Luke 9: 11-17
Rev. Dr. Demetrius A. Russell, Sr.
This pandemic, or whatever some would label this season of COVID-19, has led to friction and frustration within the body of Christ. Engaging in ministry is quite different than what we are accustomed to and it has led to many challenges. Challenges that for some feel like the situation presented in Luke 9.
Before briefly dealing with the text, a question needs to be posed. What have we complained about, during this pandemic, that we felt our pastors or churches should have done? Many times, we have failed to realize that, if we are saved, belong to Jesus, and are members of a local church, we each have responsibilities. Instead of complaining, have we considered becoming part of the solution?
Becoming part of the solution requires realizing that we have responsibilities. We can no longer point our fingers at others and expect to only do what brings praise and not be willing to minister to others. Ministry suggests serving others and I’m afraid that we have deduced ministry to only sermonic and musical presentations and have ignored and avoided reaching those who have no desire to enter a building or tune in to a live streamed video.
Taking on responsibilities and becoming part of the solution:
1. Requires Availability
It’s important to remember, that at the start of Luke chapter 9, the twelve disciples were given power and authority over devils and diseases. They were sent out to preach the gospel and to heal those dealing with ailments. When they returned, they told Jesus what they had accomplished and as they were leaving to enjoy personal time and reflection, the crowd followed them. They were just outside of Bethsaida, meaning House of Fish, and I believe that it was not by coincidence that Jesus stopped and ministered to people.
Perhaps the disciples were upset and looked forward to their time in seclusion with Jesus. And instead of solitude, Jesus is serving others. After the day is drawing close to an end, the disciples asked Jesus to send the multitude away. It was around dinner time and their location was not conducive to feeding the people. Or could it be that they were ready to get back to time with Jesus? Could it be that they were ready for the people to leave? Notice what Jesus says to them when they told Jesus to send the people away: Give them some food. You feed them.
Instead of asking me to do something that will benefit you all, how about you make yourselves available like I’ve been teaching you to do? Find some food and take care of the need.
*Let me pause here and suggests that preaching and healing are forms of ministry, but can we go beyond what people consider performance and learn how to become available and to serve?
They made themselves available because the text says they located food. The problem is that when they found food, there were only two fish and five loaves of bread. To them the only way they would be able to feed the multitude of 5000 plus was to go and buy food. John’s record states that they did not have enough money. But Jesus does not say anything about finances. All Jesus says is make yourselves available by going and finding food so that you can meet the potential needs. In them focusing on resources, they ignored location. They were in the area the means House of Fish and this could have served as a sign that something miraculous was about to take place. Instead of remembering where they were, they focused on the problem. That, my brothers and sisters is what Christ continues to say today! Do not worry about what you lack. Focus on making yourselves available and trust that you are in the right location and can provide what you need!
2. Requires Administration
This is crucial because watch the movement here. Once they state the problem of people, Jesus tells them, don’t worry about the food now. Since you are worried about the people, conduct a little administrative work. Here are Jesus’ instructions to the disciples:
· Arrange what is believed to be around 15,000 people into groups of fifty. That takes time and team work.
· Calm down the chaos. Because every follower needs to know how to assist leadership in keeping order. What we do as a follower can determine our response when we have the opportunity to lead.
Jesus is teaching the disciples that order is crucial. God can be misunderstood but He is not chaotic. When God moves, He is precise because everything He does is planned. That is who He is! Many of us have to stop operating out of chaos and offering up any and everything, especially when God gives us His best!
In Jesus’ instructions, the administrative task was to have the people sit down in companies. Let me translate. Before there was enough food. Before it was ready, the disciples were to have them sit down as if they knew everyone would be fed!
3. Requires Service
We get excited about Jesus blessing and breaking the bread and fish and rightfully so. I think there is another miracle in the text. I know that a miracle is a supernatural phenomenon. I know it is something only the divine can accomplish. However, I contend that what takes place with the disciples, in this text, is just that.
The disciples, as Jesus blessed and broke the food, RECEIVED THE FOOD AND PASSED IT OUT. It is believed that the food does not automatically multiply. As Jesus continued breaking the fish and bread, the multiplication happened because it was blessed. Here’s why this is the second miracle in the text; they wanted Jesus to send the people away. Perhaps they were jealous. But instead of complaining, they kept returning to get more food from the small lunch that Jesus blessed and provided.
Why is this a miracle? When is the last time you have witnessed people show up knowing there was not enough, but continued to trust God and use what they had long enough to see if God would come through? Why is this a miracle? They allowed the power they had received to connect with the directives of Jesus enough to OBEY Him. They didn’t want to serve. They wanted the people to leave and yet they still OBEYED Jesus’ directives!
When we learn to be obedient, it does not change God’s mind. Instead of using someone else, He will allow us to become a part of the process. That allows our faith to grow and in return it encourages others, especially those we are serving to learn to trust God when things seem impossible! That’s how ministry goes forth. That’s how we grow spiritually. That is how we honor God.
In conclusion, the disciples not only witness 15,000 plus individuals receive nourishment, but they are able to collect 12 baskets full of leftovers! When we are willing to become a part of the solution, God is able to provide and allow us to witness the miracle. When you feel like becoming frustrated with your pastor because they are doing something you disagree with, ask yourself the question, “how can I be a part of the solution?”
Lord God, we thank you for reminding us that we are to serve others. Forgive us for our selfish actions. Forgive us for not partnering with our church, pastor, and your Spirit. Help us to trust your provisions and be aware of our surroundings so that others may see your hand at work in their lives! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.