From:  Busy Person’s Guide to Luke 1 to 12                                   Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019

 

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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding Luke

 

(Volume 1:  Chapters 8 to 9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

Jesus’ Traveling Company at the Time (Luke 8:1-3):  1 Some time afterward he went on through towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and disabilities:  Mary (called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Cuza (Herod’s household manager), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            8:1       Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.  And the twelve were with Him.  On the preaching tour that begins at this point, Jesus attempted to make it as comprehensive as possible, going “through every city and village.”  Rather than limiting Himself to relatively near Capernaum, He branched out far further and in far more detail.  This contrasts with some of the other journeys where Jesus is described as going from one particular city or area to another.  

            His purpose was to preach the good news of the approaching “kingdom of God” and this took two aspects:  (1) it’s imminence (cf. Matthew 4:17 where it is made explicit rather than just implicit) and (2) the moral reformation that would fit one for a place within it.  No longer would one have a place within God’s people by “accident of birth” but only by a conscious personal decision.  The fact that “the twelve were with Him” stresses the fact that they would get to hear all He said and would be well grounded in these matters when Jesus was no longer with them.

 

            8:2       and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons.  It was not just the apostles in the traveling company.  It included “certain women” who had been healed of their physical afflictions and felt a debt to Him.  Those healed included Mary Magdalene, who had been afflicted with something no regular physician could hope to heal, demon possession.  How many demons were in a person is rarely specified but in this case it had been “seven” of them.  If one could cause a problem, how magnified must have been the mental anguish of having so many!  (Compare the case of the poor soul who had even more within:  Luke 8:27-30.)

            Perhaps because there is a “sinner” mentioned in the previous chapter (Luke 7:36, 38--whose “sins . . . are many” said Jesus Himself (7:47)--that Mary has often been identified as this woman.  But there is a profound difference between “sin”--which is ultimately a voluntary act--in contrast with “demon possession,” which is inflicted upon you.  Making “demon possession” a euphemism for “great sinner” seems a great interpretive stretch.  

 

            8:3       and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.  What all these women had in common was (1) the freedom of time and money to travel with the Lord, (2) the willingness to provide the expenses necessary for the travel, and (3) surely implied:  the willingness to do the mundane chores necessary to keep the traveling party functioning.  The opportunity to hear more of what was being preached was a “bonus” that went with their labor of love.

            Ellicott's Commentary provides one credible reconstruction of how this may have functioned in practice: 

 

                        The words bring before us a feature in this period of our Lord’s ministry                        not elsewhere recorded, though implied in Luke 24:39 (“But all His     acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a         distance, watching these things”).  The Master and the disciples formed at this     period one traveling company.  When they arrived at town or village, they held         what we, in the current Church-language of our time, should call a Mission, the         Twelve heralding His approach, and inviting men to listen to Him as He taught in            synagogue, or market-place, or open plain.

                        Another company, consisting of devout women, mostly of the wealthier class, traveled separately, journeying, probably, in advance, arranging for the         reception and the food of the Prophet and His followers.  In the history of Elisha            (2 Kings 4:10) we have something analogous to this way of helping the preachers           of repentance.  It is said to have been a not uncommon practice in Judæa in our     Lord’s time, for women of independent means to support a Rabbi in his work as a         teacher.

 

 

The Parable of the Sower Presented (Luke 8:4-8):  While a large  crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from one town after another, he spoke to them in a parable:  ”A sower went out to sow his seed.  And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled on, and the wild birds devoured it.  Other seed fell on rock, and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture.  Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up with it and choked it.  But other seed fell on good soil and grew, and it produced a hundred times as much grain.”  As he said this, he called out, “The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            8:4       And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable.  Jesus did not require large numbers to be present for Him to teach, but it would obviously have pleased Him because the more who heard, the more who might come to repentance.  Sometimes His teaching was quite straightforward and direct; on other occasions He preferred to use illustrations to get His point across.

            This one takes the form of a parable, which the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges provides a good concise definition of:  A Parable is a pictorial or narrative exhibition of some spiritual or moral truth, by means of actual and not fanciful elements of comparison.  It differs from a fable by moving solely within the bounds of the possible and by aiming at the illustration of deeper truths; from a simile in its completer and often dramatic development, as also in its object; from an allegory in not being identical with the truth illustrated.”

 

            8:5       “A sower went out to sow his seed.  And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.  Today we usually think in terms of planting seed; until the last century or so it would normally be cast out by hand over the field.  This had a number of built in dangers that were unavoidable.  One of these would be people walking on paths by or through the field who crush the seed so there is no life left in it.  There is no maliciousness involved; merely inadvertence.  

            Equally dangerous--arguably more so--are the birds who view it as their meal of the day and sweep down and consume it.  Neither the walkers nor the birds are trying to do us harm, but that would be the end result.  Likewise today there are many in the surrounding world who won’t mean us harm by their behavior but the consequences will still produce that result.

 

            8:6       Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.  Visible rock would not be cast upon, but there could easily be a heavily rocky area or even a ledge of rock a few inches beneath the surface that would keep the plant from growing roots deep enough to obtain moisture and nourishment from the ground.  It wouldn’t die instantly; instead it would die slowly and, if it had been a human, we would even say it died painfully of starvation.

 

            8:7       And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.  As worded here, these would not be thorn bushes on the edge of the field that are accidentally thrown into but thorns that whose seeds had drifted into the main farming area; i.e., these seeds weren’t visible or obvious but they were there.  In the two previous examples (birds and hidden rock), the good seed was destroyed--“devoured” and “withered” requires that interpretation--so “choked” could well be intended to convey that result as well.  On the other hand, it could carry the connotation of being choked from growing to full size and stature.  Theoretically it may be alive, but there really isn't much of anything there.  (The explanation in verse 14 fits this much better.)

            8:8       But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.”  When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  If all seed produced failure, none would be sown.  So it was important for them to hear the message that failure was not inevitable and that these produced an abundant crop.  He urged those who were capable of hearing to understand what He was driving at. 

            He had said nothing explicit beyond the story itself; He was challenging them to grasp the spiritual parallels implicit in the narrative:  faith must be allowed to grow to full maturity and far from all will enjoy success at it .  This challenge represents a form of the point I made to my young daughters more than once:  “The good Lord gave you a brain; He expects you to use it!”

 

 

The Parable of the Sower Explained (Luke 8:9-15):  Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant.  10 He said, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand. 

11 Now the parable means this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 

13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root.  They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away. 

14 As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

15 But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.”

--New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            8:9       Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”  The crowd were not the only ones left puzzled.  Even the disciples themselves were left “high and dry” as to the point(s) being emphasized.  An important lesson for us from this query:  If you don't understand what a preacher has meant . . . ask him!  Don't go wandering away perplexed and wondering, too proud to say anything. 

 

            8:10     And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’  Jesus was not going to turn any audience away, but He was not necessarily going to always go out of His way to make His message easy to understand.  If they were there out of reasons other than sympathy with what He was trying to do--like idle curiosity--they were not going to make the effort to think through the lessons of the story.  Those who were sympathetic, in contrast, would heed the command to ponder and grasp the principles being driven at--and would attempt to do so.  If they failed it wouldn’t be through lack of effort!

            In contrast to the large crowd that had been present (“a great multitude,” verse 4), the inner core of apostles was small enough in number to tutor them and specially deserving of a clear cut explanation so they could apply it to other parables as precedent.  The very fact that they asked for help shows that they were honest enough to recognize their own limitations and wanted to overcome them.  As apostles, appointed to be leaders of the church, they had a special right and obligation to understand the previously “secret/unrevealed” truths (= “mysteries”) about “the kingdom of God.”   

 

            8:11     “Now the parable is this:  The seed is the word of God.  The initial point was that the seed represented God’s word.  Therefore the entire parable is going to be about how we react to the Divine teaching and what are the influences that determine whether it has its “full growth” within us.  The sower is not identified, but if the “seed” is the teaching then the sower must be the teacher.  Paul worked from a similar concept when he wrote:  “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-6).

 

            8:12     Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.  Those on the hard packed walkways represent those who briefly consider the redemptive word but soon have the interest removed by the tools Satan utilizes.  This covers a wide variety of situations.  For some life is so harsh that anything beyond merely surviving seems so improbable that the devil uses that to squash the possibility of happiness in a world beyond this.  For others their moral weaknesses are the tool utilized as the Devil points out “how much” they have to change in a direction that is fundamentally different from their current lifestyle.  For yet others it is the hostile reaction their friends will give that causes them to abandon the opportunity (cf. 1 Peter 4:3-5). 

            No matter the tool that Satan uses, the result is the same.  The influence of the redemptive word is stolen away.  The acquaintance with the word is so minimal it hasn't had the chance to even begin its potential rejuvenation work on the souls.  

 

            8:13     But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.  Those on the rock infested area are those who have enthusiastically accepted what they have heard, but never mature.  Their roots do not go deep enough--because of the hindrances lying below the visible surface.  As the result their spiritual roots can not give them enough nourishment when faced with temptation and, as the result, they “fall away.”

