Mar 31 2013 - Luke 9:7-27 – Who is this man?
The feeding of the five thousand is one of the best-known miracles of Jesus. In Luke's gospel it is sandwiched between two sections concerning the identity of Jesus. In the verses immediately preceding this miracle, Luke records Herod's puzzlement as he hears news of what Jesus is doing. Some are saying that this must be John raised from the dead, others that Elijah has appeared and others that another of the ancient prophets has been raised back to life. Herod is perplexed. He knows that he had John beheaded; who then is this man? (Luke 9:9)
Immediately after the feeding of the five thousand, Luke records a private conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asks them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" (9:18). The same list is repeated: "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." Jesus then asks them what they think, prompting Peter's reply that Jesus is the Messiah (9:20). He is the Christ of God, the one through whom God will establish his kingdom in the earth.
The miraculous feeding of the five thousand is evidently seen by Luke as vital evidence, demonstrating who Jesus truly is. He is the prophet Moses promised that God would raise up in his place – the one who has succeeded him in feeding God’s people in desert places. But Jesus is far greater than Moses, for the food he provides comes from his own hand rather than dropping from heaven. Through Elijah, God had provided food for the widow of Zarephath and her son, but Jesus provides food for thousands; for all who come to him. He is greater than John who preached and baptised in the desert preparing people for the one who was to come. Jesus is the one who was to come. He is the promised Messiah, the one who will save, lead and provide for his people.
But following Jesus is not a perpetual picnic. Jesus warns that he is on his way to the cross and adds, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Jesus wants us to be clear not only about his identity but also concerning the character of Christian discipleship. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we are to act upon that knowledge. It is not enough to confess that he is the Christ; we must live in submission to him as glad citizens of his kingdom. The cross-shaped pattern of our lives is to make the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ visible to those around us.
Jesus has a habit of expressing these things in the starkest of terms: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (9:26); “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (9:27). Jesus leaves no room for us to hide behind platitudes and excuses. He calls for willing, wholehearted and joyful discipleship.
Lord Jesus, help me to understand more of who you are and what you have done for me that I may be filled with joy and peace in believing. Help me also to understand what it means to follow you and to follow gladly rather than turning back or dragging my feet. Keep me from half-hearted discipleship and help me never to be ashamed of you but to speak often of you and, by my actions also, make your kingdom visible in all its beauty and glory.