Jesus and the Twelve
Luke 9:1 – 17
Jesus and the Twelve
What kind of kingdom?
When King Bhumipol of Thailand died in 2006, our Queen, Elizabeth the Second, became the world’s longest reigning monarch.
She’s also the longest-reigning British monarch for a thousand years, and at 91 years of age, the prospect of her passing is being discussed more and more frequently.
That will be a significant moment for all sorts of reasons, and interestingly, those who know about these kinds of things call our Queen “the last Christian monarch.”
But of course, the Queen’s passing, whenever it should come, will mean the ascension of Prince Charles to the throne, and so in the last few years, there’s been an increase in discussion about what kind of King, Charles will be, and what will his kingdom be like.
People look at his activism, and his charity leadership, and his political involvement, all gone about in very different ways to his mother, the Queen, and so people like to offer their assessment of what life will be like in the kingdom of King Charles the 3rd, or whatever name he takes.
But we don’t really know, do we?
The royal watchers,
And the journalists at the Guardian,
And the former British politicians all like to tell us what they think,
But the truth is, we don’t know.
Prince Charles hasn’t told us what life in his kingdom is going to be like.
There are some clues,
But the future king Charles has deliberately not revealed, what to expect in his kingdom.
King Jesus is different!
That perhaps goes without saying!
But the Bible promises a kingdom, the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which is ruled by God’s king, Jesus.
It’s not an earthly, geographic kingdom, but the reign of Jesus as God’s chosen king.
All of the universe, living with Jesus as king.
And unlike future King Charles, King Jesus gives us a taste, of what life in his kingdom is going to be like. And Luke chapter 9 is one of these really clear examples of what kind of kingdom Jesus has,
What kind of king he’s going to be.
We’re not left to speculate like the royal watchers and the politicians, Jesus himself gives us the insight into his kingdom.
Which is really good news, if you want to know, well, what is it like to live with Jesus as ruler instead of me?
Is this world that we experience now, going to continue forever?
How is the Kingdom of God different to the life we know now.
Jesus sends the Twelve to proclaim and give a taste of the kingdom of God (v 1 - 6)
Well, the first picture of what Jesus’ kingdom is like comes to us in this opening scene as Jesus sends out 12 of his disciples into the neighbouring towns and villages.
Back in chapter 6, Jesus had chosen 12 men from among his disciples, and called them apostles. And sometimes, like here, they’re just referred to as the Twelve.
There were lots of people who were disciples of Jesus, but this was a particular group he’d chosen for a special purpose, and that name, apostles, tells us what that is.
The word “apostle” simply means someone who is sent with a message. So, during our last song this morning, when Sue Watts goes up to tell all the Kids’ Ministry leaders that we’re nearly done in here, she’s an apostle, she’s sent with a message.
And so ultimately the calling of these 12 apostles, is fulfilled after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when he, sends them into all the world, to make more disciples, teaching and baptising.
But we get a little taste of it here, don’t we? And they get a little taste of it. This is what the rest of their life as an apostle is going to be like.
Jesus gives them power and authority verse 1, to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick
Their task is to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
To us, that might sound like 2 completely separate jobs;, one’s about talking, the other’s about making people better.
But they actually go hand in hand.
As we’ve said, the kingdom of God is Jesus’ rule over creation.
And John the Baptist, who God sent before Jesus, to get people ready for Jesus, he urged people to turn to God, because the Kingdom of God was near,
Jesus rule was about to be established in a new and different way.
And Jesus is God’s king,
He’s the Messiah, the Christ, to use that language from Old Testament expectation,
But even with Jesus coming into the world, the Kingdom of God has not yet come in all its fullness.
Our experience of the world today, is not as God intended it to be,
There are still things that spoil God’s creation.
Humanity rejects God,
Tries to carve out an existence apart from God,
We declare independence from God, because we want to be the ones who determine what’s right and wrong,
We want to set our own priorities,
We want to put ourselves first, and not others, and certainly not God.
And all this is what the Bible calls sin.
And because of sin, our world is spoilt.
The world that you and I know and experience isn’t the good world that God created.
Our world, is broken and stained by sin;, every part,
Even the physical world we inhabit.
When Jesus’ kingdom comes in all its fullness, sin will be a thing of past. The penalty for sin will have been paid for;, either people will pay it for themselves, separated from God and his blessing forever, or they trust in that penalty having been paid by Jesus, when he died in our place.
