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Mark 6:6b – Was Jesus a “Circuit Riding” Preacher?

As I consider the current state of our church, I am concerned that we are not reaching the people in the communities around us. Each of us has some influence on people around us, but that influence hasn’t resulted in more people being saved and added to our church. With those thoughts in the back of my mind, something in this morning’s message caught my attention. It was the last part of Mark 6:6.

Mark 6:6b – “Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”

It would appear that Jesus had a regular plan for reaching various parts of the country. If this is true, we should follow His example and make a Bible-based plan for doing the same. Let’s examine this short statement in the Bible in the same we usually do and then apply it to our own situation.

  1. What does it say?

    I noticed three words in this part of the verse: then, circuit, and teaching. The word “then” gives us the idea that Jesus was taking action based on the response He had received in Nazareth. The people had been offended by Him and rejected Him. His response to them was to take action. The word “circuit” means to “go about, travel about.”1 It gives us the idea that Jesus was traveling like a circuit riding preacher in the 1800’s. When the people in Nazareth rejected Him, He went about to the other people in villages surrounding Nazareth. The word “teaching” gives us an idea of what Jesus was doing in each of those villages. He taught God’s truth to the people.

  2. What does it mean?

    Instead of using the words then, circuit, and teaching, it might be better to replace them with response, method, and purpose. Beginning with response, we see that Jesus responded to the way the people in Nazareth responded to His teaching. This verse shows us that Jesus did not remain astonished at the bad reaction to him in Nazareth. He decided to move on and do something else. It is important to have a biblical response to how people respond to the preaching of God’s truth. Regarding method, we see that He had a method of continuing the work God the Father had given Him to do. His plan was to visit the various villages around Nazareth. In this way, He would broaden His influence on people who had not yet heard Him. This reveals God’s desire for His people to reach beyond one people group to many others. This is similar to the method given by Jesus to the disciples after his resurrection.

    Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

    God’s method involved them going to many different people during their lives. It all began at home but went out from there in broader circles. Regarding purpose, Jesus went to the other villages so that he could teach other people. The same message of repentance and faith was taught to these people despite the fact that the people of Nazareth had already rejected it. God’s purpose is to teach as indicated also in the Great Commission.

    Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

    This passage reminds us that Jesus was doing the exact thing that He later told His disciples to do. Teaching is God’s purpose for each of us. And since it is, we should consider how that applies to us today.

  3. How does it apply?

    Whenever we see Jesus doing something, we should note it, understand what it means, and then apply it to our lives. In this case, we can apply Jesus’ response directly to our own.

    Response – What have we experienced in our church over the past six years? We have seen one person saved and baptized that I can recall. We have had two people join the church but then move away. We have lost some people for a variety of reasons. We have seen several attend the services and become regulars. We have had several people visit but not come back. What should our response be to these things?

    We can start by responding like Jesus. He marveled at the unbelief seen in Nazareth (Mark 6:6a). We, too, can take a moment to wonder why our group is small. But we can’t stay there. We can’t meditate on bad results. Did Jesus do that? No, He responded in a proper way. Remembering that He is God and that face will help us to recognize how His example is the one to follow.

    We can also think through our situation. Unlike Jesus, we could be a part of the problem. Sometimes the things we do and say can push people away. Perhaps our demeanor, past history, or ways of doing things can be a hindrance to reaching new people in the community. Some of these things can be changed over time. But there are some things that can be changed immediately. If we are harboring sin in our lives or have not been putting in the effort, then we are a part of the problem. This may be a bit uncomfortable, but we each should consider our own part and see if there are things that we have done or have not been doing that may be contributing to the problem.

    Method – Jesus didn’t allow the poor response in Nazareth to keep Him from reaching out to other people. In the same way, we should consider how we can meet the people outside of our normal influence. We have prayed for unsaved family members and some have not responded well. Perhaps we should consider reaching out to other people besides our normal circle of influence. What about Dog Town?2 What about Snob Hill?2 What about Plymouth? What about the other side of the tracks?

    But this brings up another question. What have we been doing? Have we been evangelizing? We have many tracts on the wall and table in the foyer, but they don’t seem to disappear quickly. Have we been talking to strangers and neighbors about Jesus, or are we content with what we have accomplished so far?

    There are a variety of methods that could be used in our community.

    • We can talk to people about the Lord.
    • We can knock on doors and talk to people.
    • We can put an ad in the newspaper with a gospel message.
    • We can mail out gospel tracts with a clear explanation of the gospel.
    • We can mail out a church brochure (once it is created) with the gospel in it.
    • We can give out business cards with our church website address on them.
    • We can write letters to people we know giving the gospel.

    But what is the most effective tool for evangelism? It is personal interaction with others. Think of Jesus’ example. He met with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the woman with the hemorrhage, Jairus and his wife, etc. His method was to talk directly to people. But there is another thought to be found in this verse regarding methodology.

    In a sense, Jesus used a map. While there may not have been maps of the area back then, Jesus still sought to reach the surrounding villages. His method was to go to one and then another. When you look at a map of Willard, what do you see? In your mind, you see the streets you drove on today and the streets where you know people live. But if you were to look at a map of Willard, you would see that there are plenty of hidden streets with people that we seldom see. How can we reach them?

    This is a group effort. Note that Jesus didn’t do all the work Himself. He sent out the disciples in pairs to reach more people. Instead of one person doing the work, now there were seven groups doing the work. This is a good reminder that evangelism is not limited to just the pastor, the evangelist, and the missionary. It is something that all of us should be doing. While you may not feel that you are particularly skilled at speaking, God can and will use you if you are willing.

    Purpose – Jesus’ purpose in traveling to each place was teaching. That is what the verse says. In Nazareth, He went to the synagogue (the place where religious Jews went for teaching). He taught the people what God wanted them to know. How do we apply that to our situation? First, we have to know our purpose before starting with our method. People need to be taught the truth God has revealed in the Bible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use Sunday School curriculum or have a classroom full of eager listeners. But it does mean that you have to speak the truth to people so that they can learn what God has said. That involves teaching and involves you.

    Have you ever heard someone spouting nonsense about a topic and had to correct them? When you hear error, you have the opportunity to correct it by “teaching” the truth. The same is true in our planned and unplanned conversations with people. Sometimes when someone says something that is contrary to what the Bible says, we are offended and want to clobber him. But this isn’t very effective. Instead of being angry, perhaps we can ask questions, make statements, and change a confrontation into a teachable moment. How will they know the truth, if someone doesn’t teach them what it is?

Conclusion

Mark 6:6b is a small sentence in the section of Scripture we studied this morning. But even that little sentence says something, means something, and can be applied to our personal lives and our current church situation. And now that you know how it applies to us, what will be your response? We shouldn’t sit back and give up. We need to do what we can while we still have the opportunity. And now that we have seen Jesus’ perfect example, will you follow His example by reaching the many people living around us?

Footnotes

1 περιῆγεν as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/periago on 10/29/2023.
2 Note that I don’t condone these names or even know the reason for them. But they are recognizable areas in our community.