Grace For The Journey
It is popular to speak of our Christian life as a journey. If we are followers of Christ, then we are on a journey of following Him. We use terms like my “walk” in the Lord. Paul frequently used the term “race” for the journey. He said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have finished the race.” Today’s study will give us two very practical helps this week for the journey; two encouraging challenges as you and I continue to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). These challenges surface from our study of the nine verses in the beginning of Luke 9. First, I have developed a very simple descriptive outline of this passage. These three words will help us understand the flow of this text. The first word is . . .
I. Authority – Verses 1-2.
We have been reading about the authority and power of Jesus ever since verse 22 of Luke, chapter 8. We read of Christ’s authority over danger, demons, disease, and death. Beginning in Chapter 9 we have Jesus delegating that authority to His disciples. You see that in verse 1, “Then Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.” This power and authority of Jesus is now given to the disciples to use on their journey. What is their journey? Verse 2 tells us, “He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” If you jump down to verse 6 you will see that they do this, “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”
There are three verbs used to describe the actions of Jesus in verses 1-2: The Bible says Jesus “called,” that He “gave,” and that He “sent” the disciples. Do you see that in verses one and two? He called, gave, and sent. This is how God operates in the Old Testament, calling His people out of the land of Egypt, giving them the power of His presence and provision, and then sending them into the Promised Land. God calls, gives, and sends. Jesus is God and so we are not surprised to read here of His calling, giving, and sending. The journey that Christ sends His disciples on here is a missionary journey. He gives them power and authority to cast out demons and to heal the sick and to preach the Kingdom of God to the people of the surrounding towns there in Galilee.
The Kingdom of God is not a place. It is not so much identified as a place as it is a Person. The Kingdom of God refers to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus will say in the next chapter, in Luke 10:11, “The Kingdom of God has come near you.” We enter the Kingdom of God by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When Christ returns, He will set up His literal Kingdom on earth. That is why we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Luke 11:2). Until then we must understand the phrase “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven,” as Matthew calls it, as largely the rule and reign of Christ.
Now it is helpful to think of this particular journey in Luke 9 as a “Dress Rehearsal” for a later journey. The empowerment Christ gives here to His disciples is for only the duration of this particular mission. The disciples are getting a taste of what Christ will call them to do globally in Luke 24 and Acts 1. The power and authority they receive now for this limited, present journey will be given completely at a later time as Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” These directives to the disciples were applicable only to them for this journey, but of course, there are wider principles universally true and applicable to us today as we will see in a moment. For now, the word “Authority.”
The second word is . . .
II. Dependence – Verses 3-6.
The disciples were not to take much with them for this journey. They were told in verse 3, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag (like a knapsack with extra food and stuff), nor bread, not money; and do not have two tunics apiece (as in a spare jacket).” One mission team had a member who packed simply for the journey. He put everything he needed for their 12 day mission trip journey packed into one single backpack! Not that is simplicity! In Verse 4 Jesus states, “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.” The point here is that the disciples were not to be moving about, seeking to better their situation by moving from one house to the next, seeking better housing if it became available later. They were not to upgrade! All of this speaks to the matter of simplicity. But do not think that is the main teaching about what Jesus is teaching His disciples.
Among other things, Jesus is surely teaching about the disciples’ trust in Him to meet their needs. It is very significant that Jesus later brings this up in Luke 22:35, where He asks the disciples, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything? And they said, ‘Nothing.’” Jesus is teaching them to trust in Him to meet their needs, just as Jesus wants us to trust Him to meet our needs. What are you worried about right now? Trust Jesus to provide for you. He will take care of your every need.
Verse 5 describes what the disciples were to do when they encountered opposition. Some would be inhospitable and would not want to receive the disciples into their homes nor would they be interested in the message, the preaching of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. So, Jesus says, “When you leave that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” This was a symbolic statement that said, “We do not even want the dirt from your town to remain with us when we leave.” Paul and Barnabas did this later in Acts 13:51 when they were leaving Antioch.
This verse reminds us that many people will not want to hear our message about Christ. We should not be surprised by opposition nor discouraged by it. Remember that when you are teaching Sunday school or sharing your testimony or making visits. JC Ryle says, “Christ does not despise His laborers [if] little of the seed they sow bears fruit. The harvest may be small, but every laborer shall be rewarded according to his work.” They are simply to go through all the towns preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere (verse 6). This leads to the final word I wrote down.
We go from authority to simplicity to . . .
III. Perplexity – Verses 7-9.
These verses describe the impact of the disciples’ preaching upon one particular person – King Herod. The preaching of the disciples in the preceding verses, their going throughout the towns of Galilee and talking about Jesus and the Kingdom of God, gets to Herod and verse 7 describes Herod as “perplexed.” You will remember that Herod had ordered the death of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the one who was preparing the way for the Messiah. You can read about it later in Matthew 14. The reason we recall Herod’s killing John the Baptist is because of what we read in verse 7 and following. Verse 7 says, “Now Herod the tetrarch (tetrarch is a phrase that means one of four rulers) heard of all that was done by Him.” He heard about all that was done by Jesus and, “he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead.” That is what some were saying. What were others saying? Verse 8 tells us, “And by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again.” There was all of this talk about Jesus. They wondered Who He was and rather or not He was the promised Messiah. The people of God were looking for the Messiah and they knew that the forerunner would come first. In Malachi 4:5 Elijah is prophesied to come again and make way for Christ. Some believed Christ was Elijah. Others believed John the Baptist had come back in the person of Christ. Herod is perplexed. This is why he says in verse 9, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” Herod is like, “I know John is dead. I ordered his death so I know this person cannot be John the Baptist, but who is He?” That really is the question each of us needs to answer – “Who is Jesus?” Jesus Himself will ask that question of His own disciples a little later in Luke 9:20, “Who do you say that I am?”
