The apostles sent forth. (1-9) The multitude miraculously fed. (10-17) Peter's testimony to Christ, Self-denial enjoined. (18-27) The transfiguration. (28-36) An evil spirit cast out. (37-42) Christ checks the ambition of his disciples. (43-50) He reproves their mistaken zeal. (51-56) Every thing to be given up for Christ. (57-62)
Verses 1-9 Christ sent his twelve disciples abroad, who by this time were able to teach others what they had received from the Lord. They must not be anxious to commend themselves to people's esteem by outward appearance. They must go as they were. The Lord Jesus is the fountain of power and authority, to whom all creatures must, in one way or another, be subject; and if he goes with the word of his ministers in power, to deliver sinners from Satan's bondage, they may be sure that he will care for their wants. When truth and love thus go together, and yet the message of God is rejected and despised, it leaves men without excuse, and turns to a testimony against them. Herod's guilty conscience was ready to conclude that John was risen from the dead. He desired to see Jesus; and why did he not go and see him? Probably, because he thought it below him, or because he wished not to have any more reprovers of sin. Delaying it now, his heart was hardened, and when he did see Jesus, he was as much prejudiced against him as others, ( Luke 23:11 ) .
Verses 10-17 The people followed Jesus, and though they came unseasonably, yet he gave them what they came for. He spake unto them of the kingdom of God. He healed those who had need of healing. And with five loaves of bread and two fishes, Christ fed five thousand men. He will not see those that fear him, and serve him faithfully, want any good thing. When we receive creature-comforts, we must acknowledge that we receive them from God, and that we are unworthy to receive them; that we owe them all, and all the comfort we have in them, to the mediation of Christ, by whom the curse is taken away. The blessing of Christ will make a little go a great way. He fills every hungry soul, abundantly satisfies it with the goodness of his house. Here were fragments taken up: in our Father's house there is bread enough, and to spare. We are not straitened, nor stinted in Christ.
Verses 18-27 It is an unspeakable comfort that our Lord Jesus is God's Anointed; this signifies that he was both appointed to be the Messiah, and qualified for it. Jesus discourses concerning his own sufferings and death. And so far must his disciples be from thinking how to prevent his sufferings, that they must prepare for their own. We often meet with crosses in the way of duty; and though we must not pull them upon our own heads, yet, when they are laid for us, we must take them up, and carry them after Christ. It is well or ill with us, according as it is well or ill with our souls. The body cannot be happy, if the soul be miserable in the other world; but the soul may be happy, though the body is greatly afflicted and oppressed in this world. We must never be ashamed of Christ and his gospel.
Verses 28-36 Christ's transfiguration was a specimen of that glory in which he will come to judge the world; and was an encouragement to his disciples to suffer for him. Prayer is a transfiguring, transforming duty, which makes the face to shine. Our Lord Jesus, even in his transfiguration, was willing to speak concerning his death and sufferings. In our greatest glories on earth, let us remember that in this world we have no continuing city. What need we have to pray to God for quickening grace, to make us lively! Yet that the disciples might be witnesses of this sign from heaven, after awhile they became awake, so that they were able to give a full account of what passed. But those know not what they say, that talk of making tabernacles on earth for glorified saints in heaven.
Verses 37-42 How deplorable the case of this child! He was under the power of an evil spirit. Disease of that nature are more frightful than such as arise merely from natural causes. What mischief Satan does where he gets possession! But happy those that have access to Christ! He can do that for us which his disciples cannot. A word from Christ healed the child; and when our children recover from sickness, it is comfortable to receive them as healed by the hand of Christ.
Verses 43-50 This prediction of Christ's sufferings was plain enough, but the disciples would not understand it, because it agreed not with their notions. A little child is the emblem by which Christ teaches us simplicity and humility. What greater honour can any man attain to in this world, than to be received by men as a messenger of God and Christ; and to have God and Christ own themselves received and welcomed in him! If ever any society of Christians in this world, had reason to silence those not of their own communion, the twelve disciples at this time had; yet Christ warned them not to do the like again. Those may be found faithful followers of Christ, and may be accepted of him, who do not follow with us.
