In today’s reading in the book of Mark, we find Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth, with his disciples along for the ride.
The people who had watched Jesus grow up, had seen him as a playful child, as a gangly teenager, as a carpenter’s apprentice… these people suddenly saw Jesus in a completely different light. He was a wise teacher, a speaker who could draw crowds, a prophet who had followers from other regions.
Wait a minute! He has followers? Who does he think he is? Awfully pretentious of Mary’s boy to come waltzing back to town with an entourage and expect us to listen to him, like he’s someone special, don’t you think? How dare he?
Mark 6:4 contains the oft-quoted adage:
“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”
Another way to phrase that might be “familiarity breeds contempt.”
The Word says Jesus was able to accomplish very little while He was there — a few healings — but the stubbornness of those who thought they knew Jesus the man prevented them from getting to know Jesus the Son of God.
Shortly after this incident, Jesus decided to send out his closest followers, the Twelve we know by name, to bring His message and His power over physical and spiritual sickness to a wider audience. It was, in effect, a practice run for the Great Commission.
The instructions the disciples are given are very interesting: to bring very little with them, not even a change of clothing… to find a home to stay in wherever they go and remain there until they leave. I’ve read this passage many times, between the King James and the NIV and the Living translation, but it wasn’t until I read it in The Message that I caught this meaning:
8-9“Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.
10“And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.
11“If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”
Maybe it sounds a bit cynical — and certainly not all of them are like this — but have you ever had a traveling minister come through your town, or through your church, and bring an entourage and more expensive electronics than you could fit on your platform? How many of them have worn flashy clothes, stayed at the nicest place in town, and then taken up a “love offering” before they left? I think most of us have seen this more than a few times.
They may have represented an organization that was performing important missionary work on the other side of the world, or brought a very impressive teaching, or given you goosebumps with their music ministry. They may have given prophetic words and held a doozy of a healing service. They may have even stuck around afterward and shaken hands with a few folks before their assistants wheeled their equipment out the side door and they moved on to the next church on their list.
But when Jesus sent out His disciples to minister in His name, He was very careful that they not come across like that.
They came into towns in pairs, with nothing but a walking stick, sandals, and the clothes on their backs. They came penniless, and put on no airs. They were nobody special — but where they found people who were willing to receive them, they gave much more than they took. They brought hope, healing and changed lives wherever they went, not because of who they were, but because of the One who sent them.
Most of us are not called to be traveling ministers… but all of us are commissioned to go out in His name, just like the disciples were. This ministry is not about us, and what we can or cannot do. It doesn’t have to be organized, funded, equipped, with a professionally produced logo on your business cards.
Nobody Special. That’s us, charged to bring hope and healing and changed lives to those whose lives we touch, by virtue of the One we represent.