Not a DIY Project

Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to call for help.

I’m no handyman but living in a do-it-yourself culture, there are times I’ve tried to transcend my inability. Six months ago I was provided with one such opportunity.

It was a Saturday morning and Patricia was out. The boys and I were holding down the fort. I was tidying up the kitchen and opened the bottom cupboard to throw something away and noticed water in the bottom of the cupboard. Like a good detective, I traced the source to a leak in the pipe that fed the sink. It was a slow, steady drip that had now filled multiple sections of our kitchen cabinets. 

I thought to myself, this is a job for a plumber. But then, wisdom prevailed and I thought to myself, no, you’re the plumber today. And so, with my chest puffed out with unearned swagger, I gathered the three tools I owned and set them on the kitchen floor, ready for a successful DIY plumbing venture. 

Hindsight always being 20/20, I probably at this point should have shut the water off in the basement. But, never wanting to let common sense get in the way of progress, I just reached in and giggled the loose pipe.

I got an email a couple of weeks ago informing me they finally finished the $25,000 insurance claim on that flooded house.

Knowing when to seek help

It’s important to know when to seek help. To recognize when we’re out of our depth and be humble enough to lean on an expert. And, I want to suggest that nowhere is this more true than in the Christian life. We’re called to grow in holiness and call others to that same journey. Sometimes, often without realizing it, we can attempt to accomplish these things on our own when, in reality, we really need God’s help in order to succeed.

Looking at Mark 6:6b–32, we’re going to be reminded of this truth. But, before we read our passage together, I want to give you the main idea up right up front and then we’ll unpack it phrase by phrase. 

Here it is: The disciples’ commission from Jesus, that which attracts opposition from the world, is enabled and empowered by God’s provision.

While Christ gives his followers an assignment, and to carry out that assignment is to draw resistance from the world, God himself provides what is necessary for faithfulness. The Christian life isn’t a DIY project. We need God’s help.

The commission

This passage begins with the disciples’ commission from Jesus. We’ve actually been waiting for this since chapter 3 where it says:

And he went up on the mountain and summoned those whom he himself wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, so that they would be with him and that he could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons (3:13–15).

And now, in chapter 6, we find the fulfillment.

And he summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. … They went out and preached that men should repent (6:7, 12).

The purpose of their calling is now being realized. The twelve are commissioned by Jesus—summoned, given authority, and sent out to preach. And verse 13 describes success.

And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

They liberate many demonized and heal many sick. 

But Mark makes sure to remind us that followers of Jesus won’t always experience success. You’ll remember that Jesus had just been rejected in his hometown. In verse 11, he hints at future rejection as well, instructing the twelve to pronounce judgement upon unbelievers by shaking dust off their feet as they leave.

And so we see here that the disciples’ commission from Jesus is one of coming to him to be sent out to preach with authority even in the face of rejection.

And that’s still our commission from Jesus today, isn’t it? Even if we only look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28 we see this is still our commission:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them … [and] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you (28:18–20).

You and I are commissioned—summoned, given authority as Spirit-indwelled new creations, and sent out into the world to preach the gospel, making disciples. That’s our commission today.

The opposition

Let’s add another phrase to our statement. The disciples’ commission from Jesus, that which attracts opposition from the world. We’ve seen this before in Mark’s gospel and it’s been hinted at already in this passage: We can expect opposition.

Mark includes a recounting of John the Baptist’s execution as an extreme example of opposition from the world. But what we’re really being shown here is the inevitable tension that arises when two kings, and the kingdoms they represent, collide.

In Mark 6 we have the King of kings, Jesus, and his eternal kingdom of holiness, justice, and love colliding with king Herod representing the temporal kingdoms of this world, kingdoms characterized by death, insecurity, selfishness, and pride.

John, as a faithful disciple, stood as a messenger of the King of kings. A specific example is given in vv. 17–18 where he spoke against the sexual sin of Herod. John, representing God’s Kingdom agenda, rebuked the agenda of the kingdoms of this world. And that attracted opposition that, for John, cost him his life.

