After being rejected in His hometown of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus sent out His disciples in six teams of two. Why did He send them in twos? They could have covered more towns if all twelve went separately.
A bigger question is why He sent them out at all. Why not have them continue to listen to and watch Him?
Mark does not tell us the reason. Two likely reasons are 1) they will learn more by doing some teaching and ministry, rather than only watching Him, and 2) they will multiply the impact of His ministry.
In Mark 1:17, we learned that when Jesus called His disciples, He promised to make them “fishers of men.” Here they are learning how to be fishers of men.
He gave them power over unclean spirits. They were also to preach about the coming kingdom.
Did you realize that one of the twelve who had power to cast out demons and preach was Judas Iscariot, the unbeliever? Evidently even Judas cast out demons and healed the sick and preached about the coming kingdom. God can even use unbelievers to accomplish His mission.
Did you ever stop and think that if He can use Judas, then He can use you as well?
Notice the Lord’s instructions. They are not to take extra clothes or money or food. They will rely on the people in the towns to which they go.
When they came to a village, they were to find hospitality in one home only. They were not to hop about from house to house. It would certainly dishonor one home if the two disciples staying there left to go to a bigger and better home.
If any town would not receive them—and remember that Nazareth had just failed to receive Him—then they were to shake the dust off their feet.
Jews in the first century who traveled outside Israel would stop at the border as they crossed back into Israel and shake the Gentile dust off their sandals. To do that as you left a city in Israel was to suggest that they were not acting like Jews should act.
Jesus went on to say, “It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” (v 11).
“The day of judgment” refers to the results of the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15). The Lord is not just talking about the experience of people on one day. He was talking about the amount of eternal torment that would be announced at the Great White Throne Judgment.
Notice the words more tolerable. Why put it that way? I believe that the Lord is here suggesting that the eternal torment that unbelievers will experience will be on a scale from more tolerable to less tolerable. His words imply that all the torment will be tolerable.
We know from the sowing and reaping principle that there will be degrees of torment in the lake of fire. Of course, all in the lake of fire will be tormented forever. The Scriptures are clear on this point. But the commonly taught idea that the suffering in the lake of fire will be worse than any suffering on earth is not found in the Bible. I discuss this in detail in my chapter on hell in The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible.
Sodom and Gomorrah were two of the most wicked cities of all time. Yet a Jewish city that rejected the message of Jesus from the Apostles would experience more torment. Why? Because the greatest sin is rejecting the most compelling evidence that Jesus is the Messiah Savior King. Sodom and Gomorrah had far less revelation than the cities of Israel in Jesus’ day.
Verses 12-13 are Mark’s summary of the ministry of the twelve in the region of Galilee. Jewish historian Josephus said that there were 204 small villages in Galilee at the time of Jesus. Others think he exaggerated. In any case, there were plenty of cities for these six teams of two to minister in.
Mark tells us that they preached “that people should repent.” Why? The reason is because the Lord wanted them to prepare the nation for the coming kingdom. Compare Mark 1:14-15. They were giving the message, “Repent and believe the gospel,” which is “the gospel of the kingdom,” the good news that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14-15).
While Mark does not report about any evangelistic ministry, it is likely that they also proclaimed the gift of everlasting life to all who believe in Jesus. But what we know for sure is that they preached “that people should repent.”
For an individual to be born again, he had to simply believe in Jesus for everlasting life as the Lord said in John 3:16. But for the kingdom to come, all of the adults in Israel had to be both believers and in fellowship with God. Thus, the call to repentance was a way to prepare the nation of Israel to receive the kingdom in that day. They did not. The result is that Israel is still awaiting the return of her Messiah. But at the end of the Tribulation, all adult Jews will be believers who are in fellowship with God. Any unbelieving or unfaithful adult Jews will die before the end of the Tribulation.
In addition to preaching about the kingdom that had drawn near, the twelve also cast out many demons and healed many who were sick.
God wants us to serve Him in all areas of our lives, in view of His soon return.
Team ministry, while not required, is certainly a Biblical idea. Local churches are to be led to a group of elders, for example. Husbands and wives are to minister as a couple as well as individually.
If people reject our witness about the Lord Jesus, they are rejecting our Lord who sent us, just like most of Israel rejected God the Father when they rejected the Lord Jesus whom He had sent.