Luke 9:1-17

 

Last time we finished our study of Luke 8 considering Jesus’ victory over death, in His miraculous raising of a dead girl back to life, and most importantly with His general triumph over death by His own resurrection which overcomes the power of death that was brought into the world through the sin of man – a victory over death made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus’ own blood on the cross.

 

As we continue now in Luke 9, we see a picture of Jesus’ Great Commission for all believers in His sending out of the 12 apostles to preach the Gospel…

 

Luke 9:1-6 (Matthew 10:5–15 ; Mark 6:7-13)

 

1Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.

 

4“Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

 

6So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

 

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We looked at the various lists of the 12 apostles found in the gospel accounts earlier in our study of Luke (see handout Apostles of Jesus), so we won’t revisit that study. Interestingly, the word, ἀπόστολος apostolos, meaning a delegate, messenger, or one sent forth with orders, used in those lists is not the same word – μαθητής mathētēs – , which means student, or learner, used by Luke here. Indeed, the 12 whom Jesus sends out as apostles here in this passage were also those who had learned the Gospel truth at Jesus’ own feet, yet none of them had truly grasped the full meaning of the Gospel until after Jesus’ resurrection. This is a great encouragement for present-day disciples as Jesus sends us out to be apostles of His Gospel.

 

The old Christianese bromide, is well worn, but nevertheless true…

 

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

 

Isaiah 6:1-8

 

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one cried to another and said:

 

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

 

The whole earth is full of His glory!”

 

4And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

 

5So I said:

 

“Woe is me, for I am undone!

 

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

 

And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;

 

For my eyes have seen the King,

 

The LORD of hosts.”

 

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

 

“Behold, this has touched your lips;

 

Your iniquity is taken away,

 

And your sin purged.”

 

8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

 

“Whom shall I send,

 

And who will go for Us?”

 

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

 

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The first thing we see here in Luke 9 is that Jesus bequeathed to the twelve, various powers in accordance with His good pleasure prior to sending them out. These are clearly gifts of the Spirit, prior to the general outpouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel’s prophecy of the coming Day of the Lord,

 

Joel 2:28-29

 

28“And it shall come to pass afterward

 

That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;

 

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

 

Your old men shall dream dreams,

 

Your young men shall see visions.

 

29And also on My menservants and on My maidservants

 

I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

 

This prophecy was partially fulfilled on the first Day of Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension, with the outpouring upon the remaining 11 Apostles (Judas Iscariot having died after betraying Jesus)…

 

Acts 2:1-4

 

1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

 

Paul lists the various gifts of God’s Spirit for us in a few passages, for example…

 

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

 

4There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

 

Without belaboring the issue too much, the point is that God does not give specific people any general miraculous power, but pours out the gifts of His Spirit on specific people, at specific times, for specific purposes, as He does here for the apostles he is sending out. Before we look at Jesus’ admonition to take nothing for their own provision on the journey, we should look at the other two synoptic gospel accounts which give some additional important details regarding His instructions to them before sending them out…

 

Matthew 10:5-8

 

5These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

 

First, we learn from Matthew that this mission was specifically to the Jewish people. Jesus’ general so-called “Great Commission” to carry the Gospel to the entire world would not be given until later – after Jesus’ resurrection. Note that the message was about the kingdom of heaven – apropos to the mission’s target audience (the Jewish people), who had been awaiting the coming Messiah since the days of Moses (who wrote down this promise starting in Genesis 3), and possibly earlier.

 

Second, notice that Matthew’s version gives us more specific details about the gifts of the Spirit Jesus gave to them for the mission. Furthermore, it is key to note that Jesus did not send them to preach to those who were already believers, but directed that they preach the Kingdom specifically to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This direction applies to our own evangelism as well. Certainly there is a place for discipleship among the body of Christ. Indeed there is a dire need, which grows even more urgent by the moment, as false teaching abounds and increases throughout all Christendom. Some Christians are given the Spirit’s gift of teaching, specifically for this purpose. But the mission for which these apostles were being sent out was one of evangelism of unbelievers rather than discipleship of believers.

 

Mark 6:7

 

7And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.