            In real life, there is a profound difference between the seed of the field and human beings:  the rocky ledge provides no other alternative; the Christian’s faith is far different.  Spiritual strength can be built up to pierce through its obstacles.  But, unfortunately, “token Christianity” has often been “the coin of the realm” and that becomes a “rock” that blocks faith from triumph. 

            You go to church services regularly (maybe) but your private spirituality is never developed.  Your personal Bible study.  Your prayer.  Your reading on religious matters.  Instead of building up the soul into a bastion that can successfully resist temptation, you have nothing but the house of fragile lumber you began with.

            Note how broad what undoes us is painted:  simply the vague and broad term “temptation.”  What might well be called serious temptation is spelled out in the next verse--the kind of things easy to see as dangerous and potentially lethal.  Since this vague “temptation” is contrasted with it, it is almost as if He is saying that the least difficulty can topple your faith.  For there is so terribly little of it.   

 

            8:14     Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.  Life holds a 1,001 “cares” to hurt and undermine us.  Like the philosopher Henry David Thoreau perceptively remarked, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Life hurts in a greater or lesser degree for a wide swarth of the population.  Usually we think of the poorer classes, but truth be told, it can plague at any level of prosperity.

            Even “riches” are no guarantee of happiness.  You worry about getting it.  You worry about growing it larger.  You worry about how government and dishonest employees can rip it away from you.

            “Pleasure of life” can become self-destructive as well.  To start at the more innocent:  Luxurious residences, clothing, and cars that polish the “veneer” but do nothing to strengthen the inner human substance.  And then there are the overtly destructive examples:  How about buying the “right” drugs or sexual excesses that are the current fad?  And how do you “discover” the ones yet untried for next year?  Even depravity can get old after a while . . . and considerably boring at the worst!  For “you’ve tried everything!”  At the very extreme, suicide is risked for the “ultimate thrill” or the psychological and physical abuse of others grows more and more addictive.  Their pain becomes your “high.”

            These folks really did mean it when they first accepted Jesus as their Lord.  They really made some efforts.  They did this or that for a while but never brought “fruit to maturity.”  They settled for remaining amateurs at being a Christian rather than becoming fully developed professionals.

            And ultimately it wrecked their spirituality for the foundation that could have been there simply isn’t when human weaknesses come to besiege them.        

 

            8:15     But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.  So far the story is discouraging:  everyone has failed--and surely everyone else will too!  But such would not be the case:  There would be others who would be successful.  These have “a noble and good heart” and, as the result, persist in their effort to “keep” Jesus’ word rather than abandoning it.  As the result they “bear fruit with patience.”  They recognize things take time.  But they keep at it until they accomplish what they set out to accomplish.

 

 

Growing in Understanding of God’s Will (Luke 8:16-18):  16 ”No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand so that those who come in can see the light.  17 For nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light.  18 So listen carefully, for whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”     --New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            8:16     “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.  Truth is like a lamp.  It is not designed to be hidden away where it can not help others to see.  It would be an absurd action.

 

            8:17     For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.  None of the Divine will--even the parables--is intended to be permanently obscure.  All truth--even that found in parabolic form--will eventually be available to one and all.  But that will still require the willingness to see and some are so convinced that certain things “can’t” be true because they contradict their convictions that no amount of clear cut evidence will change their minds.  But the failure will not be in the truth that is revealed but in their willingness to embrace it.  Although He is encouraging/warning the apostles in particular, the same is true of disciples in general.

 

            8:18     Therefore take heed how you hear.  For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”   They needed to be concerned with “how” they heard:  We use the modern expression, “going in one ear and out of the other.”  They were not to be that way.  Rather they were to listen and think carefully so that yet more insight would be available to them.  Whoever has some of the truth will receive more but if it is not listened to, then even the existing body of understanding will begin to dissipate and disappear.

            Sidebar:  In the Markian parallel (4:21-25) to this section, Jesus chooses to stress, “Take heed what you hear.”  The what sought is truth and the how describes what you do with the truth.   

 

 

Although Jesus Certainly Had Earthly Family Ties, His “True Family” Consisted of All Who Obeyed God’s Will--Whether Physical Kin or Not (Luke 8:19-21):  19 Now Jesus’ mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not get near him because of the crowd.  20 So he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”  21 But he replied to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”     --New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            8:19     Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd.  Hence they must not have been with Him for a while and, judging by His response in the next two verses, whatever they wanted was clearly going to be diametrically different from what He preferred.  Furthermore “the fact that they came in a body seems to show that they desired in some way to direct or control His actions” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)--whether He wanted to do what they said or not.  A personal encounter and conflict was avoided by the fact that they could not get close due to the size of the crowd.

 

            8:20     And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”  Being family, it was natural that word was passed to Him of their presence and their desire to speak with Him. 

 

            8:21     But He answered and said to them, My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”  Since Jesus was not normally a discourteous person, His response argues that He recognized that they were there out of good intent but--due to their limitations and misunderstandings--wanted to discourage Him from His teaching ministry.  Hence rather than see them (at least immediately), Jesus uses the occasion to make the point that on a spiritual level every obedient person is equivalent to His kin as well.  It isn’t that his real kin are “less” but that everyone else is “more.”

 

 

A Storm at Sea Terrifies the Apostles and Jesus Stills Its Danger (Luke 8:22-25):  22 One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep.  Now a violent windstorm came down on the lake, and the boat started filling up with water, and they were in danger. 24 They came and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are about to die!”

So he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they died down, and it was calm.  25 Then he said to them, “Where is your faith?”  But they were afraid and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this?  He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            8:22     Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples.  And He said to them, Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out.  This would have taken them from the western side of the Sea of Galilee to the eastern.  Crossing deep into the Sea and even over it would have been as natural to them as to probably hundreds of other sailors from the community.

 

            8:23     But as they sailed He fell asleep.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.  Being involved in a vigorous ministry, He was tired and--even though it couldn’t be very comfortable in the stern of the boat on a mere “pillow/cushion” (Mark 4:38)--His tiredness was so great that He fell to sleep.  All were endangered, however, when a windstorm swept down from the mountains and stirred the waters into a major tumult that was heavily flooding into the boat. Yet Jesus still slept soundly. 

 

            8:24     And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.  And they ceased, and there was a calm.   The apostles, though skilled fishermen were among them, went into a panic--which tells us a lot of how severe the storm had become and how endangered they were.  This wasn’t a mere nuisance; it was imminent catastrophe.  Hence they naturally woke their still sleeping passenger--the need to do it telling us how deeply exhausted He must have been!

            They aren’t asking Him to do anything.  They are desperately trying to get Him awake which would at least give Him the chance of saving His own life.  Do they expect a miracle in any sense?  Almost certainly not, judging from Jesus’ criticism in the next verse.  Even so He simply spoke words of “rebuke” to the wind and waves and quickly the calm returned.  In effect He “ordered the winds and the waves to stop” (GW).

 

            8:25     But He said to them, Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be?  For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”  Having resolved the physical problem, Jesus then turned to the spiritual one:  “Where is your faith?”  Did they really think He--of all people--would let a disaster overwhelm them?  From their standpoint fear mingled with astonishment as they wondered how He could have the power to even calm nature itself.  The human healings they could “get their minds around,” but this represented power beyond even their greatest imagination.

 

 

A Dangerous Demoniac in the Region of the Gerasenes Has His Demons Cast Out by Jesus (Luke 8:26-33):  26 So they sailed over to the region of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.  27 As Jesus stepped ashore, a certain man from the town met him who was possessed by demons . For a long time this man had worn no clothes and had not lived in a house, but among the tombs. 

28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before him, and shouted with a loud voice, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God!  I beg you, do not torment me!”  29 For Jesus had started commanding the evil spirit to come out of the man.  (For it had seized him many times, so he would be bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard.  But he would break the restraints and be driven by the demon into deserted places.) 

30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?”  He said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.  31 And they began to beg him not to order them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and the demonic spirits begged Jesus to let them go into them.  He gave them permission.  33 So the demons came out of the man and went into the pigs, and the herd of pigs rushed down the steep slope into the lake and drowned.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            8:26     Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee.  Simply a way of saying they completed their trip across the lake that had been interrupted by the dangerous storm.   

 

            8:27     And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time.  And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs.  “From the city” tells us that his identity would have been recognizable because of his former residence in the town.  This had to have been a good while in the past since he had been demon possessed “for a long time.”  Hence this was nothing new; it was his well established condition.  Both of these would be factors for the locals in determining how seriously to take the healing that occurred.

            Nudity argues for a lack of personal shame--also for the torment of nearly freezing in chilly and cold weather.  Living in the tombs is about as psychologically depressing a setting as he could possibly have chosen, but as severe as this man’s condition (verse 29), there could hardly have been anywhere else to consider.  This entire picture makes us conclude that the demon-possession had either tormented him to the edge of insanity or even beyond it.  

 

            8:28     When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beg You, do not torment me!”  Although the man’s demons had been able to best any other human opponent (verse 29), they recognized that Jesus was unique and feared that He might “torment” them.  It was just fine that they could do the tormenting, but don't even think about them being on the receiving end of it! 

            Sidebar:  Clearly the demons recognized who Jesus was and His power.  Compare the words in James 2:19:  “You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe--and tremble.”  As these did before the Son of God. 

 

            8:29     For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.  For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. 

