In this week’s gospel reading, from the 6th chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus sent out the Twelve disciples on a mini missionary trip. Jesus instructed the Twelve to “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money.”
Wow! No food? No money? I don’t know about you, but I would never even THINK about leaving home on a trip without plenty of money (or at least plenty of credit cards).
However, Jesus sent His disciples out on this missionary journey without any resources at all. They had to depend completely on the kindness of strangers for their daily food and lodging. Again, I don’t know about you, but personally, instead of depending upon the kindness of strangers, I’d much rather depend upon the credit line of my VISA card.
Well, actually, I misspoke. Jesus did NOT send them out without any resources at all. Scripture tells us that He “gave them authority over unclean spirits.” So, in reality, Jesus gave them a fantastic resource for their journey (even more valuable than a wallet full of VISA cards). He gave them the power of God. The Twelve went out on this mission completely dependent upon God for their daily needs—and that was more than enough.
Jesus also gave them another very important resource for the journey. He sent his disciples out “two by two.” Jesus gave them a precious resource that would not have been available if they had gone out alone: the resource of companionship, support, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on when things went poorly.
Think of these two scenarios: First, a solitary individual is sent by Jesus to preach in the countryside. When the people in a particular village mock him and tell him to get lost, this person heads off to the next village. As he walks alone, he starts second-guessing himself. “Boy, that was terrible,” he mutters. “I couldn’t get a single person to listen to me. I don’t know why Jesus sent me on this mission. I can’t do this. I’m such a loser.” By the time he shuffles into the next village, he’s so discouraged and depressed, all he wants to do is sit under a tree and have a pity party for himself.
How different it is when two people are sent together. After the villagers mock them and tell them to get lost, they head off to the next village. As they walk, one of them says, “Boy, that was terrible. No one listened to us.”
The other replies, “Yeah, those folks were cranky, all right. Nothing like the people we met three days ago. Remember how kind they were to us?”
“Good point,” the first one says, “Maybe the people in the next village will be kind, too. But even if they’re not, what’s the worst that can happen? They laugh at us? They tell us to get lost? No big deal. Hey, you know what? I’ve got a good feeling about this next village. C’mon, let’s hurry up so we get there before dinner time!”
Well, you get the idea. When two people work together, they can commiserate together, encourage each other, and help each other to get over disappointments more quickly and be able to laugh about it.
This event in the gospels should be an important lesson for us all. The Christian life is not meant for a bunch of Lone Rangers. We need the support of each other to keep from getting discouraged. That’s why we’re called to gather each week as a community of believers and worship the Lord together.
It’s practically impossible to live a vibrant, joyful Christian life in solitude. If we try to do it alone, it’s just not going to work. We need the fellowship and support of other believers.