Turn to Luke Chapter 9. Luke chapter 9. We have the privilege over the next couple of weeks to study one of Jesus’ most well-known, most beloved miracles; his feeding of the 5000. Feeding of the 5000, you’ll find that in Luke 9:10 to 17. This is the only miracle, apart from the resurrection itself, the only miracle that is recorded in all four gospels. It is important to say the least. It’s the climactic miracle that marks the culmination of Jesus’ Galilean ministry.
After this miracle, basically, Jesus will be leaving. He is going to be getting out of Galilee. He’s gonna minister around Galilee. He’s gonna come and visit, and touch back and forth in Galilee, but he’s no longer going to stay in Galilee. Feeding the 5000, here, is really a watershed moment in his ministry. And by the way, when we say, he fed 5000 here, he fed 5000 men. Men. Matthew tells us that there were also women and children present. They were not counted. So, this may be a crowd of 10,000 plus.
This is not just a watershed moment in Jesus’ ministry, but this is an astounding miracle; a display of supernatural and, we might say, creation power. This is the power of God displayed in the actions of Jesus here in this moment. A, a power that was seen on the first moment of Creation; day one, when God said, “let there be”. This is why this miracle, this account, has arrested the imagination of Christians throughout all the ages of church history.
Augustine said, early in the fifth century, he said, “In this miracle, there is that, brought near to the senses, whereby the mind should be roused to attention. There is exhibited to the eyes, where on the understanding should be exercised, that we might admire the invisible God through his visible works. And being raised to faith, and purged by faith, we might desire to behold him, even invisibly, whom invisible, we came to know by the things that are visible. This is the power of the invisible God, made known by his interaction with the visible physical world.”
Mid-16th century, John Calvin saw that power; that invisible power. It was activated by compassion. Divine compassion. We’ve been seeing this all through Luke’s gospel. The power of God brought to good healing effect, because of the compassion of God for needy sinners. This helps us find encouragement for us as believers.
Calvin wrote, “This miracle. It’s a confirmation to us of that statement by which he exhorts us to seek the Kingdom of God, promising that all other things shall be added to us, for if he took care of a crowd, who were led to him only by a sudden impulse. How would he desert us if we seek him with a firm and steady purpose?” That’s a good encouragement for us. John Calvin speaking like a pastor, there, to us as people.
The beloved Charles Spurgeon brought those thoughts together. Invisible power made visible, activated for our good, when he preached, on this topic, on this miracle in 1862. And the way that he divided the text is the same way that we are gonna do, as we treat the first half of it today and the other half next week.
You’re gonna notice the first half of the passage there in your Bibles, goes from verses 10 to 14, beginning of 14, and it highlights, there, in that section, the insufficiency of our resources, of human resources. The second-half in verses 14 to 17, spotlights Christ’s strength. It, it, puts on display his all-sufficient resources, his wisdom, his power.
Let’s read it together, as we keep those divisions in mind, 10 to 14 and 14 to 17. “On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. He took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. And when the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, when the twelve came and said to him, ‘Send the crowd away that they to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.’ But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish- unless we’re to go and buy food for all these people.’”
“For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. And then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up twelve baskets of broken pieces.”
You can see why that is such a beloved story throughout the history of the Christian Church. It immediately grabs and arrests the attention. We have so many questions that come to mind. We wonder what that food tasted like. Wonder what it was like to be in that crowd among those people. When I was growing up in Sunday school, this miracle featured prominently in the teaching, on the flannelgraph boards, coloring exercises, all the children’s storybooks had treatment.
Some storybooks were dedicated to this entire miracle. Kind of filled in a lot of gaps, I guess, that the New Testament writers chose not to put in there. Emphasis that I heard in Sunday school was on the little boy who handed over his lunch to Jesus in order to feed the 5000. The lesson, as we were taught, was that all of us, no matter how small; all of us had something that we could contribute to Jesus’ ministry.
Remember the little piggy banks to collect the coins? They were molded plastic in the shape of a loaf of bread. You’d put money in there. Put your coins in the bread bank. No gift too small. That may be a worthwhile lesson to teach children, that no gift is too small, that God will multiply all the gifts that you give. But listen, the health, wealth, prosperity preachers have used that little tidbit to swindle hundreds of millions of dollars from hapless, ignorant masses. Folks, that’s not even the main lesson of this account. It’s not even the main point of the story. It’s not what Jesus is doing in this miracle.
This is not at all about what we have to contribute to God. This account is all about what we lack. That is what we need to learn from this account. We need to learn that coming to Christ means that we despair of all of our own resources, so that we can find all hope, and all joy, and all strength, and all supply, and abundant supply, in the infinite resources of God, in Christ Jesus. That’s the mindset that enables us to live our lives in immediate, and constant, and humble, dependence on God. And that is the constant emphasis, by the way, of all Christian discipleship. Which is something that Jesus’ disciples, here, needed to learn.