Verses 51-56 The disciples did not consider that the conduct of the Samaritans was rather the effect of national prejudices and bigotry, than of enmity to the word and worship of God; and through they refused to receive Christ and his disciples, they did not ill use or injure them, so that the case was widely different from that of Ahaziah and Elijah. Nor were they aware that the gospel dispensation was to be marked by miracles of mercy. But above all, they were ignorant of the prevailing motives of their own hearts, which were pride and carnal ambition. Of this our Lord warned them. It is easy for us to say, Come, see our zeal for the Lord! and to think we are very faithful in his cause, when we are seeking our own objects, and even doing harm instead of good to others.
Verses 57-62 Here is one that is forward to follow Christ, but seems to have been hasty and rash, and not to have counted the cost. If we mean to follow Christ, we must lay aside the thoughts of great things in the world. Let us not try to join the profession of Christianity, with seeking after worldly advantages. Here is another that seems resolved to follow Christ, but he begs a short delay. To this man Christ first gave the call; he said to him, Follow me. Religion teaches us to be kind and good, to show piety at home, and to requite our parents; but we must not make these an excuse for neglecting our duty to God. Here is another that is willing to follow Christ, but he must have a little time to talk with his friends about it, and to set in order his household affairs, and give directions concerning them. He seemed to have worldly concerns more upon his heart than he ought to have, and he was willing to enter into a temptation leading him from his purpose of following Christ. No one can do any business in a proper manner, if he is attending to other things. Those who begin with the work of God, must resolve to go on, or they will make nothing of it. Looking back, leads to drawing back, and drawing back is to perdition. He only that endures to the end shall be saved.
Luke 9:1-6 . MISSION OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.
1. power and authority--He both qualified and authorized them.
Luke 9:7-9 . HEROD TROUBLED AT WHAT HE HEARS OF CHRIST DESIRES TO SEE HIM.
7. perplexed--at a loss, embarrassed.
said of some, that John was risen--Among many opinions, this was the one which Herod himself adopted, for the reason, no doubt, mentioned on Mark 6:14 .
9. desired to see him--but did not, till as a prisoner He was sent to him by Pilate just before His death, as we learn from Luke 23:8 .
Luke 9:10-17 . ON THE RETURN OF THE TWELVE JESUS RETIRES WITH THEM TO BETHSAIDA, AND THERE MIRACULOUSLY FEEDS FIVE THOUSAND.
Luke 9:18-27 . PETER'S CONFESSION OF CHRIST--OUR LORD'S FIRST EXPLICIT ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS APPROACHING DEATH, AND WARNINGS ARISING OUT OF IT.
and Mark 8:34
24. will save--"Is minded to save," bent on saving. The pith of this maxim depends--as often in such weighty sayings (for example, "Let the dead bury the dead," Matthew 8:22 )--on the double sense attached to the word "life," a lower and a higher, the natural and the spiritual, temporal and eternal. An entire sacrifice of the lower, or a willingness to make it, is indispensable to the preservation of the higher life; and he who cannot bring himself to surrender the one for the sake of the other shall eventually lose both.
26. ashamed of me, and of my words--The sense of shame is one of the strongest in our nature, one of the social affections founded on our love of reputation, which causes instinctive aversion to what is fitted to lower it, and was given us as a preservative from all that is properly shameful. When one is, in this sense of it, lost to shame, he is nearly past hope ( Zechariah 3:5 , Jeremiah 6:15 , 3:3 ). But when Christ and "His words"--Christianity, especially in its more spiritual and uncompromising features--are unpopular, the same instinctive desire to stand well with others begets the temptation to be ashamed of Him, which only the 'expulsive power' of a higher affection can effectually counteract.
Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh, &c.--He will render to that man his own treatment; He will disown him before the most august of all assemblies, and put him to "shame and everlasting contempt" ( Daniel 12:2 ). "Oh shame, to be put to shame before God, Christ, and angels!" [BENGEL].
27. not taste of death fill they see the kingdom of God--"see it come with power" ( Mark 9:1 ); or see "the Son of man coming in His kingdom" ( Matthew 16:28 ). The reference, beyond doubt, is to the firm establishment and victorious progress, in the lifetime of some then present, of that new Kingdom of Christ, which was destined to work the greatest of all changes on this earth, and be the grand pledge of His final coming in glory.
