A leadership commentary on Luke 8:40-9:56 (New Living Translation)
There are a plethora of books and seminars on the topic of Jesus as a model for leaders. I have not read any of them. However, you don’t need an Amazon account to realize this: In his three year public ministry Jesus was training twelve guys to replace him on his way to the cross. Although it is unlikely that we will be called to a cross, at least not for all humanity, if you are a Christian leader, you are called to “make disciples.” (Matt 28:19-20) In other words, you had best be recruiting and training your replacements!
Come with me on a brief verse by verse journey through the 8th and 9th chapters of the Gospel of Luke to see what lessons we can glean from Jesus’ leadership style and strategy..
Jesus is touring the Galilean countryside. This is his year of popularity…the growing opposition of the envious religious leaders gets far less attention from Luke. In this section Jesus is busy doing what he does: healing, teaching, preaching, training his disciples and being with his Father…with the result that, for now, his popularity continues to increase. It is Leadership. Jesus style.
8:40 On the other side of the lake the crowds received Jesus with open arms because they had been waiting for him. These people had been prepared both by John the Baptist and Jesus’ previous teaching and preaching. Humanity is not waiting for a “what,” but a “whom.” The “whom” is Jesus. In the words of Young Life’s founder, Jim Rayburn, “Jesus Christ is the most attractive personality of all time…and kids will be drawn to him, if we just tell the story the way it happened.” Are you telling the story as it is, the grandest, most interesting, impactful person in all history?
41 And now a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell down at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come home with him. Jairus, as a religious leader, could lend valuable credibility to Jesus start-up ministry. This has quite the opportunity to build Jesus’ influence.
42 His only child was dying, a little girl twelve years old. As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds.
43 And there was a woman in the crowd who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years. Specific medical conditions are not given. Luke is a physician and presumably knows what is wrong with them both, but as the gospels are collections of eyewitness accounts, we can assume that, for privacy sake, the maladies are left vaguely defined. The woman evidently had a menstrual problem.
43She had spent everything she had on doctors and still could find no cure. The woman is desperate: broke and discredited, ceremonially unclean under the laws of her Jewish faith for more than a decade.
44 She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. A desperate woman, she commits a desperate act with legal consequences: this “unclean” woman actually touches a rabbi!
Luke 8:45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” The excitable Peter, wants them to be on their way to the synagogue leader’s home – the “important” task.
Luke 8:46 But Jesus told him, “No, someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” Jesus, sensitive to the Spirit’s power within Him, knows power has left. Sensitivity to the movement of the Holy Spirit surely needs cultivating in Christian leaders today.
47 When the woman realized that Jesus knew, she began to tremble and fell to her knees before him. She is expecting the condemnation required by the religious law. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed.
48 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” In the culture this is a miracle nearly as great as the healing itself. Jesus refused to be bound by social convention or by the oral tradition: For Jesus, people came first, both their needs and their ‘story.’ (NIV)
Luke 8:49 While he was still speaking to her, a messenger arrived from Jairus’s home with the message, “Your little girl is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” What might Jairus have been thinking? “If only this nobody wouldn’t have slowed us down?”
Luke 8:50 But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me, and she will be all right.” Jesus could have healed the woman with the issue of blood and hurried on his way. But her heart would have been left untouched and the cold Pharisees observing the scene’s prejudices would not have been shown “a still more excellent way.” (1 Cor 12:31, NIV)
Luke 8:51 When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, James, John, and the little girl’s father and mother. Why these? The parents are invited in because the girl will need them. Jesus doesn’t merely meet spiritual needs. She is a child and will need her parents. Are you anticipating the needs of those you are called to serve? Peter, James and John are invited to see the miracle. They are being groomed for spiritual succession. Who are you grooming? Who will wear the mantle of leadership when you are gone?
52 The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she is only asleep.” These are hired mourners: they have no emotional investment. For them, this is just a job. There are always those around the fringes of our ministries that are there for the show, or perhaps because they have something to gain from being there. Do not let them inside! They will weaken the team.
Luke 8:53 But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died. The mourners’ true colors are revealed: they are mocking in Jairus’ time of grief.
54 Then Jesus took her by the hand and said in a loud voice, “Get up, my child!” 55 And at that moment her life returned, and she immediately stood up! Jesus speaks life. Our words can speak life to the spiritually dead…but only if they are Jesus’ words. (Hebrews 4:12) Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Jesus immediately looks to the girl’s physical needs. Does your ministry serve the whole person? Do we preach the Good News but neglect the need for bread? Or do we minister to the body without the soul? The American church has struggled with this.
