Luke 9

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A Key Verse

He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ sent from God.” – Luke 9:20

What’s Happening?

As Jesus’ following increases, the apostles Jesus chose are delegated Jesus’ authority and power.  Luke, who also wrote the book of Acts, sees their actions as a continuation of the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus’ message and popularity are so similar to John the Baptist that Herod, the local ruler, is confused, because we learn in this chapter that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist.

This chapter is an emotional turning point in many ways, as well, as we see that John was killed and as Jesus foresees his own demise.  This world isn’t ready for Jesus’ message, Luke seems to be telling us, but before the chapter ends, we are recharged with a spiritual vision on a mountain top that could compete with Moses getting the Ten Commandments!  In fact, Moses and Elijah appear and the voice of God reaffirms what was said at Jesus’ baptism, that Jesus is God’s son.

This Chapter’s Mini-Message

The Twelve sent out

[9 Jesus called the Twelve together and he gave them power and authority over all demons and to heal sicknesses. He sent them out to proclaim God’s kingdom and to heal the sick.He told them, “Take nothing for the journey—no walking stick, no bag, no bread, no money, not even an extra shirt.  Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. Wherever they don’t welcome you, as you leave that city, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” They departed and went through the villages proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Herod’s confusion

9:9 I beheaded John Mark 6 and Matthew 14 both tell much longer versions of the story of John’s death, but Luke here only mentions it as an aside.  Some scholars argue that Luke may have doubted the story that Mark and Matthew presented, but acknowledged that John had been executed by Herod.

Herod the ruler heard about everything that was happening. He was confused because some people were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. Herod said, “I beheaded John, so now who am I hearing about?” Herod wanted to see him.

Jésus multiplie les pains, Jésus Mafa, 21st century Cameroon

Jesus feeds the five thousand

10 When the apostles returned, they described for Jesus what they had done. Taking them with him, Jesus withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds figured it out, they followed him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about God’s kingdom, and healed those who were sick.

12 When the day was almost over, the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so that they can go to the nearby villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in a deserted place.”

13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said, “We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (They said this because about five thousand men were present.)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Seat them in groups of about fifty.” 15 They did so, and everyone was seated. 16 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, and broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 Everyone ate until they were full, and the disciples filled twelve baskets with the leftovers.

Following Christ

18 Once when Jesus was praying by himself, the disciples joined him, and he asked them,“Who do the crowds say that I am?”

19 They answered, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others that one of the ancient prophets has come back to life.”

20 He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ sent from God.”

9:23 take up their cross daily Jesus had to take up the cross once, carrying his own cross to his execution.  Here he says that carrying a cross is a daily Christian obligation.  The reality for many ancient Christians was very literal, though, as many of Jesus’s closest followers, including Simon Peter, likely also eventually died on crosses.  Following Jesus requires daily courage, and saying “no” to yourself.

21 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. 22 He said, “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected—by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts—and be killed and be raised on the third day.”

23 Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.

Christian Contemporary Band Jars of Clay, “We Will Follow”
24  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them. 25  What advantage do people have if they gain the whole world for themselves yet perish or lose their lives? 26  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Human One 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  I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see God’s kingdom.”

Mount of Transfiguration, Ed Knippers, 21st century, United States

Jesus transformed

9:28-35 What is going on here?  The Harvard Professor François Bovon says that for centuries readers of this passage have been uncomfortable and difficult (Hermeneia: Luke 1, pp. 371-33).  Moses and Elijah two of the greatest Old Testament prophets appear.  Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah representing the end of days, join with Jesus who represents their traditions together.  The voice of God, as it did at Jesus’ baptism, announces that Jesus is God’s son.

One reason this story has been tricky for Christians, if Jesus has been fully God’s son all along, why the need for this great “transformation”?  If we remember that Luke told us from the start that Jesus “matured” in favor with God, we can see that Jesus identity has always been divine, but Jesus’ human nature allows Jesus to mature into an awareness of his divinity.

28 About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him.31 They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him.

33 As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. 34 Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe.

35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” 36 Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They were speechless and at the time told no one what they had seen.

Jesus heals a boy

37 The next day, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to take a look at my son, my only child. 39 Look, a spirit seizes him and, without any warning, he screams. It shakes him and causes him to foam at the mouth. It tortures him and rarely leaves him alone.40 I begged your disciples to throw it out, but they couldn’t.”

41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and crooked generation, how long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him down and shook him violently. Jesus spoke harshly to the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father. 43 Everyone was overwhelmed by God’s greatness.

Jesus warns about his arrest

While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Take these words to heart: the Human One is about to be delivered into human hands.” 45 They didn’t understand this statement. Its meaning was hidden from them so they couldn’t grasp it. And they were afraid to ask him about it.

Jesus corrects the disciples

9:46, 50 Missing the point.  For all Jesus has taught about humility, the disciples were arguing about who was greatest.  In classic Jesus fashion, he upsets expectations and shows them a child.  Later thinking they uniquely could do good in the world, they are shocked at someone they don’t know casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but Jesus says, “whoever isn’t against you is for you.

46 An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest47 Aware of their deepest thoughts, Jesus took a little child and had the child stand beside him. 48 Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me. Whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever is least among you all is the greatest.”

49 John replied, “Master, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he isn’t in our group of followers.”

50 But Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him, because whoever isn’t against you is for you.”

Jesus sets out for Jerusalem

51 As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, he determined to go to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers on ahead of him. Along the way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival, 53 but the Samaritan villagers refused to welcome him because he was determined to go to Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to consume them?”55 But Jesus turned and spoke sternly to them, 56 and they went on to another village.

Following Jesus

57 As Jesus and his disciples traveled along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One has no place to lay his head.”

59 Then Jesus said to someone else, “Follow me.”

He replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and spread the news of God’s kingdom.”

61 Someone else said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say good-bye to those in my house.”

62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.”

Things to Think About
  • Confronted with the question, “Who do you say I am?” the 20th century theologian C.S. Lewis, famous for his Chronicles of Narnia books, argued we have a dramatic choice to make: “He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 40-41.)  Do you agree with Lewis?  Is there any middle ground on belief about Jesus?  How has Luke so far helped you decide what you feel about your answer to that Jesus’ question?
  • If you know people doing good in the world who do not call themselves Christian, what does verse 50, “But Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him, because whoever isn’t against you is for you” tell us about how Jesus feels about them and how Christians should feel about them?
A Prayer

Nourishing God,
You feed me and you give me the strength I need each day
And you call me to share what I have
Forgive me for greed and fill me with generosity

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