He Sent Them Out Two By Two
Key Verse 6:7
“Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.”
Jairus the synagogue ruler had come to Jesus by faith, regarding his sick and dying daughter, and Jesus honored his faith and prayer and went along with him. Along the way, a nameless woman caused unusual delay in Jesus’ efforts in reaching Jairus’ daughter. She too had come to Jesus by faith and Jesus had taken the time to help her grow in faith. She had believed in Jesus’ power to heal her body, but Jesus went as far as helping her heal the wounds of her heart caused by her endless suffering. Meanwhile, Jairus sick daughter died. Servants from Jairus’ house finally came to give Jairus the bad news. But there is no such thing as bad news when Jesus is right there. So Jesus turned around and told Jairus five simple words: “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” Jairus had come to Jesus believing in Jesus’ power to heal sickness. But Jesus wanted him to have faith in Jesus’ power over life and death. “Don’t be afraid”, he told him. Don’t let fear rob you of your faith. And “just believe” in me. How wonderful is that faith which overcomes all our fears, and decides to simply believe in Jesus. It’s the kind of faith God wants us to have as well.
The verses we are looking at today tell us something about the times in which Jesus was ministering to the crowds. They were evil and difficult times. The great prophet John the Baptist was imprisoned by the king Herod for speaking out the word of God. The truth of God’s word which John spoke shed light on the King’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. It bothered and embarrassed him that a country preacher would dare speak up against his immoral life. It’s like today. If a Christian dares speak up against the immorality and immoral behavior of others, he or she are branded as hateful and anti-social. But it wasn’t enough that John the Baptist was imprisoned for speaking the truth of God. The king’s wife wanted him dead. One day, on the king’s birthday, while the king was attended by guests of high social ranking and spirits ran high, the daughter of Herod’s wife danced for the king, and in his drunken stupor, he lusted after her. And then he made a grievous mistake— he promised her anything she wanted. And of course, the girl, consulting with her mother, wanted John dead. When times are so evil as to silence the truth of God, the question is what to do? What should we do when it is impossible to live a holy and upright life, and to boldly speak the truth for fear of being silenced! Jesus’ times were like that. He too was marked for death. What should he do? Should he lay low until the hostility against him subsides? Should he give up because so many opposed the Gospel? Jesus did not do that. When he was not welcomed by his own relatives, Jesus went elsewhere to preach the Gospel. And he taught his disciples to the same thing as well. The story today tells of Jesus’ visit to his hometown. When he was rejected there, he goes elsewhere to preach. More than that, he also trains his disciples by sending them everywhere to bring the message of God to all people.
Read verses 1-2a. “Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.” Jesus had just healed Jairus’ little daughter who had slipped from sickness into death. And this news like wild fire swept through as fast as people would tell the story. And it must have reached the ears of the people of Nazareth— Jesus’ hometown. Jesus was on his way there to bring them the gift of life and the blessings of God. When the Sabbath came, Jesus then went to the place of worship and began to teach the word of God. And when Jesus taught, he always taught with deep conviction of heart, and it was like nothing they had ever heard before. For the first time in their lives they could see that the word of God was not some set of rules and regulations that bound their lives to tedious monotony. They felt their hearts being liberated. They could see the veil that covered their ears and eyes fall. They could begin to understand that the God who had spoken to David and to Moses was speaking to them as well. For a brief time no longer felt anxious, and the peace of God was settling upon their hearts. Mark could find no words to describe what they felt while Jesus was teaching them the Bible. So he simply says that they “were amazed”.
