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Christ's Abundant Provision

The Gospel of Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:38
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Christ’s Abundant Provision - Luke 9:10-17

INTRO: We’re in this portion of Luke where Jesus is drawing his focused ministry in Galilee to a close and will begin his journey toward Jerusalem (9:51-19:27), still spreading the news of the kingdom along the way (in Samaria, in Bethany & Judea, and in Perea). This miracle, the only one recorded in all four gospels besides the resurrection, serves in Luke’s narrative as a climactic miracle in Galilee and an important clinching point in the minds of his disciples. After this, when asked who do YOU say that I am, Peter will answer, “The Christ (the Messiah) of God.” (9:20)
This section in Luke 9 is further tied together by the fact that Jesus is training his disciples, having sent them out in his power to preach and heal, and then bringing them back to report (no doubt to debrief and be further corrected and encouraged as they tell him how it went). Jesus continues this training by showing them that he can provide everything they need as they serve him… and more than that, he himself will be the provision for mankind’s greatest need. Soon hereafter Jesus begins telling them how it is that he will provide (through his death and resurrection), and what it will take for them to follow him in this same kind of sacrificial service for the salvation of others.
So that gives you an overview toward some of what we’re going to get into today. Let’s look first at what sets up the miracle.

Setting (vv. 10-11): It’s tough to rest when the needs keep coming.

We read here in v. 10b that he took them apart and headed to the region of Bethsaida. From parallel texts we see more readily that the goal of this getting away from the crowds was for the sake of trying to have a chance to rest. With all the ministry going on, it had been difficult to even get in a good meal (Mk. 6:31). So they jumped in a boat to sail over to Bethsaida, what we believe is the northeast side of the lake, but the brief time in the boat proved to be the only rest they were gonna get. Where Luke explains that the crowd followed them (which of course is accurate), Mark also tells us that some of crowd overheard where they were going and went ahead on foot, even beating them to their destination (Mk. 6:33).
But instead of showing frustration, Jesus responds with compassion (the word used in Mt. & Mk.), welcoming them (here in Luke). He jumps right back into teaching and healing.
From practical experience in our daily lives, we sometimes can relate to the difficulty of getting rest. My mind goes straight to moms (and dads) with little kids. You had just finished feeding everybody, then jumped straight into folding the laundry while also going over homework with one of the kids. Right when you complete those tasks and finally drop on the couch to put your feet up for just five minutes, a little voice calls, “Mommy, I went poo-poo.” Right? Caring for and discipling our children is one of those areas where a balance of enough rest to continue in sacrificial service can be hard to come by.
In all of life, and especially in ministry to others, is there any rest for the weary? First of all, we must find our rest in God even when physical and emotional rest isn’t readily within our grasp. And of course we need to be wise enough to have rhythms of rest to cover the norm. - But there’s also an application of priority for Jesus’ disciples to learn here, that serves as a balance to our need for rest. What is ultimately more important, being able to continue longer in rest, or compassion? While cycles of rest are critical, which is how God has made us, what we ought to notice here is that in this short life we have to live, we must prioritize compassion over comfort, and kingdom advance over (extra) R&R.
As we aim to emulate Christ, we must learn that compassion trumps comfort. We obviously need rest to continue, but it is for the purpose of getting back in the gospel advance race as soon as possible.
So when rest is hard to come by, and when provisions for serving others are in short supply, we must know where to turn. That’s the second thing that becomes plain in our text for today. Jesus trains the disciples to look to him for provision in ministry.
And I want you to notice something else as we go (and this is fun): We see in this miracle echoes of the gospel itself. Perhaps some of you will spot it right away as you survey an outline of the remaining elements of the passage: An Insurmountable Problem, The Disciples’ Inability, and Jesus’ Abundant Provision (...Critical elements of the gospel portrayed in this miracle!) - On the heals of this miracle and Peter’s confession, Jesus will go on to explain that, while they (his disciples) are in fact coming to believe that he is indeed the Messiah (vv. 18-20), the kind of provision he is going to make is different from their expectation. He will be rejected, killed, and then rise again. Through that act of self-sacrifice and demonstration of power and authority over sin and death, Jesus (by his death) provides substitutionary atonement for sin and God’s righteous wrath, and (through his life) provides spiritual life and restoration to God!
But I’m excitedly getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the problem they face and the disciples’ recognition of their inability to meet the need.