At least at first his extreme actions were not a constant problem but a recurring one:  the demon “had often seized him” and when it did even chains could not survive his fury (verse 29).  “He had often been bound with shackles and chains” (Mark 5:4), but repeatedly tore them apart.

            This argues that at these behavior extremes the man was potentially dangerous to anyone he met.  This fact is reinforced by their need to keep him, at such times, both chained and “under guard.” During such periods he was “exceeding fierce” (Matthew 8:28).  Unfortunately these incidents were far from rare:  the demon had “often” inflicted such outbursts of deranged behavior--surely driving everyone to despair.  Even when making the tombs his home, he was so dangerous that “no one could pass that way” (Matthew 8:28). 

            By the time Jesus enters the picture, the man was bent into a constant danger to himself because he was  plagued by demonic control:  “Screaming and cutting himself” at all times day and night (Mark 5:5).     

 

            8:30     Jesus asked him, saying, What is your name?”  And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.  “Legion” was either more or less literally true or bravado on the demons’ behalf:  “There are so many of me I’m like a legion”--in the Roman Army that meant 5,000 soldiers.  The identification may also have been used because, like the literal Roman legions, this Legion was also unconquerable--at least till now:  “I am powerful and you better believe it!”  But now the “unconquerable” knew he had met his own conqueror.

           

            8:31     And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.  Even demons have something to fear we learn--that mysterious place they call the “abyss” and since they feared being tormented there (verse 28), the “abyss” is presumably the place they knew such punishment would occurred.  The tormenter did not want to be on the receiving end of torment!  Even if they only meant “into the unknown,” the wording would still imply that they knew full well that wherever or whatever it was, they were going to hate it with a passion.

            Sidebar:  The Greek term for “abyss” found here is ἄβυσσον (abysson) and is more familiar to most readers from the translation “bottomless pit”--where Satan is locked in to prevent his undue interference on earth (Revelation 20:1-3).     

 

            8:32     Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain.  So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them.  And He permitted them.  Living in a pig automatically meant that there was less trouble that they could get into than when in a human.  It was a punishment, a “demotion,” a humiliation.  But compared to what they feared--and knew that they deserved--it would be a vast relief.   Jesus permitted them the delusion of safety and let them get their wish.  But getting what you ask for and getting what you meant you wanted can be two profoundly different things as Jesus promptly shows.

 

            8:33     Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.  Their entering the creatures resulted in a herd panic.  The pigs then ran down the hillside and into the lake where they quickly perished.  Now the demons could not even continue to live in humiliated form.  They immediately went into the watery Abyss as preliminary to their entering the Abyss they thought they had escaped (verse 31). 

            Sidebar on the silly charge that some have made to convert a redemptive act into challengeable ethics:  If it be asked whether this was not a destruction of property, the answer is that the . . . death of a herd of unclean animals was nothing compared with the deliverance of a human soul.  Our Lord would therefore have had a moral right to act thus even if he had been a mere human Prophet.  Besides, to put it on the lowest ground, the freeing of the neighborhood from the peril and terror of this wild maniac was a greater benefit to the whole city than the loss of this herd.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

 

Having the Demons Destroy Themselves in the Lake So Terrifies the Locals That They Plead with Jesus to Leave (Luke 8:34-39):   34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran off and spread the news in the town and countryside.  35 So the people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus.  They found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.  36 Those who had seen it told them how the man who had been demon-possessed had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the Gerasenes and the surrounding region asked Jesus to leave them alone, for they were seized with great fear.  So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ”Return to your home, and declare what God has done for you.”  So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole town what Jesus had done for him.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            8:34     When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.  With so many pigs involved, there were swineherds nearby and it was natural that they immediately ran away--note the “fled,” not merely “walked” or “left.”  They were horrified, even terrified at what had just happened and they rushed into the city and the nearby region to tell everyone about it.  First of all, it was an economic disaster that would be of interest to everyone.  Secondly, they wanted it made clear that they were in no way responsible for what had happened and the best way to avoid that accusation was to provide an immediate full report to the owners of the pigs--and whoever else would listen to them.  But the story sounded so impossible that these men--and other community residents--would want verification. . . .

 

            8:35     Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.  And they were afraid.  Seeking verification of the strange tale they were hearing, the local people flocked out to where the incident had occurred.  There they found the formerly demon possessed man clearly sane, fully clothed, and peacefully “sitting at the feet of Jesus.”  The man’s dangerous behavior terrified them earlier; now they were “afraid” at beholding this obviously cured demoniac being so calm and well behaved.  The transition was a blatant “impossibility” and the thought of what degree of supernatural power was utilized to produce it horrified them:  What might this Jewish “rabbi” who had such power now demand of them?  

 

            8:36     They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed.  Then they heard again the story of the exorcism.  Either from eyewitnesses among the disciples or again from the swineherds--most likely from both groups.  The wording may suggest that the feeders of the animals had only seen, from a distance, Jesus and the group with Him and then the pigs rushing into the water.  In that case they had not heard any of the actual dialogue that led to the animal stampede.  Alternatively (and more likely), the locals may have been simply trying to confirm the strange story of healing and animal loss they had been told.

 

            8:37     Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.  And He got into the boat and returned.  Now the “fear” shifted from the demoniac to Jesus.  He had already scored a “hit” on their wallets since the pigs would be expensive to replace.  Worse yet, what else might this strange “rabbi” do:  Jews weren’t pleased with pigs in the first place; what other unpleasant actions might He undertake when He learned more of them?  Or demand reform of how they lived?  Hence they took the only reasonable course as they saw such things:  They “asked Him” to leave rather than “demanded” it--the flavor imposed on the word by the context, however, is far more like “begged” (CEV, Weymouth).  They recognized that they could do no more; the chance of forcing Him was somewhere between improbable and impossible. 

 

            8:38     Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him.  But Jesus sent him away, saying.  Perhaps the healed man feared a return of the demons.  Perhaps it was appreciation and the desire to stay close to someone who had done so much for him.  Perhaps it was just out of awe at the manifest and incredible power this Jesus could utilize to help others. 

            We don’t have the foggiest idea how much he already knew about Jesus what with the demons beclouding his self-control and mind, but it would be nice to think that if any such knowledge had already come his way, that he also wanted to learn more of what this Healer had to say.  After all, if He had this kind of power, what tremendous insight and wisdom must He have as well!  But the man himself had a role to play in Jesus’ plans but simply not the one he preferred. . . .

 

            8:39     “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.”  And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.  What he knew would have been little, but what he did know he knew fully and completely:  the condition he had been in and how Jesus had done what no one else had or could do.  He had a teaching ministry of his own to perform--to his own house, neighborhood, and city--to share with them what happened.  This might seem unimportant.  But when the apostles started to share the gospel after the resurrection, the local testimony of men such as this one would prove invaluable in buttressing their argument to accept and embrace Jesus and His teaching.

 

 

While on the Way to Heal the Twelve Year Old Dying Daughter of a Synagogue Leader, Jesus Heals a Woman Suffering from a Chronic “Bleeding” That Made Her Ceremonially Unclean (Luke 8:40-48):  40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, because they were all waiting for him.  41 Then a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue, came up. Falling at Jesus’ feet, he pleaded with him to come to his house, 42 because he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. 

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds pressed around him.  43 Now a woman was there who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years but could not be healed by anyone.  44 She came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak, and at once the bleeding stopped.  45 Then Jesus asked, “Who was it who touched me?”  When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are surrounding you and pressing against you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I know that power has gone out from me.” 

47 When the woman saw that she could not escape notice, she came trembling and fell down before him.  In the presence of all the people, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed.  48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.”

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            8:40     So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him.  Jesus had left from Capernaum and they had every reason to assume that He would also return there.  Word of His previous actions would have further circulated and caused even greater numbers to plan on seeing Him the next time He was available.  One can easily imagine those near the shore being constantly alert to every sail that appeared and that as soon as it was obvious that this was His boat, word being shouted from person to person; perhaps even children scurrying deeper into the community to tell their parents that He was back again. 

 

            8:41     And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue.  And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house.  Like any organization that has responsibilities to take care of and bills to pay, the synagogue had its leaders of which Jairus was one.  In modern religious terminology, however, this was still a “layman” and not a rabbi.  The fact that as responsible an official as this one sought Jesus’ assistance argues that the Lord’s capacity to heal was well established and that the problem was well beyond what anyone else could help with. 

            It should be noted, however, that Jairus had not requested help earlier when the girl was in not as severe a condition.  Either he did not wish to impose upon the Lord needlessly or the position he held caused him to have a kind of “professional skittishness” against calling on the controversial teacher for assistance except as a last resort.  (He would be subject to potential criticism from any members who were not kindly inclined toward Jesus.)

 

            8:42     for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.  But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him.  A parent would normally be concerned with the well being of any child but when it’s the “only daughter” the concern would be even greater; uniqueness breeds an understandable “specialness” whether it is the only child or the only child of a specific gender.

            Sidebar:  Luke also emphasizes that it is the only child in the case of two boys:  the dead son of a widow in Nain (7:12) and that in a certain case of demon possession (9:38).