 

Even the gifted evangelists among us seem to doubt their abilities. Therefore it is very helpful to go out together in pairs or threes as we see Jesus sending His apostles out here in Mark. Larger groups of evangelists might become intimidating for those to whom the evangelists give their Gospel witness. Conversely, there is a real risk that a lone evangelist can easily stray into false doctrine, theology, and preaching with no one else present to whom the evangelist might be accountable. Furthermore, it is often helpful for the novice evangelist to accompany a more seasoned witness, and learn by example. With that said, make no mistake. Every Christian is clearly called to be an evangelist all the time, and ready to take advantage of any evangelical opportunity…

 

2 Timothy 4:1-5

 

1I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

Although this direction was given specifically by Paul to Timothy, it is nevertheless applicable to every Christian in every waking moment. Having said all that, though, it is always important to remember that our job is to be witnesses of the Gospel. This is pretty easy, because we know what God has rescued us out of (our sins), and what He has redeemed us to, through the blood of Jesus – eternal life with Him. Our Gospel witness is just that – a witness’ testimony of our own redemption. Of course, the better we know God’s Word, the better we will be able to answer any questions that might come up in the process, but we shouldn’t be timid – given that all we’re really testifying to is our own salvation – and we shouldn’t worry that our witness will “fail.”

 

Isaiah 55:10-11

 

10“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,

 

And do not return there,

 

But water the earth,

 

And make it bring forth and bud,

 

That it may give seed to the sower

 

And bread to the eater,

 

11So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;

 

It shall not return to Me void,

 

But it shall accomplish what I please,

 

And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

 

1 Corinthians 3:7

 

So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

 

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Luke 9:3

 

And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.

 

We know that Jesus taught us not to worry about our own provision…

 

Matthew 6:31-33

 

31“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

But Matthew clarifies the reason behind this specific direction given to Jesus’ disciples as He sent them out…

 

Matthew 10:9-10

 

9Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

 

Clearly Jesus intended that these evangelists have their needs cared for by those to whom they evangelized. This principle still applies today. However, there is clearly a distinction between evangelists having their ministries underwritten by the flock so that their actual physical needs are met, and evangelists “shearing” the sheep to obtain expensive clothing, extravagant homes, private airplanes, and other worldly goods for themselves. Of course, having nothing, the twelve evangelists Jesus sent out on this occasion would have been protected from robbery along the way. This may also have been part of Jesus’ purpose in giving them this direction.

 

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Luke 9:4

 

“Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.

 

It was clearly Jesus’ intent that the apostles He was sending not bounce from place to place, but they were to lodge with specific people and remain with them. This would allow a deeper bond to develop between host and guest, and thereby allow a more thorough Gospel witness to be proclaimed. The evangelist who engages and invests time with someone to whom s/he is called to witness is far more effective than one who simply proclaims, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” to every passerby, without engaging in deeper conversation. I don’t think Jesus’ intent was for the apostles He was sending to witness only to their hosts of the moment, but that they would use the hosts’ homes as base camps from which they would go out to witness among the community, remaining in the general area long enough to establish the bonds of camaraderie with those whom God called to them in that community.

 

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Luke 9:5

 

And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

 

It is not the evangelist’s calling to try to “argue” people into the Kingdom of God. Our job is to present the Gospel as clearly and simply as we know how. For most of us, as discussed earlier, this is simply sharing our testimony of what God has done for us. Jesus gave His apostles power to heal, and cast out demons. But they did not have the power to win men’s souls for Jesus. Only His Spirit can do that, by convicting the unsaved of our need for a Savior. Of course, we know that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Nevertheless, He has ceded to mankind the power to choose whether to accept or reject His Gospel. When we studied Jesus’ raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, we spoke of God’ bringing each of us to a critical decision point in our lives at which we are faced with that choice. Just as God has done for us, so He must do for those others whom He will save…

 

John 6:37-40

 

37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

 

John 6:44-45

 

44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the prophets[Isaiah 54:13], ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

 

The shaking of the dust from the feet that Jesus directed was symbolic of scorn. In the Old Testament Hebrew, the word for dust – רפָעָ `aphar – could also mean rubbish, debris, or ashes. Throughout the Word of God, dust is a symbol of unworthiness, and disgrace. Recall that mankind was formed from the dust of the Earth, and the bodies of men are destined to return to the dust. Indeed, recall from our previous study that dust was part and parcel of the curse God proclaimed on mankind for the sin of Adam…

 

Genesis 3:19

 

In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread

 

Till you return to the ground,

 

For out of it you were taken;

 

For dust you are,

 

And to dust you shall return.”

 

Conversely, the Word of God declares that the feet of those who proclaim the Gospel are beautiful…

 

Isaiah 52:7

 

How beautiful upon the mountains

 

Are the feet of him who brings good news,

 

Who proclaims peace,

 

Who brings glad tidings of good things,

 

Who proclaims salvation,

 

Who says to Zion,

 

“Your God reigns!”

