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THE LORD JESUS SUFFICIENT FOR HUMAN MISERY AND NEED
The Lord had shown Himself as the perfect remedy for the world's disturbance, its bondage to Satan, its disease occasioned by sin and its fear of death. Next we see Him capable also of graciously relieving its misery and want. In meeting this need, the Lord desired His disciples to take part with Him in this compassionate mission (vv.1-5 and v.13), though the power to show such grace belongs to Him, and it is He who communicated that power to them. The commission of these first five verses is shown in Matthew 10:5-6 to be confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but Luke does not mention this, for he emphasizes the moral condition that required the grace of the Lord Jesus, and in this Israel is only a sample of all mankind.
The disciples were given power and authority over demons and diseases (v.1). The Lord's own power and authority had been previously seen in these very things, so He told them to do what He had done. Yet He sent them with the first object of preaching the kingdom of God, which involves primarily God's authority; for it is only in this that the miserable conditions of the world can possibly find a right answer.
He told them not to take supplies for their journey, not even walking sticks for support, no scrip (a shoulder bag used for carrying food), no money and not even extra clothing (v.3). The Messiah of Israel was sending His servants to His own people (Israel) who were responsible to fully and thoroughly care for His messengers. Those who accepted them as indeed the servants of Jehovah would on this account supply their needs. When received in a home, they were to stay there until leaving the city: they were not to look for more humanly desirable circumstances, but to be content with the hospitality offered them.
For any in Israel to refuse these servants was an evil so solemn as to call for the shaking of the dust from their feet (v.5), the virtual refusal of their city, a testimony against them as warning of judgment to follow.
Later, in Luke 22:35-37 the Lord rescinded this commission and told them virtually the opposite. Why? Because Israel then had rejected their Messiah. The cross of Christ has radically changed these things today. The Lord's servants therefore cannot now expect recognition from Israel. They were to carry the gospel far beyond Israel, to the Gentiles. Gentiles are classed as "aliens" and strangers" (Ephesians 2:12), 50 they cannot be expected to supply the support of the servants of the Lord Jesus (3 John 1:7).
The twelve were obedient to the Lord, going through the towns of Israel, both preaching and healing (v.6). Mark 6:7; Mark 6:7 mentions that they were sent in pairs, so this arrangement allowed them to cover a good number of towns. ButLuke 10:1; Luke 10:1 tells us that the Lord appointed 70 others later to do similar work in preparation for the Lord's coming to those places.
A brief mention is next made of the perplexity of Herod, tetrarch of Galilee, when he heard of the works of the Lord Jesus. His conscience was troubled at the suggestion by some that Christ was John the Baptist risen from the dead (v.7). There was no excuse for such ignorance, for it was well known that both John and Christ had been publicly seen together (Matthew 3:13-17). Both were preaching the Word at the same time, and John bore special witness of his inferiority to this One infinitely greater than himself. But people had many ignorant speculations as to Christ, as they do today. Some considered Him to be a reincarnation of Elijah or of some other long-dead prophet. Satan tries every means of depriving Christ of His proper glory. Still, in curiosity Herod desired to see Him (v.9), for Herod had a religious bent, but no evident faith. When he eventually did see the Lord (Luke 13:7-11) and Christ did not entertain him with any miracle or even answer his questions, he treated Him with mocking contempt.
The disciples returned to give a report of the mission on which the Lord sent them (v.10). But He did not allow any excitement about their accomplishments, nor did He send them again immediately, as though their work was the foremost matter. He took them to a deserted place for quietness. Waiting on God to renew strength is a deeply vital matter for His servants.
The waiting was not long protracted, however, for the people soon followed Him. He was not resentful of this intrusion, but received them, again speaking to them of the kingdom of God and healing those who were in need of healing. Notice again that it is His Word that had first place. His speaking continued till late in the day, and the disciples became concerned that the people would have little time to find food in the surrounding towns (v.12).
