The Apostles Commissioned As 5,000 Are Fed
[Luke chapter 9, verses 1-17]
For this week’s Bible study and analysis we’ll be moving on to chapter 9 of the apostle Luke’s portrayal of the life, ministry and legacy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. As you recall from last time, Jesus had raised a young girl from the dead, much to the astonishment of her parents and all the others present in the room, which included 3 of the apostles. Today as we begin this week’s study, we find Jesus choosing the remaining men as apostles who were not yet chosen before the time Jesus raised up the young girl. So we can safely conclude by this that the Twelve, as they were called and are still called to this day, were not yet chosen by Christ until after this miracle had been performed by him. So let’s hold that thought as we apply it to today’s text, beginning at verse one.
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.’ So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere. 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, others that Elijah appeared, and still others that one of the prophets from long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this who I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him.” (Luke 9, verses 1-9)
As you can clearly see, Jesus had a management style that had some similarities to today’s corporate and business managers. Businesses and governments are run in a hierarchical management style, from the top down, just like they have been for centuries. Jesus, on the other hand, delegated his authority equally to the apostles. None was considered greater than the other. Instead of being handed down from the upper echelons like people are in the habit of doing – including those who tolerate such abuse, or who are afraid to make waves, or who are being bullied – Jesus delegated his authority laterally to his apostles. That did not begin to change until the 1990’s, when the Internet started to grow really fast. Within another 10 or 20 years, everyone on the earth who wants to be will be connected digitally, the ultimate outcome of lateral organization.
There is another thing that Jesus did differently than modern companies and governments do – he gave the apostle no material resources of their own. Jesus was the only resource the apostles would need, just as he told them : “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” ‘There will be no need for any of you to rely solely on yourselves’, Jesus was telling the apostles here. ‘I will be the only resource you will need from now on.’ I’m sure that the reason for the apostles’ success in their new ministries was their obedience to Jesus’ commands. “So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” That healing continues to this day. I’m a living example, and that story is available in book form for anyone who is interested. The title is “Sole Survivor”, and it’s available from this link (scroll down).
“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….”. A ‘tetrarch’ is defined by Webster’s dictionary as (1): a governor of the fourth part of a province, and (2): a subordinate prince. If you’re wondering why King Herod was so “perplexed” at the news that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist, it’s because Herod had just ordered his execution a short time before, probably only a matter of days or possibly a few weeks at the most. The word ‘perplexed’ is from the New International version, the King James is nearly identical, but my New Living Translation is only slightly different – it reads, “He was worried and puzzled”. So, no matter how you translate it, one thing is for certain right here – King Herod the tetrarch was totally freaked out by eyewitness accounts of John the Baptist being raised from the dead, presumably by Jesus himself! Let’s not forget that it was his father, whose name was also Herod (Herod senior, I suppose), who had ordered the execution of all the male babies born within the previous 2 years from around the time of our Savior’s birth. (see Matt. 2, verses 13-18)
“But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this who I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him.” Right here goes your proof for what I just wrote. ‘I beheaded John’, Herod said, ‘so who is this guy? I guess I’ll have to stop him too, just like I did his cousin John.’ So Herod tried to arrange a meeting between himself and Jesus, presumably to entrap him and carry him off to prison. But King Herod never got his chance, just like his father before him. Jesus wisely decided not to meet with him. What a family of losers! Now let’s move on to the second half of today’s study, beginning at verse 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, but the crowds learned of it and followed them. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. 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.’ 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.’ (About 5,000 men were there.) But he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about 50 each’. The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loves and two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.” (Luke 9, verses 10-17)
Jesus and the apostles withdrew to Bethsaida because they needed the rest, and so that Jesus could take time for some additional teaching. Unlike the corporate managers I wrote about near the beginning of today’s study, Jesus knew when to take a break. He had what we would call an easygoing management style today. Moreover, the apostles were in need of some down time because of the long hours they must have been working as they assisted our Lord and Savior. The next thing they know, a throng of admirers, the chronically ill, the lame and crippled, interspersed with a few spies from the Temple Ruling Council at Jerusalem, show up unannounced. Did Jesus or the apostles complain? On the contrary: “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” Jesus may have known when to take a break, but he never let ‘burn-out’ get the best of him, either! Whenever the people called for him or came to see him, Jesus didn’t turn away a single one. He still doesn’t turn anyone away, not even to this day! Simply ask for him, and he will be there! I should know – he did it for me.
Also, as before, Jesus and the Twelve needed no external resources to meet the needs of the people. Jesus himself was and still is the source, the only source we need, as it is written: “Taking the five loves and two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.” The apostles did nothing to create enough ‘fish sandwiches’ to feed a crowd of 5,000 men (plus women and children), nor did anyone in the crowd do anything to deserve a free meal. Jesus supplies all our needs, and his timing is always perfect! This is what faith does, and faith enables the grace of God, which in turn yields all the results we ever need. There will be some extra left over, too, for those who faithfully follow Christ. What better motivation to stay on track for Jesus!
We should never doubt as the apostles did early on, when they pointed out there was not nearly enough food as far as they could tell. That’s why Jesus tested them when he said, “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’.” Then and only then did Jesus bless and pray over the food. Jesus wasn’t just feeding people, he was teaching the apostles a lesson about faith – to never judge things, people or situations by their appearances. As it was with them, so it is with us. We are to never rely solely on our own judgment, but we must put our faith in the unlimited abilities of Christ. So let’s all be sure and put this into practice, starting today and from now on, so that we may all have a closer walk with the Lord. And next week we’ll move on to part 2 of Luke chapter 9.