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IV. JESUS’ MINISTRY IN AND AROUND GALILEE 4:14-9:50
Luke commenced his account of Jesus’ public ministry with His return to Galilee following His temptation. This section of his Gospel ends with Jesus’ decision to leave Galilee for Jerusalem and the Cross (Luke 9:51). Luke did not give as much information about Jesus’ Galilean ministry as the other synoptic writers did (cf. Matthew 4:12 to Matthew 16:12; Mark 1:14 to Mark 8:26). He chose, rather, to emphasize Jesus’ ministry as He traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 to Luke 19:27), which the other synoptic evangelists did not highlight as much.
Luke alone recorded that Jesus gave the Twelve both power (Gr. dynamis, spiritual ability) and authority (Gr. exousia, the right to exercise power). The parallel Gospel accounts refer only to authority. In both his Gospel and in Acts, Luke stressed the validation of gospel preaching with signs and wonders. Other false teachers could do powerful miracles, presumably by Satan’s power (cf. Acts 13:6-10; Acts 19:13). Consequently it was necessary that Jesus’ disciples could validate their preaching with powerful miracles as Jesus did. The Twelve received authority over all demons. None would prove too powerful for them. The disciples’ primary duty was to preach the kingdom of God, and their way of showing the Jews that God was behind their preaching was by performing miracles. Thus they followed Jesus’ precedent (cf. Luke 8:26-56; Luke 9:11). They, as He, were to demonstrate concern for people’s souls, but also their bodies.
1. The mission of the Twelve to Israel 9:1-6 (cf. Matthew 9:35-11:1; Mark 6:6b-13)
This is another "sandwich" or chiastic section in design (cf. Luke 8:40-56). This structural device usually gives unity to the whole section and focuses attention on the central part of it. First, Jesus sent the Twelve on an evangelistic mission throughout Galilee. Luke filled in the period of their mission proper with information about how Herod Antipas and the people perceived Jesus. Third, the writer recorded the return of the Twelve to their Master. The whole mission prefigured the later mission of these and other disciples to the ends of the earth that Acts records. The lessons that Jesus taught about dependence on God and rejection by men apply to the church’s mission in the present dispensation. Jesus’ instructions to His missionaries, rather than the activities of the missionaries, are the core of this pericope. However the reader must carefully distinguish the basic principles that Jesus taught from the specific directions that He meant for this particular mission and no other.
G. Jesus’ preparation of the Twelve 9:1-50
In this last major section describing Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee (Luke 4:14 to Luke 9:50), Luke stressed Jesus’ preparation of His disciples for the opposition that lay before them. This was the climax of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and these events formed a bridge to Luke’s unique major section on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 to Luke 19:10).
Previously Luke recorded Jesus teaching and authenticating His teaching with miracles mainly among and to the people generally. Jesus did so with power and compassion. During this time the Twelve appear in the text as Jesus’ companions. Now Jesus began to minister to the Twelve more specifically. The focus of this training was initially and predominantly the identity of His person. Two other themes dominate this section: the sufferings that Jesus would endure, and the necessity of His disciples’ following the same path of service that would result in suffering for them too.
The Twelve were to trust God to provide their food, protection, and shelter daily. They were not to take a walking staff (Gr. hrabdos) used on a long journey by foot (cf. Matthew 10:10). Mark wrote that Jesus commanded the Twelve to take a staff (Gr. hrabdos, Mark 6:8). The solution to this apparent contradiction may be that Jesus originally either permitted or prohibited the taking of a staff and later did the opposite. The prohibition suggests a mission of short duration and the permission a concession for comfort.
Jesus also forbade taking a bag (Gr. pera) for their necessities (i.e., a suitcase), food, money, or an extra undergarment (Gr. chiton). In view of these restrictions it appears that Jesus anticipated a brief mission for the Twelve (Luke 9:10). They could live like this temporarily but not permanently. Furthermore their simple lifestyle suggested the imminency of the messianic kingdom that they announced.
The disciples were to accept the hospitality that others would offer them, but they were not to move from house to house unnecessarily. Moving from house to house would probably imply that they were seeking better accommodations, and this would insult their hosts. People who entertained the Twelve would be demonstrating support for Jesus since His disciples were representing Him (cf. 3 John 1:5-7).
Jewish travelers often shook the dust off their feet when they returned from a journey in Gentile territory to reject symbolically the Gentiles’ uncleanness. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 354.] When the Twelve did this, it represented rejection of the unbelievers who had not received their message and them (cf. Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6). It symbolically stated that Israelites who rejected the disciples’ preaching were no better than unbelieving Gentiles. Evidently Jesus meant this as a sign of individual, but primarily citywide, rejection (cf. Matthew 10:14-15).
Luke summarized the mission of the Twelve briefly. "Everywhere" means everywhere in that region of Galilee (cf. Matthew 10:5-6). Luke probably left the word undefined so his Christian readers would see the parallel with the Great Commission.
Thus Jesus’ disciples made a tour of Galilee two by two (Mark 6:7) as Jesus had made a tour of Galilee with them. They did as He had done preaching and healing (cf. Acts).