That’s why he took them away for a retreat, a ministry retreat, to teach these men that lesson. “Nothing in my hand I bring only to thy cross I cling.” Discipling the twelve, that’s what’s happening, really, in this narrative. In Luke’s narrative, our attention, we understand, is rightly focused on the miraculous feeding. But the lessons that we are going to learn, have to do with Jesus interacting with the twelve, discipling them. That is clear in the way that Luke refers to them.
In verse 10, Luke refers to them, starting out as apostles. That’s in connection with Jesus sending them out and their return. But then, in verse 12, he leaves that word, apostles, behind and he calls them the twelve. In verse 14, now it’s the disciples. Disciple, a term, Mathetes, meaning to learn, a learner. They’re in the role, in verse 14, now, of learners and, again, in verse 16, it’s the disciples.
It’s the learners who are out there distributing the food. You can’t tell it in the English, but the last word in the Greek text in verse 17 is the word, dodeka, which is the word, twelve. And, again, it points back to the twelve men that Jesus is discipling, all through this text. But there, it’s used as an adjective, and it summarizes the point of the lesson in discipleship. After feeding the multitudes, there were twelve baskets leftover. Sufficient provision for who? The twelve.
The narrative, in the narrative, they begin as apostles, but they are in serious need of discipleship, to learn the all-sufficient abundant power of God, in and through them. So, this is a passage, here, about discipleship. One of the most basic issues in the Christian life is this: Depend on God, not on self. Depend on God, not on yourself. Not on your resources. Not on your wisdom. Not on your strength. Not on your youth. Not on your vitality.
Depend on God, not on self. Don’t depend on the world. Don’t depend on learning. Don’t depend on medicine. Don’t depend on drugs. Don’t depend on anything. Depend on God, not on self. What does the proverb say? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
You’ve got the outline in your bulletin. The word discipleship is in all four points, and that is because I hope to hammer home this theme of discipleship. I hope to drive this lesson deep in your hearts. As Ecclesiastes 12:11 says, “like well driven nails given by one shepherd.”
I want you to think, as we go through this narrative, I want you to think about your own discipleship. You as a disciple, but also, you discipling other people. Do you depend on yourself? Do you depend on your own resources? Do you depend on your own wisdom? Your own strength? Your own planning. Your own money? Or do you depend on God and his resources?
What about when you disciple others? Do you love others well? Whether you’re evangelizing them or discipling them. Do you love others well, by pointing them to repent of all self-reliance, so, they might find rest in the all sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Keep those questions in mind, as we walk through our outline for today.
“This is not at all about what we have to contribute to God. This account is all about what we lack. “Travis Allen
Point number one: Jesus seeks a setting for discipleship. Point number one: Jesus seeks a setting for discipleship. Now we know that everywhere on God’s green earth is a setting for discipleship. There is nowhere that is not a setting for discipleship. But Jesus here is seeking a more private setting for more focused, intensified discipleship. Look at verse 10, “on their return”, that, “the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida.”
Now, all four gospel writers record this account, and in each of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there’s a different reason given for the retreat. They’re not contradictory reasons. They all harmonize perfectly. But each gospel writer emphasizes separate concerns that Jesus has for pulling back, for withdrawing.
According to Mark, the retreat is for the purpose of rest. After a, a, time of intensive ministry, itinerant ministry, Mark 6:31, Jesus said to them, “come away by yourselves to a desolate place. And rest a while. For many were coming and going. They had no leisure even to eat.” They were weary. Physical weariness, spiritual depletion, even just needing a good meal. Those are good reasons to take some time away.
But there’s another reason, according to Matthew. They withdrew after hearing the news about John the Baptist. We studied that last week. Herod Antipas beheading John; it was no minor thing. It was no, just, mere regional issue. That was a big, big deal. Major, major news that struck fear in the hearts of many. Not Jesus, but many were fearful of Herod’s murderous intentions.
Matthew writes, Matthew 14:12, “that John’s disciples,” when they heard about this news, “they came and took the body and buried it, and then they went and told Jesus. Now, when Jesus heard this,” that is the news about John’s beheading, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a,” desolate, “desolate place by himself.” That’s connected right here.
That news affected not just John’s disciples, it didn’t just affect Jesus disciples, that news affected Jesus. Here we get a little insight into his humanity. And think about that, his own cousin executed by the government; an unjust murderous execution. No good cause for it. Obviously, this news saddened Jesus. So, look, he needed a bit. Be alone to pray, to find consolation in the fellowship of communion with fa, with his father in heaven. We get that.