In response the Lord told them to give food to the crowd, which drew their protest that their resources were too meager for so great a number (v.13). The same may seem to be the case with ourselves, spiritually speaking: we may feel the poverty of our own resources. Yet if we have Christ, He is more than sufficient to meet the need of all mankind, as He proved immediately. He gave instructions for the people to sit down in groups of fifty (v.14), which would make over 100 groups when women and children were added to the 5000 men present. Such order was necessary to facilitate the distribution of the food by the disciples. Fifty is 5x5x2. The number 5 emphasizes that God is with man in faithful care (as the four fingers and the thumb illustrate), and the number 2 is the witness of this. The same factors are required to multiply this to 5000. Does not this teach us that whether for a smaller or greater number, the same principles of order apply?
As the dependent Man the Lord looked up to heaven in blessing before breaking the five loaves and the two fishes. The loaves speak of Him as the bread of life, the One who has suffered and died to be the spiritual food of human beings. The fishes speak of Him as the One passing through the waters of judgment for the sake of man's nourishment. Notice here also the Numbers 5:1-31; Numbers 2:1-34. The disciples are spoken of as having the privilege of distributing the food to the crowd (v.16). No mention is made of the wonder of the miracle in the amazing multiplying of the loaves and fishes: the ease and simplicity of the matter is what stands out. All were satisfied, and twelve baskets were left over. Thus grace for the present age is abundant, with plenty reserved for the 12 tribes of Israel when they turn to the Lord.
THE WORLD A PLACE WHERE CHRIST IS REJECTED
Though the Lord Jesus had brought with Him in His own Person the answer to the many needs that trouble the world, we next see the worst feature of the world's sad condition. It is a place where Christ is rejected.
In contrast to the Lord's dealings with the multitude, we find Him in verse 18 deeply affected by the loneliness of exercise. Though the disciples were with Him, yet He was "alone praying." The context makes clear that the solemn anticipation of His coming suffering and death was weighing on His soul. Not one of His disciples had the understanding to enter into the reality of that imminent ordeal. Yet He sought to stir exercise in their hearts as to this, when He asked them as to the people's general conception of who He was. Their answer indicated that there was little serious, honest concern about this among the people, but idle speculation. As we have seen, it was inexcusable ignorance to say He was John the Baptist risen from the dead, and in fact to suppose He was Elijah or any other prophet raised again was manifest ignorance of the Word of God.
He then pressed the point upon them, "Who do you say that I am?" (v.20). Was theirs a true concern and a true discernment? Peter's response was positive indeed: "The Christ of God." He and the other disciples were evidently drawn by the attractive power of this blessed Person, so they had living faith in Him personally. Yet ought they not to have been concerned, not only as to who He was, but as to the vital importance of every word He spoke? He sought again to stir their exercise as to this by firmly, authoritatively charging them to tell no man that He was Christ, because "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders (the most experienced) and chief priests (the most religious) and scribes (the most learned), and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (v.22).
Surely such words from Him whom they confessed as the Christ of God ought to have stirred their deepest exercise and concern. But though they were with Him when He was praying, He was really "alone," for they did not enter into nor understand the solitary exercise of soul through which He was passing, and even when He spoke of His death and resurrection, they did not take it to heart.
Though He had spoken to them this way many times, and though only eight days after this Moses and Elijah spoke with Him of His death in the presence of Peter, James and John (vs.30-31), the reality of such words had no apparent effect on the disciples. They could neither understand that He would actually suffer and be killed, not that after being killed He would rise again the third day. It was not consistent with their preconceived natural understanding concerning the Messiah. Let us take this to heart, that our preconceived notions must not impair our reception of the plain Word of God.
If any one therefore thinks of following the leading of the Lord Jesus, let him be fully prepared. he is called upon first to deny himself (v.23), which means not merely giving up certain advantages, but giving up himself, to deny himself any title of making decisions merely on his own. It means denying himself any rights as belonging to earth. He is to take up his cross daily and follow Christ. Matthew 16:24 does not include the word "daily," for there the initial decision is emphasized, but Luke emphasizes a daily practice.
