Go and Say, Go and Be, Go and Do
I remember the first time I sat down in a counseling office alone with a client. I was terrified. I felt totally unprepared. I’d taken all of the counseling classes, and done quite well in them. This included classes that gave us the chance to role play with one another as therapist and client. I’d done well in my practicum too, where I worked with real clients in the real world, but with a video camera in the room allowing a very experienced counseling supervisor to watch and listen to everything that happened. If I really messed up, there was a phone in the room he could call in and rescue the client and me. Fortunately for my clients he didn’t ever have to do that. And if I felt stuck, I could excuse myself, run down the hall, and chat with him, and with any fellow classmates who weren’t currently with clients themselves. I was alone with my client, but I wasn’t on my own.
But on that September Monday afternoon, as a counseling intern working in the counseling office at NMC, in the basement of what was then called West Hall, I was really, truly on my own. It was time to sink or swim. And I felt, I mean I really felt, like I had nothing to offer to the sad and lonely college student sitting across from me. I felt like an imposter. I wasn’t. I was well trained, and had received really good feedback from my professors and supervisors over the previous 2 years. But I felt like an imposter. I felt like I wasn’t ready.
We call that feeling “Imposter Syndrome,” and it happens to many of us. Not just therapists, but to teachers the first time they stand in front of a class solo, to doctors the first time they enter a treatment room solo, to lawyers the first time they argue their case before a judge without their mentor, to musicians the first time they stand up in front of a crowd to play a song or piece of music that they wrote. It’s that moment where you take of the life jacket, jump into the deep end, and hope you can swim.
In Mark 6, Jesus sends his disciples out into the Galilean countryside under a very similar set of circumstances. But their goal wasn’t to get from Point A to Point B on a map. Their goal was to saturate the Galilean villages with the message, and the power, of Jesus. They had spent time with Jesus, traveling with him, listening to him speak to the crowds for countless hours. They’d also received private instruction from him – just them and Jesus. They’d witnessed his miracles – the healings, the way he delivered people from demonic oppression and possession. Three of them had even seen him raise a little girl from the dead. They were right there when it happened. And now, it is their turn. Jesus sends them out to do what he has been doing. That’s what Jesus does with all of his disciples. Not just the first 12 that we call the apostles – the ones who knew him face to face. Who literally walked with him on this earth. It’s what he does to all of us who follow him. He calls us not just to gather here with one another, but to go out, together, to share his love AND his power. Turn with me to Mark 6:7-13.
Fortunately for Jesus’ disciples, this foray into Kingdom living and Kingdom ministry, this internship, wasn’t about finding out whether they could do it or not. It was about them learning in real time that Jesus really was with them, even when he wasn’t with them physically. That Jesus’ power was flowing through them, transforming the lives of the people around them wherever they found open, receptive hearts. It was about learning that resistance and failure is a normal part of stepping out in faith with Jesus, because God doesn’t override the hardness of heart and mind that he encounters in us. It was about realizing that they really weren’t alone out there, on their own, doing all of this because they were worthy, or better than everyone else. No, Jesus was with them, working through them, often, very often, in spite of themselves. This was still Jesus’ ministry. It was just happening through them now. Disciples were becoming the hands and feet of Jesus.
But he was still the source of their power. Look at V. 7. “He gave them.” They weren’t going out there to figure out something about themselves, to unlock some hidden potential they’d never realized they had. They were going out there to learn that wherever they went, Jesus was there, even when he wasn’t. And that would be an important lesson for them to learn before he returned to the Father at the end of his time on earth, after his resurrection. When Luke tells this story in his Gospel, he says that Jesus sent them out with “power and authority.” The two words are “Dunamis” or power, and “Exousia” or authority. Dunamis is the word we get our words “dynamite” and “dynamic” from. It describes the explosive, inherent power present in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit. The power that HE GAVE to the disciples.
But Mark, when he tells this story, omits the word “Dunamis.” He includes only the word authority, “Exousia.” But “Exousia” doesn’t describe inherent authority, such as the authority exercised by a king or dictator, or the authority of the powerful over the weak. It describes BESTOWED authority. It’s the authority given to one person or group of people by another.
