6th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 9) LSB #856
Text – Mark 6:8
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belts…
In these days of airline baggage fees, it’s a lot cheaper to fly if you can travel light. Car manufacturers have been working for decades to lower the weight in the automobiles they sell. It’s better to travel light, because it increases fuel efficiency. Medical research is making it clear that the human body is much healthier when it’s traveling light.
In the reading from St. Mark’s gospel it appears that Jesus has the same understanding. He sends His disciples on a mission trip with nothing but the clothes on their back, a staff in their hand & sandals on their feet. No bread, no bag, no money in their belt – Jesus wants them traveling light. No sport utility vehicles needed for His disciples.
It’s become popular in recent years for people to say they like Jesus. They just don’t like His church. People with that attitude might have skipped over events like this one in their reading of Holy Scripture. No bread, no bag, no money in their belt was the command that Jesus gave. Traveling light is not the popular way to roll in our day.
How much time & money do people in our country spend on acquiring possessions? How much time & money do the people in this room spend on getting new things? The 12th chapter of Hebrews tells us:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, & sin which clings so closely, & let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (ESV) To run well, you need to get rid of weight. You need to travel light. The more weight you carry, the less your endurance will be. In Matthew 11, Jesus presented God’s remedy, “Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest.” (ESV) You see, it is actually our Lord & Savior who enables us to travel light. He lifts the burden of our sin. He carries the grief of your heart. He relieves the pressure from your mind. The Son of God gives life to your soul.
In the Gospel reading for today, the twelve disciples still needed to learn those things from firsthand experience. So Jesus sends them on a mission, ordering them to take along zero provisions for the trip. They’ll have to depend totally upon God to provide them with food & shelter. In that way it was similar to Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for the forty years.
The disciples were instructed to accept the hospitality of whichever home was first opened to them, & stay there until they left the village. They were not to dishonor the home through seeking more comfortable provisions offered by someone else. However, Jesus warns them there will be villages where no hospitality would be offered.
Jesus then commands them to shake the dust of the village off their feet where no hospitality is offered & where their word is not tolerated. This was a testimony & warning to those villagers. Shaking the dust off demonstrated that the disciples had fulfilled their duty & those who rejected them would have to answer directly to God.
It was the same as declaring that to be a pagan village. However, this expression of judgment upon a village was never simply condemnation carried out immediately. It was a prophetic act designed, above all, to provoke thought on the part of the villagers. Its primary purpose was that of an act of warning in order to elicit repentance.
The arrival of the disciples, like that of Jesus Himself, had the character of sifting & gathering the true people of God. The presence of the disciples, in a town or village, was to determine which of the inhabitants were open to the Word of the reign & rule of God. In the well-known story of Zacchaeus, after he receives the good news of Jesus’ teaching, & offers to give half of his goods to the poor, Jesus announces, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek & to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10 ESV)
In the 5th chapter of Mark, last Sunday, we heard of the incredible faith of the woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years. Then, we hear of the faith of Jairus who, although he was a wealthy & influential man, came begging, on his knees, to Jesus. He pleaded for Jesus to heal his daughter that she might live.
Today’s reading opens chapter 6 with the people of Jesus’ own village rejecting this carpenter, the mere son of Mary. In their culture it was insulting to refer to a man as the son of his mother, even if his father was deceased. In so doing, they’re calling into question whether Jesus has a legitimate father. In effect, they’re referring to Him as a “love child.”
Their unbelief was so profound that Jesus marveled because of it, & He could do no great work there. Jesus is not at all tactful in His response, insulting the people of Nazareth in return, when He says: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown & among his relatives & in his own household.” Jesus is not on His way to becoming a mega-church pastor.
Chapter 5 ended on the great notes of faith & belief, even in the midst of trial & tribulation. Chapter 6 opens with skepticism & unbelief so great that Jesus Himself marvels at it. In his writing, St. Mark is purposely highlighting the tension Jesus brings as faith & unbelief clearly put themselves on display. They permeate the reading in the gospel lesson for today.
Jesus stated this fact quite clearly in Matthew 10: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (10:34 ESV) The Gospel of Mark shows that unbelief is the context in which the Christian mission advances. Rejection is an experience common to the Lord & to His Church. In the face of this unbelief at Jesus’ hometown, His disciples are to have faith & travel light as they go about their mission two by two. They’ve been commissioned, not just to teach the Word of God, but also to completely & absolutely trust in their heavenly Father to provide everything they need to live. For 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites had to rely upon God to feed them & their sandals never wore out.
When we hear the Word of God we are participating in the reign & rule of our Lord over His creation. Our Father in heaven allows us to be about the work of reclaiming His creation – recreating it even. As people come to faith in Jesus as their Savior, they begin to experience true life, a life of peace & harmony that cannot be known in any other way.
So in a way, the 1st Commandment can be considered a key to the Gospel, even though it is law, because that commandment requires us to receive all of life from our Lord, & to seek all that we need from Him alone. The 1st commandment actually calls us to travel light, to throw off everything that hinders us, in other words, everything that gets between us & God.
The Christian life – walking in the light – does not consist of straining for a perfection that exists only in God. The Christian fellowship is a more humble one, namely the fellowship of the forgiven children of God. It’s not a solitary walk either, but a fellowship with each other & with the God who guides us in His perfect light.
In the gospel reading for today, the Twelve apostles actually represent the beginning & foundation of a restored Israel. The instructions Jesus gives to them parallel the instructions given to Moses as he leads the people of Israel out into the wilderness & away from Egypt. Travel light & your heavenly Father will provide everything you need.
Traveling light puts all the burden on Jesus & rejoices in the life that He gives to us. That’s how our Savior calls us to live: “Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, & learn from me, for I am gentle & lowly in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, & my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) The command of Jesus, to take nothing more than the clothes on their back, a staff in their hand & the sandals on their feet, may seem like a radical obligation. It appears that way because sin has so radically twisted what our eyes see & what our ears hear.
That’s why verse 12 of today’s Gospel reading states, of the disciples, “…they went out & proclaimed that people should repent.” We need to repent because our eyes fail to see & our ears fail to hear the truth of God’s Word. All of us, “...have sinned & fall short of the glory of God, AND are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”
People today, who love Jesus & hate His church, usually aren’t happy with the fact that the Church calls them to repentance. None of us like to be warned that what we’re doing is harmful or destructive. The sinful nature longs to be self-sufficient & is totally self-centered at heart. Yet it is Jesus, through His Church, who is behind the call to repentance.
Jesus calls us to repentance, however, because He sees the path we’re on, of our own accord. That path leads to death. Therefore, Jesus’ call to repentance is in truth a call to life – full, abundant & peaceful life. In order for our eyes to see that, & our ears to hear it, we must live by faith, not by sight. And that means traveling light. Amen.
O Christ, who called the Twelve to rise & follow You, forsaking old, familiar ways for ventures bold & new: Grant us to hear Your call to risk security &, bound in heart & will to You, find perfect liberty. O Christ, who sent the Twelve on roads they’d never trod to serve, to suffer, teach, proclaim the nearer reign of God: send us on ways where faith transcends timidity, where love informs & hope sustains both life & ministry. O Christ, the apostles’ Lord, the martyr’s strength & song, the crucified & risen King to whom the saints belong: though generations pass, our tribute still we bring, our hymns a sacrifice of praise, our lives an offering. Amen.
 Romans 3:23-24
Pastor Dean R. Poellet