Jesus sends out the twelve apostles. Herod is perplexed by him. Jesus feeds five thousand. Peter confesses Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus foretells his own death. We are called to take up our cross daily and follow him. The Mount of Transfiguration happens. He heals a boy with an unclean spirit. Jesus again foretells his own death. The disciples debate who the greatest is. Anyone not against them is for them. A Samaritan village rejects Jesus. It cost a lot to follow him. In v. 51, he sets his face like a flint toward Jerusalem, so this chapter has a major turning point. It now enters the Travel Narrative, but it is the slow route to get there.
As I write in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Commissions the Twelve (Luke 9:1-6)
1 Calling his twelve disciples together, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to heal diseases. 2 He sent them preaching the kingdom of God and to heal diseases. 3 He told them, “On the road, take nothing; don’t have a staff nor traveler’s bag nor bread nor money nor two coats each. 4 When you enter a house, stay there and leave from there. 5 As many who do not welcome you, as you leave that town, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 As they went out, they traveled through every village, preaching the good news and healing everywhere.
This section is very important because Jesus had enough confidence in his disciples to commission them. His training and their capacity to receive his training must have been sufficient for this commissioning. Jesus did not fret or have anxiety when he was alone without the twelve. He must have had other disciples with him, and the women followed him, as well (Luke 8:2-3). And he trusted God when his disciples were sent out doing what he commanded them to do and say. They are about to learn, however, that some demons are stubborn (vv. 37-43). They were unable to expel one.
How did Jesus commission the twelve? Did he lay hands on them? Did he speak only the words in vv. 3-5? No doubt he simply told them what Luke recorded, if we change the words from indirect quotation to direct. “I give you power and authority over all demons and to heal the sick.” Jesus told them that they have power and authority over all demons, not just some. This is important because they will soon discover that some demons are difficult to pry loose and chase away (vv. 37-43).
“disciples”: the noun does not actually appear in the Greek text, but I translate the verse as if it does. In any case, the noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“power”: it is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-na-mees or dee-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul.
For nearly all the references of that word and a brief theology, please click on:
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12).
So do we have the same power and authority that the twelve have in this passage, or are they a special case? Restrictive interpreters say they are special cases with unique callings, while freer interpreters say we too, as disciples of Jesus, can have the same authority. I come down on the freer interpretation.
Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2. Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
See my posts on Satan and demons and a more developed theology about them:
“heal”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
“diseases”: it is the noun nosos (pronounced naw-soss), and BDAG says it means (1) “physical malady, disease, illness”; (2) “moral malady, disease.” In the Greek written long before the NT (and during NT times), it means (1) “sickness, disease, malady” (2) “distress, misery, suffering, sorrow, evil, disease of mind” (Liddell and Scott). Don’t be afraid to pray against diseases of the mind or moral diseases. Pray, and watch God work in your mind or your child’s mind! Here it just means physical diseases.
This verse appears at first glance to be out of sequence. Here he sends them, and in v. 3 he will instruct them. It seems the verses should be reversed. But v. 2 is background material, while v. 3 is in the foreground. A storyteller vary his technique and sequence as he sees fit. See my comments on Luke 8:26-39 for more comments.
“sent”: this verb is apostellō (pronounced ah-poh-stehl-loh), and it is related to the noun apostle, but let’s not overstate things. It means “to send” and is used 132 times in the NT. BDAG says it means (1) “to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective, send away / out” (the disciples are sent out: Matt. 10:5; Mark 3:14; 6:17; Luke 9:2; John 4:38; 17:18). (2) “to dispatch a message, send, have something done.” Here it could be translated as “commission,” if one wants to be officious.
Key point: the Mishnah is a written compilation of oral traditions completed around 200 AD, but reflecting earlier beliefs in Judaism. The Mishnah says: “the one sent by the man is as the man himself” (m.Ber. 5.5 in Bock, p. 542).
“kingdom of God”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
“heal”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and it means, unsurprisingly, “healed, cure, restore.” The noun, incidentally, is iasis (pronounced ee-ah-seess), and it means “healing, cure.” The noun is used three times: Luke 13:22; Acts 4:22, 30. In other words, only Luke uses the noun. The verb is a synonym of therapeuō in v. 1.
“illnesses”: it is the plural of the noun astheneia (pronounced ah-stheh-nay-ah), and the prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” It means, depending on the context, primarily “weakness”; and secondarily “sickness, disease.” The NIV translates it in this way, as it appears throughout the NT: weakness (most often), weaknesses, weak, crippled, diseases, illness, illnesses, infirmities, infirmity, invalid, sick, sickness, sicknesses. Here it means illnesses or sicknesses and is a synonym for nosos in v. 1.
The sent apostles “challenged people to see the evidence of its [kingdom] power and nearness; they noted that this was a special time; they called on all to repent and enter in. People who refused were to know that God’s judgment was drawing near. … The healings serve only to display the power of God and thus evidence the nearness of the kingdom, as 11:18-21 makes clear. This power will be retained by the Twelve in Acts and extend to others (… Acts 3-4; 6:8; 8:5-11; 13:9-12; 14:8-15; 15:12; 19:11-16). Their message in Acts will be similar, except that the one new element will be added: the proclamation of Jesus as the exalted mediator of the blessings of promise” (Bock, p. 814).
These are the words of Jesus. This is his commissioning and his commands, more than counsel or good advice or “things to pack” list.
“staff”: Matthew (10:10) and Luke say not to take a staff, while Mark says to take one (6:8). How do we reconcile this?
The other items show this was a short-term mission trip. Some take this literally and claim that no true preacher should have basic supplies but depend on the good graces of the people. If their conscience says to follow this path, then they should. But if they follow other Scriptures, which says a worker is worthy of his pay (Luke 10:7) and that those who receive good teaching should give material resources to the teachers (Gal. 6:6), then they should follow that.
After discussing how to harmonize the two accounts between Mark 6:8 and taking or not taking a staff, Morris writes: “But so far no explanation seems really satisfactory. Perhaps both ways of putting it mean ‘Go as you are.’ Jesus is instructing them to make no special preparation for this trip” (comments on v. 3). (The link about contradictions offers an answer to the staff, no staff issue. But we must not let our faith be so brittle that it snaps in to whenever these discrepancies emerge. If an issue this small causes you to abandon the faith, then you are immature and unrealistic. Your faith needs to deepen.)
Morris then reminds us that the instructions here are not to be applied universally (comment on v. 5). Later, Jesus will instruct his disciples to take a purse, bag and sword (22:36). Here in Luke 9, it is a short-term mission; after the resurrection and ascension, disciples will need to prepare for a life-long mission.
The point to this verse is to command the twelve not to wander around from house to house, particularly when one house is richer and offers better bedding and food than the poorer house. If the poor house invites them first, they should accept it and not yearn for the rich house. Don’t show favoritism (cf. Jas. 2:1-7).
Shaking the dust off of their feet is what Jews did when they left pagan territory, so they could remove the ceremonial uncleanness. But the ceremonial uncleanness is not the point here because the twelve disciples were going into Jewish towns and villages (see also Matt. 10:6). Instead it means “you—not we—take responsibility for your decision!” It signifies that rejecting the kingdom of God is deadly serious. Nehemiah shook the dust out of the fold of his garments when he made the returning Israelites give back the property and children who were sold into slavery, in a promise that apparently required the shaking. “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied! (Neh. 5:13, NIV). Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch when they rejected the kingdom, and then the missionary pair left for Iconium (Acts 13:51). In Macedonia Paul spoke to the Jews about Jesus the Messiah, but they rejected and mocked him. “When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his clothing and said to them: ‘Your blood be upon your head! I am clear! From now on I shall go to the Gentiles!’ (Acts 18:6, my translation). Marshall calls the action an acted parable to indicate coming judgment.
And this verse means that they followed his commissioning and went out to do what he commanded them to do. Obedience is best. If God gives you a hard commission, do it and trust that he will provide the way forward and the means. And when you get rejected, don’t get angry. Just move on, after telling them that they are responsible for their own coming judgment.
“preaching the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
Jesus was formally separating these twelve from the crowds and any of the other many disciples. Jesus is about to send out seventy (or seventy-two) disciples, as well (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20). There are these twelve, who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28) and whose names will be written on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14). This special office can never be duplicated. These twelve have a unique vocation and commission.
However, in the NT there are a lower order of apostles. Barnabas was called an apostle (Acts 14:14); Andronicus and Junia (a woman) were probably apostles, depending how one reads the Greek (Rom. 16:7) (I say they were). Certain brothers, including Titus, were called apostles (2 Cor. 8:23). Epaphroditus was an apostle (Phil. 2:25). Things that mark an apostle are signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12), and men who were not numbered among the twelve could do them (Luke 10:9). Even Philip, who was titled an evangelist, could do them (Acts 8:4-13). Evidently, Stephen could work them in great power of the Spirit, and he became a deacon (Acts 6:5). Surely other men, whose ministries went unrecorded, could claim to do them without being an apostle or titled in some way (Mark 16:17-18). In any case, no one has to be one of the twelve to be commissioned and work miracles.
The point to the linked post is that the lower order of apostles is open to certain men and women today, but be warned! Anyone who claims the title must be checked out, especially if he gave himself this title or allowed some “yes men” to call him an apostle.
GrowApp for Luke 9:1-6
A.. All of God’s people have a divine commission, big or small. What is yours?
B.. How have you been accomplishing his divine calling on your life so far?
C.. Have you experienced resistance to his calling? How have you overcome it?
Herod’s Confusion (Luke 9:7-9)
7 Herod the tetrarch heard everything that was happening and was very perplexed because of what was said by some that he was John raised from the dead; 8 by others that Elijah has appeared; by others that a prophet of old has arisen. 9 Herod said, “I beheaded John! But who is the man about whom I heard such things?” He was trying to see him.
Herod: He was tetrarch of Galilee in the north, who was also Herod the Great’s son and was co-named Antipas. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 30. Herod was curious and confused about Jesus (Luke 9:7-9). The Pharisees used Herod’s name to spook Jesus to run away, but the Lord would have none of it, calling him a fox (Luke 13:31-32). Herod was in Jerusalem during the Passover during Jesus’ trial. Pilate sent Jesus to him because he found out Jesus was a Galilean and under Herod’s jurisdiction (Luke 23:6). He plied him with many questions, hoping to see a sign, but Jesus did not answer (23:9). Herod and his soldiers ridiculed him, dressed him in an elegant robe, and sent him back to Pilate (23:10).
“heard”: it is in the past that is usually is completed in the past (aorist), while “was perplexed” is in the imperfect tense or incomplete past (imperfect means “incomplete,” as if it carries on to the present). So Herod heard, and then spent some time figuring out the reports.
