The Son of Man’s Galilean Ministry (4:14–9:50)
DISCIPLES SENT OUT FOR TRAINING (1-10)
Right before Jesus began to explain clearly the fate He would suffer in Jerusalem, and right before they began to make their journey to Jerusalem to engage that fate, Jesus sent His twelve disciples out to train them for ministry without His immediate presence (1-2).
a) they took nothing but dependence upon His Holy Spirit
b) no staff to lean on
c) no bag to carry extra things
d) no food in case they got hungry
e) no money in case they were in need
f) no extra coats in case they ended up cold
g) they were to go to one house and set up a base of operation there
h) if they were rejected, they were to shake it off as a testimony against the city and keep moving without resentment
The disciples then headed for villages Jesus had not yet visited. Jesus was getting them ready for His future absence and ascension, and the knowledge that He did not need to be there for God's power to flow. This was an authority issue. He had shown them through the centurion incident that God's power flowed through God's Word. Thus Jesus had authority to fulfill His mission and do His will through servants armed with His Word (1-6).
During this same time, Herod Antipas was feeling guilty about putting John to death. John's death was perplexing to Herod, for since he had put John to death, Jesus was multiplying his baptism efforts by sending out six other teams. The execution of John the Baptist only made matters worse, so Herod wanted to see Jesus, wondering if he could figure out Who Jesus was (7-9). Luke adds this here. It would seem to notify the reader that the climate was changing for Jesus; the political noose was beginning to close in on Jesus, signaling to Him that it might be time to go to Jerusalem for His ultimate glory.
FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND (10-17)
When the disciples returned, Jesus took them to Bethsaida to hear their report of their mission into the villages. It was a failed attempt at hearing the report, for the crowds chased them. As was Jesus’ custom, He welcomed the intrusion and cured those needing healing (10-11).
The day grew late and the disciples came to Jesus to counsel Him. They wanted Him to send the crowd away so they would have time before dark to go to the surrounding villages and acquire lodging and get provisions. The place they had set up for their Gospel campaign was some distance from where they could get provision (12).
Jesus told His disciples not to send the crowd away but for them to provide food. They mocked at the idea, claiming only to have five loaves and two fish. They would need to go buy enough food for 5,000 men plus the women and children, a further impossibility even if they had enough money.
They were trying to tell Jesus He was being impractical. Jesus ignored them and told them to have the people gather into groups of fifty and sit down while He took the loaves and fish and looked to Yahweh and:
a) blessed the food
b) broke the food
c) gave the food
to the disciples who set the food before the crowd (13-16).
All the multitude ate and were satisfied. The Gospel of John tells this same story and makes the point that Jesus was the Provider; Luke is making the point that Jesus was introducing a new age, an age where He has ultimate authority over provision (17).
PETER’S CONFESSION (9:18-27)
Jesus asked the disciples Who they thought He was. They gave Jesus the answers they had heard from the crowds when they were picking up the bread. Some thought He had:
a) taken on the mantle of John the Baptist
b) or the mantle of Elijah
c) or was one of the prophets, maybe Jeremiah risen from the dead
Jesus wanted to know what the disciples thought—Who did they think He was? Peter became the spokesman and told Jesus they thought He was the Messiah, the anointed King Whom God had promised to send, even though to date He had not done anything political or military (18-20).
Jesus told them not to tell anyone He was the Messiah. Jesus was likely concerned others would misunderstand what kind of a Messiah He was called to be and try to make a political and military leader of Him. Jesus then told His disciples the kind of Messiah He would be—a suffering, Isaiah 53 Messiah Who was to be killed by the religious do-gooders they had been contending with from the beginning (21-22).
In the interchange with His disciples, we find Jesus becoming aware that the suffering phase of His ministry was approaching. Jesus then gave His disciples the followers’ creed: to find eternal living, they must lose their life by denying their own desires and cravings. In essence, they were to put themselves on a cross and say no to their own pleasures when any of those pleasures interfered in the least of ways with following Him (23-24). To know and follow Jesus as Yahweh's Messiah would require the kind of faith that denied everything and anything that would get in the way of believing in His words and becoming intimate with Him as Lord.
Jesus further warned of the possibility of gaining so much worldly goods that one would no longer have any need, leading to forfeiting one's soul (25). To forfeit one's soul for the world, all a believer would need to do is love stuff more than God's Word, more than relationship with Christ.
To know how much one loves the world, one only needs to ask the question: is loving and believing in Jesus before a cynical world an embarrassment? Jesus then promised that He would not be ashamed of those who denied their lusts or their own ways to embrace relationship and His voice, but He would be honored to claim He knew them when the Kingdom came in glory. Jesus further said some of them would not taste death because of their denial to self but would live to see the Kingdom of God (26-27). All but Judas, who could not deny himself but sold Jesus out for money, saw the Kingdom of God when they beheld the resurrected Lord on ascension day.