Problem & Inability (vv. 12-13): How can we possibly provide for this insurmountable need?

Here’s what the disciples suggest as they survey the situation: It’s getting late in the day. Before night falls, we better disperse the crowd to go find food and lodging in nearby towns and villages. This crowd of approximately 5000 men does not even include women and children, which Matt. states specifically (Mt. 14:21). 10-20 thousand people is a lot of mouths to feed, a lot of stomachs to fill. - One background commentary adds that “Even the larger towns would have under three thousand inhabitants; [so] feeding the crowd [even] in the villages would have been difficult.” -Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Lk 9:10–12.
The disciples express that they don’t have what it takes to meet the need. - This is not surprising. In fact, Jesus draws attention to it on purpose. Here in Luke, he says, “YOU give them something to eat.” (the “you” is emphatic) Their response: We quite simply don’t have enough.
Luke’s account is abbreviated, though. - In John 6 we learn that he’s testing them on purpose (Jn 6:6), so he asks Philip: (paraphrase) Philip, you’re from around here (Bethsaida). What do you say? Where might we buy food for all these people (Jn 6:5)? Philip responds: Um, it’s not so much a matter of where but of how much! Even 200 denarii (7 months’ basic/average wages) wouldn’t buy enough food for this many people to have even a little! (Jn 6:7) - In other words, we can’t possibly come up with enough. We’ve got nothing. - Well, next to nothing, chimes in Andrew… 5 loaves and 2 fish. (Jn 6:8) Thx kid.
Jesus is teaching them a lesson. With all that they’ve seen him do, not one of them thinks of asking him to make provision. Even though they don’t ask, that doesn’t stop him. He’ll allow them to minister to this multitude of people through his own provision.

Provision (vv. 14-17): Jesus miraculously multiplies bread and fish—enough to abundantly satisfy the need.

