This is a series about the Trinity. It explores this doctrine by brief expositions of different passages from throughout the Gospel of Mark, showing how the Trinity is the explicit and implicit teaching and assumption of Scripture.
After the chilly reception He received in his hometown synagogue, the Bible tells us Jesus “went about among the villages teaching,” (Mk 6:6). Mark continues the story:
And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged 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 put on two tunics.
And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.”
So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them (Mark 6:7-13).
Jesus as the Stronger Man
Jesus has told people He’s the promised Messiah, and He’s proven this over and over again by His miracles. They’re His credentials. Satan is the “strong man” who has power in this fallen world. He’s fully armed, guarding his own palace, and his slaves (i.e. his “goods”) are secure under his own protection (Lk 11:21). Yet, if someone stronger than this “strong man” arrives on the scene, then Satan’s slaves may be set free. The reign of terror has been broken. After all, “no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house,” (Mk 3:27).
Now, Satan isn’t going to fight against himself; this would be ridiculous. The only other option is to acknowledge that God is behind this intrusion into human history. Demons are cast out, the sick are healed, and the dead have been raised by His power. Jesus reasoned, “if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you!” (Lk 11:20).
Jesus assured John the Baptist’s anxious disciples that, indeed, He was the one they’d been waiting for (Lk 7:20). The Baptist had told them Jesus was the Christ, who would baptize them “with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” (Lk 3:16). He told them Jesus was the Son of God, and at least two of His disciples immediately left John to follow his cousin, Jesus (Jn 1:29-41). When John’s disciples sought reassurance, Jesus pointed to His miracles as proof of His identity:
And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me,” (Lk 7:22-23).
Jesus is quoting from a passage in Isaiah, where the prophet promised the future exiles that God Himself would come with recompense, save them from their captors (Isa 35:3-4), and lead them back to the Promised Land (Isa 35:8-10). According to Isaiah, it is God who will open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, heal the lame and unbind the tongues of the dumb (Isa 35:5-6).
Yet, in the good news according to Luke, it is Jesus who says to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” (Lk 4:21). He is Elohim from Isaiah 35:5-6. But, the people of Nazareth turned on their hometown rabbi and scoffed; “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22). Then, they tried to kill Him for suggesting God’s favor would turn to the Gentiles (Lk 4:23-30). Meanwhile, below the hill country, in a city on the lake, a demon knows exactly who Jesus is; “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” (Lk 4:34).
Jesus fulfills Elohim’s role (Isa 35:5-6; Lk 4:21), but He isn’t Elohim. He’s God’s “holy one;” there is a distinction between Persons. Now, after the apostles have followed and watched Jesus for a while now (cf. Mk 3:13 – 19), it is time for them to go forth and represent Him to Israel.1 Just as they represent Christ and are distinct from Him, He is somehow distinct from the Father. Just as the Father sends the Son in His name, the Son sends His messengers in His name.
The vital distinction, though, is that no Christian believes he is equal to Jesus. The Christ, however, is the One who upholds all creation and made everything in creation (Heb 1; Col 1). He reads the Tanakh speak about what Elohim will do, and declares He has done it! No Christian would stand, read aloud about Christ’s second coming (e.g. Rev 19:11-16), and proclaim he has fulfilled the prophesy! There is a divine prerogative in Christ’s actions that go infinitely beyond what any messenger of the gospel today (or then) would ever claim.
The Disciples as the Stronger Men
So, He sent the apostles out. They went out in pairs, for mutual support and to confirm for each other what would happen along the way. Jesus gave them authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. He’d done this before, but this is likely the first time He’d authorized the apostles to actually perform these acts.2 Just as He’d opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, healed the crippled and opened the mouths of the mute, so they would, too. Just as He’d proved “the Kingdom of God has come upon you,” so would they.
This power and authority was His to give, and He gave it. Jesus has power and authority equal to the Father, and He can dispense it as He chooses and as the Father wills. This isn’t a delegation of power twice removed from the source; it is a direct conferrence of power from Himself to the apostles.3 Mark wants the reader to know Jesus has power over fallen angels. One commentator remarked, “this is, to Mark, the representative miracle.”4
And, all the while, the apostles would preach and exhort men to repent and return to covenant faithfulness, for the Christ had come! As people hear and consider the gospel message, there is a great sifting taking place:5
- Are they for God, or against Him?