56 Her parents were overwhelmed, but Jesus insisted that they not tell anyone what had happened. Jesus isn’t seeking to build a following at any cost or run a big-tent crusade. The opposition that popularity brings might derail the training of his disciples. He is focused on developing the leaders rather than growing the crowd. In your ministry, when is the time for deeper rather than wider?
Luke 9:1 One day Jesus called together his twelve apostles and gave them power and authority to cast out demons and to heal all diseases. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) says, “All authority under heaven has been given to me” and Jesus gave that authority to us. When you minister how do you use your Kingdom authority? That power has never been revoked. It is like a Visa gift card with no limit that we refuse to take out of our wallet.
2 Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the coming of the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Jesus gave the Church a holistic ministry from the very first mission trip! Preaching AND healing.
3 “Don’t even take along a walking stick,” he instructed them, “nor a traveler’s bag, nor food, nor money. Not even an extra coat. The instructions are to not make big plans or weigh themselves down. They weren’t going far. They were to travel to immediate villages and trust in God’s provision.
4 When you enter each village, be a guest in only one home. One home? The reason for this is unclear. Perhaps it is another way of building fewer, deeper relationships early in their ministry.
5 If the people of the village won’t receive your message when you enter it, shake off its dust from your feet as you leave. It is a sign that you have abandoned that village to its fate.” We are responsible for the preaching, not the results. I Cor 3:7 “God gives the increase.” Saint Paul tells us (I Cor 1:23 ) the hearers will find the Gospel foolishness anyway.
Luke 9:6 So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick. When Jesus tells us to “go” he expects us to go. The Master expects action of his Kingdom workers. Have you been called to something and are dragging your feet? What are you waiting for?
Luke 9:7 When reports of Jesus’ miracles reached Herod Antipas, he was worried and puzzled because some were saying, “This is John the Baptist come back to life again.” 8 Others were saying, “It is Elijah or some other ancient prophet risen from the dead.” The disciples would ask a similar question when Jesus calmed the storm: “Who is this man?” Then as now, people were trying to contextualize Jesus.
Luke 9:9 “I beheaded John,” Herod said, “so who is this man about whom I hear such strange stories?” And he tried to see him. Jesus simply burst onto the scene and even kings still struggle to “get” him to this day.
Luke 9:10 When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida. He is taking them away…like going on a retreat to “debrief” but there is more coming…and it will be the highpoint of the “camp.”
11 But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. And he welcomed them, teaching them about the Kingdom of God and curing those who were ill. Jesus isn’t surprised. He knew they would come (“for He Himself knew what was in man.” John 2:25).
12 Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this deserted place.” This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. Luke tells us that all twelve were present. John tells us that Jesus spoke specifically to Phillip. This is a good passage to read in context in all four gospels. Much can be gleaned by seeing something from all the angles!
Luke 9:13 But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “Impossible!” they protested. They were right. They did not have the resources. “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish. Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” Now the disciples move past the facts and begin making assumptions from doubt. Fear always does bad things to the Christian leader. Lead from faith. If you can’t muster up faith, then fake it until the real thing gets there.
14 For there were about five thousand men there. “Just tell them to sit down on the ground in groups of about fifty each,” Jesus replied. First, he organizes them – Jesus was organized. He followed the Spirit, AND was also strategic.
15 So the people all sat down. 16 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and asked God’s blessing on the food. Breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples to give to the people. This is a very interesting miracle. After giving thanks, Jesus takes the contents of one boy’s sack lunch (John 6:8-9) and begins breaking the contents into baskets to distribute to the groups. As the disciples gather around, they see what no one else can – because 12 men crowding in, staring in awe, surely block the view of the thousands scattered about, seated on the lawn. The disciples now watch as much comes from little in the Master’s hand. They have just been sent out in His authority. Now they are back and are being interrupted in their time with Jesus. They were excited to tell of their own exploits. Now, in front of their faces, Jesus shows the disciples once and for all that HE is the source of all sustenance. How must the disciples’ hearts burned as they walked toward the people with baskets brimming with food? How could they have helped but blurt to the groups as they were serving, “You should’ve seen what I just saw!” In that moment Jesus gives the world a new paradigm for ministry: The Christian leader has two roles: to serve the people and to share the story of what they have seen Jesus do. This event defines what it means to be a “witness”.
17 They all ate as much as they wanted, and they picked up twelve baskets of leftovers! So 5000 eat and the disciples pick up twelve baskets full of 50 times what they started with. Why all the spare food? Twelve baskets and twelve disciples. Could it be that the leftovers were for the disciples – not because they needed the food, but because they needed the visual sermon? Each disciple went home with a lunch basket full of “I am all you need.”