From time to time, the Gospel writers give us insight into Christ’s priorities that come and go so quickly, we are likely not to notice them at all. After Christ is forced out of his hometown of Nazareth, Mark simply tells us that he “went about among the villages teaching.” (See also Matt. 9:35, Mark 6:56, Luke 8:1, Luke 9:6, Luke 13:22.)
Nazareth, we have discovered, was a very small town. The fact that Jesus was born there is the only reason its name was not lost in the dust of history. The reputations of the surrounding tiny country villages were not so lucky--we don’t know their names or locations. What we do know is that Jesus spent time traveling to several of them and teaching the Kingdom of God.
With his disciples in tow, Jesus did in these social nooks and crannies what he did on the seashore of Galilee when thousands of people were watching. When Jesus was crushed by the crowd in Capernum, he taught in their synagogue and performed miracles. When he was with a small group of people in Nazareth and the surrounding countryside, he taught and performed miracles.
Very few of us will ever have a national or international reputation. Very few of us will ever speak to or influence thousands of people on a regular basis. Every one of us, however, does live life as a disciple of Christ among the small circles of our family, our coworkers and our friends. If we add up the number of people we will genuinely influence, that number will be relatively small.
But, according to what Jesus taught his disciples as he lead them from one backwater town to another, he considers that genuine ministry. Jesus spent real time with small groups of people, and he did it with the same program and sincerity he used when surrounded by the crowds. Everyone deserves to hear the truth of the Kingdom of God, and if the news is spread a couple of dozen people at a time, then so be it.
Part of what strikes me as so important in this passage is that it is here, far away from the crowd that Jesus decided to first commission his disciples. Just a few days earlier, they were speaking to and ministering to vast crowds of people who would have followed Jesus wherever they could find him. Jesus could have, at the end of one of those days, turned to his motivated and thrilled disciples and said, “Now, go and do likewise.” Who would not want to answer that call!
Instead of that scene, imagine the disciples frustrated and confused after Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth and a little road-weary from the country village tour. Without the fanfare of the multitude or the exhilaration of mass healings, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Now, go and do likewise.”
What is important to me as a disciple? Am I looking for influence on a mass scale or recognition from as many people as possible? Or am I convinced that every soul needs to see and hear the good news of Jesus Christ, and that that usually takes place without much publicity? It was important to Jesus. It needs to be important to his disciples.