These guesses—John, Elijah, a prophet of old—will be repeated in vv. 18-20 with the disciples. Rumors take on a life of their own, but here the three same persons implies an educated guess, at least. They speak of Messianic expectation, and the people believed in the resurrection from the dead and were expecting Elijah to return, as Malachi predicted (Mal. 4:5-6).
Judaism at this time commonly believed that a former prophet would reappear, like Moses, Jeremiah, or Isaiah. (Matthew’s account adds Jeremiah as an option, 16:14). This belief in the return of the prophets shows that the people were honoring Jesus.
Where did Luke get this information about Herod’s confusion? Who knew about his inner court? The informant was probably Joanna, who was a follower of Jesus and was married to (or a widow of) Chuza, Herod’s estate manager (Luke 8:2-3). She knew about his inner court.
Herod himself did not behead John, so some translate the clause: “I had John beheaded.”
“He was trying to see him”: some translate: “So Herod wanted to learn about Jesus.” But my translation is literal (and many others translations have the same as mine).
GrowApp for Luke 9:7-9
A.. Herod was confused and perplexed about Jesus. You may have been confused about him before clarity came and you followed the true Jesus. Tell your story.
B.. Herod beheaded John. You probably did some bad things before you followed Christ. How has God redeemed your life?
Jesus Feeds Five Thousand (Luke 9:10-17)
10 When the apostles returned, they described to him everything they did. He took them along and withdrew privately into a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowd found out, they followed him. He welcomed them and was speaking to them about the kingdom of God and was healing the ones needing healing. 12 Now the day began to end, and the twelve approached and said to him, “Send the crowds away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and rest and find provisions because here we are in a deserted place.” 13 He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” But they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for the entire crowd!” 14 (For there were about five thousand men). He said to his disciples, “Seat them in groups of about fifty.” 15 They did so, and everyone was seated. 16 He took the five loaves and the two fish and looked up into heaven and blessed and broke and gave them to the disciples, who placed them before the crowd. 17 Everyone ate and was satisfied. An abundance was picked up for them, twelve baskets of fragments.
“apostles”: it comes from the Greek noun apostolos (pronounced ah-poh-stoh-loss), and it is related to the verb apostellō (pronounced ah-poh-stehl-loh), and see v. 2 for more comments on the verb. As to the noun apostolos, we get our word apostle directly from it. Luke already recorded the names of the twelve (6:12-15), and he often calls them by the shorthand label “the twelve” (6:13; 8:1; 9:1; 18:31; 22:30, 47; Acts 6:2). Some scholars see three classes of apostles: (1) the twelve, and no one can “graduate” to become members of this exclusive group because they correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Num. 1-2; 26); they shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28); and their names are inscribed on the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14). Even Paul calls them the twelve, after he had just named Peter / Cephas (1 Cor. 15:5)! This shows how it was automatically believed among the earliest Christian communities that the twelve were set apart with a special place in God’s kingdom. (2) The second group are called “apostles of Christ,” and they include men like Paul, Silas, Barnabas and the husband and wife team Andronicus and Junia. (3) The third group are called “apostles of the churches,” and they include men like Epaphroditus, Titus, and Timothy.
Do the second and third groups exist today? Once again, for more information, again please click on my post:
It is interesting that Luke omits the details of the report by the disciples, but he does have more details when the seventy-two return (Luke 10:17-24). Why? It could be that Luke wants his readers to learn that they too, and not just the twelve, can “do the stuff” or cast out demons and heal the sick. The door of miracles is open to them so they should walk through it. But trying to figure out why an author omits data points can be futile, in the end.
“privately”: sometimes you need to take a break from the crowd and get alone with God. When you are refreshed, you can then welcome people back into your life. This need for a break shows the humanity of Jesus.
Please click on the post for a systematic theology about his humanity and divinity:
Bethsaida was a town on the northern side of the Lake of Galilee. John 1:44 says that Philip, Peter and Andrew were originally from the town. Apparently, they later moved farther south, on the westside of the lake, to the village of Capernaum. Bethsaida was not a deserted or isolated place (v. 12), so we should understand that Jesus led the crowd away from the town, even though Luke omits this detail. He omits many such details and expects the readers of his day to fill in the gaps, much like we have to do today in our own reading of his Gospel.
I like how Jesus welcomed them. To be honest, I might have rolled my eyes and muttered something like, “Here they are again! Can’t they give me a break?” But he received them. What did he say? Maybe the obvious? “Welcome, welcome! I’m glad to see you! Now let’s move away from the town to avoid distractions!” He showed no irritation. Amazing.
“kingdom of God”: see v. 2 for more comments.
“healed … healing”: These are the verb therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh) and iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and see vv. 1 and 2 for more comments.
So we find out that Jesus, the twelve, and the crowds moved away from the villages and town and into the countryside. Apparently, however, they were not so far away that the crowd could not have gone into a village and rest and buy provisions.
“rest”: it comes from the verb kataluō (pronounced kah-tah-loo-oh), and here it means “rest” or “find lodging” or “halt.” Sometimes, when you are on a retreat out in the wilderness, you need to stop the austerity, and find rest from the retreat!
It is important to realize that miracles do not happen as a sideshow, just to impress the crowd with your miracle-working power. Miracles happen when needs arise. Miracles happen when people are desperate and then have faith in God, in their desperation. And that is the transition from desperation to faith that is so difficult. One way to cross over is to study Scripture about God’s compassion and his love and then healing Scriptures.
When Jesus issued this challenge, the disciples must have thought he was detached from everyday reality. He was too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. It is true that he was heavenly minded, because he had a miracle in mind. He was in constant communication with his Father, and he expected a miracle. The twelve were not in such a deep and close communication.
They retorted. I’m convinced that they doubted they had the money to buy loaves of bread to feed five thousand men, not counting women and children. Mark adds the comment that 200 denarii would not be enough to buy that much bread (6:37). One denarius was a working man’s pay, but that is a little misleading because an agriculture worker had seasonal work, so he had to stretch what he got during the harvest. Perhaps not even Joanna and the other women (Luke 8:1-3) could buy that much in one day for one meal. But if they did so regularly, the community fund would have depleted fast, since Jesus spoke to many crowds, many times. And no doubt the twelve did send them away on other occasions. But not here, not now. Jesus would not allow it. A miracle was in the offing.
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss), and see v. 1 for more comments.
Luke explains why the twelve were thinking rationally (but not supernaturally or miraculously). There were five thousand men. They counted up the loaves and fish and reported back to them their natural calculations. They did not reckon on God intervening and making up the lack.
Then Jesus has them sit down in groups of about fifty. Mark says fifties and hundreds (6:40) on green grass, indicating the spring or recent rains. But whether fifties or hundreds, let’s not quibble. Both versions are true as far as each one emphasizes. In any case, organization is not a bad thing. Sometimes the more fiery evangelists despise or at least ignore such earthly and ordinary matters. Their meetings are chaotic. Order and calm are not bad things (1 Cor. 14:40).
“Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty loaves (2 Kgs 4:42-44), but Jesus feeds far more with far less” (Garland, comment on 9:14b-16).
Jesus gave credit to his Father for allowing the rain and sun to shine on the earth and people, good or bad (Matt. 5:45). He picked up the bread and fish (maybe wrapped up in leaves?) and blessed them.
“bless”: it comes from the Greek verb eulogeō (pronounced eu-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard), and it literally means to “speak well.” BDAG defines the term, depending on the context, as follows: (1) “to say something commendatory, speak well of, praise, extol”; (2) “to ask for bestowal of special favor, especially of calling down God’s gracious power, bless”; (3) “to bestow a favor, provide with benefits.” Here it is the second definition. Some translations have “he gave thanks.” Being grateful even for food shows gratitude and an acknowledgement that God is the source.
The traditional Jewish blessing for bread: “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the world, who bringest forth bread from the earth.”
“satisfied”: I have heard too many miracle stories about food distribution. The kettle of soup would not feed the surge of people who came into the soup kitchen, but the soup never ran out until the last person was fed. Apparently, the miracle was so great and powerful that the disciples picked twelve baskets full of fragments or leftovers, in abundance.
“abundance”: it comes from the Greek verb perisseuō (pronounced peh-rees-soo-oh), and it means “abound” or “abundance.”
Matt. 14:21 says there were five thousand men plus women and children. There had to be well over 10,000 people in total, probably over 15,000. This was truly a wonder and a miracle. Spectacular, but with a purpose–feeding people, not for showing off. Jesus did not go on a fund-raising binge.
“for them”: the leftovers were for the disciple’s advantage and use. No doubt they used it for themselves, sold some of it, and also gave some of it away. In your paycheck from work, it is good to give some, save some and spend some, like paying the bills or buying necessities and some luxury items. It should be noted that Grammarians Culy, Parsons, and Stigal say that the bread that was too much “for them” added up to twelve baskets, indicating the crowd could not eat all of the bread. But I prefer my translation.
One last theological point: Jesus indirectly shows himself to be the bread of heaven—indirectly because he does not announce it, as he did in John’s Gospel (6:35), after he fed the five thousand (6:1-14). This refers to the manna from heaven that fed the ancient Israelites going through the wilderness (Exod. 16). Jesus is our bread of heaven. He is our sustenance.
GrowApp for Luke 9:10-17
A.. Jesus asked the humanly impossible from the disciples. Has he asked you to do what was impossible for you on your own, so God had to breakthrough or sustain you?
B.. How has God worked a remarkable miracle in your life? Or have your heard of one? How did you respond?
Jesus’s Questions and Peter’s Confession (Luke 9:18-22)
18 And so it happened that while he was praying by himself, and his disciples were with him, he asked them, saying, “Whom do the crowds say that I am? 19 In reply, they said, “John the Baptist; others Elijah; others that a prophet of old has arisen.” 20 He said to them, “But whom do you say that I am?” Peter replied and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 And he warned and ordered them to tell this to no one. 22 He said, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the law and be killed and raised on the third day.”
“praying”: As noted in Luke 1:10, and elsewhere throughout this commentary series, it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.
Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!
It is so important that leaders pray by themselves. Praying replenishes and reprioritizes their focus. God is the source of their ministry. Here it seems that the Father communicated that Jesus’s calling really was to suffer and be rejected and the Jerusalem establishment and be killed and raised on the third day (v. 22). At least this pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section links the prayer time with his announcement or prediction in v. 23.
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss), and see v. 1 for more comments.
His disciples were “nearby,” so says one translation. He walked over to them to ask an identity question. How much had the special twelve learned, while they were with him through half his ministry? First he asked what the people or crowds think. No doubt the twelve had mingled with them and found out the popular opinion.
These are the same answers offered in vv. 7-9 (scroll back up to see my comments). Popular opinion was inadequate and inaccurate. See those previous verses for more comments.
