Galilee Mission Trip (II)January 12, 2020, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Mark 6:6-13) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Mark
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service
Title: Galilee Mission Trip (II)
Date: 12th Jan 2020
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
This is the second time I’m preaching on the Galilee Mission Trip. Last year, I shared from the Gospel of Matthew; this year, it is Mark’s version. From my sharing last year, we learned about the purpose of this Galilee Mission Trip. The 12 apostles were sent out to cover quickly all the different villages and towns of Galilee, because Jesus had completed the first year of his ministry in Galilee and he would shortly be on his way to Jerusalem. This mission trip was Jesus’ way of reaching out to as many of the Galilean Jews as possible to let them know about the coming of the Kingdom of God. Up to this point, the good news was mainly spread via Jesus’ traveling from town to town, and also by word of mouth. It had led to visitors from the surrounding areas, especially those who brought their sick to be healed. But you can imagine many in remote places who probably had not heard of the good news yet, at least not in the manner of a first-hand experience. In a way, this mission trip would be the first big direct marketing campaign of Jesus’ ministry.
That was why the 12 apostles were instructed not to carry any provisions because they were to depend entirely on the hospitality of the towns and villages they visited. If they were welcomed, they could stay on to spread the word, but if not, then they were to move on quickly to the next hospitable place. The reason for such hastiness was due to the urgency of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus would be moving on, and for the people at that time, this would be the single chance of a lifetime to see him. I imagine the roles of the apostles were similar to the grassroots volunteers who knocked on doors whenever the MPs were doing house visitations. Their job was to announce the arrival of the MPs, and they were checking if you would like to meet them. Such cold calls must be quite tough because people might feel interrupted, and they might not be very welcoming.
Even though none of us like to be cold-called, whether it is on the phone or on the streets or at home, there are two reasons why the 12 apostles should be welcomed. The first reason is the minor reason, and it is Jewish hospitality. “In ancient Israel, hospitality was not merely a question of good manners, but a moral institution which grew out of the harsh desert and nomadic existence … welcoming the weary traveler and of receiving the stranger in one's midst was …. Biblical law specifically sanctified hospitality toward the ger ("stranger") … "for you were strangers in a strange land" (Lev. 19:34 and see Ex. 12:49)…(Deut. 15:3; 23:21).”  However, such hospitality is not to be abused. “a guest should not extend their visit longer than three days. In Midrash Tehillim it states, “On the day a guest arrives, a calf is slaughtered in his honor; the next day, a sheep, the third day, a fowl, and on the fourth day, he is served just beans” (23:3).” 
Therefore the 12 apostles could count on Jewish hospitality for their mission trip around Galilee, and perhaps stay a maximum of three days at those places that welcomed them. However, at the inhospitable places, they were instructed to “leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” This was the practice of Jewish travelers whenever they returned to Jewish land from Gentile lands. Therefore, Jesus’ instructions for inhospitable places were to treat those places as if they were Gentiles, since they were not even following basic Jewish hospitality. They were disobedient to the laws and forgetting their roots as strangers in the Promised Land from Egypt.
However, relying on Jewish hospitality is only a minor reason why the 12 apostles should be welcomed. I now want to talk about the more important reason, and that is the message that the apostles were bringing. It was a message of repentance. If you were a Jew at that time, you would know what that repentance meant. The fall of Israel and Judah was God’s judgment upon them for breaking their covenant with sins of idolatry and social injustice. It was true that they had been exiled and then returned to their homeland. But the fact that they did not yet have their own kingdom must have felt like the judgment was still not yet over. Maybe they were waiting for the words as promised in Isaiah 40: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
When would the sins ever be fully paid for? Perhaps not until the coming of the Messiah when all sins would be taken away. But until the full salvation arrives, the Jews should welcome a message of repentance. In a way, the work of the 12 apostles in the Galilee Mission Trip was very similar to the work of John the Baptist in Judea. In Mark 1: 4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Repentance is preparation for the Messiah. John preached about repentance to those in Judea for them to receive the Messiah, the coming one with true authority and power. And we see that Judea responded accordingly. But John the Baptist was later imprisoned, and eventually beheaded. This preparation work, especially for those in Galilee, now rested on the 12 apostles. Therefore, Jews in Galilee who rejected the apostles were dismissed as Gentiles, judged by the apostles with the practice of shaking the dust off their feet. They had failed in their Jewish faith. Not only did they fail to obey basic Jewish hospitality, they were also not readily seeking for the forgiveness of God.
