We're returning to Luke’s gospel. One of the 4 gospels; the 4 accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We looked at the first 8 chapters of Luke last year.
There is something in the human spirit, i think, that longs for adventure. Even those of us who just want a quiet life need some sense of purpose and achievement. Most of us are inspired by stories of courage and espionage - spy missions and military successes, we’re exhilharated by the achievements of explorers and adventurers and sportsmen and women. It draws out some desire in us for the same. we might compensate for our lack of adventure by starting a business or taking up an extreme sport, going on exotic holidays, having an affair or losing ourselves in novels or online fantasy worlds where we can be the potent hero that we are not in the real world.
we can’t all be james bond but surely we can be heros just for one day?
Could it be that this sense that we are made for adventure and courage and sacrifice and joy is within us because we are made to be disciples of Jesus Christ? Because as we shall see the authentic christian life as jesus presents it to us is a life lived on Mission; an adventure of radical service and sacrifice and joy.
Here at the beginning of chapter 9 we reach a turning point in Luke’s gospel. Up to this point the main focus has been the Identity of Jesus. Who is he? Now, as we enter the second half of the gospel Jesus begins preparing his disciples for his departure and suffering and the focus shifts to what it means to follow Jesus. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
Actually the two themes are closely linked and overlap: what it means to follow Jesus is unavoidably connected with Who Jesus is. Questions of Jesus’ identity are sandwiched into this passage about following him. Did you notice? v 8 and then again in v18 Who do the crowds say jesus is? and then in v20 Jesus asks his disciples: who do you say I am? to which Peter answers ‘You are the Christ of God’. And Jesus says that’s right, I’m the promised deliverer SENT from God, to SERVE by SACRIFICING my life (v22) that the world might live.
And around those insights into Jesus’ identity..What will it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
It will mean being SENT (vv1-6), to SERVE (vv10-17) and it will mean (vv23-27) SACRIFICE
Perhaps you’re thinking about becoming a Christian. Perhaps you already are a Christian.What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means you are sent with Jesus; you serve with Jesus and you sacrifice with Jesus. He leads us on this adventure. He never asks us to do anything he hasn’t already done. And neither does he ask us to do anything alone- He is with us.
Let’s look at each of these in turn
- vv1-6 Disciples are SENT with Jesus’…. authority.
v1 Jesus called the 12 together. his first disciples, his inner circle and he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill.”
Now there’s something special and specific happening here: the 12 were sent to extend the very work that Jesus’ was then and there doing. Christians today are not, I believe, sent, in the same way to instantaneously heal the sick and drive out demons in the way that Jesus and his Apostles did. However all disciples of Jesus in all ages are SENT to proclaim and live out the message of Jesus (the gospel) to a world sorely in need of the good news. (incidentally this will almost certainly include praying for healing and working to drive out injustice). Right at the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to his followers. “All authority has been given to me, therefore GO and make disciples of ALL Nations.”
All Disciples are SENT with Jesus’ Authority to make other disciples - who will Go and make disciples. This isn’t just something for keen Christians or Vicars.
We all must Go …because Jesus, with all authority, sends us
Not that we Go in an authoritarian way. This is not a crusade!
Look at the very next verse. ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.
You don’t go resourced and you don’t go collecting from house to house. We are to go in faith and dependence on God and on those who welcome us. Just as Jesus was sent from heaven with nothing for the journey, humble and utterly dependent - a new born child into a hostile world. so we are to go in humility and total dependence.
...But also with proper confidence and conviction: v5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ Rejection is NOT a sign to you - ‘you shouldn’t be doing this..what gives you the right? you’re offending people’ no - it’s a sign to them, a warning that they are rejecting God!
If you’re rejected Move on. It’s an urgent mission. Don’t be discouraged or put off. Be humble and confident. You go with the authority of Jesus.
James Bond may have a licence to kill. Disciples of Jesus have a licence to tell. And not by the authority of Queen and country but by the authority of the King of Kings. We bring LIFE!
LIFE! We, as ambassadors, are involved in the greatest adventure of sharing Christ who gives salvation and life eternal! Life saving surgery, daring mountain rescues, military operations to save captives from a siege - they are all one thing. But disciples of Jesus are in the business of the renewal of the world and the salvation of lives for eternity.
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? It means to be SENT on Mission with Jesus. As the Father sent me so I am sending you, he says.
This ‘sentness’ is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, at the heart of what it means to be the church. If it feels like there’s something missing from the heartbeat of your christian life or missing from our church it could be that you, that we are not heeding Jesus’ command to go - beyond our comfort zones, to cross the great divides with him to prayerfully, humbly make Jesus known, to speak of him, to make disciples. Who are you being sent to?
