And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged 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 put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.
This curious passage from the Gospel according to Saint Mark reveals Jesus confidence in his disciples–the fledging group of 12 nobodies who are somebodies in Jesus eyes–he tells them to take nothing but a walking stick to unknown places. He must have seen something in these twelve that others could not see; better put, he saw what the disciples could be if they would simply trust in him.
Jesus Christ, their rabbi, whom they had followed from the beginning seemed to have a purpose for the journey into new territory and strange landscapes. The disciples had been privy to a show and tell sort of relationship with Jesus as they followed him about, observing his healing actions, hearing his teachings. But he surely knew some still doubted his divinity and questioned his motives, how they misunderstood that the kingdom he referred to is not about their earthly liberation from oppression by the Romans. Yet Jesus sends them on a field trip tailor made to accomplish one thing–to teach them to trust him.
The disciples must have said to themselves, “Jesus, why only a walking stick? If this is some great pilgrimage that you send me on, you must know I need more than a walking stick. How is it going to make this assignment easier to accomplish? And where am I going anyway? And why? How will I know when I get there? Will I get there? Who will I be able to rely on?……..
Pilgrim daughter of mine, leave your conjured security behind. Nothing but a walking stick, dear daughter, keep to the path.
Pilgrim daughter of mine, stop allowing your pride to thwart your journey, it gets in the way. Nothing but a walking stick, dear daughter, to beat away all that rivals for the throne in my Kingdom.
Pilgrim daughter of mine, I know your weaknesses, I created you, remember? Nothing but a walking stick, dear daughter, will suffice to schooch away the brambles that poke around in your soul. Then you will travel from strength to strength rather than wandering in the desert of your weaknesses.
Pilgrim daughter of mine, I know the utter joy and peace you feel in the shade of our conversations. I know you want to linger there, I understand, I created you, remember? Nothing but a walking stick to remind you that you are on a journey. Yes, the walking stick is a fine thing to lean on and rest awhile. There will be more shade, more refreshing waters; if you linger here how will you reach the joy and peace of what is ahead on your journey?
Pilgrim daughter of mine, I know you’re prone to wander, binding yourself to distractions of this earthly kingdom. Nothing but a walking stick to keep you from stumbling on those things behind you. I have a greater purpose for you then living between boredom and anxiety, but you must let the distractions go before you grasp the walking stick.