- 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
- Psalm 48
- 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
- Mark 6:1-13
Beginning in Chapter 6, Mark’s story of Jesus moves out beyond the familiar territory near the Sea of Galilee. Skepticism abounds in Jesus’ hometown. Why? Perhaps because his teachings cut through old understandings. “He taught them as one having authority” (1:22); that is, he comes with a radical, new message that departed from the teaching that the people expect from the synagogue. Jesus’ message always offends those who prefer old religious ways and refuse to risk by welcoming the new way of God’s kingdom (Luke 5:39).
Jesus’ neighbors had a certain expectation of his potential – he would follow in his father’s (Joseph) footsteps as a carpenter. What had been happening in this town in which Jesus grew up these past 30 years?
The second portion of today’s Gospel shows how Jesus ‘moved on’ from Nazareth with his mission with the disciples. Not being discouraged (but saddened for sure) of the lack of faith and acceptance of him in his hometown, Jesus continued his teaching among the other villages in the area. But now his mission was to be shared with the disciples, as Jesus sent them out in pairs to do the things they had seen him doing. Two-by-two is Jesus’ way of training. Later the disciples may have enough confidence to launch out on lonely journeys for the sake of the gospel, but the basic pattern is partnership when it comes to mission.
Jesus deliberately places the disciples in situations of vulnerability, of dependence on resources outside of their control. Jesus asks the disciples to relinquish self-reliance and expect their audience to take some responsibility. Those who receive Jesus’ followers receive Jesus himself; and those who receive Jesus, receive God (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20). In offering typical generous Eastern hospitality, the people took the first step of repentance by hosting and welcoming the message of the good news.
Those who refused to give hospitality closed the door to the good news. In shaking the dust off their feet, the disciples would declare that they had offered the message but it had been willfully rejected. We are not to waste time or energy where there is no openness to witness. “Shaking the dust off one’s feet” is a traditional Jewish gesture intended to show that opposition to God’s message would not cling to them, but remain in the proximity of the hard-hearted.
The essence of mission (of the disciples – and us) was to:
- Preach Jesus’ message and call for repentance; for moral commitment and priority shifts.
- Confront and exorcise evil spirits that possessed the hearts and minds of people.
- Anoint with oil those physically ill, using the common medical and religious practice of the day, and to heal them.
- Describe your hometown. How have you been influenced and shaped by that particular place? How do you think Jesus might have been influenced by growing up in Nazareth?
- What does the Gospel passage suggest about the role of our own belief in God’s power to heal the brokenness in our lives and in the world? Why do you think we often reject or fail to acknowledge the gift of God’s grace?
- Who are the unwelcome prophets of our contemporary times? How is the Church a prophetic voice in the world today? (See “Embracing the Prophets in Contemporary Culture” with Walter Bruggemann)
- Reread Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. What are some contemporary equivalents of the things they were to take and to leave behind? What are some contemporary equivalents of their tasks? How different (or similar) is it today?
- When have you been as vulnerable and exposed as these disciples? What did you learn? Under what conditions or for what purpose would you be willing to become this vulnerable again?
- In what respects do you see your church being bogged down with supplies and equipment that might keep it from accomplishing the three aspects of the disciples’ mission? What can you do about it?