Chapter 2: The Ministry in Galilee
1. The first phase, 1:14-3:6
Any divisions of the material are always partly arbitrary. Perhaps the best way is to try to organize the material by means of the geography. This first phase finds Jesus mainly in the towns. After 3:6 he goes into the countryside because of growing hostility toward him.
a. summary statement, 1:14-15
This is a very important passage. The decisive moment for God's action has come. The whole New Testament can be seen as an expansion of these two verses.
Mark sets the beginning of Jesus' ministry at the time of John's arrest. The word for "time" here means the right time, the decisive moment. In Galatians 4:4, Paul has a similar idea. To say the time is fulfilled is to say that the ministry of Jesus Christ is part of a divine plan, part of God's whole purpose for the redemption of the world.
"Kingdom of God" does not mean an earthly utopia or a just social order; it is God's sovereignty or rule, breaking in now, and shortly to be fully revealed. It is at hand, very near. It is a gift of a new kind of personal and corporate life that God is giving to man. In some of the parables, the emphasis falls on its being already present: see 4:3-9, 26-29, 30-32. But this is not Mark's main emphasis, as it is, for example, in the Fourth Gospel. Mark's position is that the kingdom is here, yet not quite here, and he maintains this tension throughout. God is in the process of doing a decisive thing for men. Jesus asks: Do you wish to understand and receive it? Two things are necessary: repent and believe in the Gospel. To repent is not merely to be sorry for mistakes, it is to make a radical break with one's present way of life. "Believe" means to give oneself in complete trust and obedience to God who is making himself known in the work of Jesus Christ.
b. The first disciples are called, 1:16-20
The kingdom of God has been announced, and now there is work to be done on its behalf. The Christian faith is not only an individual affair, it also involves a new kind of community. Two groups of two each are summoned first. Notice the "immediately" of verses 18 and 20. Mark likes to use this word, and it gives a note of urgency to his narrative. Perhaps the first readers of the gospel were expected to learn from the immediacy of the response here: no time for excuses. Christ calls, and men follow at once.
It is probable that from verse 16 to the end of this chapter we have a continuous narrative of a single 24-hour period in the early ministry of Jesus.
c. At Capernaum, 1:21-39
1. the demoniac in the synagogue, 1:21-28
The thing that astonishes the hearers is Jesus' direct claim to be speaking for God and his refusal to cite traditional authorities for his teaching, as the scribes did.
A mentally deranged man approaches him, apparently with some fear. Without any elaborate gestures, Jesus cures the man. Again people are astonished, not that he could quiet a demoniac
-- many exorcists at this time did that -- but that he did it so simply with only a word of command. The convulsions of verse 26 suggest epilepsy. Apparently there is a power in Jesus that some can already discern, and, oddly enough, the poor madman is able to perceive it, though the disciples never fully understood it until after the resurrection.
This is the first of many stories of healing in this gospel. We have to remember that physical evil or disease in biblical times had two possible interpretations. One, that it was a punishment for sin (Job's friends take this position in their argument, and see also John 9:2); another, that the demons visited even good men and took control of them. We must try to understand the meaning of these narratives before we too easily reject them. The healings must be seen as signs of the emerging rule or kingdom of God (see Matthew 12:28), and also as expressions of Jesus' concern for the physical (as well as the spiritual) part of a man. Before we become too certain that things like this cannot happen, we might want to look at more recent claims for spiritual healing. And we ought to add that we make nonsense of the gospel story if we arbitrarily drop out all the healing "miracles." Each one must be studied on its own merits.
2. Peter's mother-in-law, 1:29-31
This incident takes place at Peter's home in Capernaum, and the lifelike detail suggests that it comes from the recollection of Peter himself. Notice the woman's response of gratitude after her fever is relieved.
3. Other healings that evening, 1:32-34
The sun has set, and the Sabbath is technically over, so now devout Jews may bring their sick to Jesus without fear of breaking the law. Again the demons seem to have a special insight into the character of Jesus, and he forbids them to speak.
