You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 9, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus goes back to his hometown with his followers. He teaches in the Sabbath and people are amazed by him, questioning how he got such wisdom and power to do miracles. They know him as the local carpenter, so they can’t accept him as more than that.
Jesus says that “People everywhere give honor to a prophet, except in his own town, with his own people, or in his home.” He isn’t able to do miracles there other than a few healings, because his local people lack faith.
Then he calls his disciples together and sends them out in groups of two to minister. He tells them to take nothing but a stick for walking–not even spare clothes. They are to rely on others for any needs, but if a town refuses to accept them or to listen, they are to leave and “shake the dust off your feet as a warning to them.”
The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says that “Proper hospitality included offering water for guests to wash their feet; here the travelers’ feet remain conspicuously unwashed.” Shaking the dust off their feet was significant symbolism and a kind of rebuke.
So they headed out to talk to people and call on them to repent and change. They cast out demons and anointed people with oil and healed them.
Here we see Jesus making a major change in his ministry. Prior to this he has been traveling all over and preaching and healing, with his own entourage in tow. Now he sends his disciples out without him to extend his ministry to more places at once. In previous weeks we’ve read about the kingdom of God and how quickly it grows–this is how Jesus began to encourage its growth.