“you”: adding the pronoun in Greek makes it emphatic. “But you—whom do you say that I am?”
Here is the real test, and Peter’s answer surpasses those of the crowds. Jesus was identified correctly. Matthew’s version shows Jesus proclaiming that Peter received this knowledge from the Father in heaven (Matt. 16:13-20), so the Father was breaking though in the disciples’ minds, or at least Peter’s mind. I get the impression that Peter spoke for all of them. I can easily imagine that the others verbally expressed or nodded their head in agreement. Matthew’s version says that Peter added, “the Son of the living God.” This is the fullest statement in their cultural context at this time. Later revelation, after Pentecost (Acts 2), will show the church that he was equal with God, as Phil. 2:5-11 reveals. “Although he was in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (v. 6). In other words, progressive revelation is a fact of the Bible. He reveals who he is by their historical context and what their mind can grasp, little by little. John’s Gospel shows Jesus slamming home his true identity as God in the flesh, and only the few and the insightful could grasp it. His fullest revelation was for a later time, after the birth of the church at Pentecost, and John’s Gospel reflects the later times—or was written for them long after the birth.
For more information on his Sonship, scroll down to v. 35.
“warned and ordered”: this is a doublet—quick succession of synonyms—that I translate literally, but doublets could be translated as a modifier and the verb: “sternly ordered.” Your choice, for translations vary.
Once again, why would Jesus not want it bandied around that he was the Messiah? People have to discover things little by little. Also, he did not intend for them to impose their version of the Messiah on himself. He was in charge of his identity; they were not. They expected a conquering Messiah who would wipe out the Romans and ride into Jerusalem and keep it by God’s mighty power. Instead, by coming into Jerusalem riding on a colt-donkey (Luke 19:28-40), he would perplex the high and mighty, like Herod and the Jerusalem establishment, but the little people, like Peter the fisherman, would understand the Messiah’s mission more clearly, though not perfectly clearly, yet. So in this pericope or section of Scripture, we see the Great Reversal. Herod was perplexed (vv. 7-9), while Peter figured it out (vv. 18-19). But it takes more than just educated, popular guesses, so the crowds were the little people, but they could not figure it out. So what was important was to spend time with Jesus.
The Great Reversal + Time with Jesus.
Rather than making mere verbal claims, Jesus wants his works and scriptural promises to testify to him (Luke 4:16-30; 6:1-5; 7:22-23; 24:13-19). In addition such verbal claims should not be made publicly until it is clearly understood by those making the declaration what kind f Messiah is present. Once they understand, then they are to proclaim (24:44-47). Thus, the disciples go public in a bold way after the resurrection (Acts 2:36; 3:18; 4:26; 10:39-43 …).” (p. 846-47)
“it is necessary”: it comes from the word dei (pronounced day). It is an impersonal verb (think of the French verb il faut, pronounced eel foh, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language). The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6;, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. He knew his mission, and it included his death, which was destined by God, to be the substitution for us. He died in our place. This requirement was unavoidable and necessary.
This is the first time that Jesus predicted his death, and it is important to connect this confession with his prayer time with his Father in heaven. (The other times he predicts his death in Luke: 9:44-48; 18:31-33). Jesus was called by the Father to die for the sins of the world, and the Father reinforced this calling during his prayer time. But the good news is that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. It makes me wonder how God would call us to die. That’s the topic of the next verses.
“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
“teachers of the law”: Other translations call them “scribes.”
For more about these three, see this post:
All these groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland, p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV). Overdoing righteousness damages one’s relationship with God and others.
This verse will be literally fulfilled in Luke 22:66, when the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law bring him into the council room and interrogate him and conclude that he committed blasphemy (Matt. 26:64-65 // Mark 14:62-64), which deserves death (Lev. 24:10-16, 23).
“third day”: Some people take this to mean literally seventy-two hours, because Jonah spent three days and three nights in the big fish (Jnh. 1:17; Matt. 12:40), so Jesus must also spend seventy-two hours in the grave. But we over-read the intent here. The sign of Jonah was his coming out of the depths of the belly and the sea, which was a type of the resurrection. Let’s not over-analyze it. Jesus was crucified and died on Friday; he spent Saturday in the grave—or his body did—and his spirit and soul and body were raised from the dead early on Sunday morning: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—three days. They don’t have to be seventy-two hours. Go to biblegateway.com and search the term “third day.” It is amazing how many significant contexts the phrase means.
GrowApp for Luke 9:18-22
A.. How would you answer Jesus’s direct question to you?
B.. How have you personally acted on his true identity?
Call to Discipleship (Luke 9:23-27)
23 He proceeded to tell all of them, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life shall lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it. 25 For what does it benefit a person who gains the whole world but loses himself or suffers loss? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words—the Son of Man shall be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and of the glory of the Father and his holy angels.
27 Truly I say to you that some who are standing here shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
In carrying one’s cross, the criminal lifted up the crossbeam or crossbar and carried it to the large beam stuck in the ground waiting there.
Here we have the Great Reversal or the Great Paradox. A paradox takes place when you join two seeming contradictory statements, yet they can be resolved, in a startling way.
Which statement is the paradox? (See also v. 48.)
1.. You gain your life by your own power, drive, and ambition.
2.. You gain your life by surrendering and giving it to God through Christ Jesus.
The world chooses the first one every day. It is not the paradox.
Jesus calls us to the second one. You win by giving up; you win by losing. That’s the paradox.
Now let’s allow Jesus to unpack what he means.
This verse may be the most important down-to-earth verse in the Gospel of Luke for followers of Jesus. Theological truths are good and necessary, but it is difficult to follow a theology, and easier to follow a person. Many follow a theology and will even die for it. But are they willing to follow Jesus, even to the point of dying to themselves? It is better to follow a person than a theology. However, a word of warning: false doctrines about Jesus have arisen, and false Messiahs will come and deceive many, so be sure to stick close to the biblical Jesus (Luke 21:8). But once you have the biblical Jesus, be ready to give up everything for him.
The key word is “if.” Do they really want to follow Jesus? If they do, then they must die daily. Die to what? Die to their old sin nature, their shortsighted desires and blinded will. And people better not think that their desires and will can lead them to a full life. Their own untamed, unsurrendered desires and wills can lead them only so far, but at the end of their lives, they will come up empty. They will discover that after they were climbing the ladder of success and got to the top, the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.
“daily”: the dying process is daily. One has to say something like this every day: “Lord I surrender my life to you. Not my will, but yours be done.” Do you trust him that his will is best? If you do, then you are on your way—his way! It’s an adventure. If you do not, then you will stumble around and get easily angry and frustrated.
We surrender our lives to God, our loving Father. We don’t surrender ourselves to the fates or the world or certainly not to the devil. If you surrender and feel despair, then Satan is attacking you. You say, “I surrendered my life to my loving God, not to despair!”
People are also fearful that God shall call them to the foreign mission field. However, Matt. 25:14-30, in the Parable of the Talents, the king (God) gives different amounts of talents (money) to invest for the kingdom, according to the different capacities of the servants. To the servant who could handle it, the king gave ten talents. To another servant, the king gave two. And to the third servant the king gave one. God can size you up and see whether you have the capacity or ability to go on the mission field. If you do not, there is no shame in receiving a lesser responsibility. Just multiply your two talents or one talent and then you’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
If you save your life—do as you please—you shall lose it. If you run and manage your life, then eventually you will lose it, despite your best effort to preserve it. When you climb up your self-built ladder, you will have to climb down again or you might come crashing down, depending on how fast and furiously and carelessly you climb. But when you give your soul or life to him, he will give it back to you repaired and even brand new by his miracle. You can be born again.
“save”: it is the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh). It could be translated as “preserve” or “protect” or “rescue” your life. If you keep or preserve the status quo or your present condition, then you shall lose it. You were made for God. When you try to preserve your soul or life without him, you will ruin it. When you follow him and surrender to him, he will help you gain, save, and preserve it.
Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and saved.
“life”: it is the noun psuchē (pronounced ps-oo-khay, be sure to pronounce the ps-, and our word psychology comes from it). It can mean, depending on the context: “soul, life” and it is hard to draw a firm line between the two. “Breath, life principle, soul”; “earthly life”; “the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects, desires, feelings, emotions”; “self’; or “that which possesses life, a soul, creature, person.”
A little theology:
Most Renewalists believe in the three parts of humanity: body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12 and other verses). Other Renewalists believe that we are two parts: body and soul / spirit (2 Cor. 4:16). Spirit and soul are just synonyms, like heart and spirit are synonyms. Surely there are not now four parts, are there (body, soul, spirit, heart)?
Here in this verse it means life, and not just physical life, but your whole existence and health in your soul.
“lose”: it comes from the verb apollumi (pronounced ah-poh-loo-mee), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.”
It is frustrating when your expectations are unfulfilled. Prov. 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (NIV). What you anticipate may not be fulfilled. You get angry. Solution? Surrender your expectation to God, and let him put into you his hopes and dreams.
“for my sake”: It could be translated as “thanks to me.” So you must lose your life by his grace and for his benefit or sake. Your surrender cannot be self-denial that is self-directed or misdirected or even nondirected. It is not austerity for the sake of austerity. Dying daily is for him, to him and by him (by his grace).
“benefit”: it comes from the verb ōpheleō (pronounced oh-feh-leh-oh), and it means, depending on the context: “help, aid, benefit, be of use (to), accomplish, be of value.”
“whole world”: recall that Satan showed Jesus the whole world and offered it to him, but Jesus rejected the offer (Luke 4:1-13). Don’t strive to gain or win the whole world. Let God through Christ give you the part of his world that belongs to you as his gift to you. In other words, do your job or ministry faithfully. Walk in the lane or mission he has given you. It starts with him and ends with him, and he will show you where you fit.
“person”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss, and we get our word anthropology from it). Conservative translations have “man,” but that is not exactly right. It encompasses all persons, much like our archaic word mankind includes women. The best translation, in most instances, is person, not man (in the singular).
“loses”: it is the same verb as in v. 24: apollumi. If you gain the whole world, you will destroy or ruin your soul or life. Your life or soul cannot contain the whole world. Only God can do that, and you are not God. Let him give you the part of the world your soul can contain. It is his gift to you.
“suffers loss”: it is the verb zēmioō (pronounced zay-mee-ah-oh). In the active voice it means “to inflict injury or punishment.” In the passive voice, it means “to suffer damage or loss or forfeit.” Here it is in the passive. You will suffer loss or lose out if you seek hard after worldly things. Matt. 6:33 says that we must seek him first and righteous living—living in him—and he will add all those things to you.
“ashamed”: it can also be translated “be disgraced.” If you feel ashamed of Jesus and his teachings, then at the final judgment, you will be put to shame. In other words, your judgment will not be positive.