- Will they bow to His chosen King, or reject Him?
- Will they submit to His rule, authority and jurisdiction in their lives, or will they continue their terrorist insurgency?
- Will they give loyalty and allegiance to the Messiah, or continue in rebellion?
The message of “repentance” is undoubtedly the very one Jesus preached; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel,” (Mk 1:15). This is the good news Mark emphasized at the beginning of his gospel, which came about “just as it was written in the prophets,” (Mk 1:2). The Israelites must prepare a way for Yahweh, and make a straight path in the wilderness for this new and permanent exodus (Mk 1:2-4; Isa 40:3-11). Yahweh has returned, and will lead His people back to their land, where He will rule as their King.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isa 40:11).
Once again, the prophet Isaiah wrote that Yahweh Himself would come, but Mark tells us Jesus came. He is the King whom the Lord will set on His holy hill (Ps 2:6). Yahweh will make the nations Messiah’s heritage, and the ends of the earth the Christ’s possession (Ps 2:8-9). God Himself ripped the heavens opened and quoted this Scripture, to publicly put His seal of approval on His Son (Mk 1:11; Ps 2:7).
This is the promised Messiah, the Chosen King, the Holy One of God. This is who the apostles preached about, and why they called all men to repent. As John the Baptist warned, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire,” (Lk 3:17).
Of course, some wouldn’t want any part of this. Jesus just experienced this firsthand (Mk 6:1-6)!6 The apostles could expect to be shown no hospitality in certain quarters, perhaps even run out of town. When this happened, they should symbolically wash their hands of the place. This is all any Christian can do, when he faithfully preaches the gospel and is met with indifference or hostility.
We can echo the apostle Paul’s words, and say, “Your blood be upon your heads! I am innocent!” (Acts 18:6). Yet, we must remember Calvin’s warning; “no man is qualified to become a teacher of heavenly doctrine, unless his feelings respecting it be such, that he is distressed and agonized when it is treated with contempt.”7
The kingdom of God promises a stunning reversal of the curse, where the forces of darkness will be vanquished and peace, righteousness, justice will reign supreme, with the Son of David on the throne of Israel. Jesus of Nazareth preached that He was that King (Mk 14:53-64), and that repentance and faith in Him would bring spiritual life to their dead souls, change their hearts and implant God’s Spirit within them. His miracles gave a foretaste of glory divine; the dead are raised, the lame walk, and the blind see.
The Kingdom of God had indeed come, and for a few brief years the curses of sin and death were rolled back here and there in the highways and hedges of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Jesus appointed His messengers to go forth, gave them the power to perform the same miracles, and to proclaim the same message. He preached Himself; David’s Lord, the One who sits at the Father’s side awaiting His time to rule, who all the kings of the earth must submit to (Ps 110).
By His own granting of power and authority to the apostles, by the very content of their proclamation and the Kingdom and the Messiah their miracles pointed to, those apostles testified that Jesus Christ “is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).
Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, three we name You,
though in essence only one;
undivided God, we claim You,
and, adoring, bend the knee
while we own the mystery8
1 “Jesus authorized the disciples to be his delegates with respect to both word and power. Their message and deeds were to be an extension of his own,” (William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, in NICNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974], 206). See also Lane (Mark, 209 - 210).
2 “Jesus appointed them ‘to preach and with authority to cast out demons,’ (3:14– 15), but this is the first time we see them actually doing this,” (Mark Strauss, Mark, in ZECNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014], 250).
3 “The control of demons is central to the ministry of Jesus, as it is presented by Mark, and it is not surprising to find Jesus entrusting this task to the Twelve as an essential part of their mission. The fact that he is able to pass on this power emphasizes his own authority—a theme which is of vital importance for Mark,” (Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel according to Saint Mark, in BNTC [London: Continuum, 1991], 156).
4 Ezra Gould, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Mark, in ICC (Edinburgh, UK: T&T Clark, 1896), 106.
5 “Should they wipe the dust from their feet and break communication with a village they consign it to judgment. This provision indicates that the coming of the disciples, like that of Jesus himself, had the character of sifting and gathering the true people of God,” (Lane, Mark, 209).
6 “Jesus’ words read ominously, coming so soon after the story of his own rejection in his home town,” (Hooker, Mark, 157).
7 John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 447.