And the murder of John, also, Jesus discern the signs of the times, that it was time to pull back and withdraw. John Calvin wrote this, “When tyrants have once unbrewed,” that is a word that means stained. “When they have once stained their hands in the blood of the godly, they kindle into greater cruelty in the same manner as intemperate drinking aggravates the thirst of drunkards. Christ, therefore, intended to abate the rage of Herod by his absence.”
Jesus withdraws. He recognized, here, the need to make a strategic ministry decision. He began to, to pull away from Galilee, and he’s gonna do a lot of traveling in the intervening time. But he’s, he’s, pulling away from Galilee, and he’s going to begin the slow journey from Galilee to the cross. Now, the way that Luke has recorded the narrative, the readers can tell the apostles need rest after an intense period of ministry.
After what Luke has just taught about Herod, we can, also, see the wisdom in staying out of sight for a while. But Luke introduces a different purpose for the withdrawal. As I’ve already noted, it’s for the purpose of discipleship. Notice, again, first sentence in verse 10, “On their return, the apostles told him all that they had done.”
Now, it’s not easy to see this in the English translation, but it’s very, very apparent in the Greek text. Four terms, here, in this, just this short sentence, are parallel to the same four terms used in Luke 8:39. You can flip the page and take a look at, just a very quick look at, Luke 8:39. You remember that Jesus enlisted that Gerasene demoniac. He had healed him. He’d converted him. This man was a believer, and then he commissioned him as an evangelist. He said to the Gerasene man, “‘return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And the man went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” Remember that?
Notice the parallels just in that verse alone, verse 39. Jesus said, “return to your home and declare”. And what did the do? The man, what did the man do? He went away proclaiming. So, the words are parallel, but then this, parallel: Declare what? Proclaim what? “Declare”, Jesus said, “how much God has done for you.” What did the man do? He proclaimed how much Jesus had done for him. Slight difference there. Luke is intentionally showing and revealing the unity of the father and the son, but they’re parallel thoughts, step by step. Jesus told the man, “To declare what God had done.” The man told everyone what Jesus had done.
Let’s compare Luke 8:39 with Luke 9:10. Jesus told the former demoniac, “return and declare”. And those two verbs are the verbs, hypostrepho and diegeomai. When the apostles return, hypostrepho, they report back to Jesus, diegeomai. But notice this. What do they tell him? What do they report back? Well, Jesus told the Gerasene man to declare how much God has done, and the man went and proclaimed how much Jesus had done. But when the apostles returned to Jesus, they told him how much they had done. Or, more literally, they told him, how much they had done, all that they had done. You see the difference? It’s subtle, but it’s very clear in the Greek text.
The Gerasene man identified the source of his healing, the source of his salvation, as Jesus. Jesus said the source of his healing and his salvation was God. The apostles, after running around Galilee, preaching the gospel, healing everywhere, they’re eager to tell Jesus, how much they had done. You can hardly fault their misspeaking here. Not discerning that Jesus is the one working through them and God’s power is working through them, that they see it, as them themselves working. Because, after all, they were actually exercising the power of God, and it was a power that was commensurate to Christ’s own power and authority.
Other gospels even tell us they had the power to raise the dead, cast out demons, heal all manner of sicknesses. But in this subtle misstep, they’re revealing something here in their hearts. They have forgotten the source, and, jedus, Jesus here notices that.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched or participated in this, but you ever watched a dad teaching his young son or daughter, how to hit a baseball? You know he stands behind the little kid, wraps his arms around his child’s arms. He grips the bat over his child’s hands, barely holding on to the bat, and when that pitch comes, the dad almost has to wrestle with the child and, cr, over correct to actually make contact with the ball. Right?
When he connects, the ball goes flying and what does the little kid say? I hit the ball. He doesn’t say, you know by dad’s power, and by his age, and experience, and his developed sense of eye hand coordination, I was enabled to hit the ball, because Dad was right there with me. No, it’s, hey mom, did you see that? I hit the ball.
As parents, we may let that little mistake go. A, and we wouldn’t want to reinforce a child’s sense of self-importance, as if he, by himself achieved to put bat to ball on his own. I mean, if we let it go in the moment, but it would be foolish to reinforce that and, reinc, reinforce his sense of pride and self-accomplishment. Why? Because Dad needs the credit? No. But it’s so that the little kid will continue learning from his dad. That he’ll keep receiving instruction from the older, wiser head. That he’ll learn power from the larger, stronger father.
Beloved, that’s exactly what these apostles need to learn from Jesus. And that’s what so many, especially in this connected age, the internet age, where so many young people, they cast off the wisdom of the aged. They don’t care much for the gray or the white-haired people. They can Google all their answers. Thank you very much. They really don’t need the other generations. That’s what they think. They’re really filled with their own wisdom.
