9 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill. 3 He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Jesus here commissions his disciples for a special mission. They are given authority over evil spirits and to heal. They are also sent to proclaim the kingdom of God. The word here translated “proclaim” is a different word to “preach”. We can see both words used in Acts 8:4 & 5. “Preach” refers to spreading the good news, gossiping the gospel. “Proclaim” is more of solemn announcement. “Although all Christians should be able to evangelise, in the sense of telling the good news, that word “herald/proclamation”, is never used except with respect to those who have some kind of official commission; those who are sent specifically and are set apart to do this work.” [Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans 8, Pg. 276] It seems strange but preaching today is more like the “proclamation” in the Bible. Lloyd-Jones goes on to say “Every Christian should be able to give the good news, but that every Christian is not called to be a herald. “ [p 273]
The terms of their mission are not a general model for today’s disciples. I was reading something online a few days ago that claimed that all gospel preaching should be accompanied by miracles to give the message authority. That is a nonsense. It is the good news itself that has power and authority [Romans 1:16].
What we do see however, is that to be a proclaimer of the Kingdom, a person needs to be commissioned, and that role of commissioning in New Testament times falls to the church, which is “the pillar and the foundation of the truth” [1 Tim 3:15] So a person might receive an inner call to preach the word but that call is also given by the church [Acts 13:2]. The two should coincide. “There is no preaching (proclamation) in the new Testament apart from the action, the corporate action, of the church in “sending.” [Lloyd-Jones pg. 284] This is a safeguard against false teaching.
Are you praying for those who preach at your church, that they remain faithful to the Word of God? It is an awesome responsibility! Paul approached his preaching with “fear and much trembling.” [1 Cor 2:3] and thought himself unworthy of such responsibility [2 Cor 2:16].
Are you praying for the proclamation of the Good News, that it will impact those who hear it?
Lord God of truth give our preachers a clear understanding of your truth and a passion to preach it in all its glory. Give your word power in those who hear to change lives. Amen
10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who needed healing.
12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’
13 He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’
They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ 14 (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
The disciples return from their preaching/healing tour and they tell Jesus how it all went. Jesus withdraws with them for a quiet time but the crowds find him and look at his reaction – he welcomes them! You don’t hear him saying, “Why don’t they leave me alone for just a while ?” Jesus has immense patience with those who seek him (though not so much with those who try to find fault!). They turn up and he teaches them and heals those who need it. The kingdom of God is driving passion. It is not an add-on to his life, one of the many compartments that he juggles. It is his mission. When he sees the crowds, he has compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.[Mark 6:34] He came to seek and to save the lost [Luke 19:10], and he encourages us to have that same priority – to seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousness [Matthew 6:33]. It’s not that easy with all the competing demands on our lives, and so many of them good demands – family, work, home and garden, friends, study….. well, you get the picture. How do we keep the Kingdom in central focus? By making it our treasure. Jesus says our hearts will be wherever we put our treasure [Matthew 6:2]. We keep the Kingdom central by asking God to help us to see people as Jesus see them – with compassion because they are like sheep without a shepherd, as harassed and helpless [Matthew 9:36].
It’s late in the day and they’re in a remote place so the disciples suggest Jesus send the people away to find food and accommodation. Then follows the event that we know as “the feeding of the five thousand”, although there were many more than the five thousand men mentioned. How many times have we heard the children’s talk that focusses on the young boy who volunteers his lunch of fish and bread? Yet this incident is recorded for us not to teach us to be generous like the boy, or even that Jesus can use what little we have in his service if we are willing (although those things are true), but to show us more of the glory of Jesus. The one who is the bread of life [John 6:33] provides bread to feed the hungry. Luke says. “They all ate and were satisfied.” Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” [John 6:35]
We experience that satisfaction, but not fully because the Kingdom has not fully arrived. We still feel that spiritual hunger from time to time and that is to help us to long for the kingdom to come, and to pray for it.
God and father of my Lord Jesus, help me to long for the kingdom to be fully realised and to enjoy the first fruits of it here and now. Amen
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8 others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. 9 But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him………..18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’
19 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’
20 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’
21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’
23 Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
27 ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
These two events are separated just a little in time but are closely related, as is the transfiguration late in the chapter. Luke shows us the confusion over Jesus’ identity. Herod is confused and the disciples relate to Jesus what others are saying about him. Here we get Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. “Theologically, this is the most important statement so far in Luke.” [Walter Liefeld pg. 922]. Later on in the chapter we get the transfiguration, the proof of Jesus’ identity.
Often things aren’t real to us until we put them into words. Putting a label on something, like and emotion or a situation can give real clarity. Here Peter clarifies his understanding of who Jesus is, and then Jesus outlines what that designation will mean. The Messiah’s role will be to suffer and die. That is not what the nation was expecting. He will also rise again. What an astounding claim! More than that it is a prophetic claim, because he follows it up immediately with the words “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There is the mention of the cross, long before it actually occurs. Jesus didn’t just know that he would be put to death he knew how he would die, and he expected his followers to be prepared follow him to that death. Dieterich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” [The Cost of Discipleship].
What did it mean for Christ to die, that we should follow in his footsteps? Philippians 2 tells us in that great passage referred to by scholars as “the kenosis” – “the emptying”. “5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death –even death on a cross!” That is what it means to take up our cross. If you carry a cross in Jesus’ day there is only one ending for you. You are going to die. Our new standing in Christ is not something to be used for our advantage but rather we now become nothing. By that we mean that our own ambitions and desires and dreams are now put to death and we humble ourselves and become servants of Christ. His dreams and ambitions and plans become our dreams and ambitions and plans. His character becomes our character. Becoming a disciple of Christ is really abandoning ourselves to him.