Either way, in Jesus’ kingdom there is no sin, and so the things that spoil our world because of sin, are no longer.
And that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?
No more sickness,
No more evil,
No more hunger,
No more people going without.
The things that spoil life, gone forever.
And you feel like saying, “sign me up! I want to be part of that!”
But the only way that we can be part of that, is if we trust in Jesus’ death, that he took away our sin, the rebellion and independence that cuts us off from God, and causes the brokenness in our world.
And so if people are to enjoy life in the kingdom of God, they need to, hear the message of the kingdom of God.
And so in sending the Twelve to heal the sick, what’s Jesus doing? He’s giving people a taste, of life in his Kingdom.
He’s doing the thing that Prince Charles isn’t, giving a sample, an experience, of what kind of king he’s going to be, and what his kingdom is like.
When, verse 6, the Twelve go around healing people everywhere, the world gets a foretaste, of what it will be like when Jesus kingdom comes.
And it’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?
All of you who work in healthcare, You would have had a day off this day. The hospitals were empty,
The doctors’ surgeries shut their doors,
The Twelve were healing people everywhere.
But it was only temporary, wasn’t it?
It was a taste.
Evil once again raised its ugly head,
People got sick once more,
Every one of these people who were healed, later died.
This was a taste, of God’s kingdom.
But Jesus doesn’t just send the Twelve out to heal, does he?
What was the first part of their commission in verse 2?
They were to proclaim the kingdom of God,
Remember, chapter 6, Jesus had called them his apostles. First and foremost, their very identity was that they had been sent with a message.
So not only do they give people the live demonstration of what it’s going to be like in God’s kingdom, they offer people the means of being part of that kingdom forever.
It’s all well and good to be offered a taste of the kingdom of God, to experience for yourself how great it is to live in a world where sin and its effects are kind of, rolled back, undone.
But if you’re not offered the opportunity to take hold of that permanently, then the brief taste is just kind of cruel, isn’t it?
Sometimes at the supermarket they have people who offer you a sample, a taste, of some new product that’s been released. I never accept it because then I have this awful sense of obligation, “I took your free thing, now I need to buy your product”,
But those of you who are less burdened by obligation than me, imagine you took the sample, some fancy new ice-cream or something, and you really liked it, and you did want to buy some, if the person then said, “No, we don’t sell it here, we just thought you might like to taste it!”
And it’s cruel,
You tastebuds are all watering,
You might have given some to your kids and now they’re crying, it’s just become another supermarket disaster.
When Jesus sends out the Twelve, they bring some of the experience of the Kingdom of God into this age,
And they also proclaim the message of the kingdom, which we know from Jesus’ own words, was a call to repentance,
It was an invitation to live with Jesus as your king.
See, we can’t ever separate the miracles of Jesus and here, of his disciples, from the message of Jesus and his disciples.
Jesus gave his messengers power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases.
This is the evidence that God’s kingdom has come.
The miraculous healings, and delivering from evil, on their own make no sense. But they show that God’s kingdom has come,
That it’s real,
That it’s powerful,
And that it’s good,
And so when people hear the message of the kingdom, they might respond.
Not all responses to news of the kingdom are adequate to enter the kingdom (v 7 – 9)
Even King Herod, heard, and responded, didn’t he?
Herod was the ruler of the area where most of Jesus’ ministry had happened.
And he hears people saying all kinds of different things about who Jesus is and what’s going on.
And his question is a good question to ask, isn’t it?
Who is Jesus?
It’s a question that was really prominent in the previous chapter. Look over at verse 25 of chapter 8, where the disciples are frozen in fear and amazement, they asked one another, “Who is this?
Now, for Luke’s earliest readers, it hasn’t been a year since they read chapter 8 like it has been for us. It was just a moment ago!
And so they’re super-conscious that this question keeps being asked. ‘who is Jesus?’”
It’s a good question,
It’s a right question.
And if it’s your question, please come along to Simply Christianity in March, Tuesday evenings, in this building, where you’ll get a chance to explore that.
Put your name on the Communication Card and let us know that you’d like to be part of it.
King Herod couldn’t come to Simply Christianity, but he had at least some familiarity with the Jewish Scriptures, as did other people he came across, and they wondered if Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets, or maybe Elijah.
In the lead up to Christmas this year we’re going to spend some time in Malachi, the very last book of the Old Testament. And one of things we’ll see there, and I’ll tell you now so you don’t have to wait 12 months! right at the end of Malachi, God promises that before God himself comes to be with his people, he’s going to send the prophet Elijah.
