1. Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.
At this time, the Lord calls His twelve disciples together. Remember, He had many more than twelve disciples, but these were those whom He had chosen, and whom He had named as apostles, as we saw in Luke 6:13. Now, it is these twelve that He calls together, and gives them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. The word “power” here is dunamin in Greek, and indicates inherent power, whereas “authority” is exousian, and indicates power given by another. We could put this that they had the Lord’s power, and they had His permission and blessing to use it.
It is interesting to note here that this power and authority was to extend throughout their mission while they were away from Christ, and would return to Him once they had completed their journey and returned to Him. Thus for them to attempt to cast out a demon after this power and authority was removed would be a lack of faith. This power and authority was only given for the specific mission Christ was sending them on at that time, and a new commission would be necessary before they could execute that power again after this time. The disciples did not receive this power permanently or by right, but only as long as the Lord saw fit to give it to them. This is because this power was did not come from them, but belonged ultimately to the Lord.
2. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Having given them this authority, He now sends them on a mission to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick, using the power they now had. The word “sent” here is the Greek word apostello, which means to send with authority or commission. They had God’s commission now to preach the things they were going to preach and to heal the sick they were going to heal. To “preach” the kingdom of God here means to proclaim it or to herald it. As we learn in Matthew, their message was to be, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 10:7) They were not to pad their message with a lot of other words and clever illustrations and so forth. Their message was to be simple, and to be backed up only by the miracles that they did, the miracles that foreshadowed the absolute health to be enjoyed at the time when God’s government at last appears in full force upon the earth.
3. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.
He was sending them on this journey in a very strange way. He commanded them to take nothing extra with them, such as one might typically bring with him on a journey. This would normally be a very foolish thing to do, but they had the Lord’s blessing upon them and they could know that as long as they obeyed His instructions they would be cared for. They would lack for nothing as long as they acted in faith.
A staff, or what we would call a “walking stick,” was very important in a journey at that time. Traveling was all done on foot, and a staff was a valuable tool on the road, both to aid in walking, to help in climbing over obstacles and moving debris, and even as a weapon were one to encounter wild animals on the road. A staff might have been standard equipment for many when traveling in that day, yet they were not to avail themselves of this precaution.
The “bag” was a sack. It may have been what they used to carry provisions in. This kind of bag could also be used as a begging bag. Yet the disciples were not supposed to carry provisions with them, nor were they to beg for what they needed on the road. All avenues were closed to them except for complete trust in God. We should note, however, that social customs in Israel almost demanded that one take in any traveler and provide for his needs. This was partially because there was so much less travel in those days, and so this could be done. Travelers were also one of the only sources of news a town might have, and so oftentimes people would want to take travelers in so they could learn what was happening in other places. Therefore these men did have ways in which they could be taken care of.
They were not supposed to take bread. Bread was a staple of their diet at that time, and it is used here for any kind of food. They also were not to take any money, which would pretty much be considered a necessity for anyone traveling, even as it is today. And finally they were not to take any extra clothing. They were traveling with basically the clothes on their backs and nothing else. Needless to say, this was not the normal way of doing things. Yet God was with them, and they could be assured that this would be all right.
It is important to note that this only applied to these disciples and this commission. If anyone was to attempt to follow these instructions today, and there are those that do this, he would find that this is a disastrous policy. Those who try this fail to notice that Christ Himself reversed these instructions to these very same men later on (Luke 22:35-38.)
4. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
In those days, a Jewish traveler entering a town would be a great event for the other Jews of the town. Since travelers were the main source of news to people in that day, the custom was that an unhurried traveler, upon arriving in a town, would stay night after night in each one of the houses of those who lived there, going from house to house. This way, all could share in entertaining him, and he could tell each family in turn any news he might have of their friends and relatives in other places. This was the custom, yet these disciples were not to follow this custom. Instead, they were to enter one house, and merely stay there, not departing to another house the next night. This was unusual, but when it was done it was a sign of great haste. This was to show that the mission the Lord was sending them on was urgent.
5. “And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”
If any would refuse to receive these disciples as they came, the Lord gave them a testimony to make against them. Upon leaving that city, they were to shake off the very dust from their feet, as if they did not even want to carry the dust of that city away with them. This was a sign, and the Lord gave these men great power in letting them do this. As we read in Matthew 10:15, the Lord told them, “Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” The power the Lord gave these men was indeed great: power to decide the fates of cities and individuals in the day of judgment.
6. So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
Having received their orders, the disciples departed, and we read that they were obedient and did exactly as the Lord had commanded them. It was only these twelve disciples who could have thus been obedient. Anyone else who had taken upon himself to do this task would not have been in obedience, for this commandment was never given to him. Powerful commissions like this are only for those to whom they are given. We must not deceive ourselves by attempting to take this upon ourselves today.
7. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead,
Meanwhile, as the twelve apostles are on their mission, Herod the tetrarch hears of all that is being done by the Lord Jesus. He is perplexed by this, particularly because he hears a rumor that Jesus Christ is actually John the Baptizer risen from the dead. Herod had been the one who executed him, but even though he had put John to death, Herod knew that John had truly been sent from God. Thus Herod’s guilty conscience was quick to believe the superstitious tales that he heard of Christ. If John was risen from the dead, he could see no way out of being called to account for what he had done to him.