A faithful disciple will attract opposition from the world. Jesus was clear: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20). And Paul wrote to Timothy, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

And while, praise the Lord, we are not living in a context in which our lives are at risk, to be faithful to our task, a disciple that carries the gospel of God into and against the kingdoms of our culture today, will attract opposition. You know this. I don’t need to convince you. But Mark wants to remind us of that reality, to encourage us that now’s the time to call for help; to realize this isn’t a DIY project.

The provision

Let’s finish our statement: The disciples’ commission from Jesus, that which attracts opposition from the world, is enabled and empowered by God’s provision. We need God’s help, and he supplies it for us. And I want to point out three things he provides for us that we must learn to lean on.

God provides reinforcements

First, God provides the reinforcements we need. In verse 7, Mark tells us that Jesus sent them out in pairs. Not solo. This is consistent with the Jewish custom of the day and many OT and NT passages speak to this. For example, Deuteronomy 19:15:

One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime …. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Nobody was to believe a single person, but there was believed to be validity in numbers. But not only did it add believability to their message, it also made them more effective in their commission.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).

When we jump to verse 30 of our passage, we find the twelve coming back together.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to him all that they had done and taught.

Wouldn’t it have been great to witness this reuniting? The excitement and encouragement! The reinforcements provides camaraderie. 

We’ve been provided with reinforcement as well: the church. It’s with God’s people we can commiserate, heal, process, learn, struggle, celebrate, and vent. It’s with other believers we can find support and encouragement, rebuke and wisdom. We need one another. We need other believers.

Our call to grow in Christlikeness and to invite others to that same journey is not a DIY project. We need the reinforcements God has provided us.

God provides resources

Second, God provides the resources we need. In verse 8 and 9, the twelve are sent out with almost nothing.

and he instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt—but to wear sandals; and he added, “Do not put on two tunics.”

This seemingly bizarre command for minimalistic ministry is almost certainly a reference to the exodus generation. 

The same dress code can be found in Exodus 12:11:

Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover.

The entire passover meal was a declaration of both the dependance of God’s people and ability of God to provide all needs.

Likewise, the twelve are forced to totally depend on God. God would have to provide lodging and food just as he had the message its authority. And the same is true with us today. Jesus makes it pretty clear in the Upper Room: “apart from me you can do nothing … [and yet] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

When we seek to grow in maturity on our own strength, we undercut the true means by which we can grow. When we attempt to influence the people around us in the power of the flesh, even with good intentions, we are essentially trying to steal God’s glory.

Our call to grow in Christlikeness and to invite others to that same journey is not a DIY project. We need the resources only God can provide.

God provides rest

Third, God provides the rest we need.

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves (6:31–32).

The commission we’ve been given is demanding and tiring. Wrestling with our sin is wearying. Loving unbelievers means experiencing heartbreak in their rejection. Our commission makes us face our finiteness. We need rest, just like the disciples did. 

And that’s what Jesus offers. In Matthew 11 our Lord said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (v. 28). This is referring to the offer of salvation, certainly, but I think it extends to the life of a believer. 

Hebrews 12 likens the Christian life to a long race. If you’ve ever watched an ultra-marathon, an ironman triathlon, or some other crazy test of endurance, you notice the racers adding fuel to their bodies while they compete. Water stations, or little packs around their waste carrying gels and snacks. They know their bodies need energy to finish the race well. So it is with the race set before us. We have to refuel and replenish. We have to spend time with Jesus and find that rest.

Remembering Mark 3 again it says the twelve were called by Jesus “so that they could be with him and that he could send them out.” Here in chapter 6, we see them with him, and being sent out. The same is true for you and I. We must spend time with him in order to be effectively sent out.

Our call to grow in Christlikeness and to invite others to that same journey is not a DIY project. We need the rest only God can provide.

Conclusion

And so, to sum up in a pithy way: You and I, as individual disciples of Jesus, and together as members of his church, must engage God’s mission leaning on God’s provision.

Ask God to show you where you may still clinging to self-righteousness and DIY tendencies, trust that he will, and then repent of them.

Say to him, “God, I want to be successful on this commission you’ve graciously given to me, in spite of opposition I’m sure to meet along the way. And I know, I can’t do that in my own power. Help me to rely on the reinforcements, the resources, and the rest you provide.”

Let’s be a people that engage his mission leaning on his provision.