1And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. 7Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.
The twelve men chosen by Jesus as His disciples are in a 3 year training program. At this point in their training, Jesus sends them out on a practice run – a field test. Their job is simple; proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here in the person of Jesus Christ. The role of the disciples is fairly narrow at this point, restricted to “preaching (proclaiming the Kingdom of God) and healing.” They are not yet ready to “teach” as Jesus did for they still did not yet have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. This field test is not for the benefit of those who would hear their message serves the purpose of giving them some practice at a time when they can then go back to Jesus and discuss their experience. It is a true learning exercise for them.
Their field test is a brief one. They are not outfitted for long distance travel or an extended stay anywhere. They are simply to go out and preach Jesus. They are also to recognize that their message may be rejected and in that case to just move on to the next stop. This is not a time where they are to get into a battle over the message; they are simply to deliver it. If we see this training exercise as just that, we won’t be tempted to turn it into instructions for long term mission work, which I don’t believe it is.
Then we find a brief mention of Herod Antipas who was the ruler of the Jews at this time. He is the one who had John the Baptist beheaded for his message and perhaps feared that John had been raised from the dead. Herod is very curious about Jesus but not because He had any sort of faith. He was more interested in seeing Jesus perform a miracle and provide some entertainment. He may have also been a little nervous as John’s beheading was a gruesome affair. Herod is not out to “get” Jesus, but he is certainly interested, which Luke takes a few lines to share with us.
We will find that Luke 9 is a turning point chapter. Jesus has thus far spent His ministry in the region of Galilee and by the end of this chapter will be headed into Jerusalem. Luke brilliantly divides the story into two parts and part one is just about completed.