The latter part of verse 9 says that Herod “sought to see Him.” He sought to see Christ not because he was interested in following Christ, but either to see him perform some miracle (Luke 23:8) or to kill Him (Luke 13:31). Herod himself was a king and he was threatened by this message of the Kingdom “of God.”
I said earlier that these instructions to Jesus’ disciples were applicable only to them for this particular journey. And I said that there are some wider principles that are universally true and applicable to us today. So let me give you two of these principles, two very practical helps this week for the journey; two encouraging challenges as you and I continue to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
First . . .
1) Live Every Day In The Power Of Christ.
The power that Christ gives His disciples in verse 1 is that same power that Christ gives to you and me today. This is what Jesus refers to in Acts 1:8 when He said, “You shall receive power.” Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20 that, “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” We must live every day in the power of Christ. You want to have strength in the journey? Live every day in the power of Christ. It is not your power. It is His power working through you. Jesus Christ has all power and authority over everything. He says to us, His followers, “I’m giving you this power. You live every day in this power derived from Me. It is a power that works in you and through you.”
In the immediate context, this is a power to proclaim the Good News, to share the Gospel with others. This is how we are able to talk to other people about Jesus. You can witness. Do not ever say you cannot. It is not, “I can’t.” It is, “I won’t.” We won’t or we don’t often for fear, fear of what others will think or say or do. But Jesus says, “I’m giving you power to witness, so use it!” You can talk to your neighbor this week about your faith in Jesus Christ. How? By the power of Christ. You can tell that person you work with about Jesus? How? By the power of Christ. You can talk to your friend about Jesus. How? By the power of Christ. Live every day in the power of Christ.
This power of Christ equips us not only to witness, but to do mission work, to teach others, to encourage and bless others, and to build up the kingdom. This power equips us to battle temptation and sin. But you and I need to avail ourselves to the power. The reason most of us do not live every day in the power of Christ is because we choose not to. Think of the power of Christ like an electric appliance. The only way to run a refrigerator, for example, is to plug it in to the power source. If you unplug it, power or no power? No power. And many Christians say, “Man, I want to defeat this temptation, but I just keep losing.” We need to understand that every time we sin we make a conscious choice to unplug ourselves from the power of Christ. You want to have power for daily living, you have got to be continually filled with Christ power.
That is why growing in our faith and knowledge of Christ matters. We should have the desire that the Bible talks about in Ephesians 3:10 where it says, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection . . .” That is why worship is important, the regular reading of the Bible is important, and daily prayer and sharing of the Word is important. These things make us strong for daily living. They keep us empowered to run the race on the journey for Jesus. Live every day in the power of Christ.
Number two . . .
2) Love Nothing More Than The Person Of Christ.
Jesus was teaching the disciples about simplicity on this journey. He says in verse 3, “Take nothing for the journey.” We noted earlier in our study that one of the reasons was to teach them to trust in Him to meet their needs. But there is also here a warning against worldliness, a warning against accumulating a lot of clutter and things and stuff along the journey. We must take care to not fill our lives with things that become more important to us than Jesus Christ. We must love nothing more than we love the person of Jesus Christ.
These disciples were going around proclaiming the Kingdom of God. That is, they were telling others about the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. To live for the Kingdom of God is to say, “Jesus Christ is my everything!” If you are going to go around telling people that Jesus is your everything then you had better look like you believe it. You need to show that you love nothing more than you love Jesus. So “take nothing for the journey.” Someone has well said, “If you are in this thing for what you can get out of it, people will not believe you really love the Lord.”
You need to show that you love Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God more than you love your family, your house, your clothing, and your things. You need to show that you love Jesus Christ and the advancement of the Kingdom of God on the mission field more than you love the comforts of ease and luxury. Like disciples shaking the dust from their feet we need to say, “I regard this present world as nothing but dust and dirt and I don’t want any of it clinging to me!” Herod was a king who loved his kingdom. I wonder whether we love the kingdom of this world more than we love the Kingdom of God.
Preaching is to be about Kingdom of God, living under the Lordship of Christ, about living for our King Jesus. Preaching is not to be primarily about how our lives can improve in this world, how things can be made better, how we can become a better employee, have a better job, how to be happy, how to have a better love life, or whatever. The message is not “the kingdom of this world,” but, the “Kingdom of God.”
I read this the other day in my quiet time: Jerry Bridges, “We need to get beyond the ‘how-tos’ of Scripture – how to raise children, manage finances, witness to unbelievers – and all other such utilitarian approaches to Scripture. Such practical instruction is indeed valuable, but we need to go beyond that. Our practical age has come to disparage a firm doctrinal understanding of Scripture as being of no practical value. But there’s nothing more practical for our daily lives than knowing God. Only in Scripture has God revealed to us the truth about His person and His character.” Love nothing more than the Person of Christ.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”