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The Mission of the Twelve.
Rules for the apostles:
v. 1. Then He called His twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
v. 2. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
v. 3. And He said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
v. 4. And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
v. 5. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
v. 6. And they departed and went through the towns, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere.
Jesus had chosen the Twelve out of the larger company of the disciples that usually followed Him. These Twelve, commonly designated by that term, He called together for a formal meeting. He gave them power and right, or authority, unlimited authority, as His representatives. Although the message which Jesus brought was not new, the form and clearness in which He brought it was. The apostles therefore, going out in His name, must be clothed with unusual power. The demons were made subject to them, and the power to heal diseases was transmitted to them. Note that these two are mentioned separately, and that their treatment was not the same: The demons were to be cast out, the diseases were to be healed. Then, with all due formality, they were sent out, the substance, the essential part of their ministry being the preaching of the kingdom of God, supplemented by works of healing. The Gospel-message must always stand first in the kingdom of God and receive the prime attention; upon its proper proclamation all other activities of the Church depend. Some of the detailed instructions follow. The apostles were to take nothing for their journey; they were not to prepare themselves, and, above all, they were not to be burdened on the way. They were to show no characteristics of the itinerant begging preachers and prophets, having neither a staff nor a beggar's collecting bag, neither bread nor silver money, nor even a change of tunics with them. They were to be dependent altogether upon the people whom they served for their sustenance. They should lose no time in selecting a place to stay, in hunting choice quarters. The house into which they should enter first and whose inmates would receive them, that should be their abode until they had finished their work in that city. But if some people would reject them and their message, they should express the judgment of Christ upon the people of such a city by an. appropriate gesture, by shaking off the very dust from their feet, signifying that they would have nothing to do with such opposition to the Word and work of Christ, but hereby bore witness before God against them. This, in brief, was the sum and substance of the instructions given to the apostles by Jesus. And, armed with this authority, they went forth through the towns of Galilee. In the most important place they put the preaching of the Gospel, the good news of salvation; and this proclamation of the Word was given the proper emphasis under the circumstances by the healings which were done everywhere.
Herod's interest in Jesus:
v. 7. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some that John was risen from the dead;
v. 8. and of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.
v. 9. And Herod said, John have I beheaded but who is this of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see Him.
Herod was at this time probably living at Tiberius, a city which he had practically rebuilt to fit in with his great plans. Rumors of the activity of a certain rabbi in Galilee may have reached the tetrarch of this province before, but he was too busy with his profligate life to pay much attention to them. But here, in the very region in which many of the greatest miracles of Jesus were performed, the courtiers of Herod supplied him with information concerning the movement among the people, probably not without a hint as to its possible dangerousness, for the Herodian party was strong. The news of the great Prophet bothered Herod, it embarrassed him, it placed him in a quandary; he did not know what to make of it. Various reports came to his ears, some saying that John had risen from the dead; others, that Elijah had been revealed, for their understanding of Malachi 4:5 was of the real Elijah; still others, that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod's conscience was pricking him, for he had been guilty of murder, a fact which is here merely referred to briefly. Herod knew that he had beheaded John in the prison, for the sake of his stepdaughter Salome, and now that this Prophet had arisen, with a message so much like that of the Baptist, he brooded on the matter and was anxious to see Jesus, in order that he might be satisfied as to His identity. Herod's position and manner of acting is that of a great many people that do not wish to break entirely with the Church. They may, under circumstances, hear a sermon and even form a liking for some preacher. But when they are placed before the choice: Christ or the world, they choose the latter. But their conscience will give them no rest; in the midst of all apparent happiness their defection gives them no peace. God is not mocked.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
The retirement of the apostles:
v. 10. And the apostles, when they were returned, told Him all that they had done. And He took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
v. 11. And the people, when they knew it, followed Him; and He received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.