2. Herod’s question about Jesus’ identity 9:7-9 (cf. Matthew 14:1-3; Mark 6:14-16)
The crucial issue in the preaching of Jesus and the Twelve during their mission in Galilee was the identity of Jesus. Luke showed the centrality of this issue by placing the present pericope in the center of his account of the Twelve’s mission. It highlights the controversy over Jesus’ identity. Herod Antipas voiced the crucial question in Luke 9:9. This section also prepares the way for Peter’s confession (Luke 9:18-20) and Jesus’ instruction of His disciples on this subject that followed. Moreover it introduces Jesus’ contacts with Herod that Luke developed later (Luke 13:31-32; Luke 23:6-12).
Evidently everyone in Galilee was talking about Jesus including the highest government official. However people were concluding different things about Jesus’ identity, which Luke recorded. Mark wrote that Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead (Mark 6:16). However, Luke said that he questioned who Jesus might be (Luke 9:9). The solution may be that Herod deliberated first and then decided that Jesus was John. By including Herod’s question in his narrative Luke implied that the answers people were giving to Herod’s question were inadequate. Herod appears unable to make up his mind, as were many others.
Only Luke included that Herod kept trying to get to know Jesus (Luke 9:9). As later incidents revealed, curiosity and animosity motivated him rather than faith.
This transitional verse marks the end of the special mission of the Twelve (Luke 9:1-6). Luke now called them "apostles" (missionaries) again (cf. Luke 6:13) probably in anticipation of their ministry in Acts as Jesus’ authorized representatives. They reported to Jesus as their authority (cf. Acts 14:26-28). Jesus then took them privately to the region of Bethsaida Julius for rest (Mark 6:31) and further instruction. This town stood near the northeast shore of Lake Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.
"As the popular speaker Vance Havner used to say, ’If we don’t come apart and rest, we’ll just come apart.’" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:205.]
3. The feeding of the 5,000 9:10-17 (cf. Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; John 6:1-13)
This is the only miracle that all four Gospel evangelists recorded. It is important because it is the climax of Jesus’ miracles that authenticated His person as divine (cf. Psalms 146:7). [Note: Edersheim, 1:677.] It was perhaps the most forceful demonstration of Jesus’ deity to the disciples. Jesus performed this miracle primarily for their benefit though also out of compassion for the people. Luke recorded no crowd reaction to it. His account contrasts the inadequacy of the disciples with Jesus’ ability to help the crowd. Jesus’ compassion for the people also contrasts with the disciples’ unconcern.
Luke is the only evangelist who wrote that Jesus welcomed the crowds that came to him. By doing so he pictured Jesus as the ever-available Savior who was ready and willing to help those who came to Him.
Jesus undoubtedly used this suggestion as a teaching device to face the Twelve with the inadequacy of their resources so they would turn to Him for help (cf. 2 Kings 4:42-44). They failed this test and thought instead of buying food. The non-local people would need lodging for the night, a detail that only Luke recorded.
Luke’s account here does not differ from the others significantly. The miracle shows that when believers become partners with Jesus in the execution of His mission, He can enable them to provide greater blessing for others than they can by themselves. And He takes good care of His servants; each disciple received a basket of leftovers. The absence of reference to the crowd’s reaction in the synoptic accounts focuses attention on the results of the miracle. It must have elicited another question: Who is Jesus?
The fact that this incident happened near Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27) was insignificant to Luke. He may have viewed it as a distracting detail even though the event transpired in Gentile territory.
However, Luke alone mentioned that Jesus was praying. He may have done so to tie this incident to the feeding of the 5,000 when Jesus also prayed (Luke 9:16). Thus he presented the feeding and the revelation to Peter as coming in answer to prayer. Jesus’ exemplary dependence on His Father is one of Luke’s unique emphases (cf. Luke 3:21; Luke 6:12; Luke 11:1; et al.). He showed Jesus praying before many important events in His ministry. He was evidently praying privately, though the disciples were with Him (cf. Luke 11:1).
Jesus focused attention on the crucial issue of His identity with His question. He wanted the disciples to tell Him who the crowds (Gr. ochloi, the uncommitted masses) believed Him to be. He meant what role did the people believe He fulfilled. The disciples responded with the views that Luke had already revealed (cf. Luke 9:7-8).
Jesus’ question and Peter’s reply 9:18-20 (cf. Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29)
Luke omitted several incidents here that the other evangelists included (Matthew 14:22 to Matthew 16:12; Mark 6:45 to Mark 8:26; John 6:16-66). By doing so, he tied the questions of Herod and the multitude about Jesus’ identity with Peter’s answer to that question. This selection of material helps the reader see that the question of Jesus’ identity was very important to Luke. It should be to every evangelist.
4. Peter’s confession of faith 9:18-27
Luke’s account contains three parts: Jesus’ question and Peter’s reply, Jesus’ prediction of His passion, and Jesus’ explanation of the implications for the disciples.
Speaking for the other disciples Peter answered that Jesus was the Messiah whom God had sent (Psalms 2:2; Daniel 9:26; cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-16). In saying this Peter rejected the notion that Jesus was just a prophet, even one of the greatest prophets. This is how Moslems view Jesus today. Rather he believed that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
It is not difficult to know just what Peter’s concept of the Messiah was when he made this confession of faith. When Peter’s brother first invited him to come and see Jesus, Andrew referred to Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:41). However, most of the Jews of Peter’s day believed that the Messiah would be a descendant of David who would overthrow the Romans and establish the kingdom of God on earth. They did not view Him as deity. Matthew recorded Peter’s full confession including, "the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). This is a clear statement of Jesus’ deity. Why did Luke not include that phrase since it would have clarified what Peter meant? Probably he did not see that as necessary since the title "Christ" had become synonymous with a divine Messiah among Gentiles to whom Luke (and Mark) wrote (cf. 1 John 5:1). Thus Luke appears to have assumed that his readers would understand Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah as a confession of His deity.
