In this chapter, Jesus called the twelve together and gave them the assignment for the next phase of their training. “Go, preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick.”
Some years ago, I was pondering what it looked like to “seek first the kingdom”. I thought, “What would it look like to seek HRH Queen Elizabeth’s kingdom? It might simply mean to search for, or travel to, that place where Elizabeth was Queen, where her authority and power are seen.” That brought some clarity to me. [You must judge.] For me to live in the kingdom of God would be for me to live a life where God is king—in charge, operating in full authority.
“So, gentlemen disciples, go show the people what happens in any situation where God rules.” In other words, go do what Jesus has been doing.
But Jesus won’t be there.
Can you see their faces? A little incredulous? Excited? Scared? They might have felt anxious butterflies in their stomach at this turn of events. After all, it was Jesus that people trusted, that everyone sought for. Not them.
But Jesus hadn’t left them without resource. He gave them “power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.” I’m not absolutely sure how he did this, but I have a feeling it was the same way his Father gave an assignment to Adam—with words. Pretty much throughout the whole Bible narrative, the blessing and its empowerment was established by words, given and received.
The fascinating details about the logistics of this mission are as follows, “Take nothing with you that you think you need. And if you aren’t received by the people, move on. It’s on them, not you.”
Might it be that the disciples, all of them, are supposed to trust God for everything needed for the work He gives them to do? It might sound irresponsible, but really it isn’t. There is a work they are responsible for—they aren’t freeloaders—and trusting God to provide is part of it. What they are not responsible for is the response of the people.
“So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere,” (vs. 6).
Because, of course, they could.
Luke’s letter continued with the disciples’ return and their excitement at the results they had seen. Jesus then took the adrenalin-crashed disciples to a deserted place in Bethsaida, where, instead of resting as was planned, the disciples’ had another lesson—another picture of what the kingdom looked like:
After welcoming the crowd who gathered, Jesus talked to them, yet again, about the kingdom of God, and then healed those who had need of healing. Nothing new here, perhaps, but then Jesus let the disciples see more about kingdom life. He had them feed 5000 men, plus women and children, with five loaves and two small fish which he had blessed!
Okay, maybe not smoked salmon on a bagel, but perhaps even more tasty to a hungry multitude who had heard the Master’s blessing.
The chapter continued with Jesus’ conversations with the disciples about who he really is, since the social media of the day was all abuzz with the topic. He prophesies his own death and resurrection, which—given what they were seeing of his power and authority—were somewhat hard to fathom. Luke’s account then takes us along on Jesus’ visit on the mountain with Moses and Elijah—while Peter and John watched—which concluded with Peter’s impulsive and awkward response.
And, then, so much more!
The chapter finishes with a statement that is unsettling to some, maybe all. Given all that had been going on, there were many who would like to become a follower of the Master, but have other priorities. Jesus said to them, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Does this sound harsh? Do Old Testament rules and regulations come to mind? But, surely, Jesus is very forward-thinking at this point, so is it possible that living a fully realized Kingdom life here on earth will simply take an all-in frame of mind and heart?
I will say here that an all-in life is difficult for me to envision—for me—especially the Kingdom life described by Jesus. But it is probably no more difficult than it was for fishermen, a tax collector, and anyone else who was given the assignment back then, or has been in the ages since.
What a magnificent obsession it would be, but—Oh, Doctor Luke!—you’ve messed with our heads this time!
“But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you,” (Matthew 12:28).