 

In shaking from their feet the dust of the Jewish communities that rejected the Gospel, the apostles were reminding them of these two aspects of the scripture in a silent curse. Indeed, in Matthew’s account of this direction to His disciples, Jesus gives a dire warning…

 

Matthew 10:14-15

 

14And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

 

The lesson to be gleaned is that not many will accept the message of the evangelist. Some will reject it outright, and some may accept it only at a much later date (27 years later in my own case). Few will embrace the Gospel message right from the outset. Jesus instructs his apostles and us that we are not to take this rejection to heart, or attempt to argue, but to simply press on through the mission field…

 

Matthew 7:6

 

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

 

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Luke 9:7-9 (Matthew 14:1–12; Mark 6:14–29)

 

7Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. 9Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him.

 

As we will see a little later in Luke 9, Jesus asked His disciples who the people said He was, and then asked who they themselves believed Jesus was. We’ll look at that beautiful story soon, God willing, but in the meantime it is apparent that news of Jesus’ miracles and teachings had reached Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee (see Handout – Gospel Timeline). Luke reports here that the rumors of Jesus being John the Baptist reincarnated had also reached Herod’s ears. Apparently, Herod had not heard that John the Baptist had baptized Jesus Himself prior to his imprisonment and beheading, and so Herod lent credence to the rumors, and desired to see Jesus for himself to check whether he might recognize John’s face in Jesus. Luke’s report is sparse in explaining Herod’s reasoning for wanting to see Jesus. Herod was torn with guilt and anxiety at his having unjustly imprisoned and beheaded John. Mark gives a more thorough treatment of the story…

 

Mark 6:14-29

 

14Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”

 

15Others said, “It is Elijah.”

 

And others said, “It is the Prophet[Deuteronomy 18:18], or like one of the prophets.”

 

16But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!” 17For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. 18Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

 

19Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

 

21Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. 22And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

 

24So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?”

 

And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!”

 

25Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

 

26And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.

 

We also know that Herod was unsuccessful at this time in his quest for an audience with Jesus, but met Him only later after Jesus’ arrest…

 

Luke 23:8

 

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.

 

When the meeting did finally take place, Herod must have been deeply disappointed, because not only did Jesus not perform for him, He didn’t even respond in any way to Herod’s questions, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy…

 

Isaiah 53:7

 

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

 

Yet He opened not His mouth;

 

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,

 

And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

 

So He opened not His mouth.

 

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Luke 9:10-17 (Matthew. 14:13–21; Mark 6:30–44; John 6:1–15 )

 

10And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. 12When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

 

13But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

 

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14For there were about five thousand men.

 

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15And they did so, and made them all sit down.

 

16Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.

 

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Luke 9:10a

 

And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done.

 

Note that Luke once more “officially” calls the ones who had been sent out apostles – ἀπόστολος apostolos.

 

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Luke 9:10b

 

Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

 

Bethsaida means “house of fish.” From John 1:44 we learn that Bethsaida was the city of Phillip, his brother Andrew, and Peter, although we know that, by the time of his calling by Jesus, Peter lived and worked in Capernaum with his partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee. The exact location of Bethsaida is unknown except that it was a fishing village (from its name) on the east side of the Jordan somewhere near its inflow to the Sea of Galilee, with Capernaum on the opposite side of the river. No significant ruins have yet been found by archaeologists along the shore of the lake close to the east bank of the river. Therefore some have proposed that Bethsaida may have lain somewhat inland, upriver where larger ruins have been discovered. This would seem to contradict the Aramaic meaning of the city’s name, however. Furthermore, from Matthew and Mark, we learn that on this particular occasion, Jesus and His inner circle arrived at Bethsaida by boat. This would tend to indicate a location near the shore, although Jesus and His disciples could certainly have left the boat and walked inland seeking a quiet place to think and pray after crossing over to the other side of the Jordan.

 

All three synoptic gospels report the feeding of the five thousand immediately following the report of Herod beheading John the Baptist. In fact, Matthew reports that Jesus sought solitude after hearing about John’s death…

 

Matthew 14:13a

 

When Jesus heard it[about John the Baptist’s death], He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself.

 

That being as it may be, though, the quiet didn’t last long, because the crowds learned where He was and followed…

 

Luke 9:11

 

But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.