Think about police officers. They aren’t born with the authority to pull you over for speeding, or arrest you for breaking the law. There aren’t little baby police officers out there arresting people and writing tickets for their classmates. That isn’t how it works. In a republic like ours, police officers have authority that is given to them by the will of the people. We elect officials who enact laws by which we are all governed, and those officials, elected by us, train and hire police officers to make sure that we are living by those laws. If a police officer jumps out in front of a speeding car and tries to stop it by sheer force, like superman, that police officer is likely going to wind up dead, flat as a pancake.
But when they wear their uniform and badge, and turn on the lights of their official car, we willingly pull over. Why? Because we know that they represent the authority of the laws of our land, and that they have been given the authority to pull us over by our elected officials, and through them, by us. And they can pursue us and we’ll get in even more trouble if we don’t pull over, right.
That’s Exousia. That’s the kind of authority the disciples have here. That’s the authority we have as followers of Jesus. It isn’t OUR authority. We aren’t born with it. But we are given it as disciples of Jesus, called to share his love, to pray for the sick, to take authority over the powers of darkness in this world. But WE aren’t healers. Jesus is. WE don’t perform miracles. Jesus does. WE aren’t the ones with inherent power and authority. Jesus is. It is still HIS ministry, and he is free to use us as he sees fit. So we pray for the sick. He heals in his way, in his time. The results are in his hands. The authority comes from him.
And he sends them out in total dependence upon God. Look at Vv. 8-10. Today, when we travel, all we really NEED is the clothes on our backs and a piece of plastic connected to our bank accounts in our pockets and a way to get around. There are rest stops and gas stations and restaurants and safe hotels everywhere for us to take advantage of. We really do have it remarkably easy when it comes to travel, even if we aren’t taking the easy way.
Back in August we hosted two brothers who were on a long bike trip one night. They were riding from their home town in Great Falls, Montana, through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and then down through Ohio. I don’t remember where the were planning to wind up. But they were riding 40-70 miles a day, staying overnight each night in a church somewhere, so they didn’t need tents. They just had their biking clothes, sleeping bags, and of course credit or debit cards to buy meals with. They’d walk to restaurants wherever they were staying. But even traveling that way, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles on bikes, they still had restaurants and rest stops and churches to sleep in.
In Jesus’ day, travel was dangerous. Certain sections of roads and paths were known for being places where robbers would lay in wait for travelers, and those places were typically in places where going around to avoid the area wasn’t really possible. And they were usually traveling on foot. And they would typically take some bread for meals, and a beggar’s bag, and some money in a belt, and a second tunic. Jewish hospitality laws required Jews to host travelers in their homes and to feed them while they were there, so that wasn’t usually a problem.
But when Jesus sent his disciples out, he didn’t let them take any of that. Just a staff, and a single tunic, and their sandals. No money, no bread, no bag, no extra tunic. They were going out in extreme poverty, fully reliant on God not only to work through them but to provide for them. He even instructed them to stay in whatever house first welcomed them as long as they stayed in a single place. In other words, “If someone with a bigger, better home and better food offers to take you in after you’ve been there for a while, don’t do it.” Don’t give in to the allure of comfort. Fully depend on God.
They aren’t traveling first class. They aren’t going out as a conquering army, living off the land as they march through. They are going out in extreme poverty, humble and totally dependent on God. Not only are they dependent on God to work through them to bring about effective ministry as they proclaim the good news of Jesus and heal the sick and cast out demons, they’re fully dependent on God for provision and protection along the way. They have nothing but a layer of clothes and a staff. They don’t come to the end of themselves WHILE they’re doing ministry. Jesus sends them out ALREADY at the end of themselves. They legit have nothing but God. And, as it turns out, he is, truly, all they need.
And if that isn’t hard enough, they’re going to encounter resistance. Look at V. 11. Resistance has been a building theme in Jesus’ ministry in Mark. Not just Satanic resistance. That existed before he even began his public ministry, right? I’m talking about human resistance here – pride and arrogance and comfort and power-seeking resistance. Jesus’ ministry began with a bang, and people everywhere heard about it and came to see him. Mark often depicts Jesus as being overwhelmed by the crowds, unable even to stop and eat and refresh himself. But resistance slowly builds. First from the religious establishment in Capernaum and Jerusalem, who felt threatened by Jesus. The Gerasenes across the Sea of Galilee asked him leave after he cast demons too numerous to count out of a man. His hometown for the most part rejected him. Even his own family resisted him and tried to get him to stop.
