Travelling with God's Word and Power
The ministry of Jesus is often reviewed as a constant round of miracles and nice stories. Mark says that Christ's core ministry task before the cross was teaching the truth about the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15), and that He was the appointed King (Mark 15:2). But He did not teach without the disciples being present. They were not just film-set extras, the production entourage, or even supporting cast. The disciples were there to learn. Every miracle and teaching session was strategically directed at them as trainee apostles. They were Jesus' principal audience (Mark 4:34).
In an age when digital communication can often reach remote communities (albeit at a cost), we may forget that in the 1stC the gospel only travelled by Christians carrying the truth in their hearts or in letters. If the gospel was to reach more people further away, it had to go wherever believers went. So, every persecution resulted in migration, and the gospel spread as believers talked to their new neighbours or travelling companions. Jesus modelled the portable gospel. In the same way that every Rabbi had to have a portable trade (tentmaking in Paul's case) to survive persecution-migration, Jesus taught the disciples to carry God's Word and power and exploit persecution (Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19).
This would become the normal practice of gospel mission. But at the same time as Jesus showing them how to reach the people, the disciples heard the content of the message through similar stories in village after village. Bit by bit, divine truth sank into the hearts of those down-to-earth men. Watching and listening are good ways to learn, but the best way is to put the teaching into practice. So, Jesus sent them off. Mark 6:12 tells us that they were commissioned to call people to repentance. The power to exorcise demons validated this teaching - showing that in the Name of Jesus every spirit must submit - and so should the human hearers. But they were not to go alone, lest their spiritual enemy should get the advantage. Trainees can easily become either inflated with pride in their success, or discouraged to the point of desertion. So, Jesus sent them out two by two.
Alas, today, many never think that gospel truth travels with them everywhere they go. At work, on holiday, unexpected assignments, with family and new friends, moving home or moving office – if you go, there the gospel goes with you … so let it out to speak of Christ and announce His Kingdom. But don’t go-it-alone wherever possible. Good ideas and passion can never substitute for a shared conviction of God's call, mutual support and accountability. Without these, heresy breeds quietly, and charismatic leaders can divert hordes of honest-hearted believers away from living with a gospel agenda. Without praying together, even the best plans will be more flesh than spirit. So, who are your prayer partners at work and on the move? Get involved in portable gospel ministry – but do it together!
© Dr Paul Adams