 

Jesus gives us here a clear model for pastors. Although Jesus desired to be alone to pray and contemplate John’s assassination, and although He no doubt deeply mourned the passing of the one who had come in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy…

 

Isaiah 40:1-8

 

1“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”

 

Says your God.

 

2“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,

 

That her warfare is ended,

 

That her iniquity is pardoned;

 

For she has received from the LORD’s hand

 

Double for all her sins.”

 

3The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

 

“Prepare the way of the LORD;

 

Make straight in the desert

 

A highway for our God.

 

4Every valley shall be exalted

 

And every mountain and hill brought low;

 

The crooked places shall be made straight

 

And the rough places smooth;

 

5The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

 

And all flesh shall see it together;

 

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

 

6The voice said, “Cry out!”

 

And he said, “What shall I cry?”

 

“All flesh is grass,

 

And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

 

7The grass withers, the flower fades,

 

Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;

 

Surely the people are grass.

 

8The grass withers, the flower fades,

 

But the word of our God stands forever.”

 

No doubt, Jesus also realized that Herod’s beheading of John brought Jesus’ own journey that much closer to the cross where He would suffer. Nevertheless, Jesus was first and foremost, the Shepherd of the flock, and tended to those duties wherever and whenever He had opportunity. In fact, He welcomed and blessed these crowds who surrounded Him when He was seeking solitude…

 

John 10:11

 

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

 

Jesus no doubt realized that His time of earthly ministry was nearly spent, and was moved by the need of the people for their shepherd…

 

Mark 6:34

 

And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

 

Normally, we consider Jesus’ speaking of giving His life for the sheep in the context of His sacrifice of His own life on the cross. But it has another connotation. Jesus devoted His days, and hours, and minutes to ministry – teaching the people about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and lame, giving sight to the blind, casting out unclean spirits, and on this occasion, giving them provision.

 

Luke 9:12-14a

 

12When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

 

13But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

 

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14For there were about five thousand men.

 

Once again, Jesus not only performed the miracle, but also used the occasion to teach His disciples more about faith. Clearly His direction for them to give the multitude something to eat appeared to be an impossible task. Some of them may even have laughed out loud at hearing it, because they had only sparse provision for themselves, much less enough to feed the multitude. Jesus was reminding them of what He told the father who needed help with his unbelief…

 

Mark 9:23

 

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

 

Luke tells us there were about 5,000 men present, leading Bible students throughout the ages to ask themselves if there were also women and children present, and if so, how many. The Word of God doesn’t specifically address this issue, but Bible scholars over the years have proposed that there were perhaps as many as 15,000 people including women and children present for the occasion.

 

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Luke 9:14b-16

 

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15And they did so, and made them all sit down.

 

16Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.

 

As with the miracle of raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead which we studied last time, the actual performance of the miracle of feeding the 5000 pretty much stands on its own. In fact, the miracle itself is somewhat of an understatement, in view of the teaching that went before, and the situation of Jesus’ mourning John the Baptist in the midst of His ministering to the people.

 

I’m not sure if there’s any significance to Jesus’ having the people divide into groups of fifty, except perhaps to make the distribution of the food more manageable.

 

One thing to note is that Jesus gave thanks for the provision of God prior to breaking the bread and distributing the fish. We see Jesus giving such thanks before each of the feeding miracles He performed.

 

He also gave thanks before handing out the bread to His disciples in the familiar story of the Last Supper…

 

Luke 22:14-20

 

14When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

 

17Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

 

19And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

 

20Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

 

Indeed, it was this habit of Jesus to give thanks before breaking of bread and then distributing it to those around Him before partaking Himself that finally opened the eyes of the disciples whom He had met along the road to Emmaus following His resurrection to who He really was…

 

Luke 24:30-31

 

30Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

 

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Luke 9:17

 

So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.

 

Over the years, I have heard various teachers elaborate on the significance of the number of baskets collected following the meal. It would make sense that there were 12 baskets, since there were twelve apostles doing the collecting. That does, of course beg the question where the baskets themselves came from. I’m not sure this mystery is significant enough to devote much time and energy studying it. Of course the Internet is full of pronouncements by those who do regard it as significant, so I invite everyone to partake of such to their hearts’ delight.

 

The important thing to note out of verse 17 is that no one went away hungry. Even more important is the lesson John reports that Jesus taught the multitude who came to him the following day for another free meal…

 

John 6:26-40

 

26Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

 

28Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

 

29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

 

30Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

 

32Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

 

34Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

 

35And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

 

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