When they want to know about how to disciple, how to evangelize, they don’t come and talk to you about how you’ve done it. They go online. Young people, are you listening? You don’t have in your heart, on your own wisdom; you need wisdom from God, and God has put the structures of the generations in the local church for your good. And older people, that means you need to get on the ball. That means, you need, when they come talking to you, you need to be there, ready with biblical wisdom and answers.
This is what prompts Jesus’ concern to take his disciples away; to give them some private, some intimate, focused instruction. They need to know, and they need to walk in continual awareness. The power and the resources are not in themselves. Because if they think that they’re all in themselves, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to stop looking to Christ and they’re going to stop looking to God, and they’re just gonna say, hey, I got this.
I got this. I can heal. I got the message. What’s that gospel message? God, man, Christ, response. Yeah, I got that. Got it down. No. They need to know that the power flows from God and God alone. And the power is mediated through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.
Beloved, we need to know that, too. So, seeing the need, Jesus intends to take his disciples away privately. To take them away from the crowds, away from the ever-present demands of ministry and people, and shore up this subtle, but significant liability in their ministry mindset. So, it says, he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida.
Bethsaida, it’s a Hebrew name. It’s from the word bayit, which means house, and it’s construct form, which is how we find it a lot in Scripture. It’s Beth or Bet. Bet and then, tsuwd, to hunt. It’s a verb that means to hunt. So literally the name means, house of hunting, or since it’s hunting in a lake. How’s the fishing? Hunting for fish. Bethsaida, the Hebrew name, is actually a, a, replacement of the old, old, city name dating all the way back to the ancient kingdom of Geshur.
Geshur was a city state that existed in the time of Joshua. Was aligned with David in the tenth century and then annexed by Aram Damascus in the ninth century, and was, eventually, swallowed up by the Assyrian Empire, as they invaded in the eighth century. By Jesus’ time, Bethsaida is here, sitting on the boundary between the Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas and the Tetrarchy of his half-brother, Herod Philip the second, also known as Philip the Tetrarch.
So, it’s tucked into the, the, southwest corner of his territory called Gaulonitis, and because of the proximity to the Jordan River though, many still considered this city to be part of Galilee, that’s how they referred to it. Bethsaida, as we know from John 1:44, it’s the birth place of Phillip, and Andrew, and Peter. So, these men knew the area well. They’d wandered the country, the countryside there.
They knew all the isolated spots; ideal retreat locations for Jesus and his men. So, all of them hopped in the boat. They headed over toward Bethsaida. They sailed past the mouth of the Jordan river that empties, where it, where it empties there, into the lake. They went past that. They landed at a spot southeast of Bethsaida.
Bethsaida was actually located about a mile and a half north, just right on the Jordan River. Water levels were different about 2000 years ago, so it was right on the, Bethsaida had access to the Lake of Galilee, like, unlike the ruins you find, now, today. But they, they, actually landed on the shoreline about a mile and a half down, and then to the east a little bit, and South.
Several miles from the actual city, is where they found a place of desolation. Found a place where no one was around. That’s where Jesus and his disciples withdrew; to get a time alone of rest and refreshment, out of the spotlight, away from the curiosity of Herod Antipas, which is under the radar of his half-brother, Philip the Tetrarch.
And Jesus intends, there, to disciple the men. Gently correcting them, and then wisely imparting some vital foundational lessons for his disciples. Quiet place for teaching. Quiet place for quiet teaching. Just he and his guys. What every teacher seeks, right? Well, look what God, in his good and wise Providence, look what he decided to give them instead: More people.
Verse 11 sets up our second point: As Jesus sets a foundation for discipleship. He sets a foundation for discipleship. The foundation is really the same for all discipleship. Foundation is Jesus in his ministry. But what do we need to pay attention to with Jesus and his ministry, here?
Verse 11, we see, “when the crowds learned it, they followed him.” Stopped there for a second. Picture Jesus and his disciples, they, they, come from Capernaum, which is to the west of this area. They sail east toward Bethsaida in their boat. They’re basically skirting the coastline, so this meant the crowds could literally see them as they sailed past, and you might think: You know how, how, in the world did they get there? How did that, how did all of them rush over there?
Well, they actually made good time over land. Better time, some of them, than what Jesus and his disciples made in the boat. Which tells us that God, by his Providence, was either slowing the wind or stopping it altogether and they had to row. Mark 6:33 says, “many of them.” “Many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.”
So here, here’s Jesus and his disciples. By the time they land on the shore, secured the boat, made their way inland, a bit. As both Matthew and Mark tell us, they already see a great multitude had gathered. And you might say, well, okay, we understand how they got there, maybe Jesus slowed things down a little bit and enabled these people to kind of run around the coastline for the Jordan, get to that spot ahead of them. But I mean, don’t they have jobs? I mean, they got all this time to run around.
