Luke 9
Luke 9 Kingcomments Bible Studies

The Twelve Sent Out

The Lord calls His twelve disciples together to Him. It originates from Him. He also gives what is necessary for the service, both spiritually and materially. He provides them with power and authority. Power has to do with the ability, the energy, to do something; authority is the right to use the power. He gives them power and authority “over all the demons”. They will encounter them frequently in their service to counteract them in their service work and if possible to prevent them from doing their service. He also gives them power and authority “to heal diseases”. Thus the Lord as the Almighty provides His disciples with what is necessary to show the grace of God to men.

After providing them with power and authority, He sends them out with the instruction “to proclaim the kingdom of God”. That is what it is all about. He wants people to know that this kingdom of God is coming, that it is at hand. The healing of the sick is the sign that the preaching is a blessing for the hearers.

Then the Lord gives the necessary instructions. They don’t have to worry about anything when it comes to their own needs. That is unnecessary ballast that will only hinder them in fulfilling their mission. He wants them to be able to dedicate themselves completely to their task and concentrate on that alone.

Anything that people normally take care of when they go on a journey, and what is justified to do, should be renounced by His disciples. The Lord wants them to realize the importance of the need for undivided dedication to their mission. They can count on Him to take care of them. Later they will also acknowledge that He has taken care of them (Lk 22:35).

Nor should they worry about finding a place to stay. If they are received hospitably in a house, they must stay there. That house will be their base of operations. From there they will go into the city every morning to preach the kingdom of God, and there they can return in the evening.

They must also take into account the fact that there will be cities where they are not welcome. Then they have to leave that city. They have to shake the dust from that city off their feet that came on them when they brought their message there. It is a sign: if that city rejects them, they cannot have any fellowship with that city. It will not fare differently for the disciples than it fared for Him.

The twelve leave and fulfill their mission. Wherever they go, they preach the gospel and heal according to the word of the Lord. Thus the testimony of the Lord is extended considerably, so that even Herod hears of Him.

Herod Is Greatly Perplexed

When Herod hears everything the disciples do, he doesn’t know what to think about it. There’s all kinds of rumors going around (cf. Lk 9:18-19). His conscience is appealed to, for some say that John had risen from the dead. Actually, dead has been raised. That rumor will also have been penetrated everywhere. But if people don’t know the details, they let themselves be carried away by their own imaginations formed by a deformed conscience.

In addition to the name of John, the name of Elijah is mentioned, of whom he is said to have appeared. Still others speak of one of the old prophets had risen again. Fantasy has free rein when people just are led by rumors. Only when we are in connection with the Lord and His Word we are preserved for expressing or believing such uncontrolled opinions.

When Herod hears the name of John, he thinks for a moment about the possibility that he might have risen (Mt 14:2). He also rejects that possibility, for after all he has beheaded John. What Herod hears are rumors about what the disciples do, but he rightly concludes that it all comes from the Lord Jesus. He wonders Who He is. It is, however, only natural interest, a wondering about the supernatural, without sincere desire for the truth. His desire to see Him will be fulfilled, but different than he imagined (Lk 23:8-11).

The Apostles and the Crowds With the Lord

When the apostles have fulfilled their mission, they return to the Lord and tell Him everything they have done. It is also always good for us to go to the Lord with all that we have been able to do. All work for Him must not be to our own honor, but to His honor. He has given the command for it and also the power to do it. And if there is any result, it is thanks to Him. Moreover, it seems that the disciples are more filled with the power and authority they have been able to exercise because they report this to the Lord. We do not hear that they are telling Him about the preaching and the results of it.

Then He takes them with Him to be alone with them again for a moment. For this He chooses the city of Bethsaida. There is a house where He is welcome, with His disciples. There is rest to talk to them about their mission and to give them further teaching about it. When the crowds notice that He is going with His disciples to Bethsaida, they follow Him. The Lord Jesus will also have spoken with His disciples along the way about the development of their mission. Then He is open again to receive the crowds.

However great the unbelief of the crowds may be, again in grace He is their Servant and preaches to them and cures their sick. He does not refer the crowds to the disciples or tell the disciples that they have a new possibility for their service. He Himself does what He has instructed the disciples to do when He sent them out (Lk 9:2). He does it Himself to let His disciples again hear and see how He approaches the crowds.

