Why Did Jesus Send Out His Disciples Two by Two?

By Mark D. Roberts

September 28, 2016

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

Mark 6:7

Two witnesses being sent outAs 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 (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. Why did Jesus send out the disciples in pairs, rather than individually? Wouldn’t individuals be able to cover much more ground much more efficiently?

Part of the answer lies in the Jewish tradition of “two witnesses.” The Old Testament law (see Deut 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’ disciples proclaimed the presence of the kingdom, they would be more likely to receive a hearing. (Of course, it wouldn’t hurt their credibility if they cast out demons or healed the sick!)

There may be 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.

Questions to Consider:

Who are your colleagues in your life and work?

Are there places in your life where you feel alone in your effort to serve the Lord?

Who might be available to share in this ministry with you?


Gracious Lord, seeing how you sent out your disciples two by two, I’m reminded of those who have been my partners in ministry throughout my life. I think of Bill, who helped me when I was a high school student struggling to lead a junior high Bible study. I remember John, my partner in leadership of the Christian fellowship of my college. There are so many other partners, Lord, throughout the years, right down to this very day. I thank you for my colleagues at Irvine Presbyterian Church, at Laity Lodge, and The H.E. Butt Family Foundation, and now at Fuller Seminary. I’m thankful most of all for my wife and children, for friends in Christ with whom to dream, and for all who partner with me in the building up and renewal of your Church.

Help me, Lord, not to be alone in my efforts to serve you. May I consistently share your work with those who can encourage me, support me, guide me, and hold me accountable. Most of all, may I never forget that this is your work, which you have graciously chosen to share with me. Even when I am alone, dear Lord, I am always “two by two” with you. Amen.

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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

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,...

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