If one would save his life, that is, escape from the dangers connected with true discipleship, he would in the end only lose his life. But if one would willingly lose his life for Christ's sake, he would actually save it as regards its real, abiding value. One may think he is saving his life by gaining the world or amassing great riches in the world, but he can do all this and yet lose himself or be cast away as useless. Many are snared by such delusions. Such things involve being ashamed of Christ personally and of His words -- ashamed of the One who did not seek gain or honor for Himself in the world, but who willingly accepted the place of rejection. The day was coming when He would come again, no longer in lowly humiliation, but as the Son of Man in His own glory over all mankind, in His Father's glory and the glory of the holy angels, all giving Him the place of great dignity. Then He would be ashamed of those who, when He had come in grace, were ashamed of Him and His words. Solemn reversal of the whole matter!
He added that some standing there would not taste death till they had seen the kingdom of God. For if we are encouraged by the Lord in true self denial and bearing the reproach of the cross, we are further encouraged to anticipate the future glory of the Lord Jesus in His coming kingdom. Suffering must come first, but glory is sure to follow.
The fulfillment of the Lord's words as to seeing the kingdom of God was seen just eight days later. Of course it is only a preview of the kingdom that Peter, James and John were privileged to see, but a very real encouragement for faith in view of the sufferings of this present time. Matthew 16:1-28 speaks of six days here, and Luke "about eight days." Matthew refers to the days intervening, while Luke counts both the day the Lord spoke and the actual day of the transfiguration. Today we would likely say seven days.
Only Luke speaks of the Lord praying at the time He was transfigured (v.29). The fashion of His countenance was altered. Matthew speaks of this as His face shining as the sun. This reminds us of His personal intrinsic glory, while His clothing, white and glistening, speaks of the glory with which He is invested, connected with the offices He occupies. These glories will be displayed to the world only in the age to come, the manifested millennial kingdom of 1000 years, but a sample of this is given here for our present encouragement.
Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to the Lord. Moses represents those saints of God who have died but will be raised and have their part in the heavenly kingdom. Elijah stands for those who have been translated into heaven without dying. The earthly side of the kingdom is represented by the three apostles. Moses and Elijah spoke to the Lord about His death to be accomplished at Jerusalem (v.31). How much more sympathy they had with the Lord's exercises than did the apostles!
The three disciples were very sleepy even in the presence of His glory, and it seems they completely missed the topic of the Lord's conversation with Moses and Elijah, though they recognized them without difficulty, in spite of never having seen them. The vision was brief, and as Moses and Elijah depart, Peter felt it necessary to say something, and spoke without proper consideration. Rather than being rightly impressed with the transcendent glory of the Lord, he spoke of themselves and of its being good for them to be there (v.33).
Then Peter made a fleshly suggestion as to building three tabernacles, one for the Lord, one for Moses and one for Elijah. It is the same principle as building shrines to commemorate a certain event. The Lord did not want a tabernacle, and Moses and Elijah would not want to to be honored in this way along with the Lord. God the Father could not for a moment tolerate this, so He sent a cloud to overshadow them, causing them to fear. He spoke from the cloud, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him" (v.35). It is His word to which we must take heed: our own suggestions have no place in His presence. Nor does God say anything of Moses and Elijah.
God having spoken, the vision passed and Jesus was found alone, no more transfigured, but the solitary Man of sorrows. The disciples realized that the vision was not to be spread to others at that time, and kept silent about it. Matthew 17:9 says that the Lord so instructed them. Peter writes of it later, at the proper time, Christ having then been glorified (2 Peter 1:17-18).
THE LORD'S POWER WHEN THE DISCIPLES FAIL
Verse 37 begins a section that ends with verse 62, in great contrast to the wonder of the transfiguration. In each case the failure on the part of disciples has to be reproved, but Christ is seen as their unfailing Resource. The wonderful mountain top experience is exchanged for scenes of trouble and distress. With a large crowd present a man cried out in anguish to the Lord on behalf of his only son, whom he says was oppressed by an evil spirit -- a demon. The cruel, vicious character of the demon is emphasized in this case, as he attacked the boy suddenly so as to cause him to cry out in terror, inwardly convulsing him so that he foamed at the mouth, and outwardly crushing him when evidently he would leave the boy for a time (vs.38-39). It seemed to be a case in which the demon had entrance or egress at his will. At the father's request the disciples had tried to cast the demon out, but could not, in spite of having been given authority to do so by the Lord (v.1).
Today, though people may not commonly be possessed by an evil spirit in the western world, there are those who in a fit of temper resemble the poor boy. They "foam out their own shame" (Jude 1:13), using language that only exposes their folly. They need more than disciples to help them: they need the grace of the Lord Jesus. The Lord's words in verse 41 imply that the spiritual state of His disciples was responsible for their failure to expel the demon. He spoke of the disciples as being faithless, that is, lacking in positive faith; and perverse, which indicates an abuse or misuse of the power the Lord had given them. This connects with the Lord's words in Matthew 17:21 concerning the same incident, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Prayer and faith go together as the positive power, and fasting is the negative side, involving the self-discipline of not perverting the power the Lord gives. We too should take to heart the solemn admonition that the Lord may give us a gift and special grace to do fruitful works for Him, yet we may abuse these things for selfish or self-willed purposes.
The Lord's presence on earth, even among His disciples, caused His heart deep pain and distress at their spiritual condition: "How long shall I be with you and bear with you?" As the tormented son was brought to the Lord, the evil spirit, as though in defiance, threw him down and convulsed him. The Lord Jesus simply rebuked the evil spirit, healed the child and delivered him to his father. It is the simplicity and ease of His work that is stressed in Luke, though we know from Mark 9:20-27 that there was more involved than this, for Mark shows the detailed service of the Lord in the work He does for His creatures.
Though all were amazed at the great power of God in His hands (v.43), and wondered at the power of His miracles, the Lord did not encourage any elation or excitement among His disciples, but sought to subdue any such tendencies in them by urging upon them the sobering truth of the words He had spoken before, that the Son of Man would be delivered into the hands of men. Yet preoccupation with the wonder of His miracle seemed to leave them impervious to the truth of His words. Were they fearful lest His warning was as serious as it appeared to be? It is possible that we avoid truth because we fear it, that it may restrict or change what we naturally don't want changed or restricted. Such fear stems from a lack of confidence in the Lord Himself.
CORRECTING A SELFISH DESIRE FOR GREATNESS
The next two cases both press the great need of disciples for honest humility, but each from a different viewpoint. In the first case the disciples quarreled over who should be greatest among them. The desire to be great in our own circle of believers is a most common spiritual disease. We all naturally like recognition for ourselves, which involves others being set lower than we! Comparisons of this kind should be totally obnoxious to us. The Lord knew both what they said and the reasoning of their hearts, for He alone knows every motive of people. How admirable was His gentle wisdom in using a child as an object lesson! He set the child by Him, as though to say that He considers a child to be entitled to as much recognition as the greatest of them. To receive a child in His name was to receive Him, which involved receiving the Father who had sent Him. How contrary are the thoughts of God to those of His creatures! A child cannot give any place of prominence to a man, but a man's treatment of a child shows where his heart is. Showing such lowly character is true greatness, so he who can willingly take the lowest place is the one who is great -- not "greatest," for the Lord makes no comparisons in this matter.
HIS CORRECTION OF SECTARIANISM
This second case deals with our natural pride in assuming that our own religious position is the only right one. Such an attitude stems from spiritual pride also, just as does the desire to be great, a pride that can be most subtle. The Lord had called the disciples to follow Him and they naturally considered that others were wrong who were not doing the same as they. John had been so persuaded they alone were right, that when he and others saw someone expelling demons in the name of the Lord Jesus, they ordered him to stop, "because he does not follow with us." John seems to have not thought seriously concerning his own failure to cast out a demon though the Lord Jesus had sent him and the other disciples for this purpose (v.40). Yet, had the Lord them that they alone had authority to cast out demons in His name? Not at all! Still, He did no more than to gently correct John with the reproving words, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side" (v.50).
We may be puzzled as to who this man was, and how he received authority to -actually cast out demons. But this is not our affair. If the Lord wanted us to know the answer to this, He would have told us. The Lord did not give John authority over the man, and we also do not have authority over others who may be doing the Lord's work. The Lord did not tell John to leave Him and follow the man, but neither was he to speak against the man's work that manifestly showed the power of God. People like this, though the Lord does not give us permission to associate with them, may well teach us the important lesson that we should be more diligent to do our own work well. Sometimes people of this kind may be more definitely "for us" than we realize.
CORRECTING OUR NATURAL RESENTMENT OF BAD TREATMENT
In this case the Lord deals with the question of our wounded pride. From this time the Lord is seen in Luke as steadfastly proceeding toward Jerusalem "to be received up" (v.51). As He had before said, this involved His suffering and death, but the blessed end in view was before His eyes. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).
Passing through Samaria, He sent messengers to prepare the way for Him, but the inhabitants of a village refused to receive Him because His face was toward Jerusalem: it was evident He was going there. They resented Jerusalem for religious reasons, but how little did they realize His purpose in going there!
John and James, indignant at this treatment of the Son of God, desired to imitate Elijah in calling down fire from heaven to consume these Samaritans (2 Kings 1:9-12). The Lord rebuked them (v.55). They did not understand the character of God's present dealings in sending His Son into the world. He had come in grace, not in judgment. For us the lesson is plain: we must not merely imitate what was right for another time, but should have some true knowledge of our own time and what is suitable for it. Christ had not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. Therefore at the present time it is true faith to humbly submit to rejection with Christ. The Lord did not insist on forcing His presence on these Samaritans. He and His disciples went to another village.
CORRECTING NATURAL THOUGHTS AS TO GOD'S CALL
The last subsection of chapter 9 shows that true discipleship to Christ is not a matter of mere human resolve, but the genuine call of God. Three different cases are found in this section. The first indicates the natural enthusiasm one who thinks he is able to follow the Lord wherever He goes. But this man did not understand that this would be far from an easy path. Even the foxes and birds had some place of security they could call their own, but not so the Son of Man (v.58). His enthusiasm therefore would not last for long, and the Lord's words virtually told him that he was not prepared for what he proposed.
Secondly, the Lord called another to follow Him and the man hesitated. One is too forward, the other is too slow. He felt his natural obligation toward his father should come first, and that he should care for his father as long as he lived (v.59), just as Abraham waited in Haran until his father died, before obeying the word of God to go into Canaan (Genesis 11:31-32; Genesis 12:1-4) The claims of natural relationship can be a formidable hindrance to one's single-hearted following of the Lord, but His claims are paramount. The Lord's words, "Let the dead bury their dead" (v.60) indicate that those who have no life spiritually can occupy themselves with merely natural matters, but when the Lord calls one to preach the kingdom of God, he is to obey. The Lord allows no excuse. This does not contradict 1 Timothy 5:8, "If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household,he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" For one can certainly do the Lord's work while at the same time providing for his own house, but this man wanted to delay doing the Lord's work until he was fully free from any obligation to his father.
The third case is of a man who asked for only a short delay in his service. He wanted first to say "goodbye" to those in his home (v.61). His thoughts were influenced by what he considered a natural social courtesy which involved more than saying "farewell" more likely a "going away party." Compare the indecision of the Levite inJudges 19:5-10; Judges 19:5-10 and the sad consequences. The Levite thought it courteous to remain longer at the urging of his concubine's father, but such lingering was merely the weakness of indecision. Social courtesy can rob us of much valuable time in the Lord's service. The Lord spoke of an attitude of this kind as "looking back" after once putting one's hand to the plow. One holding a hand plow must give his undivided attention to his work, keeping his eyes forward to both make a straight furrow and to keep the plow at a constant depth. If one lacks the genuine purpose of consistent, unswerving devotion to a path of discipleship, he is not fit for the kingdom of God.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 9". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24