Not Going Anywhere

12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”
13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.”
14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:12–14 (NAS)

Read Luke 9:12-17, Feeding the Five Thousand

We had a full household last Sunday afternoon, four sprinting and toddling grandkids and their haggard parents and it was dinner time. My full expectation was that mom would graciously prepare something on the spot, not to send them home. The go to on short order by the way was a “hearty breakfast,” to which no one objected.

Here in a desolate place, yet with green grass, a contrast Mark notes in his account (Mark 6:39), five thousand men were gathered along with their families. The disciples wanted to send them away to fend for themselves. Jesus wanted his men to serve a meal.

[My wife has a way of stretching available food to expand the dinner table, but five loaves and two fish were obviously not enough, even for our group.]

Jesus sought to instill a sense of anything’s possible in his men, putting the burden on them. While they were at wits’ end, he decided to use them as waiters to deliver a miraculous banquet meal to “tables” of fifty. When everyone pushed away, the leftovers filled twelve symbolic baskets.

The one thing I’ve noted in my interactions with missionaries is this “God can do” mindset. The last thing they would want to do is send the people off to fend for themselves! As green as the grass was, those congregated represented a potential bountiful harvest of souls. Jesus wanted the men to see past the obvious physical needs and lack of provisions to hungry hearts. Second, he wanted tangible evidence in the end of what faith could produce.

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Behind the Scenes

He sent them out with nothing, but with everything they needed. They were to be totally dependent on others, but were empowered against all demons and diseases .

Read Luke 9:1-10

Now He called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all the demons, and the power to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. Luke 9:1-2

I’ve always wondered about the point of this exercise. Was it “on the job” training? A sort of discipling “boot camp?” Was it to cover more ground? Divide and conquer? Flood the zone? All of the above, I imagine. But I’ve learned there’s always more to it.

In Luke 8:1, Jesus was doing the same thing he was asking them to do now.

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him.

He’d modeled what they were to do. Now it was their turn. They went “everywhere” and were successful, to the point that King Herod was perplexed, not with them, but by the excitement generated by Jesus’ message that the kingdom of God was at hand, and the power he possessed over disease and demons. Certainly Herod thought he was losing control. That’s what all rulers fear. He would finally see Jesus by the way when Pilate punted the real King to him.

Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. Luke 23:8

A good question is what was Jesus doing behind the scenes while they were gone. We’ve seen plenty of movies where the director watches his or her agents in action on a big screen, as if there are cameras everywhere (and there are!). Being God, certainly he was aware of their every move and was praying for each one, for each word, and for those with whom they ministered.

Nothing’s changed for us either. While we may be “alone,” behind the scenes he monitors our every move, puts words in our mouths and power in our hands and feet.

More important to me in this account is that these men sans Judas would soon be truly on their own, sharing that the kingdom had come and that one must believe to enter into it. They needed a trial run while their mentor was still present.

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One of Those Days

22 Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out. Luke 8:22 (NAS)

Luke 8:22-25

We’ve all experienced “one of those days.” You don’t know when they’ll come but you quickly want them to go when you realize you’re having one. It started simply enough. The Master wished to go to the other side of the lake, so leaving behind the crowd, he and his disciples climbed into a boat and launched.

The fishermen in the group were aware of what could happen even on the calmest day on the Sea of Galilee. Since the lake was 690 feet below sea level and was rimmed by hills and towering Mount Hermon, fierce winds could quickly descend upon the waters and the sea would become instantly angry. This would be “one of those days.”

Now the Master, physically exhausted by unceasing demands on his time, was asleep in the stern on a pillow while conditions on the water dramatically worsened to the point that the boat was taking on water. Psychologically, there’s probably nothing more frightening to see than raging seas all about. The fear of perishing in those conditions was very real. The fishermen knew well what they were up against and were probably the first to rouse Jesus. In his mind of course there was no problem. He was as calm as the water would soon be. He set out to go to the other side of the lake and he’d get there “come hell or high water.”

But it was going to be one of those days when his men would learn an important lesson. When you’re in the boat with Jesus, you’re safe regardless the odds against you. You should always expect to be bailed out in one way or another! In this teaching moment, knowing their frailty, he simply asked, “where is your faith?” They had witnessed his power over death and demons, and now the weather.

Years later, Peter under heavy guard was asleep as he hung from his chains in prison awaiting his execution the next day. (Acts 12:6) He’d learned his lesson well. It didn’t hurt to have briefly walked on water only to be pulled to safety by the righteous right hand of the Master of the Universe. (Matthew 14:28-32)

The catchy phrase in the credit card commercial is “what’s in your wallet.” With Jesus it’s always “where’s your faith?”

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Study in Contrasts

19And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:19-21

Here Jesus uses the cultural expectation that he would immediately defer to his mother and brothers over the crowd to make a huge point. He defers to the obedient, the doers (poieō) of the word.

Later in Luke 11:27-28, this point is made clear again, but with a twist.

27While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Here the emphasis is on abstaining from some action (phylassō).

Both doing and not doing are a part of obedience.

Jesus never let a good contrast go to waste.

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Nothing to Hide

16“Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light.
17“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.
18“So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” Luke 8:16-18 (NAS)

One of the marks of a true Christian is an insatiable appetite for the Word of God. Once the lamp is lit, a boundless realm of truth awaits. From dusty shelf to the desktop goes the Bible. It should be the book you can’t put down.

I’ve witnessed this countless times. A genuine decision for Christ is followed almost immediately by an unbridled eagerness to learn about him. If that decision is the high water mark in one’s spiritual journey, you must question the decision.

