Posted on: July 7th, 2024 by St. Stephens Downsview

Some words from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, reading from verse 7 to 9, have been resonating with me deeply. In these verses, we hear that Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

As we’ve journeyed with Jesus over these past few Sundays through the lens of Mark’s gospel, I’ve come to see that Mark offers us glimpses of faith—faith as it is oriented toward Jesus as both its source and object. This faith revolves around his power at work in the lives of those he encountered.

Faith in Action

In Jesus’s earthly ministry, he traveled around teaching and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, healing many who were brought to him in various conditions needing healing. By doing so, he kindled the faith of those around him and invited them to ponder who he was—one who could teach with such power and authority.

When Jesus stilled the storm in the company of his disciples, their faith was once again stoked, prompting them to ask, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” This question echoes through the narratives we’ve explored, from the faith of Jairus and his healed daughter to the unnamed woman whose faith led her to touch Jesus’s clothing for healing.

Faith in Jesus’s Hometown

Today, Mark contrasts two examples of faith: the faith, or lack thereof, in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth and the faith of the twelve disciples whom Jesus sent out. Upon returning to Nazareth with his disciples, Jesus taught among those who had known him since childhood. While they recognized the wisdom in his teachings and witnessed great deeds of power, their familiarity bred contempt. They could not reconcile the man they knew with the authority he displayed, and thus their unbelief hindered Jesus’s work among them.

The Warning of Prejudices

This passage serves as a caution about how our prejudices and preconceived notions can limit our understanding and experience of God’s work. When we pigeonhole God, viewing Jesus merely as an interesting historical figure, an excellent teacher, or a great prophet, we miss out on recognizing him as our Lord and God.

The Disciples’ Example

In stark contrast to the unbelief in Nazareth is the faith of the disciples. Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits and sent them out with nothing but the clothes on their backs to proclaim the message of repentance, cast out demons, and heal the sick. This sends a profound message about trust and dependence on God. Like the disciples, we are called to lean not on our own strength but on God’s provision and guidance.

Our Role as Modern Disciples

As modern-day followers of Jesus, we stand on the shoulders of these early disciples, called to continue their mission. We are sent out not with our own authority, but with God’s. It’s not our efforts that sustain us; it’s God who equips and supports us. As a church, reflecting on the seventy years past and the years ahead, we may doubt our strength, but it is God who supplies what we need for the journey.

Dependence on God

True faith often becomes evident in times of lack. When we have nothing else to lean on, we recognize our deep dependence on God. Too much abundance can lead to self-reliance, but in moments of bare necessity, God’s sustaining power becomes clear. Blessed are those who know their need of God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Concluding Thoughts

The two contrasting examples of faith in Mark’s Gospel—unbelief in Nazareth and the disciples’ faith—remind us that Jesus’s presence demands a response. We will either embrace faith or turn away in disbelief. Let us choose to be like the disciples, welcoming Jesus into our lives and relying on his power.

In doing so, our very lives become conduits for God’s work, living prophetically to invite others to encounter the same Jesus we have. Beyond what we think we know about Jesus, I pray that we all have a fresh encounter with him today, recognizing him not just as a historical figure or great teacher, but as the Lord and God of our lives and of all creation.

My prayer is that we would respond obediently to his call and serve him faithfully throughout our lives.