4. Withdrawal and return, 1:35-39
After a day of healing and preaching, Jesus withdraws for prayer. We must be careful in our interpretation of Christ that we do not make improbable or unreal his habit of prayer to the Father. He prayed because he needed to pray.
d. The cure of a leper, 1:40-45
This may not have been a case of what we call leprosy; more likely it was a skin disease like eczema. The phrase "moved with pity" in verse 41 probably read "moved with anger" in the original, and has here been toned down by Mark. What was it that angered Jesus? Not the interruption surely; not even the man's implied doubt of Jesus' willingness to cure him. Perhaps this anger describes Jesus' reaction to the disease itself. Jesus bids the man follow the Jewish laws controlling leprosy: to go directly to the priest so that the cure can be verified, and to be silent about the cure in public. But the man disobeyed, and Jesus is again restricted in his movements.
C. conflicts with the scribes, 2:1-3:6
1. the paralytic and forgiveness, 2:1-12
There is a break of a few days. Jesus returns to Capernaum, where he had been staying, perhaps at Peter's house. Four men bearing another man on a stretcher approach. Unable to make their way through the crowd at the front door, they go up to the roof by an outside stairway. Making an opening in the roof (made of branches and mud), they lower the man into Jesus' presence. Jesus comments on their faith, and pronounces the paralytic's sins forgiven.
We must remember that one of the traditional explanations of disease is that it is caused by sin. In forgiving the sick man, he assumes that man's physical and spiritual needs are all of a piece.
The claim to forgive is what offends the scribes. Only God can forgive, so these words of Jesus are blasphemy to them. Jesus discerns their objections, and in addition to forgiving the man, cures him as well. Now the Messiah was not expected to forgive sins in Jewish thought, so the scribes are not faced with a messianic claim. This is something more serious: a claim to a direct and unique relation to God himself. Two miracles have taken place: a man has been healed, and a man has received the divine pardon through Jesus. Both healing and forgiveness are God's work, so Jesus is acting out indirectly, rather than explicitly declaring, his meaning and status.
"Son of man" in verse 10 is the first occurrence of this important phrase. It comes from Daniel 7:13, where the seer sees a human figure receiving power and glory at God's hands. The title originally, therefore, suggests a supernatural divine figure, and it was not commonly used for the Messiah. Jesus takes this picture of the heavenly man, and fuses with it the conception of the humble and suffering servant from Isaiah 53. The Son of man comes to earth and suffers and dies at the hands of lawless men. This double conception is the clue to the mystery of Jesus' messiahship. Sometimes Mark's use of "Son of man" points to the exalted and heavenly figure (8:38, 14:62), sometimes the humility is emphasized (8:31, 10:45).
2. The call of Levi, 2:13-14
The methods of tax collecting in those days gave a good deal of opportunity for graft, and tax collectors as a group were generally disliked. A Jew in this position would have broken the law forbidding physical contact with the Gentile. Levi here has traditionally been identified with Matthew, the author of the first gospel, but one cannot be certain of this.
3. Eating with tax collectors and sinners, 2:15-17
"Sinners" refers to all those who fell short of the rigorous Pharisaic interpretation of the law. Some of the scribes belonging to the strict Pharisee party accused the disciples: Why does he eat with such riffraff? Jesus' reply has a note of irony. A physician can do nothing for the sick if he doesn't seek them out to help them. You, he remarks to the Pharisees, are of course righteous men and need no healing. But the Gospel of the kingdom is for sinners, not for those who think they are righteous. There is a hint here, as in the whole of Jesus' profound analysis of self-righteousness, that the man who thinks he is righteous is worse off than the man who admits his need.
Jesus' response in verse 17 has an exact parallel in Paul's great summary of the Gospel in Romans 5:8: "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
4. Fasting, 2:18-22
John's disciples were a distinct group for some time after their master's arrest and death, and they and the Pharisees both made a practice of fasting, though it was not required by Jewish law. Jesus is asked why his disciples do not do the same. Verse 20 clearly refers to Jesus' death, though no one understands it as such. There is no reason to suspect that this veiled reference to Jesus' death was added later. Jesus already has confronted his opponents in controversy, and soon (in 3:6) we read that a plan to destroy him is being discussed.