Five Thousand Fed

The Lord is engaged until late in the afternoon. It won’t be long before it becomes evening. The twelve notice it and think that the Lord might have forgotten the time. They remind Him of the time and suggest to Him that He sends the crowd away. Their argument sounds plausible, because they want to give the crowd the opportunity to provide shelter and food in time. They do see that there is nothing to be found in the immediate vicinity. At the same time, their proposal is also ill-considered. How can a crowd of five thousand men alone find shelter and provisions in a short time?

The problems the disciples see are not there for the Lord. He wants to teach them a new lesson. He commands them to feed the crowd. That seems to be an impossible task for the disciples. How can He ask that? They have only five loaves and two fish at their disposal.

The problem of the disciples is that they judge the difficulty in the light of their own abilities and resources rather than looking at the problem form the Lord’s point of view. The only possibility they see is that they go and buy food “for all these people”. But the Lord does not expect practical tips for fulfilling a commission He gives. While fulfilling their mission, they experienced that He provided them with the necessary means to fulfill the mission He gave them. Apparently they have forgotten that, just as we too often forget what He has already shown us of Himself.

The company is large. The disciples have said: “Send the crowd away.” The Lord says: “Have them sit down.” To get everything running in an orderly way, He gives His disciples the instruction to divide the large company in ’eating groups’ of about fifty people per ’eating group’. Those fifty have a common meal in a special way.

This can be compared to local churches. All believers of a local church are part of the large, worldwide church, but locally they experience fellowship in a special way. They form an ’eating group’ that is brought together by the Lord through His servants to have fellowship with Him and with one another at His table.

The disciples do what the Lord has said and make sure that they all sit down and come to rest. The attitude of rest is the good attitude to receive the blessing from Him.

The Lord takes the five loaves and the two fish. Before He multiplies them, He looks up to heaven and in that way openly connects His action with God. It was Adam’s sin that he took and ate without looking up to heaven. The Lord blesses the food, He expresses thanksgiving for it, recognizing it as a gift from God. Adam didn’t do that either because he couldn’t do that.

Then He breaks it. Only by breaking something can it be multiplied. When we break something, it has often lost its value to us. If God breaks something, or if we break something for God, the value increases. We see this in it’s biggest and most glorious way at the institution of the Supper. There we read how the Lord Jesus takes bread and breaks it and says: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:24). And what a huge crowd, the church, has come forth out of His body that was broken to death. What a multiplication!

The result of His multiplication is not only that all can eat, but also that all are satisfied and that there are even twelve baskets left with broken pieces. If the Lord provides, He does not do so half and not even only fully, but abundantly. He provides not only for the moment, but also for the future. With this wonder He has given them a special proof of the power and presence of God in their midst. According to Psalm 132 He satisfied the poor of His people with bread as Yahweh (Psa 132:15).

Who Is Jesus?

After His busy activities with the crowd, the Lord feels the need to pray. For this He withdraws to be alone. This is also important for us. When we have been engaged in our work, in which our attention has been taken up by all sorts of things, we need to withdraw for a moment to speak with the Lord.

The disciples are with Him, but do not disturb Him. When He has finished praying, He has a question for them. This question arises from His prayer. He has spoken with His Father about how the people react to His message. Now He wants to teach His disciples about this. They must be aware of the people’s mind and their thoughts about Him.

The disciples know what thoughts about Him are circulating. These are the same thoughts that have also reached Herod’s ears (Lk 9:7-8). These opinions indicate that the attention of the people has been aroused, but that they do not go beyond speculations of the human spirit about the Savior.

It is good to know the opinions of others about the Lord, but the big question is of course Who the disciples, and we ourselves, say He is. The Lord then asks His disciples about this, a question to which we must give an answer as well.

Peter answers convincedly that He is “the Christ of God”. The Lord Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ – all names with the same meaning – Who comes from God, belongs to God, is God Himself. When we are convinced of Who He is, we will make Him known as such. The disciples were no longer allowed to do that at that time in history.

First Announcement of the Suffering

After Peter’s wonderful testimony that He is the Christ of God, the Lord gives them the warning and the order not to say this to others. This order must have surprised them because so far their testimony about Him has been precisely that He is the Christ. The Lord makes it clear to them that the moment has come when not His earthly glory as Messiah lies before Him, but His death and His resurrection as the Son of Man.