So with a crowd of somewhere between 10-20 thousand people, Jesus has the disciples sit them down into groups of “about fifty” (probably fifty men/households), creating about 100 or so such groups. No doubt this simply made organization and distribution manageable and orderly. - BTW, even if only the twelve worked in serving the bread & fish, that would give them each around 8-12 groups perhaps to whom they needed to serve with food—busy but manageable.
Here’s a little point we might miss if we aren’t attentive: “the disciples’ obedience precedes understanding” -ESV Study Bible - Faith is far from devoid of all reason and understanding, but faith is exactly this, trusting that God knows better than we do. (My reasoning then says, “it is better to trust in God; his ways are better. I will obey even when I can’t see the big picture he sees.”
Now, Jesus takes what little they have, and he does what Jews would normally do before a meal: He looks toward heaven and says a blessing, meaning that he blesses God, thanks the Father for his provision. (Because of verbal similarities, some make a connection here to the last supper, but I believe that is pressing too much upon Luke’s intention here.) - Everything begins so normally, like an ordinary meal… but instead of food for a handful of people, in Jesus’ hands it will produce food for thousands!
How does this food multiply? We might picture it multiplying in the baskets as the disciples distribute it, but it may be more likely that it is multiplying in Jesus’ hands as he gives it to them for distribution. Darrell Bock points out that the imperfect tense of the verb translated “gave” means more the idea that “he continued to give.” - The disciples keep coming back to Jesus to refill their baskets for another group! If this is correct, it serves to enhance the object lesson even more for the disciples; they must keep going back to Jesus for provision to minister to these people.
Wow, this is so good for me—Keep coming back to Jesus to be sustained in ministry: for rest and comfort, for discipline and correction, for strength and courage.
And hey, how much was supplied? What was the extent of the provision? The synoptics all state that everyone ate and was satisfied, and John clarifies this way: “…as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill,” that’s when Jesus told them to gather up the leftovers, that there also wouldn’t be any waste. And while we don’t want to make more of it than it is, it’s pretty convenient that there were twelve baskets left over, that the twelve (and Jesus!) could yet eat as well, or save it for a later one if they had already eaten now.
Anyway, Jesus is training his disciples that he is the source of provision for them to sustain ministry in his name. He will be what is needed, and he will supply what is needed… abundantly! And he will take care of their needs as well.
[Conclusion] Now many of you actively listening today are already making application, thinking ahead to how you ought to apply this truth Jesus is training into the lives of his disciples. Allow me, though, to make some final observations about our responses, to ensure that I’m doing what little I can to challenge each of us to let the truth change us.
Personal Response: Jesus made provision for your deepest need and greatest longing. Life’s very purpose, the meaning of your existence, is found in being made right with God through faith in Jesus.
When faced with insurmountable numbers—the sinners are too many, or the debt is too big, the sin is too great—God makes abundant provision in Christ. Yes we are faced with our inability. In fact, even as our hunger teaches us our need for food, so the law teaches us our need for Christ. Our sin is exposed so that we will perceive our need and our inability to meet that need. Then God provides Jesus to be the only provision sufficient for the need. By his perfect obedience and sacrificial death and resurrection life, Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and restoration to God.
Today is an opportunity to respond to God’s offer of salvation in Jesus. But you should understand that he’s not calling you to something easy. Jesus calls you to forsake every effort to be right with God in your own eyes, or by earning it on your own somehow … and instead to trust only in Jesus to make you right with God. That’s what faith in Jesus means. And Jesus calls you to reject everything you love in this world more than God (bc every other love must come under obedience to loving God first)… and to find meaning and fulfillment in belonging to God and being used by him for his glory. That’s what it is to be a follower of Jesus.
Church Response: We know personally the One who provides for humanity’s need. Stay focused on compassion and train hard to share the wealth of his abundant grace.
Much of the American church seems to have lost sight of something that we want to be sure we do not to fall prey to: Gathering together consistently as God’s people is not for playdates. What we are doing is training for battle. (Mission focus and mission readiness… to go from here and put into practice what Christ has told us.) Some seem to continue thinking that only a select few of us are in full-time ministry. But all of Jesus’ followers are set apart and sent—set apart to lead lives of holiness (based on the character of our Father) and sent to be Christ’s ambassadors, to bear fruit, to be scatterers of the seed of the gospel. Jesus is the ONLY one sufficient for humanity’s need, and we’re the ones who know it. We’re the ones who have been set apart to him and sent for this task. We’re the ones he has empowered with the Holy Spirit for this witness.
Let’s be the church. Let’s rub shoulders with each other in accountability to one another and service together so that we don’t get sidetracked by complacency and comfort.
Church Response: Depend on his provision to sustain ministry in his name.
God abundantly provided grace to us in Jesus Christ; draw near to him for rest and comfort, for discipline and correction, for courage and strength to be the sons and daughters he has called us to be. And let’s put on our boots for battle and step out in faith to spread the news, knowing that he is sufficient to continue sustaining us, and sufficient to accomplish in others what he has accomplished in us.
You know what I love about studying miracles in the Bible? What a reminder they are to us of the tension we live in as people who recognize the sovereignty and power of God! God often uses ordinary means, but he is not constrained by them. What a reminder to us, for example, that... Every changed heart—every sin-soaked soul that goes from rebellious and dead to being made alive and repentant, desiring to love God and obey him—is a miraculous intervention from God.
LET’S PRAY. Lord, you have graciously taught us that the Christian life is not about comfort nor is it about hype. But you know we need constant reminders and greater clarity of our motivation and strength to live consistently as the children you have called us to be. We pray today for your true church around the world to grow in faithfulness to that aim. And we pray especially for our church family to be faithful in this community, in the opportunities you have given, and wherever you might lead or send us. May we rest in you, strive to know you and love you more, and to reflect your character and to spread the story of your abundant provision for our need in Jesus Christ. We pray these things knowing that it is your will to glorify yourself in our hearts and in our active obedience, Amen.
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