Jesus’ prediction of His passion 9:21-22 (cf. Matthew 16:17-23; Mark 8:30-33)
Luke omitted Jesus’ prediction of the church (Matthew 16:17-19), Peter’s rebuke of Jesus (Matthew 16:22; Mark 8:32), and Jesus’ counter-rebuke of Peter (Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33). These omissions enabled him to stress Jesus’ prediction of His sufferings and His call to the disciples to take up their cross and follow Him. The fate of Jesus is primary in this pericope.
Evidently Jesus urged the disciples not to publicize His true identity because this would have resulted in unnecessary pressure from the Jewish multitudes. He would publicly proclaim His messiahship at the proper time, namely, in the Triumphal Entry. Next Jesus gave His first clear prediction of His passion (cf. Luke 2:35; Luke 5:35). In view of what Jesus needed to teach the disciples, they needed to hear that rejection, death, and resurrection lay ahead for Him.
Jesus’ use of the divine title "Son of Man" (Luke 9:22) supports the fact that Peter recognized Jesus’ deity. It was appropriate to use this title when speaking of His rejection since the Old Testament predicted the Son of Man’s glorious reign (Daniel 7:13-14). The disciples had seen Jesus raise two people from the dead: the widow of Nain’s son and Jairus’ daughter. Their failure to understand that Jesus would rise from the dead was, therefore, not due to its actual impossibility but to its improbability since Jesus was the Son of Man.
The "all" must be the disciples in view of the context (Luke 9:18). Coming after Jesus means becoming a disciple of His. Denying self is more fundamental than denying things. It involves forsaking one’s personal ambitions and desires to fulfill the will of God. It means living for His sake rather than our own. Criminals going to crucifixion normally carried the crosspiece (Gr. patibulum) of their own cross. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 373.] Carrying one’s own cross therefore implied bearing the reproach and burden associated with one’s chosen way of life. To do this daily meant enduring these things as a disciple of Jesus day after day having no prospect of release in this life. Jesus meant that His disciples had to bear a particular burden that non-disciples did not have to bear. It is particularly the consequences associated with choosing to follow Jesus wholeheartedly that are in view. Jesus’ disciples must keep following Him daily and bear the consequences of their choice that will involve loss (Luke 9:24-25) and shame (Luke 9:26) for them. The implication is that we need to do this with the real possibility of laying down our lives clearly in view (cf. Genesis 22:6).
The implications for the disciples 9:23-27 (cf. Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-9:1)
Jesus proceeded to explain the consequences for disciples who choose to follow Him faithfully in view of His rejection.
These verses expand the ideas of loss and shame implied in the illustration of bearing one’s cross (Luke 9:23). The contrast is first giving up what the world can provide to gain what God can provide. It involves going without now with the faith that God will abundantly reward any sacrifice that a disciple makes to follow Him faithfully. Moreover it involves giving up oneself to gain something for oneself either now or later. The second contrast is between glory (i.e., a good reputation) now in the eyes of the world or in the future in God’s eyes. Jesus glorified the glory available in the future by associating it with the glory of the Father and the holy angels.
"Not long before this the disciples had been actively engaged in telling the nation about the Messiah and His kingdom program. No doubt many thought the disciples were throwing their lives away. They had given up their sources of income and were in danger because they associated with Jesus. Jesus assured His disciples that they were doing the right thing. They had chosen the proper values . . ." [Note: Martin, pp. 229-230.]
"What is gained in Christ far outweighs all that is lost for Christ." [Note: Bailey, p. 121.]
In view of the following incident, the Transfiguration, the "some" in this verse appears to refer to some of the disciples, namely, Peter, John, and James (cf. Luke 9:28). The Transfiguration was a preview of the kingdom of God in which three disciples saw Jesus in the glorified state that will be His in the kingdom (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-18). Jesus’ reference to tasting death here connects with what He had just implied about the disciples possibly having to die for their testimonies (Luke 9:23-25). The introductory "but" implied that many disciples would die before they saw the kingdom. Jesus was anticipating His rejection (Luke 9:22) and the consequent postponement of the messianic kingdom.
Other views of what Jesus meant include His resurrection. However most of the disciples present probably saw Jesus after His resurrection, and that event did not initiate the messianic kingdom. Others believe that Jesus referred to Pentecost. Yet most of the disciples present saw Pentecost, and Pentecost did not begin the kingdom. Another view is that Jesus meant the destruction of Jerusalem, but that event did not initiate the kingdom either. A fourth view is that Jesus meant the disciples would simply live to see the inauguration of the kingdom. Still the messianic kingdom did not begin within the lifetime of any of those disciples. Another view is that the "some" are the people present who believe in Jesus and the others are unbelievers. The problem with this view is that unbelievers are not in view in the context, and the messianic kingdom did not begin during the lifetime of any of those disciples. People who hold these views have to redefine the messianic kingdom to include God’s present rule over His own. This view of the kingdom differs from Old Testament prophecies of it as an earthly reign of Messiah.
Matthew and Mark said that the Transfiguration happened "after six days" (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2), but Luke wrote "some (about) eight days." Luke’s reference is less precise and may reflect a Hellenistic way of referring to a week. Again Luke reversed the normal order of the three primary apostles perhaps to link Peter with John, the leaders of the apostolic church in Palestine (cf. Luke 8:51).