 

            8:43     Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any.  Her suffering from a menstrual flow had lasted so long that they--and we--would call it a permanent condition.  They had physicians in that day--of varying qualifications--that could help at least alleviate a variety of conditions but for this one there was no success.  Worse, she had spent everything she earned on the futile search. . . . which shows Luke the physician’s candor and desire to be honest even when his own profession was the subject.

 

            8:44     came from behind and touched the border of His garment.  And immediately her flow of blood stopped.  Quite likely her course was dictated by the combination of three things.  The first was a desire not to inflict Him with ceremonial uncleanness by touching her (Leviticus 15:19, 25).  Secondly, publicly referring to the nature of her problem could easily have been embarrassing to herself and to others.  (To a doctor it would have been a necessity but still discomforting as well.)  Thirdly, knowing that His touch could heal, she reasoned that the opposite might work as well if she but touched Him.  So she briefly touched the edge of His clothing and as quick as that her chronic affliction disappeared. 

 

            8:45     And Jesus said, Who touched Me?”  When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’   Although not seeing who had done it, Jesus could tell someone had touched his clothing (verse 46).  At first His query was greeted with denial by those nearby.  Apparently He repeated the query/demand because Peter protested that with such a crowd pressing around them it was a question impossible to answer:  The connotation of the apostle’s words is “anyone and everyone is ‘touching’ you almost constantly.  It's an unanswerable question!”

 

            8:46     But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”  At this point Jesus explains why He is bothering with the question at all:  He could tell that (supernatural) “power” had flowed out from Him.  (If you will, He “sensed” it rather than “felt” it.)  Unless He confronted the person face to face there was the real danger that she might dismiss this as simply a beautiful supernatural “wonder” and it not fully sink through her consciousness why she had been healed.

 

            8:47     Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.  Recognizing that she had not successfully hidden her act, she summons up enough courage to respond, but she doesn’t answer with clear joy but while “trembling”--in concern how Jesus might react.  What she had wished to keep hidden was now exposed to everyone. 

            Especially impressive are those words “healed immediately.”  As in nearly all the other miracles of Jesus, the healing is of this nature.  In those very few that it isn’t (requiring washing in the pool of Siloam [John 9:1-7], for example), the whole thing was on the same day and within an hour or so. 

 

            8:48     And He said to her, Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.”  Rather than rebuke her as she feared, Jesus urges her to be happy.  Why shouldn’t she?  She was now healed:  “Your faith has made you well”--it was a faith so profound that she was convinced that the mere touching of the clothes on His body could produce it without Him even having to think about it.  Furthermore she could “Go in peace.”  He was not mad at her or angry.  There was no reason to be.

 

 

The Synagogue Leader’s Household Mocks Jesus When He Informs Them that the Dead Girl Is Only “Asleep” (Luke 8:49-56):   49 While he was still speaking, someone from the synagogue ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.”  50 But when Jesus heard this, he told him, “Do not be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”  51 Now when he came to the house, Jesus did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 

52 Now they were all wailing and mourning for her, but he said, “Stop your weeping; she is not dead but asleep.”  53 And they began making fun of him, because they knew that she was dead. 

54 But Jesus gently took her by the hand and said, “Child, get up.” 55 Her spirit returned, and she got up immediately.  Then he told them to give her something to eat.  56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            8:49     While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead.  Do not trouble the Teacher.”  While He was still speaking with the healed woman, word came from the home of the synagogue ruler that there was no further need to bother Jesus since the girl had already passed away.  That He was a well documented healer they don’t challenge in the least.  Their quite understandable assumption is that Jesus’ curative power ended at the point of the sick person’s death.

            Sidebar:  This was the same opinion as Lazarus’ sister Martha:  “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

 

            8:50     But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.”  If the official had had faith previously, now he needed it even more:  If he would only continue to believe she would be cured--no matter what her condition was when they arrived there.  The unspoken undercurrent to these encouraging words:  If that woman’s faith could have made possible the healing of a decade-plus “incurable” condition, trust in Me to have the power to handle this situation as well!

 

            8:51     When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl.  The closest of kin and the most prominent apostles.  The bulk of His miracles were worked in the presence of a significant number of onlookers, but there were cases when privacy was called for by the circumstances and this was one of them:  The large crowd of observers could patiently wait outside the home.

 

            8:52     Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.”  This was to the crowd present within the home.  They had the strange custom (to us) of arranging professional mourners.  Rabbinic tradition permitted having just one woman wailing in sorrow and two people to play flutes.  Everyone else but the poorest was expected to have more and this synagogue leader would have many more both for sincere reasons and for preserving his social status.  Knowing that her death seemed certain--remember that going for Jesus is clearly a last minute/last desperate effort to redeem the situation--these would already have begun to be assembled.  When word of passing was initially provided, they would have immediately gone into the expected laments and Jesus would have been met with the sound before He even entered the house.     

 

            8:53     And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.  The claim was verifiably illogical and they all knew it.  Hence they “ridiculed Him” at the absurdity of His suggestion.  The possibility that Jesus might be making a play on words did not enter their thoughts:  The depiction of her as “sleeping” was quite logical, though, if her death was going to be quickly aborted and she would rejoin her family.  From her standpoint, it would seem as such.  

 

            8:54     But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, Little girl, arise.”  Along with the three apostles and the parents (verse 51) he gave her the commandment that she could not hear and could not obey for she was dead.  But the impossible is not always so impossible after all, especially when Deity incarnate is actually in your presence.

 

            8:55     Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately.  And He commanded that she be given something to eat.  The inner “spirit” which had departed not long before as they were walking to the home returned to her body.  (Note that the “spirit” is viewed as leaving quickly upon death rather than days later, as in some thought systems.) 

            Not only did she awaken. . . she immediately sat up (which is essential if you are going to stand) and which in itself indicates that one is alive and feeling well in comparison to all that had happened previously.  She even stood up, indicating she had considerable strength back as well.  However, having been through a physical trauma, she had to be in need of nourishment because of what her body had been through, so Jesus commanded that she be given food to eat.  Which was both good for her body and guaranteed that the parents weren’t “seeing things.

 

            8:56     And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.  Healing was within their minds a potential reality at the hands of Jesus.  But this was so much beyond anything they could imagine, that they were outright “astonished” that He could rescue one from death even after it had occurred.  Jesus did not call for publicity.  Instead he instructed them to keep to themselves what had happened.  Word would get around fast enough, but Jairus was a synagogue official and there was no need for him to needlessly become the target of angry words from those who might take out on him their fury at Jesus’ successes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

Jesus Sends His Twelve Apostles Out on a Preaching and Miraculous Healing Tour of the Region (Luke 9:1-6):  1 After Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 

He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take an extra tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave the area.  Wherever they do not receive you, as you leave that town, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  Then they departed and went throughout the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

--New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            9:1       Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.  It was amazing enough that the Lord could heal diseases and cast out demons, but Jesus proceeded to give His apostles the same abilities as well.  We have no specification of what outward method He adopted (if any) to reinforce this verbal pledge:  Since the practice was ancient of laying on hands as a sign of appointment to a task or position, one can rightly suspect that this was the case here as well.  Such was also the situation with the apostle Paul:  “so that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17).  

            Sidebar:  Power (dunamis) is the capacity, and authority (exousia), the right to act” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).  

 

 

            9:2       He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  They had heard His preaching and seen His healings so they had visible prototypes to pattern themselves after.  Just as Jesus’ miracles added credibility to His teaching, the apostolic miracles would add credibility to theirs as well.  Both tasks must have seemed a little spooky too them:  Ask anyone who has had the experience about how profoundly different it is to listen to a sermon and actually delivering one--especially when it is done on a regular basis!  They had been learners; now they were to take the first steps in independently conveying the learned message to others.  A series of instructions shaped how they were to act during these journeys as they traveled in small groups of two each (Mark 6:7). . . .

 

            9:3       And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.  In essence they were to make no special preparations for their journey.  Food and money and extra clothing were all to be left behind.  Today we would say that they were going out “bare bones” with nothing extra.  “Decent” looking strangers would normally be received courteously in communities they visited and their mention of coming from Jesus would open doors among the many who had heard of Him and wished to learn more. 

 

            9:4       “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.  They were to be satisfied with whatever accommodations they first gained in any town.  No ego building “moving upward” after a day or so to some more prestigious family’s dwelling!

 

            9:5       And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”  If they faced a situation of people refusing to receive their message they were to stop as they left the city and literally shake off the dust of their feet.  It would be a symbolic “testimony against them” that they were so little worthy of respect that it was repugnant to leave with even the dust on one’s feet.  If it was a specific household, they were to do this as well (Matthew 10:14).  The community had no use for them and they now felt the same way in reverse.

 

            9:6       So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.  Having received their instructions they proceeded to faithfully carry them out.  The fact that they were merely Jesus’ disciples rather than Jesus Himself should have impressed the locals.  That He could heal was amazing but surely even more so was the fact that those He designated could do so as well.  If this combination could not convince them to accept the teaching they heard, what in the world could hope to do so?

