Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

A No Packing List

I am a planner. I like to stay well ahead of deadlines; I work best when I have a little breathing room. This tendency to be out in front is often the source of banter among my family and colleagues. This is just who I am and how I function.

I think this is why I find Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Mark 6 so disturbing. In the first part of Mark 6, Jesus is rejected by the people of His hometown. He begins to travel from village to village (v. 6). Jesus then calls His disciples together in a sort of pre-game huddle. He is about to send them out. Mark simply states,

(Mark 6:8 NIV11-GK) These were his instructions:

Again, he has given them authority over impure spirits (v. 7) and is sending them out two by two (v. 7). You might think that His instructions would include a list of what-ifs. If this happens, then you should handle it this way … or a list of potential hazards that might be common in this sort of work. You might think that Jesus would offer a supply list of necessary items. I don’t know about you, but I find His instructions shocking.

(Mark 6:8–9 NIV11-GK) Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.

This is not a packing list; it is a prohibition list. He gives them permission to take a staff and sandals, but not much else. The items that would be on any packing list for first century travel are forbidden. Why is Jesus restricting basic provisions? Why no emergency preparedness kit? What if they get stranded? Should they not have backup credit card?

Jesus continues to instruct,

(Mark 6:10–11 NIV11-GK) Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.

Some will welcome them; others will reject them. They need to be ready for each possibility. Yet, when they are welcomed, they are to stay in one place until they leave town. So what about their lack of provisions?

It seems that Jesus does not want His disciple to depend on their own resources. He is going to provide for them along the way. In the same way that God provided for the Israelites during the Exodus, He will provide for the disciples as they discern their journey. If they are welcome, stay and God will provide. If they land on deaf ears, pack up and go.

As I reflect on these instructions, I am challenged to depend on God. Again, I am a planner. I like to be two or three steps ahead. I struggle with Jesus’ directives; yet I know they are still applicable for us today. May we be a people who continually discern God’s direction and trust that He will provide for us along the way. May we not be held back because we are depending on our own resources. May we lay aside our supplies and allow God to provide all we need to live out His calling as we join Him on His mission in our world.