5. On the Sabbath, 2:23-28
Here the disciples are accused by the Pharisees of breaking the law prohibiting the reaping of grain on the Sabbath. Jesus responds with an argument based on their own authority, the scriptures. If David could take food on the Sabbath for his hungry men, surely the disciples are entitled to do the same. Human need takes precedence over the law. The final phrase, ". . the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath," does not mean that any man is master over the law. It means that Jesus Christ as the Son of man, God's unique messenger, is lord of the Sabbath and its laws. Why? Because with him the messianic age has dawned, and the Sabbath laws may be put aside during this time of joy. This does not mean that disciples, then or now, do not need law for the regulation of their moral lives. Because of our weakness, we shall always need the correction of the law. It does mean, however, that in Jesus Christ we see not a new set of laws but a new kind of divine love. Christ's love is always destructive of even the best human law and goodness; this is why he was so dangerous then, and it is why Christianity is always potentially a revolutionary threat.
6. the man with the withered hand, 3:1-6
Here Jesus himself, and not the disciples as above, is accused of breaking a law which required that only in extreme emergency could acts of healing be performed on the Sabbath. He answers with a direct and unanswerable counter question.
After these two clear instances of violation of their traditions, Pharisees have apparently made up their minds about Jesus (see verse 6). The Herodians mentioned here were a conservative Jewish group that hoped for a restoration of the monarchy of Herod. Here is the first clear warning of tragedy to come; the shadow of the cross is already hanging over these early events.
2. the second phase of the ministry in Galilee, 3:7-6:13
a. summary statement: the crowds by the lake, 3:7-12
In spite of the growing hostility that has forced Jesus to carry on his work outside the towns by the lakeside, a large crowd continues to listen to him.
b. Appointment of the twelve, 3:13-19
These verses mark a decisive moment in the ministry and in the history of the Christian church. In this section, we begin with the appointment of the twelve disciples, and close with their mission. The number 12 may well be significant: there were twelve tribes in Israel, and the disciples are to be the beginning of a new Israel, the new people of God, the church. In verse 14, we find the twofold task of the disciple. For a while at the beginning he was to stay with Jesus, to learn, listen, and understand. But later he was to be sent out to do the same work Jesus was already doing -- preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing the broken bodies and minds of men. This has always been the double task of the Christian community, not merely the task of its official leaders. (A fundamental difference between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic can be discerned here: to the question, "Who is the legitimate successor to the disciple?" the Protestant answers: the body of believers, the church. The Roman Catholic answers in terms of the priestly hierarchy.)
Peter is a name that means "the rock." This may refer to his rugged character and appearance, or it may refer to his position as a foundation of the church, an early witness to the resurrection. "Sons of thunder" may have something to do with the volatile tempers of James and John. The meaning of "Cananaean" is probably "Zealot" -- a member of an extreme nationalist group of Pharisees which hoped to drive the Romans from the country by force.
c. Charges against Jesus, 3:19-35
Back home, eating with his family and friends, Jesus is still claimed by the crowds. He gives himself so intensely to the needs of the crowd that his family suspects he is out of his mind. "Friends" in verse 21 probably should read "family." Apparently the local Pharisees have called some scribes down from Jerusalem to observe Jesus, and they enter the controversy. Playing on the suspicions of the family, they suggest that Jesus is possessed by the prince of demons, Satan himself. They cannot deny his power to heal, but they suggest that this power is a devilish one, not divine. (Of course, if Jesus is not what he claims to be, the scribes are right. He is mad, dangerously deluded, and he has deceived well-meaning people ever since.)
Jesus replies with two brief parables. Satan is in charge of a kingdom of evil. Why should he stir up division within this kingdom, if I am part of it, Jesus asks. Since I am engaged in a battle against the kingdom of evil, I can hardly be on the side of the head of that kingdom. The strong man's house and goods, in the second parable refer to Satan and his possession of men. Jesus himself is the one who enters and binds the strong man by casting out demons md freeing men from evil and disease.
The passage in verses 28-30 on the unforgivable sin has often caused sensitive people much distress. Jesus makes it clear what sin is: ascribing to the devil what belongs to God, making evil into a god. Jesus may not be directly accusing his family and scribes of committing such a sin, but he does suggest that they are close to it. The apparent harshness of this saying must be set alongside verse 28 with its emphasis that all sins, even blasphemy, be forgiven.
This section concludes in verses 31-35 with a saying about the true family of Jesus. It is hard not to discern here a note of disappointment in Jesus' attitude toward his mother and brothers. Tradition has sometimes tried to explain away this direct reference to Jesus' brothers; some have tried to say that they were half brothers or cousins. But there is no possible escape from the meaning of the word; they are his true brothers, the younger sons of Mary. It is probable that Mark knows nothing of the virgin birth tradition; this story of course neither supports nor denies it.
