7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 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.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Back in the 1970s I become involved in Bill Bright’s organization, Campus Crusade for Christ. It was a huge movement and closely tied to Billy Graham’s evangelistic efforts. As a part of that group, I went on a few excursions, knocking on doors both in Texas and Nebraska doing “cold calls.” We were sent out in pairs to canvas neighborhoods for Jesus. We would share Jesus with whoever answered the door and try to direct them to the local church. While I’m sure Campus Crusade accomplished many things, it was not a successful fit for me. What I learned there was how to hate cold calls. While I love talking about Jesus with just about anyone, this particular style of sharing the Gospel just didn’t work for me. We also didn’t cast out any demons or heal any sick people. What we were doing was mirroring this passage of Scripture where God’s people go out as He directs and share Him with their world.
Their being sent with a commission in this pericope depicts centrifugal movement for the people of God, i.e., movement outward to those who need to come under the reign and rule of God. something of a contrast to the centripetal principle of Isaiah, which emphasizes attraction of the nations to Israel, by God’s people being a desired destination (Isaiah 2:1–5) or a light (Isaiah 60:1–7). The word choice of “begin” is, perhaps, as theologically significant. The sending out represents a movement and ministry that continues after Easter (see Acts; indeed, Paul in Acts is the best example of this principle).
Voelz, J. W. ©2013. Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26. (p. 392). St. Louis, MO: CPH.
So, a part of the training that Jesus is doing with His Disciples is this test run for what they will have to do after His resurrection and ascension. While their Master is still will them, they get to try out what He has taught them, learn to trust in the power of God to protect and provide for them, and experience the new power that Jesus has invested in them to actually work miracles. Just imagine their surprise, amazement, shock . . . after the first demon left some poor beleaguered person, or someone who was perhaps terminally ill was healed at their hands. That would have been one of those moments you remember for the rest of your life. But it is time for Jesus message to go wide. Jesus also instructs them to take no provisions with them. They were to trust that God would care for them along the way. The instruction to take no “bag” with them refers to a bag that someone would use for begging. Engaging in the practice of begging would have been a direct indication that they most certainly did not trust God for their care.
Jesus also gives them permission to surrender the outcomes. If the people with whom they were sharing rejected the messengers (message!) then they were to accept that and move on, leaving those people with a visual image. They were to shake the dust of that village from their feet.
6:11 “shake off the dust”: To shake dust off is a great insult; it indicates that the person is unwilling to be touched by what others touch. Indeed, Jews returning to Israel after travel abroad regularly shook the dust off their feet. Note the parallel to Acts 13:51, where Paul shakes the dust of Pisidian Antioch from his feet and moves to Iconium. Such dust-shaking seems not to be related to cursing another party but serves as a warning: “You have rejected our preaching. Therefore, you and all that’s yours are without the reign and rule of God, and we will not be associated with that.” Note that this is another example of the Lord going the extra mile, as it were. All expressions of judgment are never simply condemnations carried out immediately but linguistic statements that have the illocutionary force of warning to elicit repentance.
Voelz, J. W. ©2013. Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26. (p. 398). St. Louis, MO: CPH.
Evangelism has become much different in 2017. Those making cold calls are far and few between these days and that is probably because there are more effective means of reaching others at our disposal today. Or maybe that’s just me making an excuse to never have to that again!