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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 9

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

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Verses 1-6


(1-6) Then he called his twelve disciples.-See Notes on Matthew 10:5-15, and Mark 6:7-13.

Verse 3

(3) Neither staves.—The better MSS. give, “neither a staff.” The plural was probably adopted in order to bring the verse into harmony with Matthew 10:10, and Mark 6:8.

Verse 5

(5) A testimony against them.—Better, a testimony unto them.

Verse 6

(6) Went through the towns.—Better, villages, as more consistent with the rendering of the word in Matthew 14:15.

Verses 7-9

(7-9) Because that it was said of some, . . .—See Notes on Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16. In Matthew 14:2, and Mark 6:14, Herod is represented as himself expressing this belief. St. Luke states, probably from his knowledge of the Herodian household (see Introduction), that it did not originate with him, and that his mind was, for a time, in suspense.

Verse 9

(9) And he desired to see him.—St. Luke returns (Luke 23:8) to the working of this desire, which he apparently knew from sources that were not within the reach of the other Evangelists.

Verses 10-17

(10-17) And the apostles, when they were returned.—See Notes on Matthew 14:13-21, and Mark 6:30-44.

Verse 11

(11) Healed them that had need of healing.—We cannot well alter the translation, but it may be noted that the word for “healing” is not formed from the same verb as “healed;” and is, as it were, a more technical word (used, with the one exception of Revelation 22:2, by St. Luke only) and equivalent to our “treatment.”

Verse 12

(12) And when the day began . . .—Literally, and the day began to wear away, and the Twelve came . . .

Into the towns and country.—Better, as before (Luke 9:6, Luke 8:34), the villages and farms.

Verse 13

(13) Buy meat.—Better, food.

Verse 14

(14) Make them sit down.—Literally, recline, or lie down.

Verse 17

(17) Twelve baskets.—See Note on Matthew 14:20.

Verse 18

(18) And it came to pass . . .—St. Luke, it will be noted, omits the narrative of our Lord’s walking on the water, of the feeding of the Four Thousand, of the Syro-Phœnician woman, and of the teaching as to the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We cannot get beyond a conjectural explanation of these phenomena, but it is possible that, as a matter of fact, he simply did not learn these facts in the course of his inquiries, and therefore did not insert them. As far as it goes, the fact suggests the inference that he had not seen the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark in the form in which we now have them. On the narrative that follows (Luke 9:18-27), see Notes on Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:27; Mark 9:1.

As he was alone praying.—There is, as before (see Introduction, and Notes on Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12), something characteristic in the stress which St. Luke lays on the fact. It is as though he saw in what follows the result of the previous prayer.

Verse 20

(20) The Christ of God.—This precise form of expression is peculiar to St. Luke. It agrees substantially with “the Lord’s Christ” of the song of Simeon (Luke 2:26).

Verses 23-27

(23-27) If any man will come after me.—See Notes on Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34; Mark 9:1.

Take up his cross daily.—The adverb is peculiar to St. Luke’s report, and at least reminds us of St. Paul’s “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).

Verse 25

(25) And lose himself, or be cast away.—Better, destroy himself, or suffer loss. The first word expresses a more direct act, as of self-destruction, and the second (see Note on Matthew 16:16) implies the thought of the forfeiture of something precious rather than of being absolutely rejected. It presents, so to speak, a slightly softened aspect of the previous words.

Verse 26

(26) In his own glory, and in his Father’s.—The first part of the clause is peculiar, in this report of our Lord’s words, to St. Luke, and presents a point of agreement with those recorded in John 17:5.

Verses 28-36

(28-36) And it came to pass.—See Notes on Matthew 17:1-13, and Mark 9:2-13. St. Luke’s way of reckoning, “about an eight days,” where the other two Gospels give “after six days,” is interesting, as throwing light on the mode of reckoning which sees three days in the interval between our Lord’s death and resurrection. (See Note on Matthew 27:63.)

Verse 29

(29) And as he prayed.—We again note, as characteristic of St. Luke, the stress laid upon our Lord’s prayers here, as before in Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12.

The fashion of his countenance was altered.—It is, perhaps, noticeable that the Evangelist who had the most classical culture avoids the use of the classical word “transfigured” or “metamorphosed,” employed by the others. For him that word might have seemed too suggestive of the “metamorphoses” which the great work of Ovid had connected with the legends of Greek mythology.

Verse 31

(31) Spake of his decease.—St. Luke’s is the only narrative that names the subject of the words that passed between our Lord and Moses and Elias. The use of the word “decease” (exodos) instead of “death” is remarkable: (1) because it had not been commonly so used by Greek authors; (2) because in its wider range of meaning it covered all the special phenomena connected with the close of the ministry of the Lawgiver and the Tishbite (comp. Deuteronomy 34:5-6; 2 Kings 2:11), and not less so, the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, as well as the Crucifixion; (3) as meeting us in close connection with a reference to the Transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:15.

Which he should accomplish.—Literally, which He was about to accomplish.

