By all appearances, they could not have been more unprepared. In Mark 6, the disciples are sent by Jesus to local villages to preach, drive out demons and heal people. In short, they are to begin bearing witness to Jesus – who He is and what He does.
Did I mention we’re only in Mark 6?
The disciples are sent absolutely clueless about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection – they haven’t happened yet. (Even when Jesus predicts that He will die and rise again, the disciples cannot comprehend what He is saying.) You’d think that knowing about Jesus’ sacrificial death would be an important thing to know and talk about if you’re going to bear witness to Him. The disciples are also clueless about Jesus’ ascension and the pouring out of His Holy Spirit – again, they haven’t happened yet. And it goes without saying that the disciples are clueless about Trinitarian theology and justification by faith – perhaps not terms we’d use around people who are meeting Jesus for the very first time, but nevertheless part of a good foundation when talking about Jesus.
Adding to their lack of knowledge and experience are Jesus’ words to them after He calms a storm on the Sea of Galilee: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” All in all, it would appear that there’s not a group so unprepared and under-qualified to share the Gospel than the 12 disciples! Yet that’s precisely what Jesus sends them out to do.
We should note, however, that the disciples do have one qualification: They have been with Jesus. They have begun to be influenced by His presence and His work.
Perhaps when we feel inadequate for the task of telling people about our faith, we are putting unrealistic expectations upon ourselves. Maybe we are putting educational or experiential prerequisites on ourselves that Jesus never intended. Even though they didn’t comprehend the whole picture, it was enough for the disciples to begin imitating Jesus and talking about Him right where they were at. As believers on this side of the crucifixion and resurrection, how much more qualified we must be to do the same! As Brian McLaren titles one of his books, we’re more ready than we realize!
By this point, I might have convinced your mind that you’re qualified to share Jesus, but maybe your mouth, hands, feet and heart still don’t feel up to the task. I’m really encouraged when James R. Edwards writes about how feeling ill-prepared in one way can actually be a good thing:
Uncomprehending and ill-prepared [1st century] disciples … typify believers in every age and place who are sent out by the Lord of the harvest. No matter how much exegesis, theology, and counselling one has studied, one is never “prepared for ministry!” A genuine call to ministry always calls us to that for which we are not adequately prepared. It is only in awareness of such that the Christian experiences the presence and promise of Jesus Christ, and learns to depend not on human capabilities but on the One who calls…
From James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark
(PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), p. 183