Scripture Reading: 2 Peter 3:1-18
Sermon Title: The Disciples Commissioned, Jesus’ Identity Questioned, and Jesus Unleavened
This major unit in Luke (8:4-9:17) is broken into two sections: 8:4-21 and 8:22-9:17. The first unit is a call to faith: “Take heed therefore how you hear” (Luke 8:18). The second unit is designed to display the basis for belief, which is Jesus’ power and authority over all areas of life: He stills a storm (8:22-25), exorcises demons (8:26-39), heals a woman with an issue of blood (8:42b-48), resurrects a dead child (8:40-42a, 49-56), and provides food for the multitude (9:10-17). We have spent the past two week studying Luke 8:22-56 which identifies the character of God as being both supremely powerful and immeasurably compassionate, therefore, trustworthy.
Today, we will conclude our study in this section of Luke.
This passage marks a significant transition for the Lord Jesus Christ. Approximately half of His three-year ministry is over, and His death on the cross is about eighteen months away. 
This passage is broken into three minor sections, which are identified in the sermon title: The Disciples Commissioned (vv. 1-6), Jesus’ Identity Questioned (vv. 7-9), and Jesus Unleavened (vv. 10-17; John 6:22-59).
The Disciples Commissioned (vv.1-6)
vv. 1-2, 6
The promise of Luke 5:10 is beginning to be fulfilled: the disciples are “catching people.”
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul presses the point that ministry in the Church is made up of the contribution of all the parts. Why? Because we were made in the image of God, we are designed to work in unique roles towards a common goal. The image we were made to reflect is that of the Trinity: Three divine persons in a continual circular dance that implies intimacy, equality, unity, and love – yet distinction.
“When the church functions at its optimum, ministry is the sum total of what God is doing through everyone’s gifts” (Greg Ogden).
Here Jesus gives the disciples power and authority. Authority is the right to do something, while power is the ability to do something. Here Jesus is preparing the disciples for His departure by modeling true discipleship. True discipleship is training and empowering others to discover and use their gifts for the glory of God and the good of the Church.
Much wrong theology and practice have been derived from a misinterpretation of this passage. There is a reason Jesus gave the disciples authority over all demons and diseases (v. 1) along with the message of the kingdom of God (v. 2) and the gospel (v. 6).
If their message was to be validated and believed, there needed to be a way to attest to its divine origin. Such miraculous confirmation was no longer needed after the completion of the NT. Even by the end of the book of Acts, miracles were fading from the scene as the apostles disappeared. Paul healed people early in his ministry, but toward the end of his life, he did not heal Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20) and advised Timothy not to have healing faith or find a healer, but to treat his recurring stomach ailment with wine (1 Timothy 5:23). Since the completion of the NT, a messenger’s message can be measured against the inspired, infallible, inerrant standard of God’s Word. 
I think it is important to again be reminded that of the myriad of miracles Jesus could have performed or could have commissioned the disciples to perform in order to validate their message, He chose to relieve human suffering, showing God as an involved and compassionate God.
Again, much wrong theology and practice have been derived from this passage. This is not a call to poverty for all messengers of Christ. The instruction regarding their initial commissioning was to teach them trust for future missions. This is proven by the Lord’s reference to these verses in the upper room eighteen months later. “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything did you? They said, ‘No, nothing’” (Luke 22:35). Then, the Lord said to them, but now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one” (v. 36).
The disciples’ practice of staying in one place is designed to contrast that of philosophers, swindlers, and false teachers who went from house to house begging for money.
To a Jewish man, shaking the dust off his feet was a common gesture which represented judgment.
Jesus’ Identity Questioned (vv. 7-9)
Possibly plagued by his guilty conscience (Proverbs 28:1), this is the same Herod that beheaded John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29). Herod’s question is taken in view of Peter’s profession in Luke 9:18-20.
Other than Christ’s resurrection, the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. “The feeding of five thousand men, along with surely an equal number of women and children, was the largest work of divine creative power since creation week and the restructuring of the earth after the flood” (MacArthur). 
Who were the crowd who surrounded our Lord in this remote place, poor and helpless without any food? This is a picture of mankind. We are a company of poor sinners, in the middle of a wicked world, without strength or power to save ourselves and in great danger of dying from spiritual famine. Who is the gracious teacher who had compassion on this starving multitude in the wilderness? It is Jesus himself, always compassionate and kind, always ready to show mercy, even to the ungrateful and evil. He has not changed. The heart of man can never be satisfied with the things of this world. It is always empty and hungry and thirsty and dissatisfied until it comes to Christ. 
We absolutely cannot understand the meaning of this miracle unless we hear from John what happened the next day (John 6:4, 22).
We have a tendency to wonder where God is when things look bleak. Sometimes God’s will is not to relieve suffering and remove affliction. Jesus relieved the hunger and suffering of the 5,000 in Luke 9, however John tells us that the next morning during breakfast Jesus did not relieve their physical affliction. What was God doing? After all, they went to far greater lengths to pursue Jesus the next morning than they did the day before (getting on the boat, investigating where He was, and tracking him down).
