The Chosen One of God
Main Idea: The way to get our deepest needs met in this world is to know and follow Jesus into the next world. This requires knowing Jesus personally and following Jesus closely.
- Who is Jesus (9:7-36)?
- Herod with the crowd (9:7-9)
- Jesus with the disciples (9:18-22)
- The Father’s testimony (9:28-36)
- What Can We Expect If We Follow Jesus (9:1-45)?
- Purpose and power (9:1-6)
- Supplies that satisfy (9:10-17)
- Cross then a crown (9:23-27)
- Triumph and truth (9:37-45)
We’ve embarked on this study of Luke’s Gospel so that we might come to know more about our Lord and Savior. We want to know him better so that we can follow him more closely.
Two dominant actions take place in Luke 9:1-45. We see Jesus training his apostles, and at the same time we see that many are beginning to ask, “Who is this Jesus?” The question has always been a challenging one. Perhaps it’s a difficult question for you to answer. We pray the Lord would clearly answer that question for us.
Who Is Jesus?
Herod with the Crowd (9:7-9)
After Herod the Great died, his son Herod Antipas became ruler of one-third of his father’s kingdom, splitting it with his two brothers. He ruled from his father’s death in 4 BC until AD 39. So Herod ruled Galilee and Perea for all of our Lord’s lifetime. The question “Who is Jesus?” is first asked by Herod the tetrarch in verses 7-9.
Herod hears “about everything that was going on” (v. 7). No doubt as a ruler he would express keen interest in reports of mass healings, the dead being raised, and miracles being performed by a new leader and his followers. Herod hears about Jesus, so he asks about Jesus. But he is “perplexed.” He’s confused. The crowds give him conflicting reports (vv. 7-8). Everyone has a theory about Jesus’s identity. The crowd’s theories have three things in common:
- All the responses are religious theories. They’re certain Jesus is a prophet of some sort.
- All their theories are supernatural. Each of these suggestions requires either a resurrection (John or an old prophet) or a miraculous return of Elijah, who was raptured to be with God and was prophesied to return before the Messiah.
- Each theory is wrong. Crowds rarely answer important questions correctly. Crowds are almost always divided and wrong. Do not put your confidence in the opinions of crowds for anything.
So Herod is perplexed because of the conflicting reports. But there’s another reason. He tells us in verse 9, “I beheaded John.” That took place between Luke 3 and this text. Herod stole his brother Philip’s wife. John called them both out on it. Herodias asked for John’s head on a platter, and Herod delivered. This is a wicked man. It’s chilling how he so matter-of-factly says, “I beheaded John.” He publicly admits to killing a prophet and doesn’t even blink. He just goes on to ask, “But who is this I hear such things about?” (v. 9).
Luke tells us one other tragic and chilling thing about Herod when he writes, “And he wanted to see [Jesus]” (v. 9). Kings in Jesus’s day could do almost anything they desired. If they ordered someone to appear before them, that someone would appear. If they wished to visit someone with an army of soldiers, they could make such a visit happen. But Herod only tried to see Jesus. We have to ask ourselves: What could stop a ruler from seeing anyone he wanted to, if he really wanted to? I think Herod remained satisfied with being perplexed. He did not press forward to get an actual answer.
You don’t get any points, praise, or rewards for asking about Jesus while never going to see or getting to know Jesus for yourself. It is a tragic mistake leaving the question “Who is Jesus?” unanswered. We must all answer that question. We should not rest until we answer the question biblically, factually, and clearly.
Jesus with the Disciples (9:18-22)
The second time the question appears Jesus himself asks it of his disciples: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (v. 18).
The disciples initially respond the same way the crowd does. They just give Jesus the results from the latest public opinion poll (v. 19). Some say John; some say Elijah; some say a prophet of old.
In reply, Jesus presses the question beyond the opinion of crowds. He makes it personal in verse 20: “But you, . . . who do you say that I am?” (emphasis added). The “you” is emphatic. The question “Who is Jesus?” has to be settled by every individual person—young or old, rich or poor, male or female, ruler or citizen. We cannot avoid, duck, or put off the question. The Lord of lords asks us all. Heaven has a one-question pop quiz for all of humanity: “Who do you say that Jesus is?”
There are people in the world we will never know, and it will not cost us a thing. There are people our friends and families know quite well but we’ve never met, and that will not change eternity. But Jesus we must all know. Don’t be like Herod and leave the question unanswered. Know the answer for yourself.
In verse 19 “They [all] answered” when talking about what the crowds think. Some professing Christians can be experts on all kinds of opinions other people have about Jesus but know very little about him for themselves. When Jesus makes the question personal in verse 20, only one man answers. Peter says, “God’s Messiah.”
Peter knows Jesus better than the crowds. Two things need to be added here:
- Peter didn’t come up with this by himself. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus says to Peter after this confession, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.” We cannot get to know Jesus listening to men. God must teach us by his Spirit through his Word.
- Though Peter knew Jesus was the Christ, Peter didn’t yet know everything that confession involved. His answer to the exam was partially correct. We cannot think we know everything about Jesus once we know one thing about Jesus. The Lord is infinite and inexhaustible. Even when we know him well we only partially know him. We will be getting to know Jesus our entire lifetime and indeed for all eternity. We have to grow in our knowledge of the Lord.
This is why Jesus responds the way he does: “He strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one” (v. 21). Verse 22 defines what it means to call Jesus “Messiah” or “the Christ” or “Chosen One.” In answering the question “Who is Jesus?” the first thing we learn is that Jesus is the Messiah, which means God chose him to die for sin and rise for eternal life to rescue men from the coming judgment of God against sin. He does this so that we might never die but live with God forgiven, counted as righteous, and adopted into God’s family.
This truth is what everyone in the chapter continues to miss. So Jesus warns them against sharing this truth because (a) they don’t understand it yet and (b) he hadn’t finished his mission yet. But this is who the Lord is: the Chosen One who dies and rises for sinners.
Here’s the question: Do you believe this? At this point are you Herod who doesn’t even meet Jesus, the disciples who stick with that they’ve heard about Jesus, or Peter who begins to see but not yet fully? Is Christ Jesus your personal Savior and Lord? If not, he can be. Confess your sins. Put your trust in him as the atonement for your sin and the Lord of your life. Start with what you do know. Put your faith in Jesus. He will teach you more.
The Father’s Testimony (9:28-36)
The crowds get it twisted. Herod remained confused. Peter is only partially correct. It is God the Father who settles the matter.
Jesus again goes to pray with three of his disciples—Peter, John, and James. As Jesus prays, something extraordinary happens.
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men were talking with him—Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. (9:29-31)
Now I think we’re meant to see in this scene a parallel between Moses on Mount Sinai in Exodus 34 and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Both went up on the mount. Both talked with God. Both had their faces changed. But there are significant differences, too.
- Moses’s face shone with God’s glory, but Jesus’s entire appearance changed in a flash to radiate glory.
- Moses was alone; Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus.
- Moses received the law; Jesus discusses the gospel.
- Israel apart from a mediator wanted to hide from God’s glory; Peter, James, and John see Jesus’s glory and want to worship (v. 32).
The biggest difference between Moses and Jesus is that God speaks to the disciples to answer the question “Who is Jesus?” “Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!’” (v. 35). When the Father speaks, we learn two further facts. First, Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus shares deity with the Father. He is God. Second, Jesus is God’s spokesperson. Do you want to know what God thinks about something? Listen to the teaching of Jesus. Do you want to know what’s on the mind of the Father? Read what Jesus speaks in the Gospels.
We are to listen to Jesus for the final word on salvation, not Elijah and Moses or any other prophet from old. The New Testament never looks favorably on Christians turning back to the law or to Judaism. Those things belong to the former time. In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son (Heb 1:1-3). We are to listen to Jesus alone. When the cloud disappears, only Jesus remains. He is greater than Moses and all the other prophets.
For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the one who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over his household. And we are that household if we hold on to our confidence and the hope in which we boast. (Heb 3:3-6)
When God finally grades the one-question exam, we need to demonstrate that we know Jesus is the one God chose to die and rise from the grave to save us from our sin, that he is God’s Son and is Master of God’s house. We need to demonstrate that we have heard and understood this message and that we have put our hope in its truth.
When it comes to the question “Who is Jesus?” who are you listening to? The crowds? Your own incomplete knowledge? Or God who reveals his Son most clearly and fully? To get to know Jesus, we have to listen to Jesus.
What Can We Expect If We Listen to and Follow Jesus?
This question takes us to the other major thread woven into this chapter. It takes us to those scenes where Jesus trains his disciples. We discover that if we get to know Jesus, Jesus will be our Great Provider. The better we get to know Jesus, the more we see his provision for us. The Lord provides us with four resources and rewards.
Purpose and Power (9:1-6)
If we follow Jesus, our lives will have purpose and power. The purpose will be to spread the gospel of the kingdom to every nation (v. 2). The power will be the very authority and power of Jesus himself (v. 1). Everyone who follows Jesus as Lord receives this same purpose and power from the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8).
If we follow Jesus, we receive meaning not only for this life but for all of eternity. He gives us not only a purpose but also power to fulfill the purpose. How many of you are now experiencing or have experienced purposelessness? Perhaps you feel every day bleeds together with other days and, though you try, you can’t find an interest or pursuit for your life. The lack of meaning can become a thick smoke that suffocates and chokes us. But the Lord blows the smoke away, clears our vision, and gives us meaning connected to God’s purpose for the entire world. The Lord changes the world and impacts eternity through us when we believe and follow him. When we embrace the Lord’s purpose and power for us it redefines our entire life and reason for being. We no longer live for career, houses, cars, clothes, and the like. Those things fade into the background; and in the foreground appear the Lord Jesus, the cross, and the salvation of the world. Then the entire world becomes our theater for acting out the drama God plans for our lives. The gospel not only saves a soul but gives purpose and power to a soul.
As the Twelve live in Jesus’s power and purpose, they are to learn to depend completely and solely on Jesus (v. 3). Moreover, as the disciples live in Jesus’s power and purpose, they are to expect opposition. But they are not to be discouraged by opposition, In fact, they are to stand as witnesses against such people and places (v. 5). Jesus’s power and purpose motivate them to keep moving and to keep preaching.
Luke 9:1-6 involved “the Twelve.” Those are the twelve disciples who would become apostles of our Lord. This is a historical event that applied to the apostles uniquely. It’s not a pattern for all times. We need to see that, lest we get distracted by things like driving out demons, curing diseases, and going on mission trips without any luggage. This was a short-term trip that was not a pattern for all time. It was for while Jesus was on earth. We know this because of Luke 22:35-36. When Jesus approaches his betrayal and crucifixion, he says,
“When I sent you out without money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Not a thing,” they said.
Then he said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one.”
Luke 22:35-36 becomes the pattern for all disciples. And according to Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8, we have the same purpose but now have a greater power than the disciples in Luke 9—the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I point this out because sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can covet what belonged to the apostles in the Gospels before the crucifixion and resurrection so much that we miss the fact that what belongs to us after the resurrection is so much greater. We can so busily chase supernatural healings that we miss the Holy Spirit himself.
Jesus provides his disciples power and purpose.
Supplies That Satisfy (9:10-17)
Here’s another passage where Jesus appears as a greater prophet than Moses. Each time someone says Jesus might be Moses, we get a scene where Jesus seems to be contrasted with Moses. God repeatedly proves his Son is greater than Moses.
Jesus and the disciples go to Bethsaida (v. 10), a wilderness place. Crowds come out to Jesus where he welcomes them, heals them, and teaches them about the kingdom (v. 11). Apparently they stay out there all day, and now it’s growing late and the people haven’t had dinner (v. 12).
All of this reminds us of Moses wandering with Israel in the wilderness for forty years. Do you remember what God did for Israel’s hunger in the wilderness? He showered them with manna and quail. God supplied their needs, but Israel grumbled; they were not satisfied.
Jesus teaches his disciples a valuable lesson: Unlike Moses, Jesus will supply and satisfy their needs. I don’t know how this miracle worked. Did fish and loaves keep miraculously filling their baskets? Did the fish and loaves all appear at once? Did they fall from the sky? I really don’t know. And how did these fishermen react to all of this? Did they wonder, “How in the world did we get fresh fish in a desert wilderness?” I don’t even know how a person would process an event like this.
But I do know this: Jesus had a point to make. It’s a point that everyone who follows him needs to hear. When the Twelve fed five thousand men in one hundred groups of fifty, over and over again they could see Jesus meeting their physical needs. When each of the disciples walked away with a basket of leftovers, it was a clear way of saying, “I supply for you. Trust me.” That’s the message every disciple needs to hold on to.
Jesus supplies. And he also satisfies. “Everyone ate and was filled” (v. 17). They were satisfied. I believe they enjoyed the taste. I believe the fish was delicious. Jesus wouldn’t perform a miraculous fish fry and burn the fish. This fish was cooked in heaven. It was delicious, just like the water turned to wine at the wedding in Cana was the most delicious wine the people had ever tasted.
Jesus supplies and satisfies. His promise to supply and satisfy our needs runs throughout the Bible.
“Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the water; and you without silver, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without silver and without cost! Why do you spend silver on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.” (Isa 55:1-2)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matt 6:33)
The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. (Ps 23:1)
And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)
Do you believe Jesus will supply and satisfy? Are you listening to Jesus? Then expect the Lord to supply and satisfy as he meets your needs.
Cross Then a Crown (9:23-27)
Jesus provides purpose and power, supplies that satisfy, and third, a cross followed by a crown. When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus explains what that means in terms of his betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection. Then Jesus teaches the disciples that following him as their Christ has a requirement, a reason, and a reward.
Discipleship requires a cross. Don’t let Twitter and Facebook define “following” Jesus for you. If following Jesus only meant clicking a button, then everybody would do it. “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (v. 23). Jesus goes to a cross, so we who follow him must go to a cross too. He dies for us, and we die with him. The cross of suffering and death comes first in the Christian life. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once put it, “When Christ bids a man to follow him, he bids that man to come and die” (Cost, 89). That’s the requirement.
This cross is necessary. As the hymnwriter puts it, “There is no other way than to trust and obey.” We can’t follow a crucified Savior without a cross of our own. Some people say, “Yes, Christ is up front carrying the cross and we are to follow.” But they think Christ is up front carrying his cross while we are in a parade behind him, riding floats and waving at the crowds like the queen. We are in a parade, but it’s a long parade of men and women, boys and girls, walking—not floating—each hunched over carrying the tool of their own death. This cross-carrying is necessary.
This cross-carrying is humbling, too. “Let him deny himself.” We can’t follow Jesus and at the same time come first. We have to deny ourselves: say no to our desires so we can say yes to Jesus. He is King; we are servants—slaves of Christ.
This cross-carrying is daily. “Let him . . . take up his cross daily.” No vacation. No holidays. No sick days. No summer breaks. Every morning we wake, we must say, “Good morning, my cross.” (Now don’t say that while you’re facing your spouse! Even if your spouse is part of your cross.) Every morning we wake to die to self and the world so we can follow Jesus.
What does this look like, this carrying our cross daily?
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24)
But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. (Gal 6:14)
What’s the reason we carry our cross? We are required to carry our cross because life lies on the other side of it (v. 24). The death in discipleship is the door to eternal life. Broad is the way that leads to destruction; narrow is the way that leads to life. Nothing in the world—not even the entire world itself—is worth our souls (v. 25). The world is a soulless and soul-destroying system, so we are required to abandon the world to save our souls.
What then is the reward for accepting the cross? In the Christian life, first comes the cross, then comes the crown. The reward is a crown, a kingdom. This kingdom is a share in God’s glory (v. 26). The kingdom of God is a kingdom of glory. Our blessed hope is the glorious appearing of our Savior from heaven. When that happens we will see his glory and be transformed into his glory (see 2 Cor 3:18). For all the self-denial and suffering of the cross in this life, those who follow Jesus will receive unending glory and joy in the life to come. Don’t be ashamed; look to his glorious coming. This is what makes it wise to die daily in order to live forever. This is why it makes sense to forsake the world in order to gain glory.
For our encouragement and hope, Jesus allowed some to see that glory even before he or they died. That’s why in verse 28 Luke flashes forward eight days. He joins the transfiguration to the promise of verse 27 because the transfiguration is a foretaste of the glory that is to come. This glory, this kingdom, this crown is what Jesus provides for all those who take up their cross.
He provides purpose and power, supply and satisfaction, a cross then a crown, and finally . . .
Triumph and Truth (9:37-45)
There are things we cannot do in the Christian life. There are things beyond our ability. The disciples in verses 37-40 could not cast the demon out of this man’s son. They tried and failed—even though they had been given authority to do so.
The problem apparently was their unbelief. They doubted. That’s why Jesus says what he says (v. 41). Some things only come out by prayer and fasting—which are disciplines for the believing. Some things we cannot do in our own strength, and nothing is safe to do in our own strength.
Here’s the lesson to learn: Our triumph over evil is won by Jesus (v. 42). He defeats all our enemies. Our task is to stand by faith in the victory he has already won. That’s what we read in Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
That’s how we triumph—by taking our stand by faith with Christ. That’s how we escape being a part of an “unbelieving and perverse generation” (v. 41).
If we triumph with Christ, then Christ will give us his truth. Notice the difference between the disciples and the crowds in verses 43-45. “And they [the crowd] were all astonished at the greatness of God.” Now watch this: “While everyone was amazed at all the things he was doing, he told his disciples, ‘Let these words sink in: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.’”
The priceless thing in the text is not the casting out of the demon. The greatest thing about Jesus isn’t his miracle-working power. The greatest thing about Jesus is his cross and resurrection. That’s the main thing. The crowd missed it because they were dazzled by the exorcism. The crowd is amazed, but belief is more than astonishment. Belief requires revelation from God. True belief requires truth to believe (v. 45). That’s what Jesus gives the disciples in verse 44. If we have ears to hear, then we marvel at the truth that Christ died for us.
But the disciples still don’t get it (v. 45). They’ve heard it at least three times in the last couple of weeks—at a prayer meeting with Jesus (v. 18), on the mount of transfiguration (v. 31), and here after a miraculous healing. But they don’t yet get it. And, tragically, they’re too afraid to ask.
My Christian friend, when we walk with Christ we will see triumph, but the greater thing will be the truths we gather from him. We all need to grow in our knowledge of Jesus. No one’s knowledge of the Lord is complete. We’re like these disciples, and that’s not a wicked thing. We just need to apply ourselves to learning Christ. Sometimes we get to playing church and we get afraid to say we don’t understand or know something. That’s the mistake these disciples make. We should learn from their mistake. We should not be afraid of the one who died to save us. We should ask that we may know him better.
My non-Christian friend, you’ve heard this message about Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection to save sinners several times now. Is it still hidden from you? If it is, it’s because God has hidden it from you or Satan has snatched away the seed of God’s word from your heart. Are you afraid to ask God to protect you from Satan and show you the truth? Don’t be afraid. He delights to do it.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. (Jas 1:5-8)
Just as in verse 11 with the crowd, Jesus will welcome you and teach you about his kingdom if you ask. Don’t be like Herod. Don’t be like the disciples who were afraid. Do two things. (1) Ask the Father to show you Jesus so you will know him as Savior and Lord. (2) Ask your Christian friend to explain more about what it means to be a Christian. Don’t stop until you have done what is necessary to settle the question, “Who is Jesus?” When you’ve settled the question, don’t stop following him but trust him to provide for you in every way.
The only way to get our deepest needs met in this world is to follow Jesus into the next.
Reflect and Discuss
- What do you think about heaven?
- In your own words, “Who is Jesus?” What things about Jesus do you most treasure? What things about Jesus would you like to understand better?
- In what ways is Jesus a “greater Moses”?
- What would you say is your purpose in life? How would that compare to God’s purpose for you?
- Do you believe Jesus will satisfy your needs? Why or why not?
- How does knowing that the cross comes before the crown help us in our suffering and difficulties as Christians?