Red Letter Year: 7/22

Luke 9:1-17

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.“Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes. Wherever you go, stay in the same house until you leave town. And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.

When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about everything Jesus was doing, he was puzzled. Some were saying that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. Others thought Jesus was Elijah or one of the other prophets risen from the dead.

“I beheaded John,” Herod said, “so who is this man about whom I hear such stories?” And he kept trying to see him.

10 When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida. 11 But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick.

12 Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”

13 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” 14 For there were about 5,000 men there.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 So the people all sat down. 16 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. 17 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!

Comments

Prior to this passage, Luke has established the character of Jesus’ ministry (see Friday’s summary). At the end of this chapter the focus will shift to the journey to Jerusalem. The looming cross becomes the overriding theme. In between, the focus is on the Twelve. The ones who continue the same work as Jesus, spread it farther, carry it on, and model it for others who continue widening the circle. In sending them out, Luke makes true the name he gave them previously – apostle means one sent with a message (the noun in 6.13 is cognate to the verb in 9.2). Jesus doesn’t just send them out, he sends them with power and authority, key terms we have already seen Luke use to describe Jesus’ own work. This is most likely the reason Luke leaves out the story of John’s execution: it would only detract from the themes he is carefully developing.

The other significant change Luke makes to the previous texts is the command to take nothing is absolute (even the staff allowed in Mark is disallowed here). They literally take nothing. The work the Twelve accomplish must have been phenomenal, because it even gets Herod’s attention. Herod’s appearance here foreshadows the political opposition both Jesus and his early followers are about to face (both of which Luke writes about in Luke and in Acts). The feeding of the 5000 completes this vignette as a reminder that provision will come to those who take nothing and then meet opposition.

One last note. In 9.17, Luke tells us the people were satisfied. This is the same word Jesus used in 6.21, “Blessed are the poor, for they will be satisfied.” Luke wanted us to see this both as hope for these who give up everything to follow Jesus and the beginning of fulfilling the word spoken on the plain. I argued before that Luke de-spiritualized Matthew’s “poor in spirit.” His word choice here for people eating food bears that out.

If you have given up everything to follow Jesus (or know you’ve been called to and are scared), take hope. He still stretches a little to go as far as you need. Whatever your need, something will present itself to meet it. If you haven’t gone all in on Jesus yet, what are you waiting for?

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.