". .. and they told him all
things, whatsoever they had
Jesus himself had been round about the villages teaching. (Mark 6.6). He had returned "into his own country" (v.1) after visiting the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, and with the twelve in attendance upon him, began to teach and preach in their synagogue. But the ministry fell on callous hearts and unheeding ears. They claimed to know him, who He was and where He came from. They found cause of offence in him (v.3) and set his words at naught. Because of that "he could do there no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them" (v.5).
It was into an atmosphere charged thus with contempt and scorn that Jesus sent his followers, two by two, to preach. To assist them in their ministry He had equipped them with powers ‑ power to cast out the unclean spirits which afflicted the populace. "They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them." (v.13). Witness work in Israel was no gala-day experience. Even He who spake as never man spake found the atmosphere of unbelief too frigid for success. The flow of healing power was checked and hindered in the midst of such frozen apathy. Could the disciples hope to have success where the Master failed? Could they thaw the frozen hearts with words of warmth greater than the Master spoke? It had been an almost invaluable experience for them, for nothing can test the fibre of the witness-bearing soul like an atmosphere of indifference and apathy. When the words rebound they can have one of two effects. Either they can daunt and stifle the warm enthusiasm of the witness‑bearer himself or they can react and feed the flames of that enthusiasm to whiter heat by awaking sympathy for deluded men.
With Jesus that indifferent response led to a deepening of his sympathy towards his unresponsive audience. When men to whom He spoke of God's benevolence and love could not heed and accept what He had to say He knew there were sometimes factors other than human choice at work, and for these men his compassion began to flow. Cold callous indifference aroused and intensified in his heart that quality which could bear gently with ignorant and erring men, and made him more resolutely determined to see his mission through.
As Jesus sat and listened to the stories of these twelve, we can be sure He knew how to turn this experience to good effect so that they should not be too elated with their meagre success. "Rejoice not because demons are subject unto you but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
While they had some small success there was another better side. They, along with him, were Heaven's evangelists ‑ God had sent him ‑ He had sent them, and success or no success, they were linked with God in a witness-bearing to a demon-ridden world. It is that that counts.
We also find ourselves sharing the like experience. The testimony of the Most High has never yet been withdrawn ‑ nor can it be till sin has been eliminated from the earth. But in this callous world God has not promised us much success. The product of this entire Age is but a "little flock". It is the reaction back into our own heart that counts. When after great rebuff we can say with compassionate sympathy "poor deluded suffering world, your day has yet to come" the value of our witness is not lost, it has returned to us with added interest. There has been gain to us, even if to no one else.
But there is something more we can do to bring these desirable effects home to our souls. It is to do as the disciples did. Review the day's experience for the Master's ear in the quiet eventide. Tell him humbly what we have tried to say and do in his Name ‑ it is there that the temperature of heart and soul will reveal itself. You will tell him only what you have sincerely sought to do and say, and as you speak, if only in the deeper chambers of the heart, the fires of devotion to his cause will glow and send out their heat and warmth and you will find your sense of serving him intensified.
If then, this day your voice has rebounded as from the bastion rock; if that little conversation did not end as you desired; if that little tract was later found mud-stained upon the road, never mind. Go and tell Jesus about it all. The witness is not irretrievably lost: it will re-appear in the after years, sometime, somewhere, when an enlightened consciousness counts up the opportunities lost. Seeming defeat with God today can never fail; it is a sure contribution to the final overthrow of the wrong and the untrue.