III. Christ-like Evangelism Depends upon the Authority of Christ (vv. 7b)
The first characteristic of Christ-like evangelism is that it imitates the example of Christ. The second characteristic is that Christ-like evangelism obeys the commission of Christ. The third characteristic is that Christ-like evangelism depends upon the authority of Christ. We see this in the second part of v. 7, which says, “and [he] gave them authority over the unclean spirits.”
Jesus was sending the 12 out to essentially tell people what to do. Their job was to preach at people and command them to repent from their sins. The problem with this is that in and of themselves they did not have the authority to do this. Who were they to command people to do anything? Furthermore, Jesus authenticated His message by doing things like casting out demons. These guys certainly did not posses the authority to do that. However, when Jesus sent them out He provided them with all the authority that they needed. You might say that he gave them a delegated authority that was based on His intrinsic authority. A good illustration of delegated authority might be when a mom leaves the two kids at home and leaves the older child in charge. The older son does not have any authority except what his mother has delegated to him. If he sticks with that authority He will be fine, but if he starts order his little brother to do things that go beyond the authority that his mother gave him he is going to be in trouble. Either his brother is going to ignore him, or his mother is going to find out. Either way it won’t be good. The same thing is true of the disciples. The only authority that the disciples possessed was a delegated authority from Jesus; He even gave them authority over demons.
It would be easy for us to look at this passage and say, “Yeah! The disciples could do this because they were the disciples. But I am not qualified to do the work of evangelism.” If this is what you are thinking then you are sort of right. As I mentioned before this was a special commissioning for the disciples. They received an authority over demons that we don’t receive in our commissioning. The purpose of this was to prove to everyone that this new message was truly from God. That being said, we must not forget who these guys were.
The disciples were not priests, they weren’t scribes, they weren’t even preachers. These were just regular guys who had been following Jesus. Furthermore, their recent track record was not even that impressive. Think about it. In 1:36-39 they weren’t even on the same page with Jesus. Jesus wanted to continue teaching, and they wanted to impress the crowds with more healings. Then, in 4:38, they failed their first test as official disciples. They failed it so bad that they even questioned whether or not Jesus cared about them. Furthermore, as we progress in our study of the Gospel of Mark we are going to see the 12 fail even more. Remember, these are the same guys that end up running away when Jesus is arrested.
With all of this in mind it actually seems a bit surprising and maybe even too early for the 12 to be going out on their own. But, as one commentator reminds us, “The fulfillment of the word of God depends not on the perfection or merit of the missionaries but on the authoritative call and equipping of Jesus.” The disciples had been equipped by Jesus, and had received authority from Jesus. It was time for them to go out and put all that they had learned to practice.
The same thing is true for us today. We may feel inadequate and unprepared for the task, but that is only because you are! That is ok. We have not been called to go out in our own authority or to advance our own agenda. We are going out with the authority of Christ for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God. This is the key. It does not depend on us. Christ-like evangelism depends on the authority of Christ!
At this point you might be wondering what exactly it means to depend on the authority of Christ. Well, to depend on the authority of Christ is to trust in Him, and work for His agenda. This may seem simplistic, but many times we fall into the trap of depending on ourselves. We trust in our own abilities, and we seek to advance our own agenda. When we do this we are not doing Christ-like evangelism. A great example of this is found in Mark 9:14-29. In this passage we see that the disciples lost authority over demons because they were not depending on the authority of Christ—they did not even pray!
Today there are two simple ways to depend on the authority of Christ in the area of evangelism. First, use the bible. Don’t try and argue someone into heaven. Depend on the authoritative Word of God. Second, run to God in prayer. If you are not praying for the lost, and praying for evangelistic opportunities then you are not depending on the authority of Christ. And Christ-like evangelism depends on the authority of Christ.
IV. Christ-like Evangelism Trusts in the Provision of Christ (vv. 10-11)
The first characteristic of Christ-like evangelism is that it imitates the example of Christ. The second characteristic is that Christ-like evangelism obeys the commission of Christ. The third characteristic is that Christ-like evangelism depends upon the authority of Christ. The fourth characteristic is that Christ-like evangelism trusts in the provision of Christ. We see this in vv. 8-11. In these verses Jesus is giving his disciples instructions for their mission. The first thing that Jesus covers is what the disciples should and should not bring on the mission. We see this in vv. 8-9 where it says, “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.”
We have to keep in mind that this was an urgent mission. The Kingdom of God was at hand, the people were helpless, and the disciples need to get going. This is why Jesus told them to take nothing with them. Or to put it another way, don’t make extensive and elaborate plans for the trip. According to Jesus they were not to take any bread, or a bag used to carry bread. They weren’t even supposed to bring any extra money! This was highly unusual for a traveler in the first century. Remember, they didn’t have credit cards or ATMs. Without food or money they would have no guaranteed meal. For this very reason people in Jesus’ day would usually carry some extra coins wrapped up in their belt just in case they needed it. It was kind of like the money belts that international travelers will often use. However, Jesus specifically prohibited his disciples from taking along this extra money.