It’s the second-to-last verse in the whole of the Old Testament, this prophet who’d spoken God’s word to his people centuries earlier, is going to come back, and get people ready for God.
Now Jesus says that John the Baptist is the one who comes in the spirit of Elijah, but at this point some of the people of Israel are still expecting Elijah to turn up.
And so when Herod hears about all that Jesus is doing, maybe he’s the Elijah who God promised.
Maybe he’s John the Baptist, raised from the dead. But of course, the problem is, who killed John?
Herod had killed him!
And I imagine that if you had killed someone by having them beheaded, in order to impress some people, which is what Herod had done to John, then the thought that they might have been raised from the dead, would be quite a troubling possibility.
Put yourself in Herod’s shoes.
You killed John,
If John’s somehow alive again, who’s going to be on the very top of John’s hit list?
And so, he tried to see him, Luke tells us.
But Herod’s response falls short doesn’t it?
His response to the good news of the Kingdom of God is not to believe it and take hold of it.
He doesn’t grab it with both hands because he realises being a subject of king Jesus is way better than being an enemy of king Jesus.
He’s just perplexed, and he talks to himself about Jesus, but it’s not until chapter 23, when Jesus is under arrest and brought to Herod, that he actually meets Jesus.
See, it’s possible to be intrigued by Jesus,
It’s possible to like the sound of what Jesus has to say,
But to miss out on what he offers because we don’t respond as we need to.
Lots of Christians have been upset recently, because their Google Home, little internet connected speaker that answers questions, wouldn’t answer questions about Jesus, but was quite happy to recite information from the web about other religious figures;, Buddha, Muhammad, and so on.
Now, I must admit it never crossed my mind to ask our Google Home about Jesus, we’re too busy asking it to tell us jokes and other important things like that!
But actually, I don’t really mind if the thing can’t answer questions about Jesus, when it can for every religious figure in history.
Jesus is not just another religious leaders whose teachings you can take on board,
Just research them,
Download their most famous sayings from the internet, and memorise a couple to whip out at appropriate moments.
Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God demands an entirely different kind of response.
Actually someone here told me this week that Siri on Apple devices will answer your questions about Jesus. So clearly Siri’s going to heaven, and Google’s not.
But the call of the Kingdom of God, is not a call to be intrigued, or interested in what Jesus has to say,
To become familiar with what he said.
It’s an invitation to respond in repentance and faith,
To turn your back on the sin that separates you from God and his blessings.
Is that what you’re working towards in your evangelistic conversations with your friends?
Or if you’re trying to work out how do I become a Christian, well, that’s what Jesus is calling on you to do.
It may just be that Herod’s got a guilty conscience, because he thinks John, who he killed, is coming after him.
Being interested in Jesus because you’re slightly troubled about how bad your life has been is not enough.
It might be a start, but it’s not enough.
Christian ministry demonstrates a trust in God
But come back in your minds to the ministry of the 12 in announcing and bringing a taste of the kingdom.
Verses 3 and 4, He told them: “Take nothing for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town
We sometimes joke that this verse is the reason I never travel with the other TMB staff, Sally-Anne and Jessica, because Jesus says you must take “no staff”!
Of course, that’s not what he meant! The staff or walking stick seems to have been a popular item with the wandering philosophers of the first century, who also liked to carry a money bag, to solicit donations from people.
Don’t be like that, Jesus says.
Travel light, and let your packing demonstrate your absolute confidence that God will provide what you need.
I don’t know when you travel, what your packing demonstrates about you!
I think when my family travels our packing demonstrates that we think we’re much better at lifting suitcases than we are!
But for these 12 disciples, the way they packed for this road trip, was to demonstrate their trust that God would provide.
It would also remind them, that they weren’t in the business of announcing the kingdom of God for their own enrichment. If you’re initially welcomed into one house, but then after a few days someone invites you to come and stay in their much larger house, with a guest room and an ensuite, and a swimming pool,
Don’t move on just because there’s a better option available.
You don’t do Christian ministry for what you can get out of it.
Now, this isn’t a permanent proscription, for how Christians go about telling others the good news of Jesus.
We know that Jesus and his disciples had a money bag for paying the costs of their ministry.
Jesus isn’t saying you can’t have a bank account.
He’s not saying that those who travel to tell others the gospel can’t take a suitcase with them when they head over to the other side of the world.