When the apostles returned from their first missionary journey, they related to the Lord in detail what they had done and what success they had had. They had labored with all the enthusiasm of beginners; it had been a strenuous experience for them. And therefore Jesus took them along with Him, He withdrew with them alone into the neighborhood of the city Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast coast of the Sea of Galilee, not far from the river Jordan. Note: It is altogether well-pleasing to the Lord if one of His servants, after a period of strenuous activity in the interest of the kingdom of God, withdraws for a time and gains new physical strength for the new demands awaiting him. But the withdrawal of Jesus did not remain undiscovered. The multitudes found out about it, and, some of them having noticed the direction in which He sailed, they followed afoot around the north end of the lake. So the recess of Jesus was of but short duration, since His kind heart would not turn from the people after their long journey to find Him. He willingly received the multitude, and He began speaking to them, and continued for the larger part of the day, on His favorite topic, the kingdom of God, what it means, and how they might enter into it. And all those that were in need of His healing hand He did not disappoint, but ministered unto them with all the compassion and power of His Savior's heart. Note: Jesus always has time for us; our prayers are never unwelcome to Him; His ear is always inclined to those that put their trust in Him, whether it be in matters concerning this world or that to come.
The miracle of the loaves and the fish:
v. 12. And when the day began to wear away, then came the Twelve and said unto Him, Send the multitude away that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals; for we are here in a desert place.
v. 13. But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.
v. 14. For they were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company.
v. 15. And they did so, and made them all sit down.
v. 16. Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.
v. 17. And they did eat, and were all filled; and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.
Jesus had been busy preaching and healing without ceasing all day long. But now the day began to decline, to draw near its close, bringing an unwelcome interruption in the Lord's beneficent labors. The apostles felt it their duty to interfere at this point. They urged Jesus to dismiss the people, to send them away. The place where they were was an uninhabited region; but there were towns, Bethsaida Julias itself and other small hamlets, within walking distance round about; there the people might go and find places to lodge and also provisions for themselves. The disciples were not yet filled with the love for others which recognizes no sacrifice and sternly represses all selfishness. Their words rather express a certain peevishness as though they had been bothered long enough by these unwelcome guests. But Jesus gives them a lesson, both as to hospitality and trust in Him. He suggested immediately that the disciples be hosts to the multitudes. But their faces fell at the mere suggestion. They had, by some exploration, ascertained that there were five loaves and two fishes as provisions; that was the entire stock. And they add: Unless perhaps we are to go and buy food for the whole people. Neither their words nor their tone implied that they relished the idea very strongly or were very fond of the prospect. One of them had even figured out that the amount of money on hand would not be sufficient to buy bread for all those present, since there were some five thousand men present, without the women and children. And all this fuss and excitement with Jesus standing before them, of whom they knew and had the evidence of their senses that He was able to help at all times, even when death had laid his cold hands on a person and driven away the living soul. The disciples certainly do not appear to good advantage in this story. Note: This same lack of faith is found all too often in the Christians of these latter days. Worry and care for the body is all too apt to take the place of firm, and undoubting trust in the providence and goodness of Christ and our heavenly Father. "That is the great fault that we, also in our days, not only on account of food, but also in manifold troubles and temptations feel that we know well how to figure out what we need, and how these needs should be met and help given to us. But if it is not there quickly as we like it, then nothing remains of our figuring but discontent and sadness. And it would be far better if we would leave God to deal with the situation and would not think of what we need. " But Jesus now took the matter in hand. He had His disciples command the people to recline on the grass which grew at that place, in dining parties, or companies, of fifty each. He was preparing to spread a banquet before them. Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and, looking up to heaven, He spoke a blessing upon them, He blessed the food. Then He broke both bread and fishes into smaller pieces and gave these to His disciples, who acted as His waiters upon this momentous occasion. And all ate, and all were filled, they were fully satisfied, they had all they wanted to eat. And then, at Christ's command, that which was left over to them that ate, the fragments, were picked up, and these filled twelve large baskets. Christ here appears again as the almighty Lord and Creator of heaven and earth, upon whom the eyes of all creatures wait, that He may give them their food in due season. There is a world of comfort for Christians in the fact that Jesus, to whom we owe the salvation and life of our soul, also has the food for every day in His hand and will give us our daily bread every day. We are taken care of in body and soul.
