1. When Jesus had called His official twelve disciples together, He gave them power and authority, personally, to drive out and expel all rebel spirits, and to cure diseases.
2. And He commissioned and authorized them to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and to validate the message by healing the sick.
3. Then He told them, "Basically, I want you to take nothing with you on your journey...no external equipment...you must learn to rely, solely, on the internal gifts which I have imparted to you.
4. Whatever house you enter, if it's friendly, stay there until you leave that town.
5. But if any house or community will not receive, embrace and welcome you...if they refuse to listen to you...then get out of there. And when you depart, make a grand and symbolic gesture of shaking off the dust from their streets that is on your feet, for a visible testimony against them."
6. So they all obediently set out on their Kingdom-adventure, going from village to village, proclaiming the Good News and healing people everywhere.
7. Now when Herod, the tetrarch, heard about all that was going on, he was very disturbed by it, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead.
8. Others believed that the reincarnation of Elijah had manifested, and still others were saying that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life in the present dimension.
9. But Herod said, "I personally saw to it that John was beheaded! So who, then, is this amazing person I keep hearing about?" And he made it his intention to see Him for himself.
10. When the disciples returned from their travels, they reported to Jesus everything they had done on their own. After hearing from them what had happened, He took them with Him in order to mentor them further, and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida.
11. But, as usual, the crowds found out about it, and followed Him wherever He went. But, even though they interrupted His plans with His disciples, He didn't rebuke them. In fact, He welcomed them, and used the opportunity to unveil to them the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. He also healed everyone who needed healing.
12. But late in the afternoon, the disciples came to Him and said, "You need to send this crowd away so that they can go to the surrounding villages and find food and lodging before sundown. We're in a very remote place here, and they need to go take care of themselves."
13. But Jesus said, "No...I don't want to send them away. Why don't you just give them something to eat?" They answered, "Well, that's impossible. We have only five loaves of bread and two fish among us. That's it, unless we go into town and buy food for all of them."
14. What makes the story even more interesting is that there were about five thousand men there, along with women and children! But, undaunted by the enormity of the situation, Jesus said to His disciples, "Just have them sit down in groups of about fifty each."
15. Without question or argument, the disciples did as He said, and everyone sat down.
16. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up into the heavenlies, He gave thanks for what He had in His hands, and began to break off pieces of both the bread and the fish. As He broke off piece after piece, He gave them to the disciples to serve to the people.
17. And they all ate...every one of them...and were completely satisfied. When the miraculous meal was over, the twelve disciples went around and filled up twelve whole baskets of broken pieces that were left over!
18. Once when Jesus was off praying by Himself, He became aware that His disciples had moved close to where He was. So He stopped, and, before they could speak, He said to them, "Let Me ask you something...who do the crowds say I am?"
19. They replied, "Well, some say John, the Forerunner...others say Elijah in another form...still others presume that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
20 "All right...fine...but what about you?" He replied. "Who do you say that I am?"
Without missing a beat, Peter answered, "Easy...You are God's Christ!"
21. Jesus then warned them to be careful with that information. They were to be discreet to the point of telling no one what Peter had said.
22. He explained this warning to them by saying, "You see, the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be repudiated and rejected on the part of the elders and priests and scribes. Eventually, He will even be put to death...but on the third day He will rise again."
23. And He went on to say, "So if any person wants to follow Me on this journey, he or she is going to have to give up his or her own personal agendas and selfish interests. You're actually going to have to fulfill your own destiny in taking up your own cross daily, so that you can follow Me as I take up Mine.
24. For whoever is obsessed with self-preservation at the expense of others will end up losing his or her life, anyway. But whoever releases his or her life for My sake...whoever embraces sacrifice and service for the greater good as I do...will ultimately preserve and save his/her life.
25. The bottom line is this...what does it profit a person, if he/she gains the whole world through self-exaltation, and ends up losing his/her very essence in the process?"