The Gospel of Luke - Part 37: A Real Identity Crisis- Luke 9:1-17
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Have you ever heard someone say that they are having an "identity crisis"? It seems to refer to a person who struggling with who they really are.

Cary Grant once told how he was walking along a street and met a fellow whose eyes locked onto him with excitement. The man said, "Wait a minute, you're ... you're — I know who you are; don't tell me — uh, Rock Hudson;  No, you're ..."

Grant thought he'd help him, so he finished the man's sentence: "Cary Grant." And the fellow said, "No, that's not it! You're ..."

There was Cary Grant identifying himself with his own name, but the fellow had someone else in mind.

John said of Jesus:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. — John 1:10
And even when Jesus identified who he was — the Son of God — the response was not a welcome recognition, but rather the Crucifixion. They didn't recognize Jesus because He wasn't what they were expecting. They were more committed to their concept of the Messiah than they were to the actual Messiah.

Luke 9 records a real identity crisis concerning Jesus. But it wasn't Jesus who was having the "identity crisis" ... it was everyone else! Consider these verses from Luke 9:

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead... —Luke 9:7

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” —Luke 9:18

And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” —Luke 9:20
As you read through this chapter, you’ll see that answering these questions is the theme that ties everything together.

In fact, answering this question — “Who is Jesus?” — is the central theme in all the Gospels. Consider how often this question is asked in every Gospel:

When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” —Matthew 21:10

They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” —Mark 4:41

The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” —Luke 5:21

So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?”  —John 8:25
And this question is asked many other times in the Gospels!

Each person has to come to a decision regarding who they believe Jesus to be. How we relate to Him is determined by who we think He is. Jesus is very aware of the importance of this issue. In fact, He often precipitates an "identity crisis" by challenging people to decide who they believe Him to be.

What are some popular opinions concerning Jesus today? Who do people believe Jesus to be?

Jeremy Bowen, a BBC commentator and the presenter of a new British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary on Jesus stated,

"The important thing is not what he was or what he wasn't — the important things is what people believe him to have been. A massive world wide religion, numbering more than two billion people follows his memory — that's pretty remarkable, 2,000 years on."


Bowen couldn't be more wrong. Who Jesus is and what he did is the foundation of our faith.

C.S. Lewis said:

What are we to make of Jesus Christ? This is a question which has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real question is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us. The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is going to make of an elephant has comic elements about it.
As you study this chapter notice how people are wrestling with this issue. Also notice how our definition of "disciple" is determined by who we see Jesus to be. Here is what you will find.

A. He   Is The One Sent by God
B. He   Is The Son of God
C. He   Is The Son of Man
D. He   Is Our Sovereign Lord


A.   He Is The One Sent By God.

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. —Luke 9:1-6
This chapter records the first independent ministry assignment that Jesus gave to His disciples. After many months of watching Jesus and assisting Him, now they were being sent out on their own.

What are some things you notice in this passage about Jesus sending out of the 12?

Jesus started by calling a meeting: And He called the twelve together —Luke 9:1

This was the first "on the job training" that Jesus gave the disciples. They had seen Him minister to people over the past year or so. They had seen Jesus perform miracles. Now it was their turn. It's significant to consider Jesus' instructions. Notice three verbs that are used to describe what Jesus did in this passage:

  1. He equipped them:   And He ... gave them power and authority —Luke 9:1

    Jesus gave them what they would need. “Gave” is an important word here because it implies grace. They didn’t earn this power and authority; they didn’t deserve these things. Jesus gave them. The other point is that only Jesus can give us power and authority.

    Power — δυναμις [dunamis] — ability, strength, power; where we get our word “dynamite”; the same word is used in Acts 1:8:

    But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses —Acts 1:8
    He gave them the power of dynamite.

    Authority — εκουσια [eksousia] - authority, control, dominion ; Webster’s Dictionary defines “authority” as “the power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge”. It’s the same word used to describe Jesus in Matthew:

    For He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. —Matthew 7:29

    And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
    Power and authority aren’t automatic! It’s always a tragedy when someone seeks to do something in God’s name but lacks power and authority from God.

    Matthew 7:29 says this was part of the Pharisees’ problem. They were claiming power and authority they did not have.

    There’s a great principle here — Jesus never asks us to something He doesn’t equip us to do. Jesus provides what we need to do what He asks.

  2. Then He sent them out; — He sent them out. —Luke 9:2

    Mark 6:7 adds the important fact that Jesus sent them out in pairs.