“Son of Man”: see v. 22 for more comments.
In this verse Jesus teaches us about his Second Coming. He is here now, and this is first coming. No one should be ashamed of him. If someone is, then Jesus will be ashamed of him at his coming with glory and with the Father’s glory and angels. This verse does not teach a secret rapture before his coming a second time.
When Jesus came the first time and was in the process of inaugurating the kingdom of God, the kingdom came subtly and mysteriously. When he comes a second time, his inaugurated kingdom will be fully accomplished or realized.
Here it is in a flow chart:
________________← This Age –—–→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom → Parousia → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come
Before the kingdom is fully realized at his Second Coming (Parousia), the kingdom is announced and ushered in by Jesus at the launch of his ministry. So there is overlap between This Age and the Kingdom Age.
A little more expansion, adding in the final judgment.
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops This Age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come. All three terms mean the same thing. Finally, the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming, after judgment. And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Messianic or Kingdom Age can begin in true and pure and undisrupted rulership.
Bottom line: All of the New Testament (outside of a few contested verses in the Revelation) fully and clearly and consistently teach this flow chart:
___________← This Age ———⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom —→ Second Coming → Judgment → Fully Realized Kingdom Age
What about the Church? The Father and the resurrected and ascended Son and the outpoured Spirit, by means of the inaugurated kingdom, created the church at Pentecost (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-4). It exists in This Age and preaches the gospel of the kingdom. It will be snatched up or raptured at the Second Coming, meet Jesus in the air, descend with him, go through judgment, and then finally will last forever in the Fully Realized Kingdom Age.
Let’s look more deeply at the overlapping This Age and the Kingdom of God. Until and before the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between This Age and the Inaugurated Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry. (They are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people surrender to the Son’s Lordship, and then Satan is pushed back and people experience victory in their lives. The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in This Age, though happening during the inaugurated Kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in This Age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in The Age to Come. The Second Coming stops This Age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or Kingdom Age or The Age to Come.
Let’s wander just a little way from Luke’s Gospel and discuss other eschatological teachings circulating around the Church today, the American Church in particular.
In Jesus’s teaching throughout the Gospel of Luke, there is no word on a literal thousand-year reign with two comings and “several first” resurrections. And there is no separate rapture that makes the church disappear, before the Second Coming. If Jesus believed in a separate rapture, he would have taught it here; he missed his chance. However, he did not miss his chance and he did not teach it. Therefore, he did not believe in a separate rapture. All of it is too convoluted. Instead, the Gospel and the other three Gospels (and Epistles) present a streamlined picture of salvation history and God’s dealing with his human creation and the return of Christ.
An amillennialist believes that the millennium begins with the Inaugurated Kingdom, but apparently it is quiet and behind the scenes (note, for example, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and its slow growth in Matt. 13:31-32); Satan is not literally bound with chains (as if a spirit being could be), even though Jesus did teach that he bound the strongman (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22). So what this binding means is that Satan cannot now fully stop the advance of the kingdom (as Satan did to the ancient Israelites, except a remnant). Before Jesus came, every nation was bound by satanic deception. However, after Jesus inaugurated the kingdom, even under Islamic and communist regimes, the gospel has a way of infiltrating societies, even if underground. Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he did before Jesus came. Instead, kingdom citizens, surrendered to the Kingship of the King and following him, are plundering Satan’s domain of This Age and rescuing people out of it and transferring them to the inaugurated kingdom of God. The final victory over Satan will be fully manifested at his Second Coming.
In contrast, based on his interpretation of a few verses in Rev. 20, one chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible, a premillennialist believes that a literal thousand years of Christ (not shown in flow charts) is ushered in at the Second Coming, where there will be peace and harmony. And Satan is literally bound in chains until the end of the thousand years. During the literal millennium, people will still die, so the last enemy (death) is not defeated after all, at the Second Coming (even though Paul said death would be defeated, in 1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-56). However, the theory of a literal thousand years says that death and Satan are defeated at the end of the millennium, when another resurrection and another judgment will take place.
Never mind, however, that in John 5:28-29 and Matt. 13:41-43 and 25:31-46, Jesus teaches that the wicked and righteous are judged together at the end of This Age, as indicated in the above flow charts. Interpreting literally a deliberately and intentionally symbolic book (Revelation) runs aground quickly. Things soon become convoluted and complicated, in comparison with the nonsymbolic, streamlined Gospel and Epistles.
So then where does the rapture fit in? When all peoples are called out of their tombs and those who are alive also respond to Christ descending from heaven at the Second Coming, they will be “caught up” (the rapture) and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Then they will descend with Jesus to a new heaven and new earth, which will have been recreated, renewed, renovated or reconstituted. They will be judged, and the wicked will be sent away to punishment, and the righteous will be welcomed into the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come (as distinct from This Age). In other words, the rapture and the Second Coming happen at the same time and are the same event.
Please see my post:
There is no reason, biblically, to overthink and complicate these verses and insert a separate rapture that happens before the Second Coming. Just because a teaching is popular does not make it right.
Personally, I have now accepted amillennialism because it is streamlined, and I don’t believe the NT teaches convoluted theories. The entire NT fits together if we adopt amillennialism, from Matt. 1 to Rev. 22. I cannot allow, in my own Bible interpretation, a few contested verses in Rev. 20 to confuse the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and the apostolic teaching in the Epistles. That is, I don’t believe we should allow Rev. 20 (the only few verses where one thousand years are mentioned) or the entire book of the Revelation, the most symbolic book of the Bible (after Chapter 3), to guide our interpretation of these clear teachings in the Gospels and the Epistles. Instead, we should allow the clear, straightforward, nonsymbolic teachings in the Gospels and Epistles to guide our interpretations of the most symbolic book in the Bible, in which even the numbers may be symbolic and probably are. To see everything fit together, all we have to do is turn the kaleidoscope one notch or click and adopt amillennialism. I am willing to do that.
Clarity guides the unclear portions. My main point: keep the plain thing the main thing in hermeneutics (science of interpretation), and let the clear verses guide the unclear ones.
This interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all the complications that popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on the Gospels and Epistles for decades—over a century. Since this tradition has deep roots—not to say entrenched—in the conservative sectors of American Evangelicalism (broadly defined to incorporate the Renewal Movements), these teachers won’t give up their interpretation easily. So I hope to reach and teach the younger generations and all other openminded people of all generations. They need to prepare for tough times ahead. I’m not a pastor, but I can still have a teacher’s pastoral heart.
But in these eschatological (end-time) discussions:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
We should not break fellowship with those with whom we differ in eschatological matters.
Now let’s move on.
“words”: it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Since it is so important, let’s explore the noun more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.
The noun is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level!) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Luke’s Gospel has logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.
Bottom line: Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
But as noted, here it could be translated as “my words” or “my teachings.”
“glory”: it is the noun doxa (pronounced dox-ah), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance”: (2) “a state of being magnificent, greatness, splendor, anything that catches the eye”; (3) “honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige”; (4) “a transcendent being deserving of honor, majestic being” (BDAG). In this verse the first and second meaning fits here, even the fourth one would fit, too.
So the Son, Father, and holy angels will appear gloriously, with a bright light and with splendor, radiance, and greatness. His coming will catch our eye, to say the least. But it will not be as if the Father comes literally, but his glory will surround his Son and angels. They will come back physically and literally.
On the various theories of the Second Coming and millennia, please see these posts under v. 26, above.
The good news for us regular Bible readers is that this verse in no way presents the time or season of his return; that’s not the point here.
“angels”: An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
This verse introduces the encounter of Jesus with Moses and Elijah, in glory and splendor in the next pericope or section (vv. 28-35). So “some” of them (Peter, James, and John) did not experience death before the transfiguration happened. The other nine would have to wait until he returns in the full power and glory of his kingdom. But this has not happened yet.
Stein offers three interpretations on how v. 27 relates to the Transfiguration:
There are three main explanations. (1) The preexistent glory of the preincarnate Son temporarily broke through the limitations of his humanity (cf. Phil 2:6–9; John 1:14b). (2) A glimpse of the future glory of the risen Christ is given to the disciples. Even as the first passion prediction (Luke 9:22) does not end in an announcement of death but in the promise of resurrection, so the discussion of Jesus’ departure is followed by a glimpse of the glory awaiting him at the resurrection (24:26; cf. also Heb 2:9; 1 Pet 1:21). (3) A glimpse of the glory of the Son of Man at the time of the parousia is given to the disciples. (p. 283)
He favors the last option but sees the relevance of the second one. I like all three, because the Transfiguration, next, has deep meaning.
For more discussion, see the parallel passages in Matt. 17:1-13:
And Mark 9:1-13:
“kingdom of God”: see v. 11 for more comments.
GrowApp for Luke 9:23-27
A.. Study Matt. 6:33. If you seek God first and his righteous living, then he will add to you all the things of life you need. How does one seek God first?
B.. Study 2 Cor. 5:17. How has God created you anew? Tell your story.
Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36)
28 It happened about eight days later, after those words. He took Peter and John and James along and went up the mountain to pray. 29 And it happened that he was praying and the appearance of his face was different and his clothes were shining white. 30 And look! Two men were speaking with him! They were Moses and Elijah 31 who appeared glorious and began talking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep. But when they were completely awake, they saw his glory and two men standing with him. 33 And it happened that while they were parting from him, Peter spoke to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here, and let’s make three booths, one for you and one for Moses, and one for Elijah,” but without knowing what he was saying. 34 As he said this, a cloud came and covered them. They were afraid while they went into the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen! Listen to him!” 36 And while this voice came, Jesus was found alone. They kept quiet and in those days reported to no one anything of what they saw.
Recall what v. 27 says: “Truly I say to you that some who are standing here shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” That verse is about to unfold, here in this pericope or section of Scripture.
The best support comes from 2 Peter 1:16-18:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Pet. 1:16-18)
These verses separate the coming (parousia) in v. 16 from the transfiguration. Peter and others were eyewitnesses to his majesty and the voice of God on the sacred mountain (vv. 17-18), which was a foretaste Jesus coming in power.