Peter's Confession and Christ's Answer.
The confession of Peter and the Twelve:
v. 18. And it came to pass, as He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him; and He asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
v. 19. They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say that one of the old prophets is risen again.
v. 20. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering- said, The Christ of God.
v. 21. And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing,
v. 22. saying, The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
It was some time before Jesus was able to withdraw from the neighborhood of the Sea of Galilee and find time for rest and uninterrupted intercourse with His disciples. But when the occasion offered, He gladly availed Himself of the opportunity, traveling up into the northern part of Gaulanitis. Here He had leisure for prayer. And here He could speak to His disciples alone, to the Twelve that were with Him. And after some time He tested them with a searching question, not so much to determine the state of their faith (for His omniscience knew that) as to have them make an open confession. He asked first what the people in general said of Him, whom they believed Him to be. And the disciples answered what rumors were afloat regarding the Lord's identity, as in verses 7 and 8. But now came the Lord's test question as to their own personal conviction. He addressed them all, but Peter gave the answer for them. Boldly and gladly he cried out: The Christ of God. That was saying that they had learned to know their Master as the promised Messiah, the Anointed One of God, that they believed Him to be the One through whom the salvation of the world was to come. This knowledge was indeed still mixed with a good deal of carnal understanding. But it was a wonderful thing that they had 'made at least so much headway. Jesus therefore accepted the confession and commended them for it, but He also immediately made an effort to lead their thoughts into the right channel concerning His office. Gravely and emphatically admonishing them not to make this fact known among the people at large, lest their false understanding of the work of the Messiah precipitate a crisis, He gave them a prophecy concerning the purpose of His coming into the world, the first prediction of His Passion. He told them that He, the Son of Man, must, that the divine obligation was resting upon Him to suffer much and to be rejected officially by the leaders of the Jewish Church and to be put to death, but also to rise again on the third day. Here the principal moments in the great Passion are given. His fate was sealed when the high priests and elders and scribes, the members of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, declared such a person excommunicated that would declare his adherence to Jesus. The people were too easily cowed. Many believed in their hearts that Jesus was a prophet and the Messiah Himself, but they did not dare to make an open declaration of their faith, and so matters went on through the great suffering to His death. Only one thing the Jewish leaders had not taken into consideration, the rising on the third day, which upset all their fine calculations, and proved Christ the Victor, the Son of God with power.
The cross-bearing of the disciples:
v. 23. And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
v. 24. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.
v. 25. For what is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world and lose himself, or be cast away?
v. 26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He shall come in His own glory and in His Father's and of the holy angels.
v. 27. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.
Christian discipleship is not all receiving and rejoicing, it involves also work and sacrifice. He that believes on Christ and wants to follow Him must deny his natural self, must give up his own natural wishes, desires, and inclinations, and must patiently take upon himself all the sufferings and hardships which his confession of Christ will bring upon him. That is the Christian's cross, not a physical one like Christ's, but none the less real and burdensome. The Lord explains the necessity. He that wants to save His life, the life in this world with its pleasures, he will lose the true life for all eternity; for the only real life is that in communion with Christ. But he that denies his old sinful self for the sake of Christ, crucifies his flesh with all lusts and desires, he will find and save his soul, he will possess it as an eternal gain, he will have eternal life as his reward of grace. For what gain has a person if he bring the whole world into his possession, but in doing so destroys himself and brings damnation upon himself? The entire world with all its glories and riches cannot outweigh the value of a single soul. Knowing this, the true disciples of Christ will deny themselves and also the world. Every man's heart is attached to the treasures, the joys, the delights of this world. And therefore denial of self includes denial of the world. Whosoever here in this world has served the world, has been a slave of the lusts of the world, will receive the judgment of damnation on the last day. Of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He returns in all His glory with all His holy angels. But those that in this life served Christ faithfully, and proved their faith by denial of self and of the world, will enter into that glory which God has prepared for them that love Him. But to His apostles Jesus solemnly says that there are some of them that will not taste of death, will not be taken away by death before they have seen the kingdom of God. The day when God poured out His wrath upon Jerusalem is the dawn of the coming of Christ in glory. And some of the apostles, like John, lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem, and thus became witnesses of the truth of Christ's words and of the inexorable punishment which comes upon those that deny Him.