    And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority... —Mark 6:7
    That’s an important fact. Most of the time, the Lord wants us to work as part of a team. Remember, Christianity is a team sport.
  3. He told them what He wanted them to do.
    And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. —Luke 9:2
    Their instructions were very simple: preach the kingdom and heal the sick. Both parts of their job are important: The verb translated "sent" in this verse is the Greek word αποστελω [apostello]. It is the root word αποστολους from which the "apostle" comes. This is the function for which the Twelve were chosen, that they might be sent out. They were selected to be sent out.
Then He instructed them: And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey... —Luke 9:3

Why do you suppose they didn't take their own provisions?

One reason may have been that this was a very brief mission (they returned six verses later). Maybe, too, Jesus wanted them to learn that God would provide for them even when they weren't with Him. Maybe this gave the people being served a tangible way to respond to the message. If people really believed, they would be willing to share what they had.

Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel ... everywhere. —Luke 9:6
This verse is kind of a miniature picture of God's desire for His church throughout the world. It is our responsibility to go wherever we are.

How do you think the disciples felt as they set out on this mission? What might be some ministry principles we could apply from this passage?

It’s not just the Twelve that Jesus has sent out. In the next chapter (Luke 10), Jesus will send out 70 (or 72) of His disciples . And remember the Great Commission. Jesus told His disciples to “make disciples” and “to teach them to do all that I commanded you”. That means that the command to “go” applies to us as well.

Here’s how this command to “go” is expressed in John’s Gospel:

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. —John 17:18

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” —John 20:21
We live in a world of people who desperately need to hear and believe the news we have to share. God needs for every believer to go.

Here are five practical ways we can "go" — Five “C's”:

Verse 10 brings the story of this adventure to its conclusion:
When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. —Luke 9:10
Though this was an exciting time for the Twelve, it was also very tiring. Here again Mark adds information about what happens here:
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) —Mark 6:31
There’s a principle here that we don’t want to miss: Jesus knows the importance of rest. The His plan is to use us but not to burn us out or exhaust us. He knows we need time to re-charge spiritually, emotionally and physically.

We saw that He sent the Disciples and we see that

He Serves People.

When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” They did so, and had them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full. —Luke 9:10-17
Here again we see Jesus faithfully serving people — recognizing their needs and then making sure that those needs are met. What a powerful and constant example of servanthood He was to His disciples — and still us for us today!

Let’s look at what we learn from this passage.

But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God. —Luke 9:11
There’s no indication that Jesus resented the crowds or was annoyed with them. In fact, we’re told that He welcomed them!

Welcome — αποδεχομαι [apodechomai] — meaning “receive, to accept gladly”; Webster’s Dictionary defines “to welcome” as “to receive with pleasure and hospitality”.

Both Matthew and Mark’s account of this incident tell us why Jesus welcomed the crowds so warmly:

When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. —Matthew14:14

When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. —Mark 6:34
When Jesus arrived, He saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, His heart broke — they were like sheep with no shepherd. He went right to work teaching them.

How we think and feel about people determines how we respond to them.

Chuck Swindoll is quoted as saying:

I've heard it said, "Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself."
There's an interesting tension to ministry that's shown in verses 10-11. On one hand, believers need to pace themselves; they need time to rest and "re-charge" so that they don't burn out. On the other hand, there are times when I need to be willing to do without rest in order to make the most of an opportunity God gives to reach people. Jesus said,
We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. —John 9:4
In verse 12 we learn: Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away...”

I think the Disciples had had enough of ministry for one day! There were ready for a break. But Jesus still had an important lesson to teach them. Remember the theme we are tracking in this chapter. Jesus is helping both the Twelve and the crowds to understand who He is.

Why do you think the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowds away? What possible reasons might they have had?

We all struggle with a sense of inadequacy when it comes to serving Jesus.

Alexander Maclaren, a Scottish Baptist pastor who lived in the 1800’s, said:

“It is often our God-given duty to attempt tasks to which we are conspicuously inadequate, in the confidence that He who gives them, lays them on us to drive us to Himself, and there to find sufficiency. The best preparation of His servants for their work in the world is the discovery that their own [resources] are small.”
When the Disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away, instead He said,   “You give them something to eat!”  I am sure they thought, "Sure, like what?"

There is a great principle related to ministry here. We bring our inadequacies to God, but we need to remember that Jesus is sufficient for any situation. In their fatigue, the disciples forgot this truth. All they could see is how much greater the need was than their resources. They forgot that Jesus' resources are infinite!

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant. —2 Corinthians 3:5-6
Jesus revealed here again that He was more than just a great teacher. He also taught the disciples that He could use them to "satisfy" people in ways they could never imagine! You’ve probably heard this before, but Jesus illustrates this truth again here:
“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”


Next week:

We will pick up this story as Jesus shares about Himself in this identity crises about who He is.