Whoever is obedient to God's will is the true family of Jesus. If the actual family do not understand him, they are no longer his true family. This must have come home with real comfort to the persecuted church in Mark's day, with its broken families and temptations to recant based on family loyalty.
d. What is a parable, and why is it used?, 4:1-34
This chapter contains several parables, an interpretation of a parable, and some remarks on their significance and use. Several things should be noted on the parable form itself. Jesus did not invent it (it is found in the Old Testament; see II Samuel 12:1-6), but he gave it its highest expression. In essence a parable is a comparison, usually of God or the kingdom of God to some ordinary event or thing. It must be distinguished from allegory in which every detail of the story has symbolic significance. The parable has but one point to make, and the descriptive details are not independently important except as they clarify the single point and the response that is expected.
1. The sower, 4:1-9
This parable can be seen as Jesus' reflection on the progress of his mission in Galilee, its success and failure. The seed is the Gospel of the kingdom; but it is responded to in different ways. Its reception depends on the kind of soil that receives it. In verse 9, a sense of responsibility is impressed on the hearers, as if to say: make sure that your response is like the last one, the good soil bringing forth fruit.
2. The purpose of parables, 4:10-12
Later, when they are alone with Jesus, the disciples ask about the purpose of Jesus' parabolic teaching. Jesus replies that parables are meant to conceal the truth from the unprepared so that they might receive the judgment they deserve, and not repent and be forgiven.
Some observers defend the saying, calling it hard but true. They point to Isaiah 6:9-10 (which is reflected in verse 12 here), where the prophet looks back on his unsuccessful career and sees his failure as God's will.
Others admit that Mark wrote what stands, but they find the idea intolerable and wrong. Jesus, they say, clearly uses the parables to convey and elucidate truth, not to conceal it. He is not interested in transmitting secret information to a select few: he seeks to bring all people to a knowledge of the Gospel. So though we can understand why Mark could come to this curious view (perhaps at the close of a career as an apostle that did not have the success he had expected), we must reject it as a true reflection of Jesus' mind, and as out of keeping with the other things we know about his teaching.
The reader today must come to his own decision on this matter, and it will have to be based very largely on his over-all picture of Christ in the gospels.
A word should be added here about the idea of the "secret" that appears in verse 11. It is a favorite idea of Mark's, and it is responsible for both the dramatic intensity and the theological depth of his gospel. He means by this idea that the true character of Christ as Son of God and bearer of the kingdom, as suffering and dying Messiah, is not obvious to everyone. Indeed, it is scarcely obvious even to the disciples. Peter partly sees it and largely misses it in 8:29-33. And supremely, the Jewish leaders are blind to the true meaning of Christ. This is not because of mere ignorance; Mark sees it as God's deliberate withholding of true understanding. The secret must not be revealed until the proper time, until men are prepared to receive it.
Here is the best explanation for the otherwise rather puzzling advice that Jesus constantly gives to those he has cured, not to speak publicly of what has been done to them. Sometimes, it may be, this advice can be interpreted as a word of caution to avoid bringing the inevitable crisis to pass prematurely. But the best way of viewing this advice is to see it as part of Mark's over-all theological structure. Jesus knew himself to be the Messiah, and he acts out his true nature in incident after incident. But the whole picture needed the completion of the death and the resurrection. Hence the idea of the secret, part of Jesus' own teaching, is rightly underlined by Mark as he presents his full portrait of his master.
3. An interpretation of the parable, 4:13-20
Two factors have led many observers to label this an early church homily on "how to hear God's word," rather than a direct transcription of Jesus' own words. (1) It is allegorized, which Jesus rarely does with his parables; (2) from verse 17 on, there are clear references to the situation of the church in Mark's day under the persecution of the emperor Nero. The references to persecution and tribulation, the remarks about worldly cares and security choking out the original fervor, probably reflect the difficulties facing the church at the time of the writing of the gospd rather than thirty years before. But there is no reason to believe that some interpretation of the basic parable was not given by Jesus. Mark is here shaping his material so that it would speak as directly as possible to his fellow Christians under the sentence of death.
4. Other parables and sayings, 4:21-34
The section in verses 21 -25 is another exhortation to respond to the preaching of the kingdom. Even if the kingdom is partly hidden now, it will shortly be revealed to all.
