Making a Difference
I was recently provided with a passage to speak on at a church for a Sunday morning service. The passage was Luke 9:1-17. It was an interesting exercise as this passage speaks first about Jesus sending out the twelve to minister in his name, using his power and authority and then the feeding of the 5,000.
Luke clearly links these events together with an interesting aside, that when Herod heard about all that was going on, that is the ministry of Jesus and his disciples, he wanted to get to see Jesus.
But what was the point of Jesus sending these twelve out on what amounted to be a ‘short-term mission’, albeit, with the promise of his power and authority to “drive out all demons and to cure diseases” and “to preach the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:1 & 2)? It seems this investment of power and authority was, at that stage, only for a limited period. Before the end of the passage, we see that the disciples were unable to deliver a boy afflicted by an evil spirit. Yet, after their return from this ‘short-term mission’, Jesus and his disciples were confronted by a crowd of around 5,000 people, all tired and hungry. When the disciples wanted to send them away to buy food and find lodgings, Jesus told his disciples that they should give them something to eat. But “we only have five loaves of bread and two fish” was their reply. So, patiently, Jesus instructed those disciples to get everyone seated. When they then gave to him the little they had, Jesus looked up to heaven, gave thanks and broke up the loaves and fish. Then, Luke tells us something important, “he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.”
The thing that struck me in both stories was that Jesus wanted to provide his disciples with the opportunity to “participate” in his great kingdom work in this world! But the reality was, that they could never do this work on their own. To fulfil the task, they would need to rely on the power and authority that Jesus provided. Indeed, the promise of power and authority for this rather limited ‘mission trip’ would just be a wonderful precursor to the later promise that he would give in Acts 1:8, where he assured his followers that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be a witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Talk about making a difference! This was not just the promise of power and authority for a ‘limited mission’, this was the power to engage in a lifetime of mission. Their lives would never be the same again. Yet, the power that Jesus promised in Acts 1:8 to those first-century believers, is the same power that he has invested in each one of us who have been born again by the Spirit of God. Just as Jesus called those early disciples to partner with him in his great kingdom work, so too he continues to call all his followers to partner with him, not just on a short-term mission, but on a lifelong journey of mission as we witness to the saving power and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a life that will make an eternal difference.
Peter Francis (Principal)