The miracle itself:
v. 28. And it came to pass, about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
v. 29. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering.
v. 30. And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias,
v. 31. who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.
v. 32. But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him.
After these things had happened, after Peter had spoken the confession in the name of all the disciples, a matter of about eight days, on the eighth day after, Jesus took Peter and John and James along with Him. He wanted to give them visual evidence and proof that He was truly the Son of the living God. He ascended the mountain with them, the highest mountain in the neighborhood where they were at that time, a mountain well known to all of them. The Lord's purpose was to pray, to enter into intimate communion with His heavenly Father, for the purpose of getting wisdom and strength for His coming difficult work, for the Galilean ministry was drawing to a close, and the days of the Judean ministry would be short. And God revealed Himself in a remarkable manner to His Son. For while Jesus was engaged in prayer, His entire aspect changed. The appearance of His face became unlike His usual self, and all His clothing became white and resplendent, shining, flashing like lightning. And suddenly there were two men that appeared and were engaged in conversation with the Lord, namely, Moses and Elijah. In the case of the first, only God knew his grave, and as for the second, the Lord took him up to heaven outright. Moses had given the Law and was the great exponent of the Old Testament covenant, and Elijah had been zealous for the Law and suffered much for his faithfulness. Both of them had looked forward with eager longing to the coming of the Messiah. And now that the Christ had appeared on earth and was engaged in^ the work of His ministry, God permitted and caused these men to appear to Jesus on the mountain before the amazed eyes of the three apostles. Thus Peter and the others were witnesses of the glory of Jesus, 2 Peter 1:16. The divine glory, which He otherwise bore hidden before the eyes of men and only occasionally made manifest in word and deed, this glory now shone forth through His weak flesh, imparting to it that wonderful majesty which it was destined to bear at all times after entering into the final glory. Meanwhile, Peter and the other men were almost overwhelmed by the glory of the revelation; the brightness and the wonder of it all affected them so that they were as if heavy with sleep; they could barely manage to open their eyes from time to time. They heard only that Moses and Elijah were conversing with Jesus concerning His going out of this life, concerning the consummation of His ministry, which was to be fulfilled at Jerusalem and take place through suffering and death. And sometimes, when they roused themselves for a few moments, the disciples caught sight of the glory of their Master and of the two prophets that were standing with Him.
The voice from heaven:
v. 33. And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee and one for Moses and one for Elias; not knowing what he said.
v. 34. While he thus spake, there came a cloud and overshadowed them; and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
v. 35. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son: hear Him.
v. 36. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
Moses and Elijah, having spoken those things for which they were sent, departed to make way for a still greater manifestation of glory. But in the interval, while they were withdrawing, Peter regained full consciousness for a moment, though he was still dazed with the wonder of what he had seen. He was filled with a peculiar ecstasy, with the joy characteristic of the great festivals of the Jews, especially of that of the Feast of Tabernacles. He was loath to see the visitors from heaven depart, and therefore proposed to build three tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, that the communion thus begun might continue indefinitely, and the disciples might be witnesses of the heavenly glory for an indefinite length of time. But, as the evangelist says, Peter was not clear in his mind as to what he was really saying. The entire happening on the Mount of Transfiguration was for Christ a taste and pledge of the glorification which should be His after His final great Passion. For the disciples it was to be a strengthening of their faith in view of the days through which they would be obliged to pass, days of severest trial and tribulation. But to all that believe in Christ and share the persecutions which come upon the believers for His sake, the future transfiguration and glorification is here pictured. "This revelation shows that this life is nothing in comparison with that to come, which will surely fall to the lot of those that have died to the world in Christ. And we owe it to God to thank Him with sincere praise that He thus far humiliated Himself to reveal such glory to us, and that He wanted to make us sure of the hope of the life to come by means of such a beautiful, open, and mighty revelation."
