Up until now, Luke has shown us the ministry of Jesus in and around Galilee. This week will arrive at a turning point. Christ will allow his identity to sink in with his disciples and then turn toward Jerusalem.
10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 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. 12 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 are here in a desolate place.” 13 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 are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The Gospels are wonderfully informative when it comes to understanding what it is really like to follow Jesus. Here they were before a vast crowd of thousands and it was getting late. The disciples were concerned. “Hey boss, maybe it’s time we send them away. We don’t want it to get dark before they can make it to a nearby village. What do you think?” After a day full of Jesus teaching and healing, they understandably thought their day was done. The big event was only just beginning.
“You give them something to eat,” is Christ’s response. “Uh, we don’t really have that much food here, unless we go off and buy it. But then again, we don’t have that much money either.”
Following Jesus means that he is going to give us work to do that is beyond our ability. He does this mainly so that we can learn to trust in him, and then see him remarkably provide.
Jesus had the disciples gather the people into groups of around fifty. He then began to multiply the food. I find it interesting that he worked with what they had. There is a lesson in there someplace. He fed the people with bread and fish, not with, say, vegetables and sacrificial lambs. Somehow he used what the disciples could find and remarkably, miraculously provided for the multitude. No doubt he does that kind of thing still, through people like us in our present circumstances.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, one of the requirements of all citizens is to feel good. When they don’t, which is often, they pop pills containing a hangover-free drug called soma, which makes them feel better immediately. The worse they feel, the more soma they take, and all is well – at least until it isn’t. But the readily available soma never seems to run out. For extreme happiness, say on a weekend, larger doses of soma become pleasantly hallucinogenic.
This is not the world we live in. Ours is old and seemingly less brave, though we can argue that it takes a lot more courage to live in it. Our Savior set the example by walking the path of crucifixion, the same path he calls us to in Matthew 16:24-27.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
At the end of the day, or the age, really, what we want is to have followed Jesus. Much of the time this doesn’t involve feeling pleasant, at least not in the way our flesh desires. Crosses are not meant to be comfortable. But there is a different type of satisfaction, a type that Huxley’s citizens were never allowed to achieve. It’s a confidence inspired by following our Savior, of losing our lives in order to find them. This path has a certainty to it, its satisfaction has a depth, that no amount of soma can give us.
Jim Elliot said it really well when he said, “I may no longer depend on pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them to be enjoyable or not.”
We must not forget, however, that self-denial while following Jesus is only temporary. It’s the price we pay for discipleship, for walking near to our cross-bearing Lord. On the other side of the resurrection, we look forward to a cross-free, existence for all eternity in a new heaven, a new earth and a New Jerusalem.
18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
When Christ called his first disciples to follow him, he let them know that their primary focus would change. Instead of catching fish they would now catch people, drawing others into a relationship with you through Jesus Christ.
How appropriate that some of your first followers did this kind of work! They knew what it was to try to bring in a catch. Sometimes they failed and sometimes they met with amazing success. There was even a time when they fished all night and caught nothing until the risen Christ advised them. When they listened to him, they caught more than they could bring into the boat.
Just as no fisherman ever catches all the fish in the sea, there will be many who will not listen to the call that we put out for them. Still, there will be many others who will and it is for these that you have sent us.
Remind us continually that this is our first priority. We are to go and make disciples of all the nations. Help us to no longer live for ourselves, but for you. Let the Holy Spirit advise us now just as Jesus did those tired disciples. Let us see souls won for Christ and disciples multiplied. Let us not only see converts but see those won to you who will then make disciples of others.
And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, believing that this is your will for us.