This table, taken from a commentary on the Gospel of Mark, is also relevant to Luke’s version. It contrasts Jesus and Moses:
|Jesus takes three disciples up mountain (9:28)||Moses goes with three unnamed persons, plus seventy elders up the mountain (Exod. 24:1, 9)|
|Jesus is transfigured and his clothes become bright white. (9:29)||Moses’ skin shines when he descends from the mountain with God (Exod. 34:29)|
|God appears in veiled form in an overshadowing cloud (9:34)||God appears in veiled form in an overshadowing cloud (Exod. 24:15-16, 18)|
|A voice speaks from the cloud (9:35)||A voice speaks from cloud (Exod. 24:16)|
|Adapted from David E. Garland, Mark: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan 1996), p. 342|
In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel David L. Turner provides a list of similarities between the transfiguration of Jesus and Moses on Sinai (Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Baker Academic, 2008], p. 419), slightly edited:
1.. The six-day interval (Exod. 24:16)
2.. The presence of three witnesses (Exod. 24:1)
3.. The high mountain (Exod. 24:1)
4.. The glorious appearing of the central figure (Exod. 34:29-30)
5.. The overshadowing cloud (Exod. 24:16)
6.. The fear of those who witnesses the glory (Exod. 34:29-30)
“about eight days”; Matt. 17:1 says six days. “Eight days” is a Greek way of saying “about a week,” and Luke writes the approximation word “about,” so let’s not be more precise than he is.
Here Peter, John and James tasting of full manifestation of the kingdom of God.
Jesus was a man of prayer as we saw in v. 18. Now he took his inner circle with him to pray and to witness what he had predicted would happen.
“words”: it is the noun logos. It could be translated more broadly as “teachings.” See v. 26 for more comments.
“pray”: Once again Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, or once again he went to pray on a mountain or elsewhere. There’s a lesson for us in his prayer life: the sinless Son of God prayed, how much more should we? For more comments, see v. 18.
Which mountain? three options: Hermon, Tabor, Meron. Mt. Tabor is not really “high” (Mark 9:2) because it is only 1929 feet (588m). It also had a military fortress. Mt. Hermon is too high—9232 feet (2814m) and too remote. The probable mountain is Mt. Meron, the highest mountain in Israel itself at 3926 feet (1197m). It is just to the northwest of the Lake of Galilee, a moderate distance from Caesarea Philippi. And privacy was possible. It could also hold “the city on the hill” of Matt. 5:14 (Liefeld and Pao pp. 181-82).
“shining white”: the verb has astr– stem in it or “star.” I thought about translating it as “starry white.” The appearance of his face was being transformed or transfigured before their eyes. Matthew (17:2) and Mark (9:2) say that he “metamorphized,” a Greek word that means to transform. His clothes were so bright that Peter, as recorded by Mark, who heard and wrote down what Peter preached, added the detail that the clothes were so bright that no laundryman could bleach them as white (9:3). Matthew says they became “white as light” (17:2).
Green has an interesting idea about what happened to Jesus: “Luke’s point, then, is not that Jesus experienced an internal adjustment of some sort that led to his transformed appearance, but that his inner being was made transparent to those who accompanied him” (p. 380). It seems Green believes that God took off the human cover of Jesus, and now we can see Jesus’s divinity. I like it.
“praying”: see v. 18 for more comments.
The face of Moses shone when he came down the mountain (Exod. 34:29-35). But this was a reflected glory. In contrast, Jesus clothes shine white like lightning, which “conveys a divine being (Dan. 12:3; Matt. 13:43). This language of brightness is reminiscent of Paul’s account of his divine encounter with Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3; 22:6, 9, 11; 26:13)” Garland, comment on 9:29). It could be that God temporarily transformed Jesus into a divine being, as he was before he came to earth, born as a human baby.
“And look!”: this has often been translated as the older “behold!” I like “behold!” but I updated it. It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follow. “As you, my audience, sit and listen to me read this Gospel, listen up! Look! Two men just entered the scene! Who are they?” Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope. (That’s the case here.) Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21).
Matthew says that Moses was seen, and Elijah with him (17:3), while Mark says that Elijah was seen and Moses with him (9:4). Luke announces who they were together, but Moses first. But let’s not make a big deal of these nuanced differences, unless the next key word “departure” means anything (v. 31).
Jesus is up on a high mountain, and both Moses and Elijah went up a high mountain, Mt. Horeb, an alternative name for Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19 for Moses and 1 Kings 19:8 for Elijah, who spent forty days and forty nights, as Moses did too).
Only Luke—not Matthew or Mark—records that Moses and Elijah and Jesus began talking about his “departure” or exodus in Greek. So maybe it is important that Moses comes first in Luke account. Moses was the one who led them out of Egypt. This departure is called the exodus. His exodus refers first to his death, but it also hearkens back to the great deliverance from slavery, a deliverance effected by God for his Chosen People (Ex. 1-15). Jesus, by his atoning death, is about to effect a great exodus / deliverance of a countless number of people from the slavery of sin and Satan.
Only Luke records that the three disciples were sleeping, but when they awoke, they saw the two additional men. Luke adds the human touch. Peter, as recorded by Mark, omitted his sleep time! This is subtle because it is believed that Mark got his gospel from listening to Peter preaching his stories. Of course Peter would omit the sleeping!
All three versions say that Peter knew who the men were without their being introduced to him. Either this is a deliberate omission, and Jesus told them who they were, but this detail was unrecorded, or there was something about Moses and Elijah that Peter instantly recognized. His ability to recognize them may go along with his confession / profession that Jesus was the Messiah of God (v. 20). Peter was growing in his insight about the mission and identity of Jesus, and he perceived that Moses, who represents the law, and Elijah, who represents the prophets, would reappear (v. 8). Jesus surpasses both of these visitors, particularly when the Father proclaims that Jesus is his chosen Son and to hear him.
“three booths”: it is the Greek noun skēnē (pronounced skay-nay), and it means “tent” or “booth.” In Heb. 11:9 is means The Tent of Testimony or Tabernacle. It can also mean “dwelling” generally. Peter does not necessarily refer to the feast of tabernacles or booths (Exod. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:39), but he wants to make temporary shelters with them. Yet, on the other hand, this may refer to the Feast of Booths (Sukkoth), which was commanded by God as a festival that must be kept (Lev. 23:34; Deut. 16:13-16; 31:10). However, it may not be the case. Peter may be saying he’ll build temporary shelters. But if you want to make “booths” refer to the Feast of Tabernacles, you may certainly do so.
Liefeld and Pao say that Peter may have wanted to “level” Jesus with Moses and Elijah and to prevent the “departure” (v. 31). In any case, Peter wanted to prolong the vision and visitation (comment on v. 33). But the mountaintop experiences cannot last forever. One has to descend from the retreat and live life in the kingdom and the world.
Stein agrees: “… Peter erred in equating Jesus with Moses and Elijah. They were not equals. The Voice from heaven explains Peter’s error. In contrast to Moses and Elijah, who were God’s servants, Jesus is God’s Son, the Chosen One. He is unique. He cannot be classed with anyone else, even two of God’s greatest servants. He is not only greater but other” (comment on v. 33).
“covered”: the Greek verb is literally “overshadowed,” but the scene is about covering them. One translation says “engulf.” See 2 Chron. 6:1, which says the Lord dwells in thick darkness. Further, God’s glory covering or overshadowing or enveloping them reflects the doctrine of Shekinah, particularly in the desert tabernacle (Exod. 40:34-38).
“afraid”: This is the standard Greek verb for fear (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and you can see phob– in it. It means a wide range of things, like “filled with awe,” but “afraid” is also correct.
Let’s become a little more definite. BDAG defines the verb as follows: (1) “to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid”; people can become “frightened.” “Fear something or someone.” (2) “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect”; a person like God or a leader can command respect.
The Shorter Lexicon says adds nuances (1) “be afraid … become frightened … “fear something or someone” (2) “fear in the sense of reverence, respect.”
There is everything right with having a reverential fear of God. Don’t let the Happy Highlight teachers on TV or elsewhere tell you otherwise. Mark also says they were afraid, when they saw the two prophets (9:6). Luke adds they were afraid as they went into the cloud.
Matthew (17:5) and Mark (9:7) says that Jesus was God’s beloved Son, while Luke here says that Jesus is his chosen Son. So Jesus is God’s chosen and beloved Son. This pronouncement is related to Ps. 2:7:
The command to listen to His Son clears away anyone’s mere opinion of who Jesus is (see Peter in Matt. 16:22). We must instead depend on revelation. Jesus fulfills Deut. 18:15; he is the coming prophet (Liefeld and Pao, on v. 35).
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (Deut. 18:15, NIV)
“Son”: Let’s get into a little systematic theology. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Let’s look at the unique relationship the Son has with the Father in systematic theology. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Quick teaching about the Trinity in systematic theology: The Father in his role as the Father is superior to the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son in his incarnation and role in the redemptive plan
In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.
“listen”: the verb is the standard verb for “hear”: akouō (pronounced ah-koo-oh, and we get our word acoustics from it). It also means, depending on the context, “give careful attention to, listen to, heed” (BDAG). It has the connotation of obeying or heeding. Recall that Jesus said that the one who hears and acts on his words is like the man who builds his house on a firm foundation, while the one who hears them and does not act on them is like a man who build his house on a weak foundation (Luke 6:46-49). When the stormy flood waters rise, the first house will stand, while the second one will collapse. So hearing is more than just the physical act of hearing with your ears. It requires understanding and then obedience and action.
It must be clear who the Father was talking about. As he spoke those words, Jesus was alone. The Father was talking to and about Jesus, not Moses or Elijah. Moses and Elijah were prophets, and so was Jesus, but he was also his chosen and beloved Son. That title is an upgrade.
In that last link, I argue that Jesus did not become the Son at his birth or baptism or this divine, Fatherly pronouncement, but he was eternally the Son.
In any case, the three men kept quiet about what they saw, for a season, probably waiting until after the resurrection or ascension.
Stein is right about the significance of the divine voice and endorsement: “The Voice affirmed Jesus’ teachings, especially those in 9:22–27. Theophilus and the other readers needed to realize that the words of the Son of God have even greater authority than those of Moses and Elijah and therefore need to be heeded all the more” (comment on v. 36).
GrowApp for Luke 9:28-36
A.. Jesus predicted that some would taste of his glorious kingdom. How have you gotten a taste of his kingdom at your conversion or fullness of the Spirit?
B.. God called his Son Jesus loved and chosen. In him, you too are his child and loved and chosen. What does that mean to you?
Deliverance of a Boy with Unclean Spirit (Luke 9:37-43)
37 And it happened on the next day. After they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 And look! A man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I beg you to look upon my son because he is my only child. 39 And look! A spirit seizes him and suddenly cries out and convulses him–with foam. It hardly leaves him and is destroying him! 40 I begged your disciples to expel it, but they were unable!” 41 In reply, Jesus said, “O unbelieving and crooked generation! How long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was approaching, the demon threw and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him to his father. 43a And so everyone was amazed at the greatness of God.
The timing is right after the transfiguration on the mountain top.
“met”: it is the verb sunantaō (pronounced soon-ahn-tah-oh and used 6 times), and it combines the prefix sun– (with) and stem ant– (related to anti– or “against” in this context). So it means “met up with, close by.” (See 8:27 for a related verb with the same stem.) Once again the “crowd crowded” him.