How do they have the freedom to wander the countryside like this? Get some insight from John 6:4, tells us that, “the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.” So, lots of men are here wrapping up early spring harvest to make their way, by divine commandment, according to the Old Testament, to go to Jerusalem, to appear to Jerusalem three times a year, they had to appear, and one of them was the Passover feast of unleavened bread.
So, as Alfred Edersheim supposes here, “Many must have been starting on their journey to Jerusalem, round the lake on this eastern side, through Peoria, partly accounts for the concourse of such multitudes. And this perhaps,” Edersheim says, “perhaps in conjunction with the effect on the people of John’s murder. May also explain they’re ready and eager gathering to Christ.” So that’s how they get there. That’s why there’s so many.
So much for the peace and quiet of solitude and a desolate place, right? All you introverts out there, I can feel you now. I feel your pain, cringing. So much for finding a place with no people. Jesus sought peace and quiet, but by God’s providence he found lots and lots of people. Lots and lots of needs.
What did Jesus do, here, when he didn’t get what he wanted? How did he react, when his plans took a providential turn? What do you do when you don’t get your way? I could tell you what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t get angry? He didn’t stamp his feet, throw a temper tantrum. He didn’t sulk. He didn’t get moody. He didn’t get grumpy. Yeah, he’s still concerned to teach his disciples. But he’s discerning here, by the unfolding of circumstances, that God intended that instruction to come another way.
So he adjusted his expectations. And then he got to work. Verse 11, “He welcomed the crowds,” it says, “He spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and he cured those who had need of healing.” What grace. What grace. Let’s look at the verbs, welcomed them. It’s the same verb that’s used back in chapter eight, of the crowds excitedly welcoming Jesus as he returns from the shores of the Gerasenes.
Now it’s him welcoming them. Excitedly receiving them. Doesn’t make them feel like a burden. He doesn’t say: Alright, get over here. Alright, who’s, who’s, got broken legs? Come on. One broken leg line. I want one line over here for the backs and one over, over, here. He’s not grumbling his way through it. He receives them gladly. And then he spoke to them about the most important need that they had. Need for forgiveness of sin. Need for salvation.
He cured them. It says there, he cured them of everything that had need of curing. Which almost implies there, that he kind of inserts his omniscience in there. That even if they don’t know they have a need, he knows, and he heals them; whoever had need of healing. Jesus is always the gracious host, wherever he goes. He’s always welcoming those in need. He just keeps on giving. He never feels himself, wherever he is on the earth, he never feels himself out of place, in somebody else’s territory. Why? Because it’s all Gods. So, wherever he goes, he’s welcoming people to God. I love that.
Now Jesus gave freely here. But it didn’t come without a cost. He felt it. Remember when Jesus sent the apostles out, verse 2 and verse 6? Jesus didn’t take a three week nap. He went out, too. He was working along with them, and when the apostles returned, Jesus knew they needed rest. Why? Because he needed rest.
“Now we know that everywhere on God’s green earth is a setting for discipleship.”Travis Allen
But now, with this divinely ordained change of plans, crowd shows up. Jesus carries on teaching, and serving, and healing. You think, maybe, he needed some rest? You think perhaps he, just as human as we are, feeling every need of soul and body. You think, maybe, he, he could have used a little R&R or rest and relaxation? Sure, he could. But once again, we see him here, setting aside his own needs for the sake of other people. Why? Because Mark 6:34 parallel account, he had compassion on them. Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So he taught them. He healed their sick. John Calvin writes, “So strongly was Christ moved by this feeling of compassion, that though, in common with his disciples, he was fatigued and almost worn out by an”, un, “uninterrupted toil, he did not spare himself. He had endeavored to obtain some relaxation, and that on his own account, as well as for the sake of his disciples, but when urgent, duty calls him to additional labor. He willingly lays aside the private consideration and devotes himself to teaching the multitudes.” Did Jesus possess superhuman strength? No, he did not. Like us, he was robed in frailty.
In human limitation, there was a limit on his physical strength. At times he was greatly fatigued. We’ve already seen that. Luke 8:23 and 24, he slept soundly in the midst of the fiercest of, gal, Sea of Galilee storms. So how did Jesus keep going, and going, and going? And then, how does the answer to that question set up a foundation for discipleship?
Well, first question, how did Jesus keep going? Simple, he found all his strength in God. He is not here gutting it out on his own power. Verse 16, “He looked up to heaven.” That’s instructive. “He looked up to heaven,” and he found strength in God. And the answer to the question: How did he keep going? Well, he found strength in God. Well, that sets the foundation for everything he needs to teach in discipleship.