They were “amazed”. It’s good to be amazed but obviously not enough. To be amazed by the beauty and power of the word of God is good. Most people cannot but wonder at the depth and beauty of the words Jesus spoke in the Gospels. But it is not enough to be amazed. The heart must open itself to be touched and changed by the word of God. When the heart does not open itself to the word of God, nor does it allow the word of God to enter in, it remains an unchanged heart. It remains fallen and corrupt, and controlled by all that fills it with corruption and darkness. When Jesus taught the truth of God, they should have seen their own sinfulness. They should have heard the grace of God calling them to repentance and to life. When they heard the word of life, they should abandoned their pride and prejudice. They should have decided to be humble enough to let the word of God shape and mold them in the image of God. When Jesus taught the Bible, their hearts should have immediately recognized the hand of God working in through Jesus to draw them back home to God. They should have longed for the forgiveness and healing which God promises any repentant sinner. But at the time when their hearts should have moved beyond amazement, to personal application, then suddenly they closed their hearts. When people let their hearts teeter-totter before the word of God— rather than welcoming it— their hearts are left to wallow in their own doubts, fears, corruption and sinfulness.
Read verses 2a-3. “‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” How could they have so quickly turned against Jesus? What closed their hearts to words of life that could have changed their lives? How were they offended by Jesus? Actually, they closed their hearts to Jesus the moment their hearts strayed from the word of God. The moment they began to entertain their own thoughts and emotions. They closed their hearts to the word of God when they stopped listening to the word of God, and started listening to the voice of their own pride. The words that first amazed them now offended them. When they heard the voice of pride— the man whom they once looked up to as a man of God— became now an object of contempt. They felt insulted by Jesus, for he was just a carpenter, and someone whom they knew. They were insulted that Jesus preached to them when he was nothing but the illegitimate son of a local woman. How proud they were! And how foolish of them to judge the messenger by their own human standards.
Pride is surely a downfall. When a man or woman allow pride to rule in their heart, it makes the person foolish. It blinds that person to the truth of God and shuts the door to blessings. Jesus was teaching them the word of life. It was Truth. It was life giving. It could set them free from their bondage to sin. But when they judged Jesus by his human background, pride convinced them that he was no more than a man who had no right to counsel them in the word of God. Such pride is not uncommon. A person sacrifices all he has to serve another person in the gospel. The one who has received many blessings through the sacrifice of the other is thankful as he matures spiritually. By the grace of God he himself also becomes a man of sacrifice and grace and a source of blessing. In a way he no longer requires vigilance and counsel. But when he is not careful to guard his heart with the word of God against pride, pride comes unexpectedly. Then at the time when he needs counsel, his pride deceives him to no longer seek spiritual advice. This is the kind of pride that brings down even the most mature of men and women. It is pride that no longer sees the message spoken to it, but judges by its own standard. We must guard our hearts against pride. We must learn to always listen to the message of the word of God. As long as we focus our eyes on the word of God, our hearts can open to the message which has the power to bless us.
Jesus was not just Messenger. He himself was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. It was not only crucial for his hometown people to listen to him, but also to look at who he really is. Jesus was the carpenter they all knew. But at the same time, he was the Savior of the world. His humble life and poor background did not make him any less the Messenger who came to lay down his life for the sins of the world. His humble circumstances should not fool anyone to reject him, but should rather inspire them to see the love of God— the God who came to share in their sufferings and to walk with them in their hardship and to bring them near to God. But they only judged him by their pride. When they closed their hearts to Jesus, they forfeited the blessings God wanted to pour on them. Look at verses 4 and 5. These words are not a fatalistic resignation on Jesus’ part. In fact, in great mercy, Jesus appealed to them not to let pride blind them to the truth of God. [Its like saying: Open your eyes and see who I am and what I am saying to you] When they remained stubborn in their pride, Jesus could not do much work of God among them, for they were faithless. (6a)
Read verse 6. “And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” Jesus is the Savior who came to save us from our sins. To accept or to reject Jesus is not a small thing. To invite Jesus into one’s heart is to invite eternal life. And to reject Jesus is to invite spiritual disaster. His hometown people had the great privilege to receive life when Jesus visited them. But instead, they rejected him based on his humble and lowly background. It must have been heartbreaking for Jesus to be rejected by the very people he grew up with. But Jesus loved God more than he loved himself. And he did not let such a heartbreak hinder the work God would do through him. He was no victim of sorrow nor disappointment. In that sense he was victorious. Imagine how many good Christians have lost their zeal and passion for the Gospel and their own calling, because they let their own disappointment and sorrow take over their hearts. Jesus overcame the rejection and devoted himself helping others. But perhaps his disciples suffered inwardly, quietly, not knowing how to handle such a serious rejection of the Son of God. And it’s interesting to see how he helped them. Read verse 7. “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.”