Always remember that after you have your mountaintop experience of a taste of glory, you will have to confront a demon or the trials of life. That is Satan’s or the world’s counterattack, designed to discourage and wear you down.
“look!”: see v. 30 for more comments. The father takes center stage. And he describes what happens to his son. The imagery in v. 39 is unpretty.
“look upon”: that is a literal translation, but I sense it means to have pity on him. God is said to “see” or “look upon” and “hear” the suffering of his people (e.g. Gen. 29:32; 31:12, 42; Exod. 2:23-25; 3:7-9; Ps. 35:2). The father asked Jesus to look upon his suffering son, his only child.
Once again Luke mentions that the boy was an only child (see 7:12 and 8:42), which adds to the pathos. If the man loses him, he loses his soul.
“look!”: see v. 30 for more comments. Here the demon is fighting with the boy to take center stage after the verb “look!” Satan’s hordes love the attention. Never give it to him either in your own mind or out in the world. Specifically, you don’t need to rebuke Satan every time you have a bad thought. In most cases, let it slide right out of your mind by thinking on a wonderful promise of God in Scripture.
“with foam”: we should say the foam was in the mouth. Mark says the boy foamed and ground his teeth (9:18). Matthew says the boy is an epileptic, but this was caused by a demon, not a strictly natural cause. In other words, all diseases hit the body naturally and has natural causes, but a few of the diseases also have a demonic cause—both natural and demonic. A demon causes it, but it manifests in the body. It takes discernment to figure out how to pray. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
“destroying”: it is the verb suntribō (pronounced soon-tree-boh), and it can mean “break, shatter, crush” or “bruise, wear out.” It is a visual verb of destruction. The demon was oppressive, and the boy was suffering. Never believe that demons can be called as allies (of sorts). Never make a deal with the devil. If you have, repent and give your heart and mind to Jesus, in Jesus’s name.
Mark’s version says that the disciples or the crowds were discussing a topic with the experts in the law. Jesus asked them what they were talking about. Then the man in the crowd spoke up and told of his child and need (9:16-18). Mark’s version also says that this kind comes out only by prayer, and some manuscripts add fasting. We can combine prayer and fasting to build our faith. Pray for even small faith to expel demons. Fast, if necessary. Matthew’s version says that the nine disciples did not have enough faith; if they had faith as small as a mustard seed, the demon would have left. So we can combine prayer and faith to expel demons. Remember that one of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 is faith. Pray that God would distribute it by his Spirit, right when you need it.
Now let’s return to this verse in Luke.
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss), and see v. 1 for more comments.
The nine disciples were unable to expel it. Just earlier Jesus commissioned them to “do the stuff,” or they had authority to expel demons, but this one was stubborn. Mark says that even Jesus had to ask the question of the father about how long he had the demon (9:21), and the father answered “since childhood. If you can do anything, help us!” Jesus replied, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” Then the father cried out with very comforting words, that must have stuck in Peter’s mind when he was preaching his stories about Jesus, and Mark was recording them. “I believe! Help my unbelief!” the father said. This is a perfect description of the dilemma that people—you and I—face when we see a great need and want to have faith in God, but our desperation and unbelief gets in the way. Yes, God responds to desperation, as Jesus is doing here, but sooner or later the mind has to settle down and trust and believe. That’s the point Jesus was making. “All things are possible to the one who believes!” Desperation ≠ Faith
One good way to leave behind your desperation is to read up on Scriptures that talk about who God is, how much he loves you. Study Scriptures that promise healing.
“O”: It expresses pain and disappointment, so it could be translated as “Oh!”
“unbelieving”: this could be translated as “faithless.” One has to have faith and trust in God. A good acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him.
“crooked”: it comes from the verb diastrephō (pronounced dee-ah-streh-foh), and it means “thoroughly turned,” so that it is crooked. One translation has “twisted.” One lexicon suggests “depraved.”
“unclean”: the spirit was of course unclean, so the meaning here is that the boy was made unclean. It was not a “good” daimōn (pronounced dye-moan), as some pagans thought of these minor deities. Luke has to clear up any potential confusion among some of his readers.
“threw”: it could be translated literally as “tore.” It is the verb rhēgnumi (pronounced rhayg-noo-mee), and it is onomatopoeic (spelled and sounds like the action that the verb describes). “Rip” is an example in English. “Rrrrriiippp!” One translation has “knocked him to the ground.” But I like the verb “threw.”
“rebuked”: it is the verb epitimaō (pronounced eh-pea-tee-mah-oh), and it means “rebuke, censure, warn,” and even “punish” (see Jude 9). In exorcisms it may have developed a specialized meaning, so one should use it, as Jesus did. Be authoritative. In any case, he has given us authority to tread on the devil (Luke 9:1 and 10:19).
“healed”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and see v. 2 for further comments. But it is curious why the verb appears here. Why did the boy need healing? Did he get his soul healed? Yes. This implies that he had had a dysfunctional soul that allowed the devil in, but we don’t know for sure. Did the demon bruise the boy, and so he needed physical healing? Yes. Sometimes “after-ministry” is needed to restore the soul and body.
And the good news is that Jesus presented the boy to his father. No doubt he picked him up and took his hand and put it in his father’s hand. The father hugged and kissed him. A sweet and happy scene.
“greatness”: it is the noun megaleiotēs (pronounced meh-gah-lay-oh-tayss), and you can see mega– in it, which means “great.” Some translations have “majesty.”
Please see my post on God’s majesty and greatness:
Before leaving this pericope or section, it should be noted that Mark shows the disciples coming to Jesus and asking him privately why they could not expel the demon. He answered that this kind comes out only by prayer (and some translations add “and fasting”) (9:28-29). So you may have to pray before you launch into a deliverance time—and even fast.
See my posts here for a more developed theology of Satan and demons under v. 1, above:
GrowApp for Luke 9:37-43a
A.. The father was desperate because his need was overwhelming. But faith is needed, not desperation. How have you transitioned from desperation to faith in your walk with the Lord?
B.. Study Eph. 5:8. You have been transferred from darkness to light. How do you walk in the light?
C.. Study Jas. 4:7. You must submit to God and then resist the devil. Have you surrendered your life to God, completely?
Jesus Again Predicts His Death (Luke 9:43b-45)
43b While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to these words, for the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this statement, and it was being hidden from them, so that they might not discern it. And they were afraid to ask him about this statement.
Jesus heard all the praise and admiration from the crowds. But they were about to hand him over to the authorities—if not those very people, then other crowds would do this. He knew they were fickle. Don’t listen to the crowds.
“listen carefully”: Literally it reads, “Put these words into your ears.” What Jesus is about to say is very important.
“words”: it is the noun logos (pronounced lo-goss), but in the plural. See v. 26 for more comments on the noun logos.
“Son of Man”: see v. 22 for more comments.
“hands”: they stand in for or symbolize power, because hands do things like make an object, throw a spear or hit someone else. Power and force reside in the hands. They were about to arrest or “nab” him with their bare hands.
“men”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss, and we get our word anthropology from it). It is in the plural. In v. 25 I noted that in most instances it should be translated as “person” (or “persons”). Here it should be men, because the context requires it. The authorities in Jerusalem were all men.
“did not understand”: it could be translated “were ignorant.” It is the negation of the verb “know.” (Our word agnostic is related to it.)
“discern”: it is the verb aisthanomai (pronounced eye-sthan-oh-my), and it appears only here in the New Testament. In the larger Greek world, it means (1) “to perceive, apprehend by the senses, to see, hear, feel”; (2) “to perceive by the mind, understand, hear, learn” (Liddell and Scott).
“statement”: The Greek noun here is rhēma (pronounced rhay-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context). Jesus spoke out his foretelling of his death. So this word became a “saying.”
The disciples did not understand the statement that he would be arrested, because they believed in their deepest hearts that he was going to parade into Jerusalem, overpower the Romans, throw them out, and hold Jerusalem either by peace or force, forever. And he would bring peace to their whole world. Their deepest (false) beliefs blinded them. It is possible to be so blinded by your deepest convictions. Please be sure your convictions are right. Know Scripture.
“hidden”: who was doing the hiding? God hid it from them, or their own blind spots? Maybe a little of both.
“afraid”: it is the verb phobeomai, and see v. 34 for more comments. Jesus had just rebuked them and the crowds for being unbelieving and twisted. They were nervous because they believed that they should understand and grasp his words, but they did not. And they knew that they did not understand. Maybe they thought that after he was arrested, he would shine forth with his glory and destroy the Romans. “See! I allowed myself to be arrested! But I have broken free by a mighty angel! And now I will call on God to destroy our enemies!” They didn’t understand that he came as the servant-king.
“statement”: it is the same word rhēma.
GrowApp for Luke 9:43b-45
A.. Have you experienced the inconsistency of the crowds or your friends and family? How did you deal with it?
B.. The disciples did not understand because their expectations were different from Jesus’s mission to die. What are your blind spots? How have you or how can you get rid of them?
Who Is the Greatest? (Luke 9:46-48)
46 A dispute started up among them, that is, which one would be the greatest among them. 47 Jesus, knowing the dispute in their hearts, got a child and stood him beside himself. 48 And he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me, for he who is the least among you is great.”
49 In reply, John said, “Master, we saw someone expelling demons in your name, but we were forbidding him, because he is not following with us. 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
This dispute will happen again in 22:24-30. This must have been quite an issue for them as they jockeyed for position.
Jesus predicted his suffering and death (v. 22, 43b-45), yet the disciples were disputing over who would be the greatest. The irony of it all.
Literally it reads: “A disputed entered among them.” When you are in the presence of Jesus, who was obviously serving and helping people, then it is a bad idea to get into a dispute about which one in your entourage or posse might be the greatest. The greatest goal is to be like Jesus. That means to serve and help people.
“dispute”: it is the noun dialogismos (pronounced dee-ah-loh-gees-mos, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). It means, depending on the context: (1) “thought, opinion, reasoning, design” or (2) “doubt, dispute, argument.” Here it is the second definition.
Jesus could read hearts, as the Father willed. He did only what he saw his Father doing. There is a divine interplay between Jesus’s human nature, his divine nature, the Holy Spirit’s anointing, and the Father’s communication with him. We will never be able to figure out or sort out the details. We can believe, further, that God has given us his Spirit, so we too have the anointing. When we are born again, we share in his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). So we can have a small taste of what his inner life was like, but on a much smaller and fainter scale.
“dispute”: it is the same word as in the previous verse.
