"And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and He gave them authority over the unclean spirits; and He charged them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse; but to go shod with sandals: and, said He, put not on two coats. And He said unto them, Wheresoever ye enter into a house, there abide till ye depart thence. And whatsoever place shall not receive you, and they hear you not, as ye go forth thence, shake off the dust that is under your feet for a testimony unto them. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." MARK 6:7-13 (R.V.)
REPULSED a second time from the cradle of His youth, even as lately from Decapolis, with what a heavy heart must the Loving One have turned away. Yet we read of no abatement of His labors. He did not, like the fiery prophet, wander into the desert and make request that He might die. And it helps us to realize the elevation of our Lord, when we reflect how utterly the discouragement with which we sympathize in the great Elijah would ruin our conception of Jesus.
It was now that He set on foot new efforts, and advanced in the training of His elect. For Himself, He went about the villages, whither slander and prejudice had not yet penetrated, and was content to break new ground among the most untaught and sequestered of the people. The humblest field of labor was not too lowly for the Lord, although we meet, every day, with men who are "thrown away" and "buried" in obscure fields of usefulness. We have not yet learned to follow without a murmur the Carpenter, and the Teacher in villages, even though we are soothed in grief by thinking, because we endure the inevitable, that we are followers of the Man of Sorrows. At the same moment when democracies and priesthoods are rejecting their Lord, a king had destroyed His forerunner. On every account it was necessary to vary as well as multiply the means for the evangelisation of the country. Thus the movement would be accelerated, and it would no longer present one solitary point of attack to its unscrupulous foes.
Jesus therefore called to Him the Twelve, and began to send them forth. In so doing, His directions revealed at once His wisdom and His fears for them.
Not even for unfallen man was it good to be alone. It was a bitter ingredient in the cup which Christ Himself drank, that His followers should be scattered to their own and leave Him alone. And it was at the last extremity, when he could no longer forbear, that St. Paul thought it good to be at Athens alone. Jesus therefore would not send His inexperienced heralds forth for the first time except by two and two, that each might sustain the courage and wisdom of his comrade. And His example was not forgotten. Peter and John together visited the converts in Samaria. And when Paul and Barnabas, whose first journey was together, could no longer agree, each of them took a new comrade and departed. Perhaps our modern missionaries lose more in energy than is gained in area by neglecting so humane a precedent, and forfeiting the special presence vouchsafed to the common worship of two or three.
St. Mark has not recorded the mission of the seventy evangelists, but this narrative is clearly colored by his knowledge of that event. Thus he does not mention the gift of miraculous power, which was common to both, but he does tell of the authority over unclean spirits, which was explicitly given to the Twelve, and which the Seventy, returning with joy, related that they also had successfully dared to claim. In conferring such power upon His disciples, Jesus took the first step towards that marvelous identification of Himself and His mastery over evil, with all His followers, that giving of His presence to their assemblies, His honor to their keeping, His victory to their experience, and His lifeblood to their veins, which makes Him the second Adam, represented in all the newborn race, and which finds its most vivid and blessed expression in the sacrament where His flesh is meat indeed and His blood is drink indeed. Now first He is seen to commit His powers and His honor into mortal hands.
In doing this, He impressed on them the fact that they were not sent at first upon a toilsome and protracted journey. Their personal connection with Him was not broken but suspended for a little while. Hereafter, they would need to prepare for hardship, and he that had two coats should take them. It was not so now: sandals would suffice their feet; they should carry no wallet; only a staff was needed for their brief excursion through a hospitable land. But hospitality itself would have its dangers for them, and when warmly received they might be tempted to be feted by various hosts, enjoying the first enthusiastic welcome of each, and refusing to share afterwards the homely domestic life which would succeed. Yet it was when they ceased to be strangers that their influence would really be strongest; and so there was good reason, both for the sake of the family they might win, and for themselves who would not become self-indulgent, why they should not go from house to house.
These directions were not meant to become universal rules, and we have seen how Jesus afterwards explicitly varied them. But their spirit is an admonition to all who are tempted to forget their mission in personal advantages which it may offer. Thus commissioned and endowed, they should feel as they went the greatness of the message they conveyed. Wherever they were rejected, no false meekness should forbid their indignant protest, and they should refuse to carry even the dust of that evil and doomed place upon their feet.
And they went forth and preached repentance, casting out many devils, and healing many that were sick. In doing this, they anointed them with oil as St. James afterwards directed, but as Jesus never did. He used no means, or when faith needed to be helped by a visible application, it was always the touch of His own hand or the moisture of His own lip. The distinction is significant. And also it must be remembered that oil was never used by disciples for the edification of the dying, but for the recovery of the sick.
By this new agency the name of Jesus was more than ever spread abroad, until it reached the ears of a murderous tyrant, and stirred in his bosom not the repentance which they preached, but the horrors of ineffectual remorse