Some Christians have taken these words to impose a vow of poverty, not on themselves, of course, but on other Christian workers.
It’s sometimes talked about as a joke, but I know cross-cultural missionaries, who have been sent used tea bags by other Christians, because they think missionaries shouldn’t have anything better.
And if used tea bags wasn’t bad enough, I know of cases where the same thing’s happened with used toothbrushes.
Unfortunately I also knew a missionary who liked her tea very very weak, and if you were having tea at some event she’d ask you for your tea bag after you’d used it, which only perpetuated the myth!
No, what we need to hear is, go as you are!
There’s no special preparation that’s needed!
You don’t need special equipment, or special training in order to do this work.
And don’t delay!
There’s an urgency to the work of the kingdom!
People need to hear!
People need to hear the good news of the kingdom, and people need to experience the blessings of life under the reign of King Jesus, so just get out there and do it, and trust that God will provide.
God uses the generosity of people who respond to the good news, to enable it to continue to spread.
That’s our story at TMB, isn’t it?
How are our bills paid?
How are our needs met?
Through the generosity of those here who have responded to the call of King Jesus.
The person serving the kingdom, will look different to other people who promote an ideology or philosophy, and God will ensure his message continues to ring out.
Jesus provides what’s necessary for life (v 10 – 17)
So with that background about the message of the Kingdom of God being proclaimed,
And the Twelve giving a taste of what life under the reign of Jesus will be like,
Let’s spend a few minutes looking at this miracle, the feeding of the 5000.
Besides the resurrection of Jesus, this is the only miracle recorded by the authors of all 4 gospel accounts. So clearly something significant happening here.
Jesus and the 12 withdraw to a town called Bethsaida, presumably to rest, and to debrief a bit on the significant kingdom work they’ve been a part of.
The crowds though, find out where Jesus is, and come after him.
And again see these parallel ministries, verse 11, he spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
He preached the good news of the Kingdom;,
Relationship with God,
And then gives people a taste of its blessings.
But the glimpse into who Jesus is, and what life in his kingdom is like, doesn’t stop there, does it?
Jesus demonstrates through this miraculous provision of food that he can be provide what we need for life.
The way the Twelve went out into the villages, remember, was supposed to remind them about trusting in God to provide?
Now, the focus shifts, and Jesus shows that he’s the one who provides what people need for life.
The need is apparent.
It’s been a long day, and the disciples come to Jesus and say Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”
They’re in a remote place, literally “a desert place”, and there’s no supermarket or takeaway shop nearby.
Even Littlehampton has a 24 hour petrol station with a chicken takeaway shop in it, but not the desert area around Bethsaida.
And so Jesus wants to teach his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” To which the disciples reply that’s impossible, We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.
The alternative would be to go and buy food for everyone, but as Luke says there were 5000 men there, possibly double that when you count women and children.
I wondered this week what the costs of catering this event might have been! I discovered on Easy Weddings dot Com that finger food catering ranges from 20 to 100 dollars per person.
I think bread and fish counts as finger food!
So depending on the size of the crowd and how many were there besides the men who got counted, the catering for this event would have cost somewhere between 200,000 and a million dollars!
Now, to any Jewish person who was familiar with their Bible, the idea of God providing food was nothing new.
Most of us probably know the story of God providing manna for his people in the desert, which is perhaps why, as I said, Luke recalls the disciples’ description of this place as a desert place.
But also in 2 Kings chapter 4 God’s prophet Elisha fed a crowd with just a handful of barley loaves.
But now it’s Jesus who provides food,
It’s Jesus who gives what’s necessary for life.
Jesus acts in the very ways that God has acted in the past.
It’s interesting though, that even knowing “this is the sort of thing that God can do”,
And even after Jesus gave the disciples power and authority for the mission of the kingdom of God, it never seems to occur to the Twelve to ask Jesus to provide food!
You’ve heard of not being able to see the forest for the trees?
Well the disciples can’t see Jesus for the crowd.
They’re aware of the need, but they don’t see Jesus’ ability to provide.
And in that they’re not dissimilar to us, are they?
We see need quite clearly a lot of the time, don’t we?
But often turning to Jesus and asking for his provision is a long way down the list.
I was reading this week about one of these incidents with an aircraft mid-flight, and the article was talking about the checklists that the crew work through, step by step, whenever something goes wrong in the cockpit.
And I found myself wondering, where in the checklist does pray come in?! And maybe you’re just supposed to do that while you do all the other steps!