 

 

The Reports of Jesus’ Behavior Confuse Herod, the Beheader of John the Baptist (Luke 9:7-9):  Now Herod the tetrarch heard about everything that was happening, and he was thoroughly perplexed, because some people were saying that John had been raised from the dead,8 while others were saying that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had risen.  Herod said, “I had John beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”  So Herod wanted to learn about Jesus.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            9:7       Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead.  Jesus was such a dynamic teacher and healer that the notion gained ground among some that He must be the resurrected John.  Perhaps they were ignorant that John had baptized Him (showing that they were separate individuals) or perhaps it was mere idle speculation that took on a life of its own.  It “perplexed” Herod as to just where in these things Jesus fit.  There hadn’t been a reason for a direct confrontation, but Jesus’ reputation for demanding moral restraint could not but concern him:  He might yet become a vocal public critic of Herod’s marriage--just as His predecessor had been.

 

            9:8       and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again.  Other elements of popular thought considered Jesus as Elijah and certainly Malachi 4:5 had spoken of an Elijah like individual arising, but they were unaware that it was John himself who played that role as preparer of the way for the Messiah.  Others suspected one of the other prophets.  These judgments shared in common the conviction that Jesus was faithfully teaching things that echoed the attitudes and judgments of these earlier figures.

            Sidebar:  The apocryphal books allude to some of the speculation about the return of a resurrected prophet:  I will send you help, my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah” (2 Esdras 2:18, NRSV).  2 Maccabees 2:4-8 speaks of how Jeremiah knew of the hiding place of the missing ark of the covenant:  “Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear,” (verse 8, NRSV) a prediction interpreted as Jeremiah himself doing so.   

 

            9:9       Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?”  So he sought to see Him.  Herod’s quandary was that he knew full well what had happened to John--he had beheaded him, after all.  To identify just what Jesus was required greater knowledge and the best way of getting that was by personal conversation.  However Herod had demonstrated his capacity for needless brutality and Jesus had a different planned destiny than answering his questions.  Since there is no evidence that the two met prior to the final trials in Jerusalem, it seems reasonable that Jesus consciously made every effort to assure that such did not occur.  He had come to die, true, but in Jerusalem and nowhere else (Luke 13:31-33). 

            This unwanted regal interest is certainly one of the major reasons for Jesus withdrawing into a hoped for more private setting in the next verse:  In Matthew’s account what comes next occurs immediately after “when Jesus heard” about the burial (14:12-13).

 

 

Jesus Travels to the Bethsaida Region, Preaches and Heals Many, and Then Feeds 5,000 on Scanty Remnants of Food (Luke 9:10-17):  10 When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done.  Then he took them with him and they withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida.  11 But when the crowds found out, they followed him.  He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing. 

12 Now the day began to draw to a close, so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.”  13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (Now about five thousand men were there.)

Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  15 So they did as Jesus directed, and the people all sat down.  16 Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke them.  He gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.  17 They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up—twelve baskets of broken pieces.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:10     And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done.  Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.  After they fully briefed Jesus as to what had transpired during their journeys, Jesus led them into an inconspicuous area in the territory connected to Bethsaida.  “Privately” suggests that it was done in a manner that others would be the least likely to pay attention and that it was done without telling others what they were about.  A night time trip or just abruptly leaving without prior announcement both fit the bill.  Since Bethsaida meant “place of fish” or “fishing place” this would be a seacoast community where they could easily leave their boat as Jesus sought out some area within the nearby region where they had the privacy to rest and talk further.  And that is how it would have worked out before He became so popular, but not now. . . .

 

            9:11     But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.  When the crowds left behind realized what had happened, they came en masse, seeking Him out.  Between their own efforts and, perhaps, information they received from locals when they arrived nearby, they ultimately found Him.  However frustrating this was to His plans to spend some private time with the apostles, He took the opportunity to teach them more about God’s kingdom and to carry out some healings as well. 

            In fairness to the crowd and their decision not to wait for the Lord’s return, this does show just how deeply He had impressed them.  Furthermore, it should be remembered that what they had done required considerable effort.  It was a six mile sail and an even longer walk if undertaken by foot.  And since a large crowd of thousands had congregated to follow him (5,000:  verse 14) the “demand” was there to hear more of His teaching.  When there is the demand to “eat of the word,” who was He not to feed them?  Which ultimately raised another problem. . . .   

 

            9:12     When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”  Late in the day the apostles urged Jesus to send them away so that they would have time to find a place to “lodge and get provisions.”  These were not available where they were at the moment and neither the apostles nor the crowd had come provisioned for this situation.  Their one realistic option--and still a difficult one because of the numbers involved--was to seek out assistance in the various nearby communities.  A place to sleep might well be easier to find for this many people than nourishment for their bodies.  To avoid at least the food danger, Jesus had a different solution in mind. . . .  

 

            9:13     But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”  And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.”  Since there was no logical reason to believe it was possible for them to have that much food unnoticed, the question could only have been asked in order to make crystal clear the scale of the miracle that was about to occur.  Of course, as they say, they could go somewhere and purchase it.  For the reasons we already touched on in the previous verse this was probably “optimistic thinking” far more than any “realistic plan.”  But the Lord wanted a solution, so they would do their best to come up with one.

            Sidebar:  They are also well aware that the modest amount available is profoundly inadequate and that it was present only because of another’s generosity:  There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9). 

 

            9:14     For there were about five thousand men.  Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.”  There were about five thousand of them (not counting the women and children:  Matthew 14:21) and Jesus instructed the apostles to divide them into manageable size groups and set them down together.  That way they could see what was happening and realize that the food they needed was indeed on the way as it was distributed.  Not to mention that there were no huge piles of food from which they were being distributed:  They aren’t being told it was a miracle; their eyes would tell them it was one.    

 

            9:15     And they did so, and made them all sit down.  Providing a massive amount of food was beyond their ability but fulfill this task was fully within their capacity.  In a real sense this was “menial work,” but if one is going to be a leader in God’s kingdom, then one should be willing to do whatever is necessary however “unimportant” it may seem in comparison with their church position.  They were to act in the manner the apostle Peter described to local church leaders:  not “as being lords” over the flock, “but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).

 

            9:16     Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.  Looking up to heaven, showed that Jesus was appreciative of this heavenly blessing and in giving thanks for it that He recognized how important were the vital things of life--food and lodging in particular.  We don't know what words He used but a typical example from the ancient days was:  “May God, the Ever-blessed One, bless what He has given us.”  Whatever the specific wording, this had to be the substance.

 

            9:17     So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.  The amount consumed was not trivial not just because of the number of people involved, but also because it “filled” them up.  What had been a mere five loaves of bread and just two fish Jesus had somehow multiplied into enough to feed everyone.  Not just everyone but to leave twelve baskets of leftovers as well.  The crowd would have been abundantly aware that there was no room for trickery.  Many an eyewitness surely had to think as well:  “This miracle was not like the healing of others who were sick; this one was for me personally when I was deeply hungry to hear His teaching.”  If that didn’t provoke their thinking as well, what would?

            Sidebar:  When did the multiplication of the food occur:  as Jesus constantly broke off an ever increasing amount from the same small initial amount or as the audience proceeded to pass it on to each other?  Such details we are not given but the Pulpit Commentary provides a more than reasonable surmise: 

 

                        In Mark and Luke the tense of the verb rendered “gave,” in the original Greek, is an imperfect, and signifies, “he gave, and kept on giving.”  This supplies      a hint as to the way of working the miracle.  Each disciple kept coming to him for a fresh supply of bread.  It was, however, as it has been well said, a miracle of the         highest order, one of creative power, and is to us inconceivable.  The evangelists        make no attempt to explain it.  They evidently did not care to ask.  They beheld it, and related it to us just as they saw it in its simple grandeur. 

 

 

Jesus Enquires of the Apostles How the Crowds Evaluate Jesus’ True Identity—and How They Do As Well (Luke 9:18-22):  18 Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and his disciples were nearby, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  19 They answered, “John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others that one of the prophets of long ago has risen.”  20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 

21 But he forcefully commanded them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            9:18     And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, Who do the crowds say that I am?”  We don’t know why they weren’t with Him from the beginning.  It could be that they had responsibilities of their own to fulfill first or that He had stolen off alone and they were initially unaware that He had done so.  Comparing Luke’s account with the other gospels, a number of major incidents are left out before this event occurs.  Though the question would have been just as logical in a weaved together complete narrative--as it is in Matthew and Mark--the query is even more emphatic in the current setting by placing it immediately after the stupendous miracle just narrated.  It is such a natural and inevitable question to arise afterwards and was surely beginning to do within their minds during the omitted events as well.

 

            9:19     So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.”  The answer was the same that Herod’s intelligence sources were providing:  a resurrected John the Baptist, Elijah, or some ancient prophet.  They were trying to fit Him into a mode that matched something from the recent or distant past.  It was quite logical in its way.  But the apostles had been laboring with Him and even been sent out on their own to teach and heal.  So the natural next step was to make the question more personal. . . .  

 

            9:20     He said to them, But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”  Herod could not figure out the right answer.  Peter had:  Jesus was “the Christ (= Messiah) of God.”  Since all the other “niches” didn’t quite fit, where else was there really to go?  If others thought it, they hesitated to say it out loud.  Peter was willing to do so--if directly challenged.

