Proclaiming the Kingdom (9:1-6)
Chapter 9 begins with Jesus gathering the twelve and giving them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. The reason was to send out the twelve apostles to proclaim the kingdom of God. The casting out of demons and curing diseases would validate the apostles’ message. Before we can continue we must consider what exactly the twelve were proclaiming. The language sounds fairly simple and it is easy for us to pass over what the apostles were proclaiming. Notice Isaiah’s prophecy about the kingdom.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6–7 ESV)
You may recognize verse 6 which is known to speak of the coming of Jesus. Pay attention to the next verse, a verse that we often do not pay as much attention. There will be no end to the increase of his government and the peace that comes from his rule. He will sit on the throne of David and rule over his kingdom, established and upheld by justice and righteousness. Isaiah is prophesying of a time when the messianic kingdom will arrive, be established, and grow in dominion. The throne of David will be established once more. Notice Daniel’s prophecy about the coming kingdom.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13–14 ESV)
A few verses later the prophecy of Daniel also states about this messianic kingdom:
Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Daniel 7:27 NIV)
We need to see what is being proclaimed. The great kingdom of the Messiah has arrived with all power and authority to rule over the nations of the earth and restore humanity back to God. The apostles wielding power over demons and diseases would show the people that the power of this kingdom has arrived in Jesus. Jesus is the king.
Notice how Jesus sends his twelve disciples to proclaim this message of the kingdom. Jesus instructs his disciples to take nothing for this preaching journey. They are not to pack a bag, any food, a change of clothes, or any money. Can you imagine being told to go out like this? We are going to walk around West Palm Beach for a week preaching the gospel. Do not pack a bag. Do not bring a change of clothes. Do not bring any food. Do not bring any money. Do you have the faith for this work? Take nothing! Who prepares for a journey like this? Perhaps we would like to think that the disciples are going to be so successful that they will not have to worry about these things. Maybe we would think that everyone is going to accept them into their homes and so they will be fine. However, such a thought is not true. Jesus warns them that they are going to be rejected. Wherever they are not received they were to shake the dust off their feet. This was a symbol that acted as a testimony against the people for their rejection. This was an act done by the Jews when they traveled from foreign lands. When the Jews returned to Israel, they would shake off the uncleanness from their feet to reenter the holy land. Those who rejected the apostles would be given the serious testimony that they were unclean, unholy, and rejected by God through the symbol of shaking the dust off their feet. There would be unsuccessful days. There would be towns where the twelve would be rejected.
The disciples are required to show their faith. They are going to learn to trust Jesus their Lord at this moment. They will trust God for food, protection, and shelter. We learn about the kind of faith that Jesus demands from his followers. We also learn that evangelism requires engaging people, serving, and preaching to them. We must reach out. We must teach. We must invite. We must share the good news of the kingdom.
Who Is This? (9:7-9)
Herod, the one who killed John the Baptizer, hears about Jesus and all that is happening around him. Some were going around saying that John had been raised from the dead. Herod is perplexed by this because he was the one who had John killed. If you have someone killed and he rises from the dead, it is perplexing. So Herod wants to know who this person is and what this means. This is the same Herod who will want to see Jesus once Jesus is arrested because he wanted to see a show of signs from him (Luke 23:8). The power of the message of the kingdom has even reached the ears of King Herod. Luke presents the readers with another person asking the question, “Who is this Jesus?”
Faith God Will Provide (9:10-17)
When the twelve return they explain to Jesus all they had done. The crowds follow Jesus and he continued to speak about the kingdom of God and cured those who needed healing. As it became late in the day, the disciples advise Jesus to send the crowds away so that they can find lodging and get food because they are in a desolate area. Jesus’ response is startling. “You give them something to eat.”
I appreciate the response of the disciples because it would have been the response I would have given also. There are five thousand men, which means there could have been as many as 10,000 to 20,000 people total when women and children are included in the counting. We only have five loaves of bread and two fish. These are not bread loaves like we have today. These are like biscuits or small pita bread circles, to relate it to something similar in our day. How can you tell us to feed the crowd? We do not have enough food and we cannot afford to buy enough food for all these people. The gospel of John records that Philip calculates that nine months wages would not be enough to feed this crowd. Yet Jesus said to feed them. Do you think Jesus didn’t know that they only had five loaves and two fish? Do you think he did not know that they had no means to provide for the people? I think this is the very point. Jesus wants the twelve to see that they are unable to provide for these people. Unfortunately, none of the disciples realize that they are with God and not a man. No one thinks that Jesus has the power to feed this crowd. No one says, “Lord, you can do it!”
Visualize what this looked like. Jesus tells the disciples to have the crowds sit down in groups of fifty. Jesus takes the loaves and fish and says and blessing. Then he breaks the loaves and gives the loaves to his disciples to give to the crowd. Imagine the disciples receiving the bread, giving it the crowds, going back and getting more bread from Jesus. They keep going back and getting more bread until more than 5000 people have eaten and are filled. Then the disciples go back through the crowds, collect the leftovers, which amounted to twelve baskets of broken pieces. Jesus ends up with more food than he started with and 5000 men, possibly up to 10,000 to 20,000 people, have eaten and are satisfied. The leftovers show that Jesus is greater than Moses, who fed the people manna in the wilderness just enough for each person that day (Exodus 16). Jesus feeds the people bread and there is even more left over. The disciples who were given authority and power over demons and diseases are serving more than 5000 people dinner from Jesus. Jesus does not set up a buffet line to hand the bread to each person as they come through. Jesus wants his twelve disciples to be servants. Though given authority, it did not negate the fact that they are still to be servants to all.
Your abilities and resources are not enough. Jesus wants to make his disciples clearly aware of this truth. They could not heal diseases or cast out demons by their own power. They could not feed 5000 people with their own resources. God is not limited by our inadequacies. Instead, our limitations display the glory of Jesus. God can do what we cannot do. That is what makes serving our Lord so special. God’s will and plan will be accomplished in spite of our shortcomings. There are so many things that we think we cannot do for the Lord because we think we are not good enough. God wants us to recognize our shortcomings and then watch how God can work in our lives in spite of what we cannot do.
Moses is another example of this great truth. Moses said he could not speak and was unfit for the job. God used Moses anyway to show to the power of God. God does not want Moses’ power on display. God wants his own power on display. You do not need to be a good teacher because God’s word will be powerful in the lives of the world through our failings. God made the point like this to Paul. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Thus Paul understood this great thought. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). If we were perfect, then Christ’s power could not be seen. But because we are weak, frail, and inadequate, God uses this to show how great he is. The things that we think make us unqualified to serve the Lord are the things that make us the most qualified to serve the Lord.
Will you trust God to do the tasks commanded? Will we understand that God supplies the things we need to be servants of his? As Peter would later write, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). The twelve needed to see that truth as they were sent out with nothing extra to provide for them. Trust in God to give you what you need.
The mistake we often make is the same mistakes as the crowds did on the next day. Luke does not record what the crowd did the next day but John does in his gospel.
Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” (John 6:26–27 HCSB)
The meaning of the miracle is spiritual and eternal, not merely physical and temporal. Don’t seek God because you think he will satisfy your bellies today. Seek God because you know he will get your through to eternal life. Bread is life. Jesus gives true life. Will we trust in Jesus to give us that true life? Will we obey him knowing that we are laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven? We must learn to trust Jesus. Today is the day and now is the time to take the first step in trusting him. Seek what truly matters to your soul.