And when they are resisted, they are not to coerce, or argue. They shake the dust off their feet and move on. Shaking the dust off their feet was something Jews did when they went into Gentile territory. It was a prophetic witness against those who resisted God. In telling his disciples to shake the dust off their feet, he was telling them that even within Israel, they were moving into territory that was resistant to the work of God. Sometimes, the mission field is a lot closer than we think. Sometimes, it’s inside the church itself. And visibly shaking the dust off their feet was a visible sign to those within the people of God who were resisting God that they were in danger of rejecting God.
If the one who owns the power and authority is resisted, who are we to think we won’t encounter resistance too? Jesus even preps them for it. Now, we have to remember, Jesus didn’t have much time. His entire public ministry lasted two years. Two years from his baptism to his crucifixion. So he wanted the disciples moving fast. We don’t need to move as fast. God calls us, like many in the early church, to labor in hard places, among hard people to reach, without getting discouraged and giving up.
In many ways, the church in America has developed a kind of corporate identity. We view success in much the same way large and small businesses and corporations view success. James Bryan Smith calls them the ABC’s of measuring church success. The ABC’s are Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. How many people come? How big and how great is your building? How big is your budget and how great is your giving? Those are the questions people ask when they’re asking about the success of a church. I appreciate James Bryan Smith calling those metrics into question, rejecting them as good measures of church success. Resistance happens. Times get tough. We get uncomfortable and are challenged and get tired. And we keep on keeping on. Why? Because the power that flows through us and the authority we exercise aren’t ours. They belong to Jesus.
Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone. Not only is Jesus with us, even when he isn’t with us, he gives us one another too. Look back up at V. 7. How did he send them out? “Two by two.” They weren’t expected to do this alone. Yes, he was with them, and he would be with them, but he knew the importance of having someone else right there with them too. There were no lone rangers.
We have this icon of the lone ranger built into our American cultural consciousness. Funny thing though … even the lone ranger wasn’t alone. He had a friend, a partner, a confidant, a helper. From the beginning, we were built to be in relationship with God and with one another and to WORK TOGETHER. God is, in God’s self, a perfect union of three in one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. We call that the mystery of the Trinity. In Genesis 1:27, we are told that when God created humanity, he created us “in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Those lines are written as Hebrew poetry, and they are PARELLEL LINES. They state the same thing in three different ways. A key characteristic of our being created in the image of God is that we are created in and for community. Relationship.
And then in Genesis 2:18, where the creation of humanity is described in greater detail, God says to God’s self – God talking to God – Father, Son, and Spirit in communication with one another within God’s self – “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” Helper doesn’t mean underling, by the way. It means equal. Everything God has said about God’s creation to this point has been described, by God, as good. But now, after creating the first human, God describes him as not good. Not bad in and of himself, but bad in that he is alone. So God makes another, like, equal to, and yet different. Just like God – Father, Son, and Spirit, so like and unified that God is one, and yet three different, distinct persons. Like and yet different. We are not meant to go it alone, and we are not expected to be the hands and feet of Jesus alone.
In Jewish culture, it was also significant that in matters of conflict, testimony was established by two or three witnesses. It was written into the Old Testament Jewish law, and carried over into the early church. Truth is always established by the witness of more than one. Never just one. So Jesus sent them out two by two. Each one going alone would have covered more ground more quickly. But going two by two, they established an effective, reliable witness to the truth of what God was now doing in Jesus, and they had one another to lean on.
We too, as followers of Jesus, are sent into the world as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are witnesses to what God has done, and is doing, in Jesus. The power and authority are his, not ours. He asks us to forego comfort, prestige, and power and depend totally upon him, but he does not ask us to do this alone. He is always with us, even when it seems like he isn’t. He is always working in and through us. It’s always him, not us. And we have one another. We aren’t just allowed to work together. We are expected to work together. Is it any wonder then, that one of Satan’s primary goals is to divide the church? To reduce us to going out one by one instead of two by two … together? Let us pray.