Listen by example, by what he does, by his actions, by his attitudes, he seeks, he himself seeks, and finds all his resources from the infinite bounty of God’s kingdom. What’s the lesson for us? Discipleship requires us to practice for ourselves, what we preach to others. Discipleship requires for us to practice what we preach.
Sometimes I wonder in places where not much discipleship is going on. I wonder if the reason for that is because not much practice is going on. That people just know, in, they have a qualm of conscience, in the fact that they’re not actually living out the Christian life, that they profess to hold to, and so, they don’t disciple, because they don’t want anybody looking too carefully at their own lives.
Beloved, I know that’s not you. I know discipleship is going on in this congregation, and it is blessed and beloved of God. And you only need to look here to Jesus and his example, that he practiced what he preached. He himself, drew for himself divine resources, “looking up to heaven,” as it says in verse 16, for God to do through him, what needed to be done, here on earth.
Another lesson here. You know, when we fail to do this, to look to God at all times, in all circumstances, and beloved, we will fail. We fail in this all the time. You can look to this account and find great encouragement. Be reminded that Jesus never fails. He never fails. And so, any failure in weakness and lack you find in yourself, whether it’s through the consistency in finding all strength in God, or whether it’s the failure of practice what you preach and thus teach others and disciple.
Notice that Jesus has fulfilled it for you. That’s the blessed truth of imputation, that not only have your failures, which are sins, by the way, when you fail to practice what you preach, that’s not okay. That’s not justified. It is a sin. But Jesus in the cross, he covered that sin. God punished him for the sin that you have committed, for the failures that you have failed in. Not only that, he fulfilled all righteousness, doing perfectly and, on this occasion too, he fulfilled what God commanded him to do. That perfect life is given to you, as a gift for everyone who repents and believes; it’s given as a gift. And beloved, pure joy, contentment, satisfaction is found in walking as Jesus walked. Not to earn our salvation, that’s been done, but to work out our salvation.
Jesus never fails. When we’re weak, he’s strong. When we fail, he succeeds. Christ has abundant supply for us, because he is always in communion with his father. He’s always drawing from the infinite bounty of God’s kingdom, and he sits at the father’s right hand bodily, right now. Praying for us, ministering to us by his spirit, by his word. And that’s the example that sets the foundation for discipleship. And we see the disciples here in need of learning.
Look at, look at verse 12, third Point in your outline: Jesus faces the challenge of discipleship. Point number three: Jesus faces the challenge of discipleship. What Luke hinted at back in verse 10. How the disciples thought too much of all that they had done. This becomes more clear in verse 12. And this is the real challenge in discipleship. “Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, ‘Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we’re here in a desolate place.’”
Now look. Let’s do the positive first here. You’ve got to love how the disciples are learning. Don’t you see that? This is the first thing we need to notice. The disciples are, they’re, they’re starting to get it. Here, they’re starting to share the heart of Jesus, caring for the physical needs of these crowds. Hearts of compassion and concern. The disciples are seeing the need for themselves.
They don’t have to be told, here. They’re starting to observe. They’re starting to make good observations, coming to good assessments. And then what do they do? Do they just sit on those, assentments, assessments? Do they just sit on those judgments and kind of talk among themselves and say: This is a mess, isn’t it? All these people out here. Desolate place, no food, no provisions, lodging. What a mess. Wonder what the elders are going to do about that. Wonder what the deacons are gonna do.
What do they do? They take initiative. They take action. They come to Jesus. That awesome! Don’t you want a whole church full of people, your brothers and sisters, assessing things around you. Seeing spiritual needs. Seeing how people are doing in Christ. Ohh! Seeing people, that’s a visitor. I wonder if that person is a Christian or not a Christian. If they’re not a Christian, I get to introduce them to Christ and share the gospel with them. If they’re a Christian, want to find out where they are and help them grow. Wouldn’t you love a whole church full of people thinking just that way? Amen.
Yeah. It’s wonderful to see them getting it. It’s wonderful to see them taking initiative. Jumping in there, taking action, coming to Jesus. Okay, so what’s the problem? Well, as they look around, see the daylight fading. They know they’re in a desolate, sparsely populated place. They know the people are gonna need food and lodging. If they’re going to find what they need, they better close in prayer and dismiss the congregation right away.
Get, th, they’re assessing this situation through the lens of their own limitations, aren’t they? And get this, when they come to Jesus, they don’t ask him what to do about the need, they tell him what to do. In fact, they command him, “Send the crowd away.” It’s polite, it is, but that’s not an interrogative. It’s not a question mark at the end of that sentence. That is an imperative, and it’s an aorist imperative indicating urgent summary action is required.
