This blog provides a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Jesus commissions the twelve to preach and heal
9 1-5 Then he called the twelve together and gave them power over all evil spirits and the ability to heal disease. He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick, with these words, “Take nothing for your journey—neither a stick nor a purse nor food nor money, nor even extra clothes! When you come to stay at a house, remain there until you go on your way again. And where they will not welcome you, leave that town, and shake the dust off your feet as a protest against them!”
6 So they set out, and went from village to village preaching the Gospel and healing people everywhere.
Herod’s uneasy conscience after his execution of John
7-8 “All these things came to the ears of Herod the tetrarch and caused him acute anxiety, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, some maintaining that the prophet Elijah had appeared, and others that one of the old-time prophets had come back.
9 “I beheaded John,” said Herod. “Who can this be that I hear all these things about?” And he tried to find a way of seeing Jesus.”
The twelve return and tell their story
10 Then the apostles returned, and when they had made their report to Jesus of what they had done, he took them with him privately and retired into a town called Bethsaida.
Jesus welcomes the crowds, teaches, heals and feeds them
11-12 But the crowds observed this and followed him. And he welcomed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who were in need of healing. As the day drew to its close the twelve came to him and said, “Please dismiss the crowd now so that they can go to the villages and country round about and find some food and shelter, for we’re quite in the wilds here.”
13-14 “You give them something to eat!” returned Jesus. “But we’ve nothing here,” they replied, “except five loaves and two fish, unless you want us to go and buy food for all this crowd?” (There were approximately five thousand men there). Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Get them to sit down in groups of about fifty.”
15-17 This they did, making them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish and looked up to Heaven, blessed them, broke them into pieces and passed them to his disciples to serve to the crowds. Everybody ate and was satisfied. Afterwards they collected twelve baskets full of broken pieces which were left over.
Jesus has been shown in the preceding sequence of stories demonstrating the life-giving authority of God’s goodness. Now the narrative shifts focus to the development of Jesus’ disciples as c0-agents of God’s goodness. He sends them out to announce the coming of God’s rule and to heal people. All of this is sen as a threat by Herod because it questions his authority as ruler under Rome. He’s got rid of John the Baptist, what can he do with Jesus?
The power of the gospel is seen in the way that crowds seek out Jesus and his disciples and deny them privacy. The feeding of the 5000 appears in all four gospels with slightly different emphases. Luke keeps his account plain, focusing on Jesus’ teaching and healing (the two acts of witness to God;s goodness) and asks his trusted disciples to feed the crowd. The story shows that through Jesus the disciples are able to feed the crowd and have enough left over to feed the twelve tribes of the new people of God, the church which is to come. Clearly the actions of Jesus in looking to heaven, blessing and breaking the food are intended to remind Christian readers of the eucharist, which is in turn a reminder that the spread of the gospel depends on the life of Jesus being broken.
The spread of the rule of God is not simply to do with faith and good organisation, but also with the sacrificial love by which Jesus and his disciples show God’s goodness. Any discussion of evangelism today should start with this rather than with the techniques of snake-oil salesmen.