His use of the definite article with "mountain" suggests a specific mountain, but Luke did not identify it. Perhaps the Transfiguration was so well known when he wrote that he did not need to identify it but only mentioned it as the mountain on which this event happened. Another idea is that he referred to the mountain this way to set it off in some special symbolic way as similar to Mt. Sinai and or Mt. Olivet (cf. Mt. Olympus). [Note: Liefeld, p. 926.] Playing down the identity of the mountain has the effect of magnifying Jesus. In view of Jesus’ geographical movements with His disciples it seems to me that the mountain was probably Mt. Hermon just north of Caesarea Philippi. Other possibilities are Mt. Tabor, Mt. Arbel, and Mt. Meron. [Note: See idem, "Theological Motifs in the Transfiguration Narrative," in New Dimensions in New Testament Study, p. 167, footnote 27.] Mt. Tabor is the traditional site, but it is too far from Caesarea Philippi and appears to have been occupied at this time. [Note: Morris, p. 172.]
Again Luke referred to Jesus praying. The implication is that the Transfiguration was an answer to His prayer. Frequently in Old Testament times revelations followed prayer (e.g., Daniel 9; et al.; cf. Acts 22:6; Acts 26:13), though this one came to the disciples, not to Jesus.
5. The Transfiguration 9:28-36 (cf. Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8)
This event is a climax of the "identity of Jesus" motif in all the Synoptics. Here three disciples saw and heard who Jesus really was. Luke’s particular emphasis was the sufferings of Jesus that were coming. This comes through in his description of Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:30-31) and his interpretation of what the heavenly voice said (Luke 9:35). The whole scene recalls God’s appearance to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24), and it anticipates the second coming of Christ. There is a recurrence of the three themes of Jesus’ identity (Luke 9:20), His passion (Luke 9:22), and glory (Luke 9:26) from the previous pericope but in reverse order (Luke 9:29-30; Luke 9:35). These are the main points the reader should identify as significant in Luke’s narrative.
The fact that Jesus experienced a change while praying also implies the subjective effect prayer can have on people. It transforms them as it did Him. Luke avoided the term "transfigured" that Matthew and Mark used probably to avoid giving his Greek readers, who were familiar with stories about gods appearing to men, this idea. Jesus was much more than a Greek god. Instead Luke simply described the change in Jesus that suggests a metamorphosis into a holy condition (cf. Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:13). The vision is of a righteous One who has come through suffering (Daniel 3:12-25; cf. Revelation 3:5). [Note: Danker, p. 116.] The three disciples evidently saw Jesus as He will appear in His glorified state at His second coming.
Jesus’ association with Moses and Elijah probably should have suggested to the disciples Jesus’ continuation of the redemptive work of the Exodus to its eschatological consummation. Moses was the original redeemer of God’s people. Elijah was the prophet whom God predicted would turn the hearts of the people back to Himself in the future as he had in the past (Malachi 4:4-6; cf. Deuteronomy 18:18). The facts that no one could find Moses’ corpse (Deuteronomy 34:5-6), and that Elijah ascended into heaven while still alive (2 Kings 2:11-12; 2 Kings 2:15-18), intimated Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. However, Moses and Elijah had not undergone transfiguration as Jesus had. Luke described them as "men" (Gr. andres). This fact suggests Jesus’ superiority to the two greatest men in Israel’s spiritual history. I base this evaluation on the fact that Moses established Yahweh worship in Israel by giving the Law, and Elijah preserved Yahweh worship in Israel when the nation was closest to abandoning it. Even though John the Baptist was in one sense the greatest prophet, he did not have the lasting effect on Israel that Moses and Elijah did.
Luke described Moses and Elijah as appearing "in glory" (NASB) or "glorious splendor" (NIV). They seemingly basked in the reflected glory of Jesus.
The disciples observed them speaking with Jesus about His upcoming departure (Gr. exodos). Luke alone mentioned the subject of their conversation. The use of exodos points to a larger significance of Jesus’ death. It was more than just His departure from the earth. It would be unusual, as Moses and Elijah’s departures had been. However, it would accomplish redemption as the Exodus from Egypt had done, but on a cosmic scale. [Note: See J. Manek, "The New Exodus in the Books of Luke," Novum Testamentum 2 (1955):8-23.] Jesus’ exodus would open up a whole new wilderness experience for the church to tread as Moses’ Exodus did for the Israelites (cf. Acts 13:24).
Luke also recorded that this exodus would happen at Jerusalem. This is the first of his several references to that city. It was the place to which Jesus now began to look as His city of destiny (cf. Luke 9:51; Luke 9:53; Luke 13:33; Luke 17:11; Luke 18:31). "Accomplish" (NASB) is "fulfillment" (NIV, Gr. pleroo) suggesting the fulfillment of Jesus’ destiny as the Suffering Servant that Scripture predicted.
"Much of Luke’s Gospel from here through chapter 19 concerns preparation of the disciples for ministry in light of his departure." [Note: Bock, Luke, p. 271.]
This information is also unique to the third Gospel. Evidently the three disciples had been sleeping or had almost fallen asleep while Jesus was praying (Luke 9:29; cf. Luke 22:45). Thus they were not ready spiritually for what they experienced. If Jesus found it necessary to pray then, they should have followed His example. Their improper response comes out in the next verse. They apparently did not understand the significance of the discussion about Jesus’ exodus. The vision before them, however, awakened them fully.
