The Life of Jesus - week 7 - Jesus: the one who nourishes
Sermon date: February 24th
Reading: Luke 9: 10-17

Consider and share with other

  • How do you understand the term 'nourished'?       
  • What makes you feel nourished?  Does it take more than food to feel nourished?
Definitions of 'nourish'
To provide with food or other substances necessary for growth, health and good condition.
To keep a feeling or belief in one's mind and to encourage or nurture it.

Please read through together Luke 9: 10-17
Setting the context: The twelve apostles have just returned from the mission field. They were sent out empty-handed by Jesus in Luke 9: 1-6 to preach the Good News and heal the sick. On their return (vs. 10) they tell Jesus 'everything they had done'.

Q.1 Why do you think 'Jesus slipped away quietly with them towards the town of Bethsaida'? (vs.10)
Although it does not explicitly say, it seems that Jesus recognises that the apostles need some time with Him after all they have given out on the mission field. By withdrawing quietly together perhaps they were hoping for some quality time to rest, share fellowship and pray together.
But the crowds find out where Jesus is heading. Please re-read v. 11

Q.2      If you had been one of Jesus' apostles, heading off for some quality time with Jesus, how would you have felt about being interrupted by a huge crowd of people?
Resentful at having to share Him? Happy to see Him blessing crowds of other people?
Or accepting, but quietly wishing the day would pass, so you, the rest of the twelve apostles and Jesus could get back to the original plan of spending some quality time together?
Although it seems to be an interruption, Jesus blesses the crowds generously, teaching them about the Kingdom of God and healing those who are ill. They have sought Him out and He has given them what they were seeking - spiritual nourishment.
Later in the day, the apostles come to Jesus with the practical needs of the crowds of people in mind. They will need physical nourishment now as well as the spiritual feeding Jesus has offered, so the apostles suggest that the crowds are sent away to nearby farms and villages to find food and shelter for the night as they are in a deserted place. This seems sensible and considerate yet Jesus says something quite surprising: 'You feed them!' (v. 13)
The disciples are understandably confused.
Re-read verses 13-14a.

Q.3 Would you have reacted the same way as the disciples in this situation?
        Why do you think Jesus said 'You feed them'?
Please read John 6: 1-6 to compare stories, and for a possible insight to this instruction in the Luke version.
Although the two gospel versions are slightly different, it seems that Jesus knew what he was going to do and tests the disciples' faith before the miracle takes place. He is drawing them in to be involved in the miracle - they will not just be bystanders looking on, but will be part of the distribution of the bread, and the collecting of the leftovers (Luke 9: 16-17).

Q.4 What difference would it make to be physically involved with the miracle, not just standing by and watching it happen?

Q.5 Do you think all the crowds realised a miracle was taking place?
There probably would have been chaos. A crowd of more than five thousand people would have made a huge amount of noise (only the five thousand men are mentioned here, but there would have been women and children as well), and there was no way of giving instructions other than acoustically. Outdoors this would have been tricky. It seems unlikely that many of the crowd would have been close enough (or paying enough attention initially - even if word started to spread) to see Jesus produce an almost endless amount of bread and fish from an original supply of only five loaves and two fish.  But for the disciples it is quite different. From their original state of bewilderment, wondering how they were meant to feed all these people, they not only saw the miracle taking place up close, they were also part of the distribution of the food. There is nourishment taking place on more than one level here:
  • The physical nourishment/feeding of the crowds
  • The spiritual nourishment  of the disciples
Witnessing such a miracle first-hand and taking part in it, would have been hugely faith-building for the disciples. (Please read Luke 10: 23-24 for words from Jesus to His disciples about all they have seen and heard) There are going to be tough times for the disciples ahead, and having first-hand experience of miracles like this will be a resource to sustain and encourage them.
Before moving into a time of prayer, take some time to consider the following: Jesus is quoted as saying in Luke 4: 4 ''The scriptures say 'people need more than bread for their life'.
  1. What kind of spiritual nourishment do you need at the moment? What can you do to seek this nourishment?
Prayer pointers
  • for places in the world where people lack physical nourishment due to famine and other humanitarian disasters
  • for governments, churches and all God's people to strive for a fair distribution of the world's resources
  • for places in the world where physical nourishment is not a concern, and yet spiritual nourishment seems to have been forgotten or become an irrelevance
  • for the areas you each identified as needing some spiritual nourishment in your own lives
Further notes
Please only use these extra notes if you would find them helpful for your group?
Other points you may want to bring out in your discussions if time allows are:
  • Shared meals were characteristic of Jesus and his followers, and Jesus often scandalized His contemporaries by choosing to sit and eat with outcasts of society even though He was a Jew. This challenged the accepted norms in terms of the social structures that were in place. No one is sent away in the feeding of the five thousand - all are nourished, and notice that there is no segregation of important people from the less desirable people in society in this story.
  • The next day, in John 6: 22-29, Jesus himself builds on the miracle of the previous day, drawing out the parallel with the spiritual nourishment that is being offered. He goes on to say that:
    • He is the 'true bread' sent down from heaven by God (John 6:32-33)
    • He is 'the bread of life' and whoever comes to Him will never hunger nor thirst (v. 35)
    • Eating of this bread leads to eternal life and Jesus explicitly says here: 'this bread is my flesh' (v.51)
  • The feeding of the five thousand was a hugely significant event in itself.  But it can also be seen as a microcosm of all that would come - just as the disciples were part of distributing the nourishment Jesus was offering in the feeding of the five thousand, so they would continue to distribute His nourishment in their growing of the church. Followers of Jesus would continue to share meals together as a sign of unity with each other and God, and also to symbolise the understanding that Jesus is 'the true bread of life' who holds out the promise of eternal life and everlasting nourishment.

Leah Perona-Wright

Leah Perona-Wright, 21/02/2019