Body and Blood of Christ

The Mission of the Twelve

Mark 6:6-13


And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered 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 to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. 


Drinking Well

Mission of the Twelve

Jesus turns his attention to the Twelve. He had chosen them 'to be with him' (3:14) so he had concentrated on instructing them. But he had chosen them, too, 'to be sent out to proclaim the message'; the time had come for them to take an active part in the ministry. Mark evidently meant the incident, through preparatory and provisional, to be seen as the basis of Christian missionary activity. He carefully avoids the statement, present in Matthew and Luke, that the disciples had not yet understood the true nature of the Kingdom - that can be only after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like the Baptist (1:4) they preached 'that all shall repent.'

The sending out of the disciples 'two by two' follows jewish practice. They are to take nothing with them for the journey. If they are not received in a village they will give a solemn warning. 'Shake off the dust that is on your feet': this is a symbolic action indicating that the place is as good as heathen. Jews shook off heathen dust on re-entering the Holy land. 'As a testimony against them', that is, warning to them: the gesture is intended to make them think again and lead them to repentance.

In the summarizing passage (v.12-13) Mark's reference to a preaching of repentance is deliberate: in his plan the preaching of the imminence of the kingdom is reserved to Jesus' proclamation. Besides, Mark may wish to distinguish their 'preaching' from the full Christian gospel which can be proclaimed only after the Easter event. They also shared in the exorcising and healing work of Jesus. Oil was used in medical treatment (see Lk 10:34), hence its symbolical value in miraculous healing. James (5:15-15) shows that healing by anointing was known in the early Church. The practice attested here lay at the origin of the later practice and, eventually, of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.


Wilfrid Harrington.



Quill Pen


This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists

Gall on oak tree used for ointments


Healing words

Unfolding the Story of jesus

Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries

Unfolding the story of jesus