Peter appears to have wanted to prolong this great experience, but his suggestion was inappropriate. By offering to build three shelters Peter put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. Moreover by suggesting their construction he was perhaps unconsciously though nonetheless effectively promoting a delay of Jesus’ departure to Jerusalem. He naturally viewed Jerusalem as a place to avoid in view of the possibility of danger there. Peter may have thought that the kingdom had arrived and there was no reason for Jesus and His disciples to go to Jerusalem. The booths he suggested building were probably those that the Jews erected at the yearly feast of Tabernacles to commemorate the wilderness wanderings and to anticipate the messianic kingdom (Leviticus 23:42-43; Nehemiah 8:14-17; Zechariah 14:16-21).
"Peter suggested that they build three booths probably because of the prophecy in Zechariah 14:16 that the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) would be celebrated when Christ reigns on the earth. Apparently Peter thought that with Moses, Elijah, the three disciples, and Christ all present, this must be the beginning of the earthly kingdom." [Note: Bailey, p. 121.]
The cloud was undoubtedly the shekinah, the visible vehicle for God’s localized presence during the wilderness wanderings (Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:16; Exodus 40:34-38). It would also accompany the Son of Man’s coming (Isaiah 4:5; Daniel 7:13). Its presence is another indication that the Second Coming is in view. The Greek word episkiazo ("overshadow," also in Luke 9:34 but translated "enveloped" in the NIV) translates the Hebrew word shakan in the Septuagint from which the term "shekinah" comes. Thus the reader has two hints that God was drawing near: the bright (Gr. photeine) cloud and its overshadowing (Gr. episkiazo). Evidently the cloud enshrouded Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, and the disciples became fearful (cf. Matthew 17:5-7).
For a second time God spoke from heaven identifying Jesus as His Son (cf. Luke 3:22). God’s words here also show that Jesus was God’s obedient Son and that He possessed divine authority. The words recall Psalms 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, and Deuteronomy 18:15. Thus this divine vindication identified Jesus as the Son of God, God’s chosen Servant, and the eschatological Prophet.
"Our culture desires to assemble a religious hall of honor from as many religious traditions as possible, all in honor of our commitment to religious toleration. But Jesus does not ask for a booth alongside the others." [Note: Bock, Luke, p. 273.]
Many students of this verse have seen in it a divine warning against giving human wisdom precedence over divine revelation.
"The heavenly voice which declares that Jesus is God’s Son recalls the scene of Jesus praying after his baptism in Luke 3:22. In that scene Jesus was preparing for his ministry. In the transfiguration scene he is preparing for the crisis in Jerusalem. To prepare him, Jesus is given an anticipatory experience of the goal of his life and death, the heavenly glory which he will enter when exalted to the right hand of God (see Luke 24:26; Acts 7:55-56)." [Note: Tannehill, 1:225.]
The scene ends with Jesus alone the center of the disciples’ attention. The disciples told no one what they had seen because Jesus told them to keep it quiet (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9). Luke simply recorded the fact and omitted the discussion about Elijah that followed (Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:10-13) thus highlighting Jesus’ authority.
The major emphasis in Luke’s account of the Transfiguration is that the glorious Son of God must suffer.
Luke is the only Gospel writer who mentioned that the descent happened the day following the Transfiguration. This notation has the effect of contrasting the glorious manifestation on the mountain with the mundane world of sin and unbelief below. Some commentators thought that Luke’s comment implies that the Transfiguration happened at night, but that is an unnecessary supposition.
6. The exorcism of an epileptic boy 9:37-43a (cf. Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29)
The effect of Luke’s omission of the conversation Jesus had with the disciples about Elijah is clear. This healing appears as the work of the Son of God whom the Transfiguration presented.
"It is the Jesus who has been transfigured who now appears to help men at the foot of the mountain; what the disciples cannot do, he can do. He appears like a visitor from another world who has to put up with the unbelief of men." [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 389.]
Luke also omitted Jesus’ teaching on the importance of faith that He gave His disciples at the end of this story (cf. Matthew 17:19-20; Mark 9:28-29). All Luke’s emphasis falls on Jesus’ authority. This is the first of four incidents that show the disciples’ lack of faith, slowness to learn, pride, and intolerance.
Luke did not identify the boy’s condition as epilepsy, as Matthew did (Matthew 17:15). He probably wanted his readers to understand clearly that it resulted from demonic influence (Luke 9:42). Demons produced the symptoms of epilepsy in this boy, though not every case of epilepsy is the result of demon affliction, of course. Unfortunately through history some people have equated epilepsy with demon possession because of the similar symptoms. Doctor Luke described this boy’s symptoms more fully than the other Gospel writers, and he alone mentioned that the boy was the only (Gr. monogenes, cf. Luke 8:42; John 3:16) son of his father (Luke 9:38). The failure of the disciples (Luke 9:40, cf. 2 Kings 4:31) set the stage for a great demonstration of Jesus’ unique power and authority (Luke 9:42).
Jesus’ statement to the father and the crowd (Luke 9:41) recalls Deuteronomy 32:20 where God rebuked the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus went on to express disappointment with these people’s lack of faith. By omitting the further conversation between Jesus and the father in which Jesus stressed the importance of faith in Him (cf. Mark 9:21-24), Luke focused attention on Jesus’ power. Luke also stressed Jesus’ compassion by noting that He gave the boy back to his father (Luke 9:42; cf. Luke 7:15).
