Hey everyone, Josh Hawkins here, this is episode 72 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 71 we looked at a few miraculous events in Jesus’ Middle Galilean ministry from Mark 5 and Luke 8, specifically the healing of the demonized man, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. Each of those events show forth some very important things about Jesus and His ministry - by demonstrating His power over darkness and death, He once again affirms His identity as the Messiah and as the God of Israel.
In today’s episode I want to look at the final few events of this period of Jesus’ ministry. The Early Galilean Ministry ended with the calling of the Twelve, and now this Middle Galilean Ministry will end with the sending of the Twelve. So just a quick overview of this period from our timeline - we started back in early 28AD, perhaps sometime in February or March, with the calling of the Twelve. We looked at the Sermon on the Mount, several healings, the sinful woman at Jesus’ feet, the Parables, the calming of the storm, some more healing, and now today, Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth followed by the sending of the Twelve. All of these events that we’ve looked at since Episode 60 have taken place in a span of perhaps only a couple of months. Remember, the Passover feast has not happened yet, and Passover is in April. We’ll see that in the next period of Jesus’ ministry, the Late Galilean period. If you want to refresh your memory with the overview of each of these periods, go back and watch Episodes 40 and 53.
Before we look at the Sending of the Twelve, let’s read from Mark 6 where we see Jesus rejected a second time in Nazareth:
"He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching."
(Mark 6:1–6 ESV)
Just picture this scene. Jesus is back in Nazareth where His sisters are still living. He walks into the synagogue on the Sabbath and sees all the people who have known Him for the longest. The older ones remember him growing up, the younger ones have likely heard of Him because of His miracles and teaching all around Galilee. And so He starts teaching and everyone starts getting really offended. They say similar things to what they said to him the first time - essentially “who is this guy? We know him! He’s just a lowly tradesman. We know his mom and his brothers, and His sisters are living here in our town with us. Who does He think He is?!” Once again, Jesus is met with the most rejection by the people most familiar with Him. They were confronted with their own unbelief and lack of faith, and because of that Jesus did not do any mighty works there.
This scene gets pretty crazy when you meditate on it. Think about Jesus’ sisters who lived in Nazareth. They were the ones who knew Him all their lives. How did they feel when the rest of the city responded with rejection and outrage towards their sibling? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine your older brother Jesus standing there at the front of the synagogue looking into the eyes of His sisters and saying what He said. You grew up with him, you saw him when He was tired and when He was eating and when He was working. And now He’s claiming some pretty outrageous things and has a huge crowd following Him everywhere. Oh, I know I would be so unprepared for something like that!
Well, Mark says that Jesus left Nazareth and went on another circuit around Galilee. This was his fourth major circuit through the cities and towns of the region. Now we can assume that the Twelve disciples are probably with Him for at least part of this circuit, and at some point they get sent out by Jesus. Let’s read that account in Mark 6:
"And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them."
(Mark 6:7–13 ESV)
So at some point while they are on their circuit through the villages of Galilee, Jesus calls the Twelve together and sends them out two by two, giving them power and authority to preach and to heal, just as He had done. I think it’s so important to feel the context of the last few weeks in Jesus’ ministry that we’ve looked at up to this point. Jesus had taught in parables and then crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He calms the storm on the way there, the Gadarene deliverance happens, then they head back to Capernaum and then Jairus’ daughter gets raised from the dead. So much drama has happened in such a short period, and now Jesus perhaps some days later while they’re out comes to them and says “hey guys, you’ve been with me for a while, you’ve watched me, you’ve heard what I’ve been preaching and teaching, now I’m sending you out with authority on your words and the same power to heal. Go, and once again bring this message of repentance to Galilee.” Don’t forget, these disciples are not mature apostles at this point - they are simple fishermen who have been Jesus’ official disciples for only a matter of a couple of months.
What’s happening here is really important in the context of Jesus’ ministry up in Galilee. Through this sending there is a massive thrust of power into the region. Six pairs are sent out with the ability to heal and cast out demons. What’s going on here is much more than just Jesus saying “go show the people My compassion”. While that was undoubtedly some of why they went out, Jesus sent them to appeal to the people once again to bear the fruits of repentance. Remember, that’s the mission Jesus is on - He is the God of Israel personally visiting Israel to call them back to Himself. Now some are going to see the disciples' signs, accept their message, and repent. For those people, Jesus says to stay in their house as invited guests and make it their base of operations until they leave the town. But most will not accept their message, so Jesus says they should be prepared for rejection as well. For those people, He says to leave the place and shake the dust off their feet. This may seem like an odd act to us. In that day, devout Jewish people would do this when they left Gentile places to show that they were disassociating themselves from it. So for the disciples to shake the dust of their feet before them would indicate to the Jewish hearers that they were acting like pagans in rejecting the message the disciples were bringing. And this was to be done as a testimony against them. In other words, the disciples’ responsibility to preach the message had been accomplished, and those who rejected the message would have to answer to God for themselves. This likely would have produced serious thought and perhaps even repentance from some people. In addition to accepting rejection, Jesus tells the Twelve to take nothing of importance with them - they are to trust God for provision every step of the way. And so they go out and Jesus is left alone for some rest and surely some time in prayer to His Father.
And so this event brings us to the end of the Middle Galilean Ministry. We’re probably 11 months into Jesus’ two year ministry at this point, and there’s still so much left to cover. As we move into the Late Galilean Ministry, we’re going to see even more dramatic things happen. Not only will the people continue to reject Jesus and His message, but the disciples themselves will be tested in their faith even more.
As I close this episode today, I just want to remind you again that these events we’ve been looking at are real memories in the mind of Jesus. The same One we pray to and sing songs to is the one we’re looking at here. Our tendency is to hear the events and read the details and chalk up what we’re reading as nothing more than a fairy tale. But fight that tendency with all your might and ask Jesus to make His story real to you. My prayer for you is that this would happen - that you would see the Jesus you pray to and the Jesus you read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the same person. And only the Holy Spirit can make that happen.
Well, come back next time when I start to dive into the events in the Late Galilean ministry. If you’ve missed any of the episodes in this series, find them all on my website at www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, see you soon.