His title “Son of Man” has a larger scope than “Messiah”. Messiah He is to His people Israel, while He, as the Son of Man, is connected with all men and all creation. His suffering and death have consequences not only for His earthly people, but for all creation.

It is mainly the religious leaders of His people who will kill Him. They cherish a deadly hatred against Him. For now, the crowds are not yet against Him. They just seek Him, they are attracted by Him. Only when the Lord is captured they get under the influence of the leaders and turn massively against Him. So influenceable is the popular opinion if there is no personal faith in Christ.

Take Up the Cross and Follow

Directly following what He said about His suffering, rejection and death, He tells His disciples that this will also be part of all who want to follow Him. This suffering then only concerns the suffering done to them by people. In His atoning suffering on the cross no one can follow Him or share in it. He did that work all alone. He was the only One Who could do it. But following Him on His way of defamation through this world is open to anyone who wants it. However, there are conditions attached to it in order to actually be able to do it.

The first condition is that someone must deny himself, that is to say that he puts his own will in the hands of the Lord Jesus and no longer pursues the things he himself wants. That is an inner matter. The second condition is to take up his cross, that is to say that he is prepared to undergo the reproach that the world has for him. That is an outer matter. Someone who went through the city with a cross on his back to the place of execution was a target of mockery for the people. Such a person had nothing more to expect from life, his sentence was fixed and he was on his way to the place where his life would end. That is what the Lord asks of a disciple when He puts this before him.

He doesn’t ask us to occasionally do something great for Him, some heroic act that people admire and about which a book can be written or a movie can be made. He wants us to identify “daily” with Him in His rejection. It has to be made true every day. This requires perseverance and not an occasional act of faith.

No matter how foolish it sounds, the way of life is the way of self-denial and the taking up of the cross. If we don’t go that way because we want to enjoy life here and now, if we want to save our lives, then the result will be that we lose it. But if we lose our lives for His sake, that is to say, if we give control of it to Him, we will save it. It comes down to faith in Him and His promises and that while He is on His way to the cross. It means choosing His side and following Him on that way.

The Lord also appeals to the sober mind. Imagine that you win the whole world, but you lose yourself, you’re going down, you will perish by it, or you will forfeit yourself, that means you suffer spiritual damage (1Cor 3:15), you suffer detriment, what is the profit of it? You can enjoy it briefly and only to a limited extent. When your stomach is full, you just have to stop eating, even though there are tons of the most delicious food around you. If you have access to the whole world, you can go anywhere you want and do anything you want, but it stops once. And then? Then comes eternity, where only what you have done for the Lord Jesus in your life counts.

Whoever wants to follow the Lord Jesus must be like Him. Whoever wants to follow Him, but does not want to be like Him, does not want to be identified with Him, but is ashamed of Him and His words, will be treated by Him in the same way when He comes back in glory.

The Lord makes us clear in a warning way what we lose if we confess Him outwardly, but deny Him as soon as it costs us anything. We lose His recognition. To be ashamed of Him means to be afraid to stand up for Him, so there is no testimony of Him. If He comes in His majesty, He will openly acknowledge all who have shared in His rejection, but He will then openly be ashamed of all who have been ashamed of Him in His rejection. The shame of the Lord means that He will not be able to recognize such a person as one who belongs to Him.

He comes in His glory, that is His own glory as the Son of Man. Then there is no more humiliation, but glorious majesty. He also comes in the glory of His Father. The glory of the Father is then not only heard in the voice at His baptism, or on the mountain of transfiguration as we see in the following verses, but will then be impressively visible to all. When He comes in His glory, also the holy angels are with Him. They will not announce Him as born on earth with as a sign a child wrapped in cloths, but on His command they will collect everything that is offensive from His kingdom and burn it with fire.

The Lord Jesus in His Glory

When the Lord Jesus has spoken in this way about His coming in glory, He promises some of those who stand with Him that they will see that glory before they die. That is, they will not only see the kingdom after they have died and in due course be raised to enter the kingdom, but during their life they will see the kingdom of God in its glorious and final form.