In conclusion, Luke centered attention on the reaction of the crowd. Jesus’ miracle amazed (Gr. exeplesonto, cf. Luke 4:32) the people who recognized it as a demonstration of God’s great power (cf. Luke 5:25; Luke 7:16; Luke 7:18; Acts 2:11; Acts 19:17; 2 Peter 1:16).
This sign should have convinced the crowd that Jesus was God.
The reaction of the crowd to Jesus’ exorcism (Luke 9:43 a) was typical of the reaction of the multitudes as He continued to minister (Luke 9:43 b). In the context of this popular approval, Jesus revealed again to His disciples that it would not continue. He prefaced His announcement with a demand for attention that sets their incomprehension off more strikingly. This announcement contained new information about His passion, namely, that someone-a human being, but ultimately God-would hand Jesus over to His enemies (cf. Romans 4:25; Romans 8:31-32). Jesus’ use of the title "Son of Man" (Luke 9:44) intensified the horror of such a prospect.
7. Jesus’ announcement of His betrayal 9:43b-45 (cf. Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32)
Luke’s narrative joins this event with the preceding one thematically. However the other Synoptics indicate that this conversation took place sometime later (Matthew 17:22; Mark 9:31). Luke’s construction has the effect of contrasting the wonder of the people with their rejection that resulted in Jesus’ sufferings and death. Luke also stressed the fulfillment of divine purpose in Jesus’ passion.
However this announcement did not make sense to the disciples. This was probably because of the popular view of the Messiah that still influenced them, the glorious prophecies about the Son of Man in the Old Testament, and Jesus’ great popularity. Most important they did not understand because God hid this understanding from them (cf. Luke 24:16). That is, they understood the words but could not understand how this would happen, partly because of their limited faith. They remembered Jesus’ words, but they only understood the prediction after Jesus’ resurrection. Perhaps they were afraid to ask Jesus to clarify what He said because they feared to hear what they suspected, that Jesus would indeed die soon.
"Some interpreters understand the statement, ’It was hid from them that they might not understand it,’ as indication that God prevented the disciples from understanding. [Note: Footnote 39: See, e.g., R. J. Dillon, "Previewing Luke’s Project from His Prologue (Luke 1:1-4)," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43 (1981):216.] While the passive formulation may hint at divine involvement, I would caution against the assumption that human resistance is not an important factor at this point in the narrative. If a divine purpose is involved, it is a purpose which works in and through human resistance, for which humans remain responsible." [Note: Tannehill, 1:227.]
Thus there was a "suffering secret" as well as a "messianic secret" in Jesus ministry. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 393.] The "messianic secret" was the fact that Jesus was the divine Messiah, which He revealed only gradually before the Triumphal Entry. He withheld this information to preclude superficial and premature acceptance of Himself by the multitudes. The "suffering secret" was the information about Jesus’ passion that God revealed to the disciples only gradually before the Resurrection.
The Twelve were thinking about rank in the kingdom. They wondered which of them would have the highest position and the most prestige.
The glorification of self 9:46-48 (cf. Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37)
Again Luke omitted several historical details and thereby focused the reader’s attention on the essential issues and the contrast with the previous pericope. Since the disciples did not understand Jesus’ role as the Suffering Servant, they could not see its implications for them as His disciples.
8. The pride of the disciples 9:46-50
In contrast to the humble attitude of Jesus demonstrated in His willingness to submit to betrayal and death in God’s will, the disciples manifested pride. They had their own ideas about the coming kingdom, and they wanted to secure their own futures in it. This spirit of self-seeking was also obvious after Jesus made His first revelation of His death (Mark 8:32-33). Now the disciples showed a desire first for position and then prestige in the kingdom. Their inappropriate attitudes are instructive for all Christian disciples.
Jesus used little children on different occasions as object lessons to teach different lessons. Once He used a child to teach that no act of kindness for one of His suffering disciples, whom the child represented, will pass without God’s reward (Matthew 10:40-42). On the present occasion Jesus used a child to illustrate two lessons. By standing the child beside Him Jesus gave the child honor. Mark wrote that Jesus took the child in His arms (Mark 9:36). Evidently Jesus did both things.
The first lesson Jesus used this child to illustrate was that His disciples should be as humble as little children (Matthew 18:4; Matthew 18:6). Luke did not mention that lesson. The second lesson was that acceptable service involves caring about people, even insignificant people such as children (Matthew 18:5; Mark 9:37). That is the lesson Luke included in his account of this teaching (Luke 9:48). It reflects his interest in neglected people. A child was the least significant person in Jewish and in Greco-Roman culture. [Note: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "pais," by Albrecht Oepke, 5:639-52.]
Jesus meant that instead of seeking status for themselves His disciples should give their attention to the needs of people who have no status, people like children. The disciple who ministers to a person with no status as though he or she was ministering to Jesus does indeed minister to Jesus and to God the Father. The principle is that the disciple who is willing to sacrifice personal advancement to serve insignificant people, as the world views people, is truly great in God’s estimation (cf. Matthew 25:35-40; Mark 9:41).
The exclusion of others 9:49-50 (cf. Mark 9:38-40)
Disciples need to be aware of their attitude toward believers who are outside their circle of fellowship as well as their attitude toward those within that circle. Again Luke’s account of this incident omits details to cut through to the heart of the matter.