In the little parable of verses 26-29, the kingdom of God is again compared to a seed. Here the point is that just as the growth of the seed is not a process man controls, so the kingdom of God is not a human achievement but a gift of God. But note: when the grain is ripe, man must harvest it. The kingdom of God is now ripe; it is fully present, and man is not to sit back and wait, he is to choose it. The critical time is at hand. This parable, then, is more than a description of the kingdom of God; it is a call for immediate decision.
The parable of the mustard seed in verses 30-32 has two points: (1) just as the tiny mustard seed can grow (in the Mediterranean area) into a fairly tall tree, so the humble start of the kingdom of God does not preclude a victorious ending; (2) the kingdom is now present, and all nations and peoples ("birds of the air" was a phrase used by the rabbis to mean all people, including Gentiles) may now partake of it. Verses 33-34 serve as a conclusion to this whole section on parables and their meaning.
e. A group of miracle stories, 4:35 -- 5:43
1. The storm on the lake, 4:35-41
The disciples and Jesus now cross the Sea of Galilee, from the west the east shore. The detailed description here suggests an eyewitness account. A number of boats set sail; in one of them, Jesus goes to sleep on the steersman's cushion in the stern. A lake storm blows up, and the disciples rouse Jesus with a slightly bitter question. He speaks a word to the winds and the waves, and the storm subsides. He then rebukes the others for their fear, which he defines as lack of trust in God's care. They in turn respond with another kind of fear, a sort of awe in the presence of the one they only dimly understand as their Lord. The disciples' question in verse 41 presupposes, in Mark's mind, the answer: This is the Son of God at work. The contrast between faithless fear and genuine fear of the Lord is instructive. This story must certainly have served as a message of hope to the storm-tossed church under persecution in Mark's day.
But this story is also what we call a nature miracle, and it is difficult for us today, even after we have understood its original meaning and use. The healing miracles are hard enough, but there are some things in our experience that help us start on an under-standing of them. The details of this story, on the other hand, seem incredible to modern man. What are we to say about it?
Some have tried to rationalize it. What Jesus really calmed, it is said, is the storm of fear in the disciples' hearts. Or, the whole thing was coincidence, even though the disciples wrongly assumed a cause and effect relation. This sort of explaining away gets rid of modern difficulties well enough, but it will hardly do, for the good reason that it departs from the simple sense of the text, which interprets the stilling of the storm as a miracle of divine providence, and as such we must deal with it.
To be sure, the ancient world was not inclined to think of the universe as bound by what we call "natural law," and so it did not have the problem with miracles that a scientific age has. What are stumbling blocks for us were merely evidences of God's action for them. But this story is really about God's power and his care for men, and not mainly about a miraculous calm. And surely we do not believe any less in the power and love of God for men than did biblical man.
Don't we pray for natural events to come to pass? For the safety of travelers, for rain, for healing of loved ones? Do we believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead? If we really believe that in Christ God was truly active and present, does this story present in superable difficulties? In any case, we must be careful that we allow our Christian presuppositions to have as much weight in our reading of such narratives as we allow our modern scientific ones. Our real understanding of this story, and of others like it in Mark, will emerge not as we ask the question: "Can natural laws be broken?", but only as we reflect on a far more fundamental question: "What do we mean by Jesus Christ as Son of God?"
2. The Gerasene madman, 5:1-20
Here is another story of an exorcism, but one with more details than usual, and more difficulties. We are in Gentile territory; it is unlikely that a herd of pigs would be found on Jewish land. On the east shore of the lake Jesus meets a maniac who had been ostracized from his village and forced to live in the cemetery on the outskirts of town. The man sees Jesus, runs to him, and in fear and awe falls at his feet. Again the demons (that is, the demon-possessed man) recognize the divine status of Christ. The man seems to discern in Jesus' wholeness a threat to his brokenness, and implores him to leave him alone. My name is Legion, he remarks bitterly, which means that he has not one but many demons in him.
It seems that the man tries to compromise with Jesus: don't send any evil spirits out of the country, send them into the pigs. (Observe the confusion of pronouns here; "he" and "they" are mixed up together; the man is both one with his demons and apart from them.) Jesus does so, and the pigs tumble down a cliff into the sea.
