Thesis:The seed-sowing will eventually come to an end.
Introduction:In our study last week, we considered the reaction of Herod, called "the tetrarch", and made the claim that Luke referred to him as "the tetrarch" because he wished to create a verbal "association" between the concepts of God's spoken revelation of Truth and the liability that the rulers of this world face because God has spoken. I took that reality and made the claim that we are all "tetrarchs" of our own lives and have the same liability that Herod unknowingly faced.
One fact that I did not point out about Herod last week was one connected to Luke's "tetrarch" thesis: the problem of his "liability". In Luke 8:3 we are told that Herod's "steward" was married to one of Jesus' financial sponsors. In Acts 13:1 we are told that Herod had a childhood associate that was one of the "prophets and teachers" in the church in Antioch. These two records tell us that Herod was not isolated from those who had come to faith in Jesus. But the fact of greatest significance for our study this morning is the one recorded by Luke in Acts 12:23. This startling record comes on the heels of Acts 12:1-4. The point I want to make in this introduction of our study this morning is this: the angel of the Lord did not kill Herod for beheading John, or putting James to death to curry favor with the Jews; he killed Herod for accepting the blasphemous cries of the people who were attempting to curry favor with him.
Now, what is this? In a word, it is a record of the end of divine patience. This is a fact that I wish to address this morning in our consideration of Luke's record of the feeding of the five thousand: the end of divine patience.
I. Luke's Focus Upon the Apostles' Return.
A. This focus simply cannot be properly grasped apart from Jesus' deliberate "test of faith" in 9:1-6.
B. Nor can this focus be understood aright without our realization that what the apostles had been sent to do was to make "unbelief" even less excusable.
C. Nor can this focus have its intended impact upon us unless we embrace the reality that the "tetrarch" was committed to adamantly opposing: Jesus is the only One Who has the right to dictate how life is to be lived; He is the King of the Kingdom of God.
II. Luke's Record of Jesus' Response to Their Reports.
A. The word Luke decided to use to characterize the apostles' "reports" was used by him in only one other place in his Gospel: 8:39, a text that has its focus upon Jesus' seed-sowing upon the soil of the Gerasenes.
1. The implication is this: the apostles' actions had been another case of "seed-sowing" in view of Jesus' search for those who were going to "keep the Word and bring forth fruit with patience" (8:15).
2. However, "seed-sowing" is never done without the longer view of the desired harvest: the sowing of seed insists upon the reality of the harvest to come when the sowing has done its job and the day of harvest has come.
3. Jesus never did anything that did not have the day of harvest in mind.
B. The record by Luke of Jesus' "withdrawal" to Bethsaida is significant.
1. The name of the city means, according to Strong's dictionary, "House of Fish", but there seems to be some confusion because the Hebrew derivation is not "House of Fish" but "the House of a Hunter".
a. The Hebrew word that is tied to the word "House" is only used one time in the Old Testament and that place is Jeremiah 16:16 where there is a distinction made between "fishermen" and "those that hunt".
b. The imagery is of those who search diligently for the object of their hunt and it fits exactly with the reality of Jesus' diligent search for those who are going to trust Him.
2. The place of the city is more to the point.
a. In Luke 9:9 we were told that Herod "was seeking to see" Jesus.
1) This is an oddity, given that he was the tetrarch of Galilee.
2) But there is a hint of danger here in that his treatment of John was the direct result of his reaction to John's message.
3) This hint of danger is elevated in the very next reference to Herod in Luke: 13:31.
b. In our current text we are told that Jesus "withdrew" and the question that is raised is, "from what?".
1) The declaration of 9:11 is that Jesus "welcomed" the crowds.
a) This is not the language of "withdrawal from the crowds".
b) This is not the action of the "Seed Sower/Hunter".
2) The immediately preceding verse is the best explanation for Jesus' withdrawal.
a) Bethsaida was just east of Capernaum and across the upper Jordan.
i. The upper Jordan seems to have been the boundary between the tetrarchies of Herod and his brother Philip, whose wife Herod had seduced.
ii. Bethsaida was, according to International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, a village that Philip had raised to the status of a "city" and renamed to honor a daughter of Augustus.
b) Given the level of tension between Herod and Philip, it is highly unlikely that Herod would give orders to his troops to cross into Philip's territory to take Jesus into custody to satisfy his desire to "see Him".
c) Jesus knew both this and His identity as Herod's "King".
3. Luke's "point": Herod was given the "word of God" in as clear a demonstration of its truth as there can be and Jesus was going to hold him accountable at some point.
III. Luke's Record of the Multitudes' Pursuit.
A. Luke's record of the multitudes is not flattering.
1. His first use of the term refers to them as a generation of vipers.
2. His contextual use of the term in this case refers to them as "mindlessly self-interested" (9:18, a text that means that evenafter the miracle of the loaves the "multitudes" could not see what is as plain as day).
B. Luke's record of Jesus response to them is gracious beyond measure.
1. Jesus "embraced" them.
2. He "spoke" (sounds, not content) to them concerning the Kingdom of God.
3. He healed as many as had need.
A. The record is of Jesus making sure that everyone has the opportunity to have the evidence before them -- from Herod down to the least in the crowds.
B. The record is of Jesus being the Sower Who went forth to sow.
C. The record anticipates the purpose for the sowing.
D. The implication is that there is a day when the patience of God will be exhausted.