While Peter was still speaking these words, there came a cloud, not a dark and dreary mass, but one refulgent with heavenly brightness. So obvious was this feature that the poor, sinful mortals instinctively shrank back and were filled with fear as they entered into the cloud. Here was such a cloud of glory as that which filled the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle and the Temple when the Lord wanted to speak to the children of Israel. But whereas in those days there was only the lid of the ark of the covenant that served as a type of the things to come, now the great Mercy-seat Himself was in the midst of the cloud of God's glory, surrounded with heavenly brightness. And now came the revelation of God the Father, who spoke out of the cloud as a witness for His Son: This is My Son, the Chosen One; hear Him, give obedience to Him. Hereby the prophetic dignity of the High Priest of the New Testament was raised above even that of the elect prophets of old. Beside Him even the highest, greatest, and best of mortals falls away into insignificance: Jesus must be all in all. As soon as the voice had been heard, Jesus was found alone and in His former lowly appearance, that of a servant. All traces of the heavenly glory had been removed. But the disciples had heard what they were to do. They had the Word of Jesus, the Word of the Gospel; this they should hold fast, to this they should render obedience. We Christians need not worry because the bodily presence of Christ has been removed from us; for we also have the Word and Jesus in the Word in all the glory of His wonderful love unto our salvation. In obedience to a command of Christ the three disciples kept silence concerning this wonderful revelation in those days. They did not speak of this experience until after the resurrection of Christ.
The Healing of the Epileptic Boy.
v. 37. And it came to pass that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met Him.
v. 38. And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son; for he is mine only child.
v. 39. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and, bruising him, hardly departeth from him.
v. 40. And I besought Thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not.
v. 41. And Jesus, answering, said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.
v. 42. And as he was yet a-coming, the devil threw him down and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.
Since Luke is writing for heathen Christians, He omits almost all reference to the Pharisees and Sadducees, as his readers would have followed him only with difficulty. In this story, also, there is no reference to the quarrel which the disciples had with the leaders of the Jews, the story only being given. Jesus had been on the mountain overnight. But when He came down on the next day with His three disciples, He came upon an excited scene. In the first place, a great many people came to meet Him. And out of the crowd, as it drew near, one man came forward and cried to Him with a loud voice, in a pitiful prayer. He wanted Jesus to look upon his only son, with a view to helping him. From time to time it would happen that an evil spirit would take hold upon him, and the boy would suddenly scream with pain. The demon, meanwhile, would distort and tear him until froth would appear at the mouth, and even after bruising the child fiercely, he would barely withdraw for a time. It was a case of severe epilepsy and lunacy caused by an evil spirit. The poor father had pleaded with the disciples that had remained in the valley whether they could help in this emergency, but they had not been able. The cry of Jesus at this point: 0 unbelieving and perverse generation; people that have no faith and consistently go the wrong way! How long must I be with you and tolerate you? includes the people as a whole, also the father of the boy and, in a way, the disciples, as He told them afterwards. That was characteristic of the chosen people of God at that time: they were rejecting the Messiah of their salvation or following false leads and hopes in their dream of a temporal kingdom. Jesus then commanded the boy to be brought to Him. While the boy was approaching Jesus, in accordance with His command, the demon made a final assault on his victim, rending and convulsing him. Note: It is very probable that certain severe attacks of sickness, such as cramps, convulsions, epilepsy, lunacy, and others, even today are caused or aggravated by the devil. He is a murderer from the beginning and has only one thing in mind, to destroy the creatures of God. But the power of the evil spirit also in this case, as in all, goes only so far as Jesus permits it. For Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
The second prediction:
v. 43. And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered, every one, at all things which Jesus did, He said unto His disciples,
v. 44. Let these sayings sink down into your ears; for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men.
v. 45. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not; and they feared to ask Him of that saying.