But I think it’s a good question for Christians! Where does praying come in?
At what point do we recognise that Jesus is the one who provides everything we need for life?
Is it possible that we get so overwhelmed by need, that we forget to turn in the first instance to Jesus, who displays his ability, and his willingness to provide.
And he does it here, spectacularly, and with plenty to spare.
Jesus does his kingdom work through his disciples (v 13 – 17)
Little wonder the disciples had said, “we can’t do this!”
They were exactly right. They can’t.
At least, not on their own.
These days lots of restaurants are pretty hesitant about letting you take away your leftover food. Once upon a time you could confidently ask for a doggy bag for your leftovers. But today some restaurants will either refuse outright, or get you to sign a legal waiver before you get what’s left over.
So can you imagine if you brought in 12 empty baskets, and asked them to load your leftovers into those!
But one basket for each of the 12 disciples certainly emphasises the abundance, doesn’t it? Each disciple looks up and realises that each of the others is also carrying a basket full of Jesus’ provision.
And so while the primary recipients of this miracle, were the 5000 plus who were fed,
It’s as much for the benefit of the 12 disciples as it is for the crowd.
The crowd gets fed,
The disciples get taught.
Jesus teaches them that he can be depended on for provision for life.
Jesus performs this great miracle of provision, which doesn’t just meet the need but super abundantly exceeds the need.
But it’s through the disciples that he meets the need of the crowd, isn’t it?
It’s Jesus who prays and gives thanks for the food, verse 16, but it’s the disciples who arrange people into groups,
It’s the disciples who give out the food, now multiplied many thousands of times,
It’s the disciples who pick up the twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
They are involved.
But they couldn’t do it on their own.
Jesus provides for people’s needs,
He pours out the blessings on them,
He gives people a taste of the kingdom of God, where there’s no shortage, no going without,
And he uses his disciples to do that.
Even today, the same thing is true isn’t it?
This kind of provision is not something we’re able to do.
It would make the Welcome Lunch today a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it?!
If you can do this, please come to the Welcome Lunch today before everyone else arrives!
Even today Jesus’ disciples can’t do the work of the kingdom that we’re called to, on our own.
How did this section all about kingdom work begin? Jesus gave power and authority, so that he could work and achieve his purposes through his disciples.
How does Jesus super-abundant provision benefit the crowd of thousands?
Because he works through his disciples.
We could put it another way;, the mission that he sent the Twelve on, was an extension of the work that Jesus himself had come to do.
Let’s not forget that. What we might call kingdom work,
The work of the kingdom of God that Jesus asks us to do, is an extension of his own work.
Now, we’re not the 12,
We’re not eye-witnesses of Jesus’ life. But we see as the ministry of the apostles continues through Luke, and into his second volume, the book of Acts, the responsibility and the privilege of announcing the Kingdom of God,
Calling on people to respond to the good news of Jesus,
Demonstrating the blessings of the Kingdom of God, showing what kind of king Jesus is, as the story unfolds it becomes clear that this is not the responsibility of just a few Christian leaders, this is the task to which Jesus calls all his disciples.
Now, we don’t give people a taste of the kingdom in the same way that Jesus and the 12 did. I’ve never healed anyone with my words,
I’ve never preached the gospel and had evil spirits come out of people.
And we might be tempted to ask, “Well, why can’t Jesus give this kind of demonstration again?”
Why don’t we see, guaranteed healing, every time the Christian gospel is preached?
And it seems like a reasonable sort of question, except that it implies that the demonstration of the Kingdom of God that Jesus gave during his earthly ministry was somehow deficient!
If we’re asking Jesus to give us a taste today of the Kingdom of God, to show what his Kingdom is like, then we’re saying that the demonstration of his kingdom on this day, back in Bethsaida, was not enough!
He didn’t show us enough about the kingdom for us to be satisfied.
And I’m pretty sure that none of us feel comfortable saying this to Jesus.
We can however give people a taste of the kingdom of God in a slightly different way though.
Because we’re able to show people what it is to live under the reign of God’s king.
We can show people what the lives of citizens of God’s kingdom look like.
When someone sees the impact of the gospel message on a Christian person’s life, in terms of forgiveness, and grace, and other person-centredness, they get a taste of the kingdom,
They get a glimpse at what it is to live under the reign of God’s king, Jesus.
Remember the question we started with?
What kind of king?
And what kind of kingdom?
When it comes to King Jesus, you might be the answer to someone’s question.