Verse 32

(32) But Peter . . . and when they were awake.—The relations of the two clauses would be better expressed by, And Peter . . . but awaked . . .

Verse 33

(33) Master.—The same word as before, in Luke 5:5; Luke 8:24, where see Notes.

Verse 35

(35) This is my beloved Son.—The better MSS. give “chosen.” (Comp. the use of a like word in 1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:6.) Assuming this to have been the original reading, the “beloved” of the received text must have originated in the wish to produce a verbal as well as a substantial agreement with the other Gospels.

Verse 37

(37) And it came to pass.—See Notes on Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29. St. Luke’s omission of the question and the teaching as to the coming of Elijah given by the other two Gospels is noticeable. There was no expectation of that coming among the Gentiles for whom he wrote. It was not necessary to correct that impression, or even to bring the difficulties which it suggested before their minds.

Much people.—Better, a great multitude.

Verse 38

(38) A man of the company.—Better, a man from among the multitude.

Master.—Here St. Luke uses the more common word, which means “teacher.”

He is mine only child.—Note, as in the history of the widow of Nain (Luke 5:12), the tender sympathy shown in St. Luke’s narrative. He is the only Evangelist who calls attention to the fact.

Verse 43

(43) At the mighty power of God.—The word so rendered is a somewhat remarkable one, and, like the exodos of Luke 9:31, appears again in 2 Peter 1:16 in close connection with a reference to the history of the Transfiguration. There it is rendered “majesty,” and in Acts 19:27 “magnificence.” Here greatness would, perhaps, be the best equivalent. St. Luke describes the emotion which the men of the East feel when they say God is great.”

The division of verses here is singularly unfortunate. The new paragraph should clearly begin, as above, with the words, “But while they wondered.”

Verses 44-45

(44-45) Let these sayings sink down.—See Notes on Matthew 17:22-23, and Mark 9:30-32. Literally, Set these sayings in your ears; but the English version is quite adequate as an idiomatic rendering.

Shall be delivered.—Literally, is about to be delivered.

Verse 46

(46) Then there arose a reasoning among them.—Better, a dispute, or questioning. See Notes on Matthew 18:1-5, and Mark 9:33-41.

Which of them should be greatest.—Better, which of them was the greatest.

Verse 47

(47) Took a child.—Better, laid hold on.

Verse 48

(48) For he that is least among you all.—The addition in this place and this form are peculiar to St. Luke’s report, but agree in substance with Mark 9:35.

The same shall be great.—The better MSS. give, “the same is great,” the greatness not being thrown forward as a compensation to be received in the far-off future, but thought of as actually attained in the midst of, and by means of, the seeming humiliation.

Verse 49

(49) And John answered and said.—See Notes on Mark 9:38-41, the narrative being common to these two Gospels only.

Master.—The same word as in Luke 5:5; Luke 8:24.

Verse 51

(51) When the time was come that he should be received up.—Literally, When the days of His assumption were being fulfilled. The noun is peculiar to St. Luke, and is derived from the verb used of the Ascension, in Mark 16:19, 1 Timothy 3:16. It can here refer to nothing else, and the passage, as occurring in the midst of a narrative, is remarkable. It is as though St. Luke looked on all that follows as seen in the light of the Ascension. Every word and act was consciously a step forward to that great consummation.

