February 14, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Mark 6:7
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
Jesus reinforces the “can’t do it alone” truth of Christian life and work by sending out his disciples “two by two.” He knew that their ministry would be stronger if they served in teams. Thus, as we think about our life and work, we would do well to imitate the “two by two” approach of Jesus, sharing in life and work with partners who will help us to be more effective and resilient in all we do.
Today’s devotion is part of the Life for Leaders series: Can’t Do It Alone.
As Jesus moved about in Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God and demonstrating the presence of the kingdom through works of power, he sent out his disciples to share in his mission. Jesus gave them authority over demons, as well as the power to heal the sick (Mark 6:7, 13). In this way, they were able to carry the message of the kingdom, with its call to repentance, just as Jesus did. According to Mark, Jesus sent his disciples out “two by two” (6:7). In effect, this cut in half the number of towns in which the ministry of the kingdom could be happening simultaneously. Wouldn’t individuals be able to cover much more ground much more efficiently? Why did Jesus send out the disciples in pairs, rather than individually?
Part of the answer to this question lies in the Jewish tradition of “two witnesses.” The Old Testament law (see Deuteronomy 19:15) stipulated that at least two witnesses were needed in order to convict someone of a crime. In the culture of Jesus, this legal requirement also underscored the commonsense idea that two witnesses are more reliable than one. So, when two of Jesus’s disciples proclaimed the presence of the kingdom, they would be more likely to receive a hearing. This would be especially important given the unsettling nature of the message that Jesus and his disciples were proclaiming. (Of course, it wouldn’t hurt their credibility if they cast out demons or healed the sick!)
The unsettling nature of that message may also have been in Jesus’s mind as he deployed his disciples. He knew that they would at times face opposition. Though many would welcome the good news of the kingdom of God, others, especially those in power, would reject it. Rejection and opposition are always hard to take, but even more so when we’re all by ourselves. Collegiality in the face of difficulty encourages resilience.
There may have been yet another reason why Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs. He may have been thinking of the power of shared ministry, the added impact when two or more people work together toward a shared goal. This co-laboring is not only effective but also reflective of the theological nature of ministry in the era of the new covenant. By sending his disciples out two by two, Jesus foreshadowed the collegiality that would become the hallmark of the Spirit-filled church.
No matter the specific reason or reasons Jesus had for sending out his disciples “two by two,” his doing so underscores the truth of “you can’t do it alone.” If you want to do the ministry of the kingdom of God with effectiveness and resilience, you need to do it with at least one other person. Though at times you may need to serve the Lord by yourself, it’s better to find a partner.
Christians seem to understand this when, for example, it comes to things like mission trips. We rarely send individuals to a mission experience. Mostly we send teams of people, a practice that follows the precedent of Jesus.
Yet, it’s quite common for churches to send pastors to new congregations all by themselves. Of course, sometimes pastors have spouses. But rarely do we think about sending members of our churches to support and serve alongside pastors as they begin their new jobs. I was thinking about this about a year ago when my home church sent an associate pastor named Joel to become the lead pastor of a church not far from my home. As I thought and prayed about this situation, and as I talked with my wife and spiritual director about it, it seemed clear that God was calling me and my wife to go with Joel to his new church. And so we have. Now, I expect Joel would be doing just fine without us. But I think our support and friendship have meant a lot to him and his wife in this season of their ministry.
Summing up, Jesus reinforces the “can’t do it alone” truth of Christian life and work by sending out his disciples “two by two.” He knew that their ministry would be stronger if they served in teams. Thus, as we think about our life and work, we would do well to imitate the “two by two” approach of Jesus, sharing in life and work with partners who will help us to be more effective and resilient in all we do.
Can you think of a time in your life when you did something with another person, which led to your efforts being more fruitful?
When you think of your partners in life and work, who comes to mind? How does your partnership work?
Have you ever tried to do something on your own, only to realize that you should have had someone with you? If so, when? What happened?
Pay attention this week to how doing life and/or work with a partner (or several partners) improves the quality of your life and/or your work.
Gracious God, thank you for the wisdom of Jesus that is shown through his sending out his disciples two by two. Thank you for the way his actions teach us about the value of partnership in life and work.
Thank you for the partners you have given me, both now and in the past. Thank you for all we have shared together and all we have done together. Help me, Lord, to nurture healthy, collaborative relationships. Help me to support and encourage others, even as they do the same for me.
Banner image by Vidar Nordli Mathisen on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Shepherd for the Sheep.
Subscribe to Life for Leaders
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.