 

            9:21     And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one.  However good it was for them to recognize Jesus’ true status, the term “Christ” carried with it potentially explosive implications.  A nationalistic redeemer was the type most expected--or at least dreamed of.  Hence great caution had to be used in whether to invoke the term lest popular misunderstanding result in civil unrest and Jesus be blamed for it.  Therefore Jesus “strictly warned and commanded” that they share their judgment of the matter with no one else.  The stage had not yet been set for when it would be safe to do so.  What had to precede the open declaration He describes next. . . .

 

            9:22     saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”  Ironically enough, His danger as a Messianic claimant did not come from the Romans.  He had done nothing--and intended to do absolutely nothing--they could legitimately view as seditious.  Yes there was danger from overzealous marginal followers who wanted a kingdom of this world--but those He could go in hiding from (John 6:14-15) or say things that seemed so outrageous that that danger would be neutralized (John 6:53-60). 

            But the central danger to His life came from the very people who were supposed to be responsible leaders of the people and pious advocates of the Divine Law.  Yet most saw in His teaching principles that were fundamentally hostile to those they were willing to embrace.  These would be so passionately hostile within the Sanhedrin that only overt judicial murder would fulfill their blood lust at the very existence and popularity of this rival.  They never recognized that this treachery would become the ultimate vindication of His claims--by virtue of His not staying dead.  In death they thought to squash Him like a bug, but in death they actually provided the ultimate reason to reject their leadership.

            But just as Jesus had to pay a price--a high price--to do God’s will, the apostles might have to as well. . . .

 

 

Salvation through Christ Hinges Upon Continued Embracing of His Will Regardless of the Earthly Consequences It May Bring (Luke 9:23-27):  23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 

25  For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but loses or forfeits himself?  26 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  27 But I tell you most certainly, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:23     Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  If we take both verses 23 and 24 only on a literal level, then the point would be that we must be willing to risk death daily due to our loyalty to the Lord.

            Jesus, however, may well be moving here on two overlapping levels:  first the symbolic and, in the next verse, the literal.  The “cross” was the method of execution by the Romans--the term also worked as a powerful metaphor for enduring that which is extremely painful and threatening.  Hence when He tells the disciples that every one of them must refuse to give in to personal weakness and take up their “cross daily,” He is telling them that however overwhelming those weaknesses may seem, it is within their ability to carry that fight however far they must until they purge them from their systems.  This habitual faithfulness is how they ultimately fulfill the purpose of a cross:  Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.   Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,  in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” (Colossians 3:5-7). 

    

            9:24     For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  The reference to the “cross” being carried (verse 23) conveys an implicit threat of death, in particular Roman inflicted.  Hence the warning that if one desires to save one’s life from Roman punishment due to discipleship, one will actually land up losing that which is eternal.  On the other hand if one actually dies for Jesus’ sake, one will actually save one’s eternal soul even though the body perishes.  Implicit in this, of course, is the concept of a part of us that survives death.  Without it this teaching would be meaningless.

            The stress on Roman behavior argues that He clearly had in mind the day when the apostles and disciples would be taking His message throughout the Roman world (Matthew 28:18-20).  However this also serves as an indirect means of strengthening them against yielding to Jewish threats as well, which would be the cause of His own demise.  How could the result be less in either case?

 

            9:25     For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  In a sense this argument is purely utilitarian--though painful in its utilitarianism.  Even if our greatest fantasy could be enjoyed and we gained control over the entire world, of what value would it be if we ourselves are “destroyed or lost” as the result?  Our very triumph would become the means of our ultimate destruction.  We would enjoy the victory momentarily while losing eternity forever.

 

            9:26     For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.  It is not just a matter of being ashamed of Christ; it is also a matter of being ashamed of “My words” (= His teachings).  You may never explicitly reject Jesus, but if you mutilate His will and bend it all out of shape to make the hostile world friendly, what have you gained?  You have just as much repudiated Jesus as if you spit in His face.

            When Jesus comes again He will not return in the humble body in which He currently resided.  He will return with “glory” manifesting itself--including that of His Father--and with that of the “holy angels” reflecting and assisting Him.  It will be invincible power.  To be on the wretched list of a ruler’s “person I have to deal with list  is, to put it mildly, to be in the worst position one can ever be!

 

            9:27     But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”  That victory will be “seen” by certain of those standing in the current group:  some would still be alive on earth when they behold the triumph of “the kingdom of God.”  That that triumph can not be the physical second coming of Christ to judge the world can be seen in the fact that none of those listeners are alive today.  It must refer to a triumph that occurred in the first century itself.  The two alternatives would seem to be either the establishment of the kingdom on the day of Pentecost or the destruction of the temple (and its associated priestly complex that opposed Jesus)--but “many” would be alive at Pentecost and only “some” in 70 A.D. at the destruction.  The Transfiguration would not fit for that is only eight days later (9:28) and the all of them would still be alive.

            The fact that A.D.70 seems the most viable choice requires us to take a much closer look at the language of verse 26--which seems to so verbally fit the traditional understanding of the Second Coming of Christ and the time of the bodily resurrection.  (The latter is certainly not even hinted at in the verse).  Perhaps it is not that He comes where all eyes can see Him personally . . . but that He is manifested visibly through His power and His workings, coming visibly in the actions of others, destroying those who had destroyed Him and the holy city and the Temple so that they would never be able to be abused again.  It would represent the triumph of the kingdom over its major monotheistic foe.  (Zoroastrianism in Persia existed but was virtually irrelevant to anything within the borders of the Roman Empire.)  In fact the language of verse 26 also best fits that of the triumph of the kingdom rather than its birth.  

 

 

The Apostles Are Shocked to Awaken and Find Jesus Brightly Transformed and Moses and Elijah Talking with Him (Luke 9:28-36):  28 Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up the mountain to pray.  29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became very bright, a brilliant white.  30 Then two men, Moses and Elijah, began talking with him.  31 They appeared in glorious splendor and spoke about his departure that he was about to carry out at Jerusalem. 

32 Now Peter and those with him were quite sleepy, but as they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  33 Then as the men were starting to leave, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he was saying. 

34 As he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!”  36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.  So they kept silent and told no one at that time anything of what they had seen.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:28     Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  Roughly a week later--Mark 9:2 and Matthew 17:1 has it “after six days” (9:2)--Jesus decided to take only three of the apostles up into a mountain for a period of private prayer away from the apostles in general and the crowds in particular.  Quite likely He also had in mind what Luke narrates next.  Not that the desire to pray was insincere, but that it wasn’t the only thing in His mind.

            Sidebar on the location of this event:  It is called a “high mountain” by both Mark 9:2 and Matthew 17:1 and this description plays a major role in determining its probable location.  There can be little doubt that Mount Hermon (Jebelcsh Sheikh) is intended, in spite of the persistent, but perfectly baseless tradition which points to Tabor.  For (1) Mount Hermon is easily within six days’ reach of Caesarea Philippi, and (ii) could alone be called a ‘lofty mountain’ (being 10,000 feet high) or ‘the mountain,’ when the last scene had been at Caesarea.  [In contrast Mount Tabor is only 1,900 feet high.  In vivid contrast Hermon is the highest mountain in Palestine.]  Further, (iii) Tabor at that time in all probability was [based on an interpretation of how Josephus refurbished fortifications there], as from time immemorial it had been (Joshua 19:22 [and 1 Chronicles 6:77]), an inhabited and fortified place, wholly unsuited for a scene so solemn; and (iv) was moreover in Galilee, which is excluded by Mark 9:30.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).

 

            9:29     As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.  During prayer, Jesus changed in front of them.  His clothing took on a white color--make it even more dramatic, it was “glistening” as well.  The intended point has been well rendered “his clothes became dazzingly white” (ESV and GW).  More literal is the NIV:  “his clothes became as bright as a flashing of lightning.”  His face also looked visibly different as well.  Matthew uses language making it emphatically similar to the rest of the description:  “His face shone like the sun” (18:2).  A visual miracle was happening in front of their eyes for which they had witnessed no precedent--but they had fallen to asleep and only saw the change after it was fully accomplished (verse 32).

 

            9:30     And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah.  If the dramatic change in the Lord’s appearance were not startling enough, two individuals appeared as well and they discussed things with Jesus.  What they were talking about before the apostles woke we don’t know.  Since it was His coming death at the time they woke, it could easily have been that as well or what the three had--comparatively--gone through during their years on earth.  Even Jesus could use an encouraging word and they had come as close to “walking in His shoes” as anyone ever would.

            How the apostles knew these “were Moses and Elijah” we do not know.  Perhaps from Jesus’ own words to them in the discussion.  Don’t we usually address people at least occasionally by their names when we talk over serious matters with them?

 

            9:31     who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  Their subject matter transforms the occasion from merely being awesome and upbeat into one pregnant with ominousness.  Earlier in the chapter Jesus had warned of His coming death.  Here were two great ancient worthies of faith discussing the same subject with Him.  That which the apostles could not accept as coming, these two took as a certainty.

 

            9:32     But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.  Perhaps the bright light from their appearance had awakened them; perhaps the conversation--even a combination of both.  That they might imagine something like this is quite natural.  But Luke stresses that even “when they were fully awake” it was still there.  It wasn’t just a piece of momentary imagination on their part.  The “impossible” was happening in front of them and they were right in the middle.  With this unique a situation, human curiosity and the desire to prolong it would naturally enter the picture. . . .            

