Luke 9 Part 3

37. Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.

Notice that the Lord and His three disciples did not come down from the mountain until the next day. What they did during this time the rest of that day and the evening and night is not recorded for us. We can only imagine being able to spend time like this fellowshipping with the Lord! Certainly they must have had many questions about what they had just seen. Perhaps the Lord explained it to them, much more than we have in the Scripture account. It could well be that this is when Peter learned that what they had seen was a vision of His parousia, as he testified in II Peter 1:16.

Now the next day they come down from the mountain, and the Lord is met by a great multitude. As usual, we see that He is extremely popular. He was not outcast and rejected by the crowds, as some try to make out. It was generally the leadership in Israel that truly was rejecting Him. Among the common people, He was extremely popular. We could not really ask for them to have responded more enthusiastically to His ministry.

38. Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.

As the crowd is greeting Him, suddenly a man from the crowd cries out and draws all attention to himself. He is imploring the Lord on behalf of his son, his only child. Surely every concern one would have for his children is magnified if he has only one. A person with multiple children, if one is having troubles, can be comforted by his other children. But woe to the parent who has only one child, and that one is in distress!

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 man now describes in grim detail the horrible circumstances that surrounded his only child. We can imagine this man’s distress for his son. And what dire straits this boy was in! The mistreatment he was receiving at the hands of this spirit must have driven his father wild, yet nothing, it seemed, could be done for him. None had the power to stop this awful spirit or force it to cease the terrible distress it was causing this boy. At least, none except the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely when the father heard of Him, it seemed to him that at last there was some hope. How eagerly he must have seized on the hope that the Lord could help his boy. Any who have suffered from seeing loved ones in distress can sympathize with what this father must have been going through.

40. “So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

When this man came to find the Lord Jesus, he found that He had gone away into this mountain with His three closest disciples, and none were allowed to follow Him. Apparently this man was too eager for help to wait until these four came back down from the mountain, so he implored the other nine disciples to help him immediately. They must have felt sympathy for this man’s terrible plight, and did not wish to turn him away or disappoint him, so they had attempted to cast out this spirit. Yet they had failed. Certainly they had no right to attempt such a thing, for they had returned from the mission the Lord Jesus had sent them on when He had given them authority over spirits. Now that authority had returned to the One Who gave it to them, and they had no authority to cast out demons or work any other miracles unless He gave it to them again.

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.”

The Lord was upset by the lack of faith shown here, and so He soliloquizes a faithless and perverse generation. It is hard to pin down exactly what He meant. Certainly, the nine disciples were partially at fault. They should not have attempted this, for the power they had been given over spirits had been very specific. It was given in connection with a mission the Lord gave them, and was to be used as a witness to the truth of a message they were to give. It was not given to help any person who came to them and asked for it. So the Lord may have spoken of His disciples attempting to cast this spirit out without authority or permission from Him. He could have been upset by the attitude of the man, which seemed to imply that the healing the Lord did was just some secret formula His disciples could learn and do when He wasn’t there. He could have been upset by the attitude of the crowd, which was just interested in seeing miracles, and as soon as they saw any failure, began to doubt the ability of the Lord or His reputation. At any rate, something about this frustrated the Lord, and He made this comment. Yet we notice that He does not refuse to heal this man’s son in spite of the lack of faith He condemned. This flies in the face of those who claim that we don’t receive healings today because we don’t have enough faith. In the face of a lack of faith, the Lord still acted to heal. His power was not lessened by men not believing in it. He did not need men to clap and say “I do believe in fairies” to release His power, like what happens in the fantasy story Peter Pan.

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.

The demon seemed to know what was coming, and attacked the boy before he could reach the Lord. This rather infantile tactic did not work, however, and Christ, after rebuking the unclean spirit, heals the boy and gives him back to his father. We can only imagine this man’s joy and gratitude. Perhaps he had more faith after this demonstration of the generosity of God.

If anyone ever doubts it, this passage proves that a demon and an evil or unclean spirit are the same thing, for these names are used interchangeably. It is also important to note that a demon is a fallen spirit being, not a fallen angel. Though we do not doubt that there are what we call angelic beings who have sinned and fallen away from God to fight against Him, these are not what are called demons in the Bible. Demons are spirits that have fallen, not angels. I do not believe that these two are the same thing.

43. And they were all amazed at the majesty of God. But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples,

When these people saw this miracle, they were all amazed at the majesty of God. This is an example of what the Lord said a chapter later in Luke 10:22. “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Now, these people had seen a work that the Son did, and it caused them to understand the majesty of God.