Luke 9:28-36 . JESUS TRANSFIGURED.
28. an eight days after these sayings--including the day on which this was spoken and that of the Transfiguration. Matthew and Mark say ( Matthew 17:1 , 9:2 ) "after six days," excluding these two days. As the "sayings" so definitely connected with the transfiguration scene are those announcing His death--at which Peter and all the Twelve were so startled and scandalized--so this scene was designed to show to the eyes as well as the heart how glorious that death was in the view of Heaven.
Peter, James, and John--partners before in secular business; now sole witnesses of the resurrection of Jairus' daughter ( Mark 5:37 ), the transfiguration, and the agony in the garden ( Mark 14:33 ).
a mountain--not Tabor, according to long tradition, with which the facts ill comport, but some one near the lake.
to pray--for the period He had now reached was a critical and anxious "strong cryings and tears?" Methinks, as I steal by His side, I hear from Him these plaintive sounds, "Lord, who hath believed Our report? I am come unto Mine own and Mine own receive Me not; I am become a stranger unto My brethren, an alien to My mother's children: Consider Mine enemies, for they are many, and they hate Me with cruel hatred. Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail. Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth: Show Me a token for good: Father, glorify Thy name."
29. as he prayed, the fashion, &c.--Before He cried He was answered, and while He was yet speaking He was heard. Blessed interruption to prayer this! Thanks to God, transfiguring manifestations are not quite strangers here. Ofttimes in the deepest depths, out of groanings which cannot be uttered, God's dear children are suddenly transported to a kind of heaven upon earth, and their soul is made as the chariots of Amminadab. Their prayers fetch down such light, strength, holy gladness, as make their face to shine, putting a kind of celestial radiance upon it ( 2 Corinthians 3:18 , with Exodus 34:29-35 ).
raiment white, &c.--Matthew says, "His face did shine as the sun" ( Matthew 17:2 ), and Mark says ( Mark 9:3 ), "His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them" ( Mark 9:3 ). The light, then, it would seem, shone not upon Him from without, but out of Him from within; He was all irradiated, was in one blaze of celestial glory. What a contrast to that "visage more marred than men, and His form than the sons of men!" ( Isaiah 52:14 ).
30, 31. there talked with him two men . . . Moses and Elias . . . appeared in glory--"Who would have believed these were not angels had not their human names been subjoined?" [BENGEL]. (Compare Acts 1:10 , 16:5 ). Moses represented "the law," Elijah "the prophets," and both together the whole testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Old Testament saints, to Christ; now not borne in a book, but by living men, not to a coming, but a come Messiah, visibly, for they "appeared," and audibly, for they "spake."
31. spake--"were speaking."
of his decease--"departure"; beautiful euphemism (softened term) for death, which Peter, who witnessed the scene, uses to express his own expected death, and the use of which single term seems to have recalled the whole by a sudden rush of recollection, and occasioned that delightful allusion to this scene which we find in 2 Peter 1:15-18 .
which he should accomplish--"was to fulfil."
at Jerusalem--Mark the historical character and local features which Christ's death assumed to these glorified men--as important as it is charming--and from this statement? (1) That a dying Messiah is the great article of the true Jewish theology. For a long time the Church had fallen clean away from the faith of this article, and even from a preparedness to receive it. But here we have that jewel raked out of the dunghill of Jewish traditions, and by the true representatives of the Church of old made the one subject of talk with Christ Himself. (2) The adoring gratitude of glorified men for His undertaking to accomplish such a decease; their felt dependence upon it for the glory in which they appeared; their profound interest in the progress of it, their humble solaces and encouragements to go through with it; and their sense of its peerless and overwhelming glory. "Go, matchless, adored One, a Lamb to the slaughter! rejected of men, but chosen of God and precious; dishonored, abhorred, and soon to be slain by men, but worshipped by cherubim, ready to be greeted by all heaven. In virtue of that decease we are here; our all is suspended on it and wrapped up in it. Thine every step is watched by us with ineffable interest; and though it were too high an honor to us to be permitted to drop a word of cheer into that precious but now clouded spirit, yet, as the first-fruits of harvest; the very joy set before Him, we cannot choose but tell Him that what is the depth of shame to Him is covered with glory in the eyes of Heaven, that the Cross to Him is the Crown to us, that that 'decease' is all our salvation and all our desire." And who can doubt that such a scene did minister deep cheer to that spirit? It is said they "talked" not to Him, but "with Him"; and if they told Him how glorious His decease was, might He not fitly reply, "I know it, but your voice, as messengers from heaven come down to tell it Me, is music in Mine ears."
32. and when they were awake--so, certainly, the most commentators: but if we translate literally, it should be "but having kept awake" [MEYER, ALFORD]. Perhaps "having roused themselves up" [OLSHAUSEN] may come near enough to the literal sense; but from the word used we can gather no more than that they shook off their drowsiness. It was night, and the Lord seems to have spent the whole night on the mountain ( Luke 9:37 ).
saw his glory, &c.--The emphasis lies on "saw," qualifying them to become "eye-witnesses of His majesty" ( 2 Peter 1:16 ).
33. they departed--Ah! bright manifestations in this vale of tears are always "departing" manifestations.
34, 35. a cloud--not one of our watery clouds, but the Shekinah-cloud God with His people, what Peter calls "the excellent" of "magnificent glory" ( 2 Peter 1:17 ).
a voice--"such a voice," says Peter emphatically; "and this voice [he adds] we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount" ( 2 Peter 1:17 2 Peter 1:18 ).
35. my beloved Son . . . hear him--reverentially, implicitly, alone.
36. Jesus was found alone--Moses and Elias are gone. Their work is done, and they have disappeared from the scene, feeling no doubt with their fellow servant the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease." The cloud too is gone, and the naked majestic Christ, braced in spirit, and enshrined in the reverent affection of His disciples, is left--to suffer!
kept it close--feeling, for once at least, that such things were unmeet as yet for the general gaze.
Luke 9:37-45 . DEMONIAC AND LUNATIC BOY HEALED--CHRIST'S SECOND EXPLICIT ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION.
43-45. the mighty power of God--"the majesty" or "mightiness" of God in this last miracle, the transfiguration, &c.: the divine grandeur of Christ rising upon them daily. By comparing Matthew 17:22 , and Mark 9:30 , we gather that this had been the subject of conversation between the Twelve and their Master as they journeyed along.
44. these sayings--not what was passing between them about His grandeur [MEYER, &c.], but what He was now to repeat for the second time about His sufferings [DE WETTE, STIER, ALFORD, &c.]; that is, "Be not carried off your feet by all this grandeur of Mine, but bear in mind what I have already told you, and now distinctly repeat, that that Sun in whose beams ye now rejoice is soon to set in midnight gloom." "The Son of man," says Christ, "into the hands of men"--a remarkable antithesis (also in Matthew 17:22 , and Mark 9:31 ).
45. and they feared--"insomuch that they feared." Their most cherished ideas were so completely dashed by such announcements, that they were afraid of laying themselves open to rebuke by asking Him any questions.
Luke 9:46-48 . STRIFE AMONG THE TWELVE WHO SHOULD BE GREATEST--JOHN REBUKED FOR EXCLUSIVENESS.
49, 50. John answered, &c.--The link of connection here with the foregoing context lies in the words "in My name" ( Luke 9:48 ). "Oh, as to that," said John, young, warm, but not sufficiently apprehending Christ's teaching in these things, "we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbade him: Were we wrong?" "Ye were wrong." "But we did because he followeth not us,'" "No matter. For (1) There is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly [soon] speak evil of Me' [ Mark 9:39 ]. And (2) If such a person cannot be supposed to be 'against us,' you are to consider him 'for us.'" Two principles of immense importance. Christ does not say this man should not have followed "with them," but simply teaches how he was to be regarded though he did not--as a reverer of His name and a promoter of His cause. Surely this condemns not only those horrible attempts by force to shut up all within one visible pale of discipleship, which have deluged Christendom with blood in Christ's name, but the same spirit in its milder form of proud ecclesiastic scowl upon all who "after the form which they call a sect (as the word signifies, Acts 24:14 ), do so worship the God of their fathers." Visible unity in Christ's Church is devoutly to be sought, but this is not the way to it. See the noble spirit of Moses ( Numbers 11:24-29 ).
Luke 9:51-56 . THE PERIOD OF HIS ASSUMPTION APPROACHING CHRIST TAKES HIS LAST LEAVE OF GALILEE--THE SAMARITANS REFUSE TO RECEIVE HIM.
51. the time was come--rather, "the days were being fulfilled," or approaching their fulfilment.
that he should be received up--"of His assumption," meaning His exaltation to the Father; a sublime expression, taking the sweep of His whole career, as if at one bound He was about to vault into glory. The work of Christ in the flesh is here divided into two great stages; all that preceded this belonging to the one, and all that follows it to the other. During the one, He formally "came to His own," and "would have gathered them"; during the other, the awful consequences of "His own receiving Him not" rapidly revealed themselves.
he steadfastly set his face--the "He" here is emphatic--"He Himself then." See His own prophetic language, "I have set my face like a flint" ( Isaiah 50:7 ).
go to Jerusalem--as His goal, but including His preparatory visits to it at the feasts of tabernacles and of dedication ( John 7:2 John 7:10 , John 10:22 John 10:23 ), and all the intermediate movements and events.
52. messengers before his face . . . to make ready for him--He had not done this before; but now, instead of avoiding, He seems to court publicity--all now hastening to maturity.
53. did not receive him, because, &c.--The Galileans, in going to the festivals at Jerusalem, usually took the Samaritan route [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 20.6.1], and yet seem to have met with no such inhospitality. But if they were asked to prepare quarters for the Messiah, in the person of one whose "face was as though He would go to Jerusalem," their national prejudices would be raised at so marked a slight upon their claims.
54. James and John--not Peter, as we should have expected, but those "sons of thunder" ( Mark 3:17 ), who afterwards wanted to have all the highest honors of the Kingdom to themselves, and the younger of whom had been rebuked already for his exclusiveness ( Luke 9:49 Luke 9:50 ). Yet this was "the disciple whom Jesus loved," while the other willingly drank of His Lord's bitter cup. form, in the beloved disciple, we find in 2 John 1:5:10 , 3 John 1:10 .
fire . . . as Elias--a plausible case, occurring also in Samaria ( 2 Kings 1:10-12 ).
55, 56. know not what . . . spirit--The thing ye demand, though in keeping with the legal, is unsuited to the genius of the evangelical dispensation. The sparks of unholy indignation would seize readily enough on this example of Elias, though our Lord's rebuke (as is plain from Luke 9:56 ) is directed to the principle involved rather than the animal heat which doubtless prompted the reference. "It is a golden sentence of Tillotson, Let us never do anything for religion which is contrary to religion" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
56. For the Son of man, &c.--a saying truly divine, of which all His miracles--for salvation, never destruction--were one continued illustration.
went to another--illustrating His own precept ( Matthew 10:23 ).
Luke 9:57-62 . INCIDENTS ILLUSTRATIVE OF DISCIPLESHIP.
The Precipitate Disciple ( Luke 9:57 Luke 9:58 ).
The Procrastinating Disciple ( Luke 9:59 Luke 9:60 ).
The Irresolute Disciple ( Luke 9:61 Luke 9:62 ).
61. I will follow . . . but--The second disciple had a "but" too--a difficulty in the way just then. Yet the different treatment of the two cases shows how different was the spirit of the two, and to that our Lord addressed Himself. The case of Elisha ( 1 Kings 19:19-21 ), though apparently similar to this, will be found quite different from the "looking back" of this case, the best illustration of which is that of those Hindu converts of our day who, when once persuaded to leave their spiritual fathers in order to "bid them farewell which are at home at their house," very rarely return to them.
62. No man, &c.--As ploughing requires an eye intent on the furrow to be made, and is marred the instant one turns about, so will they come short of salvation who prosecute the work of God with a distracted attention, a divided heart. Though the reference seems chiefly to ministers, the application is general. The expression "looking back" has a manifest reference to "Lot's wife" ( Genesis 19:26 ; and It is not actual return to the world, but a reluctance to break with it.