There were a few things that the disciples were permitted to bring. They were to bring their staff and wear their sandals. This meant that they were only to have the bear minimum for travel. This would allow them to travel lightly and mover from place to place with ease. In fact, in Exodus 12:11 the people of Israel were commanded to prepare for an urgent departure by having their staffs ready and their sandals on. Jesus has the same thing in mind. The disciples needed to be ready for their urgent mission.
It is worth noting that there are some difficulties with this passage. Many have compared Mark’s words in this passage with Matthew and Luke’s telling of this same account. You see, in Mark the disciples are allowed to take a staff and sandals. However, in Matthew and Luke the disciples are told not to take a staff and sandals. This is why many have compared this passage and claimed that this is a place where the bible contradicts itself. However, we know that this cannot be the case because the bible was written by God (2 Timothy 3:16), and God does not make mistakes. But this does not mean that we should just ignore the hard questions about this passage. It just means that we need to work hard to find an answer to the problem. In this passage an answer is not easy to come by, however the best answer seems to be the simplest answer. Specifically that in Matthew and Luke Jesus is not prohibiting his disciples from taking these items with them. Instead he is prohibiting them from acquiring new or extra items for the trip. The idea is that the disciples should go as they are.
There is one last instruction that Jesus gives is disciples for their packing list. They were not to bring two tunics with them. In case you are wondering, a tunic was like an undershirt. It was worn underneath the outer garments, and it went almost all the way down to the feet. It would have been very helpful to have an extra tunic not only in case a camel spits on one tunic, but also because it could be used a blanket to stay warm at night. However, Jesus doesn’t allow for this extra provision.
It would be easy to question why Jesus would make things so hard on his disciples. And for the record, the bible does not say that we have to live in poverty. There are numerous examples of Christians glorifying God with their wealth. So why weren’t the disciples allowed to take these things with them? Simply put, Jesus wanted his disciples to trust in His provision. As Kent Hughes puts it, “minimum of provisions was meant to call out the maximum of faith.”
This is a lesson that we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Whether we are sharing the gospel with a friend, getting involved with a ministry at church, or going into vocational ministry we all have the tendency to want to know how every detail is going to work out before we commit ourselves to something. However, we must remember that Jesus called the disciples to go out without elaborate preparations and to trust in God for their provision. It is important to note that in Luke 22:35 the disciples reported that they never lacked anything that they needed. If we were to give a report of our own lives we would have to provide the same report.
In vv. 10-11 Jesus gives his disciples further instructions to help them trust in his provision. There it says, “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.” In these verses we see that as preachers of the Gospel the disciples were to depend upon the hospitality of the people to whom they were ministering. Whenever they went into a new town preaching they were to depend on God to send them someone who would put them up for the night. Additionally, when they did find a place to stay Jesus instructed them to stay there until they left that town. In other words, they were supposed to be content with the accommodations that God had provided for them. If someone with a nicer house (and maybe a Jacuzzi) invited them to leave the place that they were staying the disciples were not to go. God had provided them with their accommodations and they needed to be content.
Furthermore, if any place would not accept them then they were to view this as being from the Lord. They were not to take it personally; they were not to become discouraged; they were simply instructed to give one last testimony and leave the town that had rejected them. They were to give this last testimony by shaking the dust off of their feet. This was something that the Jews would do when they left a Gentile area. The idea behind it was that you were shaking off the dust to make sure that you did not bring anything unclean back into Israel. Thus,
The same action by the apostles symbolically declared a hostile village pagan. It was a merciful prophetic act designed to make the people think deeply about their spiritual condition. We surmise that this ceremonial act made a strong impression on the countryside and brought some to grace. Today there are times when the Church must warn the world of judgment. There are even times to disassociate ourselves from sinful society.
This passage does not mean that we should shake the dust off of our Nikes whenever someone does not accept Christ. However, it does mean that if people do not accept what we are saying then we should remain faithful to our message, and view their response as from the Lord. In all of this we are reminded that Christ-like evangelism trusts in the provision of Christ. There may be no better non-biblical example of this than John Patton. He trusted the Lord to provide for him when he arrived on the island of Tana with his wife. He trusted the Lord when his wife and son both died. Then, when the whole island was ready to kill him, he trusted the Lord to leave. The result was that he went to another island which resoundingly accepted his message. At every step of the way Patton trusted in the provision of Christ.
James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 177.
R. Kent Hughes, Mark : Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 135.
R. Kent Hughes, Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 136.