8. And by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again.
Besides the rumor that the Lord was John the Baptist, many other rumors were going around as to Who exactly He might be. This shows us how little knowledge most people had of just Who and what the Lord Jesus Christ was. This was not really their fault, for God was not yet revealing to Israel just Who the Lord Jesus was. He was keeping this quiet, and the Lord was heralding God’s kingdom rather than heralding Himself. Since they had not been told Who the Lord Jesus was, we cannot really blame these people for being confused, and for speculating.
Some thought the Lord might be Elijah having appeared on earth. Elijah was perhaps the greatest of the prophets prior to John the Baptist. We can read about his life and ministry in I Kings 17 to II Kings 2. Elijah was unique in that he did not die, as other men do. Instead, he had disappeared into heaven in a whirlwind, as we read in II Kings 2. This had happened many hundreds of years before this time, yet the Bible reveals to us that Elijah will come again to earth someday, for God will send him back, as is declared in Malachi 4:5-6. Thus this rumor was not totally ridiculous, but had a good foundation in truth, although ultimately it was wrong.
Others thought that the Lord was one of the old prophets risen again from the dead. This rumor was just wild conjecture, since there is no indication in the Bible of any prophet rising before that great day of resurrection when all Israel will be taken out of their graves and gathered back to their land, as God promises will someday occur in Ezekiel 37.
9. Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him.
Herod is now greatly curious as to Who the Lord might be. Thus, he seeks to gain an audience with Him. This desire of Herod’s was foiled by our Lord, and he would not get to see Jesus Christ until it was time for His crucifixion. The Lord had more important things to do than to satisfy the curiosity of this wicked old usurper.
10. And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
The apostles now return from their mission. Other than the fact that the Lord gave them this mission, and that they went out, obeyed Him, and did it, we really know nothing else about this time. What might have happened to these twelve on their journey? What did they see, and how did people respond to their message? What cities rejected them, as the Lord said they might, and what cities did they shake off the dust of their feet against them? How long were they on this journey, and how much time passed between the time the Lord sent them out, and the time they were gathered back to Him? We do not know the answer to any of these questions, and we have really no basis upon which to speculate. All we know is that they were sent out, and then came back to Him and reported all that they had done.
Now the Lord takes them and goes aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city of Bethsaida. It may be that the Lord realized that these men needed rest after completing their long and difficult task. Perhaps He also had other things He wanted to share with them in private.
11. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.
The multitudes discovered what the Lord had done, and they followed Him. The Lord always had many followers who were eager to see Him, to be healed by Him, and to hear His words. He never lacked for crowds to hear Him. He was not the rejected outcast that many try to make Him out to be.
Christ did not send these seekers away even when they invaded His solitude. Even His Own weariness and that of His disciples could not stop His compassion for those in need. Thus, He received them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. He was explaining to them God’s great government that yet will come upon the earth. As He did so, He healed those who had need of healing. There was no question of whether or not they had faith. All He looked for was need. This was a demonstration of the way things will be when God’s government comes to earth. It will come bringing a gift of perfect health and healing to all people upon earth. The Lord was demonstrating this fact to these people by performing these healings. We might say that He was heralding the kingdom of God and passing out samples.
12. When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”
Now the day has begun to wear away, and the disciples become concerned that the people will have no food to sustain them. Thus, they come to the Lord and urge Him to send them away so that they can find a place to stay and food to eat in the surrounding towns and country. They realize that there is nowhere for them to get these things where they are, for they were in a deserted place. It may well be that the twelve generally had charge of providing food for the Lord and His disciples. We see them doing that in John 4, while the Lord Jesus waited for them by the well. Now, they are overwhelmed by the thought of all these people, and the fact that they have no way to provide for them.
13. But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.”
The Lord does not agree with their suggestion. Instead, He gives them a command, and tells them to give the people something to eat. The disciples did not have enough food to feed this multitude, but now they have a command from the Lord. If they have faith in this command, the Lord will give them to power to obey it. Had they been willing to believe, they could have taken the food that they had and divided it to the people, and that food would have multiplied in their hands to feed them all, even as it did in the hands of the Lord. Yet the disciples do not have the faith, and so they do not do this. Instead, all they can see is the size of the crowd and the impossibility of the task from a human standpoint, rather than considering the Lord Who had given them the order.
The disciples protest that all they have is five loaves and two fish. Yet this was actually even less than we might think. From John 6:8, we learn that this was actually a boy’s lunch. These loaves were not what we would think of as five big loaves like we would buy from the store. Instead, these were tiny things, what we might call biscuits. Nor were these fish the larger fish we might buy to feed a family a meal. Instead, these were tiny fish like sardines. The disciples look at this meager amount of food, and they cannot imagine it feeding all the people who were there. They were reckoning using reason, but they were leaving the power of the Lord out of the equation.