They’re looking at the situation through the constrictions and constraints of human resources, and then they’re going to Jesus and commanding him to join them in their limited way of thinking, to do their bidding and do it now. You know, it’s as if the disciples see this need, like a raging forest fire. And then they come to Jesus armed with squirt guns, and they hand him a squirt gun and they try to enlist him immediately to go put out the fire.
It’s like they think they see the situation really, really clearly, but they fail to realize who they’re talking to. And Jesus can call to the God of heaven and earth, who had the power to deluge the entire world with a flood. He can break open the heavens and douse a forest fire in a moment, and they give him a squirt gun. Please.
So, what’s the challenge of discipleship? Well, you might say the challenge of discipleship, is disciples. Disciples who think they know more than they know. Disciples who are , tr, tainted here with pride. Bound in the ignorance of self-sufficiency. Disciples who can’t see beyond themselves. You might say, disciples who think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.
It’s interesting when you look back through Luke’s gospel. Up to this point, and to kind of take note of the times when we hear the disciples speaking and, interaction, interacting with Jesus. And, and, actually i, it’s not been that many times that we actually hear them speak for themselves. Just two times actually, once in Luke 5 and once in Luke 8.
Back in Luke 5, Simon, when Jesus gave him a command about where to throw his nets, “Simon answered, Jesus, Master, we toiled all night and caught nothing! But at your word, I will let down the nets.” No sooner had he said it, in verse eight, “Peter fell down at Jesus knees saying depart from me, oh Lord, I’m a sinful man.”
First time we hear from Jesus, Peter complains of Jesus’ direction. Then he’s on his knees, repenting. Jesus, your carpenter, good teacher, healer, and everything. I got the fish. I got the lake. I understand. That’s my environment. That’s my deal. Then repentance. That’s how it starts.
Next time we hear from the disciples, it’s when Jesus calms the storm, in Chapter 8, in verse 24, the disciples wake Jesus up during the storm saying, “Master, Master, we’re perishing!” They’re in mortal fear, of grave danger, of drowning, of death. Because why? They can only see their, their, own resources.
And then in verse 25, after Jesus calms the storm, the disciples are afraid, and “they marveled, saying, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him?” Their minds are blown. They’re expanded to see that their own resources are way too limited. Way too small.
First, they’re fearing in mortal danger than they’re fearing in awe and wonder. So up to this point in Luke’s gospel, they speak with humility, in an attitude of repentance, with marvel, awe, reverence. But there is that theme of; limited to their own thinking and self-sufficiency. It’s a bit of a contrast to how they sound now: “Send the crowd away.” Jesus, time for you to stop preaching. There are more important matters, practical matters to attend to here, like food.
Well, whatever slight of judgment there may or may not be implied in the command that they give to him. It does indicate this at least, that they have not accurately assessed the situation, though they think they have. They haven’t come to a right decision here, even though they think they have. They still have so much to learn. Well, I can identify. Can’t you? So much to learn.
The disciples need to learn, just as we do, that their assessments are subject to all human limitation. And whatever stock that they do take in their own resources, their resources will always be insufficient to meet their need. They, they, need to learn to look to Christ. They need to learn to look to God. They need to learn to look to him for provision, to rely on his resources, and to do so continually, at all times, on all occasions, in all circumstances, no matter what.
God and his word are absolutely, completely, totally sufficient. Well, to disciple his disciples, Jesus is going to help them see this for themselves, responding to God’s providence, he takes another tack.
This is our fourth point. Jesus here exposes the need for discipleship. He exposes the need for discipleship. I love this. Look at verse 13. The disciples told Jesus what needed to be done, then this verse 13, “But he said to them you give them something to eat.” That you is emphatic there in the Greek. As in, no, I’m not sending the crowd away. Their provision is now your responsibility. You feed them. According to John 6:6, “Jesus said this to test them, for he himself knew what he was going to do.”
But in the moment, these disciples, they gotta be absolutely perplexed here, right? Like what? What? And he doesn’t relieve them of their perplexity until they’ve sweated it out a bit, right? Until they’ve done some pretty intensive investigation. He just lets them, he’s, he’s, got them on the line like a fish on a hook, and, there’s, he’s, let’s the line go until he’s, he’s, gonna snag it, but not yet. He just wants to let that fish go. Let him wear himself out. Right, fisherman? Wear him out, wear him out, wear him out.
We compare parallel passages. Realize some time passes here, as they conduct this investigation. They start with the finances. That’s where every good deacon board starts, right? Finances. Mark 6:37, they ask Jesus, “Shall we go buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” Two hundred denarii; that’s a about seven and a half month’s worth of wages.
And when you take that and divide that sum into five or ten thousand people. It really only, be able to afford like a, a, little snack, like a snack pack and a juice box. Not enough money to buy people, this huge crowd, food. But instead of letting the disciples off the hook, at that point, he again presses them to take responsibility for feeding the people by themselves.
