Luke 9


I.  Jesus sent out the Twelve to give a foretaste of Kingdom Realities [9:1-6] Notice that later in the chapters, the miracles they were able to perform during this mission, they were unable to perform on subsequent occasions.

A. 1, 2 – The twelve includes Judas Iscariot. He was able to preach and had extraordinary powers granted him just as the other eleven. The granting of particular gifts from the Spirit is not as great a grace as the grace of regeneration [1 Corinthians 13:1-3].

B. 3, 4 – Jesus wanted them to be immediately dependent on the willingness of their as yet unknown hosts to bed and board them while they ministered in a city or town or village. If a person recognized that the message was worth far more than any material inconvenience their presence might cost, then they and their fellow citizens would hear the wonderful words of life and of the kingdom of God. Paul makes this point in Galatians 6:6-10. “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

C. 5 – This is a covenantal arrangement on this occasion that was not duplicated in the post-resurrection activity of the apostles in the book of Acts. When they entered a town, they selected a house from which to work. If that house did not receive them, then they were to leave with no responsibility remaining for the rest of the town. The house served as Adam for the race; when it fell the town went with it.

D. 6 – They went through the villages and preached the gospel and healed. We might ask what about the gospel did they preach? Christ had not yet died and had not yet begun to teach them about hid death. They did know, however, that Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil, that he had power over al diseases, that he forgave sin, that all people would be judged for heaven or hell on the basis of his words, that he received sinners, even the lowest of society, and the he taught as one that had an original understanding of truth.

II. Herod’s perplexity mirrors the confusion of the crowd [9:7-9]

A. Herod thought that he had rid himself of his difficulty with the beheading of John the Baptist. He was fascinated with John the Baptist and killed him unwillingly. Now he hears of the popularity of Jesus and recognizes some elements of his ministry that are similar; but John did no miracle, and this man not only teaches, but does miracles. He will attempt to have Jesus perform some of these astonishing acts [Luke 23:6-11] Much of the crowd that followed Jesus had no better motives than did Herod in their fascination with Jesus.

B.  This passage also anticipates the question that Jesus asked later [18] and establishes the context of  the disciples’ understanding as opposed to others.

III.  Jesus shows that He alone has authority and that all other authority is derived from him [9:10-17]

A.  [10] – Upon their return, the apostles told what had happened, and Jesus sought to give them a place of respite at Bethsaida. Jesus sought these retreats also for himself; he was well aware of the human need for physical, emotional, and mental refreshment.

B. [11] – The crowds, however, found them and Jesus, full of compassion, preached to them of the kingdom of God and healed them. The disciples had just returned from their tour, but nothing here is recorded about their healing.

C. [12-16] – The feeding of the five-thousand provokes a teasing out of faith, develops the theme of the endlessly patient compassion of Jesus, shows his unbroken awareness of the Father’s will and his necessary and joyful submission to it, and the power that he shares in common with the Father.

1. Notice in verse 12 that the disciples seem impatient and anxious and come to Jesus with their solution to an apparent problem. The place is desolate, the people are too many, and the food would barely be sufficient for one person. They ask him to send them away, [see also Mt. 14.15; Mk 6.35ff; John 6 extends the conversation a bit]] but do not initially appeal to him to show his glory at this opportune time. The desolation of the place was not as desolate as the initial material of the created world was when it was “without form and void” and Jesus brought order from that and then life itself and put his own image on the very dust of the ground. Here Jesus orders the vast crowd into pockets of fifties and hundreds, and takes, as it were, the pitiful substance of five loaves and two fish and creates the very substance of life for an overwhelming crowd.

2.  Jesus shows compassion – The intensity of this gospel tour doubtless had made the apostles weary. Their exhilaration of their intense labors would soon give way to great tiredness, so he withdrew with them in search of some quiet repose. This showed Jesus’ understanding of, and his participation in, physical frailty that follows great exertion of strength and emotion. Solace was not to be found, however, for the crowds found out where they went and followed. Jesus did not rest, therefore, but taught and also continued to heal. This self-forgetfulness constituted the very essence of Jesus purpose from the incarnation through the crucifixion. A sacrifice of rest was merely part of the seamless robe of obedient humiliation that eventually led him to die the just for the unjust.