                       

            9:33     Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.  If they already felt honored and overcome by the awe of what they were witnessing, what more might they be benefited and learn if they delayed things for a while longer?  Peter didn't have the foggiest idea of what he really meant-- “not knowing what he said”--but it powerfully seemed like the right kind of thing to say.  Could we have done any better?

 

            9:34     While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  What they were seeing was glorious and now it was being taken away as all three of them are covered not only by a “cloud” but by what Matthew tells us was “a bright cloud” (17:5).  Awesome yet surely unnerving and even frightening since they had no idea of what was going on:  To have seen such a magnificent sight and to have it so quickly removed!

 

            9:35     And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!”  This affirmed both the relationship (“Son”) and the affectionate relationship between them (“beloved).”  If we prefer the commonly assumed best Greek text, then the usual translation is “My Chosen One”--reflecting Jesus’ unique role as Agent of the Father.  Since neither Moses nor Elijah fit this relationship with Jesus, it had to be the heavenly Father speaking.

 

            9:36     When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone.  But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.  Any uncertainty as to who is being described is removed as the cloud disappears and Jesus was the only one left standing in front of the apostles.  Hence Jesus is “beloved/chosen Son” in a sense not shared by even the prophets (represented by Elijah) nor by the great lawgiver Moses.  Furthermore, their authority figure is to be Jesus and not these Old Testament ones.  We have here “an acting out,” a symbolic display if you will, of the later New Testament teaching about a new covenant having been instituted by Jesus which is the replacement of the old one.

            More immediately, Jesus instructs the apostles to remain quiet as to what they had seen and to share it with no one (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9).  Both the claims regarding Jesus’ unique “sonship” and his unique authority represented potentially explosive ones, especially when presented in this direct and unequivocal manner. 

 

 

Jesus Heals a Youth With an “Unclean Spirit” Who His Apostles Had Been Unable to Help at All (Luke 9:37-43a):  37 Now on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.  38 Then a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son—he is my only child!  39 A spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions and causes him to foam at the mouth.  It hardly ever leaves him alone, torturing him severely.  40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 

41 Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation!  How much longer must I be with you and endure you?  Bring your son here.”  42 As the boy was approaching, the demon threw him to the ground and shook him with convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.  43a Then they were all astonished at the mighty power of God.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:37     Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  So far as the crowd were concerned, they were totally unaware of what had happened the previous night.  Hence they were naturally preoccupied with what they had come to see Jesus about.  One of the things was a nasty case of demon possession and the failure of the apostles to remove it.

 

            9:38     Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  Just as the father of a “only daughter” had sought help in the previous chapter (8:42), in this case it was a only son.  Death had overcome the girl; the boy, however, suffered a “living death” through the torments of demon possession.

 

            9:39     And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  The most natural reading of our text seems to be that this was a case where demon possession was sporadic and recurring rather than a constant plague.  It came; it sent him through physical anguish both in what it immediately did and in the process of (temporarily) leaving.  To be afflicted and then well--as in a normal disease--might be difficult to handle, but one could be confident that once it was over there was minimal danger of relapse.  In a case of repeated demonic possession, the question became one of, “How long will I be okay this time?”

            The physical symptoms it inflicted were those of epilepsy (“convulses him so that he foams at the mouth”); these were  so extreme that they were life threatening (“thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him,” Mark 9:22).  The afflicted seems to have fits of temporary insanity for we read that “he suddenly cries out”--which could either be an additional infliction of madness or cries of pain and anguish produced by the torments he underwent.  In Mark 9:17 we learn that it also inflicted upon him the inability to talk (“a mute spirit;” “robbed him of speech,” NIV).  This combination of symptoms had been a plague on life “from childhood” (Mark 9:21).  

 

            9:40     So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”  This was a quite natural action on the father’s part:  Jesus had not been available and the apostles were.  Furthermore, they had been sent out on a preaching tour that included the casting out of demons (9:2).  If they had not enjoyed great success then, it would seem odd if they would attempt it now rather than postponing matters until Jesus arrived again. The problem was they had tried--but failed.

 

            9:41     Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here.  Jesus bemoaned the lack of faith in the current generation and clearly implies that His time among them was only temporary.  He speaks of the current “generation”--and that word indicates it was not an isolated phenomena but a quite common one.  They were either unconcerned with faithfully living as God wanted . . . or invented glosses on those requirements that God never intended . . . or were simply interested in the tangible blessings of physical healing  that they might get from Him--spiritual insight being a different matter entirely.

            Although this was quite true of society in general, the current problem struck far closer to home:  Since it was the disciples who had been unable to cast out the demon (verse 40), the censure is actually aimed at them and their inability to do so.  In other words, they share human weaknesses of these or other kinds as well; they were trying to do better but had not advanced as far as they should.

            If “disciples” is a euphemism for apostles, they should have been able to do so (as in 9:2).  If it refers to the broader band of “disciples,” it could easily reflect their arrogance that if the apostles could do this and they, also, were disciples of the Lord, they also should be able to do so as well.  They overlooked that God has given different levels of responsibility and ability to different individuals.  (Paul makes a similar point about miraculous gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

            Although this “expansive” reading of the text makes a fine sermonic illustration, His explanation for their failure (Matthew 17:19-21; Mark 9:28-19) argues that it was the apostles in particular rather than those who assumed they also should be able to exercise similar power.

  

            9:42     And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.  Not even permitting the child to reach Jesus, the demon threw him into convulsions.  Describing it as an “unclean spirit” carries with it the connotations of “impurity” (NIV) and “evil” (GW).  What physical manifestations would one expect such a creature to produce except what is embarrassing, dangerous, and humiliating?

 

            9:43a   And they were all amazed at the majesty of God   This healing awed “all” who saw it for they rightly perceived that the “majesty” of Divine power had been manifested in front of their eyes.  What neither time nor physicians had accomplished, Jesus had.  In turn this reaction seems to imply that knowledge of this child and the severity of his ailment was well known and long established among those who were present.

 

 

Jesus Warns His Disciples That In Spite of His Supernatural Healing Ability, That He Was Still Going to Be Betrayed to His Enemies (Luke 9:43b-45):  43b But while the entire crowd was amazed at everything Jesus was doing, he said to his disciples, 44 Take these words to heart, for the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.”  45 But they did not understand this statement; its meaning had been concealed from them, so that they could not grasp it.  Yet they were afraid to ask him about this statement.

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:44b   But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples.  Even while everyone was on this emotional high, Jesus spoke words of caution to the disciples.  No matter how much they “marveled” at such repeated miracles, none of this was going to stop what would ultimately occur. 

 

            9:44     “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”  In particular He wanted them to grasp . . . comprehend ahead of time . . . accept however unwillingly . . . the terrible tragedy that would soon occur:  “Let these words sink in” (Holman).  Don’t push them into a tiny corner and out of your thinking:  The days are numbered. 

            Just as important is the use of the word “betrayed”--that means what will happen will come from a source they would expect to be loyal.  The identity will be shocking enough when it occurs, but if they realize that it will happen, they won’t be quite as emotionally “wiped out” as they would otherwise be.      

 

            9:45     But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.  They heard the words, but they were unable to “understand” its meaning.  Even being as clear cut, blunt, and precise as one could be, it was so unthinkable that their minds could not grasp it was “for real” rather than some theoretical danger that would pass.  They were so sure that it could only be triumph that was in the future, there was no room for consideration of anything less. 

            And to make sure that nothing more would be said, they refused to pursue the matter:  “they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.”  The words were so ominous that any more details would be even more disturbing.  But if one stayed quiet, the whole problem might disappear.  Wouldn’t it?  (It doesn’t work in our own lives either, does it?)

 

 

Spiritual Greatness Is Proven by the Treatment One Gives Others (Luke 9:46-48):  46 Now an argument started among the disciples as to which of them might be the greatest.  47 But when Jesus discerned their innermost thoughts, he took a child, had him stand by his side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me, for the one who is least among you all is the one who is great.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:46     Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  Even the knowledge of Jesus’ death did not dissipate personal conflicts as to position.  They might not understand nor wish to ask any questions about the matter (verse 45), but something of a priority like this was a totally different matter!

            Sidebar:  So concerned with this did they continue to be that at the Last Supper it was raised again (22:24-26).

 

            9:47     And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him.  Jesus used a physical illustration in an attempt to end this futile argument.  First, he sat next to Him “a little child”--Weymouth’s “a young child” brings out the youthfulness implied by the expression.

            This occurred indoors at Capernaum, the hometown of Jesus and several of the apostles (Mark 9:33).  This makes one suspect that the child was either that of Peter or one of the other apostles.  

 

            9:48     and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great.”  Jesus uses as an example of the type of person who should willingly and happily be received into their communion that of a small child such as He was holding--an unknown, unnoticed, and insignificant creature in the social order of the day (except to his own family of course). 

            When a person does so, one is actually showing hospitality and friendliness to no less than both Jesus and the Father because this is how they want the disciple to act toward others.  These folk become, in a sense, a tangible substitute for them--the seen for the unseen.  Hence it is not surprising that how we treat such people plays a vital role in how we will be judged so far as heavenly rewards being granted or denied (Matthew 25:37-40, 44-46.)   