A child must have been nearby. Was it a boy or girl? Let’s say a boy. Did he belong to one of the disciples? What about one of the women’s child? Recall that women were following Jesus (Luke 8:1-3). Or was he a child from the crowd? We don’t know, but it is fun to speculate. Mark 9:33 says that Jesus entered “the house,” which most likely means Peter’s house. It would be wonderful to think this child was Peter’s son Mark (1 Pet. 5:13).
Bock (p. 895) cites a passage from the Mishnah, showing that it was a waste of time to chat with children: “Morning sleep, midday wine, chattering with children, and tarrying [dawdling] in places where men of the common people assemble destroy a man (m. ‘Abot 3.11). Jesus was overturning the cultural prejudice among the extra-devout.
Jesus stood the child next to him. He was to be a living object lesson. Sweet scene, as Jesus also rebukes the disciples at the same time.
One quick point that is a little outside the main teaching here. Yes, we are initially to welcome or receive Jesus as children, but we must not remain children (1 Cor. 13:11).
It is imperative to welcome a child in the name of Jesus. When we welcome the least child, we welcome Jesus. When we welcome Jesus, we welcome the Father who sent him. So we have a ladder of authority, and only the Father and Jesus can occupy the top rungs. If the disciples want to be great, they must occupy the rung that the child stands on. So once again we have the Great Reversal. To be great, one must become least.
So we have another paradox (see v. 23). A paradox is defined as placing seemingly contradictory ideas side by side. Here are two possible paradoxes, but only one really is. Which one is it?
1.. To be great, you must use all your willpower and ambition and drive.
2.. To be great, you must become like a child, the least of all.
The paradox is the second statement. Everyone follows the first one, but the way of the kingdom leads to the second one. In the world, the paradox (no. 2) makes no sense. In the kingdom, the two statements are reconciled because God lifts you up.
“sent me”: As noted at 4:43, Gabriel in his message to Zechariah said: “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent forth to speak to you and announce to you this good news” (1:19). This statement parallels that of Jesus (No, Jesus is not an angel, but the eternal Son of God.) The statement too is in the divine passive. Gabriel stands in God’s presence and came from heaven with a message of good news to Zechariah, and Jesus—who is the Son of God and not an angel—also came from heaven with a message of good news for the whole world. Jesus said in the context of one who welcome a little one that he welcomes “the one who sent me” (v. 48).
Some postmodern skeptics say that John is clear about God sending Jesus, while Luke (and Matthew and Mark) merely hints at it in such clauses as “I have been sent” or “I have come.” Therefore, the four Gospels are irreparably inconsistent and contradictory (they claim). The critics overemphasize the nuances, of course. John tells and shows loudly, and the Synoptic Gospel writers show and tell more subtly, for those who can see. John drops all subtleties, probably since his Gospel is the last one, so he does not need to be secretive to his readers.
Celebrate the huge number of similarities in the four Gospels:
Don’t obsess over the tiny differences.
“name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. Let’s develop this thought, so it can apply to you. What’s in a name?
You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, next to the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
John seems to say that anyone outside the twelve should not even think that he could be the greatest. The dispute is among the elites.
In any case, the disciples reacted naturally. In vv. 1-6, Jesus had commissioned the twelve. They must have thought the commissioning was exclusive. But this verse shows that apparently it was not.
“were forbidding”: the one verb is in the imperfect tense (incomplete action from the past), indicating that the disciples tried on other occasions. So maybe it could be translated as “we were (continually) stopping him.” But that’s too awkward, so “tried to stop” is fine by me. Luke has a similar saying in 11:23: “He who is not with me is against me. He who does not gather with me scatters.”
Mark 9:38-39 is the parallel passage, and Jesus called the casting out of a demon a “miracle.” If someone does a miracle in Jesus’s name, then the man won’t soon speak bad about him. “For whoever is not against us is for us.”
We must be careful, however. The seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in Jesus’s name whom Paul preached. The demons overpowered the seven sons and wounded them (Acts 19:11-20). Here, however, the exorcist was doing things right.
My speculation: this demon expeller would soon be part of the seventy-two, whom Luke is about to introduce in the next chapter. After all, he must have followed Jesus for at least a brief time, even to learn how to expel a demon in Jesus’s name. But let’s not hang on to my speculation, since the information is lacking.
GrowApp for Luke 9:46-50
A.. Study 1 Pet. 5:6. Do you have your own ambitions? How have you learned to bring them under the Father’s will?
B.. Study 1 Cor. 13:12 and 14:20. How do you reconcile Jesus’s statement about becoming a child and those two verses in 1 Corinthians?
C.. You see someone going to a different church from yours? What is your attitude when you see someone outside of your group following Jesus? Do you see him as a friend or foe?
Jesus Handles Rejection (Luke 9:51-56)
51 It so happened that while the days of his being taken up were to be accomplished, he was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. They went and entered a village of Samaritans, to prepare for him. 53 They did not welcome him, because he was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem. 54 On seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, you want us to speak fire to come down from heaven and destroy them?” 55 He wheeled on them and rebuked them. 56 They went to a different village.
Jesus could sense that it was his time to go up into Jerusalem. His days were about to be accomplished or fulfilled. What days? The next word answers that question.
“taken up”: it is a noun related to the verb analambanō (pronounced ah-nah-lahm-bah-noh), and ana– (up) and lamban– (take), so it means “taken up.” But what does that refer to? His ascension. The word does not often refer to death, but Jesus was so full of faith that he knew he was going to be raised up from the grave and then rise to be with his Father. Perhaps the word refers to the entire sequence of events in one package in Jerusalem: his death-birth-resurrection-ascension.
“firmly resolved”: it literally reads, “he hardened his face.” I translated it like that at first, because I like the image. Athletes have to develop the “hardened face” right before game time or the race or the boxing match. But that is a Semitic expression for “firmly resolved.” So I went with the nonliteral translation.
Bock: “The Hebrew idiom ‘to set one’s face to go somewhere’ indicates a determination to accomplish a task (Gen. 31:21; Isa. 50:7; Jer. 21:10; 44:12; Ezek. 6:2; 13:17; 14:8; 15:7; Dan. 11:17-18 …)” (p. 968).
“messengers”: it is the noun angelos (pronounced ahn-geh-loss, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), and we get our word angel from it. Angels are really just messengers, but here these messengers are just human messengers. Who were they? Part of the seventy-two, whom Luke is about to introduce in the next chapter? Were they the women, like Joanna and Susanna, who were following Jesus and provided for the men out of their own resources? We don’t know, but it is likely. In any case, even though Jesus was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem there were way stations along the road to his destiny. And one station on the way is this village of Samaritans. Practical things of life must be taken care of on your road to God’s plan for your life. We must plan our way, but the Lord directs our steps (Prov. 16:9; 19:21).
It is known from other passages that Jews and Samaritans did not like each other (John 4:9). In fact, some extra-devout Jews walked around the entire region instead of passing through it. But what was so despicable about the Samaritans? They were remnants of Israelites who were not deported when Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. They were also foreign colonists who were imported from Babylonia and Media by the Assyrians into Israel (in the north), so the newcomers would be loyal to Assyria. So these two groups intermingled and became unorthodox in their beliefs and mixed in their ethnicity, by the standard of “pure Jews.” Many Jews of Galilee and especially Judea and Jerusalem avoided the region of Samaria and Samaritans.
The fact that Jesus was willing to relate to them shows his openness to speak to these unacceptable rejects. He was not above asking for their help as he was resolved to go to Jerusalem
Those who live rejected lives often come across as angry and defensive. As the old saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” They took one look at Jesus and saw that his “face” (again) or demeanor was to go to Jerusalem. They did not like his focus. Did they want to take him captive, keep him for themselves? No doubt they heard about his miracles, so why wouldn’t they want to keep him for themselves? Whatever the case, his “resolve + Jerusalem” riled them up. They rejected him.
How did three persons handle the rejection? James and John, two brothers, hatched a plan. They intended to call down fire from heaven, much like Elijah did (1 Kings 18:20-40; 2 Kings 1:10-15). The Greek says that James and John asked whether they should tell or speak to the fire to come down. Elijah spoke and the fire came. They could do the same. It is odd or shocking that James and John were two of the twelve who had been commissioned or sent to various towns and villages to heal the sick and cast out demons (vv. 1-6). If a village rejects them, they were to shake the dust off their feet. Now James and John are angry enough to ask permission to call down fire from heaven. That’s far different from shaking dust off their feet in a symbolic gesture. How long it takes for our character to change!
“The allusion to what Elijah did highlights the popular misunderstanding about Jesus’ identity. The disciples reported that some of the crowds mistook Jesus for Elijah (Luke 9:8). The disciples are also mistaken about Jesus here. They must assume that a ‘man of God’ (2 Kgs 1:10, 12) will wreak divine vengeance on the stubborn and unrepentant. But Jesus is the ‘Son of God,’ who teaches a new way that renounces vindictive violence. The incident makes clear that the disciples still have much to learn on the way with Jesus” (Garland, comment on 9:54).
Here is how Jesus handled rejection, in the next verse.
This is a short verse. Jesus turned around and rebuked James and John. The word for rebuke is the same as in v. 42. It is not a good thing for Jesus to rebuke you as he did a demon! No, they were not prompted by a demon—or maybe they were, much like Peter was rebuked, “Get behind me Satan!” Jesus said (Matt. 16:22-23).
“wheeled”: it comes from the stem streph– (pronounced strehf). It can also be translated in some contexts as “repent” or “turn” (add the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). Here it means to physically turn, not repent.
Jesus defended the Samaritans, probably because he saw their need. They were rejected, and now they are turning the unrighteous table and rejecting Jews. Jesus looked past all of that.
This is even a shorter verse. I get the impression that this was another village in Samaria. Jesus just moved on and found one that was not so touchy. When you are rejected, move on. Move past your past.
GrowApp for Luke 9:51-56
A.. Jesus expects us to set our face or firmly resolve to follow him. Has your resolve been easy or difficult?
B.. Have you been rejected by friends or family? How have you handled it?
Radical Call to Follow Jesus (Luke 9:57-62)
57 And as they were traveling on the road, someone said to him, “I shall follow you wherever you go!” 58 But Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man does not have any place to lay his head.” 59 He said to someone else, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, permit me to go away first and bury my father.” 60 But he said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead. As you depart, announce the kingdom of God.”
61 Someone else said to him, “I will follow you, Lord. But first permit me to say goodbye to those in my household.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks behind him is usable for the kingdom of God.”
Let’s introduce the entire pericope or section of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus already issued the call of radical discipleship (vv. 23-27). We have to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily, and follow him.
Jesus often said startling things to get the point across. But he also meant them.
