AMOS 7:12-15 EPHESIANS 1:3-14 MARK 6:78-13
We have a very interesting passage to think about today. It consists of a series of instructions that Jesus gave his twelve apostles before he sent them out on their first missionary excursion. Let’s look at the details and then see what their implications are for these early missionaries and us.
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” Why would Jesus send them out in pairs?
In Jewish tradition two witnesses were needed to convict a person of a crime. In our tradition the presence of two witnesses are needed to legalize a wedding. These men were to be witnesses of the coming kingdom of God. The power of two is much greater than the power of one.
To strengthen their witness Jesus gave them the authority over unclean spirits. In addition to the proclamation of the kingdom the Twelve were armed with proof that the kingdom was coming; the children of the kingdom had power over unclean spirits.
“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” What did the ordinary person wear in Jesus’ day, and why did Jesus think it necessary to specify the clothing the Twelve were to wear?
The basic garb for men and women was the tunic. It was made from a piece of cloth that was folded in half and sewn on one side. Holes were cut for the arms to go through. No hole was cut for the head. This would prove to the buyer that it had never been used but also allowed the new owner to make an appropriately sized hole for his/her head to fit through
propriately sized hole for his/her head to fit through. The neckline was therefore totally left to the discretion of the purchaser. A woman, for example, might want a low-cut neckline if she was nursing a baby.
The outer garment was something like a poncho. It was a large piece of cloth, six to seven feet wide and eight to nine feet long. It could be two pieces of cloth sewn together or one large piece, as was the case with Jesus’ cloak that the soldiers gambled for at the foot of the cross. The outer garment was used as a cloak by day and a blanket at night.
A girdle, or belt, was fastened around the waist over the tunic and outer garment giving the wearer the ability to alter the length of the garments as needed.
A kind of sack was worn over the shoulder. It could be large enough to carry food and essentials that a traveler might need. It could also be used as a money pouch. These money pouches were commonly used by traveling missionaries to carry the donations they picked up during their travels.
So, what was Jesus telling the Twelve by spelling out how they should dress? He was telling them that they must rely totally on God. They should travel without a back-up of food or clothing or money. They were to depend totally God and on the generosity of the people who would hear and accept their message.
He was also saying something about the attitude the Twelve should have when they enter someone’s home. It was rabbinic law that when people entered the courts in the temple they had to leave their staff, sandals and money bag outside. Here Jesus is saying that the home that accepts his message is a place as sacred as the temple.
“He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. What place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.’”
Here, Jesus is directing his missionaries to be the catalysts of a new community. By staying in one home they could gently make the place a center for future instruction. When they left, their hosts could continue what they began or, at least, be a place from which future missionaries could preach.
His instruction to shake the dust of the town off their feet if they weren’t accepted there would have been a bit shocking for the Twelve to hear. Rabbinic law said that the dust of a Gentile land was defiled. When Jews had to enter Gentile territory they were obliged to shake off every bit of defiled dust from their feet before entering Jewish territory. In this statement Jesus is comparing Jews who don’t listen to, or accept, the message of the kingdom to the Gentiles who were not among the chosen people.
“So, they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Here we discover the message of the Twelve’s preaching: repentance. The word used in the scripture is metanoia. It doesn’t mean simply admitting wrongs done in the past and making the commitment not to repeat them. It means changing the entire direction of one’s life. It means becoming a new person, one who sees differently, thinks differently, relates differently. It means taking on the attitude of the disciple who depends totally on God. It means committing to a new community – a kingdom community. It means freeing people from their demons. It means not accepting this world and its values as our only alternative. It means becoming a new person, a new people, in the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ instruction to the Twelve applies to each one of us. This week we’re asked to question our own discipleship. To what degree do I place my trust in God? How do I share my faith? Do I believe that I have been given a role to play in the kingdom of God? Am I open to hearing Jesus’ call for personal and communal repentance? Do I hear Jesus’ invitation to be his missionary?