What should happen is that true saving knowledge of the Almighty breeds a desire to know more and more about him. Moreover, this knowledge spawns an ongoing transformation evident to all. There will be nothing hidden “that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”

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Pulling Weeds

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
12 “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
13 “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Luke 8:11–15 (NAS)

Some observations about this important and often debated “Parable of the Sower.” Luke 8:4-15

Since it’s meaning did not leap out to the disciples, Jesus explained it to them. His explanation is the definitive commentary on the parable. Our tendency is to rush to get someone else’s take on this, when the Lord himself has already provided it.

Only in the last soil type described is there persistent and perpetual growth, i.e, fruit bearing. This begs the question, can true salvation be stolen, wither away, or be choked out? If so, what kind of salvation is that?

Yes, all these impediments to growth must be removed like weeds, but by whom? In the case of a true Christian, the Holy Spirit does these things with time, operating within “an honest and good heart,” that is, in “good soil.”

All farming is at the mercy of God. Only he can make something grow. The Lord prepares the heart of the hearer to understand and receive his word unto salvation. From there on out, he tends his field.

Looking back, I did nothing in my salvation except to accept a free gift by faith. While there have been rocky times and temptations from the flesh and world, I’ve been able to break free using the power and resolve that’s within me, in all cases spawned by the Word of God, enacted by the Spirit of God.

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Gender Equality

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. Luke 8:1-3

We need only to look at the ministry of Jesus to understand the important role of women in furthering the gospel. This topic could easily fill the pages of a book, but a brief look at Luke 8:1-3 is a good start.

Here we learn that Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven evil spirits were removed, Joanna, the wife of a key steward of evil tetrarch Herod, and Susanna, were with him (in that day scandalous). From other scripture passages add to them Mary the mother of chosen disciple James the Less and Joses, Salome mother of “sons of thunder” James and John, Peter’s wife, and many other women from Jerusalem. This is not to mention close friends Martha and Mary who lived in Bethany.

These females not only comprised the gallery when Jesus ministered, but supported him physically and financially. When we also consider the roles of women in Jesus’ birth (Elizabeth and Mary) and burial, and their discovery of the empty tomb, not to mention Christ appearing first to Mary Magdalene, we must agree that there was equal opportunity and access if you followed him.

In Paul’s ministry I recall Priscilla the missionary, Phoebe, the deaconess and trusted messenger, Thyatira business woman Lydia who prevailed upon Paul ands Silas to stay in her home, and Philip’s four daughters who were prophetesses.

The trite phrase “where would we be without” is really an understatement when stopping to consider women in the furtherance of the gospel.

This, by the way, is my contribution to “Women’s Month.”

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

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Love Much

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

There are those who have sinned greatly and found the Lord, like the woman with the alabaster vial of perfume. There are those who have out of fear and pragmatism avoided a life of sin yet are vile inside, like the Pharisee, who hopefully found the Lord after his encounter with Jesus. Either one should have the same appreciation for their salvation, given such a high bar to the glory of God (For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23) Would that we all love much, for we all have been forgiven much!

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Mean No Offense

The disciples of John reported to him about all these things. Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Luke 7:18-19

John the Baptist was imprisoned when he summoned two disciples to visit Jesus to confirm that he was indeed the Messiah. Isolated and alone, we can merely speculate the prophet was fielding doubts after his dynamic ministry came to an abrupt halt. You’ve got to think that deep down John still believed in Jesus, but was possibly impatient in his flesh for the establishment of his view of what the kingdom was supposed to look like, and perhaps, as a result, his release.

When his two disciples arrived and asked Jesus the question John posed, he was in the process of healing the sick and “binding up the brokenhearted.” (Isaiah 61:1) Jesus told the disciples to tell him what you see. Is he not doing what was foretold? He then gently rebuked not only John but everyone else with this statement, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (7:23)

When we are separated from the words and works of Jesus, skepticism can creep in. Moreover, the word “offense” used here (skandalizō) means to place a stumbling block in someone’s path. We think of the English word “scandal” meaning something more perverse, but what could be more scandalous than casting doubt (or even entertaining the notion that) Jesus is not the “coming one?”

John must have been buoyed to hear the news and the intended allusion to Isaiah 61, the same passage that Jesus read in the synagogue to initiate the “scandal” that would become his ministry! (Luke 4:18-19)

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

In a way we are all stuck in a prison cell without physical access to Jesus. But the Word and Spirit of God are more than enough to help us bide the time as we’re shackled to this earth. In his case, John needed only to remember his baptism of Jesus to bolster his faith.

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Luke 3:21–22

And when John saw Jesus coming down to be baptized, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

First a Savior, then a King.

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Don’t Cry

13 When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” Luke 7:13 (NAS)

[Read Luke 7:11-17]

There’s a major shortage of compassion in the world these days. The ability to “comment” with no physical attachment has revealed the true hearts of humankind. It’s both ugly and terrifying to witness. The fear is that sooner or later one’s destiny will be in the hands of a person with no heart and soul.

This fear is quelled by knowing the Lord of compassion. My Lord feels compassion toward me in times of pain and sorrow and fully comprehends the implications of what befalls me. Here a widow had lost her “only begotten son,” conceivably the only one left in the world who would care for her. The understanding that the God of the universe is compassionate and cares is the very basis upon which we pray.

Here he brought a corpse back to life to show the extent he can go to fix our problems. This account presented only in Luke’s gospel not only teaches us Christiology in a classic sense (the study of the Christ), but shows his raw power to change our circumstances if he so desires. Regardless the corrective measures he might take, knowing that my Lord has compassion for me should be enough.

More important is that I should feel compassion for others from “my inward parts” as he feels it for me. By extending his compassion to others we can have the same effect of bringing the dead back to life, in that it instills hope in God. We are God’s representatives on earth, as Jesus was when he was here (“God has visited His people!” v.16).

May I reach out and touch someone hurting and say “don’t cry, and here’s why.” On the other hand we’re told to “weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

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