Mark 6:12-13 “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave as a testimony against them.’ They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
There are two things we learn about the message Jesus sends his disciples to preach. First, The message includes a word of warning. When the disciples were rejected, Jesus did not want them to quietly leave town. They were to go through this ritual of shaking the dust off their feet. It was a vivid way of saying, “You are due for God’s judgment, and there is nothing in common between you and the people of God, not even the dust we are shaking from our feet.”
That doesn’t sound like a sure-fire way to win friends and influence people. But Jesus didn’t tell them to say this to be mean. Loving people means telling them the truth, especially when their lives are in danger. Telling people that they are headed for hell is not the same thing as wanting them to go there, any more than telling people that they are sick is the same thing as wanting them to be unhealthy. People need to know for their own good.
We still deliver that warning as a part of our witness for Jesus. The threat of hell is an indispensable tool in our evangelism toolbox. It may go against every advertising rule and publicity principle in the book. “The customer is always right,” we are told. People don’t want to be told that they are bad. People want to hear something positive that can help them right now. But you can be sure that on Judgment Day people won’t want to be on Jesus’ bad side, either. Jesus gives us a word of warning, a message of law, as part of what we need to be his witnesses.
Secondly, the disciples “went out and preached that people should repent.” Mark sums up their message in that one word, “repent.” That is not merely a repeat of what we have just said. To repent is to have a change of mind. To repent is to make a 180 degree turn. It includes the turn away from sin, but it also includes the alternative: the turn to Jesus and his free forgiveness. I don’t believe that the disciples’ message was all doom and gloom, fire and brimstone. They also preached the sweet love of Jesus. They didn’t preach despair and hopelessness. They preached faith and new life in the mercy of God that loved them so much he sent them a Savior.
In other words, we have something positive to say. To call the message about Jesus the “gospel,” the “good news,” is almost an understatement. Though people may be naturally inclined to reject it, we are offering to those to whom we witness the greatest alternative, the greatest opportunity, of all time: complete freedom from all responsibility for every sin–no exceptions; instant access to the most powerful being in the universe; 24/7 service and support for every earthly need, problem, or danger; the cure for death; the title and deed to a piece of prime real-estate in heaven–all for free, all at no cost to the customer. You don’t even have to pay sales tax. In the gospel, Jesus has given us everything we need to make the message sound appealing. When we are speaking the gospel, we have something worth saying, and hearing.