jesus must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Jesus must reign until...  During this age; from the Ascension of Jesus back to the throne of God, until he comes again to end the age, Jesus is, currently, reigning.  Jesus is now conquering his enemies… through us.  Jesus is reigning in us and advancing the kingdom through us until the last enemy is destroyed upon his return… death.

Here is the point I am advocating.  Perhaps, what this means… 48% sure this what it means… Jesus is advancing the kingdom through us until it is conquered.  The reason it has taken 2,000 years is because we are slow.  God is not slow.   We have not advanced the kingdom far enough to bring all the enemies under his feet.  Jesus is now reigning through us on earth to defeat his enemies.

This is an amazing thought.  True or not… it is amazing.  What if the end of this age is waiting on us to defeat the enemies?  When we are victorious, then Jesus comes back to defeat the last enemy… death.  53% change of this being correct?

There is another passage that points to this… point.

2 Peter 3:11-14 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, (all the evil rulers) what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (the enemies will be defeated) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

Our holiness, our acting on behalf of God, our diligence, is hastening the coming of the day of God!  Our actions, our purity, our lives could be hastening the day of the LORD! 

After listening to this I think, it may be 62% chance of being right. We advance the kingdom towards that day by defeating the enemies of Jesus…

--The driving back of evil… in any way, hastens the Day.

--The healing of the sick… by prayer and medicine… hastens the Day.

--The caring for creation… hastens the Day!

--Defeating oppression… hastens the Day!

--Feeding the hungry… hastens the Day!

--Beauty and art and science and technology and all the temperaments… hastens the Day!

As we advance the kingdom, we make the earth a better place to live in, until one day we get it right enough to call the enemies defeated. Then Jesus returns.  69% change it is right?

Jesus is reigning now, working through us to advance the Kingdom!  Just like Jesus sent out his apostles two-by-two, just like we send our kids into the world, as we enter the strong man’s house and free his prisoners we advance the kingdom. 

Whether or not my 71% chance is correct, the point is… God has chosen us to advance his kingdom.  Jesus sends us, as disciples, to go…

Mark 6:12 …out and proclaimed that people should repent.

 

Tim Stidham

May 21, 2016

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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