This incident exposed an attitude of rivalry among the Twelve that existed toward other disciples of Jesus. This was not a problem of orthodoxy; the exorcist believed in Jesus. It was rather a problem of fellowship or association; he was not one of the Twelve. He appears to have been on the fringe of Jesus’ followers. The Twelve wanted to exclude him, but Jesus wanted to include him. Jesus’ reply was proverbial. He had stated the reverse truth earlier (Matthew 12:30). Disciples should regard people who do not oppose them as associates rather than as enemies.
This incident concludes the section of Luke’s Gospel that records Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee (Luke 4:14 to Luke 9:50). Its major emphasis has been the identity of Jesus.
A. The responsibilities and rewards of discipleship 9:51-10:24
This part of the new section continues to focus attention on Jesus’ disciples (cf. Luke 9:1-50). The problem of their attitude toward other people also continues (cf. Luke 9:46-50). There is further instruction on the cost of discipleship too (Luke 9:57-62; cf. Luke 6:20-49). The heart of this part of the Gospel is Jesus’ preparation of the disciples for their second mission. The contrast between disciples and non-disciples becomes stronger, and the duties and privileges of discipleship emerge clearer.
Whereas the Gospel writers used the term "disciple" (lit. learner) to describe a wide variety of people who sought to learn from Jesus, believers and unbelievers alike, as Jesus moved toward the Cross His discipleship training focused increasingly on His believing disciples.
V. JESUS’ MINISTRY ON THE WAY TO JERUSALEM 9:51-19:27
This large section of the Book of Luke has no counterpart in the other Gospels, but some of the material in it occurs in other parts of the Gospels (cf. Matthew 19-20; Mark 10). The section consists largely of instruction that Jesus gave His disciples with only brief references to geographic movements. Luke de-emphasized the topographical data in this section except those relating to Jerusalem. [Note: Carson and Moo, p. 200, n. 1.] We have already noticed that Luke had more interest in lessons than in details of geography and chronology. The skeletal references to Jesus’ movements show a general shift from Galilee toward Jerusalem (e.g., Luke 9:52; Luke 10:38; Luke 13:22; Luke 13:32-33; Luke 17:11; Luke 18:31; Luke 18:35; Luke 19:1; Luke 19:28-29). However, His journey was not direct (cf. Luke 10:38; Luke 17:11). Jesus visited Jerusalem more than once, but this section records Jesus leaving Galilee and arriving in Jerusalem for the last time before His passion. Luke presented what were really three trips to Jerusalem as one. [Note: Edersheim, 2:128.] John told us more about those three trips.
The ministry of Jesus during this journey was not just different because of where it took place. It took on new characteristics. His ministry to the disciples seems to have occupied His primary attention, though Luke featured this less than Mark. We have noted a strong emphasis on Jesus’ identity (Christology) in the previous chapters. Now the disciples’ mission becomes the dominant theme. There are many words of warning to the rich and the complacent as well as to the Pharisees in this section. Many students of Luke and Acts have noticed the common emphasis on travel that characterizes both books and have pointed out some significant comparisons. Jerusalem was for Jesus the destination toward which He pressed, as Rome was for Paul.
The literary structure of this section is a chiasm (inverted parallelism). The central, focal sections, where the emphasis falls, are the growth of the kingdom to include Gentiles as well as Jews (Luke 13:18-21) and the judgment coming on Israel for the Jews’ rejection of Jesus (Luke 13:22-35). [Note: See Bailey, p. 123, for a diagram of the chiasm.]
The time had come for Jesus to begin moving toward Jerusalem for His final visit before the Cross (cf. Genesis 31:21; Jeremiah 21:10; Jeremiah 44:12). Luke looked beyond His passion there to His ascension. In this Gospel, Luke presented the ministry of Jesus before His ascension, and in Acts He reported what Jesus did after His ascension through His disciples (cf. Acts 1:2). By focusing on the ascension, Luke reminded his readers of the glorious outcome of the passion and the continuing ministry of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus’ resoluteness in view of the suffering that lay ahead of Him also gives a positive example to readers.
1. The importance of toleration 9:51-56
The first verse (Luke 9:51) sets the agenda for all that follows until Jesus’ Triumphal Entry. It was now time for Jesus to begin moving toward Jerusalem and the Cross. As He did so, He immediately encountered opposition (cf. Acts 20:3; Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11-14), but He accepted it and refused to retaliate against His opponents. Jesus’ attitude here recalls His reaction to the opposition He encountered in Nazareth at the beginning of His Galilean ministry (Luke 4:16-30), and it previews His attitude in His passion. It also contrasts with the disciples’ attitude toward others and provides a positive example for reader disciples who sometimes encounter antagonists who are similar to the Samaritans.
It is difficult to make this incident fit into its Lukan context chronologically. Probably our writer was not following a strict sequence of events here but inserted this incident where he did for thematic purposes.
The messengers that Jesus sent ahead were apparently to arrange overnight accommodations for Jesus and His disciples. They were not on a preaching mission. Normally Jewish pilgrims on their way from Galilee to Jerusalem passed through Samaria. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 406.] They were unwelcome visitors. A trip directly from Galilee to Jerusalem would have taken about three days.