Thankfully, there were many others who welcomed the apostles and repented accordingly. We were told later in Mark 6: 14 Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” This is Mark’s way of telling us, that the effects of the Galilee Mission Trip by the apostles were so phenonmenal, it was as if John the Baptist was ministering in Galilee himself. The preparation for the way of the Lord continued on, from John the Baptist in Judea to the 12 apostles in Galilee. Such preparation continues on today, from the Christians in every local church to the missionaries in every foreign land.
What can we learn from the Galilee Mission Trip? First, we have to understand that it was a special case, especially in terms of its urgency, so that we do not apply everything from today’s passage to how we do mission work. Unlike how Jesus sent out his apostles, we should ensure that our missionaries have adequate provisions to survive wherever they are sent. We cannot presume the mission fields would have a culture similar to Jewish hospitality. Therefore, responsible care for the missionaries in finances, communications and prayer support are important. Similarly, unlike the instructions of Jesus, the missionaries cannot have a touch and go mindset whenever they face rejections in the mission field, as if only one chance can be given, and then it is shaking the dust off their feet. Very often, it takes years for mission work to bear fruits after countless efforts. The minimalistic provisions and now-or-never attitudes were unique conditions of that particular mission trip. But is there any universal principle we can apply? I can think of one: the message of repentance.
From the Galilee Mission Trip, we learn about the importance of repentance as preparation for receiving the gospel. The repentance was for the sin of breaking the covenant between God and Israel. And in repentance, their hearts could be ready for Jesus who was the ultimate answer to God’s forgiveness and restoration. There would be many who were devout in worship and obedient to God’s laws, and you might wonder, if these people didn’t offend God, why should they need repentance? In fact, these were the ones who would value repentance even more, because they knew this was about the sins as an entire people of God. As the prophet himself acknowledged in Isaiah 6: 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” A devout Jew knows that he is only as sinful as the community to which he belongs.
However, all these is within the Jewish context, what about us Gentiles? We are not under the covenant and law, and hence we do not have the sins of breaking them. In evangelism and mission work, should we also start with a message of repentance to prepare the listeners for the message of salvation in Jesus Christ? Some might say yes. Even though we did not break the Jewish covenant, but we are still sinners in the eyes of God. So, we should convict people of their sins, and make them do the sinners prayer, so that they will accept Jesus as their Saviour. I must admit that this might work very well in some cases, especially for those who already feel guilty because of past sins in their lives. Such a message of forgiveness would be very meaningful for them.
But there might be others who may feel that they have led a righteous life with a clear conscience. Trying to convict such people of their sins would be like the three friends of Job trying to pin Job down as a sinner when he knew that he was even more righteous than them. I would like to offer a different perspective in light of our passage today. Like the Jews of Jesus’ time, it is not about individual sinners, or who needs to repent more than whom. For the Jews, it was about the collective sins as a people of God. It is the same for us. If we believe that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, then all of humanity are the people of God even though we may not have the special calling of Israel. Those who strive to lead moral lives and appreciate the beauty of fruitful relationships should value repentance even more because they would recognise the collective sins of humanity as a whole against God. So, to such people, we can share about the wonderful will of God’s Creation: light, order and abundant life. We share God’s love with them, and demonstrate God’s intention for humanity: to love your neighbours as yourself. In doing so, we are coming together in repentance, to acknowledge that as humans, we have strayed from God’s words and alienated the relationships we should have with the earth, with one another, and with God.
Brothers and sisters, repentance is not just feeling guilty, it is an active action involving the body and the mind. “In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words help us understand repentance. The first is the word nacham, which means to turn around or to change the mind. The second is the word sub. It is translated by such words as “turn,” “return,” “seek,” “restore.””  For your heart to be ready to receive Jesus Christ, you need to be turned, to be ready for a new direction in your life. Hence when using repentance as a form of preparation for the message of the Gospel, the most important thing is not about making the person feel guilty. Like I said earlier, sometimes it might work, but sometimes it is like being one of Job’s friends. The most important thing about repentance is to make the person turn towards God. Therefore, I think the best message of repentance you can give, is a message of God’s love. In 幸福小组, we learn to share God’s love. Let that be the reason for people to turn around and look towards God.
Mark 6:6–13 (Listen)
6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.