14. For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.”
We learn now the actual size of this crowd, and it was a large one indeed. The number five thousand only includes men, so with a woman for each man and who knows how many children, there were likely many more than ten thousand people there. Yet what is this to the Lord?
Now, the Lord wishes to work His miracle in an orderly fashion, and thus He has this great multitude sit down in groups of fifty. Probably this is how the disciples got such an accurate count of them, since it was relatively easy to count these groups of fifty. We should note this orderly arrangement, as God’s future, prophesied miracles will take place in an orderly manner, just as this one did.
15. And they did so, and made them all sit down.
So the disciples obey this command of the Lord’s, at least, and make all the people sit down in these groups. They were willing to obey the possible tasks. They yet needed more faith in order to perform the impossible ones.
16. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.
Now the Lord takes the five loaves and the two fish that are the material He is going to use to perform this powerful sign. He is going to work Himself the miracle that His disciples should have done if they had had enough faith. Yet before He does so, He looks up to heaven. Heaven here is singular, which is unusual. This means that He looked up to the Heaven, either meaning that He looked up to the sky, or more importantly to God, who is “The Heaven,” and spoke to God. Notice His prayer preceding the miracle was not a prayer for the power to work this miracle, as He already had that, but rather a blessing on the food, as in Luke 24: 30. This habit of blessing the food before the meal is the origin of our tradition of “blessing” the food by praying before we eat. This is certainly not a bad thing that we emulate our Lord in this. Notice also I Timothy 4:5, which tells us that food is sanctified “by the word of God and prayer.” When He blesses the food, in the Greek he eulogesen “eulogizes” or speaks well of it to God. It is good when we speak well of the food God has provided for us before a meal. It is even better when we speak well of the food during the meal, rather than complaining about the things that we feel do not meet up to our refined standards.
Then, the Lord takes the food and breaks it. The dry fish would break, as would the unleavened loaves, for these were not nice, puffy things like we make today. Then, He takes this food and gives it to the disciples to set it before the multitude. Imagine how this must have appeared to an observer! Here was this source food, barely enough even to break once to begin with, and yet here is the Lord breaking off pieces and giving them to the disciples until they can feed an entire multitude with them! What a miracle this was, and what a demonstration of God’s power indeed!
17. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.
Now all have eaten until they were filled. These were poor people, and most of them were probably used to eating barely enough to stave off the edge of their hunger. For many of them, it could have been a long time since they had actually eaten until they were full. Yet these had now all eaten until they were filled, and still the food was not used up. The leftover fragments were gathered up, and filled twelve baskets. All this came from a meal that originally would not have even filled one basket with food! This was a miracle indeed, and by it the Lord both proved His power and His worthiness to be the King of the coming kingdom.
18. And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Now the Lord gets the solitude that He had desired, and He spends His time praying. His disciples join Him, and He asks them a question. He wishes to know Who the crowds are saying that He is?
19. So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.”
The disciples had heard the same rumors that Herod had, and repeat them for Jesus. This is what the people were thinking, and yet it was entirely wrong. Do not forget, however, that the people didn’t have much to go on, since no one had yet told them Who the Lord was. This was not His message at this time, or the message of those who were sent out by Him. Instead, all preached the kingdom, not the King.
20. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”
Hearing what the people thought, the Lord now wants to know what the disciples think. Whom do they say that He is? They had been with Him for a long time, had seen all His work, and had seen how He lived. What did they think about Who He was?
Peter speaks up and answers for all the disciples. They knew what the crowds did not. These things had been revealed to them by God, for they had not been told them either. But Peter expresses his belief, which was the belief of all the twelve except for Judas Iscariot, that Jesus was the Messiah (or Christ.) Of course, this was the truth. The Lord was far more than John, or Elijah, or any prophet. He was God’s Anointed One, sent to be the Savior of the world. It is through Him that all God’s promises will be fulfilled. It is through Him that God’s government will come to this earth at last, and all things that are wrong with this world at last will be made right.
21. And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one,
In spite of what many think, it was not the Lord’s desire that the common people at this time would know that He was the Messiah or recognize Him as such. Thus He commanded the disciples not to make Him known to anyone. They knew Who He was, but now all testimony on their part is stopped. They cannot tell what they know to others. This would wait until a future day, when it would be God’s will to announce to Israel Who this One Who had walked among them really was. This would not take place, however, until He had been crucified and had risen from the dead.
22. Saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Now, for the first time in Luke, the Lord reveals to them what must soon take place. He explains to them that before He will ever save the world, first He must suffer many things, be rejected, be killed, and be raised from the dead the third day. Only then could the truth about Him be widely known.
Notice who it was who would reject the Lord Jesus. It was not the common people, who always heard Him gladly. It was not the multitudes who crowded to Him for teaching and healing. Rather, it was the elders and the chief priests and the scribes. These men were Israel’s leaders, but they were the ones who were so jealous of the Lord’s power and popularity, and who worked so deviously against Him. It is simply wrong to assign this rejection to the common people of Israel. They were not two-faced about this. His rejection was on the part of the religious leaders, not the Israelite people in general.