Mark is certainly a delicious book with all of the sandwiches he leaves throughout the narrative. We have another sandwich in Mark 6.
Crust – Jesus Sends out the Twelve (6:6b-13)
Meat – John the Baptist Beheaded (6:14-29)
Crust – The Twelve Return (6:30-30)
The inner part always illuminates the outer part. What does that have to teach us in Mark 6? The parallel is found in the mission and the message of the disciples in Mark 6 and in the ministry of John the Baptist. The last thing we have heard about John the Baptist up to this point in Mark goes all the way back to 1:14 When we learned he was put in prison. Notice the context of that verse (1:14-15) is about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry which when he preached two things: 1) The nearness of the kingdom of God. 2) To Repent. That was the same message John the Baptist was preaching and now is the same message that the twelve are to go out and preach.
The Instructions & Results:
– Pack minimally. Rely on God for what you need. Depend on the hospitality of others. This will also allow them to move quickly throughout the region because their mission is urgent and important. They are the representatives of Israel (12 disciples) going throughout the land preaching about the coming of the kingdom and the impending need for repentance. Their mission was a success (6:12 & 30). Judas himself probably even drove out demons, preached repentance, and saw the fruits of that ministry. Ben Witherington thinks the shaking of dust off their feet is a sign of judgment basically removing even the connection of the land by the dust on their feet leaving even that behind as they shake it off. Why send them in pairs? They will act as witnesses (needing two witnesses for a guilty verdict) as another sign of judgment on those who reject the message.
John the Baptist Beheaded:
Mark cuts to another scene about another man who preached repentance who will now face the ultimate rejection for his preaching – death. He will not merely face the rejection the twelve may face on their journey. He is facing death. Larry Hurtado points out several parallels between John’s death and Jesus:
- Executed by civil authorities
- Hesitation by the officials
- Officials are pressured by others
- Both Jesus and John are taken away by their disciples and buried.
In the case of John the Baptist, the Twelve, and lastly Jesus – the kingdom is to be preached with boldness and urgency and how it is received will not always be with pleasantries and hospitality. But the sending of the twelve leaves us with a glimmer of hope as they had received acceptance along the way. Their need for shelter and food had been met. What is more demons had been cast out and the kingdom and repentance had been preached.