The report of this spreads at once, and the townspeople come to observe the cured man. They are now, it seems, afraid of Jesus rather than the ex-maniac; if such a man could destroy swine, what else might he do? He is asked to leave. The man himself asks to come with Jesus, but instead he is told to return home (to a Gentile town, remember, which explains why there would be no danger in proclaiming the cure) and tell people what God has done for him. Instead, he tells people what Jesus did. (The Decapolis, in verse 20, was a league of ten Greek cities stretching from Damascus to the Arabian desert.)
One problem in this is the sending of the demons into the pigs. Did Jesus deliberately will this? A humanitarian might object that such an act was unnecessarily cruel to pigs. But to the Jew and to the early Christians who had been Jews the pig was unclean. And if the demons had not been sent into the pigs, it was believed, they would have entered into some other person.
Although the vivid details of this story give it a ring of plausibility, there may be elements of folk legend in it that attached to it before it came into Mark's hands. But behind the difficult details of this story, a basic truth stands. Jesus Christ, then and now, bears a unique divine power that is able to heal all kinds of human brokenness and distortion. We, like the demoniac, may be afraid to be made whole; but when this fear is overcome, wholeness, health, salvation are readily available.
3. The daughter of Jairus, and the woman with the flow of blood, 5:21-43
a. Jairus' daughter: introduction, 5: 21-24
Jesus crosses back to the western shore, and a distinguished leader of the synagogue approaches him for help. The man's trust appealed to Jesus, and he goes off with him.
b. The woman with the flow of blood, 5:24-34
On the road to Jairus' house, a great crowd collects and follows Jesus. Among them is a woman with a chronic hemorrhage who had heard of Jesus and who decided to push her way through the crowd to touch him. (Notice how Luke the doctor, in 8:43, tones down Mark's disparaging reference to the medical profession when he writes up the same story.) She approaches him fearfully because she was unclean according to law, and her touch had made Jesus unclean as well. Note that it is the woman's faith-her boldness and trust-that Jesus describes as the means of the cure.
We cannot wholly explain this story; the vivid details give it an authentic flavor. Autosuggestion is hardly an explanation that will satisfy. Mark's explanation may well be the most plausible one: she was healed because of her confidence in the power of the Son of God.
c. Jairus' daughter: conclusion, 5:35-43
The simple conclusion to the story of Jairus' daughter serves as Mark's climax to the whole group of miracle stories that began with the stilling of the storm.
The report comes, while they are on the way to the house, that the girl has died. Verse 35 suggests that Jesus was not expected to be able to raise the dead. Silencing the professional mourners outside the house, Jesus takes the inner group of favorite disciples with him to the girl's side. She rises from the bed at his word, and he reminds them to feed her.
The question raised by verse 39 is this: Was the girl truly dead, or merely in a coma? Did Jesus believe she was really dead? Did Mark? Jesus had not seen the child, so it is hard to believe he was making a diagnosis in verse 39. Mark apparently believes, in placing this incident as a climax to the whole group of miracle stories, that this was an instance of a raising from the dead. The greatest reserve must be exercised before we explain away or rationalize what is difficult for us. The most important question, again, that this story poses is this: What is the meaning of Jesus Christ that shines through this incident?
f. A cool reception at home, 6:1-6
Jesus now leaves Capernaum to begin preaching in the villages and towns of Galilee. "His own country" in verse 1 probably means his birthplace, suggesting that Mark did not know of the tradition locating Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. The presence of the disciples suggests that the visit was not for personal reasons.
Many observers believe that verse 3 as it reads has been altered to lit in with the virgin birth tradition, and there is some evidence that the earlier version may have read: "Is not this the son of the carpenter (Joseph) and Mary?"
Because of the cool reception, it is said that Jesus could perform no healings in Nazareth. Not a physical inability, but a spiritual refusal, since the requisite faith and trust was not present. The clause beginning "except. . ." in verse 5 looks like a later editorial addition inserted to soften the suggestion of weakness on Jesus' part.
g. The sending out of the twelve, 6:6-13
This is the mission for which the disciples have been called and trained. They are sent out in pairs to heal and to preach the Gospel (verse 12). They are to travel light and to observe certain rules of hospitality. if they are not accepted, they are to leave at once. The shaking off of the dust is a symbolic gesture indicating a rejection of those who reject the message.