Posted on December 11, 2013
#32: Learning By Experience
“Experience is the best teacher,” a wise saying goes. An ancient Chinese proverbs adds,
“Hear and forget,
see and remember,
do and understand.”
Our Creator knows that we don’t understand the full scope of anything until we experience it firsthand. With this in mind, Jesus sent out the Twelve to get a taste of the ministry that would soon be theirs. They had heard Him teach, they had watched Him minister—but now they would do ministry and really begin to understand its challenges, joys, and frustrations.
Read Mark 6:7-13, 30-32. (Also look at Matthew 10:1-42 and Luke 9:1-6, 10.)
After being rejected by His own townspeople (Mk. 6:1-6), Jesus began to focus on His disciples’ training—preparing them to act as His agents in the spreading of His Word. He called the Twelve together, gave them a brief set of specific instructions, and sent them out in six pairs. (The Sanhedrin’s representatives typically traveled two-by-two, a rabbinical twist on Deuteronomy 17:6 that ensured a witness to every testimony. Later, Paul would follow this example, choosing to always travel with at least one companion. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shows the benefits of having a partner alongside you—especially when the two are joined by God in “a cord of three strands” that “is not quickly broken”!)
Moving in the power and authority of Christ, the disciples (or apostles, “sent-out ones”) went into the towns of Galilee. In obedience to Jesus,
• they took no provisions. They would learn to live on less than they’d ever thought possible—a special challenge to some like Matthew, who had known a prosperous life in his previous career as a tax collector. They had to rely on God to supply their needs through those who would receive their message. This also kept people from being drawn to the gospel by the lure of wealth.
• they took no protection (no “staves” or weapons, just a walking stick), trusting God to be their defender.
• they accepted the first offer of hospitality in each town and stayed put, not moving about when more attractive lodgings or more lucrative situations came along—a protection against bribery and greed, which were later strongly condemned in the New Testament letters. (For examples, see 1 Thess. 2:3-5; 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 1 Pet. 5:1-2; and 2 Pet. 2:1-3.)
• they decisively left behind any town that rejected their message. They’d just witnessed Jesus’ rejection in His home town (see last week’s post). They knew rejection was possible—even probable—and they would need to know how to handle it.
When they returned to Jesus (Mk. 6:30-32) the disciples were undoubtedly thrilled at what they’d experienced! Can you hear them?
“Teacher, there was this woman who . . .”
“Rabbi, how should we have responded when . . .?”
“It was hard to walk away knowing we were leaving them with no hope, but they wouldn’t listen . . .”
“But what about the Pharisees who confronted us when . . .?”
“Oh Master, all we had to do was speak Your name and . . .!”
Fresh from their hands-on venture, these men had never been more ready to learn. So Jesus took them away from the crowds for a short time of private teaching (probably shorter than He’d intended, as the crowds pursued Him—Mk. 6:33ff). He welcomed their questions while He was still with them to provide answers. Later, they would remember and draw courage from His teachings.
So how does this apply to you and me? If we’re to be His representatives, His ambassadors to the world, we can expect a full gamut of joys, challenges, and heartaches. Our faith is stretched. Our love is tested—especially when those we care about most reject us. Our pocketbooks are drained. Our vision needs constant refocusing on the end goal.
Most importantly, we need to continually go to the Master for power and encouragement. Our daily time with Him—in His Word and in prayer—is our essential chance to refuel. We won’t be able to keep going on our own strength. If we try, we’ll lose heart. Each experience will teach us more about our need to operate in His energy, not ours (Col. 1:29).
When we’re fortified by His Spirit each day, then go out in obedience to Him, there’s absolutely no limit to what He can do through us. Thrilling experiences are ahead!
© Diane McLoud 2013