In the next verse, Mark 6:38, Jesus sends them out searching. He said to them, after they told him about, the we got no money to feed this huge crowd. He tells them, okay, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” So the disciples run off on this futile errand. Remember John 6? He already knew what he was gonna do.
He says, hey, go and see how many, how much food you have. So they wade through this crowd of five to ten thousand people, asking around: Hey, who’s got food? Had to take a lot of time, right? Remember they’ve already seen the day is drawing to a close. They see opportunity fading, opportunity to, si, for their plan; plan A, send people away, get their own provisions. But they obediently, to their credit, obediently complete their investigation.
And when they found out, Mark 6:38, they returned to Jesus and said, five loaves, two fish. That’s all we got. According to John 6:9, the loaves and the fish themselves are not much. They aren’t wheat loaves, they’re barley loaves. It was around the time of barley harvest, and this isn’t the typical word for fish either, which is ichthys. This is the word, opsarion, dried fish. So dried small fish, so five loaves of hard bread and two dried pickled little fish. Hardtack and fish jerky. Nice.
I’m so hungry I could use a little hard tack and fish jerky. 5000 grown men to feed. Women and children besides. Five loaves, two fish, everyone gets about a molecule each. Don’t fill yourself up. They said here, “We have no more than five loaves, two fish-unless we’re to go buy food for all these people. For there were about five thousand men.” Andrew told Jesus, John 6:9, “there’s a boy here who has five barley loaves, two fish. But what are they among so many?”
All that investigation. Wearing themselves out and the effort that it took to find out. And what did it reveal? Insufficiency. Nothing. They don’t have anything. That’s Jesus intent. So, it’s what he wants them to see. He wants them to come to the, inescapagul, inescapable conclusion that they cannot do what he’s commanded them to do. They have no food. They don’t have enough money. There are no close neighbors to call upon for immediate hospitality.
The investigation has taken up so much time, that now it’s too late to execute the disciples plan A; “send the crowd into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging, get provisions.” Just a footnote here, that may have been part of Jesus intent, as well. He didn’t want to tax all the neighbors in the surrounding area with this level of overwhelming hospitality. That would probably bring unwanted attention, when he’s trying to keep a low profile, but also would have brought disrepute onto his ministry. Bunch of freeloaders and beggars following Jesus around.
But more to the point, this is about discipleship. The isolation of this desolate place, it sets the picture in your mind of exactly what Jesus is trying to communicate. Lack of provision, whether food or money, lodging, lack of resources. There is no human answer whatsoever. The only food available is in the hands of a boy with a paltry, meager lunch.
You know what Jesus has done here? He has stripped away all hope, save one. He’s revealed that there is no resource; except one. Disciples, they thought they had this thing all figured out, but he’s caused them to despair of themselves utterly. And now all they can do is look to Jesus and see what he’s going to do. And listen, that’s exactly where they need to be.
Beloved, that’s exactly where you and I need to be, at all times, at all points in our lives, and every, every day of the week, every hour of the day, every minute of the hour. All discipleship should bring us to this point. So that we might all look away from ourselves to find all sufficiency in Jesus Christ. When we come back next week, we’re going to see how Jesus, magnanimously meets the need of the moment. Teaches so many lessons in this one glorious supernatural miracle. Let’s pray.
Our father, we give thanks to you for your glorious provision. And we think about your provision in just the daily food that we eat, we, wud, do open our mouth wide. We do find that you feed us with the finest of wheat and water, honey even from the rock. You take care of our provision, our daily bread. What are we to learn from that? That man does not live, from better, by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And the greatest resource you’ve provided us, is access to you and your eternal infinite bounty.
By reconciliation to you, in the name, and the power, and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And by the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit, regenerating us to saving faith, that we might look upon you in wonder, and joy, and praise. Because you’ve provided for all of our needs, you started in this reconciliation of a relationship, you started with the very deepest of our needs, the forgiveness of all of our sins. Our want of righteousness.
All of our righteousness is as filthy rags, so we couldn’t offer that to you. Now, with that deep offense, yet another sin, when we come to you, father, In the righteousness of Jesus Christ, united to him, we stand before you, before you’re throne with no condemnation.
Of becoming, coming before the throne of grace, we come to you in praise, and wonder, and worship. And when we ask, we ask, knowing that you have all ability and every resource to provide. Father, please do whatever it takes to bring us to the point that you bring all your disciples, of despairing in our own resources, our own money, our own strength, our own power, our own wisdom, our relationships, our jobs, our knowledge, our access to the internet. Father, help us to despair of all of that. That we might find sole sufficiency in your eternal resources. We give praise, and honor, and glory to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.