Take nothing for the journey . . . no bread, no money, no extra tunic (Luke 9:3).
Send the crowd away so they go to the surrounding villages . . . and find food and lodging (Luke 9:12).
Not long before taking his disciples to Bethsaida, Jesus had sent them out on their own to do what they had seen him do. There are no armchair disciples – not then, not now. Eventually those who follow are sent.
They had heard Jesus speak about the Kingdom of God and proclaim its present reality. Now it was their turn to raise their voices and announce the good news. They had seen Jesus heal, mend the broken, place his hands on the sick. Now it was their turn to do the same. Training camp was over. Time to get in the game.
Only one thing . . . this journey was luggage free. No need to pack a bag. Jesus told them to take nothing for the journey – no extra coat, no wallet, no ATM card, no sandwiches. Don’t worry about making reservations. Don’t call AAA for a trip-tick. Just go.
And so they went, and in doing so they learned that what Jesus had given them – his power and authority – was really all they needed. Life in the Kingdom isn’t about stockpiling resources and following a daily itinerary.
Funny how that experience seems to be fading by the time they get to Bethsaida. A crowd gathers in a remote place. Jesus is teaching and healing, and as long as he does this people are not inclined to leave. The sun begins to sit low in the sky. All these people will need a place to stay. They’ll need bread.
“Send them away.” Let them provide for themselves; let them find food and lodging. That’s the plan offered by the twelve – the same twelve who had been sent out with no bread, no extra tunic, no bag, no money. The same twelve who had been sustained by grace.
Many of us live with a low-grade amnesia when it comes to grace in our lives. The problem is not that we don’t believe, but that we don’t remember. What God did so clearly back then somehow fails to embolden us for now. Grace was there yesterday, but today we woke up with an agenda. We keep trying to orchestrate our lives rather than simply playing our part and letting Jesus conduct.
Train yourself every day to look for signs of God’s presence. Don’t simply look. Expect it. Maybe the best way to do this is by looking back – at last year, at last week, at yesterday. At some point in your life Jesus sent you out without bread . . . and yet you had bread when you needed it. Jesus was with you. Do you remember? The time you spent in the hospital, that season when you prayed for conception and planned for adoption, that long stretch of looking for work?
The grace that sustained you then will be there for you today. The Jesus that journeyed with the twelve and gathered the five thousand also walks with you. Don’t forget it.
Lord Jesus, help us to remember your faithfulness – and in remembering make us bold, and strengthen our faith today. We thank you that what you have done before, you will do again. Send us out today to serve in your name and in your power, we pray. Amen.