3.  Jesus showed his unity with the will of the Father – Lifting his eyes to heaven [16] shows the sense both of his dependence upon and his unity with the Father in purpose and power. He would not break the bread apart from the Father’s blessing but he would also do it by his own intrinsic power. This prefigures Jesus’ breaking bread at the Lord’s Supper as a symbol of giving his life for the sins of the world [Luke 22:19] and his making himself know to the travelers to Emmaus [Luke 24:30]. Jesus was always aware that he had come to give his life a ransom for many [Mark 10:45]

IV.  In light of the stir about the identity of Jesus, he elicits a judgment from his disciples [9:18-20]

A  It seems that Jesus was praying alone when the disciples were with him. Surely this says something about the consistency of the prayer life of Jesus and the absolute purity and distractedness of his fellowship with the Father during times of prayer. In this atmosphere of fellowship with the Father, Jesus began his probe of the disciples’ awareness of the true nature of his person, so that he could begin to unfold the redemptive sacrifice involved in his messianic work as well as what this would cost his disciples in terms of earthly position.

B. The disciples were able to repeat with precision what the crowds were saying about this extraordinary person, but they had formed a distinctly different judgment. Peter poke with the right knowledge that Jesus was “The Christ of God.” In greater detail, Matthew develops this confession, as to its divine origin, and the conversation that followed, illustrating the lameness of human perceptions of divine truth apart from the clarifying energy of the Spirit. Luke does not include that conversation but in a rapid fashion records words and events that begin to circumscribe Jesus’ Messiahship and its implications with increasing clarity of meaning.

V.  The cross for Christ means the cross for his followers [9:21-29]

A. The disciples were not at all expecting Jesus to announce this next bit of news. Instead of a magnificent unveiling of his true identity, followed by a great consolidation of the various factions of Jewish life under his leadership leading to the independence and the golden era of Jewish history, he revealed that his position as Christ meant that all the religious leaders, “elders chief priests and scribes,” would not join with him but conspire against him and kill him. His death would then be followed by a resurrection.

B. His rejection meant clearly that his followers would receive like treatment by the world. The world will not receive a message of the need for redemption; this involves a recognition of sin, the certainty of judgment for it, the provision of a substitute to receive the divine vengeance, and reception of this redemption through repentance. The religious leaders had not repented at the preaching of John the Baptist, and Jesus’ claims would be infinitely more offensive than his. If one would follow Christ, therefore, he must count position in this world, and even life in this world, as loss for the sake of the eternal life that depends on the cross. A refusal of eternal life in order to gain the life of this world, will result in final loss of the divine glory when Christ returns. The glory of Christ’s return seems so remote that its attraction is less than the possibility of immediate satisfaction through worldly acceptance, comfort, and pleasure especially if one’s livelihood and/or life hangs in the balance. Only the one that has the glory of Christ pressed on the eyes of the hearts by the Spirit will choose to lose his life that he might save it [2 Corinthians 4:3, 4]

C. An immediate foretaste of the glory of Christ’s return in his glory and the glory of his Father would soon be the privilege of a few of the disciples. [27] But they would keep quiet about this encounter until much later, probably after the resurrection [36, cf. Matthew 17:9].

VI.  The transfiguration was an element of the disciples seeing the Kingdom of God, but cannot be separated from Jesus’ discussions of his death [9:28-36]

A. Peter and James and John were the recipients of this sight of “the Kingdom of God” that is the glory of Christ as he expresses his perfect love for, delight in and fellowship with the Father. Jesus prayed on the mountain and something of the internal glory of his perfect and joyful union with the Father began to show through the lowly exterior of his incarnation. This must have been centered on the glory that would come to the Father and the Son jointly through his soon-to-be-accomplished propitiatory death at Calvary. We do know that the conversation between Jesus and Moses and Elijah centered on that [31]  This subject constituted the supreme manifestation of the glory of God that was Jesus’ sole aim in his incarnation. [cf. John 12:27, 28] Prayer, with that as the most prominent and vital item of contemplation, surely would give “the radiance of the glory of God” [Hebrews 1:3] to the Son of God that had come to make purification for sins.

