Doubts and all

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted… (Mt 20:17)

We are a little uncomfortable with that doublet:  worshiped, doubted.  I mean these are the apostles – they have been with Jesus for three years and have seen incredible signs and wonders, the lame have walked, the deaf hear and mute speak.  Surely these apostles would be people of great faith. Continue reading

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Mission: peace

70Apostles“Peace to this household…” The instructions for how the disciples should receive hospitality are expanded from 9:4, which simply commanded that they stay wherever they were received. Here the instruction has two parts, with commentary on each: (1) say, “Peace to this house,” and (2) remain in the house where you are received. The peace they offer seems like a tangible gift or even a living reality with a mind of its own. This notion of peace rests on the biblical concept of the word of God as being not only a message but somehow an embodiment of God’s own personality and power (Isa 55:10–11; Jer 20:8–9). The peace-wish of the Christian missionary is more than an expression of good will — it is the offer of a gift from God of which they are privileged to be the ministers and heralds (see 1:2; Acts 6:4). Those who bring spiritual gifts can expect their physical needs to be taken care of by the beneficiaries (v. 7; see Gal 6:6 “the one who is being instructed in the Word should share all good things with his instructor.”). Continue reading

Mission: instructions

70ApostlesCommissioning and Instructing the Missioners. 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy (-two) others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. Just prior to sending out these “apostles” (the related verb apostello is used in vv. 1, 3, & 16), James and John indicate their inadequacies by wanting to call down fire to destroy the Samaritans and three “would-be” followers indicate their unwillingness to leave all to follow Jesus. Yet, in spite of these shortcomings among his followers, Jesus sends them out. Continue reading

Mission: context

70Apostles1 After this the Lord appointed seventy (-two) others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. 3 Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. 4 Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. 5 Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household. 6 If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. 8 Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, 9 cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ 10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 11 ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. 12 I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town… 17 The seventy (-two) returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” 18 Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. 19 Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Continue reading

Sending: message

The Message. 12 So they went off and preached repentance. 13 They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

The New American Bible (NAB) offers a translation that seems minimally functional – merely reporting that they set out on mission and what they did when they got there. A more literal translation of the verse is: “And the went out and proclaimed so that all might repent.” The second part of the verse is a hina clause in Greek, normally indicating purpose, aim, or goal. The purpose in their proclaiming is that people might repent, that is, have a change in mind/heart. Such preaching will include the demands from God and our failure to live up to them. It also includes the grace of God that accepts the law-breakers. It includes the mandate to speak the truth in such a way that it leads people to repent, to have a change in mind about their own sinfulness and about God’s gracefulness.

In obedience to their commission the Twelve proclaimed the gospel through their word and deed. Their message and the exercise of power confirm the representative character of their mission. They preach the message of repentance that Jesus had proclaimed; they cast out demons and heal the sick because these activities had characterized his ministry. Their coming to a village brought healing and salvation in the most comprehensive terms because they were his representatives. Jesus had commissioned them and they came in his name. What Jesus did in his own power as commissioned by God, the disciples did in his power.

The essential element in the mission is the intrusion of the Kingdom of God “with power.” The expulsion of demons is clearly distinguished from the anointing of the sick, but both actions were visible functions of the Kingdom. They declared that it was God’s intention to apply salvation to man in his wholeness. The focus upon the words and works of Christ anticipates the character of the more permanent mission the disciples received by the appointment of the risen Christ.

Sources

  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).
  • Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989)
  • John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina v.2 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer / Liturgical Press, 2001) 189-94
  • Wilfred Harrington, Mark, The New Testament Message, v.4 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer Press, 1979)
  • William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 205-10
  • Philip Van Linden, C.M., “Mark” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989)
  • Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1994) 595-96
  • Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001) 203-12
  • David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005)
  • Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources, available at www.crossmarks.com/brian/

Scripture – The New American Bible available on-line at http://www.usccb.org/bible

Sending: provisions

Christ-sending-His-ApostlesCommentary. Rejected by his own family and home crowd, Jesus preaches elsewhere and sends his twelve disciples out with special instructions and powers. It is good to remember that the apostles are not sent out as a reaction to the rejection. The mission of the apostles is part of a larger plan. First, Jesus had call them personally (1:16–20). Then he selected twelve special ones to accompany him (3:13–19). The Twelve, tutored by Jesus and present with him as he healed many from sickness and evil (chapters. 3–5), are now ready to become apostles, in Greek, literally the “ones sent out.” Continue reading

Sending: context

Christ-sending-His-Apostles7 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. 9 They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. 11 Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” 12 So they went off and preached repentance. 13 They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7-13) Continue reading

Baptized, Sent, and Falling Short

Homa Bay, on Winam Gulf, Lake Victoria, Kenya;...

Homa Bay,Kenya

You’ve seen the movies: a person is in danger, slipping off a cliff or a building or some other perilous perch. Another person grasps them by the hand and desperately tries to pull him or her to safety. That is the image Isaiah gives us: God grasps the chosen servant by the hand and hangs on for dear life.  “I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant to the people” (Is 42:6). It is an image that  Pope Benedict XVI sees in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, the sinless one, plunges into the waters of our life, grasps a new covenant people by the hand, rises from the waters, all the while hanging on for dear life – our life.  And we are baptized into Christ, raised toward eternal life, commissioned to journey through this life.  Baptized and sent.

18 years ago, on the 2nd day of my mission to Kenya, I found myself in the back seat, traveling by car from Kisumu to Homa Bay on a mostly rough, uneven, dusty and rock-strewn dirt road only meters from Lake Victoria. The land was dry, parched, and in need of irrigation – all the result of irrigation projects promised but never seemingly a high enough national priority for this out-of-the-way corner of the nation.  Later we were to discover we were between the short rains of December and the long rains of July and August – and in reality, at the beginning of a year-long drought. Continue reading

On Mission and Crossing Over Boundaries

saint-francis-of-assisi-cimabueAmong founders of religious orders, Francis of Assisi is the first who consciously included mission ad gentes (to the people of the world) as part of the order’s Rule of Life. Francis was clear about the ad gentes nature of mission in the Franciscan tradition: “But I tell you in truth that the Lord chose and sent the brothers for the benefit and salvation of the souls of all people in the whole world and they should be received not only in the land of the believers, but also in that of non-believers.” (Assisi Compilation, 108)

Clearly Francis held to the idea of the universality of mission, yet some people might find Francis’ distinction of the world as the twined categories of believer and non-believer to be somehow less than welcoming or out of sorts with our sensibility of what it means to be Franciscan. Yet note how Chapter 16 of the “Early Rule” (1221 CE) is named by Francis: “Chapter XVI: Those going among the Saracens and other Nonbelievers.” I mention this as a way of pointing you back to the first reflection where it was noted that the way you think about Jesus, church, when and how God’s reign is fully inaugurated, the nature of salvation, how the Church values human beings, and the role and value of culture – all these things affect the way in which one understands and carries out mission. As questions, these six topics remain present, even urgent, in every age because how they are answered is how Christianity finds its concrete identity as it constitutes itself in fidelity to Jesus’ mission. Continue reading