We’ve reached the point of the story where Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs, giving them the authority to preach the message of the kingdom. I love the simplicity of their mission: don’t take anything with you, stay with friends, spread the good news. Nothing complicated.
Their message was simple too. It’s the same message Jesus began to preach back in chapter 1: “Repent and believe.” In fact, here in chapter 6, Mark simply says, “They went off and announced that people should repent.”
I really like simple. Especially on Monday mornings when everything seems complicated. My marriage seems complicated. My parenting seems complicated. Our finances seem complicated. On mornings like these I need something simple to focus on.
Repent and believe. Hmmm. That’s simple. Repent when my marriage seems out of joint. Repent when my parenting strategies have become self-centered. Believe that God will take care of us financially. Simple enough.
Simple, but not easy, right? The disciples carried a simple message, but they did not have an easy time delivering it. And people did not have an easy time obeying it. The story of the sending out is sandwiched between two sad stories of unrepentant, unbelieving people. The people from Jesus’ hometown who had known him all his life rejected him, laughing at him. Then the leaders of the district murdered John the Baptist on a whim. Jesus told his disciples ahead of time how to handle the people who would, surely, oppose them. The people who repented walked in step with Jesus. The people who wouldn’t repent… walked the other way.
It’s a simple message, but it’s not an easy one. Repentance and belief require us to surrender. To internally release our grip of control. To come under authority, obeying Jesus’ words when everything in us wants to do things the way we want to do them. To say out loud to God that we trust him as we’re trying to balance the budget. To say we’re sorry. To admit we’re wrong.
It’s hard to do, but it’s not complicated. We don’t have an extensive list of rules to obey. We don’t have to come up with a strategy to make life work. We don’t have to do penance, trying to make up for wrongs done (Jesus has already done that for us). We just have to repent (admit we’re going the wrong way, turn around, and in the power of the Spirit go the other way) and believe (take Jesus at his word).
I’m going to give it a try this morning. Repent and believe. Simple, not easy, but worth it. It means I’ll be walking in step with Jesus rather than walking away from him. Want to try it with me?