We can fully understand what Jesus meant in John 6 by looking to Exodus 12-13. Why? It was in Exodus 12-13 that our Lord instituted Passover and The Feast of Unleavened Bread. In John 6:4, John tells us it was Passover on the day Jesus fed the 5,000. Therefore, “the next day” mentioned in John 6:22 means it was during The Feast of Unleavened Bread that Jesus refused to give them breakfast.
Like those who longed for breakfast in Luke 9, the Israelites longed for deliverance from the harsh Egyptian taskmaster. For 400 years the Israelites waited, and waited, and waited for the Lord. Finally, prior to their deliverance, the Lord instructed the Israelites, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:14-15). To be cut off from Israel meant to be killed (Leviticus 20:2-3).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the fact that they had to leave in a hurry (Exodus 12:31-34, 39). This is not a minor detail. This is the main detail regarding The Feast of Unleavened Bread. We groan, grow impatient, and struggle living in a fallen flesh in the midst of a fallen world. Leaven is a picture of sin (1 Corinthians 5). The point is this: You groan and grow impatient with this world, but deliverance is coming. However, deliverance will come unexpectedly and abruptly. Those who will be delivered are those who are forgiven from sin, as evidenced by satisfaction in Jesus regardless of life’s circumstances. In Exodus 12-13 the Lord was telling the people how to get ready for deliverance. To be dressed for departure is to be dress without leaven (holiness).
I don’t know about you, but much of the time I still feel like I am in Egypt. Much of the time I feel like I am in bondage, being beaten, in chains, and forced to bow under the whip of a cruel taskmaster. Oftentimes my hope is that this life will end and Heaven will come. I just want relief from my fight with sin. I need a break from myself.
Because of this fact, in John 6 Jesus was communicating to the crowd, “There is something you need more deeply than even food and it is me.” The crowds response was, “We only want you to deliver us. We don’t want you. We want what you can do for us. We don’t want you. What good will you do us if you will not deliver us.?” That is why Jesus calls himself the bread of life. Jesus is saying, “I am the unleavened bread that you must eat as you journey through this life into the promised land of Heaven. If you follow me for any other reason but for me myself, you will never be satisfied as you journey through this harsh and difficult world.”
My restlessness and exhaustion in this life functions to remind me that this world is not my home. I am motivated to strive for obedience and trust because of the promise of abrupt deliverance and a restful eternity. Not that sin is good, but the struggle is good because it reminds us that our hope is in the future.
From John Calvin’s Institutes:
“By our tribulations God weans us from excessive love of this present life. Whatever kind of tribulation presses upon us, we must ever look to this end: to accustom ourselves to contempt for the present life and to be aroused thereby to meditate upon the future life. For since God knows best how must we are inclined by nature to a brutish love of this world, he uses the fittest means to draw us back and to shake off our sluggishness, lest we cleave to tenaciously to that love. Then only do we rightly advance by the discipline of the cross, when we learn that this life, judged in itself, is troubled, turbulent, unhappy in countless ways and in no respect clearly happy; that all those things which are judged to be its goods are uncertain, fleeting, vain, and vitiated by many intermingled evils. From this, at the same time, we conclude that in this life we are to seek and hope for nothing but struggle. For this we must believe: that the mind is never seriously aroused to desire and ponder the life to come unless it be previously imbued with contempt for the present life.
But let believers accustom themselves to a contempt of this present life that engenders no hatred of it or ingratitude against God. Indeed, this life, however crammed with infinite miseries it may be, is still rightly to be counted among those blessings of God which are not to be spurned…
We begin in this present life, through various benefits, to taste the sweetness of the divine generosity in order to whet our hope.
Of course, this life is never to be hated except in so far as it holds us subject to sin; it is still fitting for us to be so affected either by weariness or hatred of it that, desiring its end, we may also be prepared to abide in it at the Lord’s pleasure, so that our weariness may be far from all murmuring and impatience. For it is like a sentry post at which the Lord has posted us, which we must hold until he recall us.”
From Richard Baxter’s The Saint’s Everlasting Rest:
“O my soul, do you stagger at the promises of God through unbelief? (Romans 4:20). I highly suspect you. Can God lie? Can He that is Truth itself be false? What need does God have to flatter or deceive you? Why should He promise you more than He will perform? Dare not to charge the wise, Almighty, faithful God with this! O wretched heart of unbelief, has God made you a promise of rest, and will you come short of it? But your feast, my Lord, is nothing to me without an appetite. You have set the delicacies of heaven before me; but unfortunately, I am blind and cannot see them. I am sick and cannot relish them. I am so paralyzed that I cannot put forth a hand to take them. I therefore, humbly beg this grace, that as you have opened heaven to me in Your Word, so YOU would open my eyes to see it, and my heart to delight in it. O Spirit of life, breathe your grace into me. Take me by the hand, and lift me from the earth, that may see what glory You have prepared for those who love You (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Ah, my dear Lord, though I cannot say, "My soul longs after you" (Psalm 84:2), yet I can say, "I long for such a longing heart." "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:4).”
- MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 1-5. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009.
- Ryle, J.C. Luke. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1997.