First of all, Jesus helped them by sending them out. It is really the wisdom of God to guide his people to accomplish their life purpose. Along the way there are many pitfalls and setbacks, discouragements and troubles. But Jesus wanted them to overcome the difficulties they encounter by continuing the work God gave them to do. For this reason then, Jesus sent them out. And in wisdom he also sent them out two by two. Why two by two? To learn how to work together for the Lord. To Jesus, unity is important. No two people are the same. Each one has his or her own opinion or way. In the work of God, however, to work together is important. It is not easy. It takes a whole lot of personal sacrifices, getting over one’s pride and prejudice, and much self denial. Jesus sent them out two by two because the Gospel work works best when Christians are united.
Look at verse 7 again. “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” Jesus also gave his disciples authority over evil spirits. Jesus’ disciples were young— unfamiliar with the spiritual world. He needed to equip them spiritually to work in a world ruled by evil. Amazingly Jesus did not think that they needed to be equipped with intellect or human ability or monetary funds or with human wisdom— but equipped them with the authority that comes faith. Therefore, the authority to counsel others, to rebuke them, to comfort them, to bless them, to drive out demons from their hearts— the authority to change lives, has its origins not in us and what strength or authority we think we have, but the authority that comes from God. So, Jesus equipped them with authority. If you are called to serve the Gospel of our Lord, you must equip yourself with the faith that God has given you his authority to do so.
Jesus also taught his disciples spiritual independence. He taught them that in the work of God, they must stop depending on themselves and on human means and totally depend only on God. Read verses 8 and 9. “These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for your journey except a staff– no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.’” Jesus did not expect his disciples to beg nor to use others to support their means. But Jesus needed to throw them into the hostile world to learn the faith that totally depends on God— for all things. In that way, they would experience God’s hand of providence and protection personally and grow in faith.
Jesus also taught his disciples the absoluteness of the gospel. Read verses 10 and 11. “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” Jesus taught his disciples two things here. First, they should accept the hospitality offered to them by those who love God and his word. On the other hand, Jesus taught his disciples that people’s hospitality and kindness must not give way to compromise. The gospel is absolute. It is precious! The gospel is on one hand comfort for the weary, and on the other hand it is a truth that cuts deep into the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) The gospel message challenges us— our life style— our desires of heart— our likes and dislikes. The gospel exposes our and others’ sins and urges all to repent and turn the heart to God. The gospel wounds and heals at the same time. It wounds our pride and it heals our sin-sickness. It must never be watered down nor compromised, never used and abused by its messenger.
So , what happened when Jesus sent them out? Read verse 12-13. “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” They believed the authority he gave them. They were young and they were inexperienced. They were weak and they were sinful. But they believed what he told them. And when they believed, they discovered that God Almighty has prepared them and destined them to do his work marvelously. They also learned that the message itself has the power to heal and to bless and to convict and to do the work for which it is purposed.
We have no power to change our own selves, let alone to change others or to spiritually influence anyone. But faith is the power that changes us, and consequently, faith is the power that works in the hearts of those who open their hearts to the word of life. This faith works mighty deeds when there are men and women of faith, who are trained not look at themselves, but to look at God working through the message and the messenger to bring life and healing. May God bless you day by day to open your hearts to the word of God so that the word of God may work in your heart. And may God bless you to believe the authority God gives to those who by faith receive it and who by faith are willing to do the work of God.