The people were greatly astonished at the majesty of God, revealed in the power that could work such a cure. This majesty is the essence of Jesus, it is given to Him as man, in the state of humiliation. He is true God and eternal Life. But while they were all wondering about the great deed which Jesus had performed, He took His disciples aside and spoke to them privately, affirming once more that they should set into their ears the words which He was now telling them, that they should remember them and get their understanding: It will be done that the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. This is a certainty; and He wanted His disciples to become accustomed to the thought that such was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. But, as Luke remarks in a pitying aside, they did not understand this saying, and it was totally hidden from them to the extent that they did not have the faintest understanding of it. At the same time, they were afraid to ask Him with regard to this saying of His. The evidence of His ineffable majesty had stood out so strongly in His recent miracle that the disciples could not muster the courage to question Him on the matter.
Lessons in Humility.
The question as to the greatest:
v. 46. Then there arose a reasoning among them which of them should be greatest.
v. 47. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child and set him by Him,
v. 48. and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receiveth Me; and whosoever shall receive Me receiveth Him that sent Me; for he that is least among you, the same shall be great.
Just how great the spiritual denseness of the disciples was even at that time, appears from this incident. For while Jesus was concerned about the work of salvation, about the woe and weal of the whole world, the apostles were bickering, in petty jealousy, about rank in their own midst. There was a regular altercation about the question in their circle on this trifling matter. Luke does not relate that Jesus asked them about their dispute, being content to point out the lesson which Jesus taught. The Master took a little child and placed it beside Him as He was standing in their midst, telling them that by receiving this little child they would receive Him, and therefore also Him that sent Him. The little and insignificant in the eyes of the world is great in the eyes of Jesus, if there is faith to be found. And then He states the great paradox, the apparent contradiction which holds true in the kingdom of God: He that is smaller than all, he is great in the kingdom of God. He that is satisfied with the humblest, lowest position, if he can but serve the Master, he has the true qualities that make for greatness, and will be acknowledged in that way by Christ Himself.
An interruption by John:
v. 49. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name; and we forbade him because he followeth not with us.
v. 50. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us.
The claim has been made that this is an unnatural transition, and that this incident is in the false place. But it fits very nicely. The present subject was by no means a pleasant one, and John thought by introducing this story he would change the subject and also earn some commendation. John tells the Lord that either on their missionary journey or more recently, some of them, probably he and James, had seen a man casting out devils in the name of Jesus. They had promptly resented and forbidden this as an interference with their rights and as an insult to their Master. But Jesus instructs them differently. It was far better for the exorcists to be using His name than to be relying upon incantations of devils. The chances were that this man Believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but he had not yet gained the understanding that he ought to join the disciples of Jesus and follow after Him, thus confessing his faith before men. Just the same, he did not hinder, but furthered, so far as he was concerned, the work of Jesus. This judgment of Christ contains an instruction for all of us to have patience with our weak brethren and sisters. They have faith in their hearts and confess the name of Jesus, but are not yet so far advanced as to be on a level with established Christians. But the Lord will give them further enlightenment, and it is not for us to set limits too arbitrarily.
