This section in Mark’s Gospel signifies a turning point for Jesus and his disciples. Up to this point, Jesus has been doing and teaching, and they have been following and watching. From this point on, however, Jesus begins to give more responsibility and authority to his disciples. As Jesus commissions them, there are several lessons we can learn about what it means to be his disciples.
First of all, Jesus sent them with his authority to do the work he had already been doing. Jesus gave them “authority over unclean spirits” and they “proclaimed that people should repent” (vs. 7, 13). When we live as disciples of Christ, we do not do it in our own power or ability; we do it as people given the power, wisdom, and work of Christ. We do not end our days by bringing to Jesus our work’s accomplishments for praise and reward. Instead, we begin each day sent out by him to do the work he would be doing if he were living our lives with his power and wisdom.
This implies something else. I cannot imagine I am an effective follower of Jesus Christ if I am not close enough to him to see what he does. I cannot pretend to follow a man I do not know. How I am doing with my time in God’s Word, my time in prayer, the development of spiritual disciplines in my life, will tell me how well I am doing the deeds and speaking the words of Christ.
Secondly, this commissioning gives us insight into what Jesus wants to do with me before I am perfect. If we were to go back through Mark’s Gospel and list the accomplishments of the disciples so far, the list would look something like: they tried to coerce Jesus, they showed a lack of faith in Jesus, they rebuked Jesus, they misunderstood Jesus. I don’t want to paint too grim a picture, but their achievements to date are not all that impressive.
Discipleship is not primarily about my strengths and gifts, but about Christ calling and equipping his followers. The disciples were far from perfect, but the one thing they really did well was follow Jesus. As a result, they were given the responsibility to extend Christ’s ministry through his empowerment long before they became saints.
And third, there are times in life when God ordains it such that the minimum of worldly goods results in the maximum amount of faith. Jesus sent the disciples off with the shirts on their back, their shoes, and staff—no food, no money for food, and no lodging preparations. This means that every step of their journey required absolute trust in Christ. Every meal they ate was a gift from God. Every night with a roof over their head was a gift from God.
When we find ourselves in these seasons of life they may be difficult, but they can be profound. One of the day-to-day roadblocks to trust in God is our trust in everything else we have. We tend to not put faith in Christ because we haven’t yet run out of our other options.
Christ not only called and equipped you, he has already provided for you as well.