The Christian faith is not an easy thing to live out, and maybe the reason that it can seem so joyless and tough at times is because we still hold onto our old dreams and ambitions – when we become followers we put those things on the back burner thinking that in time we will be able to take them up again, but we don’t give them up. We look back on them with regret or even bitterness that they are now no longer ours. Worse still for our spiritual well-being, we might try to hold onto both our emptying and our selfish dreams and try to live with a foot in both camps. The only way to complete peace and contentment and joy is to be a person of one single priority – to serve the King of Kings. “24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
God and Father of my Lord Jesus, give me a heart that longs to serve you and be completely abandoned to you. Amen
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
This incident is the climax of this section about the identity of Jesus. Notice how Luke ties this passage to the previous one with a time anchor [v 28]. The disciples might have been confused and depressed about Jesus’ talk of his coming death but now at least three of them are given a glimpse into the glory of the Messiah. It’s as though God lifts the curtain and lets them see what is really going on behind the scenes. Jesus is a man living within the limits of our physical world and caught up in the intrigues of powerful people who will seemingly do with him as they please. Yet that is not reality. Reality is that this man who they follow is the Son of God and he has the two greatest men of God in history to that date come to help him, Moses and Elijah. That itself would have been a great encouragement to the disciples. But what about Jesus? This incident was not primarily for the disciples. They were asleep when it all started. Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus about his coming “departure”, a word that translates the Greek word “exodus”. Jesus is about to go through his exodus, leading the people who are in slavery to sin to freedom as the people of God. The talk with the two great Old Testament men of God would have strengthened our Lord for the path ahead and is an indication of just how difficult that path would be. Both of them had unusual circumstances surrounding their departure from the world. If the Son of God takes encouragement from others at his time of deep need what does it say to us about the importance of the church community?
Notice too that Luke says Jesus was about to bring his departure to fulfilment in Jerusalem [v 31]. As we know from elsewhere his death was not out of his control but rather all part of the plan of the triune God, and Luke emphasises that here.
Then the climax occurs. God speaks from heaven. God only ever speaks audibly three times in the gospels: at Jesus’ baptism when he says, “This is my beloved Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17], in John 12:28 after Jesus prays that Gods name be glorified and God says, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”, and here “this is my son whom I have chosen, listen to him.”
In effect God has only one sermon in the gospels and it’s all about Jesus. “Listen to Jesus.” It’s a short sermon too. What more needs to be said? This sermon is for the disciples. Peter is talking but he doesn’t know what he’s saying and in effect God is saying, “Stop talking and listen to my Son.”
That is good advice. I know that I am always ready to say what I think about all sorts of things, but what is important is what Jesus says. Do my words line up with his? after all I am his servant and have put to death my own ambitions. It’s not about me!
Lord Jesus, my head says it’s all about you but my actions do not always bear that out. Please give me an undivided heart. Amen
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’
41 ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’
42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’ 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and made him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.’
49 ‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’
50 ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’
Jesus casts out the demon and the people were all amazed at the greatness of God, and Luke say that even while they were still marvelling Jesus speaks again about his coming betrayal. It seems he doesn’t want his disciples to get carried away by his popularity. The crowds recognise that he is bringing glory to God by his miracles, but in a short while they will be baying for his blood. How fickle is popularity! Jesus will not be fooled by it. He knows that his greatness will be displayed in his rejection and death [Phil 2:8-9]. He also tells his disciples that their glory is in their humble service [Luke 9:23-27].
That is why the discussion among the disciples about greatness is bizarre in the light of what Jesus has just said about denying oneself and taking you the cross. Denying yourself is the way to greatness but it would seem that was not the substance of the disciple’s discussion. The real question for us is, “In whose eyes do you want to appear great?” The song “Audience of One” sums it up well. [https://youtu.be/Jx9gpGlANNQ]
Jesus stands a child in their midst. Children were “the least”; they were insignificant in the great scheme of things. Those who were willing to treat the “least” in the world’s eyes, the insignificant, the powerless, those without influence, with dignity and respect, they are the leaders in God’s economy.
Popularity and success in the world’s eyes have great dangers. We often hear of well-known Christian leaders who get side-tracked by the evil trinity of success, riches and sex. Just as Jesus warns about the dangers of wealth, we need to be on our guard against doing things to be popular, or the bitterness that comes from not being recognised in the way that others are, which is the flip side of popularity. I learnt a great word a few years ago, “schadenfreude”, which is a german word for taking pleasure from other’s misfortune. It often occurs when others get the success we long for, and then they fall. I love the word because it gives clarity to something, I have felt but not recognised until it got a name -something that shames me. If we find ourselves getting a little irritated by the fame or popularity or recognition of someone, or a slight twinge of pleasure at their fall, it should be warning sign that we are playing to the wrong audience.
In church it is easy for our service to go unnoticed, while others seem to get all the thanks, especially if you are a “back-room” sort of person. The “stars” get all the recognition and praise. If that is the case, and it irks you, ask yourself what audience are you playing to? It’s like at the wedding where the groom thanks everyone by name but has to be really careful not to leave anyone out in case they get upset. It happens in churches too. It shouldn’t but it does, because we so crave recognition.
God of holiness and might, please work in me by your spirit that I won’t seek greatness but service, popularity but self-sacrifice, acclaim but your “well done!”. Amen