The Jews had regarded the Samaritans as apostates and half-pagans since the Exile. The Samaritans descended from the poor Israelites who remained in the land when the Assyrians captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. The Jews believed that the Samaritans were the descendants of Israelites who intermarried with the non-Jews that the Assyrian kings imported into the land (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 17:24-26). However they may have been the pureblooded descendants of the Israelites who remained in the land. [Note: Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. "Samaritans," by J. L. Kelso, pp. 244-47.] Eventually the Samaritans rejected the Jewish Scriptures except the Pentateuch. The two groups of people were still mutually hostile in Jesus’ day (cf. John 4:9). [Note: Jeremias, Jerusalem in . . ., pp. 352-58.]
The Samaritans whom the messengers contacted refused to accept Jesus and His followers because they were on their way to Jerusalem, evidently to worship there. The Samaritans rejected Jerusalem as a legitimate site of worship (cf. John 4:20). Evidently they did not reject Jesus because He claimed to be the Messiah but simply because He was a Jew. The attitude of James and John was typically hostile. They may have been thinking that Jesus would react to the Samaritans as Elijah had to his opponents (2 Kings 1:9-12). Their question suggests that Jesus’ disciples saw strong similarities between Jesus’ ministry and Elijah’s (cf. Luke 9:19). However, they were willing to play Elijah’s part by calling down judgment; they were not asking Jesus to do so.
It seems unlikely that Jesus gave James and John their nickname Boanerges, "sons of thunder," because of this incident (Mark 3:17). All the other disciples’ nicknames were positive rather than derogatory, and this one probably was too.
Jesus strongly disapproved of James and John’s attitude, and He rebuked them (Gr. epetimesen, cf. Luke 4:35; Luke 4:41; Luke 8:24). Jesus’ mission did not call for Him to bring judgment yet. The group, therefore, proceeded to another presumably Samaritan village where they found lodging.
The point of the story is Jesus’ toleration of rejection without retaliation (cf. Luke 6:36). His attitude contrasts with the disciples’ attitude, which did not grow out of righteous indignation, because the Samaritans were rejecting the Messiah, but out of racial prejudice.
Matthew wrote that the man was a scribe (Matthew 8:19), but Luke generalized the reference, probably so every reader could identify with the man. The man professed willingness to follow Jesus anywhere as His intimate disciple. Jesus did not rebuke him but clarified for him what that would involve so he could count the cost intelligently. He would need to be willing to accept homelessness, physical discomfort, other privation, and rejection. Jesus’ disciples had experienced these things traveling through Samaria (Luke 9:51-56). By using the title "Son of Man" Jesus heightened the irony of His sufferings. If the Son of Man experienced these things, how much more would His disciples.
2. The importance of self-denial 9:57-62 (cf. Matthew 8:19-22)
Luke turned from a presentation of people who rejected Jesus to one in which three individuals wanted to become His disciples. Each of them underestimated the degree of commitment that Jesus required. Jesus’ words clarify the cost of discipleship (cf. Luke 9:23-26). Note the recurrence of the key word "follow" in Luke 9:57; Luke 9:59; Luke 9:61. The first two incidents evidently happened during Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (cf. Matthew 8:18), and perhaps the third one did too. Luke probably grouped them here because they all deal with the same issue that Luke developed in this context, namely, discipleship.
The first man came to Jesus requesting permission to follow Him. This one received a command from Jesus to follow Him in exactly the same words as Jesus used to call the Twelve (e.g., Luke 5:27).
"The expression ’to follow’ a Teacher would, in those days, be universally understood as implying discipleship." [Note: Edersheim, 2:133.]
Matthew’s account has him approaching Jesus, but this was evidently after Jesus called him. Was the man’s father dead already, or was he in danger of dying? The text is not clear, and an answer to this question is not necessary. Clearly the man wanted Jesus to approve his postponing obedience in either case. Perhaps the man’s father was still living since in Israel people were usually buried the day they died. [Note: Bailey, p. 124.]
"But the words have an even greater urgency if the father was dead. The Jews counted proper burial as most important. The duty of burial took precedence over the study of the Law, the Temple service, the killing of the Passover sacrifice, the observance of circumcision and the reading of the Megillah (Megillah 3b)." [Note: Morris, p. 180.]
The dead whom Jesus said should bury the dead probably were the spiritually dead who did not believe in Jesus. The mission of believers was more important than even discharging customary family obligations when these conflicted with discipleship responsibilities. It is hard to imagine how Jesus could have set forth the importance of immediate and wholehearted participation in God’s program more forcefully.
Luke alone recorded this third conversation. It appears anticlimactic at first, but it is not because the man was asking Jesus for a lesser concession than his predecessor (Luke 9:59-60). A good-bye would only take a few minutes whereas burying a father would take an indefinite time. Perhaps he thought that if Elijah permitted Elisha to say farewell to his parents before he followed Elijah, Jesus would surely permit him to do the same (1 Kings 19:19-21). Yet even this concession was not one Jesus would grant. Jesus’ mission was more important than Elijah’s. Jesus’ answer was again proverbial (cf. Luke 9:50). Discipleship involves hard work and sacrifice similar to plowing. A farmer who does not concentrate on his plowing is not a fit farmer. Likewise, a disciple who allows life to distract him from his duties as a disciple is unfit for the kingdom (cf. Philippians 3:13; Hebrews 6:7; Hebrews 12:1-2). The disciple of Jesus must continue to follow Him faithfully, single-mindedly.
These "hard sayings" clarify the demands of discipleship. Jesus’ followers must be willing to share His homelessness, to place participation in God’s program above the claims that family and duty impose, and to persevere in their calling. Luke probably recorded the responses of these three individuals so the reader would see himself or herself in the story and realize the importance of making the proper response personally.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26