            Jesus uses the child as a prototype of all those “unimportant” and “inconsequential” folk who would embrace the gospel and conveys an important lesson about how all church members should be treated:  Respectfully and with concern for their needs.

 

 

Don’t Count Others Your Spiritual Foes Unless You Absolutely Have To (Luke 9:49-50):  49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he is not a disciple along with us.”  50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:49     Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.”  If they could not be superior to each other (verses 46-48), surely they were superior to others who were not in the apostolic traveling company!  Presumably on this basis, the apostles demanded that a successful exorcist stop “casting out demons in Your name . . . because he does not follow with us.” 

            Conspicuously their objection is not “stop exorcising in Jesus’ name for you are a blatant failure in the attempt.”  Then they would have had a decent argument since Jesus’ exorcisms were always successful.  The lack of the accusation argues that he must have had a pattern of being successful.  The fact that Jesus’ name was being invoked in such successful attempts argues that he both deeply respected this Man from Nazareth and recognized His miracle working powers.  If so, was he not a virtual de facto disciple even if not within their traveling company?

 

            9:50     But Jesus said to him, Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”  If he isn’t actively opposing you, count him as friendly and an ally.  Don’t hinder him.  Don't try to stop him.  Count him as a blessing for the cause.   

 

 

Jesus Rebukes His Apostles for Wanting to Bring Physical Destruction on Samaritan Foes (Luke 9:51-56):  51 Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem.  52 He sent messengers on ahead of him.  As they went along, they entered a Samaritan village to make things ready in advance for him, 53 but the villagers refused to welcome him, because he was determined to go to Jerusalem.

54 Now when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, [Critical texts such as NET one reject the following words:  You do not know what manner of spirit you are of” (NKJV)] 56  [Critical texts omit:  “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them,” NKJV] and they went on to another village.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

             

 

            9:51     Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.  Note how the triumph over death and reception into heaven (Acts 1) is substituted for the death that was to come first.  That would be the personal positive outcome of the anguish.  Repeatedly returning to that thought would have given psychological comfort to the Lord as He prepared to enter the final stage of His ministry.

            The fact that “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” shows that He refused to flinch from what He knew was coming.  To the extent that the apostles permitted it to even enter their minds, their behavior shows that until the last moment they refused to recognize what was coming.  In their defense:  Jesus had repeatedly avoided harm to Himself at the hands of angry foes; couldn’t He do the same thing yet again?  Far from illogical, but far from right as well.

 

            9:52     and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  In politics, these are called “advance men” today.  They try to work out and resolve problems that may occur while there is plenty of time to deal with them.  It is quite likely that the crowd traveling with Him was large and He wished to forewarn them that they were soon going to be there:  Relations between Jews and Samaritans were often fragile and forewarning them would have been simple prudence to avoid misunderstandings at the size of the group.

 

            9:53     But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  Perhaps if He had been staying for a while to teach they might have been more welcoming (cf. the case in John 4:39-41).  Even if this had been a mere swift “passing through,” they might have been more receptive.  However a festival in Jerusalem was the explicit goal and this was too much for them:  The only “right” temple was the one they had on Mount Gerizim and since they weren’t going to worship there, the “cold shoulder” could be their only response.

 

            9:54     And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”  The rejection irritated James and John so much that they were convinced that the locals deserved a severe punishment--such as fire being called down from heaven and destroying them.  After all, there was precedent for this in what Elijah had done (1 Kings 1:5-14).  (Did they mention him because it was the most exact parallel they could think of?  Or did they do so because they had been on the Mount of Transfiguration and seen Elijah speak with Jesus?  Perhaps both.) 

            Sidebar:  Most translations do not believe there is a firm root in the most reliable manuscripts for the mention of Elijah and therefore omit the reference.  Even so it would seem rather improbable that the allusion did not pass through their minds--it was that obvious a one.

 

            9:55     But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  Jesus “rebuked” them--criticized, condemned, sternly ruled it out of order.  Even though they were His apostles, they had not grasped the concept that even when you have great power that doesn’t necessarily mean it is either right or appropriate to actually use it. 

            At this point we again have an issue of what is the best underlying Greek text--with the bulk (but not all) contemporary translations omitting both the reason given in this verse and the one given in the next.  (The majority of manuscripts, however, do contain them.)  “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of” means that they didn’t really understand what was actually motivating them.  The old classic commentary by Albert Barnes explains it well:  You suppose that you are actuated by a proper love for me; but you know not yourselves.  It is rather a love of revenge; rather revengeful feelings toward the Samaritans than proper feelings toward me.”

 

            9:56     For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.  And they went to another village.  If you wish to word this a little differently, try this:  How can you reach men and women with the gospel if you kill them and they are no longer alive to make a decision?  They are hard hearted today, but who knows about tomorrow and a different set of circumstances?

            Note how they dealt with their problem of rejection:  Going somewhere else.  Remaining would have accomplished nothing and could easily have led to violence by resentful Samaritans.  And what good would that have accomplished?

            Sidebar:  “Another” in the Greek used here, sometimes has the overtone of “another of a different type”--in this context, meaning either to a more receptive Samaritan village or, more likely, to a Jewish one.

 

 

Whenever You’ve Made Your Decision to Follow the Lord, Don’t Look Even for a Legitimate Excuse to Delay It (Luke 9:57-62):  57 As they were walking along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  58 Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 

59 Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 

61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”  62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:57     Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”  The enthusiasm was honorable and praiseworthy but was he ready for this kind of commitment?  Judging from Jesus’ response in the next verse, he apparently was someone who had only thought about the honor of being a traveling disciple with the Lord and given no consideration to just how difficult it could be--and whether he could emotionally handle those stresses.

 

            9:58     And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Jesus doesn’t mention either persecution or danger.  This man had a different “weak point:  The lifestyle of one accompanying the Lord at this stage of His ministry was too insecure an existence for a man like him.  Even animals have their lair and birds their nests, but Jesus could never be certain where He would rest.  However knowledgeable some men may be, that doesn’t mean they are prepared for the special stresses and problems of being a professor or a resident minister or a traveling preacher--or their assistant.  He had the zeal but not the resilience.

            Sidebar:  If this and the next case are the same men referred to in Matthew 8:18-22, this person was a learned “scribe” (8:19) and the insecurity would surely be especially vexing to him.    

 

            9:59     Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  In contrast to discouraging being followed, in this case Jesus urged the person to do so.  The man objected that he had a burial to take care of first.  If so, why was he out talking to Jesus in the first place?  At this point had he not  already shown by his presence at a time of grief, that he was more interested in Jesus than taking care of this particular family obligation?  He was being asked to act further on that basis.  (It is also hard to believe that there were not other kin who could have taken over the obligation.  Small families were not the ancient ideal.)

           

            9:60     Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”  There are always the spiritually dead who can bury the physically dead even if you are not present.  This might sound callous but the problem would be taken care of whether he was present or not--and he had already demonstrated by being there that he thought Jesus was higher in importance than any family duties.  Now he needed to act on that conviction.  Now he needed to transform faith into ongoing conduct.  (Cf. James 2:20, 26:  “faith without works is dead.”)

 

            9:61     And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  There were others around; he could certainly have sent word by them.  (For that matter the man in the previous verse, that man also could have sent word as to why he would have to leave the completion of the burial duties to others.)  In both cases, there were options as to how to accomplish the desired substitute and still immediately follow with Jesus. 

            Perhaps I am being overly cynical at this point, but could it be that there were other unspoken things going through their minds and they were trying to “hedge” their decisions . . . delay making the final break with the past till they thought it through further. . . . or even “flew” their decision by others to see whether the path of prudence would be to back out of their commitment.  Whether true of these particular individuals, such a course would unquestionably be all too true to the human nature of many.

           

            9:62     But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  They had claimed to be ready to begin their service, but immediately invoke a reason to postpone it.  Jesus promptly points out that this is contradicting their commitment and makes as much sense as a farmer who is constantly looking back on what is behind rather than on what is ahead to plow the needed straight line.  If they begin this way, why believe the attitude will change in the future?  (We humans are very much creatures of habit!)  That plowman would not be fit to be a farmer and a person claiming to serve God who acted in such an ambivalent manner is not qualified to be part of God’s kingdom either.  Sad it may be; but also true.

            In each of these three cases, following Jesus physically, as part of His traveling company are in mind.  The sermonic application to spiritually following Jesus comes quite naturally and inevitably to mind.

            Sidebar:  There is a somewhat parallel situation--but with a different response--in the Old Testament when Elisha wanted to follow Elijah (1 Kings 19:19-21).  There Elijah’s reaction is easily read as negative in most translations:  “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” (verse 20) . . . as if he is saying, “Leave me alone; I’m rejecting you; I wouldn’t think of making you follow me.”  The wording, however, can have the connotation of permission:  “Leave me alone” as an instruction to do exactly that--go back and “what have I done to you” as meaning to hinder you from doing so?  It is so rendered in a few translations:  “Go back . . . I’m not stopping you” (GW); “All right, go back.  I’m not stopping you!” (GNT).