Week of January 9

Burdened Lives Not Budget Line Items

Read: Genesis 23-24; Luke 9
“But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’”
Luke 9:13, ESV


How effectively do we engage in “kingdom peacemaking?” Jesus displayed His authority by His teaching and by His power over disease, nature, death, and sin. He was showing people that He was God’s Messiah over and over through each display of power. Sadly, His followers did not avail themselves of that same power in ministry.

We too often limit Christ’s impact by quantifying ministry (e.g., benevolence budgets, neighborhood clean-ups, and food distribution drives). You and I do not need huge budgets, nor do we need skilled practitioners, to do the “feeding” for us. Folks are not budget line items but burdened lives. We need the wonder-working presence and power of the Savior to impact lives through His ministries.

Understanding the Bible Context

Who is this One that we follow?
Luke’s record shows us that Jesus has proclaimed His messianic authority and has been demonstrating the scope of that power in various miraculous ways since the public launch of His earthly ministry (see Luke 4:16-21). We see in Luke 9 that Jesus disperses the apostles on a mission of kingdom proclamation (9:1-6). The gospel results are widespread as His message reaches both the common folk and Herod, the king (9:7-9). Luke also records an account of Jesus’ power to provide with the multiplication of the loaves (10-17). This story has always warmed my heart, yet I also sense that it holds significant moral implications for us today. For example, notice that Luke’s narrative does not include the response of the people to Jesus’ mighty works (see Luke 9:10-17). Do you wonder why this may be so?

Let me drive straight to the point: Luke’s account is intended to show Christ followers that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus’ followers saw His authority over nature, sickness and death, and the demonic, which led them to ask a basic question in response to all that they had experienced: “Who is this one?” (8:25). Luke wants us to see that they (and we!) needed to come to the awareness that Jesus was (and is) the Messiah. The feeding of the 5000 was a powerful blessing, but it also would help the disciples later when Jesus asks them, “Who do you say that I am?” (9:20). The truth was being taught and demonstrated in Jesus’ ministry, but the point was to have a direct encounter with the Truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6)! Stay with me, I am getting closer to the main thought for today.
How closely are we following this One?
You and I are not surprised that the “Prince of Peace” displays His holistic peacemaking authority in ways that embody shalom: food for the body, reforms for the mind, and salvation for the soul. This awareness of course comes because we have the scriptures and Spirit to instruct our hearts. The disciples needed to have a life-altering encounter with the Messiah, and they did.

Peter would later inform his Pentecost listeners that Jesus was “a man accredited by God to you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22; cf. NAC). This bold statement came because Peter knew the Truth! He had come to see personal evidence in his own life that Jesus was Messiah.

Please do not scratch your heads here in confusion. Keep in mind that the disciples had followed Jesus throughout His earthly ministry, yet they needed to become Christ-followers. There is a difference. You see, they had been transformed by His resurrection. They no longer nailed Him to their earthly expectations of Messiah; instead, He had been nailed to their hearts and they began to live solely by His expectations. Pause and reread the previous sentence.
He is the One, but are we truly following Him?
The Messiah would be the one who provided a “messianic banquet” (cf. Isaiah 25:6; 65:13-14; Psalms 78:24 and 81:16; NAC). Therefore, Jesus must be the Messiah, the Christ of God! So, you and I can see that this passage holds Christological implications. It also contains eschatological significance because the feeding of 5000 indicates that the Messianic Age has dawned, and it holds present and future meaning for Christ’s people. It prefigures the great messianic banquet that we will enjoy upon Christ’s return (NAC). Point? We are in the period where people come expecting to be fed God’s truth and to receive His assistance with their life struggles. Messiah expects us to feed them! How well are we meeting those expectations?

Jesus instructs His disciples, “You give them something to eat” (9:13). We, like the disciples that day, often think too logically about the question. They had five loaves and two fish, and this was not a snack bar where “nibbles” were the order of the day! I believe that the disciples got the point because I read in Acts 6 where they saw a need and sought to minister to the whole person. Read on, and I will amplify this point.

Applying the Bible Passage

The annual “Can you see the deer?” videos have been posted of late on social media. They typically surface during deer season and provide some humorous examples of people who cannot see deer that are standing right before their eyes. Then there are hunters that post videos or pictures and place a time limit on finding the deer! I confess that I recently failed miserably at locating a young deer in a grassy area. Here is my point: Christians often behave like poor deer hunters. There you go! Seriously, Jesus teaches His disciples to rely directly upon His help when seeking the lost and making disciples (see Acts 1:4; 10:13, 34-35).

We are not hunting deer, but we are seeking those who are dear to Christ! This requires His eyes, hands, and heart. We must undergo a total reorientation of how we go about spreading the gospel and serving others in Christ’s name. Look at Luke 9:59-60. This hard saying of Jesus follows a pattern in verses 57-62. Each conversation in this section includes theological language: “Son of man” (9:58), “proclaim the kingdom of God” (9:60), and “service in the kingdom of God” (9:62; EBC). Jesus was making sure that the adoring throngs knew the extreme sacrifice required to be a disciple.

Not only are Christ’s followers to count themselves “all in,” but they are to understand that following Jesus is more than simply one life choice among many. In Ashlock speak, “Christianity is not simply joining the ‘life group’ that Jesus leads; He lives out His life through us” (Galatians 2:20). I have learned not to let my spiritual quantifying hinder my Jesus magnifying (cf. Luke 9:11, 17; “spoke to them of the kingdom of God,” “cured those who had need of healing,” and “satisfied”). Messiah Jesus takes total care of His people and always finishes what He starts. The banquet is set. Give the world something to eat.  

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. Take time to write down ways that your limited view of Jesus may have restricted your response to ministry needs around you. Begin to allow Him to shape your view of ministry need by serving others out of His resources.

2. Churches limit Christ whenever they reduce ministry strength by narrowing ministry to a budget line item. Jesus asks such churches, “Who do you say that I am in relationship to the needs of the world?” Answer Him in your various ministries by spreading the peace of the Resurrected Lord.  

3. For Families: You may try a simple game where you write down all your communication that you intend to use for a thirty-minute period with your children. Everything that you anticipate saying will be included in that document. Number everything: instructions, greetings, questions, and anticipated responses. Simply point to an item on your document when you wish to communicate with your children. When you have finished the time period ask them how they enjoyed the experience. Ask them if that would be something they would like to do all the time. Teach your children that Jesus wishes to communicate His instructions to us not only in the Bible, but through our regular contact with Him too! Help children to know that God will speak to us through the Bible, prayers, church, and life circumstances (see Blackaby, Experiencing God).

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock