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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 9

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 9. Jesus The Messiah.

We have seen above how Jesus, the One rejected by His own family, has, in a place situated between Jews and Gentiles in the midst of the Sea of Galilee, revealed His power over stormy seas, and thus over all the nations, and how in Gentile territory He has revealed His power over the legions of the spirit world that held the Gentiles in thrall, and how in Jewish territory He has revealed His power over death itself, a power that held the Jews, and all men, in thrall. Now He sends out His emissaries in order to exercise that power. They are given power and authority over all demons, and over diseases, and sent to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God, to bring men into subjection to God, and to heal the sick. The exercise of His authority and ministry of salvation (very much a Lucan word) continues. Through His Apostles He is ‘opening their eyes, turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God’ (Acts 26:18). But from this moment danger is seen to loom in the person of Herod (Luke 9:9). The increase of His ministry results in an increase in danger.

There is unquestionably here a clear turning point in the ministry of Jesus. For from this time on He has suffering and death in mind for Himself (Luke 9:22) and martyrdom for His followers (Luke 9:23-26). And the remainder of the Gospel will proceed with His face set towards Jerusalem in order for Him to be ‘received up’ (Luke 9:51). It is now that He establishes a covenant community (Luke 9:12-17 compare Matthew 16:18), with that in view. Here we have Luke’s equivalent to John 6. For in John 6 Jesus fed the crowds and then proclaimed the fact that it pointed to His coming death in terms of His body offered and His blood shed, so much so that many of His disciple withdraw themselves from His company (John 6:66), and His disciples were faced with a stark choice (John 6:67) in which they revealed that they know that He was the Holy One of God. There too His coming death has become prominent immediately after the feeding of the crowds. Here there is the hint of death in the attitude of Herod.


Verse 1

‘And he called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.’

Having called the twelve together for a briefing Jesus grants them power and authority (note the twofold provision) over all demons and to cure diseases. Here He acts on His own initiative in the giving of power and authority. It is His power and authority that will go with them. Previously the Roman centurion was confident that Jesus could send His power and authority over a distance (Luke 7:1-10), but even he may have quailed at the thought of His sending His power and authority through twelve men all at the same time. It is in stark contrast to when Moses (Numbers 11:24-30) and Elijah’s (2 Kings 2:9-10) power was passed on. There they obeyed God and God acted independently of them to bring about the passing on of their ‘spirit’, and Elijah did not even know whether it would happen. But Jesus is here revealed as unique. He has total control over God’s authority and power, and dispenses it as He will. This explains why Judas was able to perform signs and wonders. Jesus had sent His own power and authority through him.


Verses 1-11

The Mission of the Twelve (9:1-11).

Having focused on revealing Himself for what He is Jesus now sends out the twelve to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God and with authority, granted by Him, to cast out evil spirits and heal. He is very much acting as God’ official representative with an authority given by God.

The purpose of Jesus in selecting out twelve Apostles had been for this very purpose (it is why He called them Apostles - those sent forth) as He had initially indicated when He chose Peter. He had chosen them in order that they might become fishers of men. Now the time had come for their initial venture. It was not to be a long one, but would give them a taste of what was to come. And it would ensure the wider spreading of the fact that the Kingly Rule of God was now here.

But it would also bring into view the opposition. The passage may be analysed as follows:

a And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases, and He sent them forth to preach the Kingly Rule of God, and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).

b And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither staff, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money, nor have two coats, and into whatever house you enter, there abide, and from there depart (Luke 9:3-4).

c And as many as do not receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them (Luke 9:5).

d And they departed, and went throughout the villages, preaching the good news, and healing everywhere (Luke 9:6).

c Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some, that John was risen from the dead, and by some, that Elijah had appeared, and by others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this, about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him (Luke 9:7-9).

b And the apostles, when they were returned, declared to him what things they had done. And He took them, and withdrew apart to a city called Bethsaida (Luke 9:10).

a But the crowds perceiving it followed Him, and He welcomed them, and spoke to them of the Kingly Rule of God, and those who had need of healing He cured (Luke 9:11).

Note that in ‘a’ the twelve are sent to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God and heal, and in the parallel Jesus proclaims the Kingly Rule of God and heals. In ‘b’ He describes the conditions they are to follow on their journey, and in the parallel they describe what they have done on their journey. In ‘c’ He tells them what to do about those who do not receive them, and in the parallel we have a prime example of one who did not receive God’s messengers. Central to all is the proclamation of the Good News everywhere.


Verse 2

‘And he sent them forth to preach the Kingly Rule of God, and to heal the sick.’

And having received His authority and power they are sent out to:

· Proclaim that men were now to respond to God and His Kingly Rule over them.

· To heal the sick in order to demonstrate that that Kingly Rule was now here.

The purpose of the two together, the preaching and the healing, appears to be so as to emphasise that the promises of the Old Testament were in process of fulfilment. The good tidings were being proclaimed. The captives were being delivered. He wanted men and women to know that God’s day had arrived. The eagerly anticipated ‘good times’ were here. It was the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:19).

It would appear that Jesus now saw His Apostles as sufficiently equipped for this venture as a result of what they had seen and heard, but it would be a new experience for them which would make them have to think through what they now believed. For they would now have to consider very seriously what was most important in Jesus’ message and would have to formulate it in such a way as to pass it on. There is nothing like having to teach others for making people think through what they believe. The student can waffle as he likes as he argues with his fellow students, but the messenger has to consider his words because of their effect on others, and has to make them clear. He has to think through his message. And this would be especially so as they would be faced up with continual questions as the context reveals (‘is He John the Baptiser risen from the dead? Is He Elijah? Is He a resuscitated prophet?). It would make them have to sort things out in their own minds, so much so that even if we had not been told that it had happened we would have had to assume it. Jesus would not have been a very good trainer of men if He had not insisted on some such practical experience from which they would learn valuable lessons.

It is noteworthy that this took place before Caesarea Philippi where He challenged them as to Who He was. Among other things this was part of the preparation for His question there. Jesus was clearly prepared for them to make mistakes as they went along, as they inevitably would, although He had no doubt coached them carefully on what should be their central message. This was, however, all part of their training. Without it their advance would have been even slower than it was. And they would certainly after this be much more attentive to Jesus’ teaching in the future, so as to be ready for their next venture. There is nothing like having to answer difficult questions to make a man more determined to learn, and to pinpoint to him what he needs to know.


Verse 3

‘And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither staff, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money, nor have two coats.” ’

They were to go out as they were, not seeking out extra provisions, whether staff or bag or bread or money. Nor were they to take a change of tunic. The emphasis is on going as they are and relying on what God will give them and not looking for material supports of any kind. Thus those who normally carried staves were allowed to take them. They were not being told to throw them away (see Mark 6:8). The point was that they were not to make special preparations for the journey.

We can imagine as Jesus gave His instructions that someone asked, ‘what shall I do with my staff then? and that Jesus replied, ‘If you already have one then take it with you’, something which Peter remembered (compare how in Luke 22:38 Jesus would later command them to take swords and then said two was enough. It was not the swords that counted but the idea behind them. Here it was the idea of seeking out a staff as a special support on their journey that was forbidden, not the actual possession of a staff). What was important was that they were to prove the reliability of God’s promises as contained in Luke 22:12-31. They were learning the lesson of total reliance on God and that they must in no way depend upon themselves. They were to discover that if they sought God and His righteousness, all these thing would be added to them. There may also have been the idea of suggesting the pressing urgency of the mission. ‘You must act speedily, there is no time for preparations’ (compare Luke 4:42-43; Matthew 10:23).

A further point may have been that Jesus did not want them to be seen as travelling mendicants or ‘professional’ preachers, with their begging bags. He wanted them to be welcomed as fellow-countrymen and guests, and as not being financially superior to anyone. (Even the poorest had one tunic).


Verse 4

“And into whatever house you enter, there abide, and from there depart.”

Whenever they were offered hospitality in a place they were to remain there the whole time that they were there. It was God’s provision for them and must not be despised. They were to accept what was given to them by God, not seek to better things for themselves. Having bed and board let them be content with it.


Verse 5

“And as many as do not receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

But where none in a town would receive them, when they left that town they should shake the dust of the town from their feet (just as pious Jews did when they left Gentile territory, although for a different ritual reason). That action would stand as a testimony to that town’s rejection of God and would declare that they were cut off from the new Israel and were outsiders like the Gentiles. It would count against them in the Judgment. So their going forth was with both mercy and judgment. For those who received them, mercy, For those who would not receive them, judgment.


Verse 6

‘And they departed, and went throughout the villages, preaching the good news, and healing everywhere.’

Thus they went on their way, and went through the villages preaching the Good News of the presence of the Kingly Rule of God, and the need for response to it, and along with their preaching they ‘healed everywhere’. The Old Testament promises were in process of fulfilment. The blind were seeing, the deaf were hearing, the dumb were speaking, the lame were walking (Isaiah 35:5-6). The Apostles, some of whom had listened to both John the Baptiser and Jesus preaching on repentance and forgiveness, would know in general what to preach. And as the Kingly Rule of God had been central in Jesus preaching they would know well what He had taught. They were thus not short of material. Their problem would arise when they were asked the kind of question that appears in the next verse. Otherwise they were sufficiently equipped for an elementary ministry, and would learn hugely from it.


Verse 7-8

‘Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some, that John was risen from the dead, and by some, that Elijah had appeared, and by others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.’

The news of these activities inevitably reached Herod through his spies, and it had also become a talking point everywhere. He was very perplexed because of the rumours that were spreading about. Some were saying that his old adversary John the Baptiser was risen from the dead, possibly seeing it as a vindication of John and looking venomously at Herod. Others declared confidently that Elijah had appeared. Elijah was very much an expected figure on the basis of Malachi 4:5. Still others said that it was one of the other prophets (compare Matthew 16:14). The return of Isaiah and Jeremiah is anticipated in extra-Biblical Jewish literature, for example in 2 Esdras 2:18, suggesting that this was a part of Jewish tradition. Note the neat distinction between those who had been raised, and Elijah, who had never died but had simply been taken up into Heaven. This is all preparing us for Luke 9:19-20. It also lets us know what kind of questions the Apostles would have to face on their mission.

This is the first notice that we have in Luke of the fact that John is dead. The next verse will tell us how he died.


Verse 9

‘And Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this, about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.’

It is not surprising that the rumours struck Herod’s conscience. The statement is partly Luke’s way of letting us know how John died without taking the attention off Jesus. But it also indicates that now Jesus Himself is in danger. Herod was clearly worried. And rightly so. The king was still subject to his conscience. The other Gospels tell us that in the end he was persuaded that it must be John who had risen from the dead (Mark 6:16). Such is the tyranny of conscience. In fact he probably argued himself in and out of such a position as he fought with his conscience, sometimes believing it and emphatically stating it, and sometimes managing to dismiss the idea out of hand. Fighting with our consciences is something that we are all familiar with at times. We must remember here that the group had a means of obtaining information about what was happening at court through Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward.

‘Sought to see Him.’ This must be seen as ominous. It can be compared with how Jesus’ family had also sought Him out for the wrong purposes. Had Herod wanted to see Him out of interest he would have had no difficulty, for up to this point Jesus had hardly kept Himself hidden. It therefore suggests that Herod’s aim was belligerent, and this is later confirmed in Luke 13:31, which is in turn directly connected with His death in Jerusalem. This explains why Jesus now moves out of Herod’s territory into the territory of Herod Philip, north of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 9:10). And it also accounts for Jesus now making clear to His Apostles that He is here to suffer and die (Luke 9:22), and why He also makes clear to the following crowds that to follow Him could lead to martyrdom (Luke 9:23-26). And why He then sets His face towards Jerusalem because it is time for Him to be received up (Luke 9:51).

So we know from this why it was that Jesus moved northward. He must not perish outside Jerusalem (see Luke 13:31) but the time was not yet. We are not told what steps Herod took in order to see the fulfilment of his wish, but it would be granted to him in the end, when God’s time was ripe (Luke 23:8).


Verse 10

‘And the apostles, when they were returned, declared to him what things they had done. And he took them, and withdrew apart to a city called Bethsaida.’

When the apostles returned from their mission they reported back on what they had done. The statement ‘what things they had done’ is general and should not be analysed. It is a catch-all phrase. They shared everything with Him. Then Jesus took them and moved northwards to Bethsaida Julius in the territory of Herod Philip. Mark 6:31 tells us that it was in order to enable the disciples to recuperate. Luke seems to hint at the fact that it was because of Herod (Luke 9:9 - had He wanted Herod to find Him He would have remained in Galilee. He was probably well informed on what was happening in Herod’s court through Joanna - Luke 8:2).


Verse 11

‘But the crowds perceiving it followed him, and he welcomed them, and spoke to them of the Kingly Rule of God, and those who had need of healing he cured.’

But those among the crowds whose hearts had been deeply stirred were aware of His move and followed Him. And when He saw them, in spite of His aim to rest Himself and His disciples, He graciously welcomed them. He recognised that they were as sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). And He proclaimed to them about the Kingly Rule of God, and healed those who had come for healing.


Verse 12

‘And the day began to wear away, and the twelve came, and said to him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the villages and country round about, and lodge, and get provisions, for we are here in a desert place.” ’

The crowds had come flocking to the wilderness near Bethsaida Julius, to the north of the Sea of Galilee. They were a long way from their homes and many had brought no food, or those who had had already long eaten it, so that it became apparent to the disciples that the crowds were hungry and would need food. To them the logical conclusion was that the crowds be advised to go and find themselves food in the villages round about, and they suggested to Jesus that, as it was after noon (when the day began to wear away), they be despatched for that purpose.

The account is simplified (as all such accounts must be). We are given no details of the discussions that took place between the disciples, and then the different comments made by them to Jesus as they gathered round Him in their quandary, or what He said to some of them (which appear in the other Gospels). We are simply given the bare bones of the matter, and the final most obvious suggestion.


Verses 12-17

Jesus Feeds The Seeking Crowds (9:12-17).

The wider nature of Jesus’ mission having been revealed by the sending out of the Apostles to preach, Jesus now demonstrates to the Apostles their further responsibility. In the light of the establishment of a new covenant community they are to ‘feed’ the people. Thus He arranges for the miraculous provision of food in a similar way to Elisha before Him (2 Kings 4:42-44). But it is necessarily here in greater abundance, for He is the greater than Elijah. He is the Messiah of God (Luke 9:20) and the Bread of Life (John 6:35). It comes as the guarantee that He is able to meet the needs of all His people as the Bread of Life, dispensed through His Apostles. What He has brought is not only for His own disciples. It is offered to all who will follow Him. It gains even more in significance with the threat of death hanging over Him, a threat also made clear in John 6, where the threat of death is also linked to the Judaisers (who are in league with the Herodians - Mark 3:6).

It is no accident that Luke puts this covenant meal immediately before their recognition of His Messiahship, and the commencement of His set purpose to go to Jerusalem. It is because of what the meal symbolises in the formation of a ‘new Israel’ that He is going there. Matthew makes clear the same point when he tells us that Jesus declared, ‘on this rock I will build my new covenant community (church)’ (Matthew 16:18). But Luke wants his readers to see it as applying to all believers, both Jew and Gentile.

The passage may be analysed as follows:

a The day began to wear away, and the twelve came, and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the villages and country round about, and lodge, and get provisions, for we are here in a desert place” (Luke 9:12).

b But He said to them, “You give them to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fishes, unless we should go and buy food for all this people” (Luke 9:13)

· For they were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.” And they did so, and made them all sit down (Luke 9:14-15).

· He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke, and gave to the disciples to set before the great crowd (Luke 9:16).

· They ate, and were all filled. And there was taken up that which remained over to them of broken pieces, twelve baskets (Luke 9:17).

Note that in ‘a’ the disciples make clear that it is impossible to feed the multitude of people and in the parallel that they did all eat and were filled. In 'b’ He tells the disciples to feed the people, but they demur, and in the parallel they feed the people because of His provision. Central to the whole was the great size of the crowd.


Verse 13

‘And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fishes, unless we should go and buy food for all this people.” ’

The disciples blankly missed their opportunity, and He did not press it. Instead of obeying Him (they fell short of the obedience of Elisha’s servant) they pointed to what resources they had. They had five loaves and two fishes. As far as they were concerned in their state at that time that was insufficient.

The predominance in the passage of significant numbers stresses that the numbers were not only genuine (they were in proportion to each other) but also symbolic. Five in Israel is ever the number of covenant. This helps to bring out that this was to be a covenant meal, and that they were to learn that in the covenant they had sufficient provision for all their need. As well as the five indicating covenant the combination of five and two making seven indicated sufficiency of divine provision. These would then be supplied to five thousand men in groups of fifty, indicating a covenant community divided up in covenant fashion.

But the disciples were thinking ‘practically’. So they pointed out that this tiny meal (they would be small round barley loaves) could hardly begin to feed the crowd. The thought that they should obey Jesus does not even seem to have crossed their minds. They were still very much ‘half blind’ (see Mark 8:24 which deliberately pictured how the Apostles were at that time). They simply emphasised to Jesus the fact of the total inadequacy of supply. It is doubtful, in fact, if they had any other intention than that. They probably did not expect Jesus to do anything about it either. Their dull response would bring home to Jesus how far they still had to go in recognising their calling.


Verse 14

‘And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.” ’

But they were now to learn that with Jesus nothing was impossible, and that He had within Him the resources sufficient for every situation. So He told them to seat the people down in covenant groups of fifty, resulting in about a hundred groups. This would enable them to ensure that none were overlooked. In view of the clear connection of this feeding with 1 Kings 17:14-16 and 2 Kings 4:42-44 there may just have been in His mind here 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:13 where Obadiah split a hundred of God’s prophets into groups of fifty and hid them in a cave where he could feed them with bread and water, the idea being that these people were similarly enjoying His protection.

‘In companies (klisia).’ The word originally meant a hut or tent, and then a couch, and then came to mean those who laid on such, and thus eventually a group gathered to dine lying on couches (a couch group). Here therefore it indicated a group ready to eat.


Verse 15

‘And they did so, and made them all sit down.’

The disciples did as they were told and made the crowds sit down. That was at least one thing that they felt that they could do.


Verse 16

‘And he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and broke, and gave to the disciples to set before the great crowd.’

Then Jesus, as though He was sat at the head of the table, took the bread and the fish, and looking up to Heaven blessed them and broke them and gave them to the disciples indicating that they distribute them to the crowds.

This was an indication to all that this provision came from the Father, to Whom they should be grateful. It was an action of supreme confidence and authority. The Creator was making provision for His own. The looking up to Heaven went beyond the normal giving of thanks (compare John 17:1; Mark 7:34). Jesus was indicating His source of supply and His dependence on His Father. By ‘blessing them’ Luke probably mean that He said over them a blessing. It was normal at such times to say something like, ‘Blessed are you, Oh Father, Lord of Heaven and earth ----’ followed by a prayer He then proceeded to hand bread and fish to the disciples, and to their astonishment it kept on coming. And this continued until all were satisfied. We may probably assume that other disciples helped with the distribution.

This whole process would later be seen, although not at the time, as an act of self-revelation of His Messiahship, for Luke later gives other examples of the same action with bread when Jesus is revealing Himself to disciples (Luke 24:30-31; Luke 24:35; Luke 24:42-43 - note here both the bread and the fish, compare John 21:13). As with many other of His actions Jesus had in mind the future understanding of His disciples.

(We should note that Luke has carefully avoided using forms of words specifically identifying it with the Lord’s supper).


Verse 17

‘And they ate, and were all filled. And there was taken up that which remained over to them of broken pieces, twelve baskets.’

And the result was that from those five loaves and two fishes that great crowd was fed, with twelve basketfuls remaining over and to spare. The ‘twelve’ indicated continued sufficiency for the new Israel. We may compare the jar of meal and the cruse of oil in the time of Elijah, ‘the jar of meal shall not be spent and the cruse of oil shall not fail until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth’ (1 Kings 17:14-16). And so it was with the bread and the fishes, they were not spent until all were filled.

The term for ‘basket’ could denote the wicker basket (kophinos) carried regularly by Jews, and for which they were well known, so that they could take their own provisions with them wherever they went, undefiled by the world. Such baskets were indeed a popular joke among Gentiles. From where did the baskets come? They probably belonged to the disciples, although previously being empty. It should be noted that the broken pieces would not have been gathered from the grass. Poor people did not throw away food. What was put in the baskets was what was left over after the distribution. It was gathered so as to be eaten later by the disciples.

One significance of the twelve basketfuls left over was that God’s supply was not only for the present but continued into the future. There was sufficient for the twelve tribes of Israel to go on being fed by Him.

It should be noted that taking the account at face value it is undoubtedly indicating that a remarkable miracle took place. The logistics are expressed in such a way as to bring this out. Whatever explanations others may find, the writers saw this as a miracle of provision. And we may also assume that they saw in it the guarantee that the Lord would from now on ‘feed’ His people. The account appears in all four Gospels, coming from eyewitnesses, and demonstrating how important it was seen to be. Either they were telling lies, or it happened.

Note on Other Explanations.

Necessarily Atheists and Agnostics and those who deny the possibility of miracles cannot accept that it happened like this, but we should note that by doing so they go against the evidence. Rather than accept the truth they weave fairy stories. For in order to give an explanation that is what they have to do, ignore the evidence and what is written, and spin their own threads of gold. For the sake of completeness and to assist those who are troubled by such things we will consider one or two of these explanations.

1). The first is that what happened was that a young boy brought his dinner and gave it to Jesus who then told the disciples to share it with the crowds, and that those in the crowds were so moved by His action and the action of the little boy that they all shared their food that they had brought with them with others (or something similar). It is a nice idea. But it clearly goes contrary to what the four accounts say. And it ignores how long the crowds had already been away from home. They were not out on a picnic. Nor can we understand why if this was what happened a hint of the fact is not supplied by at least one of the eyewitnesses as a wonderful picture of the influence of Jesus. And certainly it would be strange that such a trivial happening as it would then be should be treated as so important by all four Gospel writers.

2). That what happened was that Jesus divided up the loaves into minute amounts which were then given to the crowds as a ‘token Messianic meal’ and that this gave them such an uplift that their hearts were satisfied and they were ‘filled’ and therefore did not for a while notice their hunger. This still requires us to drastically reduce the numbers involved, or increase the food available, and it is also to assume that the ‘meal’ had a significance not made apparent in the first three Gospels. If this was what happened it is strange that the lesson to be drawn from it was totally ignored and that it was interpreted as just physical. It would also leave everyone still hungry and as much in danger of fainting as before.

3). That the story is simply an invention based on what Elijah did in 2 Kings 4:42-44. But if this were the case its importance as revealed by its presence in all four Gospels, in different presentations, is inexplicable. There is no avoiding the fact that all four considered the event extremely important and on the whole gave basically the same picture.

End of note.

Up to this point Luke has made constant use of Mark, but now he deliberately omits Mark 6:45 to Mark 8:26. This may partly have been because Luke did not want to introduce the clear but rather reluctant movement towards the Gentiles that it contained (especially with regard to the Syro-phoenician woman). For Luke the Gentiles have been in mind from the beginning, and it may be that he did not want any indication of reluctance in the matter. For Luke the major movement towards the Gentiles will come in Acts 10-11. Meanwhile he wants it to be recognised that there has been no bar to them.

But it may also have to do with Luke’s presentation of his material. Having outlined the different indications of Jesus’ ‘other world’ powers, stilling the storm defeating a legion of evil spirits, and raising the dead, he leads on to the preaching of the Apostles going out in the same power and this is then intimately connected with the question, ‘Who is He?’. Who is this One Who does such things and sends out His emissaries to the world in this way? It is the question that is on everyone’s lips. And it a question which puts Him in danger. As with John 6 Luke wants to follow the covenant meal with a recognition of the looming danger of the cross.

So this then results in Jesus privately calling His disciples to one side and results in a unique covenant meal which is deliberately stated to be ‘in the wilderness’, and the question then arises for the second time, but this time more personally to His own followers, ‘Who am I’? And the answer is then given. He is ‘the Christ of God’.

So on the one hand the world is left hanging in the air, while on the other hand the disciples are brought into unique fellowship with Him and then learn the intimate secret of His coming death. In this sequence Mark 6:45 to Mark 8:26 would only be an unnecessary intrusion.

But following the covenant meal it is unquestionable that death is in the air. For not only does Jesus begin to prepare His Apostles for His death, but He also gives a clear warning of the possibility of death to all who follow Him. What follows can be interpreted in no other way.


Verse 18-19

‘And it came about, as he was praying apart, the disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answering said, “John the Baptiser. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the old prophets is risen again.”

After a time spent in prayer with His disciples, although apart from His disciples (it is significant for His uniqueness that we never read of Him praying together with them), Jesus turned to His disciples who were with Him and asked them what the crowds were saying about Him. This may indicate that He was calling on their knowledge gained on their recent mission, but it may equally simply be a thought provoker leading in to His next question, a question which will hint that He expects better from them than He will receive from the crowds.

Their reply to His first question is in accordance with Luke 9:7-9. It is significant in that it is clear that He had managed to prevent the idea getting around that He was the Messiah. That was the last thing that He wanted volatile Jewish crowds to think, for they had completely the wrong idea about the Messiah, and could quickly have been aroused to fanaticism. John in fact tells us that special ideas had arisen after the feeding of the five thousand when the crowds had begun to think that He was ‘the Prophet who is to come into the world’ and had then thought in terms of making Him a king (John 6:14-15). That had been difficult enough. But He had been able to dampen such ideas down. How much worse it would have been if they had actually thought that He was the Messiah. But His behaviour and His preaching had clearly dampened down that idea (hence the puzzlement of John the Baptiser)


Verses 18-22

Peter As The Representative of the Apostles Declares Jesus to Be the Messiah (9:18-22).

The Gospel of Luke began with a clear revelations of Jesus as Son of the Most High and as Messiah (Luke 1:32; Luke 1:35; Luke 2:11; Luke 2:30). A similar idea had been conveyed in the Temptation story where ‘Son of God’ is prominent and in Jesus’ quotation at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19). It has also been declared in veiled fashion in His descriptions of Himself as Son of Man, and Bridegroom, and in many of His actions and references. But now He recognises that it is time to see how far His Apostles have understood. It is one thing for us to look back and see how clearly Jesus had made it known, quite another for that small group of the ‘humble poor’ to recognise that they were deeply involved in the work of the Messiah come from God. And this was what Jesus was now about to put to the test. Where they aware of Who He really was? Depending on their answer, of which He was probably already cognisant, His aim being to face them with it, from this point on all would change.

a As He was praying apart, the disciples were with Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answering said, “John the Baptiser. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the old prophets is risen again.”

b And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

c And Peter answering said, “The Christ of God”.

b But He charged them, and commanded them to tell this to no man.

a Saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.

Note that in ‘a’ we have what the crowds say, reference to John who has been executed, and the sentence ends with a resurrection. In the parallel we have what Jesus says and what the leaders of the Jews say (by rejecting Him), reference to Jesus Who will be executed, and the sentence ends with the resurrection. In ‘b’ the question is put as to Who He is, and in the parallel He charges them not to tell anyone. Central to the whole in ‘c’ is Peter’s statement that He is ‘the Messiah of God.’


Verse 20

‘And Peter answering said, “The Christ of God”.’

We can imagine the moment of silence as they all looked at each other. Dare they tell Him what they had been thinking? And then Peter blurted out on behalf of all what they had been saying among themselves. ‘You are the Christ of God.’ To Luke, a Gentile, this was the equivalent of ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16), for he was not deeply limited by Jewish ideas about the Messiah. He was saying that He was the ‘Anointed One come from God’, not only the Messiah but more than the Messiah. In a similar situation in John Peter declares ‘You are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:69). All are saying the same thing. They must all be seen in the light of what the voice at Jesus’ baptism had said, of Messianic descriptions, and of the higher level of descriptions given to Jesus in the previous chapters. He is uniquely the One sent from God, not only the Messiah but an exalted Messiah, One beyond their expectations and outside their reckoning, supremely holy to God.

In these circumstances Peter is regularly the one who blurts things out. He was always the one who could not hold himself back. And the other disciples regularly looked to him to bail them out. But he is never appointed officially as leader. In Acts the twelve are deliberately seen as working as a unit even though Peter is the chief spokesman.


Verse 21

‘But he charged them, and commanded them to tell this to no man,’

Then Jesus commanded them not to spread around the fact that He was the Messiah. It was good that they knew, but it was better kept to themselves for it might mislead the crowds into the wrong expectations. And from now on He began to emphasise Himself as the Son of Man, and as following the path of the son of man in Daniel 7, the path of suffering that would lead to the Crown.


Verse 22

‘Saying, “The Son of man must (it is necessary) suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.”

Now He feels it important to make clear to them the deeper truths concerning His coming. They must recognise once and for all that He was not here to lead them to victory against the Romans. He was here to suffer many things, as the Son of man had suffered in Daniel 7 (as ‘the saints of the Most High’) under the depredations of the beasts, which represented empires like Rome. And this must be so because godly people must always suffer (Acts 14:22). Let them consider the Psalms. Let them consider what had happened to the prophets. Let them consider the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 50, 53. It was the nature of the world that those who followed God would suffer (compare Hebrews 11). And thus He, Who as the Son of Man was representative man, must also ‘suffer many things’ including scorn, rejection, tears, scourgings and death. (Compare Luke 17:25; Luke 22:15; Luke 24:7; Luke 24:26; Luke 24:46; Mark 9:12; Mark 10:45; John 3:14; John 10:15; John 10:17; Acts 1:3; Acts 3:18; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 13:12; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1)

‘And be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes.’ The elders were the prominent lay people on the Council (Luke 7:3; Luke 20:1; Luke 22:52; Luke 22:66; Mark 11:27; Mark 14:43; Mark 14:53; Mark 15:1), the chief priests were the hierarchy who regulated Temple affairs, and the scribes were the Teachers of the Law (Luke 5:21; Luke 5:30; Luke 6:7). He was already rejected by many of them and He recognised that it was to be expected that almost all of them would turn against Him (Psalms 118 (LXX 117).22), for He knew what was in man (John 2:25), and He was hardly ensuring His popularity by tearing down their structures and their hypocrisy. He was no different in this respect than the previous prophets. He was here to be ‘rejected’ (literally ‘rejected after scrutiny with regard to office’) by the great Jewish religious leaders of the day, as the great prophets had always been, and necessarily must be (compare Luke 6:23; Luke 13:33-34; Luke 20:10-12; Mark 12:5; Matthew 23:35; Matthew 23:37). In His view this was inevitable. Had He not Himself declared, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you’? (Luke 6:26). It was of false prophets that men spoke well (Luke 6:26). They had rejected Jeremiah. Would they not do the same to Him?

We can consider here God’s complaint against the Jewish leaders in Jeremiah 2:8, of whom He says, “the priests did not say ‘where is the Lord’ and they that handle the Law knew Me not.” They had long ago turned against God. Compare in this regard Jeremiah 18:18 where Jeremiah too was rejected by those who handled the Law and Luke 20:1-2 where he was smitten by ‘the priest who was the chief officer in the house of the Lord’. See also Jeremiah 26:7-8; Jeremiah 26:11 where ‘the priests and the prophets’ sought his death. Jeremiah would be especially significant to Jesus as he too prophesied the destruction of the Temple (Jeremiah 7:14), calling it a ‘den of robbers’ (Jeremiah 7:11). And now a greater than Jeremiah was here saying the same things. So it would be nothing new for the religious leaders of Israel to condemn such a prophet ‘for the sake of the nation’ (John 18:14). This rejection by the Jewish leaders is further based on the pattern of such Scriptures as Zechariah 11 where the true shepherd who had fed the flock was rejected by the false shepherds of Judah and Israel, and was dismissed for thirty pieces of silver, the value of a slave, which he cast to the potter in the house of the Lord as a sign that it was rejected by him and was insufficient. Thus rejection by the elders, and chief priests and scribes must not be seen as anything unusual.

‘And be killed.’ He had no doubts about what lay ahead. It is not really surprising that Jesus saw His future in terms of suffering. He had witnessed what had happened to John the Baptiser (Luke 9:7; Luke 9:9), He knew of the growing antagonism against Him (Luke 6:11; Mark 3:6; Mark 3:22), He knew of the career of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 51:4-11; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12, and of the Smitten Shepherd in Zechariah 13:7 (consider John 10:11). He knew of the references to the suffering of the godly in the Psalms (e.g. Psalms 22; Psalms 118:10 on) and He knew that the Son of Man in Daniel as the representative of God’s people would come out of suffering into the presence of God, as ‘the beasts’ attacked the true people of God (Daniel 7:13-14 with Daniel 7:22 and Daniel 7:25-27). He had no Messianic delusions. Unlike the disciples He knew what was in store. And He knew that His death was necessary so that He could be a ‘ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45)

Strictly speaking the disciples should also have been prepared for this, but like us they had the ability to make words mean what they wanted them to mean. Some of them had been disciples of John the Baptiser, and they had been shocked when he had met a violent end. Then they had been told that the Bridegroom was to be ‘snatched away’ from them (Luke 2:20), and then they would fast. It had further been inferred that the temple of His body would be destroyed, and in three days raised again (John 2:19). And Jesus had clearly stated that He was giving His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51) and that men would ‘eat and drink’ of Him (John 6:56), a clear reference to His being put to death according to Old Testament passages such as Psalms 14:4; Psalms 53:4; Micah 3:3; Isaiah 49:26; Zechariah 9:15 LXX compare Matthew 23:30. But in the way men have they had refused to accept the unpalatable truth and had ignored it. Now they were being faced up with it in a way that they could not ignore.

Interestingly we have here an evidence of how carefully the actual words of Jesus were preserved. It would have been so easy to alter it to read ‘crucified’, especially in the light of Luke 9:23 (and see Luke 24:7) and the fact that crucifixion was the normal death under the Romans for high treason, but they did not.

‘And the third day be raised up.’ But on the third day He would rise again. He may not have intended ‘the third day’ literally. ‘Three days’ indicated a relatively short period of time and could mean ‘within days’ (compare the ‘three days journey’, a standard phrase in the Pentateuch indicating a shortish journey compared with the longer ‘seven days journey’ - Genesis 30:36; Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:3; Exodus 8:27; Numbers 10:33; Numbers 33:8; Jonah 3:3).

This idea of a third day resurrection is finally taken from Hosea 6:1-2 (Luke, like Matthew, interprets the ‘three days’ of Mark as ‘the third day’) interpreted in the light of the suffering Servant of Isaiah. It was initially spoken of Israel, (God’s vine). But Jesus was here as in Himself representing the true Israel, the true Vine (John 15:1). As the Servant He was Israel (Isaiah 49:3). Thus he could apply it to Himself.

Note the context in Hosea. God will wait ‘in His place’ until Israel acknowledge their guilt and seek His face, and in their distress seek Him and say, ‘come let us return to the Lord’. But this will not be until ‘He has torn that He may heal them, He has stricken and will bind them up’. These last words could well have been spoken looking at the Servant. For as Isaiah has made clear (Isaiah 53:3-5) this was what first had be played out on the One Who has come as the representative of Israel. We have here a clear picture of the Servant in Isaiah 53. It is in Him finally that He has torn them, it is in Him that He has stricken them, for He has borne for them all that they should have faced. And the result will be a reviving and a raising up on the third day, first for Him (Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12) and then for them. For He will have gone before them in order to be a guilt offering and make it possible for all. It could all only be because their representative had first gone through it for them that they could enjoy it.

So as the One Who saw Himself as suffering for Israel, in their place as their representative, Jesus also saw Himself as being raised again like them, on the third day.

Indeed the fact is that the Servant’s task could only be fulfilled by resurrection. How else could He see His offspring, prolong His days and receive the spoils of victory (Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12)? (Compare also Isaiah 52:13-15). And how else could the Son of Man come triumphantly out of suffering into the presence of the Ancient of Days to receive the everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14)? And unless He was raised how could the Holy One ‘not see corruption’ (Psalms 16:10)? Resurrection was required as God’s vindication in a suffering world (Isaiah 26:19). And it is also constantly implied by such statements as Luke 9:24-26. All this was clear from the Scriptures (Luke 18:31).

That Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of Man is almost indisputable. The title was of no interest to the early church, only ever being used by Stephen, for they did not understand it and were at a loss what to make of it. After the resurrection it was the titles of Messiah and Lord which were clearly applied to Him. Its constant appearance on the lips of Jesus can therefore only really be due to the fact that it was well recognised that He used it in preference to other titles. And this is especially so in view of the fact that it is so applied in all four Gospels without exception, and almost always on His lips.

Note on Daniel 7:13-14.

In the Book of Daniel the empires (e.g. Luke 7:23) of the Mediterranean world are likened to rapacious beasts because their behaviour is seen as like that of beasts who conquer and ravage and destroy (Daniel 7:1-8; Daniel 8:1-14). These beasts also represent their kings (Luke 7:17), and their horns represent later kings and kingdoms (e.g. Luke 8:20-23). In contrast the people of God are seen as a ‘son of man’ (Luke 7:13-14 with Luke 9:18; Luke 9:25-27). In their obedience to God they are human in contrast with the bestial empires. Because they are God’s people they will be subject to suffering and tribulation (Luke 7:25). But finally they will triumph when ‘the thrones are placed’ (Luke 7:9) and their kingly representative (Luke 7:13) will come on the clouds of heaven into the presence of God, ‘the Ancient of Days’, to receive the everlasting dominion and glory and kingdom (Luke 7:13-14 compare Luke 7:27).

As Himself the representative of the people of God Jesus takes to Himself the designation ‘the Son of Man’ and so aligns Himself with their suffering prior to everlasting glory. Thus the Son of Man is One Who comes out of earthly suffering and will enter in triumph into the presence of God to be crowned and glorified.

(End of note).

‘It is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer.’ Jesus’ life was very much determined by the divine necessity. ‘It was necessary’ for Him to be in His Father’s house (Luke 2:49). ‘It was necessary’ for Him to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 4:43). His every step was determined by the divine necessity (Luke 13:33). But above all it was necessary for Him to suffer (Luke 17:25; Luke 24:7). For it was through His suffering that His purposes would be accomplished.

Jesus Now Challenges All Who Are Following Him About To Crystallise Their Behaviour By Following Him Fully (Luke 9:23-27).

These words, while universally recognised as a definition of the Christian life, are placed by Luke in the context of the hour. Herod is seen as a dark cloud on the horizon, so much so that Jesus has felt it sensible to move out of his territory, the Scribes and Pharisees are in discussions with the Herodians about how to deal with Jesus and His followers (Luke 6:11 with Mark 3:6). All is threatening. Jesus therefore now warns His followers of what might be the immediate consequences of following Him, and sets it against the background of eternity.

Furthermore, the Apostles having recognised Him for something of what He is, a new phase now begins in His ministry. Thus He recognises that He must bring all who are still following Him about to an appreciation about the future. They must make a decision as to whether they will turn from Him, or whether they will follow Him fully, and they must do it in the light of the realities.

Many have already gone away (John 6:66). It is time for the remainder to face up to what continuing to follow Him will involve. And in the light of the growing enmity against Him (Luke 5:35; Luke 6:11; Luke 9:9) He could only do it by facing them up with the possible consequences. He wanted them to recognise that in spite of the feeding of the five thousand the future was to be no picnic. Indeed it might lead them to a cross.

This passage may be analysed as follows:

a And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

b For whoever would save his life shall lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

c For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self?”

b “For whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in his own glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.”

a “But I tell you of a truth, There are some of them who stand here, who will in no wise taste of death, till they see the Kingly Rule of God.”

We note that ‘a’ speaks of a daily dying, all must taste of death, while in the parallel He promises that not all will ‘taste of death’ until they see the Kingly Rule of God. In ‘b’ we have those who are ready to lose their lives for His sake, and thus save them, and in the parallel the contrast of the one who is not willing to confess Christ and who thus loses all. And central to the whole is the question as to what profit there is in gaining the whole world and then losing their own ‘soul’.

The verses that follow are intense with a recognition of the seriousness of the situation with which Jesus is facing them. Compared with what He has previously taught they are a revelation and warning of something new.


Verse 23

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow (present tense: ‘go on following’) me.”

Jesus first challenge here was this, and it was a vivid one. Were they willing from now on to deny themselves and take up their crosses daily and go on following Him? For if they wanted to come after Him, that was what would be required of them. Jesus here chose the most vivid picture that He could think of, a picture that was constantly displayed before Jews because it was constantly a penalty carried out on insurrectionists.

There was not a town in Galilee which had not seen the soldiers arrive, arrest one or more of their sons, lay across their backs the crosspiece on which they would be suspended, and then drag them off to die horribly. It was the ultimate in self-sacrifice. And once a man took up his cross all knew that he was saying goodbye to his past life for ever. He was saying goodbye to everything. He was walking the hard way which demanded of him (compare Matthew 7:13-14). And he had committed himself to that from the moment that he became an insurrectionist. There is indeed a sense in which it was at that first moment of choice that he had taken up the cross. It is in fact tempting to think that when those brave, if rather foolhardy, men secretly joined up with the insurrectionists they jested to each other that they were ‘taking up their crosses’, for they would know that that was what lay in store for them if they were caught.

Jesus had seen an especially vivid example of this in his younger days when Judas the Galilean had roused the people of Galilee against the Roman census in 6 AD, raiding the local arsenal at Sepphoris, not far from Nazareth, and leading a band of brave men to their deaths. The result had been a multiplicity of crucifixions along the roadsides, the razing of Sepphoris to the ground and the sale of its inhabitants into slavery, something which Jesus and His contemporaries would never have forgotten.

And that is what the man who followed Christ had to recognise. He was called on to face up to the same ultimate choice as those men, and that was to follow Him to the utmost, without any regard for himself. He must even be prepared to follow Him to death. (In the light of what they had recently been told this would have a special significance to the Apostles).

The emphasis here was on daily commitment of the most extreme kind. The point was that each one who would come after Him must be prepared to turn his back on himself, and his own ways and his own desires, and his own chosen road, and to daily walk the way of the cross, picking up his cross anew each day so as to walk in His way in total self-sacrifice. He must choose daily to walk in the way of Christ, rather than his own way (see Isaiah 53:6), however painful it might be. He wanted them to recognise that this was what was involved in following Him. The mention of the cross was to speak of the most dreadful suffering known to men of that day. All had seen the Roman crosses set up by the roadside as a warning to criminals and rebels. All had seen the men who hung there in agony and the suffering involved. They must therefore even be prepared for that. It was a demand for total self-surrender and commitment, and a warning that it might include death.

Later this statement would be given a slightly different emphasis by being interpreted in terms of a spiritual dying to the self, and a living only for Christ through His resurrection life (compare Romans 6:3; Romans 6:11), but here in its initial form it is stark in its reality, and refers to actually being ready to go out into life each day with the intention of turning their back on all the old ways and living wholly for Christ, recognising that any day death might be a possibility because of their choice. In view of the growing antagonism Jesus did not want them to be unaware of what might await them. And thus He tells them that they must live their lives in the light of impending death. They were to take seriously the words, ‘in the midst of life we are in death’.


Verse 24

“For whoever would save his life shall lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

On the other hand He pointed out that there was really only one choice, for the alternative was not really a choice. Not to respond would be equally fatal. For the one who shunned this dying daily to self and such a possibility of martyrdom, and thereby sought to save His life for himself, would unquestionably finally lose it. This was the challenge of the last days.

But the one who did, for Christ’s sake, actually lose his life by giving it up to Christ to be solely lived for His purposes, and indeed to die for Him if necessary, would in fact then save it. For he would in the final day be raised with Him (see John 6:39-40; John 6:44). We may rightly spiritualise it, but in a violent world it was a genuine option and the mention of the cross had an ominous significance.

The choice He offered was certainly not an easy one for anyone, and especially not for the well-to-do and the influential. By openly following Jesus they might easily cut themselves off from the spheres of influence and power and be degraded and set aside by those in authority. No one knew where his choice would lead him. He might be committing political suicide. And it might even lead to death. It was a choice with which those who thought to follow Christ would then constantly be faced, and in some places still are. But as Jesus wanted each to recognise, the alternative was in the end to lose everything. So while to opt for Christ carried with it the possibility of suffering, persecution, and death but with the guarantee of eternal life, to opt against Him was to opt for final destruction.


Verse 25

“For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self?”

So He puts to those who were following Him (and to us) the ultimate challenge. Of what advantage is there for anyone to gain the whole world at the expense of eternal life? Men have stood astride their world many times in history, and they have received much glory, but in the end all have died, and perished. Not one is alive today. And thus ultimately they have lost all. They may be names in the history books, but their names are not written in Heaven. Are they, asks Jesus, gainers or losers? But to the one who comes to Him He gives eternal life. By giving up what they cannot finally keep, they gain what they cannot lose. In return, however, they must be ready to lay their lives on the line for Him, and to follow Him utterly. This is a constant theme in the New Testament (John 3:17; John 3:19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2 Corinthians 4:18; Galatians 2:20; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 2:15-16).


Verse 26

“For whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in his own glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.”

The decision for each was as to whether to take up a position as one who belongs to Christ, or as one who turns away from Christ. That was the choice that lay before them. Would they receive and glory in His words, and bravely acknowledge them before men, and thus be honoured by Him before His Father, or would they be ashamed of them, and when challenged withdraw from honouring them? But before deciding let them remember that anyone who was ashamed of Jesus Christ and His words, and turned from them and refused to follow them, would find that when they did in the end face the judgment in the time to come, Jesus Christ would be ashamed of them, ‘when He comes in His own glory and in the glory of the Father and in the glory of the holy angels’.

This last phrase speaks of Him coming as Judge (John 5:22; John 5:27, note in the latter verse the connection with the Son of Man). Judges have always arrived with great pomp and ceremony so as to establish their prestige and reveal their importance. It is the same here. The Judge will arrive in His glory, and He will be backed by the glory of the Father, and by the glory of the holy angels. (Just like a Roman judge would appear in splendour, backed by the glory of the emperor and of his splendid acolytes, and even of the legions which finally established his authority, see Acts 25:23).

In this regard we must recognise that when the Son of Man was to come to God’s throne to receive authority He was to receive not only Kingship but Judgeship (Daniel 7:13-14). Thus when He returns He will not only welcome and reward His elect (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:27), but will also call those who have continued to oppose Him or ignore Him into judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

Here was a new revelation. One was coming Who would appear in glory and would call them to account. And then they would be judged by what their response had been to Jesus and His words. His Apostles and close followers, who had regularly heard Him speak of Himself as the Son of Man would recognise immediately that He was here speaking of Himself. Others might think more vaguely of the Messiah, the Davidic king, who was to go up to God to receive His kingdom (Daniel 7:13). But those who recognised that it meant Jesus would also recognise that it could only come in this way because He had died, as He had told them. That was the only way in which He could come from heaven in glory. His death was necessary before He could enjoy His throne. And then all would be judged by how they had responded to Jesus.

So responding to Jesus and His word is seen here to be everything, as He has already made clear in Luke 6:46-49. The difference is that here a new motive is introduced, and that is the judgment we all await when the Messiah comes in His glory. This is the first of a number of indications that He will one day appear in this way in glory, both in His own glory and in His Father’s glory, accompanied by holy angels (Luke 17:24; Luke 17:30; Luke 21:27). It is an extension of the picture in Daniel 7:13-14. Having gone to the throne of God to receive His kingship He will one day return in the glory thus received, sharing in the glory of God, and calling all to account as the glorious Judge of all the world.

By this He reveals that His death and resurrection when they occur will not be the end of the matter. They will result in His glorious enthronement and finally in the revelation of His glory and power on earth as Judge, as the Scripture has revealed.


Verse 27

“But I tell you of a truth, There are some of them who stand here, who will in no wise taste of death, till they see the Kingly Rule of God.”

But He wants to nerve them for what lies ahead, and so He assures them that in spite of the necessary warning final victory is certain. Whatever the future may hold they have His guarantee that some of those present will be alive to see the triumph of the Kingly Rule of God. Some will certainly survive.

We must recognise in this that He is aware that He is speaking to many who will be bewildered at what He has been saying. They are finding it difficult to understand. The beautiful parables have been replaced by the harshest of demands. So He is assuring them that while death might lie ahead for some who proclaim His words, and hardship for all, they can be certain that the Kingly Rule of God will come before all have experienced death. This guarantee of triumph gives therefore the assurance of success, and guarantees that all who believe in Him, both living and dead, are sure of entering His eternal Kingly Rule because of its certainty of success (compare here Luke 23:42-43 where it is also true for the dying thief).

This very promise is a further indication that ‘the last days’ are here. They must therefore learn to live in the light of these last days. It is not intended to be a discussion of end time theology, it is in order to nerve them for the future and to bring home the importance of bravely proclaiming His word until His Kingly Rule is established. The last days still continue and we too are called to a similar dedication.

His words are, however, ambiguous. On the one hand they can suggest, as we have seen above, that there will be those who survive to observe the coming of the Kingly Rule of God on earth, and that therefore the enemies of Christ will not prevail. Luke appears to emphasise this side of it by making it the last in a series of verses about facing the threat of death and judgment. On the other they can be seen as simply an indication that the Kingly Rule of God will come on earth within the lifetime of many of those present, the latter being a time marker, and this would seem to be mainly Mark’s emphasis when he divides it off from the preceding verses, and attaches it to the following ones. Mark also appears to emphasise its close connection with the Transfiguration. Both angles are in fact true. Persecution would not wipe out the followers of Jesus, and many did survive until the visible coming in power of the Kingly Rule of God at Pentecost and beyond.

‘Some who stand here.’ There may be a pointed suggestion here that not all who are listening will see the coming of His Kingly Rule, not necessarily because they have died but because they have turned back and no longer walk with Him. They have faced up to His offered choice and have gone sorrowfully away. They will miss seeing His Kingly Rule come with power.

Or it may simply be an indication that while inevitably some will die naturally others will be alive. Whichever way we take it we must not try to analyse the ‘some’, it could be few or many. Jesus in His manhood knew that He did not have full knowledge of all that lay ahead. But what He did know was that among those who were now with Him were the ones through whom the word was to spread throughout the world establishing the Kingly Rule of God.

There are in fact other interpretations of the verse which we will now list along with the above:

1). That Jesus is saying that in spite of the persecution that is coming, they can be sure that some will survive through to their seeing the establishment of the Kingly Rule of God on earth, and that thus His purpose will not fail. This is therefore warning of rough times ahead but is a guarantee of the success of what He has come to do, and provides the assurance that both living and dead believers will have their part in it, some on earth, and in the end all by resurrection.

2). That Jesus is saying that the Kingly Rule of God will be seen being powerfully established on earth before all present have died, something which was fulfilled at Pentecost and after (Acts 1:3; Acts 2:1-4 fulfilling Luke 24:49; Luke 8:12; Luke 14:22; Luke 19:8) and then specifically by Paul’s presence in Rome (Acts 28:31).

3). That Jesus is saying that before all have died they will see God’s Kingly Rule revealed by His Judgment on His enemies, as a result of the Son of Man coming in kingly power, and that this was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem (some even make the son of man Titus, arguing that the phrase simply means ‘man’). This would tie in with the continual warnings of the fate of Jerusalem Luke 13:35; Luke 19:41-44; Luke 21:6, but suffers from making into a negative what would appear to be a gloriously positive statement.

4). That Jesus is saying that the Parousia will occur before all have died, and that He was therefore mistaken. But as this does not tie in with His affirmation that He did not know the time of His Parousia (Mark 13:32) it is unlikely. He could not say both).

5). That Jesus is saying that some among them, but not all, will not die without first seeing the Kingly Rule of God established in power in their hearts by being born of the Spirit (John 3:2), resulting in their willingness to follow Him in spite of all, and seeing Him as ‘coming in His kingly power’ into their hearts. (This stresses ‘They will not die until --’). Others who were present would die still in their sins.

6). That the verse is to be seen as contrasting with Luke 9:26 which speaks of those who will be ashamed of Him. Some will be ashamed of Him, but others will see the Kingly Rule of God and respond to it from their hearts as in 5).

7). That it was fulfilled in the Transfiguration in which Jesus was seen to manifest Himself as coming in His Kingly Rule to ‘some’, that is to the three and to Moses and Elijah.

Perhaps then we should analyse the words more closely seeing them from the point of view of our wider background. What then have they to say to us?

Here firstly we must recognise that He here wants us to see that He is not just referring to some vague, far off promises. What He is promising is something that will come within the lifetime of some present. That there were in fact some standing there who would not taste of death until they ‘saw the Kingly Rule of God’ (in Mark is added ‘coming with power’).

What then does it mean to ‘see the Kingly Rule of God’ or to ‘see the Kingly Rule of God coming with power’?

In neither case is there a suggestion of a glorious appearing. The thought is rather of His presence and power. What He wants to assure them of is the fact that though He must die and rise again before it occurs, that will not affect the fact that the Kingly Rule of God will come with power within their lifetime’s experience. Acts will in fact be the proof that this was so. For there the Kingly Rule of God comes with power, beginning at Jerusalem and finally being established in Rome. As Jesus says in Luke 24:49, they are to ‘stay in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high’, the Kingly Rule of God will be manifested in power.

In considering the interpretation we must bear in mind that there are a number of differing aspects revealed concerning the coming of the Kingly Rule of God. These include:

1). Its presence among them even at that time. The Kingly Rule of God is in or among them (Luke 17:21). It can come to each one as he responds to Christ.

2). Its establishment by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, resulting in His enthronement on God’s throne, as described in Daniel 7:13-14, and as declared as having happened in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:36. This would then be revealed on earth, and ‘seen’ by His sending of the Holy Spirit in power.

3) Its revelation in glory and judgment when that enthronement will be brought home to those on earth who have rejected it by His glorious appearing.

It is the second of these that is in mind here.

Further Note on Luke 9:27 (for those who wish to go into more detail).

These words in Luke 9:27 have caused a great deal of discussion, especially in view of the parallel verses in Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1. The basic question is, what did Jesus mean when He spoke of seeing ‘the Kingly Rule of God’ here in Luke, which must be paralleled with seeing ‘the Kingly Rule of God coming in power’ in Mark 9:1, and seeing ‘the Son of Man coming in His Kingly Rule’ in Matthew 16:28. Note especially that the emphasis is on His ‘coming in His Kingly Rule’ and on that Kingly Rule ‘coming in power’. It is not on His ‘coming in glory’. The thief on the cross would also say, ‘Remember me when you come in your Kingly Rule’ (Luke 23:42), only to be informed that he would be with Him that day in Paradise (the abode of the godly dead), the inference being that he would shortly experience His Kingly Rule.

We can gain further understanding into the meaning of these words in Matthew 16:28 by comparing them with Jesus’ words at His trial. There in Matthew 26:64 He said to Chief Priests, Scribes and Elders who were present at His trial, (in reply to the question as to whether He was the Messiah, the Son of God), ‘From now onyou will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power (i.e. God) and coming on the clouds of Heaven’ (compare Mark 14:62). In other words a crisis point has now been reached when all will change. They may stand to try Him this day but ‘from now on’ they will see that He is the Messiah, for He will manifest Himself in the way described. This was clearly intended to have present significance for His hearers, and as something that would be made apparent almost immediately, for it was stated as being ‘from now on’. And it would be understood by them in the light of their question which was whether He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Thus He was saying that ‘from now on’ His Messiahship would be manifested (this explains their jeers at the cross because they thought that they had made a fool of Him and His promises - Mark 15:32; Matthew 27:42-43).

But how would it be manifested? The mention of ‘sitting on the right hand of power’ would immediately turn their thoughts to Psalms 110:1, ‘You sit at my right hand’ (quoted in Matthew 22:44). ‘The right hand of power’ is a synonym for ‘the right hand of God’, ‘power’ being used, as was customary with the Jews, to avoid the use of the word ‘God’, which they sought to avoid. Thus it was referring to the establishment of His kingship.

The words ‘coming on the clouds of Heaven’ would remind them of Daniel 7:12-13 ‘there came with the clouds of heaven (to the throne of God) one like a son of man’ . Here then Jesus speaks of His receiving Kingly Rule at the throne of God as something shortly to happen (‘from now on, from the present time’), and their ‘seeing’ it in the working out of its effects.

Neither of these references would suggest to his listeners a coming to earth in glory (they were not present when that was spoken of). They would see it as something taking place in Heaven as described in Daniel 7. Both would therefore be seen by them as signifying that His claim was that He would be crowned as God’s chosen king in Heaven at ‘God’s right hand’, and in the latter case after coming to the throne of God on the clouds of heaven. The ‘sitting at the right hand of God’ indicates His coronation and the ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’ is, according to Daniel 7:13, His coming to the throne of God as a divine figure in order to receive everlasting dominion.

Furthermore we note again that it is something that Jesus told them they would see, not at some time in the future, but ‘from now on, or from the present time’. This might permit a short delay, but not one of any length of time. Their ‘seeing it’ does not necessarily mean that they will actually visibly observe the enthronement, but that they will observe its effects and be faced with the fact that it has happened, by seeing it in some way manifested on earth. In other words His enthronement as king would be made apparent to them in what would shortly follow. Clearly then there He spoke of His enthronement and its after effects as an event about to happen and to be evidenced on earth. We must therefore see Matthew 16:28 in that light as well.

That being so ‘see the Son of Man coming in His Kingly Rule’ signifies His enthronement at the right hand of God as He came before Him ‘in the clouds of heaven’ (signifying a heavenly connection) and we should note that in Matthew it is specifically stated by Jesus as having occurred at His resurrection, for He says there ‘all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’. He had come to His Father and had received kingly rule. This would result in the going out of the disciples to ‘disciple all nations’ (Matthew 28:18-19), something certainly ‘seen’ by the leading Jewish authorities (Matthew 26:64) and also by the disciples (Matthew 16:28), apart of course from Judas.

Furthermore in Acts 2:34-36 Peter used Psalms 110:1 ‘sit on My right hand’ to indicate the enthronement of Jesus as ‘both Lord and Messiah’ at that time and directly connects it with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). As far as he is concerned he ‘saw’ the Son of Man coming in His Kingly Power as a result of His enthronement at God’s right hand at Pentecost.

What then are we to make of Luke 9:27; Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:28 seen together?

Firstly we should note that the emphasis is on the coming of ‘the Kingly Rule of God’ in ‘power’ (dunamis) (or in Matthew ‘His Kingly Rule’). There is no thought of the ‘glory’ which is elsewhere always emphasised when His final coming is baldly stated (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:30; Mark 8:38; Mark 10:37; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27).

Secondly we should remember that Jesus speaks of the Kingly Rule of God as ‘drawing near’ and as something available to His hearers. In response to the question as to when the Kingly Rule of God will come, He said it was ‘among or within them’ (Luke 17:21). From the time of John the Baptiser ‘the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God is preached and every man presses (enters violently) into it’ (Luke 16:16; Matthew 11:12). Men were even then being made ‘disciples to the Kingly Rule of heaven’ (Matthew 13:52). They must receive the Kingly Rule of God like a little child if they were to enter (Mark 10:15). The good seed in the parable were the ‘sons of the Kingly Rule’ (Matthew 13:38). As Jesus said, ‘if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the Kingly Rule of God come upon you” (Matthew 12:27). Thus it was present at that time as well as something to be experienced in the future at the end time. To Jesus therefore the Kingly Rule of God was, as a result of His coming, an ever present reality, both in the present and in the future. Its revelation in power is not therefore necessarily the same thing as its revelation in glory. Its revelation in power took place when Jesus was raised and enthroned, and sent His Holy Spirit to make it effective on earth. Its revelation in glory will take place some time in the future.

Thirdly we should note that this word of Jesus is placed before the Transfiguration scene in each Gospel and connected with it specifically by a time reference e.g. ‘about eight days after’ or ‘after six days’. Thus it was clearly seen as having some connection with the Transfiguration.

In the light of what we have seen earlier it is probable therefore that we are to see it as fulfilled in three ways, each interconnected.

1). It found its first partial fulfilment in the Transfiguration. There the majesty and glory of the King, hidden from the world, was revealed to His own, supported by those two pillars of God, who represented the Law and the Prophets, Moses and Elijah, who had proclaimed His word and whose ministry and word He was to bring to fulfilment. The Kingly Rule of God was seen on the mountain in embryo with its manifested power and glory, for the Transfiguration foreshadowed both the resurrection and exaltation of Christ to God’s right hand brought about with power (Romans 1:4; Philippians 3:10) and His second coming in glory. Some see in this a sufficient fulfilment, for it was a unique and incredible experience for those who witnessed it, and indeed for us all. It included ‘some standing here’.

2). It found further fulfilment when Jesus, having been raised to God’s right hand, appeared to His disciples to inform them that He had received from God ‘all authority -- in heaven and earth’ (Matthew 28:18) and would send them out to ‘make disciples’ of the nations, with ‘signs’ (of power) following (Mark 16:15-18). Indeed He promised them that shortly they would receive ‘power (dunamis) from on High’ (Luke 24:49 compare Acts 1:8). The Kingly Rule of God would have come with power. This too was experienced by ‘some standing here’.

3). It found its complete fulfilment when the King, having risen, sat down at God’s right hand (Acts 2:34-35) and received and poured out the Holy Spirit on God’s people at Pentecost (Acts 2:33), empowering them to go out throughout the known world with ‘power’ (dunamis) (Acts 1:7-8; Acts 3:12; Acts 4:7; Acts 4:33; Acts 6:8) preaching the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God where He was proclaimed both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36), and performing ‘miracles’ (signs) before the people (Acts 4:16; Acts 4:22; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:6). Then indeed all saw the Kingly Rule of God ‘coming in power’ (see 1 Corinthians 4:19-20), they saw the Son of Man, having received His dominion, coming in His Kingly Rule (Acts 7:56). For within forty years there appeared to be Christians everywhere. (And the chief priests and scribes saw it as well).

To the objection made by a few that the verse says only that ‘somestanding here’ would see it we would suggest that if the words were spoken to a crowd of any size it was always likely that some would die before the event, as Judas certainly did before 2) and 3). If it is referred to the Transfiguration only ‘some’ did see it (the three). For what Jesus was simply trying to say was that it would not be long delayed. It would be in the lifetime of some, but not necessarily all.

End of note.

Jesus Is Transfigured Before The Three In The Mountain (Luke 9:28-36).

The Apostles having now recognised that Jesus is the Messiah, He determines to reveal to the three chosen by Him from among them something more of what that means. He wants them to recognise that He is not just a scion of the house of David, but One Who shares the splendour and glory of God (John 17:5), One Who is greater than Moses and Elijah and all the prophets (compare Luke 20:10-12), to whom both Moses and Elijah , the representatives of the Law and the Prophets, bear witness. He is truly God’s Son, God’s Chosen One.

The consequence is that while they are in the mountain the fullness of His glory shines from His mortal body, and they behold His glory (John 1:14), and as a cloud covers them, God again testifies to Him as He had done at His baptism, that He is His Son, His chosen One.

It should be noted that this is the high point of the revelation of Him as Messiah, in total contrast to His family’s view of Him. Since that false view we have seen His power over wind and waves, His power over a legion of evil spirits, His power over uncleanness and death, His power to feed the covenant community with bread from Heaven. Now we have the final revelation of His glory.

The passage can be analysed as follows:

a About eight days after these sayings, He took with Him Peter and John and James, and went up into the mountain to pray.

b And as He was praying, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became white and dazzling.

c And behold, there talked with Him two men, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory, and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

d Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory, and the two men who stood with him.

c As they were parting from him, Peter said to “Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here, and let us make three tents, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”, not knowing what he said.

b And while he said these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them, and they feared as they entered into the cloud, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my chosen, hear you him.”

a And when the voice came, Jesus was found alone. And they held their peace, and told no man in those days any of the things which they had seen.

Note that in ‘a’ He takes them up into the mountain to pray, and in the parallel He is left alone with them, and when they had descended they told no one of what had happened. In ‘b He was transfigured before them, being revealed in glorious light, and in the parallel He is revealed as God’s Son, His chosen. In ‘c’ Moses and Elijah appear in glory and discuss His coming death and in the parallel Peter wants to build tents for each of them. In ‘d’ and centrally the three behold His glory.


Verse 28

‘And it happened about eight days after these sayings, that he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up into the mountain to pray.’

It will be noted that Luke has changed ‘after six days’ to ‘about eight days after’. There is no problem with this mathematically for six whole days could, when taking into account part days, (which was quite normal), be the equivalent of ‘eight days’. But we may ask, why the alteration? It will be noted that Luke has twice previously referred to an eight day period, once in 1. 59 when they came to circumcise John the Baptiser on the eighth day, at which point he was to be named, and once in Luke 2:21 where we read, ‘and when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising Him they called His name Jesus’. Each eight day period resulted in a naming. Perhaps the thought here then is that eight days after the declaration of Him as Messiah (Luke 9:20), or eight days after the first revelation of the fact that He will come in His glory (Luke 9:26), He is revealed in His glory and named by God as His Son and Chosen One, indicating sealing following a kind of ‘birth’. ‘These sayings’ could certainly be seen as including Peter’s declaration of faith and what followed, and even more certainly contain the declaration about His coming in glory.

In the course of this sealing He took Peter and John and James with Him up into a mountain to pray. We can compare how Moses previously took Joshua with him when he too went into a mountain to see the glory of God and to pray, and to receive from God His revelation in the Law. Here then is the preparation for a new revelation from God. Interestingly each time Jesus takes these three apart it is in order that they might hear significant words, firstly in the raising from the dead of Jairus’ daughter (‘child arise’), secondly here (‘this is My Son, My Chosen, listen to Him’), and thirdly in Gethsemane, (‘Father’ if you are willing, remove this cup from Me, nevertheless not My will but Yours be done’). The first reveal His power as the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), the second His true Sonship and Destiny (Luke 3:22; John 1:14; John 1:18), and the third His obedience unto death (compare Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 10:5-10), all central to His work.


Verse 29

‘And as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling.’

His ostensible purpose in taking them up with Him was in order to pray (Luke 9:28), but as He prayed a great transformation took place in Him. His face shone and His clothing became white and dazzling, and His Apostles were there privileged to see something of the glory of God, of the glory of which He had emptied Himself (John 17:5), and of the glory in which one day He would come again (Luke 9:26). Here it was confirmed to them that He was indeed more than human. He was on ‘the divine side of reality’. When Moses went into the mountain his face had shone with God’s reflected glory, but here the Greater than Moses shone with His own glory. The fact that His clothes also shone (revealing something of the glory that now lay beneath them?) demonstrates that this was a very different situation than that of Moses. Moses bore a reflected glory, Jesus one that was intrinsic (compare Luke 24:4). Here was a revelation that He was more than just human.


Verse 30-31

‘And behold, there talked with him two men, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory, and spoke of his exodus which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.’

Then appeared two men with Him, one was Moses and the other was Elijah. Both appeared in glory, and they spoke of His ‘exodus’ which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Moses clearly represented the Law and Elijah the prophets, both testifying to Jesus. But both were also those whose likeness was to come again in the persons of the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; John 1:21) and the coming Elijah (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:14). They were seen as the supreme witnesses of God in the last days. Thus this was an indication that it was now ‘the last days’ (compare Acts 2:17; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:7).

And here they testified to Jesus’ ‘exodus’. This clearly included the thought of His death (compare 2 Peter 1:15), for it was to be fulfilled at Jerusalem, but in such a way as to link it with the resurrection (a departure) and in order to indicate that it was introducing a new deliverance, a new Exodus, when Jesus would take with Him in His Exodus all His redeemed people. Jesus would lead many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10), something symbolised by the firstfruits of the resurrection that occurred when He rose (Matthew 27:52). They joined Him in His Exodus. This ‘Exodus’ was the talking point of these two great prophets. This was the talking point of Heaven. The death of Jesus was seen as central in deliverance, and through His death many would be delivered (Mark 10:45). And it was not to be seen as a tragedy, but as an accomplishment, a fulfilling. It was to be His triumph. This ‘fulfilling’ may refer to His fulfilling the purposes of God as revealed in the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27), or to His fulfilling of His destiny (compare its use in Acts 12:25; Acts 13:25; Acts 14:26), or indeed both.

‘Moses and Elijah.’ As already suggested these are representative of the great end time figures who were to come, the great Prophet ‘like Moses’ of Deuteronomy 18:15 (as interpreted by the Jews) and the great coming Elijah (Malachi 4:5). They also represented the great source of God’s Instruction, Moses the one whom Judaism exalted above all others, and Elijah the great wonder-worker, who was also often seen as representing all the prophets. The one was the founder of the covenant God made with His people, the other the one who had preserved it when it was at low ebb (only ‘seven thousand’ were left). Both had died mysteriously, one to be buried by God the other to be carried up to Heaven. They were central to Israel’s thinking. And here they were taking their stand with Jesus, and bearing witness to His necessary death and coming Salvation.

‘Fulfilled at Jerusalem.’ Prior to its clear rejection in the second part of Acts Luke centres on Jerusalem. To the Gentiles it was the source of Judaism, and from transformed Judaism Jesus arose. It was the place where God carried out His great plan of salvation for all the world (although in the end outside its walls - Hebrews 13:12). In this discussion really begins Jesus setting of His face towards Jerusalem which is made explicit in Luke 9:51.


Verse 32

‘Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake (or ‘having remained awake’), they saw his glory, and the two men who stood with him.’

But meanwhile Peter and the others were heavy with sleep, as they would also be in Gethsemane (Luke 22:45-46; Mark 14:37; Mark 14:40-41), a deliberate pointer to their weakness as mere men in the face of the revelation of the divine. They were learning their insufficiency in the things of God. But at what was happening they were awakened, and once they were fully awake they saw the glory of Jesus and the two who stood with Him. Their eyes were opened to see His glory (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

Or the verb may signify that somehow they managed to stay awake, which is the usual meaning of the verb. The idea is probably that, while they saw all, their senses were dulled. It is possibly an attempt to explain Peter’s rather foolish statement.


Verse 33

‘And it came about that as they were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here, and let us make three booths, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”, not knowing what he said.’

The splendour of the scene so disoriented Peter that when he saw Moses and Elijah departing he cried out in disarray, “Master, it is good for us to be here, and let us make three booths, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” The reference to booths might have had in mind what was done on the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) when booths were built for the seven day feast, a feast of joyous celebration of harvest, and of expectancy for the coming year, and having eschatalogical significance (Zechariah 14:16). He may have been thinking of setting up a permanent divine revelation here on the mountain, (men have always loved holy mountains). Or it may have been an attempt to prevent the two leaving by offering shelter so that they could continue with them for a while. This is suggested by the context, ‘as they were parting from Him’. Or his intention might have been to hide the unbearable glory. Or possibly he hoped that by retaining Moses and Elijah, both figures who testified to Jesus, together with Jesus Himself in His glory, people might come and worship there and come to a deeper knowledge of Who Jesus was, in the same way as they had. What a source of revelation that would be, Jesus, Moses and Elijah. All the religious questions that people had could be solved by impeccable sources. Whichever way it was it is clear that Peter recognised the huge value to him and his fellow disciples of what they were seeing and experiencing, to such an extent that he did not want it to end. Perhaps also he saw it as a way of keeping Jesus safe from the suffering He had mentioned. But we are specifically told that he did not know what he was doing. (He did not know what he was talking about). For by his intended actions he was putting Moses and Elijah on a par with Jesus, and that could not be, as God now made clear Peter was as impetuous as ever.

Again we have one of those indications of the genuineness of the story. No one in the early church would have invented something like this about Peter (compare Mark 9:4-6; Matthew 17:4).


Verses 33-36

The Light of the Word (9:33-36).

The Jews walk on blindly, seeking signs and coming under the condemnation of these men of old for not responding to Jesus’ words, but in contrast His disciples are to become lamps revealing and receiving the light of God, and are not to be concerned with signs but only with seeking single-heartedly His light though His words. And He promises that if their eyes are single and are fixed on God then their eye will be like a lamp lit by God (Luke 9:34), and they will thus be filled with His light and themselves become lamps shining out to others (Luke 9:33 compare Revelation 1:12; Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:1).

In the chiasmus of this Section this passage parallels that of the calling of the three unknown disciples who are called to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 9:57-62). They were called to singleness of purpose. They were called to follow the Lord, and keep their eye on Him, and proclaim the Kingly Rule of God to the world. Here all disciples are called to the same. They are to be a light in the world, because they have received His light, and they are to keep themselves continually filled with His light by their eye being single, and being open to Him and His words. They are thus themselves openly to experience and manifest that light.

The emphasis here is on receiving the light of life (Luke 9:34) and thus themselves becoming a light (Luke 9:33; Matthew 5:16). They will then be openly manifested like a city that is set on a hill, and like a light shining before men (Matthew 5:15-16). And then the emphasis moves to the single eye, through which that light will be continually renewed by the eye being fixed on Him and His words, because He is the light of the world. If the eye is fixed on Him they will be filled with light. If their eye is fixed elsewhere they will receive only darkness. So the burning question is whether that eye will be focused to receive light or darkness. If the eye receives light by being steadfastly fixed on Jesus and His words, and on the Kingly Rule of God, then the whole life will be filled with light, and lived in light, and lived out in light, but if the eye receives only darkness because it is set elsewhere, then life will be lived in the dark (they will be like the Scribes and Pharisees described in the following verses). As Jesus puts it in John 8:12, ‘I am the light of the world, he who follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Here He indicates that the eye is to be fixed on Himself, while at the same time saying that through it they will receive within them the light of eternal life.

This thought is prominent in the New Testament. God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Thus those who would have fellowship with God must come to the light. They must let it shine on their lives, revealing their sin, so that they can then come for it to be cleansed (1 John 1:7; John 3:18-21). And God’s light has especially come into the world through Jesus (John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6). As men see Him and recognise in Him the One Who is God’s light, and then respond to Him, His life enters them and they receive the light of life (John 8:12). From then on they are to walk in that light (1 John 1:7) and are to let it be revealed through them (Matthew 5:16). And they are to be sure that it is constantly renewed by their eye being fixed solely on Him and His words. The result will be that they will be filled with light, and their light will shine out to others.

The connecting thought with the Lord’s Prayer is that by walking in His light, and ourselves being His lights, and by following Him, we will not be brought by Him into testing, but will be delivered from Evil One. The connecting thought with the previous passage is that those whose eyes are on Him and respond to His word do not come under the condemnation of those of old, and will have no fear of the Evil One, because they walk in light whereas he rules over the tyranny of darkness, and that heeding the words of the greatest Teacher of them all is absolutely vital. The connecting thought with what follows is that the Scribes and Pharisees have their eyes fixed otherwise than on Him, and will therefore suffer the woes that come to those who are in darkness.

Analysis.

a “No man, when he has lighted a lamp, puts it in a cellar, nor under the corn measure, but on the stand, so that those who enter in may see the light” (Luke 9:33).

b “The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is single, your whole body also is full of light, but when it is evil, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 9:34).

c “Look therefore whether the light that is in you is not darkness” (Luke 9:35).

b “If therefore your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly full of light “ (Luke 9:36 a).

a “As when the lamp with its bright shining gives you light” (Luke 9:36 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the lamp is to shine out to give light, and in the parallel the lamp with its bright shining gives light. In ‘b’ the body is to be full of light and in the parallel is thought of as being so. Central in ‘c’ is to ensure that the light that is in us is not darkness. We are not to be children of darkness.


Verse 34

‘And while he said these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them, and they feared as they entered into the cloud.’

And even while he was speaking a cloud came down and overshadowed ‘them’. This ‘them’ may indicate the three glorious figures (Mark says that God spoke out of the cloud), or it may include all being enveloped by God (Mark can be interpreted in this way). This descent of the cloud had happened also on Mount Sinai, (compare Exodus 24:15-16), and it had indicated the presence of the living God, there to speak with Moses. Here then God had enclosed the three with His divine presence. And here He was bearing testimony to Jesus from the cloud to the disciples (see 2 Peter 1:16-18).


Verse 35

‘ And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my chosen, hear you him.”’

And from the cloud came a voice, declaring that Jesus was His Son and His chosen One, His Son (Psalms 2:7; John 1:14; John 1:18) and His Anointed Servant (Isaiah 42:1). Note how God takes the attention off Moses and Elijah and concentrates it on Jesus. They are not to regard the others as of primary importance but to concentrate on Him as the One to Whom Moses and Elijah had borne witness, the One Who had brought ultimate truth. He was essentially the One to Whom they had to listen, for He had come from His Father’s presence as a Light into the world (John 8:12). He is a greater than Moses and the Law. He is greater than Moses or Elijah as representative of all the prophets. He is God’s final Word. In the words ‘listen to Him’ there is a reflection of Deuteronomy 18:15. He is God’s final Voice.


Verse 36

‘And when the voice came, Jesus was found alone. And they held their peace, and told no man in those days any of the things which they had seen.’

And then all was quiet and they found themselves alone with Jesus. And so profound was the experience that they told no one about it at the time. They stored it up in their hearts, to be revealed when the time was ripe. They had seen what could not be uttered.

4). Jesus Commences The Specific Training of His Disciples Who Are Revealed As in a Lamentable Condition (Luke 9:37-50).

In this final part of Section 3, their recognition of Jesus now having been clarified, Jesus commences specific training for those who must take over His work, and we learn the lamentable condition of those on whom He has to do His work (Luke 9:37-50). (That is, lamentable in the light of what should have been).

It may be analysed as follows:

a The disciples are unable to cast out demons and through a demon possessed boy they learn the reason for their own weakness - lack of faith (Luke 9:37-43 a).

b They learn that the Son of Man must be humbled under the hands of men but do not understand, and are not willing to ask - demonstrating lack of confidence in Him (Luke 9:43 b-45).

b They discuss their own greatness and learn that they, like Him, must not seek greatness, and must receive little children in His name, because he who is least is greatest - lack of humility (Luke 9:46-48).

a They forbid one who casts out demons’ in Jesus name and learn the lesson that he who is not against them is with them - spiritual arrogance and lack of spiritual discernment (Luke 9:49-50).

Note that in ‘a’ they learn their own weakness in their failure to cast out evil spirits because of unbelief, and in the parallel they learn a lesson in toleration in the light of someone who is able to cast out evil spirits because he believes. In ‘b’ they are reminded of the humiliation that Jesus as the Son of Man must face, and in the parallel they learn that they too must learn to be humble.

Thus from this they learn four great lessons:

o Their need to face up to their lack of faith and obedience, (and become more constant in prayer).

o Their need to accept the necessity of Jesus’ suffering.

o Their need not to seek greatness, but to welcome little children.

o Their need to recognise when God is at work and not be arrogant and exclusive.

A Demon-possessed Boy Reveals The Disciples’ Great Inadequacy And The Infinite Superiority of Jesus (Luke 9:37-43 a).

The first lesson lays emphasis on the earthly mindedness and lack of faith of the disciples. With Jesus temporarily absent and otherwise absorbed they come across a particularly difficult kind of evil spirit and find themselves unable to cast it out. And from it they learn how much they have to learn, and how lacking their spiritual lives are.

a On the next day, when they were come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him (Luke 9:37).

b A man from the crowd cried, saying, “Teacher, I beseech you to look on my son, for he is my only child, and behold, a spirit takes him, and he suddenly cries out, and it tears him so that he foams, and it hardly departs from him, bruising him sorely. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, and they could not” (Luke 9:38-40).

c And Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and bear with you? Bring here your son” (Luke 9:41).

b And as he was yet a coming, the demon dashed him down, and tore him grievously. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father (Luke 9:42).

a And they were all astonished at the majesty of God’ (Luke 9:43 a).

We note that in ‘a’ the great crowd come to meet Jesus after He comes down from the mountain after being transfigured, and in the parallel they are astonished at ‘the majesty of God’. There is a clear implication behind the latter words of the deity of Jesus, only fully apparent in context to the one who is aware of the Transfiguration, and a contrast between ‘the great crowd’ (representing humanity) and ‘the majesty of God’, a similar comparison to that of Jesus as compared with His sleepy disciples on the Mount. In ‘b’ we have a description of the boy’s problem and are told that the disciples could do nothing about it, and in the parallel the boy’s problem is revealed by his actions, and Jesus heals the boy. In ‘c’, and central to the passage is Jesus’ verdict on His disciples and on the world. The transition from His Father’s presence in the mountain to this unbelieving and unreliable world below comes home to Him with excessive force.


Verse 37

‘And it came about, on the next day, when they were come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.’

The connection with the Transfiguration is clearly made. As Jesus descends from the mountain with His three companions He is met by ‘a great crowd’. A contrast and comparison is probably intended to be drawn between the size of the ‘great crowd’, seen as representing humanity, and the greatness of the majesty of God in Luke 9:43 a. On the Mount the difference between the majestic Jesus and the sleepy Apostles had been accentuated. Here the difference between the great crowd and the majesty of God is being accentuated.


Verses 38-40

‘And behold, a man from the crowd cried, saying, “Teacher, I beseech you to look on my son, for he is my only child, and behold, a spirit takes him, and he suddenly cries out, and it tears him so that he foams, and it hardly departs from him, bruising him sorely. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.”

A man speaks to Him from the crowd. He describes how he had brought his only son to the disciples seeking help. His son was possessed by a spirit which spasmodically made the child cry out and then tore him with the result that foam came from his mouth. And this happened more often than not and caused him great distress. But despite their efforts the spirit resisted the disciples and they could not cast it out. That it was not just epilepsy comes out in what follows. A mere disease would not have resulted in failure for the disciples, nor would Jesus have spoken it as requiring special power.

‘He is my only child.’ The man’s only child was continuing to suffer because of the failure of the disciples. Luke 9:41 reveals how God’s only Son was also suffering at their hands.


Verse 41

‘And Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and bear with you? Bring here your son.” ’

This is Jesus’ verdict on what He has found concerning the whole generation of Israel at that time. It included the great crowd, which was in such contrast to His Father as it stood there clamouring and disputing. But it was also very much a verdict on His failing Apostles. They were the ones who should have had faith. His words suggest that Jesus felt that His disciples should have been able to deal with the matter, even without Himself, and Peter, John and James being there. He clearly considers that the disciples’ own spiritual inadequacy was to blame, and He is grieved. It is because they have been dodging their quiet times with God

‘O faithless and perverse generation.’ As Jesus looks around at them he recognises in them their whole unbelieving generation. They are all unbelieving, including His own disciples. In contrast with the glory and love He has enjoyed in the mountain this return to the world is almost unbearable. For He has had to recognise that the first problem here was that all who were there, but especially the disciples, were lacking in faith. The failure was because they were perverse in their behaviour (compare Deuteronomy 32:5; Deuteronomy 32:20). And we learn from the other Gospels that this was because they did not pray enough (Mark 9:29). They did not dwell enough in their Father’s presence. They thought that they could get away with just relying on Jesus, and using Him as a crutch. They were spiritual cripples. Had they continually followed their Master’s example and spent more time in prayer they would not have failed here. We lose much through our failure to pray.

‘How long shall I be with you, and bear with you?’ Jesus had just been in His Father’s presence, enjoying the glory which had been His before He emptied Himself. What had happened here now brought home to Him the great contrast between that and His life on earth. For a brief moment we have unveiled the continual loss that Jesus must have felt at being deprived of what could have been His, and at His having to endure the contradictions of the world, and especially of His disciples, not out of self-pity, but simply because of the contradiction of it with His own divine nature. It must have sometimes been almost unbearable. When we think of His sufferings we tend to overlook the things that could continually have exasperated Him among those who loved Him, and how we must exasperate Him too.

How we view His words depends on the tone that we read into them. We are probably to see it as a little like the fond exasperation of a mother with an erring child when it has been delving in mud and dirt. It is accepted with equanimity, and a smile, but if only it would not! He would have many more exasperating experiences with His disciples yet (see Luke 9:46).

Jesus then told the father to bring his son to Him.


Verse 42

‘And as he was yet a coming, the demon dashed him down, and tore him grievously. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.’

The father’s description of his son’s problems were clearly revealed as correct when he sought to bring his son to Jesus. The evil spirit dashed him down and tore him dreadfully. It may be that it was aware that it was about to be faced up to One Whose authority it could not reject and was reluctant to meet up with Him. But Jesus would have none of it. He rebuked the unclean spirit, which had no alternative but immediately to depart. Then having healed the boy Jesus gave him back to his father.


Verse 43

‘But while all were marvelling at all the things which he did, he said to his disciples,’

Having come down from the mountain where He has spoken with Moses and Elijah about His coming ‘exodus’ He wants His disciples to become more aware of it than they are. But instead all the crowds are marvelling at what He has done, and that no doubt included the disciples (‘all’). So He once again takes His disciples on one side and speaks seriously with them.


Verse 44

“Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men.”

Note the stress Jesus places on what He says. “Let these words sink into your ears.” He could not have been more emphatic. And what was the message? “The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men.”

The emphasis is interesting in view of His recent Transfiguration. What shame it brings on the world by implication. The glorious Son of man, God’s beloved Son, is to be delivered by God into the hands of sinful, debased men. And what they will then do is assumed. Man is not seen as trustworthy, especially when dealing with pure goodness.

Strictly speaking, of course, a son of man being delivered into the hands of the sons of men should not have been ominous. Should they not treat well their own? What makes the difference is that He is ‘the Son of Man’, the Righteous One representing ‘the holy ones of the Most High’, and the assumption is made that His righteousness will therefore bring out the worst in men.


Verse 45

‘But they understood not this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.’

But the disciples were still blinded by their own ideas. They could not believe that men would treat badly One Who did such good. Were not the crowds with Him, marvelling at His doings?

‘It was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it.’ The passive verb would normally suggest that, as with the last verse, the One spoken of is God. The idea then is that God has a purpose for not letting the truth about Jesus’ coming suffering dawn on them. Perhaps His purpose was simply in order to make them ask Jesus about it. There is no reason why they should not have done so. But seemingly they were afraid to ask Him. And God would not help them to understand it until they did.

Others consider that we must see here the hand of the Evil One. He does not want them to catch on to what is happening.

Either way their situation shows a sad lack of confidence in Him. We have already seen them condemned as unbelieving, now they fail to demonstrate an openness with Jesus. There was still much that needed doing in their hearts.

The Pride Of The Disciples Needs to be Humbled (Luke 9:46-48).

We might have expected that the news that Jesus was to suffer at the hands of the authorities would have given the disciples a great deal to discuss and to talk about, and have been very humbling But the little heed that they took of that comes out in the fact that their discussion turned rather on which of them was the greatest. Each wanted to be top dog. Having left all to follow Him they wanted to establish their own order of merit. And each thought that they should be at or near the top.

The question of who was the greatest occurs a number of times among the disciples in a number of ways (Luke 18:14-17; Luke 22:24-27; Matthew 18:1-4; Matthew 20:20-28 (Mark 10:35-45); Luke 23:11-12; Mark 9:34-37). It was the natural question that men ask, for all natural men want to be great. (These arguments incidentally count against the idea that they saw Peter as their leader even when they allowed him to be their spokesman). But they had to learn that such thoughts were quite out of place for Christian disciples. To be thinking like that at all was to be in the wrong. Jesus says that the Christian disciple seeks rather to be the least, for then he becomes great in God’s eyes, and that this is especially true when it comes to dealing with little children.

Analysis.

a There arose a reasoning among them, which of them was the greatest (Luke 9:46).

b When Jesus saw the reasoning of their heart, He took a little child, and set him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever shall receive this little child in My name receives Me, and whoever shall receive Me receives Him who sent me (Luke 9:47-48 a).

a For he who is least among you all, the same is great (Luke 9:48 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the question is, who is the greatest, and in the parallel we receive the reply. But central to the whole in ‘b’ is Jesus comment about the little child.


Verse 46

‘And there arose a reasoning among them, which of them was the greatest.’

It is quite clear that the disciples had not learned the lesson of their encounter with the demon-possessed boy. Instead of feeling ashamed at their failure, and buckling down to prayer and humility in the light of it, they concentrated more on estimating their own greatness. And this then led to discussions among them as to who was the greatest. We are not told what measures they used by which to decide the issue. Possibly they compared their skills in preaching, in healing, in administration and so on, or the importance of some of their converts, or the ways in which Jesus relied on them, overlooking how much of their ability came through the work of the Holy Spirit, and that they only did what it was their duty to do. They probably failed to take note of the measure that Jesus set, ‘whoever shall do and teach these least commandments, he shall be called great within the Kingly Rule of Heaven’ (Matthew 5:19), commandments which included loving their neighbour as themselves. Their thought was rather of prestige and position. But their arguments inevitably soon came to the attention of Jesus.


Verse 47-48

‘But when Jesus saw the reasoning of their heart, he took a little child, and set him by his side, and said to them, “Whoever shall receive this little child in my name receives me, and whoever shall receive me receives him who sent me.’

When Jesus saw what they were thinking in their hearts, He took a little child and pointed out that the one who wanted to be great should receive such little children in His name, for true greatness consisted in serving the lowly in His name. And whichever of them received such a little child in His name was actually receiving Him, and whoever received Him received Him Who sent Him.

As often His response was indirect, but the more telling for that. His point was that by serving someone, however lowly, in His name they were serving Him, and in serving Him they were serving God, the highest service of all (compare Matthew 25:35-40). All service therefore that was truly done for His sake was ‘great’. For it was serving God. And all work done out of pride was dross.

Not many people in those days looked on little children as very important. They were expected to keep their place. And as we know, later, when mothers sought to bring their children (not babies) to Jesus, the disciples would have turned them away (Luke 18:15-17; Mark 10:13-16). They would not have turned away a chief priest or a Scribe, or even a Pharisee, but to them little children were unimportant. So Jesus had then to point out that the little children whom they wanted to turn away were in fact the most important of people, for it was their hearts which were most open to the truth, and by turning them away they were turning away their best opportunity of winning men and women for Christ. But here His point is simply that greatness consists of obeying Him in what most people considered little things. Any humble task done in His name, even the receiving of a little child, makes for greatness, for the one who does the lowest task, without thinking about it or assessing it, is the greatest of all because he is then like Jesus.


Verse 48

‘For he who is least among you all, the same is great.’

Then He laid down one of His great maxims. ‘For he who is least among you all, the same is great.’ In other words, God sees as great the one who is ready to do the lowliest tasks, and the one who willingly takes the lowest place, quite unconscious of the fact that he is doing so. Then God can move Him up higher (Luke 14:10). Note that he is great, not ‘the greatest’. None, even among men, are the greatest. There are no such comparisons among men whose hearts are true. Once there are such people cease to be great at all.

For men who argue about or assess their own greatness, or are too important to do the lowest task, are in His eyes the lowest of all. They are victims of the pride of life, and are not of the Father but are of the world (1 John 2:15). They have lost touch with the heart of the Father. For those who are truly great do not know that they are great, nor do they care. They simply do the Father’s will.

Some see ‘he who is least among you’ as the child previously mentioned. In that case His point is that greatness consists in having the innocent faith and willingness of a little child. Young children will usually do anything that they are asked because they desire to please. It is only as they grow older that they become awkward. In the same way the disciple should be willing to do anything that God sets before him in the circumstances of life, without any sense of it being too menial. But the moment that we do a menial task in order to be appreciated for it we cease to be great, for greatness consists in doing all things for God and for God alone without any thought of ourselves.

We Must Learn To Assess People In God’s Eyes Not By Our Own Prejudices (Luke 9:49-50).

A further example of how the Apostles were becoming too important for their own good comes out in this example. They were becoming too aware of their own status, and overlooking the fact that they must allow God to decide the status of everyone. When therefore they saw a man casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus they forbade him, because he was not ‘one of us’. They did not stop to consider that, unlike themselves with the demon-possessed boy, this man was being successful, which indicated that God was with him (contrast Acts 19:13-17). Later the early church would have to regulate such people because of the danger of heretics. But at this time that was no danger.


Verse 49

‘And John answered and said, “Master, we saw one casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us.” ’

As mentioned the disciples had seen a man casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus even though he was not one who outwardly followed Jesus. And so they took it on themselves to forbid him, without consulting Jesus. No doubt they had thought, ‘How dare he use the name of Jesus like this. We are the only ones who are allowed to use the name of Jesus!’


Verse 50

‘But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against you is for you.” ’

But Jesus told them that they were wrong to forbid him. For if this man was being successful then it demonstrated that God was with him, and that he believed in Jesus. And such a man should therefore be encouraged, for he clearly did support them even though he was not with them. Had he not truly believed in Jesus his exorcisms would not have been successful (as the disciples had cause to know could happen).

‘He who is not against you is for you.’ Jesus is here speaking of those who were active in proclaiming the word of God and in ministry of that word, not just of anyone in general. If men truly ministered the word and were not antagonistic to Jesus and His disciples then they were clearly on the same side together. For had they not been they would have been antagonistic.

The question is sometimes posed, ‘would a man have cast out evil spirits in Jesus name while Jesus was still alive?’ The answer is undoubtedly, ‘yes’. There were many potential exorcists around in Jesus’ day, and they would always be alert to anything that could make them more successful. If they saw the disciples successfully casting out evil spirits in Jesus’ name (Luke 10:17) it is certain that some would see that as another name that they could experiment with. It is probable therefore that quite a few commenced using the name of Jesus, as did the sons of Sceva after them (Acts 19:13-14). The point here is that the man used it successfully. And Jesus’ point is that His Father would not have given success were his belief in Jesus not genuine. He was thus in his heart ‘one of them’.


Verse 51

‘And it came about, when the days were well-nigh come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.’

We have already seen in Luke 9:22; Luke 9:31; Luke 9:44 that Jesus’ destiny is to die in Jerusalem. We are now told that the remainder of Luke’s Gospel is to be read in that light. All that is said from now on is to have as its background His coming death and resurrection. Note how by implication His death and resurrection are seen together. This was specifically so in Luke 9:22, it is shown to be so in Luke 9:44 by the use of the term ‘exodus’ as a synonym for ‘death and what lies beyond’, and here by the description of His being ‘received up’ (compare Luke 13:33). The two terms used in the latter two cases connect Him to Moses and Elijah, for Moses led the Exodus of God’s people out of Egypt and Elijah was ‘received up’ into Heaven. ‘Received up’ here must include His death, for His purpose in going to Jerusalem is to die (Luke 13:33; compare also John 12:32-33), but the comparison with its use of Elijah (2 Kings 2:10-11 LXX) suggests that it also includes His resurrection.

The previous section to this has concentrated on Who He is, culminating in His Transfiguration, and is now behind us. From now on concentration is to be on His teaching, His warnings and His response to His enemies in preparation for the final climax. This will then result, in Acts, in the spreading of the Kingly Rule of God throughout ‘the world’. And in order to concentrate our minds on the cross in relation to it Luke depicts all that follows in terms of His ‘set purpose to go to Jerusalem’ to die. All that He does and teaches from now on He does against the background of the cross.

As usual Luke achieves his impression by silences, a typical Lucan approach. Jesus actually visits Jerusalem three times during the course of these chapters, but Luke deliberately passes over the fact so as give the theological impression of one drawn out journey to Jerusalem. For he wants us to see that from this moment on Jesus is heading towards His death in Jerusalem.

He does, for example, draw attention to Jesus going through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem in the verses immediately following this verse, after which He almost certainly visits Jerusalem in Luke 10:38, for Mary and Martha lived at Bethany on the outskirts of Jerusalem (John 11:1). But he describes it merely as ‘a visit to a certain village’. He does not want to disturb the idea that Jesus is ‘on His way to die in Jerusalem’.

He is probably also in or near Jerusalem at the time of Luke 13:34, compare Matthew 23:37, for Matthew’s context for that saying is Jerusalem, and Luke 13:22; Luke 13:33 in Luke appear to be building up to being again at Jerusalem. Yet in Luke 17:11 He is passing between Galilee and Samaria ‘on the way to Jerusalem’. A number of visits to Jerusalem in fact ties in with John’s Gospel, which depicts precisely that. But Luke wants us to recognise that in all this journeying His eye is on His final entry into Jerusalem to die and on His final triumph there, and he therefore refrains from mentioning actual visits to Jerusalem before that. Theologically from this point on He is making one long ‘ journey to be received up in Jerusalem’.

Matthew and Mark both only deal with this period briefly. Having led up to the recognition of Jesus as ‘the Christ’ by His disciples, and the revelation then made that He must suffer, they move swiftly on to that suffering (especially Mark). Luke has the same pattern, but expands the period over which it is revealed that He will suffer. Thus Luke emphasises the cross more than all.

The following verses reveal this progress towards Jerusalem:

· ‘Who appeared in glory, and spoke of His exodus which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:31).

· ‘And it came about that when the time was come that He should be received up, He set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).

· ‘And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He was going to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:53).

· ‘And Jesus answering said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” ’ (Luke 10:30).

· “Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, do you think that they were sinners above all men who dwell in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4).

· ‘And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying towards Jerusalem’ (Luke 13:22).

· “Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

· “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her, how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34).

· ‘And it came about that as He went to Jerusalem, He was passing through the midst of (between) Samaria and Galilee’ (Luke 17:11).

· ‘Then He took to him the twelve, and said to them, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished” (Luke 18:31).

· ‘And as they heard these things, He added and spoke a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingly rule of God was about to immediately appear’ (Luke 19:11).

· ‘And when He had thus spoken, He went on before, going up to Jerusalem’ (Luke 19:28).

Now while the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30) does not depend on His being near Jerusalem, for a priest and Levite required such a background wherever He was, the parable certainly makes better sense as being given there, and this is especially so as it is followed immediately by His visit to Bethany which is on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The same applies to His reference to the Tower of Siloam in Luke 13:4, while Luke 13:22; Luke 13:33-34 equally give the appearance of an immediate approach to Jerusalem culminating in His cry over it. After that we then have the further approach in Luke 18:31; Luke 19:11; Luke 19:28. So each approach towards Jerusalem is to be seen as part of the one final great approach when He enters Jerusalem in triumph to die.

This also explains why He can here approach Jerusalem through Samaria in the following verses in this chapter, and yet can later approach it through Peraea. This first visit is from Luke’s point of view a ‘non-visit’, for it is not with a view to His death.


Verses 51-54

Jesus Sets His Face Towards Jerusalem Followed By Centring on the Lord’s Prayer For The Evangelisation of the World (9:51-11:54).

This section commences with Jesus setting His face towards Jerusalem because the time for Him to be received up (as mentioned in Luke 9:22; Luke 9:31; Luke 9:44) is approaching, and it centres around the Lord’s Prayer for the evangelisation of the world (Luke 11:1-4) which is exemplified throughout. This is apparent from an analysis:

a ‘And it came about when the days were well nigh come that He should be received up He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).

b The Samaritans reject Him because of the physical place to which He is going. They do not look underneath to the heart. Nevertheless there is no woe on the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-56).

c Call to discipleship and singleness of purpose so that they may proclaim the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 9:57-62).

d The seventy go out preaching seeking men to win under the Kingly Rule of God - woes on the cities who reject them (Luke 10:1-15).

e “He who hears you hears Me, and he who Hears Me hears Him Who sent me” (Luke 10:16).

f The disciples rejoice because the devils are subject to them, Jesus declares ‘I saw Satan fallen from heaven.’ They will be delivered from serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:17-20).

g Jesus rejoices in the Spirit, God has revealed His truth to babes, and given to His Son the privilege of revealing Him (Luke 10:21-24).

h About the Good Samaritan who responds and gives good things to the one in need (Luke 10:25-37).

i About Martha who serves well and feeds Jesus and the Apostles, and Mary who chooses the better part, the presence of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).

j The Lord’s Prayer for the evangelisation of the world (Luke 11:1-4).

i About the friend at midnight who responds and feeds his friend (Luke 11:5-8).

h God will freely give from His goodness to those who reveal their need of Him (Luke 11:9-10)

g Those who come to Him as Father will receive good things, (not serpents and scorpions), including the Holy Spirit given to those who seek Him (Luke 11:11-13).

f The Pharisees accuse Jesus of being aligned with Satan because the devils are subject to Him, and He describes Satan’s total humiliation and defeat (Luke 11:14-22).

e “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Luke 11:23).

d Evil spirits are out looking for men to possess. Woe to the present generation for rejecting the Great One and His preaching (Luke 11:24-32).

c The light is shining and men should open their eyes to it with singleness of eye and let it fill their lives (Luke 11:33-36).

b The Scribes and Pharisees reject Him because He refuses to conform to their physical requirements, for they also do not look at the heart. But there are woes on the Pharisees, for they should know better (Luke 11:37-52).

a ‘And when He was come out from there the Scribes and Pharisees began to press Him hard and provoke Him to speak of many things lying in wait for Him to catch something out of His mouth’ (Luke 11:53-54).

Note that in ‘a’ mention is made of Jesus being ‘received up’ as a result of the action of His enemies, and in the parallel the Scribes and Pharisees are trying to entrap Him so that they can accuse Him. In ‘b’ the Sadducees are influenced by the physical place to which He is going, they do not look at the heart, however, no woe is to be declared on the Samaritans, but in the parallel the Pharisees are influenced by His failure to conform to their physical requirements, they too do not look at the heart, but woes are declared on the Pharisees for they should have known better. In ‘c’ men are called to follow Him with singleness of purpose, and in the parallel they are called to singleness of eye. In ‘d’ the seventy go out preaching and woes are declared on those who do not hear, and in the parallel evil spirits go out looking for men to possess and Jesus speaks of woes on the people because they reject His preaching. In ‘e’ there is a saying of Jesus, and in the parallel a similar saying is given. In f there is rejoicing over the defeat of Satan, and in the parallel Jesus is accused of complicity with Satan and describes his total defeat. In ‘g’ Jesus rejoices in the Spirit and reveals the Father to His own, and in the parallel the Holy Spirit is given to those who ask the Father for Him. In ‘h’ the Good Samaritan gives good gifts to the one in need, while in the parallel God will respond to those who reveal their need of Him. In ‘i’ Jesus is fed and in the parallel the friend at midnight is fed. Central to the whole passage in ‘j’ is the Lord’s prayer, which is reflected throughout the surrounding material.

Connections In This Passage With the Lord’s Prayer.

Central to this section is the Lord’s Prayer in Lucan form as follows:

· ‘Father.’ See Luke 10:21-22; Luke 11:11-13, the first full revelation in Luke of the special nature of the Father in relation to His special people. Compare Luke 1:32; Luke 2:49; Luke 6:36; Luke 9:26.

· ‘Hallowed be Your Name.’ This has in mind the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:23-32 where we learn that His name is to be hallowed by the future outpouring of the Spirit and the transformation of His true people. See Luke 10:21 where the Spirit is connected with the full revelation of God to His people; and Luke 11:13 which refer to the Holy Spirit’s coming. But His Name will also be hallowed by the coming about of His Kingly Rule (Luke 9:62; Luke 10:9, Luke 11:20) and His judgment on sinners (Luke 10:13-15), and by His being known in the eyes of many nations (Ezekiel 38:23). If we take its wider meaning of ensuring that His name is treated with reverence and worship and is not blasphemed (Isaiah 8:13; Isaiah 29:23) we can consider Luke 11:14-52 where the hypocrisy of those who claimed to be His mouthpiece and brought shame on Him is condemned. See especially Luke 11:19-20; Luke 11:42; Luke 11:49.

· ‘Your Kingly Rule come.’ See Luke 9:52 to Luke 10:20 which are concerned with the spread of the Kingly Rule of God. Also Luke 11:20 where the coming of the Kingly Rule of God causes the defeat of Satan. The Good Samariatan can also be seen as es establishing the Kingly Rule of God (see on that passage).

· ‘Give us day by day tomorrow’s bread.’ See Luke 10:38-42; Luke 11:5-8 which speak of the provision of food. The Good Samaritan also provides the needy Jew, who represents the people of God, with his daily food. We see there an example of how God does cause His people to be fed, often through strangers.

· ‘Forgive us our sins for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.’ See Luke 10:25-37 where the good Samaritan personifies forgiveness.

· ‘And bring us not into testing.’ See Luke 10:25; Luke 11:16, the deliverance from Satan (Luke 11:14-26) and the comparison of those who will be brought into testing (Luke 11:37-53), of whose teaching the disciples must beware lest it test them (Luke 12:1).

· And possibly ‘deliver us from the evil one’. See Luke 10:17-20; Luke 11:14-26.

The Father’s special concern and something of His nature is shown in Luke 10:21-22; Luke 11:11-13. The dedicated disciples and the seventy are appointed in order to hallow God’s name and establish the Kingly Rule of God, (see Luke 9:57 to Luke 10:20), and there is rejoicing over deliverance from the Enemy (Luke 10:17-24). The Good Samaritan exemplifies the Kingly Rule of God coming to bring provision and salvation from a non-Temple source when the Temple has failed, including ‘daily food’ and the willingness to forgive others. The provision of ‘bread’ is described in different ways from Luke 10:25 to Luke 11:13, illustrating the giving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is constantly ‘tested’ (specifically mentioned in Luke 10:25; Luke 11:16). But He will not bring His own into testing, delivering them by the defeat of Satan (Luke 11:14-26), and by His teaching as the greatest of all teachers bringing light instead of darkness (Luke 11:27-36), while He will bring the Scribes and Pharisees into Judgment where they will be thoroughly tested (Luke 11:37-53), because they have refused the light.

So it will be noted that the Section follows this overall pattern, the spreading of the Kingly Rule of God; the provision of bread, which illustrates the coming of the Holy Spirit; the confrontation with and defeat of evil spirits by the Stronger than he; the presence of the Greatest of Teachers Who comes bringing light which divides men into those who seek the light and those who remain in darkness; ending with those who remain in darkness and are condemned. And all is exemplified in the Good Samaritan who comes bringing eternal life, life to the dead.

Jesus Sets His Face Towards Jerusalem.


Verse 52-53

‘And he sent messengers before his face, and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for him, and they did not receive him, because his face was as though he were going to Jerusalem.’

Many Galileans on going to Jerusalem would go via Peraea in order to avoid Samaria precisely for this reason, because the Samaritans, who had had their own temple on Mount Gerizim before it was destroyed and hated the Temple in Jerusalem (so much so that they had turned down Herod’s offer to rebuild their temple because he was also intending to build one in Jerusalem), often physically opposed any Galileans if they were on their way to Jerusalem, while if they were going the other way there was no such problem.

But Jesus had a purpose for going through Samaria, for He ‘sent forth’ (apostellein) messengers ‘before His face’ (pro prosopou) to prepare the way for His coming. If we compare how the seventy are also ‘sent forth’ (apostellein) ‘before His face’ (pro prosopou) to cities to which He is to come, presumably again to prepare the way for His coming, everything suggests that these messengers were intended also to prepare for the proclamation of the Kingly Rule of God.

Up to this point in Luke the verb ‘prepare’ has been used exclusively with the significance of God preparing His people to receive His word through His servants (Luke 1:17; Luke 1:76; Luke 2:31; Luke 3:4). This gives support to the idea that we have the same use here. (Although it is used later in Luke in its more mundane meaning).

But on the arrival of His messengers at one of their villages, on being told that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem they refused to receive Him or His message. This is the first time we learn of Jesus sending messengers before Him. The sending of the seventy will be the second. Such indications must therefore be seen as significant and as pointing to the same purpose, they are messengers who have come to prepare the way of the Lord.


Verses 52-56

Jesus Is Warned Off By The Samaritans Because He Is Headed For Jerusalem (9:52-56).

The Samaritans lived between Galilee and Judaea in Samaria, in and around Shechem, and had grown into quite a large community. We do not really know from where they came. They were possibly originally a group of religious purists from the Northern tribes who settled there in order to establish their own form of Israelite religion based on the Law of Moses, a belief in the coming Taheb (Redeemer) and a Temple established at Mount Gerizim. That Temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus for which the Jews were never forgiven. They were, however, not regarded by the Jews as Gentiles for they observed the rules of cleanliness and were thus seen as ‘half-Jews’, especially at better times.

We note that Jesus ‘sent (apostello) messengers (angels) before His face (prosopon)’ to go to a Samaritan village who were ‘to make ready for Him.’ The verb for ‘make ready’ could simply mean to assure lodgings, but it is also used of John the Baptiser ‘preparing the way for the Lord’, where it clearly signifies preaching. In Luke 10:1 the seventy are similarly sent (apostello) before His face (prosopon) to every city to which He was about to come (to prepare the way of the Lord), and in their case it clearly included proclamation of the Kingly Rule of God.

Therefore knowing Jesus, and remembering John 4, we must surely recognise that they would not only arrange lodgings but would also expect to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God. The Samaritans in the normal course of events might well have been expected to hear His message. It is difficult to believe that Jesus would expect to lodge in a city and not proclaim His message. His fame as a preacher and healer had spread far and wide, and it is incredible to suggest that the Samaritans would not know of it. They lived too near to Galilee, even if we ignore Jesus’ impact on them in John 4. This explains why this story is here. It is the first stage in the fulfilment of ‘Your Kingly Rule come’ in the Lord’s prayer. And to Luke it is the more important because it represents his first attempt to speak of Jesus as aiming to minister to ‘foreigners’ (non-Jews).

A further reason for telling this story about the Samaritans is in order to bring out that, while in some ways Jesus has been very much like Elijah and Elisha in what He has done, He is of a totally different spirit. He had come to seek and save, not to seek and destroy. It may also be significant that just as Jesus’ initial ministry had commenced with a rejection by the Jews (Luke 4:16-30), so His first ministry after the commencement of His purpose to go to Jerusalem commences with rejection by the Samaritans.

Above all the story makes clear that Jesus does not bring His own judgment on the Samaritans. In the future the Good News will be opened to them again (Acts 8) and indeed John tells us that there has already been an initial outreach to the Samaritans as early as John 4. But if they were seen as having rejected His message as well as His presence it helps to explain why James and John were so incensed that this particular village had rejected him, and why they were quite sure that He would want to punish them. In their view fire was far more effective than shaking off dust at indicating judgment. That would certainly make people around sit up!

What a contrast between Jesus’ attitude and theirs. And what a difference there is between Jesus’ attitude and that of His opponents. They were seeking to destroy Him because they rejected His teaching. Jesus here is called on to destroy people who reject Him, people whose teaching He disagrees with and who will not receive Him, but He refuses to do so. Jesus used words as His weapons, not hatred and fire. He would not be like His opponents. Rather He would leave judgment in His Father’s hands.

Analysis.

a He sent forth messengers before His face, and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him (Luke 9:52).

b They did not receive Him, because His face was as though He were going to Jerusalem (Luke 9:52-53).

c When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, is it your will that we bid fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?” (Luke 9:54).

b But he turned, and rebuked them (Luke 9:55).

a And they went to another village (Luke 9:56).

Note how in ‘a’ Jesus has chosen a village where they are to prepare for Him, and in the parallel because of His rejection they go to another village. In ‘b’ they receive a hot reception, and in the parallel James and John receive a hot reception from Jesus. Central to the passage is the request of James and John which enable Him to reveal His true nature, and His true goodness.

Jesus Attempts To Bring The Kingly Rule of God to the Samaritans But Is Rejected.


Verse 54

‘And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, is it your will that we bid fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?”

At this rejection of Jesus and His message James and John were furious. They probably considered that the Samaritans should have been feeling greatly honoured (they had never suggested similar treatment for Jews who refused to receive His words). So, with Elijah’s exploits on those who had come from Samaria in mind (2 Kings 1:9; 2 Kings 1:12), and with their new perception of Jesus’ glory gained at the Transfiguration, they asked Jesus whether He wanted them to call down fire on the village. That would show everybody what happened to people who treated Jesus like this! Note their confidence in what they were able to do with Jesus present. Note also that they had not yet caught on to what Jesus had been teaching them. Here their desire to be ‘the Greatest’ was still coming out. And they were trying to involve Jesus in it too. Had they had their way Jesus would never have got to the cross, and mankind would never have been offered salvation.


Verse 55

‘But he turned, and rebuked them.’

Jesus’ response was to rebuke them. Had they thought back they would have remembered His words, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who use you badly.’ But they saw such words as for hanging up in museums or religious buildings, not as for daily life. It would, however, have brought home to Luke’s readers that they were intended for practical use, and that Jesus not only preached such things, but actually practised them as well.

For Jesus was ready to leave their judgment in the hands of God, as He will also the judgment on the cities of Galilee in God’s hands (Luke 10:13-15). But we should note that they would not get off scot free. For Luke 10:16 applies to all.


Verse 56

‘And they went to another village.’

So they moved on to another village. The words are poignant. The village that Jesus had chosen had lost its opportunity to hear the Good News. Significantly this will now be followed by descriptions of three men who also had to choose whether they would miss their opportunity to follow Jesus.


Verse 57

‘And as they went on the way, a certain man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” ’

The first man came and offered to follow Jesus (Matthew tells us he was a Scribe - Luke 8:19). Luke wants us to see him as typical of all would be disciples. He assures Jesus that he is willing to follow Him ‘wherever He goes’.


Verses 57-62

Three Disciples Are Challenged With Following Jesus (9:57-62).

The Lord’s prayer in Luke 11:1-4 commences with, ‘Hallowed be Your Name’ (by the bringing about of Your will in purifying Your people - Ezekiel 36:23-28), Your Kingly Rule come.’ It is a prayer of dedication to the service of the Kingly Rule of God and a longing for the purifying of God’s people. Here we are told of three men whose desire is for that service but who are challenged about their sufficient dedication.

It may be that we are to see in the calling of these three men an indication of Jesus’ preparation for the wider ministry of the seventy. They were clearly men who already had some kind of commitment to Him and He is now pressing them to make it specific in view of the impending mission. If they were part of His planned seventy we can see why His call was so urgent.

It will be noted that in all three cases ‘homes’ are involved. The first is told that he will have no home if he follows Jesus, the second wants to go home until his father has died, the third wants to go home to say ‘Goodbye’. Jesus is clearly laying a great stress on the fact that a man’s home and family must not be allowed to be a hindrance to discipleship.

Analysis.

a As they went on the way, a certain man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go” (Luke 9:57).

b Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

c He said unto another, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59).

c But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and publish abroad the Kingly Rule of God” (Luke 9:60).

b And another also said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first allow me to bid farewell to those who are at my house” (Luke 9:61).

a But Jesus said to him, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingly Rule of God” (Luke 9:62).

Note the interesting parallels. In ‘a’ the man promises to follow Jesus wherever He goes and in the parallel Jesus warns about not doing so. In ‘b’ the man is told basically that he will have no home, and in the parallel the man is loth to leave his home behind. In ‘c’ the man wants leave to ‘bury his father’ and in the parallel Jesus tells him to leave the dead to bury their own dead.


Verse 58

‘And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” ’

Jesus’ reply lays down the requirements for His disciples, and is an honest appraisal of what they can expect. Let him recognise what ‘wherever He goes’ means. Foxes and birds are able to settle somewhere for a time, rough and ready though it may be, but the disciple of Jesus cannot settle anywhere. He has no home. If he would follow Jesus he must recognise that he is choosing a way in which there are no material comforts whatsoever.

There is, however, a further point, brought to attention by the term ‘son of man’. The place where ‘son of man’ is contrasted with animals is in Psalms 8, where man is seen as set over the animals. Thus Jesus is pointing out that in contrast this Son of man (Himself) has chosen to place Himself below the animals, for unlike them He has no home. In other words His call is to a life of humility and service without reward, not to one of dominance, and if this man would follow Him he too will need the same attitude..


Verse 59

‘And he said unto another, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” ’

A second possible disciple is specifically called by Jesus. In this case he expresses willingness but asks permission to go and bury his father. As it is very unlikely that he would have been there if his father was already dead, for filial duty and responsibility would have already called him home, this probably means that he is a man with a real sense of responsibility for family and is signifying that he will follow once his father (possibly his aged father) is dead and he is freed from home ties. Alternately it may be that Jesus knew of the very recent bereavement but wants him to remain with Him in view of the nearness of the impending mission. He needs disciples to be available for that mission. But in Judaism the literal need to bury a father took precedence over everything else, including the study of the Law, but not including a Nazirite vow which had precedence (Numbers 6:7), nor a High Priest going about his duties (Leviticus 21:11). So it may well be that Jesus is making it clear that the proclamation of the Kingly Rule of God is even more important than that duty, being the equivalent of acting as High Priest or being a dedicated Nazirite. Indeed it is so important that nothing must be allowed to stand in its way.

Luke uses ‘Lord’ of Jesus constantly, both in narrative (Luke 5:17; Luke 7:13), and in speech (Luke 5:8; Luke 5:12; Luke 7:6) and on His own lips (Luke 6:5; Luke 6:46). He is the One set apart from men because of His authority and Who He is. But it becomes even more prominent in this section, both in narrative Luke 10:1; Luke 10:39; Luke 10:41 and in speech Luke 9:59; Luke 9:61; Luke 10:17; Luke 10:40; Luke 11:1). There is a growth in emphasis on His Lordship.


Verse 60

‘But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and publish abroad the Kingly Rule of God.”

Jesus counters the earnest young man’s argument, giving him a chance to think it over. He points out that he is being called to a ministry of life which has precedence above all else. He must leave the spiritually dead to look after each other. They have plenty of time for burying the dead. But what he must do is concentrate on what is important, offering people life by proclaiming the Kingly Rule of God. It is a strong reminder that Jesus’ mission must take precedence over everything else, and what He urgently needs is proclaimers of the Kingly rule of God right now. It may also be that He was moving from the region so that this would be the young man’s last chance.

Note the theological implication behind ‘dead’. Like Paul Jesus sees men as dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). In the words of Jesus later they are ‘evil’ (Luke 11:13). Jesus had no doubt about the sinfulness of human nature.


Verse 61

‘And another also said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first allow me to bid farewell to those who are at my house.” ’

This third man is especially interesting. His reply is the same as that of Elisha when Elijah called him (1 Kings 19:20). He wants time to say ‘Goodbye’ to his family.


Verse 62

‘But Jesus said to him, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingly Rule of God.” ’

Jesus’ reply reflects the fact that Elisha had been a ploughman when Elijah called him, and he had slaughtered his oxen to feed the needy before following Elijah fully. Jesus is probably here warning the young man that he may say Goodbye to his family but must make sure that he ‘burns his boats’ like Elisha did. If he would be fit for the Kingly Rule of God he must not look back. He too must rid himself of his plough. For no one who is two minded is fit for it. It may include the thought that the ploughman who is always looking back will never plough a straight furrow. He is thus of little use to God.

Alternately he may be thinking in terms of the ploughman as an essential part of obtaining a harvest and simply be saying that one called to plough so as to reap a harvest for the Kingly Rule of God is of no use if he is constantly looking back.

These examples of the calling of other disciples, two of which are also found in Matthew, confirm that Jesus was intending a wider ministry than that of just the twelve. We are not therefore now surprised to learn of the ministry of the seventy. We could have surmised some such thing even if Luke had not told us about it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 9:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/luke-9.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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