Verse 52

(52) And sent messengers before his face.—It is remarkable that the words “Samaria” and “Samaritan” do not occur at all in St. Mark, and in St. Matthew in one passage only (Matthew 10:5), and then in the command given to the Twelve that they were not to enter into any city of the Samaritans. St. Luke, on the other hand, seems to have carried his inquiries into that country, and to have treasured up whatever he could find of our Lord’s acts and words in relation to it. This seems accordingly the right place for a short account of the region and the people, and of their relations, in our Lord’s time, to their neighbours of Judæa and Galilee. The city of Samaria (the modern Sebastieh) first comes into notice as built by Omri to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:23-24). It continued to occupy that position till its capture by Salmaneser, B.C. 721. After the deportation of the ten tribes, Esar-haddon (Ezra 4:2; Ezra 4:10), after the manner of the great monarchs of the East, brought a mingled race from Babylon, and Cuthah, and Ava, and Hamath, and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24), to occupy the district thus left depopulated, and from these the Samaritans of later history were descended. They were accordingly of alien races, and their neighbours of Judæa kept up the memory of their foreign origin by speaking of them as Cuthæans. Under the influence of a priest of Israel sent by the king of Assyria, they became worshippers of Jehovah (2 Kings 17:41), and on the return of Judah and Benjamin from the Captivity, they sought to be admitted as co-religionists, to share with them in the work of rebuilding the Temple, and therefore to obtain like privileges as worshippers in its courts. That claim was, however, refused, and they in return, B.C. 409, guided by Manasseh, a priest who had been expelled from Jerusalem by Nehemiah. for an unlawful marriage with the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Nehemiah 13:28), obtained permission from the Persian king, Darius Nothus, to erect a temple on Mount Gerizim. Josephus, it should be added (Ant. xi. 7), places the whole story much later, in the time of Darius Nothus and Alexander the Great. The new worship thus started, placed them at once in the position of a rival and schismatical sect, and their after-history presented the usual features of such antagonism. They refused all hospitality to pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, or would way-lay and maltreat them on their journey. They mocked the more distant Jews by false signals of the rising of the Paschal moon at Jerusalem. (See Note on Luke 6:1.) They found their way into the Temple, and profaned it by scattering dead men’s bones on the sacred pavement (Jos. Ant. xviii. 2, § 2; xx. 6, § 1). Outrages of this kind rankled in the memory of the Jews, and they, in their turn, looked on the Samaritans as worse than heathen, “had no dealings with them” (John 4:9), cursed them in their synagogues, and even the wise of heart among them, like the son of Sirach, named them as a people that they abhorred (Sir. 1:25-26). Probably in consequence of this bitter hostility, the Samaritans became more and more jealous in their observance of the Law, boasted that they possessed the authentic copy of it, substituted Gerizim for Ebal in Deuteronomy 27:4, to support its claim to sanctity, and maintained that it, and not the Temple at Jerusalem, was the chosen sanctuary of Jehovah. They too were looking for the Messiah, who would come as a prophet, and tell them all things (John 4:25). Such was the relative position of the two races in the time of our Lord’s ministry, and we cannot wonder that He should have shrunk (if we may so speak) from bringing His disciples at the outset of their work into contact with a people who hated all Jews, and whom all Jews had learnt to hate in return. He Himself, however, had not shrunk from that contact; and some few of the disciples, at all events, had, at an early period of His work, learnt that He saw in them those whom He owned as the sheep of His flock, though not of that fold. In the narrative now before us we find Him apparently endeavouring to continue the work which had then begun so successfully. (See Note on John 4:39.)

Verse 53

(53) They did not receive him.—The reason thus given exactly agrees with what has been stated above. It will be remembered that when He had visited Samaria before, it was on His return, not directly from Jerusalem, but from some unknown region of Judæa where He had been baptising (John 3:22; John 4:3).

Verse 54

(54) When his disciples James and John saw this.—The burning zeal of the sons of Zebedee, more fiery even than that of Peter, was eminently characteristic of those whom our Lord had named as the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). Their anger was probably heightened by the contrast with His former reception in a city of the same people (John 4:40-41), and by the feeling that what seemed to them an act of marvellous condescension was thus rudely repelled. Did not such a people deserve a punishment like that which Elijah had inflicted on the messengers of Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12; 2 Kings 1:14)? The latter words, “as Elias did,” are, however, wanting in some of the best MSS.

Verse 55

(55) Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.—The words admit of two constructions: (1) that the disciples did not know that the Spirit that had been given “not by measure” to their Master, and promised by Him to them (Matthew 10:20; John 3:34), was one of gentleness and love; (2) that they did not know that in yielding to what they thought a righteous anger, they were really yielding themselves to the evil mind, or the personal Evil Spirit which was at enmity with God. Looking to the general use of the word “spirit” in our Lord’s teaching, the former way of taking the words seems, on the whole, preferable, and agrees better with what follows. The Spirit which had claimed them for its own was one that led Him to save and not to destroy. The whole clause, however, is wanting in the best MSS.

Verse 56

(56) For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives.—Here, again, we have to note the absence of the words from many of the better MSS. It is, perhaps, open to conjecture that they were inserted from an oral tradition that had preserved what the Evangelist in his written record had omitted.

Verses 57-60

(57-60) Lord, I will follow thee.—See Notes on Matthew 8:19-22. The two anecdotes, if we may so call them, are placed by the two Evangelists in a very different connection. It is clear that their isolated, fragmentary character, with no definite notes of time and place, left a large margin to the discretion of each compiler as to where they should appear. The difference between the “certain man” of St. Luke’s report, and the “scribe” of St. Matthew’s, slight as it is, takes its place among the signs of the mutual independence of the two Gospels.

Verse 61

(61) Lord, I will follow thee.—This third example of our Lord’s method of dealing with half-hearted disciples is peculiar to St. Luke. Here, as in the first instance, there is what has the appearance of a spontaneous offer, coupled with a plea for postponement. The man pleads a wish to take a formal farewell of his kindred. The form of expression, the absence of any definite mention of father, or wife, or children, half-suggests the thought that the man was free from the closer and more binding ties of relationship, and that the plea urged was therefore hollow and unreal.

Verse 62

(62) No man, having put his hand to the plough . . .—The image which our Lord used was, as usual, one that went home to the personal experience of His hearers. They were of the peasant class, and they knew that the eye of the ploughman if he is to do his work well, must look straight before him at the line of the furrow which he is making. To look back, while working, is to mar the work entirely. The man who so looks is therefore, ipso facto, disqualified for the work of God’s kingdom.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/luke-9.html. 1905.
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