What does it mean to be a follower of jesus?
It means to SERVE with Jesus’……. strength.
10 When the apostles returned, (apostle incidentally means ‘one who is sent’!) they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘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.’
Jesus and his disciples have retreated to a remote place but the crowds have followed and Jesusis willing to proclaim the gospel to them and heal those in need. And wonderfully, as the day draws in, the twelve are sensitive to the needs of the crowd: people need something to eat and they suggest to Jesus that he disperses the huge crowd to go and find food and lodging. that’s their solution.
But Jesus sees this ‘problem’ as an opportunity to teach them what it means to be his disciples.
v13 He replied “You give them something to eat.” You Serve
Well the disciples - end of v13 - had thought about serving the people but quickly rejected the idea in favour of their suggested solution of dispersing the 5000 to surrounding villages because a) we have only 5 loaves of bread and two fish - i.e not nearly enough food and b) unless we go and buy food for all this crowd - which of course would be impossible to find a takeaway able to fulfil the order even if we had the cash needed! We don\t have the resources. Solutions exhausted.. let’s send the crowd away.
But of course there is another solution; another way that the disciples could feed the crowd…
They had forgotten who was with them AND they’d forgotten their most basic Bible stories. The Exodus. Bread from heaven. Manna and Quail. They’d forgotten that GOD feeds his people in the wilderness.
Jesus said to his disciples, v14 ‘Make the crowd sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Here’s the solution when Jesus asks you to serve. Realise that he intends to do the serving through You. He alone is the provider. He alone has the resources. But he wants to use us as vessels, as conduits of his love and service.
Disciples are called to SERVE with the strength that Jesus provides
It is an extraordinary miracle that Jesus performs. Lots of people have tried to explain it away.
The supply of food came from a group of wealthy ladies. But where are they mentioned in the text? Jesus broke the food into tiny little bits. And everyone was satisfied? Jesus hypnotized the crowd into believing they were filled. I promise you that was a solution presented by two liberal theologians in the 1960s. Or maybe Jesus’ example of sharing led others to get out their packed lunches and share their food. But that’s just not the way Luke presents things and how do you explain the 12 basketfulls of left overs??!
The only sane solution is that Jesus multiplied the food and provided bountifully in the wilderness just as God had done in the Exodus. Who is he?
Disciples of Jesus are called to serve.
But that is because Jesus wants to meet needs and he wants to do so through us!
what an extraordinary thing! what an adventure serving could be if instead of getting exhausted with our own solutions or telling God what to do we asked Jesus to provide and stepped out in faith where we see him leading.
Sent with Jesus, Serve with Jesus
Disciples SACRIFICE with Jesus
Jesus is the Christ of God. The promised deliverer King SENT to SERVE
and the way he serves v 22 is by suffering and being rejected and killed before being raised to life
he SACRIFICES his life to bring LIFE
23 Then he said to them all v23 : ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Sacrifice. The cross, every day, is to shape the disciples life.
The way of the cross is the way of death.
If you’re going to trust God put Him in control of your life, submit to His ways, know His LIFE then you must deny yourself - die to yourself! If you want to save your life; keep control of your life then you’ll lose life because you inevitably say no to God. You might gain the whole world but if you’ve kept God at bay you lose your very self! The way of the cross is the way of death which leads to life.
And The way of the cross is the way of rejection.
Jesus was rejected and despised …so will Christians who speak up for him be. If i want to save face in the eyes of the world i am ashamed of the rejected Jesus. If I choose to publicly associate myself with Jesus, my independent life is at an end. The way of the cross is the way of rejection
It is of course a hard road. To be sent, to serve, to sacrifice.
Jesus asks us for everything because he is everything.
[ill. Going on holiday – one of my jobs is to pack the car. It really is my job, I want to do it with no interference – cos it’s quite scientific. The principle is this all the hard non-negotiables have to go in first – suitcases, travel cots, boxes of books and toys. Then when all of that is loaded – the soft stuff – duvets and coats go in because they sort of fit around the main things.] How do we think about our lives? When we pack our lives what are the non-negotiables that go in first, take the most space? Career, my art, my work [goes in]; relationships [a big one]; home, childrens education big hard heavy things and Jesus Christ well isn’t he kind of flexible? – doesn’t he just fit around everything in my life? won’t he just fit around my plans? Won’t he? He won’t.
Follow me. he says, Follow me,. This life is a journey, there’s an urgency to begin it and it’s all about him and serving; proclaiming his Kingdom with life and lips.
Jesus’ claim on our lives overrides all former claims, all other claims. He is to fill our lives and everything we do and are is to be an outflow of that – an expression of his Kingdom.