B. Moses and Elijah – Why in particular they were sent to discus this was Jesus is difficult to determine. Let me suggest three possible reasons: (1) Both of them had experienced peculiarly difficult ministries to the people of Israel, having to serve them when their recalcitrance, resistance, and arrogant infidelity was peculiarly aggravated. Jesus experience was a seven-fold multiplication of that same resistance. (2) Both Moses and Elijah knew that their ministries would be left undone with the necessity of another (Joshua [Deuteronomy 34:9} and Elisha [2 Kings 2:9-12]) to follow them, take up the task where they had been called away. Jesus, however, would be able to say, “It is finished.” Their moments in redemptive history were now seen in a completely different light with the coming of the one about whom they spoke. Jesus was the true follower of Elijah (reinvoked in John the Baptist) and the prophet like, but greater than, Moses. (3) Both of these had been taken away from their ministries in unusual fashion, Elijah in a chariot of fire [2 Kings 2] by whirlwind and Moses by God’s burial of him [Deuteronomy 34:4-6], And now Jesus would die an eternal death by the direct hand of God himself through the infusion of divine wrath into his soul; and having suffered that would surrender his own life back to the Father.

C.  Peter misunderstands – Peter refers to this experience in 2 Peter 1:16-18 as a time when he saw the majesty, the honor, and glory of Christ. Understandably he was overwhelmed with this sight, having only just come out of deep sleep, and wanting to say something the seemed appropriate in light of the obvious importance and glory of the event., he miscalculated grossly. Just as he thought that he served Christ well by contradicting him when he announced his rejection and death [Matthew 16] and thus showed a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ’s glory, so here he shows that the intrinsic, infinite, natural [essential] glory of Christ had not fully flooded his consciousness. Christ cannot be glorified in our speech or acts as long as we allow any creature to share the focus that is worthy of Christ alone. The Father corrects Peter’s mis-impression immediately by his voice from heaven. Mark records the words as “This is my Son the Beloved.” Luke records, “This is my Son, the chosen, hear him.” Combining these shows that the Father made affirmations about Christ’s nature as the eternal Son of God issuing forth eternally from the Father’s nature as love  as well as his perfect humanity as the elect human nature to be assumed by his Son at the incarnation. Peter saw the point as seen in his description of Christ in 1 Peter 1:20 and 2:4

VII.  Again Jesus shows that all authority is his and cannot be exerted by anyone else apart from him. [9:37-43, 49-50]

A.  37-39 – Their descent from the mountain in which they had experienced the very presence of the glory of the kingdom of God leads them into the palpable reality of satanic opposition to that kingdom, and human shallowness regarding the true source of its power and glory. They are met by a Father who is pleading for a son that is under severe torment from a demon that possesses him. The former scene of glory combined with this narrative of the fierce rage of Satan gives us a clear picture of one of the issues at stake in the establishing of the Kingdom of God. The old serpent rages with fierceness against the Lord an his anointed, but one little word shall fell him [42]. The one that holds the power of death exerts himself to the utmost, but he shall be destroyed.

B. “Faithless generation.” He is not rebuking his disciples at this point but the denseness of the generation that had the Messiah with them and could not distinguish between Jesus and his disciples. Again we see the disciples unable to perform that which they could perform when Jesus sent them on their mission. Jesus was unlike other teachers with their disciples. Those teachers are no more powerful, no more worthy intrinsically, than those that follow them. But with Jesus, he is not just a gifted teacher, whose disciples might well learn his philosophy and technique and perhaps surpass him; no, they could never do what Jesus did unless he empowered them specifically for the task. In him alone resided the “Majesty of God.”

VIII.  Again Jesus connects his death with the necessity of lowliness and humility in the lives of his followers. [9:43b-50]

A. After this astonishing victorious confrontation with the forces of evil, Jesus tells his disciples again, with all earnestness and insistence, that he will be delivered into the hands of men. How could one that merely with a word routs the forces of hell be given over to mere men and be put to death? Because he was not delivered over merely by men to men only, but delivered up by God to be the recipient of divine wrath against the sin of his people.

B. This can only be understood when the mind and heart are opened to see the divine power and logic in it. Until then it will be concealed.

C. The disciples’ failure to grasp this point is illustrated most graphically in their argument among themselves as to who was the greatest. And their attempt to stop another from using the authority of Jesus in casting out demons. The principle of humility and condescension that undergirds the incarnation and atonement that Jesus had enunciated clearly in 23-26 still had not been absorbed into the hearts of the disciples. An argument about their greatness in the presence of the world’s creator and redeemer is so incongruous as to challenge credibility. This serves as a warning to us about our own denseness concerning the glory of Christ when we work toward achieving levels of greatness and celebrity among our Christian peers. “He who is least among you all is the one who is great.” “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.” [Hebrews 2:9]

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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