This announcement is fulfilled after only about eight days. Luke speaks of “some eight days” because the number eight represents the beginning of a new period. The number seven represent a complete period. The seventh day, the Sabbath, is fulfilled in the glory of the realm of peace. The new of the eighth day is the establishment of the kingdom of God, of which Christ is the radiant center and of which the glory flows into eternity (2Pet 1:11; 2Pet 3:18).

The Lord takes Peter, John and James with Him because later they will be pillars in the church (Gal 2:9) and He wants to strengthen their faith to that end. By doing so, they will also be able to strengthen the faith of others. The Lord’s goal to go up the mountain is to pray. This is again a striking and characteristic remark for Luke representing Him as the dependent Man.

While He is praying, His face gets a different look and also His clothing changes. His face was that of an ordinary person, a face that did not stand out among other faces. Now it changes. Luke only notes that it becomes different, that it undergoes a metamorphosis. His face gets the glory that fits the glory of heaven. It is a glory that we also receive when we look at Him in His glory, because thereby we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2Cor 3:18).

Luke also mentions that His clothing becomes white and gleaming. His clothing indicates His appearance, His behavior. His behavior among people is always of unstained, radiant beauty, but only those who have an eye for it see that. You can’t see that in His appearance. Now it also becomes externally perceptible. This is part of His appearance in glory.

Moses and Elijah Talk With the Lord

The saints also belong to His appearance in glory. They are part of the glory that Christ will have when He appears in His kingdom. In this scene we see saints together who never met on earth because they were separated by many centuries. All saints are represented in two great men of God, one of whom represents the period of the law and the other the period of the prophets.

Moses was the legislator and Elijah was the man who called back to the law a people who had been turned away from the law. In Moses we see a picture of the deceased believers and in Elijah a picture of the believers who are raptured without dying. Both groups share with Christ the glory of the kingdom by virtue of His death. Moses and Elijah speak to Him about this death.

In their own time, Moses and Elijah talked about other things. Moses gave the law, and Elijah made an effort to bring the people back to it so that the blessing might come. Now that there is talk of the new glory, everything depends on the death of Christ and only on it. Everything else disappears.

The believers are in the same glory as the Lord Jesus. They are there with Him and speak confidentially with Him about things that are closest to His heart. They talk about His “departure”, that is, about His suffering and death as His departure from the world to return to heaven. The word used here for ‘departure’ is the word ‘exodus’ known to us from the similarly named book of the Bible. In that book the word refers to the ‘exodus’ of the Israelites from Egypt. Here Moses, who was the leader of that exodus, speaks about the exodus of Christ, of which the exodus from Egypt is a picture.

This makes it clear that His exodus also means the exodus of His people from this world. This is what the believers think of when they celebrate the Supper. At the Lord’s Supper they eat and drink to remember Him Who suffered and died and proclaim His “departure”, His death (1Cor 11:26). They do so “until He comes” to also make them go out of the world to go to Him in the air (1Thes 4:17).

Moses and Elijah speak as those who understand God’s counsels, for His departure has not yet taken place.

Peter’s Proposal

The climb up the mountain has probably been quite strenuous for the men. When the Lord has gone into prayer, Peter and the other two disciples are overcome with sleep. They are so little impressed by their praying Master that they could not resist the sleep that overwhelmed them. As a result, they miss much of the Lord’s conversation with the two men standing with Him. Fortunately, they are not awake thus late that they don’t see anything of the whole scene. And for this they were allowed to go up the mountain.

Often we too miss much of the glory of the Lord Jesus due to indulgence in earthly needs at times when we would have to put them in the background. We sleep at times when we need to be awake and are awake when we need to sleep, like in the storm on the lake.

By the grace of God they still get an impression of His glory. They also see the two men standing with Him. It is an exalted scene in connection with heaven, and at the same time it takes place on earth and perceivable persons take part in it. The disciples wake up when the two men are about to leave the Lord.

Peter, the first one mentioned as having been overcome with sleep, is also the first to react to what he sees. Impulsive as he is, he wants to hold on to this scene. This is because he missed what Moses and Elijah spoke about with the Lord. If he had heard that, he might have understood that this transfiguration was a passing matter, a foretaste, because first there is another departure to accomplish by Him at Jerusalem. Because he does not understand the actual situation and only relies on what he sees at that moment, he concludes in hubris that it is good that “we” are here. He places himself on the same level with the Lord.

This is always the case with believers when they sleep, while the Lord speaks of His suffering. His speaking about the suffering then passes them by. Such believers think only of glory and they want to hold on to it, sometimes even enforce it. They float on their emotions of the moment. Just like Peter, they don’t know what they are saying. Peter wants to make three tents. He puts the Lord first, but still places Moses and Elijah on an equal footing with Him. Peter shows good intentions, but they do lead to wrong conclusions. The Father therefore intervenes immediately.

The Testimony of the Father

As soon as Peter has made his impulsive remark, or perhaps while he is still making it, a cloud comes over them like a shadow. The word ‘overshadowed’ is the same word that the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – uses for the coming and filling of the tabernacle by the cloud. In the Gospel according to Matthew we see that it is a light cloud. So it is the cloud of glory that was in the wilderness with Israel. It is the cloud in which God dwells. God spoke with Moses from the cloud at the time and Moses entered the cloud (Exo 24:16; 18). Here Moses enters it with the Lord and together with Elijah.

This sight causes fear among the three disciples. From the cloud comes a voice that cannot be another voice than that of the Father. The Son of Man Who will be killed on earth is acknowledged in the majestic glory as the Son of the Father. Yahweh makes Himself known as Father through the revelation of the Son. For the Father only He is important and exalted above all and everyone.

The disciples hear how the Father points to Him as His chosen Son. When He has been revealed, it is no longer a matter of listening to Moses or Elijah, but the call is heard: “Listen to Him!” Throughout the Old Testament the great call is “hear Moses”; and when the people have deviated from God, the great call is “hear Elijah”. But Moses and Elijah disappear when He appears. Not that He brings anything different than Moses and Elijah, for what they have spoken are His words. Only now He speaks personally and no longer through the mouths of the great prophets.

While the Father expresses His exclusive pleasure in the Son, Moses and Elijah disappear, the Son remaining alone. He is found alone. He is incomparable with anybody. People who try to compare Him to other people have never heard the Father’s voice about his Son.

The disciples are embarrassed with what they have seen and heard. They feel that they cannot communicate this to others, at least not in those days. Peter will talk about it later in his second letter (2Pet 1:16-18).

Healing of a Lunatic Boy

The Lord has been with His disciples for (a part of) a day and a night on the mountain. Peter had wanted to stay there, but the glory was not yet definite there. They have to go down again. There a large crowd meets the Lord. On the mountain there was undisturbed glory. At the foot of the mountain there is hopeless distress and misery due to the present power of satan. It is the difference between heaven and earth.

We also know this experience. We can have moments of undisturbed fellowship with the Lord when we read His Word or listen to it in a meeting. We forget everything around us and see the Lord Jesus in His glory. Then we have to return to everyday life and are confronted with the misery and need, either of ourselves or of people around us. Yet even then the Lord is there and He can be called, as this father does from the crowd.

He calls upon the Lord because of his only begotten son. He asks Him to “look at” his son, that is, to look in compassion and offer help. It is calling for the Lord’s favor. Mary uses the same word in her song of praise when she says that God, her Savior, “has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave“ (Lk 1:48a). ‘Regard for’ has the meaning of ‘look at’. Thus God, our Savior in Christ, still looks in compassion at people in their humiliation and need to offer help.

The man has a son he isn’t able to control, over whom he has lost control. The boy is in the power of a spirit, an unclean spirit, that controls him. The man sees its effect in the behavior of his boy, which he describes openly to the Lord. He does not paint an edifying picture of his child: screaming, convulsing, foaming. He is desperate. The father has no choice but to stand by helplessly as his boy is being abused.

But now the Lord Jesus is there, that is to say His disciples, for the Lord was on the mountain. The father has thought that His disciples could deliver his son. He has begged the disciples to cast out the spirit from his son. They tried it, but they couldn’t. They had no authority over the demon. Previously the Lord had given them this power and authority (Lk 9:1), and they had used it, but now they lacked the necessary faith.

The Lord can entrust us with a gift, but there must also be fellowship with Him to exercise that gift. Apparently the nine disciples left behind were as ‘sleepy’ as the three on the mountain. They had forgotten Who the Lord is and what He had given them.

As followers of the Lord we often disappoint people who expect certain things from us as His followers. We confess to follow and serve a Lord Who gives outcome in distress. Then we raise certain expectations with people. If they call on us, how do we respond? It is not a question of being able to solve all the needs that exist. The Lord has not done so either. The question is whether we are attentive and sympathetic to people in need, to go together with them to the Lord. If we try it by ourselves, the disappointment will be great.

Fortunately, the Lord Jesus comes at the right moment from the mountain and the father calls Him. The Lord is indignant because of the lack of faith among His disciples. He calls them an “unbelieving … generation” and asks Himself how long He will be with them, how long He will be able to deal with those who show so little faith. His patience with unbelief will have an end.

To the father He says to bring his son “here”, that is to Him. The demon doesn’t like to come near the Lord Jesus, but he also knows that he cannot escape the power of Christ. Before the demon is cast out, he will make every effort to cause the boy as much damage as possible. The Lord rebukes the unclean spirit. Then He also heals the child because he suffered a lot from the demon. He then gives the child back to his father. Also here He restores the parent-child relationship (Lk 7:15; Lk 8:55).

The father gets a new chance to take care of his son. We don’t know how the boy got the unclean spirit. However, we can make an application for today. Many parents do not know what their children see of pornographic pictures and magazines and movies. As a result, the impurity enters the child and it will show uncontrolled behavior. It can get out of hand in such a way that the child is no longer controllable. When parents are near despair, they can take refuge to the Lord Jesus for their children. It is never too late for that.

Second Announcement of Suffering

All those who have seen Christ’s performance in favor of the boy are amazed at the greatness of God. Always the deeds of the Lord Jesus make one think of God. They are amazed and wonder at everything He does. His deeds appeal to them. This profits them, here is Someone at work Who can help them.

However, the Lord does not seek the admiration of men for His deeds. For this reason He has a word for His disciples that they should let sink into their ears. He wants them to be deeply aware of the fact that the Son of Man will not be honored, but executed. Instead of receiving tribute from men, the Son of Man will be delivered into their hands. They will not worship Him as the Son of God, but condemn Him as if He were a great criminal. Their admiration is only temporary and superficial and will turn into contempt.

These words are so important that He places particular emphasis to take them in. However, they do not understand what He is talking about, even if He tells them – not in prophetic form, not with difficult imagery, but – with the simplest words, what will happen. Here we see that understanding Scripture has nothing to do with the language used. The true cause that something remains dark lies in the heart of man.

The disciples are not ready to face the consequences of what the Lord has just said. They still only take into account a ruling Messiah. They don’t want to think of a suffering Messiah. Therefore, what He has said remains concealed from them and they do not perceive it.

The disciples leave the matter alone, for they are afraid to ask Him about that word. Maybe they feel that they will then hear things they don’t like to hear. The real condition of their heart is shown in the next event and then we also see why they don’t like and are unable to think about His suffering and why that remains concealed from them.

The Greatest in the Kingdom

In Lk 9:46-56 we see that we are not only dealing with powers around us, but also with a power within us. That power is the flesh. We see three different sides of the selfish flesh in the believer that prevent him from walking in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus.
First there is personal selfishness, finding oneself important and measuring oneself against others (Lk 9:46-48).
In Lk 9:49-50 we find a second form of selfishness. This is more about collective selfishness, the importance of the group, of the community of which we are a part.
The third form of selfishness is the selfishness which is clothed with the appearance of zeal for the Lord, but without being truly in tune with Him (Lk 9:51-56).

In Lk 9:46-48 we see that the disciples discuss which of them might be the greatest. That is a bad thing. They all find themselves more important than the other and they demand the best post in the kingdom their Master is going to establish. Here we find the true reason for why the words the Lord has proclaimed about His rejection and suffering remain concealed. If that happened to Him, nothing would come true of their dream.

Dreaming of a top position in the coming realm is a pleasant activity. However there is competition. So there is need for a talk about the division of the posts, because it is better to make it clear what you are best at and which ministry you want to be in charge of, rather than occupying an insignificant place later on. The lobby has begun.

The Lord sees what is going on in their hearts. He wants to teach them a lesson by a child He stands by His side. He “took” this child. He has it at his disposal, without having to ask the parents for permission. He “stood him by His side“, He identifies Himself with it. By this action He shows the value of a child.

A child does not count in the eyes of adult people. Children do not contribute to solving the great issues of life. Sometimes they are even experienced as annoying in pursuing a career. And the disciples are busy with the latter.

The Lord points out to them the child standing with Him, and speaks of receiving him in His Name. He binds His Name to this child. He who sees Him in this child and therefore receives the child, receives Him. As unpretentious as this child is, He is. Someone must be as uncompromising as He is to have an eye for it. Not to stand on his rights, not to claim his due, is what He shows and in which He asks to be followed.

He who shares this with Him, receives all those in this world who are not counted with because of their conformity to Him. By receiving them, they receive the Lord Jesus, and by receiving Him, they receive His Sender, God. That is the reward for anyone who wants to be the least and gives priority to others. True greatness is connected to and seen in everyone who wants to take the least place. We see this true greatness in Christ. The disciples are far away from it with their quarrels about whom of them is the greatest.

‘Who Is Not Against You …’

John may feel addressed by what the Lord has just said that he is quoting an event that has taken place before. He remembers that a while ago they saw someone who was busy casting out demons in the Name of the Lord. Of course that was not possible, because the man had not joined them. Therefore they – he and his fellow disciples – have tried to prevent him.

By using the word “us”, John shows that he and the others value the collective, the group. They make ‘us’ important, while the Lord has just made it clear that the only important thing is His ‘Name’. In addition, the man has done something in which they themselves have recently failed (Lk 9:40).

John and his fellow disciples are undoubtedly in the right place, with the Lord, but that does not mean that others are not. For example, the Lord sent the man who was demon-possessed, who would have liked to stay with Him, home to witness there (Lk 8:38-39). In this way He has a separate commandment for each of His own and also independently of the group to which we belong.

In what John says, sounds that, as far as he is concerned, someone can only follow the Lord if he has joined the group to which he himself belongs. To think that only one’s own group guarantees to be used by the Lord is pride and sectarianism. The Lord rebukes John. He must not prevent any work happening in His Name. That work is not aimed against them, but for them.

The Lord does not speak of ‘against Me’ or ‘for Me’, but of “against you” and “for you”. Whether John likes it or not, the Lord connects the work of this man with the work that the disciples are allowed to do. The man is not a competitor, but a co-worker in the Lord’s service. It is sometimes difficult to accept that the Lord blesses others who go a different way than we do, more than us. It is a shame to speak ill of this or even to want to prevent it.

Refusal to Receive the Lord

Here Luke begins to describe the events that lead to the suffering and death of the Lord in Jerusalem. This section continues until Luke 19:44. The Lord Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem. He looks farther then His suffering and death for thereafter He will ascend to heaven. He sees the joy before Him, which will help Him endure the cross and despise the shame (Heb 12:2). Like the expression “His departure” (Lk 9:31), the expression “days … for His ascension” is also an expression used only by Luke and not by the other evangelists.

Although He knows what awaits Him in Jerusalem, He sends out His messengers as true King to prepare His coming. He chooses a village of Samaritans as an intermediate station. What a grace it is for Him to visit this village on his journey to Jerusalem to make them familiar with the grace of God. But the Samaritans do not receive Him. The disciples, in their search for a place of abode, will have told about the purpose of their Master, where He is traveling to. He is travelling to Jerusalem on the occasion of the upcoming Passover – not to participate in it, but to fulfill it.

When the Samaritans hear where He is heading, they close their doors to Him. They declare Him an unwanted Person. They have not recognized the time of their visitation. Yet later, grace went also to them and many of the Samaritans, possibly also in this village, have heard that He died in Jerusalem and that it is also for them (Acts 8:5-8; 12; 25).

The Samaritans’ attitude fills the brothers James and John with anger. Here their Master is dishonored. They cannot tolerate this. They suggest that they let fire come down from heaven to consume them. Did Elijah not do the same when they treated him disrespectfully (2Kgs 1:10; 12)?

Their proposal stems from the feeling of being important because of their connection with the Lord. If their Lord is treated disrespectfully, they feel it as a personal insult. Because by this action they actually only want to maintain themselves, they become blind to the grace that characterizes their Master, exactly when dishonor is done to Him. They want to bring fire down from heaven, while their Lord has come from heaven to bring grace.

He does not want to have anything to do with a spirit as expressed in the brothers. He turns His back on them and rebukes them for their proposal. They do not realize of what spirit they are, what their mind is. What they want is strange to His thoughts of grace. What they propose does not come from Him.

He, the Son of Man, did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. How little have they understood what His Name ‘Son of Man’ means. He has truly become a Man, a Man as God means him to be. God has sent Him as Man among men to show His pleasure in men. And now they want Him to give them permission to destroy the precious souls of men by sending down fire from heaven.

As with the Gerasenes (Lk 8:37) the Lord accepts the refusal to receive Him and goes to another village. That is the mind of grace that does not demand, but humbles itself, making that mind shine even more.

Following the Lord

Following the Lord brings one into all kinds of situations that allow Him to teach His disciple. In these situations, the motives of a disciple’s heart come to the surface. Someone can only follow the Lord when He calls him to do so. When a person says from himself, “I will follow You wherever You go”, it sounds good at first hearing, but it has to be made clear from which source this desire originates. For it can come from the deceitful will of man, while a person can only be a good follower if he has heard the powerful calling of grace.

If there is a real calling of grace, it means the necessity to let go of all things that may prevent us from obeying that calling. When the Lord calls, the difficulties and obstacles will be felt. We see that in the following cases.

But first we see someone who wants to follow the Lord in his own power, someone who thinks he is able to so. Such a man will fail in following Christ. When Peter later said something similar, he denied Him shortly thereafter (Lk 22:33). One servant-girl was enough to frighten the most important of the apostles. He started to curse and swear that he did not know Him (Mk 14:71). The optimism of self-awareness must be denounced by the Lord. Peter experienced this by his fall.

Someone who is about to follow Him will be told the consequences by Him. Possibly the man came and wanted to follow Him because there was something to win. It seemed to him to be beneficial. The Lord says that He has nothing to give him, not even a place to rest. Those who follow Him are worse off than foxes and birds, for these animals have at least a place of rest and protection.

He can offer His followers nothing but shame, suffering and loneliness. He had no place of rest, He could not lay His head down anywhere. How could He do that in a world that lies in sin? It was only on the cross that He was able to put His head down at rest after He had accomplished the work for sin. He “bowed His head” (Jn 19:30) is the same word as here “to lay His head“.

When someone offers himself to follow Him, He illustrates the reality of His rejection. He does this to slow down carnal enthusiasm. It’s another case when the Lord calls. As said, then come the objections, and the obstacles are felt. Just letting go of everything and face an uncertain future is too much for the flesh. Suddenly there are all kinds of things that have yet to happen “first”. These are not sinful things, they are good things in themselves.

Surely burying a father is allowed, and can’t we say it’s even according to the Lord’s will? In His answer, the Lord does not make clear that the man did not have to take it so hard with the (last) tribute to His father. What matters to this man is whether Christ is more to his heart than anything or anyone else in the whole world.

This man is not only called to follow Christ, but to be a witness to Him, to proclaim the kingdom of God. How will that go in his contact with other people, if he has no faith to give up everything for Christ? The message is so urgent that there can be no delay. The (spiritual) dead may well bury the (physical) dead, but they cannot possibly proclaim the kingdom of God. Only those who are called by the Lord can do so.

Another person who is apparently also called by the Lord has another excuse. To him, the problem is not leaving the dead, but the living. He first wants to say good-bye properly to those who are of his household. Again, this is something that is permissible in itself, but in this case prevents a direct obedience to a command of the Lord. Whoever wants to follow the Lord must be prepared to break radically with family relationships, as James and John did (Mt 4:22).

Preaching the kingdom is a matter of looking ahead. It is everything or it is nothing. It cannot be the kingdom of the true God if it allows its servants to be held up by all kinds of trivial things. Christ is the First and the Last and He should be everything to the heart, otherwise He loses all importance to the heart through satan’s tricks.

Looking back can become fatal, as with the wife of Lot (Gen 19:17; 26) who with her heart was attached to the things of this life and even in the light of the judgment did not come loose from it. You cannot build on someone who pursues two interests (Jam 1:8). The Lord’s service requires undivided dedication.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

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