Even as they marveled at this miracle, the Lord turned to His disciples to give them a startling announcement.

44. “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”

The Lord called upon them to let these words He spoke sink down into their ears. This is a figure of speech, of course, but its meaning is clear. He wanted them to pay the most careful attention to what He was about to say, and to seriously ponder and consider the things He said. Whether or not they understood His words, they were commanded to think upon them.

Then the Lord announced to His disciples the truth of His upcoming betrayal into the hands of men. He was not more specific in this case, but we know that this betrayal led finally to His death on the cross.

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.

We see that the disciples did not understand what He said. We note carefully that it is stated that they did not understand because it was hidden from them. Many seem to have the idea that almost everything was hidden from the disciples by their own slow-wittedness, and that they were basically a dumb and befuddled lot who rarely understood anything. Those who think this do not seem to grasp the fact that these men, in spite of whatever their intellectual shortcomings may have been, had the Lord Himself for their teacher. Thus we can only imagine how much truth they learned from the Lord during their time with Him. Yet they did not understand everything, but this was often because they were meant not to understand. Whenever Christ wanted them to understand something, we can be sure that they did indeed understand it. He was the Master Teacher, and He could not fail to get His lesson across.

Now the disciples had been called upon to pay the most careful attention to the Lord’s words. Yet they did not understand them. They did not follow up on this, however. They did not ask for further light. The reason we see here is that they were afraid to ask Him about this saying. This seems strange, for these were His disciples, and they generally did not seem afraid to ask Him anything. Something about this statement caused them to fear, however. Maybe it was the solemn emphasis the Lord gave to these words. Maybe it was the grim tone of it, and so they feared to find out exactly what this meant. At any rate, they were afraid, and so they did not ask further about these words, and the result was that they did not sink down into their ears at all. As far as we can tell, they quickly forgot about them.

46. Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.

Not understanding that Christ was heading for humiliation, not glory, the disciples’ thoughts turn to their own, personal gratification. Three of them had just seen a most amazing vision of the future, and the other nine had seen Him demonstrate powerfully His power over demons. These things had made a deep impression upon them. Yet the Lord’s solemn words to them of His upcoming betrayal had failed to make the impression the Lord wanted. Thus they were focused on glory, when Christ knew all that was coming was betrayal. Yet before we frown upon them too severely, let us think of how similar our own thoughts might be in the same situation!

Their discussion turns to which of them would be the greatest in the time to come. How the Lord’s words led to this we can only guess. Yet we can imagine the protestations of loyalty and superiority that various members of this group might have made. Some, like Peter, James, and John, might have pointed to their special place with the Lord, and being the three He chose for things like accompanying Him unto the mountain. Judas Iscariot could have brought in his trusted position as the treasurer for the disciples. Others might have mentioned their past lives, and how they had been greater than the others before they met the Lord. What thoughts and arguments were these, to be making when the Lord was facing the end of His witness, and His upcoming betrayal!

47. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him,

Apparently they were not disputing in front of the Lord, perhaps being ashamed to bicker in front of Him. Yet He knew what they were doing, perceiving what was truly in their hearts. Thus He takes this child and uses him as an example for them.

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.”

Even the little children who belong to God are of infinite importance in His sight. How much greater then was even the least of the disciples? How much better if they would be satisfied with what they had rather than arguing about what was not theirs to determine.

One who received such a child in His name received Him, and one who received the Lord Jesus received the One Who sent Him, the Father, as well. This shows the Lord’s identification with His people, and the identification of the Son with the Father. Yet the point of all this is to get them to think in a different way about greatness. He who is least among you, He tells them, will be great. Why then worry about who is greatest? They had a most exalted position, and yet were quibbling over which had more! Better to take the place of the humble child before God, and receive the blessings He would offer them for it.

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.”

Properly rebuked, John, perhaps somewhat ashamed, tells the Lord of a recent event wherein they had forbidden a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus Christ. It may be that the disciples just did not wish anyone else to have the power that they had received from Christ, particularly not after they themselves no longer had it. At any rate, John attempts to change the subject to this event, perhaps reminded of it by the words that the Lord had just said about “he who is least among you.” This one had not been among them, so was their rebuke of him correct?

50. But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”

The Lord disagrees with what John has told Him he and the disciples did. John’s attempt to change the subject did not work out too well for him. This was not the disciples’ banner day for pleasing the Lord.

The disciples really should have known better than to forbid this man. Certainly he could not have successfully cast out demons if he did not actually have power to do so from the Lord. This is clearly demonstrated for us in Acts 19:13-17, when the seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out a demon using the name of “Jesus whom Paul preaches.” This turned out to be a disaster for them, as the demon attacked them and drove them out naked and wounded. One could not cast out demons in the Lord’s name unless he had the God-given right to do so. Thus Christ tells His disciples not to forbid someone who was obviously on their side.

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,

Though we are still in the first half of Luke, we see that the record is already moving on to the end of His three-year ministry, and His final trip to Jerusalem before His death. The gospels do not give us an equal record of His entire ministry, but go into far more detail at the end. Thus, there is certainly room for events like the mission of the twelve in Matthew 10 within the three years that He ministered on earth.

The Lord’s mind was made up, and when the time came for Him to do what He came to earth to do, nothing could deter Him from His purpose. Notice that this was the right time because it was the time determined in advance by God. No other time would have done. Many in our day try to talk God into doing things that are just not right for Him to be doing at this time. It would be better for us if we would learn from the Bible what our times are and what God is doing in them, and then make our prayers accordingly.

52. And sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.

The Lord sent messengers before His face. The word “sent” here is the Greek aposteilen, and means that He commissioned them with His authority. This was not just a simple sending. The word “messengers” in Greek is aggelous, which is the word for angels.  The word “angel” just means “messenger,” and can refer to heavenly or human messengers. In this case, human messengers clearly are meant. The word “His face” is just a figure of speech meaning “Him.” Thus He was commissioning messengers to go before Him. We might say that they were giving advance notice of His coming, since He would be bringing a considerable crowd of people with Him. They also were preparing for His arrival, arranging things like food and lodging for those who traveled.

Thus, as they go, they enter a village of the Samaritans, and seek to prepare for His arrival. The Lord had commanded His disciples not to enter into any Samaritan city when He sent them out to proclaim (Matthew 10:5-6.) Yet they were not entering here to proclaim, but merely to pass through the city, and so it was not a violation of this command.

53. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Apparently these Samaritans might well have received the Lord if He would have stayed with them and proclaimed the Word to them. As we learn from John 4, there were certainly those in that country who were eager to meet the Messiah. Yet it seems that because these messengers let it be known that He was only passing through on His way to Jerusalem, they would not receive Him. This may well have been because of the long-standing feud between the Samaritans and the Jews. These men would not even receive the Lord into their city if He let it be known He was passing by them to minister in Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews. Many in our day seem to likewise be unwilling to receive a Jesus Who has love and compassion for the people of Israel, instead preferring to create in their own minds a Jesus Who has cast aside Israel and has no more use for them now or ever. Yet the Lord still loves Israel as much as He ever did, and it will not be long before His mercy will return to Jerusalem. How many in that day will be unwilling to accept Him because of this?

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?”

James and John, the Sons of Thunder, seem ready here to make an example of this Samaritan village. They want some great, miraculous punishment of God to fall upon this city because of their lack of hospitality toward the Lord Jesus. They must have had few good feelings toward the Samaritans themselves, and such a miracle worked by the Lord could not but have helped His popularity among the Israelites who hated the Samaritans, and their own fame as being His disciples and having done this would have increased. Yet this sort of display was not in His will.

They reference the precedent of Elijah calling down fire from heaven on men of Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel. We can examine this story in II Kings 1:9-16. Yet this was a poor precedent for the disciples to site. They remembered it just because it was hated Samaritans upon whom Elijah rained this fire. Yet the Samaritans at that time had not been mixed with other nations around Israel, but were pure-blooded Israelites. Moreover, the disciples just liked the story because it was something bad that happened to the hated Samaritans. Yet the situation there was far different. Those Samaritans had come to Elijah to arrest him, and were demanding his surrender. The Lord knew that these men meant Elijah harm, and He would not allow them to harm His representative on earth. This was a far different situation than men merely not wanting to receive the Lord into their city. Moreover, it was a far different time than Elijah’s, and the mission the Lord was on was quite different from that great prophet’s.

The word “heaven” here is singular again, “the heaven.” This may be a reference to God again, for He is “The Heaven,” and certainly any fire that came down would be from Him. It could also be another way of saying “the sky,” for that was where the fire would have fallen from.

55. But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.

The Lord rebukes them for calling upon Him to act in a manner inconsistent with His work at that time. We might call this an instance of men praying to God to do something that is dispensationally inconsistent; that is, something that does not conform to God’s dealings with men at that time. Many in our day make the same sort of prayer, asking God to do things that are just not appropriate for the dispensation of grace. But God will not grant these requests any more than He would the prayer of His overeager disciples.

The Lord tells them that they do not know what manner of spirit they are of. It is difficult to say what exactly He meant by this. He could have been referring to the kind of work that He was doing, and the mindset they should have been having to be a part of it. He could have been referring to the Holy Spirit Himself, and been telling them that they did not understand the work of the Holy Spirit that they were called to support. Or it could be He refers to the spirit of vengeance they were displaying, and that they didn’t realize the true source of this attitude that was so out of the spirit of what God was actually doing at that time. At any rate, they certainly did not know what they were talking about.

56. “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

The Lord reveals the true spirit of His ministry. He did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. This is a principle that we would do well to remember regarding the Lord’s earthly ministry at that time. In the future, when He comes in His Parousia, things will be far different. Yet this was the rule of the day at that time.

Thus the Lord does not allow retribution to be poured upon these inhospitable Samaritans. Instead, He just ignores the insult and peacefully takes His disciples to another village.

57. Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Now we are told of an incident that happened as the Lord was journeying on the road. A certain person offers to follow the Lord wherever He goes. This is a very good offer, and is just what he should have done. We could commend him for it, but the question is if he really means it.

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.”

This man perhaps viewed the Lord as a popular and up-and-coming figure who could increase his own fame and fortune. He imagined following Him into luxurious homes and honorable places. The Lord Jesus, reading his thoughts, reveals to him the fact that He was not living in luxury, but rather was sleeping on the streets. He did this in a poetic way, showing that He has less than animals like foxes and birds, who have their dens and their nests. Yet the Lord did not even have so much as this!

This fact seems to have been enough to cool this man’s enthusiasm. At any rate, we never read of him again. How many there are who turn to God only out of hopes that they will gain materially by it! Yet such turn quickly from the Way once they learn that this is not the case. Let us be careful that we in our attitudes are not like this man.

“The air” here is the same phrase as is translated “heaven” in verse 54. This shows us that “heaven,” when singular like this, can refer to the sky.

59. Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

This time, the Lord calls upon one to follow Him. This man is reluctant to obey the Lord’s words, instead making an excuse as to why he cannot do so. This man was not talking about literally burying his father, for this was done very quickly in that day and was done in a matter of hours. It could be that his father was still alive, and that he merely meant that he had to take care of him until he died. However, their customs suggest another possibility as well. At that time, people were buried very quickly after death. This was often done, in fact, even before the relatives were notified. Then, those who wanted to mourn were given notice, and could come and mourn and enter the tomb if they wanted to see the deceased one last time and so forth. This was a traditional period of mourning that people were expected to engage in.

Ultimately, this man was not on his way to a funeral as we would think of it. He may have just lost his father and been in mourning, but he just uses this excuse to avoid the Lord’s command. What could be a better way to deal with grief than to receive and to answer the Lord’s call? To choose to live your life for Him seems the best way I can think of to deal with the reality of death. Yet this man uses his grief to avoid responding to the Lord’s words. He clings to death and mourning, and thus avoids the source of life and joy Himself. What a sad choice he made! Far better if he had been ready at any time to answer the call of the Master. Let us all strive to place God above all, even our closest kin. Our devotion to Him is the best way to honor them, even after their deaths.

60. Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

The man must have thought that this was a reasonable and very understandable excuse that no one could criticize. Yet the Lord does not accept it for all that. He tells the man that it is better to let the dead bury their own dead. What the Lord and His work is about is life. He should go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

Again, we have no word on what came of this incident. We would like to think that the man obeyed the Lord and went to proclaim. However, it appears that what he had in mind to do was to go and mourn his father and ignore the Lord’s call, even as he said. Let us not allow anything in our lives to become so important that we are unwilling to submit to the Lord’s instructions when He gives them.

61. And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

This third man says he is willing to follow the Lord, yet he first wants to go and bid them farewell who are at his house.

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.”

The Lord does not accept this man’s excuse either. There was nothing wrong with a request to say goodbye to his family. In fact, Elisha made this same request of Elijah when he called him in I Kings 19:20.

20. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.”
And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

So there is nothing wrong with going back to say goodbye to your family. Thus, we would suspect that the Lord was looking into this man’s heart, and saw that he was just using this as an excuse to get away. He felt the pressure of the Spirit urging him to follow the Lord, and he wanted to avoid it. If he could just get away from the Lord, he could forget all about the call, and never return to fulfill what he promised to do. Thus he had before him the work God wanted him to do, but instead he chose to run from it. God had showed him the task He had for him, and he looked back and wanted to get out of it. This man thus was not worthy of the kingdom of God. No man with this kind of attitude is fit to rule in the government of God. Let us not be like him, but instead be ever ready to follow where God leads.