Now Jesus was on the long and winding road, moving through villages up north, on his way, eventually, to Jerusalem. He knew he was about to die. He had talked over his departure or exodus (= death) from this present life with Moses and Elijah. He had a deep urgency. This was a serious time. No messing around. The two persons who claimed they would follow Jesus and the one whom he called had to be ready and fit and usable. These important episodes in these people’s lives have been condensed for the purpose of teachings a main message: the radical call to discipleship.
It is important to realize that Jesus never categorically rejected each one. Rather, he simply threw down the gauntlet and challenged them. Would they take up the challenge?
Now let’s look at a possible OT background. In 1 Kings 19:16-21, as Elijah departed from Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God, where he was hiding, the Lord spoke to him to anoint Elisha to succeed him. Traveling down the road, he found Elisha, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, indicating his wealth. Elijah walked by him and put his cloak (or mantle) on him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother and I will follow you” (v. 20, ESV). Elijah gave him permission to go back. He returned and slaughtered the twelve yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and gave it to the people, who ate it. Then he followed Elijah.
In this case, Elijah permitted Elisha to return and give up everything, represented by the twelve oxen. In contrast, Jesus’s call was more radical because he was ushering in the kingdom of God. Elijah cannot say that about his ministry. He was special, true, for he appeared with Moses on the mount of Transfiguration (vv. 28-36, above), but he was part of a long line of many prophets circulating around Israel. He was not ushering a new way to approach God through a new covenant. He was part of the old way. Now the call to discipleship—following Jesus—was to get radical.
Jesus was walking down the road, and a man called out to him that he would volunteer to follow him, no matter where the Lord went. Really? Maybe he was speaking out of his enthusiasm, not a sense of true calling. Recall the Parable of the Sower (or Soils) (Luke 8:4-15). Some people were so hardened that the devil stole the seed (word of God). Others had rocky hearts, so they received the word with joy, but had no roots, so during time of testing, they dried up. Then a third group got the word in their hearts and grew some fruit, but the anxieties and riches and pleasure of life choked out the growth, so they gave up.
It seems this man who called out to Jesus could have become like the second soil. He was enthusiastic, but he may not have sunk down any roots. Jesus said that he was itinerant (though he used to have a home base in Capernaum [Mark 2:1]). He used the metaphors of the foxes’ dens and birds’ nests to illustrate that he was on the road. They had homes; he does not as he was now on his way to Jerusalem. It is both sad and inspiring that he would never return home as the man that he was right now (though he went to Galilee after his resurrection [Mark 14:28]). He left everything for the express purpose of dying. Jesus challenged him that following him wherever he went would come with an extreme cost. Is the man ready to sleep out in the open air and go with him to Jerusalem? The man did not know what was going to happen there.
“Son of Man”: see v. 22 for more comments.
Then Jesus called a man with a simple command. “Follow me.” The man asked permission to depart and first bury his father. That seems like a reasonable request. But something deeper is going on.
We have a word play in Greek. The man says he intends to “go away” (the verb is aperchomai and pronounced ah-pair-kho-my) first and bury his father. And Jesus replied that the man should let the dead bury their own dead. And he added, “As you go (away) (aperchomai), proclaim the kingdom of God.” So why the word play? Difficult to say, but apparently, the man wanted to do more than just bury his father; he wanted to depart or leave or go away from following Jesus for a period of time. Jewish law said that if a man touches a corpse, then he is unclean for seven days and then he became pure again (Num. 19:11-12). Apparently, Jesus knew that if the man went away or departed from following him, in order to go back and bury his father, then he might never return. The call on the kingdom is paramount. Jesus said he had come to divide family members against family member (Luke 12:49-53).
Bottom line on the word play: here’s how it could be translated expansively, in a paraphrase: “Lord, allow me to first depart for at least seven days so that I can bury my father.” He said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But you—when you depart on my mission—proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Further, did the father just die? That may not be exactly right. Another reading of the situation says that the old father may not have been at death’s door. He may have had many years left before he died. Then the delay to follow Jesus would be indefinite.
On the other hand, if we take the man’s situation in life literally, namely, that his father had just died, and the man had to go back and bury him, then this call to discipleship really is radical—very, very radical. But I believe Jesus saw a deficiency in the man that turned his father into an idol, and he needed to break with him. I believe that Jesus recognized that if the man went away even for seven days to wait until he was clean again, he would never come back.
Liefeld and Pao write that in first-century Palestine, secondary burial was commonly practiced. A man’s father died and was buried in a cave. Then a year later the son collected the bones and placed them with those of his ancestors. So waiting for a full year was too long to be a disciple of Jesus (comment on vv. 59-60).
In any case, this first-century situation, grounded in ancient Israel’s culture, may not apply to you. You may already be a follower of Jesus, and your father or someone else died recently. You should go to his funeral and memorial service. In your life situation, it is not either-or, cut-and-dry about attending a modern funeral or not, because you already decided to follow Jesus. In contrast, this man in vv. 59-60 was not yet ready to follow him.
“the dead bury their own dead”: this means that the spiritually dead should bury their physical dead. Who is spiritually dead? The ones who show no interest in the kingdom or in following Jesus.
“kingdom of God”; see v. 2 for more comments.
Finally, the third man wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family. What’s in the verb “to say goodbye”? When I first saw the verb, I first translated it as putting his house in order because the stem tassō (pronounced tahs-soh) means to “place or station,” “appoint to or establish,” “put someone in charge of,” … “order, fix, determine, appoint.” But if the prefix apo– (pronounced ah-poh) is attached to the verb (and in the middle voice), then it apparently becomes the ordinary “say goodbye.” Now that’s a demotion of the verb!
In any case, I see something deeper at work in this man’s story, and I believe the act of “saying goodbye” involves more than just popping his head in the door and saying, “See y’all later! Bye!” I say he wanted to spend time to put his house in order and then say goodbye, like Elisha did.
Saying farewell or goodbye may also involve packing things up and getting ready for a road trip. The man may have wanted to get his camping gear ready (so to speak). These kinds of delays are unacceptable. Recall that Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem to die, so the call to discipleship was super-intense at this time.
Further, saying goodbye in Jewish culture may have included an explanation and a long discussion with threats. “Why are you leaving, son?” “To follow Jesus!” Oh no, you don’t! If you do, I’ll disown you! You are out of this family!” As noted, Jesus is about to announce that he has come to possibly divide the Jewish family (Luke 12:49-53). It costs a high price to follow him in that culture.
But you can keep things simpler and conclude that the verb merely means “to say goodbye.”
How did Jesus respond to the man’s requirement, even his demand? Elisha slaughtered his oxen, which was a life-altering sacrifice. It depleted his wealth. His old life was over and done. Was the man on the road who saw Jesus pass by willing to go beyond what Elisha did? Was he ready immediately to abandon idolizing of his family and follow Jesus? Was he willing to leave everything behind, even his wealth and family? Even if it meant persecution and rejection?
“usable: it is the adjective euthetos (pronounced yew-theh-toss), and it means “fit, suitable, usable.” A lexicon used for Greek writings broader than the NT says it means, “well-arranged, easily stowed; well-fitting, ready for use” (Liddell and Scott). It combines the prefix eu– (well) and (probably) the stem thet– (placing or laying down). In any case, the man who volunteered to follow Jesus must be ready and have his act together to follow him at this stage in Jesus’s ministry, because (as noted) he was on his way to Jerusalem, to die.
No, you do not have to clean yourself up first to be saved, but to follow Jesus on this level, the Spirit must come in and help you get your life in order. He will remove the bad and put in the fitness. Life in Christ is a marathon. You would be foolish to run it without getting in shape in the new believer’s class. Are you ready to go deeper?
The plowing metaphor “refers to plowing with the eyes ahead so that one plows in a straight furrow. This is especially necessary in Palestine, where a backward look might easily knock one off course in the rocky soil. While one hand guides the plow and the other goads the oxen, the eyes should look ahead to where the farmer is directing the plow” (Bock, p. 983).
“kingdom of God”: see v. 2 for further comments.
I like this comment: “Following him is not a task which is added to others like working a second job … It is everything. It is a solemn commitment which forces the disciple-to-be to reorder all their other duties” … “Jesus gives a call to these three men. The new era he brings and he represents demands total commitment” (Bock, citing Karris in the first quotation, p. 984).
GrowApp for Luke 9:57-62
A.. The main point to this section of Scripture is radical discipleship. What have you given up to follow Jesus?
B.. Have you hesitated to follow Jesus because your family would not approve? How did you overcome your hesitation?
C.. Jesus said you must be “usable” (“fit”) to follow him. To run a marathon, you must be in shape. How do you get in shape or get ready to follow Jesus over a lifetime?
Summary and Conclusion
This chapter contains a very important transition, from teaching in Galilee in the north to Jesus’s heading towards Jerusalem (v. 51). However, Luke 17:11 says Jesus was still up north, ministering in Samaria and Galilee. So he is taking his time to reach Jerusalem. In the next chapter, Jesus will send out the seventy-two to prepare the towns and places where he was about to go, or to reinforce his message of where he had already been..
In this chapter themes are revealed that build up to the culmination of the story—his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Here are some other topics for kingdom citizens to follow in Luke 9.
First, he sends out the twelve apostles and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, In the next chapter, he will give the same power and authority to the seventy-two, indicating that the power and authority was spreading outwardly to people outside the twelve.
Second, Herod is perplexed, which is a foreshadowing of what will happen in Jerusalem. Herod will be at his trial.
Third, Jesus foretells his death, and then he says that if anyone is to follow him, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily. Discipleship says a follower is to surrender all of his life, so he can save his life or soul. Then Jesus predicts his death again, and the disciples could not understand his prediction, because they had the wrong expectation, intended him to work his miraculous power to overthrow the Romans and take back the sacred city of Jerusalem.
Fourth, then Jesus said that some people will not taste death until some see the kingdom of God. On the mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah appeared and talked about his “exodus” or death. It is a major theme in this chapter.
Fifth, on the way down the mountain, the next day, Jesus heals a boy who had an unclean spirit. It would be unwise and shortsighted to believe the cause of the illness was organic. This a clear sign that the kingdom of God is taking back territory from Satan’s kingdom.
Sixth, then the disciples argue over who will be the greatest, which is a bad idea when Jesus was expending his entire life to help people and was about to die in Jerusalem. It is jarring to us when Jesus had just said to lay down their lives, in order to save it.
Seventh, Luke finally reveals a pivot in his narrative. Jesus sets his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem. He knew he was going to die there, as Moses and Elijah confirmed.
Eighth, on the road, three men claim that they would be glad to follow Jesus, but only with certain conditions attached. One would follow if … he could take care of household matters, like burying his father, which would take seven days of delay to wait for the man handling a corpse and making himself impure to become pure again. No, his call to discipleship while he was on the road to die must be radical and absolute, no distractions.
Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).
—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).
Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).
—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).
Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).
Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).
Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).
Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).