Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Your mission, should you decide to accept it
Luke Chapter 9 features an abrupt shift. Really since Jesus began His ministry and called His disciples—it has been exposition and demonstration about what the kingdom of God is about and who is the King in God’s kingdom—who’s in charge. Now in Chapter 9 the burden of sharing about this kingdom begins to shift to the disciples, and Jesus begins to shift how He communicates about who He is. We also see another picture of the way things will be in Jesus’ kingdom in a miracle that, besides the resurrection, is the only miracle appearing in all four gospels.
1 – 6
Think of this as a test mission. Jesus wants His disciples to get their feet wet, to give them an introduction about what their lives will be like after He leaves. For this mission, they are to go to villages throughout Israel (but avoid Samarian and Gentile territory according to Matthew 10:5-6).
For this missionary journey they were to rely for support entirely on the hospitality of homes in those cities. Their activity was to teach, proclaim that the kingdom of God was near, and to heal and deliver.
If a city didn’t receive them, they were to move on. The idea of shaking the dust off their feet was an act of judgment. Matthew’s gospel includes Jesus’ statement that “it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” Why is that? Because rejecting the gospel means you reject your only hope of salvation from the coming judgment when God pours out His wrath on anything that is evil.
Their journey, plus what Jesus has been doing, raises eyebrows in the top echelon of Israeli government.
7 – 9
Luke includes this little interlude about Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great)—but Matthew’s gospel (Chapter 14) sets the chronology. It seems that about the time Jesus sent out the 12, Herod had John beheaded, then hears all the miracles that are going on and summarizes that it is John resurrected. His other officials spout their theories as well.
When Jesus hears of John’s death—Matthew indicates that is what led Him to take His disciples to a remote place to rest (Mark 6:31) and mourn.
Two things here I think are important.
- When you share the gospel with others, word will spread. Be prepared for those in your social circle, your work circle, even in government circles to notice and wonder what you’re up to. In Matthew’s account Jesus warns that spreading the gospel will land them in jail or before ruling authorities. They aren’t to worry about how to respond but to rely on the Holy Spirit.
- Being a witness for Christ can be a dangerous profession. John lost his head in the process—and it caused Jesus real pain. We need to keep in mind the true goal, which is to lay down our lives if need be, to see others receive eternal life.
So now the apostles return and report back.
10 – 11
I like how Jesus wanted to hear how it went. We are disciples, after all. We are apprentices. We try things—sometimes they work, often they do not. But Jesus is always there to encourage. The group goes to Bethsaida, which was a town on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, recently built up by Herod Philip (Herod Antipas’ brother).
Jesus is so popular now that attempts to be alone are fruitless, but Jesus responds with grace and provides healing to all in need. The day began to end and I’m sure the disciples are watching the sun start to set and realize that the nearest McDonalds is too far to walk:
12 – 14
John 6:5-6 tells us that Jesus already knew He was going to perform this miracle and expressed initial concern about the people having nothing to eat. Here, Luke tells us that the disciples came to Him. The difference may simply be that Luke talked to different people and that Matthew saw it from his perspective.
The real surprise is that what the disciples think is the answer: send them away, is not what Jesus has in mind. He says: “You give them something to eat.” Their minds immediately go to a human way of fulfilling a need and ask around for spare food. Apparently the only person who thought ahead about this event was the mother of a young boy, who packed him a lunch of five loaves and two fish (John 6:8).
After a fruitless search, I love their response here: “unless we go and buy food for all these people”. Philip started even arguing about the money it would take (John 6).
Jesus wants them to think higher. He’s just given them the power to heal and deliver. Yet when presented with a practical problem they don’t get that they can give the people what they need—if they go to the same source where they got the commission and the power: to Jesus.
I see this as a picture of what we will encounter as well as we go about sharing the gospel. We are Jesus’ hands and feet. We are His ambassadors here. It isn’t up to us to create solutions; it is up to us to rely on Him to provide answers. We just get to participate.
14b – 17
To organize the event, Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit in groups of 50. That’s a lot of groups considering there were 5,000 men and upwards of 15,000 total. So Jesus takes the little food that was provided and miraculously provides a feast with enough to pick up the scraps and have a basketful for each apostle.
I love what Jesus does here: He looks up to heaven (the source of the power for our work) blesses the food (we are blessed only in Him) then breaks the loaves (often we are broken in order to better serve Him) then gives out in abundance (if we allow ourselves to be dedicated to service, sourced from heaven, and broken by trials, we will have more than enough to give whatever is needed).
I think too this is another picture of what it will be like in Jesus’ kingdom—an overabundance of everything we need.
I think Luke and the Holy Spirit may be giving us some expectations and guidelines in expectation of what Jesus will charge us with just prior to His ascension—the Great Commission for us to go out in the world and preach the good news of this kingdom. I want to summarize it in three sets of three statements: three things you need, three things to expect, and three exhortations:
- You need a commission to a mission (vs 1-2)
- You need power to accomplish the mission (vs 1)
- You need a purpose for the mission (vs 2, 5 proclamation & realization)
- Expect rejection. Don’t let that stop you (vs 5)
- Expect to be noticed by this age – and not in a good way (vs 7)
- Expect confusion about the message (vs 7-9)
- Remain humble your abilities to fulfill the mission (vs 12-13)
- Remain connected to the source of power (vs 14-17)
- Remain personally committed to the mission (vs 17)
Something important to remember and perhaps an overall theme of this portion of the chapter is that as you move out in mission expect resistance and rejection—this age will stop at nothing to halt the spread of the gospel. But notice how Luke does this—the disciples go out in a limited missionary journey and do a few things—then he mentions the fact that Herod took notice and was a threat—but through Jesus, not only can the small things be a success but giant things that are beyond our imagination. Don’t let your own abilities or the intimidation of those in this age stop you from dreaming and praying big for what God can do.
I leave you with the words of Jesus as He prepared to leave His disciples:
John 14:12 “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.