Rejection by the Samaritans
v. 51. And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,
v. 52. and sent messengers before His face; and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans to make ready for Him.
v. 53. And they did not receive Him because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem.
v. 54. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
v. 55. But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
v. 56. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
John and James, the "sons of thunder," had not yet learned the full lesson of humility, as this incident shows. When the days of His being received up were altogether fulfilled, when the days of His assumption were in course of accomplishment, "implying the approach of the closing scenes of Christ's earthly experience," then He firmly set His face to journey up to Jerusalem. It was not the last journey which the Lord was here undertaking, but one which would settle His fate, so far as the leaders of the Jews were concerned. From this time forth He might expect a falling away of popular favor. He made this journey through Samaria. But when, in one case, He sent messengers ahead to provide lodging, He met with a flat refusal. The Samaritans, a mixed people, had fallen away from the Jewish Church, accepted only the Pentateuch as God's revealed Word, and did not worship at Jerusalem. There was, on that account, little love lost between the Jews and the Samaritans, John 4:9. In this case the people of the Samaritan village would not give Jesus lodging, because, literally, His face was journeying to Jerusalem; He was headed in that direction, that was His destination. But this treatment of their Master filled John and James with the greatest indignation. Referring to the act of Elijah, 2 Kings 1:10, they wanted to follow his example and have the village destroyed by fire from heaven. But Jesus turned to them and very earnestly upbraided them for their suggestion. The spirit of Christ and the New Testament is not bent upon destroying the souls of people, but upon saving them. Rather than show any resentment, Jesus chose a different village to lodge in. This lesson is in place even today. The Christian Church, the Christian congregation, uses no force in bringing Christ and His Gospel to people, for His kingdom is not of this world. "Here Christ says: Remember of what spirit ye are children, namely, of the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of peace, not of division. This Peter also forgot in the garden, when Christ said to him: Put the sword into the sheath. It requires not fighting, but suffering. The Holy Spirit permits it now, and maintains His silence that Christ is thus crucified and abominably dealt with. Thus, because we have the pure doctrine, it happens also to us that everything that is great in the world uses power and might against this doctrine. But God alone upholds it, else it would have been destroyed long ago. But since they vilify the doctrine and defend their godless estate, we cannot hold silence, but must speak against them. But we are here like John and James; our heart has this feeling, that we desire revenge upon the godless tyrants. Here every one should repent thoroughly and pray God that He would keep us from such murderous thoughts. revenge we should not desire, hut have compassion, and remember why the Son of Man is come, namely, that we should not desire judgment and revenge upon the sinners."
True Discipleship of Christ.
v. 57. And it came to pass that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto Him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever Thou goest.
v. 58. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.
v. 59. And He said unto another, Follow Me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
v. 60. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
v. 61. And another also said, Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.
v. 62. And Jesus-said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
See Matthew 8:19-22. All three incidents teach the same lesson: True discipleship of Christ implies a denial of self and all earthly ties, in certain circumstances even the obligations of blood-relationship. The first man offered to become Christ's disciple, but did not know that sacrifices were asked. Jesus points to His own case. The foxes have dens, and the birds of the heaven have roosting-places, but the Son of Man has no place which He can call His own. If that is the Master's position, the disciple can hardly expect more. In the second case, Jesus asked a scribe to become His disciple. When this man gave his excuse that he must first go back and bury his father, Jesus tells him that this duty is well taken care of in the hands of those that make it their occupation to bury the dead, but that he should come and follow Jesus by proclaiming on every side the kingdom of God. In the third case, the man offers to follow, but proposes a preliminary condition, namely, that he first be given an opportunity to say farewell to his friends. This is a type of man who always first wants to do something in which he himself is personally interested, and then take care of the main duty. But Jesus calls him to order with a proverbial saying: No one having laid his hand to the plow and then looking behind him is fit for the kingdom of God. To follow Jesus in His ministry is the highest calling, and it requires a firm intention and a steady eye. Any labor is unfruitful unless the whole man takes part in it and devotes his entire mind to the subject in hand. These lessons are so badly needed today that everyone can make the application for himself. "The first case is that of inconsiderate impulse, the second that of conflicting duties, the third that of a divided mind."
Summary. Jesus sends out the Twelve on a missionary journey, feeds five thousand, accepts Peter's confession and predicts His Passion, is transfigured, heals a lunatic boy, gives several lessons in humility, and teaches a lesson in discipleship.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 9". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany