III. Ministry in Galilee (Luke 4:14–9:50)
III. Ministry in Galilee (4:14–9:50)
A. Beginning Ministry and Calling Disciples (4:14–6:16)
4:14-15 Having spent time at the Jordan River for his baptism and in the Judean wilderness for his temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee. His battle with the devil had not left him spiritually drained but full of the power of the Spirit (4:14). As a result, his public ministry began and his popularity grew (4:15).
4:16 Then Jesus went to Nazareth, his hometown where he’d been raised. On the Sabbath, he went into the synagogue so that he could read Scripture. Luke says this was his usual activity. So whereas Jesus’s public ministry had just begun, his spiritual practice of engaging with God, God’s Word, and God’s people had always been a regular pattern of his life.
4:17-21 The synagogue attendant handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and Jesus chose to read from Isaiah 61:1-2 (4:17). When he finished, he informed everyone in the synagogue that the passage had been fulfilled as they listened (4:20-21). He was claiming that the words were about him.
What did the words say? The Spirit of the Lord had anointed him (4:18). At Jesus’s baptism, the Holy Spirit had descended on him (3:21-22). From that moment, he had been “full of the Holy Spirit” (4:1), “led by the Spirit” (4:1), and ministering “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14). Jesus was claiming to be the Lord’s “Anointed One”—in Hebrew, “Messiah”—in Greek, “Christ.” The King whom Israel had been longing for had finally come.
His mission was to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to the poor. He had come to set captives free, open blind eyes, set free the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (4:18-19). “The year of the Lord’s favor” is another name for the Year of Jubilee (every fifty years; see Lev 25:8-12) when Israel was instructed to set slaves free and release people from their debts, as well as allowing them to return to their family property. Jubilee is a symbol of the social and economic liberation of God’s people. The key, however, to understanding the Year of Jubilee is that it was inaugurated by the Day of Atonement, when the issue of sin was addressed. Thus spiritual transformation is the foundation for the legitimate social, political, and economic restructuring of society.
Jesus’s preaching, then, addresses both the content of the gospel (Jesus’s coming death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins) and the scope of the gospel (the impact this good news should make on issues of biblical justice—the equitable and impartial application of God’s moral law in society). This is good news for those in economic crises (the poor), in political crises (the captives), and social crises (the oppressed). The gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preaches saves us from hell, but it should also save us for making a kingdom impact on this world through our “good works” that bring glory to God and benefit to people (see Matt 5:16). Jesus, then, is offering his people and us a new Jubilee.
4:22-24 Initially, people responded positively to the gracious words that he spoke. But then someone said, Isn’t this Joseph’s son? (4:22), meaning, “Hey, this is the carpenter’s kid. He’s a local. Who does he think he is?” Anticipating their unbelief, Jesus quoted a proverbial saying: Doctor, heal yourself (4:23). In other words, “If you really think you’re the Messiah, give us some proof. Do something messianic.” He knew they were unwilling to receive him: Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown (4:24). You see, these people thought they knew him. He was, to them, nothing special. He couldn’t possibly be the Messiah.
4:25-27 Jesus knew that performing a miracle to “prove” he was the Messiah would not help those who were inclined to skepticism and unbelief. He cited two Old Testament examples, Elijah and Elisha, who were rejected by Israelites in spite of the miracles they performed. As a result, Gentiles received God’s benefits instead, because they were willing to act in faith at the word of God given them through the prophets. Elijah provided for the widow at Zarephath, and Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian of leprosy (see 1 Kgs 17:8-16; 2 Kgs 5:1-19).
4:28-30 The people became enraged (4:28) since Jesus was implying that God’s grace would be withheld from them and given to the Gentiles. They drove him out of town and were intent on killing him by tossing him off a cliff (4:29). Yet he miraculously escaped what would have been a premature death (4:30). It was not yet his time. His death would be at the time and place of his choosing.
4:31-32 Jesus traveled to Capernaum, on the north side of the Sea of Galilee (4:31). The people there marveled at his teaching because his message had authority (4:32). He wasn’t merely conveying information. He was proclaiming the kingdom of God and the effect of God’s kingdom agenda on every area of life. One couldn’t be indifferent to Jesus’s authoritative message. It had to be believed and obeyed—or rejected and defied.
4:33-37 In the synagogue at Capernaum, a demon-possessed man identified Jesus as the Holy One of God and asked if he had come to destroy them (4:33-34). The demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and they feared him. (They know their days are numbered.) Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and told him to be silent. Though the devil’s forces understood Jesus’s true identity, he wasn’t going to let them handle his public relations campaign. So he commanded the demon to come out. With one last act of defiance, the demon threw the man down and left him. But Jesus supernaturally protected the man from being hurt (4:35). Again, Jesus turned heads and left amazement in his wake (4:36). Soon everyone in Galilee was talking about him (4:37).
4:38-39 After he left the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon—that is, Simon Peter (4:38). Jesus healed Peter’s ailing mother-in-law, and she responded by serving him (4:39). Her actions are a reminder that when the Lord meets a need in your life, it should always provoke you to greater service.
Peter witnessed Jesus’s miraculous power firsthand. But it would be during a later supernatural encounter with Jesus that Peter’s life would be forever changed (see 5:4-11).
4:40-41 Everyone who had heard about his miracles brought to him people with diseases and those who were demon-possessed. They came to him when the sun was setting—that is, when the Sabbath was over and they were free to travel (4:40). The demons were shouting out, You are the Son of God! But he refused to let them speak (4:41). Jesus didn’t want acknowledgment from demons; he wants praise from people.
4:42-44 After an all-night healing session, Jesus departed in the morning to a deserted place. The crowds pursued him and tried to keep him from leaving (4:42), but his ministry wasn’t for them alone. And he wasn’t a mere healer. He had come to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God (4:43). His miracles authenticated his message, but he didn’t want to be known simply as a miracle worker. He had a message to announce.
5:1-3 Crowds of people were pressing in while Jesus was teaching them by Lake Gennesaret, another name for the Sea of Galilee (5:1). Simon Peter’s fishing boat was nearby, so Jesus got in it and asked him to put out a little from the land, so that he had a platform from which to teach the people and not be smothered by them (5:2-3).
5:4 At the conclusion of his sermon to everyone, Jesus gave a directive to an individual. Having taught about spiritual matters, he gave Peter fishing instructions: Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.
Peter had probably been fishing his whole life. He had a business partnership with James and John (5:10). Jesus, on the other hand, was an itinerant preacher who had probably spent much of his life doing carpentry work like his dad (see Matt 13:55). But those things didn’t stop him from advising a professional fisherman how to do his job.
5:5 Peter’s answer shows that he didn’t think too highly of Jesus’s counsel. They had worked hard all night long and caught nothing. To land a major catch on the Sea of Galilee, you had to fish at night near the land—not during the day in deep water. So, here it’s as if Peter were saying, “Jesus, I don’t tell you how to preach, do I? Your instructions simply don’t match with my years of experience.” Nevertheless, he told him, I’ll let down the nets.
How often does a similar situation happen to you? Through his Word, God calls you to action in your specific circumstances, but your instincts and experience tell you that it won’t work. We have to remember that our instincts and experience have been distorted by sin. We can’t see things perfectly. We lack information. Our understanding is flawed. That’s why we depend on an almighty God who is all knowing and can accomplish the impossible.
5:6-7 Peter reluctantly obeyed Jesus, and then the unexpected happened. The catch of fish was so tremendous that their nets began to tear (5:6). This wasn’t flimsy fishing gear; these were professional nets made to hold a lot of fish, and Peter and his partners had never encountered anything like this before. Moreover, the haul was so huge that both boats started to sink (5:7). Jesus had blessed his followers with more than they could handle. In the same way, his Word will often contradict your natural reasoning. But if you will obey him in faith, then your vision of him, praise for him, trust in him, and experience of blessings from him will grow.
5:8-9 After this display of Jesus’s knowledge and power, Peter was amazed and saw him in a different way. He fell before Jesus and said, Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord! Peter knew that Jesus was no mere miracle-working preacher. He realized that, just as the demons had declared, he was “the Holy One of God” (see 4:34). When human beings are confronted with the holiness of God, their sinfulness is exposed. Isaiah was a godly man. But when he saw God on his throne in all his glory and the heavenly beings describing him as, “Holy, holy, holy,” Isaiah said, “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6:1-5). Peter saw Jesus for who he really was, and he saw himself for who he really was. The huge catch of fish was nice, but the real blessing was having his eyes opened to his own sin. You won’t understand your need for Jesus Christ unless you understand that you’re a sinner before a holy God.
5:10-11 Jesus told Simon Peter, Don’t be afraid. Peter’s response was understandable. The Son of God was the only one who could rightly calm his fears. Then he pronounced his new vocation: From now on you will be catching people (5:10). Previously he had caught fish for a living. Now he would fish for people as a kingdom ambassador so that they might become followers of Jesus. Peter, James, and John left everything and followed him (5:11).
Jesus had blessed Peter, opening his eyes to his sinful condition and need for God. But this blessing wasn’t for Peter’s own sake. It was so that Peter could extend that blessing to others. The same is true for you. Regardless of the blessings God brings into your life—physical, spiritual, financial, relational—they are not meant for your benefit and enjoyment alone. He has blessed you so that you may bless others as you follow him.
5:12 As he traveled, Jesus encountered a man with leprosy all over his body. He came to Jesus and acknowledged his power to cleanse him: you can make me clean. What he didn’t know was whether he was willing to cleanse him. He recognized both Jesus’s sovereignty and his prerogative to heal.
5:13-16 The Mosaic law required those with such skin conditions to separate from others. However, when Jesus touched the man, contamination didn’t flow in; cleansing flowed out (5:13). Then Jesus told him to tell no one. Instead, he was to show the priest that God had cleansed him, and he was to give an offering as Moses had commanded (5:14). Nevertheless, as news about him spread, the crowds flocked to Jesus for healing (5:15). So he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed (5:16). The greater the demand on him, the more Jesus in his humanity depended on God the Father.
5:17-19 As Jesus’s reputation spread, he attracted the attention of the Jewish religious leaders: Pharisees and teachers of the law (5:17). One day they were listening and watching as he taught, and some men brought a paralyzed man to him (5:18). This was nothing new. Many had been coming to Jesus for healing. But on this occasion, the men couldn’t get their friend to Jesus because of the size of the crowd. So they carried him on top of the house in which he was teaching, made a hole in the roof, and lowered the man’s stretcher to the front row (5:19).
5:20 Luke tells us that Jesus saw their faith. How do you see faith? You see it by what it produces. Jesus saw their actions on behalf of their friend. But he also saw what no one else could. They saw a paralyzed man who needed healing. Jesus saw a sinner who needed forgiveness. The men had brought their friend for physical restoration. Jesus knew he needed spiritual restoration. So he said to him, Friend, your sins are forgiven. Forgiveness came first. Getting right with God takes priority over getting your circumstances right. This incident also shows the importance of having fellow believers in your life on whose faith you can piggyback in times of your own spiritual and physical weakness.
5:21 When this happened, the scribes and the Pharisees started thinking. Since God alone can forgive sins, then this man speaks blasphemies. They started with the (correct) assumption that God alone could forgive sins, and they arrived at the (correct) conclusion that Jesus was making himself equal to God. For any other man, this would indeed be blasphemy. But not for the Son of God.
5:22-24 Jesus supernaturally perceived their thoughts (5:22). Notice that he didn’t contradict their conclusion that he’d made himself equal to God. Rather, he contradicted their conclusion that he’d committed blasphemy. Forgiving sins and healing a paralytic are equally impossible for mere human beings. But Jesus validated his divine authority to forgive sins in the spiritual realm by demonstrating his divine authority to heal lame legs in the physical realm (5:23-24).
5:25-26 The former paralytic got up and walked away (5:25). If Jesus were a blasphemer, he could not have healed him. But since he healed him, he showed that he could also forgive sins. And since he could forgive sins, he should be acknowledged as the Son of Man, the Messiah. The incredible things they witnessed caused awe among the masses and led them to give glory to God (5:26).
5:27-29 Jesus had already called several fishermen to be his disciples (5:1-11). Now he called someone whom the Pharisees and scribes would really dislike. Levi (also known as Matthew; see Matt 9:9) was a tax collector. Jews who served as tax collectors for the Roman government were considered traitors by their countrymen. Moreover, they often padded their own pockets by collecting more than necessary. But rather than avoid such a sinner, Jesus told him, Follow me, and Levi obeyed (5:27-28). Then the man further demonstrated his repentant heart by hosting a grand banquet for Jesus at his house and inviting his fellow tax collectors and others to meet him (5:29). When you truly encounter Jesus, it’s not enough to follow him. You want others to know the joy of following him too.
5:30 The religious leaders were disgusted and complained, Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? They questioned the propriety of Jesus’s association and fellowship with sinful people. But their concern confirmed that they didn’t understand Jesus’s mission—nor did they understand their own duty as supposed servants of God.
5:31-32 Jesus stated the obvious: sick people need doctors, not the healthy (5:31). Then he applied this truth to his ministry: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (5:32). Jesus’s mission was to invite the spiritually sick to repent and experience a restored relationship with God. He hadn’t come to simply hang out with religious people. The scribes and Pharisees, on the other hand, were the religious leaders. Yet they didn’t have enough concern for sinners to show them compassion and point them to God.
5:33 Some were observing that while John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees fasted often, Jesus’s disciples did not. The implication was that Jesus was not encouraging his disciples to practice piety toward God.
5:34-35 Jesus informed them that there is a legitimate time for fasting. Often fasting in the Old Testament was a solemn occasion that involved sorrow over sins or an urgent request for divine intervention (see, e.g., 1 Sam 7:6; 2 Sam 12:16; Neh 1:4; Esth 4:15-16; Ps 35:13). But this wasn’t a somber occasion; it was a time of celebration. Jesus compared it to a wedding and himself to the groom (5:34). When you attend a wedding, you don’t fast, because it’s an event of merriment and rejoicing. The Messiah had finally come; it was party time! Later, though, when the groom was taken away from them—after his resurrection and ascension—his disciples would have legitimate opportunities for fasting (5:35).
5:36-39 To illustrate what he was explaining to them, Jesus used a parable, a word picture. You can’t take a patch that’s new and put it on an old garment. Not only will the two not match, but the new patch will shrink and tear the garment (5:36). Similarly, you can’t put new wine into old wineskins (3:37). The brittle containers will burst, and you will lose both the wineskins and the wine.
Jesus was bringing a new covenant. As the author of Hebrews says, Jesus has a “superior ministry” and is the “mediator of a better covenant, which has been established on better promises” (Heb 8:6). Everything about him is superior. The scribes and Pharisees wanted their old ways to stay the same. They scorned the “newness” of Jesus and the kingdom he was proclaiming. But no one who truly welcomes the King and his teaching—who tastes and sees “that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8)—would say, The old is better (5:39).
6:1-2 The criticism of Jesus by the Pharisees continued. When he and his disciples passed through grainfields on a Sabbath day, the Pharisees saw them plucking the heads of grain to eat, and they became furious, accusing them of breaking the law of Moses about the Sabbath. The law permitted the Israelites to pick some of their neighbor’s grain for a bite to eat when they were hungry (see Deut 23:25). But the Pharisees weren’t questioning this practice. Instead, they were questioning the fact that they were doing it on a Sabbath.
God had commanded Israel to remember the Sabbath as a time of rest, spiritual refreshment, and no labor (see Exod 20:8-11). But the Pharisees were extra-scrupulous. They added numerous laws to God’s law about what kind of activities constituted “labor.” As far as they were concerned, Jesus and his disciples were “harvesting” and, thus, breaking the law.
6:3-5 Jesus informed them that not only did they not understand the intention of the law, but they also didn’t understand their Bibles very well. He pointed to an Old Testament passage (1 Sam 21:1-9) in which David and his men ate the bread of the Presence, even though it was only intended for the priests (6:3-4). As God’s anointed one, David was authorized to eat the bread because of his extreme need. If this was true in David’s case, it was even more so in the case of God’s true Anointed One (Messiah). For Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath (6:5). By saying this, Jesus indicated that he knew better than they how the Sabbath was to properly function. He also was making a not-so-subtle affirmation of his deity. Since God had given the Sabbath command, Jesus would have to be equal to God to consider himself “Lord of the Sabbath.”
6:6-8 The Sabbath was a frequent matter of contention between Jesus and the religious leaders. On another Sabbath, he was teaching when he saw a man with a shriveled hand (6:6). There were scribes and Pharisees present, and Jesus knew they were watching to see if he would “break” the Sabbath so that they could pounce on him (6:7-8). But Jesus wasn’t one to back down from a fight.
6:9-11 He challenged them, asking whether one should do good on the Sabbath or do evil (6:9). His point was that if one chose not to do good to someone by alleviating his suffering, it was evil. Then Jesus restored the man’s hand (6:10). This should have resulted in rejoicing by anyone who witnessed the miracle; instead, these leaders were filled with rage, and they conspired to do away with him (6:11).
6:12-13 Luke has previously described how Jesus called some of his disciples (see 5:4-11, 27-28). Now he describes how he chose twelve of them to be his apostles (6:13). Prior to this he spent all night in prayer to God (6:12). Given this significant moment and the mounting hostility to his ministry, Jesus sought time with his Father. This was how the Son of God approached critical moments. How do you approach them?
6:14-16 Luke names the twelve men whom Jesus designated as apostles—including the one who would become a traitor (6:16). These handpicked men would travel with Jesus, learn from him, and be granted special authority to share in the responsibility of proclaiming his kingdom message.
B. Teaching and Miracles (6:17–8:56)
6:17-19 Having been on a mountain (6:12), Jesus descended and stood on a level place with a great crowd of people who had traveled from far and wide to hear him teach and be healed (6:17-18).
6:20-23 Jesus’s teaching in 6:20-49 is parallel to what we find in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5–7), though Luke’s version is shorter. Although Jesus taught the material on a mountain in Matthew, in Luke he came down from a mountain and taught on a level place (16:17). Thus, Bible interpreters often refer to this passage in Luke as the “Sermon on the Plain.” It’s likely that Jesus taught the same material multiple times to different audiences in different locations.
The blessings or “beatitudes” in these verses are expressions of divine favor and kingdom benefits that would come to Jesus’s followers. Those who are poor—that is, those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy—will see the authority of the kingdom of God overruling life’s challenges (6:20). Those who are now hungry with a passionate spiritual appetite for a relationship with God will receive satisfaction in their souls. Those who weep and mourn over their sin will have their sorrow replaced with joy (6:21). Those who are persecuted and treated spitefully for the sake of their witness to Christ will receive a reward in heaven that is greater than they can imagine (6:22-23).
6:24-26 In addition to pronouncing blessings on those who receive him as Messiah, Jesus also pronounced woes on those who reject him. Those who are rich in the physical world but have no spiritual wealth toward God will ultimately lose their riches and find that it was meaningless (6:24). Those who let this present age fill them will experience spiritual lack in the age to come. Those who laugh and find all their enjoyment in this present age will be spiritual mourners in the age to come (6:25). Jesus’s followers are not to regard complimentary words from the unrighteous as indicators of God’s approval. The ungodly spoke well of false prophets during Old Testament times (6:26). God’s people must remember that divine approval is more important than human praise.
6:27-36 In 6:27-38, Jesus differentiated between his disciples and those who did not heed his words. Christ’s followers will have different values and will thus be distinguishable from the rest of the world. They will love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, and pray for those who mistreat them (6:27-28). They will respond with blessing and generosity rather than cursing and retaliation (6:29-30). They will demonstrate love to those who do not love them (6:31-35) with a view toward bringing such detractors to the knowledge of God’s love in Jesus Christ. For those who treat people this way will reflect the love and mercy of their Father in heaven (6:35-36).
6:37-38 Kingdom people won’t judge and condemn others according to their own standards. Those who do so will find their own standards used against them as they are judged and condemned by God (6:37). Give, and it will be given to you (6:38) implies kingdom men and women will give generously in time, prayer, finances, and service. They’ll realize that they are not their own source. All that they have has been given to them—on loan from heaven—so that they may bless others. God will reward such sacrificial generosity done in his name with overflowing spiritual and physical blessings (6:38). The key is to give to others the very thing (“it”) that you want God to give to you. God’s principle of reciprocity is activated when we minister to the needs of others with the result that he raises up people to minister in return to us in that same area of need (e.g., the widow of Zarephath, 1 Kgs 17:8-16).
6:39-40 Jesus told them a simple parable to contrast his teaching with that of the religious leaders. If the blind try to guide the blind, then both will fall into a pit (6:39). What is true in the physical world is true spiritually too. Those who reject God’s Messiah and teach others to do so will lead them to destruction. In contrast, a disciple of Jesus is to be like his teacher in his attitudes and actions (6:40). The character and conduct of their Master should shine through, because discipleship is a reflection of the life of Christ.
6:41-42 The lives of Christ’s followers should have no hint of hypocrisy. A hypocrite says one thing and does another. It’s easy to talk a big game and give an impression of being a spiritual person, but the proof is in the pudding. A truly spiritual person has an internal reality that overflows into external actions. Such a person will not complain about the splinter in his brother’s eye (a minor fault) while doing nothing about the beam of wood in his own eye (a grievous sin) (6:41). We must address the larger issues in our own hearts before we seek to address the small issues in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ (6:42).
6:43-45 People identify fruit trees based on the kind of fruit they produce (6:43-44). Apple trees bear only apples. Orange trees bear only oranges. In the same way, you can identify people who follow God based on what they say and do. Righteousness is produced in a person’s life only as a result of righteousness in the heart. For we speak and act from the overflow of the heart (6:45).
6:46-49 A fruitful disciple will do what Jesus says. Jesus illustrated this principle by telling a story of two men. One man laid the foundation of his home on a rock. When flood waters came, it withstood the onslaught (6:48). The other man built his home without a foundation. As a result, the flood swept his house away (6:49). Jesus said that the first man is like the person who acts on his words, and the second man is like the person who hears but does not act (6:47, 49).
Hearing and reading God’s Word are absolutely essential. But if you stop there, disaster will result. The Bible wasn’t meant to be merely studied and memorized; it was meant to be believed and obeyed. We are to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22). Failure to obey Jesus’s words will lead to ruin. When the storms of life come, it’s not merely what you hear but what you do with what you hear that determines how much of Jesus you will experience. The foundation of God’s Word operating in your life will determine the stability of your future—especially when serious trials come your way.
7:1-5 In most cases, the Jews hated Roman occupation and rule of their land. But this particular Roman was different. He was a centurion, an army officer commanding about one hundred men. He had practically demonstrated love for the Jewish people by building their synagogue in Capernaum (7:1, 3, 5). Many Gentiles were drawn to the Jewish religion because of its monotheism (belief in one God) and moral teachings. They were known as “God fearers” and participated in much of the Jewish religious life (see, e.g., Acts 10:1-2). However, they did not fully convert to Judaism—perhaps to avoid circumcision or certain other practices.
This particular centurion was beloved by the Jews of the town. So when he sent a request to Jesus, the Jewish elders urged Jesus to grant it (7:3-4). He had a servant whom he valued greatly, but, unfortunately, the servant was sick and about to die (7:2). The centurion believed that Jesus could heal him. But since he was uncertain whether Jesus would respond to a Gentile’s request, he sent the message through some Jewish leaders.
7:6-8 Upon hearing the centurion’s request and the positive testimony about him, Jesus set off for his house. As he drew near, the centurion sent word to him: Lord . . . I am not worthy to have you come under my roof (7:6). Clearly, his self-perception was quite different from that of the various Jewish religious leaders who had been critical of Jesus. This man had a high view of Jesus (“Lord”) and a humble view of himself (“I am not worthy”). He considered himself unworthy of inviting Jesus into his home or even meeting him in person.
Not only did he view himself with humility, the centurion viewed Jesus as possessing extreme authority: Say the word, and my servant will be healed (7:7). He knew that Jesus didn’t have to be in the presence of a sick man in order to command his healing—any more than the centurion had to personally visit a subordinate in order to command him to action (7:8). When Caesar issued an order, he didn’t need to speak it to every soldier in his army. His authority ensured that his wishes were carried out. Likewise, the centurion believed that Jesus’s spiritual authority allowed him to simply speak, and the servant would be healed.
7:9-10 Repeatedly, we have seen the crowds amazed at Jesus. But on this occasion, Jesus himself was amazed. This Gentile had more faith than anyone Jesus had met in Israel (7:9). When the messengers returned home, they found the servant in good health (7:10). Jesus healed the servant from a distance, rewarding the centurion’s faith by doing exactly what he had believed Jesus could do. The centurion had “great” faith (7:9). The key to having truly great faith is to believe that the object of your faith is great. In the same way, Jesus does not have to be physically present for his Word to work when we are operating under his kingdom authority:
7:11-17 Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd neared the Galilean town of Nain and encountered a funeral procession (7:11). The dead man was an only son, and his mother was a widow (7:12). With no husband or grown children to care for her, the woman would have no means of support, no hope. The scene moved Jesus to compassion. He gently commanded the woman to stop weeping, and then he commanded her dead son to get up (7:13-14). Instantly, the son woke from death, sat up in his coffin, and began to speak (7:15). Jesus had performed many miracles, but this is the first time (reported in Luke’s Gospel) that he raised someone from the dead. When they saw it, fear came over everyone—that is, the crowds were in awe and glorified God (7:16). This miracle was a small foretaste of a greater resurrection miracle that was to come (24:1-53).
7:18-20 John the Baptist had been locked up in prison by Herod Antipas (see 3:19-20). Prior to that, he had prepared the way for the Messiah to begin his mission. He had urged his listeners to repent, warned of God’s coming wrath, and foretold of the baptism of fire that the Messiah would bring (3:2-18). Receiving word about all that Jesus was doing, John was beginning to wonder if he had been wrong. He asked his disciples to ask Jesus, Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? John was expecting the kingdom of God to come. Yet now he was in prison with no kingdom.
7:21-23 Jesus told John’s disciples to report back to John all the miracles that they had seen and heard. The miraculous works he was performing were fulfilling Isaiah 61:1, which foretold of the Messiah’s deeds (7:21-22). Jesus wanted John to be encouraged to continue to have faith in him, despite his circumstances. When experiencing suffering, even strong believers sometimes need reassurance and reaffirmation about Jesus and the gospel.
7:24-28 Jesus then proceeded to speak to the crowd about John’s character and ministry. Lest they think John weak, given his current misgivings, Jesus wanted to assure them that John was a man of strong conviction. He was no reed swaying in the wind (7:24). Nor was he living in luxury (7:25). Instead, the king who was living in luxury had locked John up. In fact, John was a prophet and the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1—the messenger who prepared the Messiah’s way (7:26-27). Thus John was a very great man, but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he (7:28). The new covenant, which Jesus would bring about through his atoning death on the cross, was greater than the old covenant. Thus, the citizens in the kingdom operating under the new covenant will have a greater spiritual capacity than John, who had been operating under the old.
7:29-30 The people responded positively to Jesus’s message about John. They had been baptized by him and received him as the forerunner of the Christ (7:29). In contrast, the religious leaders had rejected John, rejected the one to whom John pointed, and thus rejected the plan of God for themselves (7:30). Such rejection would continue until Israel’s leaders led the people in condemning their Messiah.
7:31-35 Jesus told a parable to explain the treatment that he and John had received from the Jewish leadership (7:31). The leaders were behaving like cranky children singing a silly song (7:32). They could not be pleased by the somberness of the kingdom, represented by John’s ascetic lifestyle and call to repentance (7:33). Nor could they be pleased by the joy of the kingdom, represented by Jesus’s gracious fellowship with sinners (7:34). The scribes and Pharisees couldn’t be satisfied. They saw John as demonic and Jesus as liberal. Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children (7:35). In other words, those with spiritual insight validate it by their actions—their “children.” The crowds who had received both John and Jesus demonstrated that they were wiser than Israel’s religious leaders.
7:36-38 A Pharisee named Simon had invited Jesus over for a dinner party (7:36). Jesus had been generating a lot of curiosity, so the man apparently wanted a closer look at this controversial rabbi. During the dinner, however, an unexpected guest showed up: a woman in the town who was a sinner (7:37). Understand that all people are sinners. To call a particular woman a sinner was to say something about her lifestyle. She was probably either a loose woman or a prostitute.
The woman’s uninvited appearance was bad enough. But things really became awkward when she took out an alabaster jar of perfume, anointed Jesus’s feet, wept on his feet, kissed his feet, and wiped his feet with her hair (7:37-38). She was breaking all of the rules of decency and polite society—and she didn’t care. Obviously, she wanted to show love for Jesus and honor him for bringing the grace of God into her life.
7:39 But the Pharisee who was hosting the meal was more disgusted with Jesus than with the woman. He didn’t speak out loud but thought to himself that if Jesus were a prophet, he would know the truth about the woman. If he were all he was cracked up to be, he would have told her, “Please don’t touch me. I can’t be associated with you.”
7:40-43 Luke tells us that Jesus replied to him (7:40). Don’t miss that. The Pharisee hadn’t spoken to Jesus. He had been talking to himself (7:39), meaning he had muttered under his breath or merely entertained a thought. But all our deepest beliefs, feelings, and judgments are an open book before Jesus (see 5:21-22). You can’t have a private reflection without Jesus knowing about it.
Jesus had a question for Simon (7:40), but it was a setup. He was going to have Simon dig a hole and then watch him fall into it. He described a scenario in which two debtors owed money to a creditor. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty (7:41). A denarius was the daily wage for the average laborer. Neither debtor could pay the debt, but one clearly owed considerably more than the other. Nevertheless, the creditor graciously forgave them both and cancelled the debts. So, which of them will love him more? (7:42). Jesus’s question implies that there’s a direct correlation between the amount of debt cancelled and the resulting love that’s shown—a direct correlation between forgiveness and gratitude. Simon took the bait and gave the obvious answer: I suppose the one he forgave more (7:43). Jesus told him he had aced the test, and then he moved in for the kill.
7:44-46 In response to Do you see this woman?, Simon probably thought, “How could I miss her?” But Jesus wasn’t questioning the Pharisee’s eyesight. He was questioning his discernment. In those days of walking through dusty streets in sandals, feet would become filthy. To provide a guest with water to wash his feet was common hospitality. Moreover, greeting a guest with a kiss and oil for his head were signs of warmth and friendliness. Simon hadn’t shown any of these courtesies to Jesus. But the woman had washed his dirty feet with her tears and hair. She had kissed his feet and anointed them with perfume. It took an uninvited, sinful woman to show hospitality to Jesus in this Pharisee’s home. Simon must have been squirming in his seat.
7:47 Then Jesus really lowered the boom: Her many sins are forgiven; that’s why she loved much. The adoration and honor the woman showed to Jesus were proof that she realized she was a great sinner who had been forgiven many sins. By contrast, the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Simon was self-righteous. He saw little in his life that needed to be forgiven. He assumed he had it all together, and as a result he felt no need for the grace of God that Jesus was proclaiming.
What drives your time with, devotion to, and experience of Jesus? Do you go to church for social connection? Do you read your Bible out of duty? Do you pray in boredom? Do you serve others for what you can get in return? If so, you have forgotten your sin before God and the cross of Christ that cancels all debt (see Col 2:14). Don’t lose sight of how much you’ve been forgiven. Drink in the truth of the gospel, and it will drive you to a deep love for Jesus that spurs you to worship him with passion and serve others sacrificially.
7:48-50 Your sins are forgiven is a glorious thing to hear your Savior say (7:48). If you are putting your faith in Christ as your substitutionary sacrifice, then he says those same words to you. Those who heard him questioned how he could do such a thing (7:49), and the answer is that he can’t—unless he is more than a mere man. Then the Son of God commended the woman for her faith and sent her away in peace (7:50).
8:1-3 Jesus didn’t remain in one place long. He was constantly traveling from one town and village to another so that he could preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Many followed him, but there was a core group that went with him everywhere. This included the Twelve (8:1), the disciples whom he chose and named as his apostles (see 6:12-16). Additionally, there were several women who accompanied him. One of these was Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons (8:2). As Jesus told Simon the Pharisee, whoever is forgiven much loves much (see 7:47). Mary had been set free from overwhelming demonic oppression. Therefore, her devotion to Jesus was significant. Along with the other women, she was supporting his needs from her possessions (8:3).
8:4 People were coming from everywhere to hear Jesus. So, as he often did, he told them a parable. Jesus’s parables were earthly stories with heavenly meanings. He took ordinary, everyday people or activities, put them into a story’s format, and taught his listeners a valuable kingdom principle that used the familiar to explain the unfamiliar.
8:5-8 This parable was about a sower who went out to sow his seed (8:5). Though such imagery may be unfamiliar to modern readers, it was very familiar to Jesus’s listeners who lived in an agrarian society. After the furrows were dug, the farmer would “sow” or plant his seed by scattering them, perhaps from the back of a donkey. The seed would fall into the furrows, but some would not, since he was scattering by hand without the scope-limiting assistance of modern technology.
As the farmer sowed, some seed fell on a path where it was trampled and devoured by birds (8:5). Some fell on rock, where it sprouted up and then withered for lack of moisture (8:6). Some fell among thorns that choked the plant as it grew (8:7). Some fell on good ground and produced abundant fruit: a hundred times what was sown. Then Jesus concluded with, Let anyone who has ears to hear listen (8:8). Teachers sometimes signal to students that something is especially important (and will probably appear on a test!) by saying, “Make sure you write this down.” Jesus told the people to “listen” because what he said was critically important. It would come up again.
8:9-10 The disciples were confused, so they asked Jesus to explain the meaning of this parable (8:9). He responded by quoting from Isaiah 6:9. The secrets of the kingdom—that is, things concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament—were being made known to Jesus’s followers. But to others his parables would make no sense because, though they had ears, they refused to “listen” (8:10; see 8:8). Although a large crowd heard Jesus, most would not understand. Only a small group would get it. (See commentary on Matt 13:10-17.)
8:11 When Jesus interpreted the parable for his disciples, he explained that the seed represented the word of God, and the different soils represented different kinds of people, different kinds of hearts. He made it clear that the success of the seed had nothing to do with the seed itself; rather, it had everything to do with where it landed. It’s the soil that determines whether or not there will be a crop. So, if God’s Word is not “working” in a person’s life, we need to check the “ground” that it landed on. The soil of your heart needs to be receptive to the seed in order for you to experience spiritual change and growth in your life.
8:12 The path on which seed fell represents the person whose heart is hard. Just as seed cannot penetrate a hardened patch of ground, so God’s Word cannot penetrate into the hearts of those who have hardened themselves against it. If people set themselves against receiving God’s Word, the devil . . . takes away the word from their hearts like the birds devoured the seeds. The devil does this so that they may not believe and be saved.
This has two applications. The word saved can have two meanings: “salvation” in eternity and “deliverance” in history. When an unbeliever hardens his heart against the gospel, Satan removes the Word that he’s heard, lest he believe the good news about Christ and be saved—that is, become a Christian. When a believer hardens his heart against a specific truth of God’s Word, he is susceptible to satanic deception. As a result of failing to embrace God’s truth, a believer can fail to experience God’s deliverance in his earthly struggles—that is, growing and overcoming persistent sin.
8:13-14 The ground with rocks represents the person who initially receives the word joyfully, but has no root. He will believe for a while and fall away in a time of testing (8:13). Such believers, who lack the discipline of spending time with God, living in obedience to his Word, and serving his people, are unable to stand up under the pressure when difficulties come their way. And thus, they become unproductive.
The ground with thorns represents the person whose spiritual growth is choked with worries, riches, and pleasures. As a result, he or she will produce no mature fruit (8:14). Remember this: If the devil can’t hinder you with difficulties, he’ll choke you with distractions. Regardless of the impediment, your growth will stall, and your life will be void of righteous fruit.
8:15 The good ground represents those who heard the word with an honest and good heart, held on to it, endured, and produced fruit in their lives. This kind of believer gladly receives God’s Word honestly. This person holds or embraces the Word tightly and perseveres in obedience with it. In other words, he or she is no fair weather Christian, happy to shout “amen” on Sunday but living according to a personal agenda on Monday. The “good-ground” Christian consistently endures and bears fruit as his character and conduct are transformed as he lives in obedience to God’s Word. To be one, you must come clean with God, confessing sin and seeking change.
8:16-18 Jesus made clear to his listeners that if one understands the Word of God, then his lifestyle should reflect that knowledge. Just as a person does not light a lamp in order to hide it, so also one is not given access to the secrets of the kingdom in order to keep them secret (8:16-17). When we respond in faith to God’s truth, more truth will be given. The one who refuses to respond to the truth will be lost (8:18).
8:19-21 Jesus’s mother and brothers tried to meet with him but could not because the crowd was so large (8:19). We learn in the other Gospels that his family thought he was “out of his mind” during his ministry and didn’t believe in him (Mark 3:20-21; John 7:1-5). When he was notified that his family was trying to reach him (8:20), Jesus used the opportunity to teach his listeners a kingdom lesson. Intimacy with Christ is tied to obedience to the word of God. Such intimacy transcends earthly family relationships. Those who not only hear but also do the Word will know true spiritual intimacy with Jesus (8:21).
8:22 One day Jesus had his disciples climb into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. This was something they had done many times before. Several of the disciples who had been professional fishermen, in fact, had sailed this sea more times than they could count. But this occasion would test the limits of their faith and expand their view of Jesus.
Notice two things. First, they had not done anything wrong by getting into the boat. They had obeyed Jesus by doing so and were thus in the middle of God’s will for them. When trials come, then, it is not necessarily because we are outside of God’s will. Sometimes he tests us when we are in the center of his will because he has something bigger for us to experience. Second, as the following verses show, the disciples soon forgot Jesus’s word. He told them, Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake. Thus, whatever happened along the way, they were going to reach the other side.
8:23-24 On the way across the sea, Jesus fell asleep. Had they paid attention to him and trusted his assurance that they would reach their destination, the disciples could have slept too. But when a vicious windstorm swept down on them, they feared that they would sink and drown (8:23). They woke Jesus in a panic, but he simply scolded the wind and waves. Unlike the disciples, the elements of creation heeded the words of their Maker and calmed (8:24).
8:25 Having rebuked nature, he now turned to rebuke the Twelve: Where is your faith? The storm had been a test of whether they believed him. Instead of focusing on his word, though, they focused on their circumstances. If they had rightly feared Jesus, they wouldn’t have had to fear this storm. Clearly, the storms of life need not paralyze us either—if we keep God’s Word ever before us. When they saw his command of nature, the storm was instantly forgotten, and the disciples were in awe of Jesus. Their Messiah was bigger than they’d thought. Their fear of their circumstances diminished as their righteous fear of Jesus increased.
8:26-29 They disembarked from the boat in the region of the Gerasenes on the other side of the sea opposite Galilee (8:26). There Jesus encountered a man who was demon-possessed, naked, dwelling among the tombs, and often bound by chains (8:27, 29). His condition was truly dire: spiritually oppressed, weak, homeless, and isolated. Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of him. But the man fell down before him, and the demon within him cried out in terror, fearing the Son of the Most High God would torment him (8:28-29). Whatever power they possess over human beings, Satan’s minions must bow to the authority of Jesus Christ.
8:30-33 As Jesus talked to the demon, he learned that there was actually a whole legion of them inhabiting the poor man (8:30). They feared Jesus would banish them, so they begged him to let them enter some nearby pigs (8:31-32). When he permitted them, they left the man, entered the pigs, and caused the crazed swine to rush into the lake and drown (8:32-33).
8:34-37 Once word got out about what had happened, the people from the town and countryside implored Jesus to leave them (8:34, 37). It didn’t matter that a pitiful man had finally been set free from his captivity and suffering (8:35). The death of the pigs had affected the local economy. It signaled a significant loss of revenue. Were Jesus to linger and cast out more demons, it would affect everyone—and the locals weren’t interested in making such sacrifices.
8:38-39 Though the people wanted Jesus to go away, the man whom he had delivered from spiritual bondage begged him earnestly to take him with him (8:38). He valued what Jesus had done for him and was willing to devote himself to following him. But Jesus had other plans. He wanted the man to be his follower not by joining him in the boat but by returning to his home and telling everyone what God had done for him (8:39). He was to be a witness, then, spreading the good news to the very people who wished Jesus to go away. Our Lord calls us to do the same—to proclaim what he has done for us to those who have rejected him, in hope that they might believe.
8:40-42 When they returned to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, crowds surrounded Jesus again (8:40). One of those who approached him was a man named Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue. Falling at Jesus’s feet, he pleaded with him to heal his twelve-year-old daughter (8:41-42). Though many of the Jewish religious leaders were opposed to Jesus and his ministry, Jairus wasn’t one of them. His story is a reminder that when we encounter desperate circumstances, they can cause us to exercise a desperate faith.
8:43 As Jesus followed Jairus to help his dying daughter, another desperate person approached him. But this one did so stealthily. A woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years was there. She was financially ruined, having spent every penny on doctors who couldn’t help her. Moreover, her medical condition would’ve made her ceremonially unclean (see Lev 15:25-27), affecting her ability to worship at the temple and to have contact with people. Thus, her physical problem led to financial, spiritual, and social problems.
8:44-48 Jesus was on a mission, but so was this woman. She had heard about Jesus, believed he had the power to heal her, and was not going to let this opportunity pass. All she wanted to do was touch his robe. As she did, a condition that had plagued her for over a decade stopped in an instant (8:44). But in spite of her desire to be healed secretly, Jesus wasn’t going to let it go unnoticed. When he asked who had touched him, Peter was astonished (8:45). Jesus was being accosted from every side. Everyone was touching him! But the Son of God knows when someone has reached out to him in faith (8:46). And he was calling the woman out so that she could bear witness and glorify God. Knowing she couldn’t hide, the woman fell down before him and confessed everything (8:47). She went public with her testimony, and Jesus told her, Your faith has saved you. Go in peace (8:48).
8:49-56 In the midst of this joy, a messenger arrived from Jairus’s house with tragic news. His daughter was dead (8:49). Nevertheless, Jesus challenged Jairus to act in faith, regardless of how things appeared, and his little girl would be saved (8:50). So, by faith, Jairus took Jesus into his home (8:51), and Jesus commanded the mourners to stop weeping because the girl was only asleep (8:52). So they laughed at him (8:53). Their cloud of unbelief set the stage for Jesus to demonstrate his supernatural power in spite of it. He held the girl’s hand and told her lifeless corpse to get up (8:54). At that moment, her spirit returned and she got up as if she had been napping (8:55). Then Jesus told her astonished parents to tell no one of this (8:56). The formal acknowledgment of his messiahship awaited his entry into Jerusalem.
C. Preparing the Twelve (9:1-50)
9:1-2 Jesus’s small band of disciples whom he had named apostles (6:12-16), often referred to in the Gospels as “the Twelve,” had been with him everywhere. They heard him proclaim God’s kingdom, watched him heal the sick, and observed as he rescued many from demonic oppression. Now it was their turn. He transferred his power and authority to them so that they might go out in his name and do the same.
9:3-6 Jesus instructed them to take no provisions on their journey (9:3); rather, they were to accept hospitality from whoever would welcome them (9:4). Those who welcomed Jesus’s kingdom message would welcome his ambassadors, but those who rejected Jesus’s disciples were spurning him and placing themselves in a position of judgment. To shake off the dust of a town from your feet was to separate oneself from those who separated themselves from God (9:5).
9:7-9 Herod Antipas was tetrarch over Galilee. His father, Herod the Great, had been appointed by Rome to rule over Israel and had tried to kill Jesus when he heard that a new king had been born (see Matt 2:16-18). Though Herod Antipas couldn’t have known that Jesus was the same person whom his father had tried to murder, he was vexed by him. Many rumors were spreading concerning Jesus. Some said he was one of the Old Testament prophets, and some said he was John the Baptist back from the dead. Herod was confused, but he wanted to see this man he was hearing so much about. Jesus’s reputation had reached every level of society, including those in political power. Interestingly, one day Herod would have his opportunity to see Jesus (23:6-12), but it would be according to Jesus’s timetable.
9:10-11 The apostles returned from their mission (see 9:1-6) and told Jesus all that had happened. He took them to a private place, but the crowds still discovered him. Nevertheless, Jesus wasn’t impatient with the masses but welcomed them, taught them, and healed them.
9:12-17 As the day drew to a close, the Twelve urged Jesus to send the crowds away to find food and lodging because they were in a deserted place (9:12). Jesus suggested that they should feed the crowds. But as the disciples surveyed their supplies, they found that they had only five loaves and two fish—hardly enough to feed five thousand men (plus women and children) (9:13-14). By making them assess their situation, then, Jesus had shown them that their resources were insufficient. Feeding the crowd was humanly impossible; it required divine assistance.
So Jesus had the crowds sit in groups for ease of distribution (9:14). Then he gave thanks for their inadequate food and passed it to the disciples, who served as waiters (9:15-16). When the disciples started handing out the bread and fish, it miraculously lasted until everyone ate and was filled. There were even leftovers (9:16-17)! Jesus proved himself to be the source for the peoples’ needs. He is a sufficient King who has an abundant supply.
9:18-20 After a time of private prayer, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked the question that was on everyone’s mind: Who do the crowds say that I am? (9:18). They reported to him the same things that Herod had been hearing (see 9:7-9). People were saying that he was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the ancient prophets (9:19). But then Jesus turned it into a personal question: Who do you say that I am? And Peter, speaking on behalf of them all, responded, God’s Messiah (9:20)—that is, the anointed one who is both King of the Jews and Savior of the world.
9:21-22 This correct appraisal of his identity opened the door for Jesus to reveal further truth about himself. After warning them to tell this to no one (9:21), he explained what kind of Messiah he would be. It was God’s plan that he suffer . . . be rejected by Israel’s religious leaders . . . be killed, and then be raised the third day (9:22).
9:23 In light of the path he must take as the Messiah, he informed them of what it would look like for believers to identify with him on the path of true discipleship. The one who wants to follow God’s Messiah must deny himself—that is, place Jesus’s glory ahead of his own. He must also take up his cross daily. This is a clear allusion to crucifixion. People condemned to it were required to carry their crosses to the place of execution. Likewise, true disciples must daily submit to Christ’s authority over their lives, even to the point of suffering and death. To follow King Jesus is to live according to God’s kingdom agenda, which is the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life.
9:24-26 The paradox of Christian discipleship is this: Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of [Christ] will save it (9:24). Radical commitment to Christ will result in the experience of God’s abundant life in history and even greater reward in eternity. Jesus made it clear that in God’s economy, true profit comes from giving away your life for God’s purposes. Those who strive after this world’s power, wealth, success, and values to the neglect of their spiritual lives will forfeit their experience of God’s reality now and his kingdom reward at Christ’s return (9:25). Those who reject the call of true discipleship—who are ashamed of Jesus—will lose out on the glorious recognition given to true disciples in glory (9:26).
9:27 In saying some standing there would not taste death before seeing the kingdom of God, Jesus was speaking of three of his disciples who, in a few days, would experience a foretaste of the glory of the kingdom.
9:28-31 Eight days later, Jesus took Peter, John, and James on a mountain to pray (9:28) These three were his inner circle of disciples, often accompanying him without the others (see 8:51; Mark 14:33).
When Jesus prayed, he was transformed. Not only did his clothes become dazzling white, but his face was also changed (9:29). And as if that weren’t startling enough, two Old Testament visitors appeared: Moses and Elijah (9:30). These men represented the Law and the Prophets. Peter, James, and John represented the New Testament. Thus, the Old and New Testaments both are centered on Jesus. The visitors spoke with Jesus about the departure he would accomplish in Jerusalem (9:31)—his death, resurrection, and ascension, which would open the door to salvation.
9:32-33 The disciples had been in a deep sleep. When they woke, they were confronted with this spectacular display (9:32). Then Peter suggested that they build three shelters—one for each of them—in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:16-19, because he thought it was time to inaugurate the kingdom (9:33). But Peter didn’t understand God’s plan.
9:34-36 At that moment, another visitor spoke, this one unseen. God the Father declared, This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him! (9:35). They had seen Jesus’s glory. Next came confirmation as the Father praised his unique Son, the one who was to be King and have all authority. Then, suddenly, they were alone again with Jesus. They told no one what they had seen (9:36) in obedience to Jesus’s instructions (see Mark 9:9). After his resurrection, they would describe the glory that they had witnessed and heard (see 2 Pet 1:16-18).
9:37-41 Upon descending the mountain, they found a large crowd gathered around the other disciples. A father emerged from the mass of people and begged Jesus to deliver his demon-possessed son, who was routinely tortured and injured (9:38-39). Though the disciples had tried to drive the evil spirit out of him, they failed (9:40). Jesus rebuked the unbelieving crowd and told the father to bring his son to him (9:41).
9:42-45 When the boy was brought forward, the demon sent him into convulsions, but Jesus supernaturally healed him by merely rebuking the spirit (9:42). As everyone marveled at Jesus’s power, he again predicted to his disciples his impending betrayal and death (9:44; see 9:21-22). But they did not understand how he could exercise such extraordinary authority one moment and be killed the next. So, being afraid to ask him about it, they remained silent (9:45).
9:46-48 The disciples had an argument about who was the greatest of them (9:46). Though they tried to keep their disagreement from Jesus, he knew their inner thoughts (9:47), which is a reminder that the wisest thing to do with our concerns, emotions, thoughts, and desires is to come clean in prayer. Whether we speak about them or not, he already knows about them the moment they enter our minds. Trying to hide them from him is pointless.
Importantly, Jesus didn’t rebuke his followers for desiring to be great, but he did want them to understand what true greatness looks like. Kingdom greatness is not obtained in the way the world obtains greatness. To illustrate this, Jesus stood a child in front of them (9:47). Kingdom greatness, he then implied, is achieved through service (see Mark 9:35-37). This includes caring for and valuing those with the lowest social standing in culture because they can do nothing for you in return. (Children were a prime example of this social tier in the first century.) To welcome a child would be to welcome Christ and the Father (9:48). This humble mindset is the road to greatness.
9:49-50 When John and the other disciples saw someone driving out demons in Jesus’s name, they tried to stop his unsanctioned ministry since he wasn’t part of the Twelve (9:49). But Jesus corrected their thinking: Whoever is not against you is for you (9:50). The Twelve were not to think of themselves as an exclusive body of representatives; they were to rejoice that God’s kingdom power was being manifested by others too. God’s people ought to celebrate the ministries of fellow Christians when they are carried out in a spirit of love and faithfulness to God and his Word.