THE TRANSFIGURATION (9:28-36)
Jesus was still getting the disciples ready for Jerusalem. He took the three business partners: Peter, James, and John, up a mountain (28).
As Jesus was praying (and likely for some time, because the guys He had brought with Him had fallen asleep), His face was transformed, His clothing began to shimmer bright white, and Moses and Elijah appeared. The three of them began to talk about His "departure" which Jesus was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (29-31). An odd way to talk about death. The word for departure is "exodus." Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’ mission more than His actual death. As the Passover Lamb saved the Israelites in Egypt and empowered them to be free from their slavery, the real Passover Lamb, Jesus, was about to free the world from slavery and Moses and Elijah were going over the details.
During most of the event, the business partners were sleeping but when they came fully awake they witnessed the whole thing (32). As Moses and Elijah were saying their good-byes, Peter piped up and put his foot in his mouth by suggesting they build a three-ring, circus-style area for each legend (33). The contrast couldn't be more stark—Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophet) were going over the details with Jesus. They were finalizing those details concerning Jesus being the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets, everything which had been predicted, including His suffering. Jesus was destined to go to Jerusalem, to be handed over to sinners, to die, to free the world, in fulfillment of God's promises and prophesies, and Peter was searching for personal power and influence by way of a three-ring circus. Those disciples wanted to keep Jesus and His glory on that hill, but Jesus was destined for another hill and a different kind of glory (34-35).
Peter didn't have a clue what he was saying and he didn't have a clue what was going on, so in the confusion of the moment the voice from heaven cleared the matter up: "this is My Chosen One; listen to Him!" By the time the voice ended, all was gone—just the four remaining (36). Luke here again is revealing Who Jesus is—the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
HEALING A DEMON-POSSESSED BOY (9:37-43)
Luke seems to want to contrast the great pinnacle of glory with the failures of those Jesus was training. A crowd met Jesus at the bottom of the mountain, along with a man who had tried to have his son delivered from a spirit which would throw his son into convulsions and beat him against the ground. He had begged Jesus’ disciples to cast out the spirit, but they were unable (37-40). It would seem Jesus then rebuked the crowd, addressing them as a "twisted generation." Jesus was apparently disappointed with His disciples and with the crowd who was missing His point that His personal presence was not required for the power of God to operate and for the mercy of God to be expressed. To think anything less was a perversion, a "twisting" of Who Yahweh was, and for some reason His disciples were not comprehending that reality (41). Jesus, on seeing the boy convulsing with the evil spirit, set him free (42-43).
PREPARING DISCIPLES FOR JERUSALEM (44-50)
As all were marveling over the things Jesus was doing, Jesus' attention was shifting. The focus of His ministry was going to move from Galilee to making His way to Jerusalem for His death. The “transfiguration" experience gave Jesus all the confirmation necessary—it was time to go to Jerusalem. Jesus told His disciples the way to His ultimate triumph would go through the road of suffering and death. This triumph through suffering theme was all hidden so they would not be able to fully understand it.
Luke then paints in four issues the depth of the disciples’ inability to comprehend the nature of God's Kingdom.
a) They assumed greatness was determined by power and strength (46-48).
Jesus took up a child, one of the most unimportant people in Jewish society, and sought to explain that greatness in the Kingdom was gained from humility and dependency on God. Whoever was able to receive an unimportant child as though the child was sent from God received God; whoever became least was greatest in the Kingdom. Triumph did not come apart from the suffering of humility and service.
b) They assumed they had to commission those who served the Kingdom (49-50).
The disciples assumed they would control the authorization of all things Kingdom. Jesus made it clear that ultimate triumph did not come from their ability to control others. If someone was casting demons out in Jesus’ name, the disciples were not to become territorial. Triumph would not come apart from suffering the advancement of others over self.
The Son of Man's Journey to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27)
c) They assumed resistance of the non-Jew should be met with force (51-56).
Jesus decided to go through some villages of Samaria on His way to Jerusalem and resupply there. The Samaritans and Jews hated each other, and on this occasion, the Samaritans would not allow them to stop and make preparations for the rest of the trip without Jesus staying a while and doing some miracles for them. The disciples wanted to find triumph by retaliation, but Jesus rebuked His disciples and would have none of it. Triumph does not come by taking out retaliation on those who are resistant and unsupportive.
d) They assumed going to Jerusalem meant glorious triumph (57-62).
As the disciples were headed toward Jerusalem, there was a sense something was culminating. There were those who were wanting to join what seemed like a merry band of brothers. Some jumped up and made commitments to follow. “I will follow you wherever you go” (57).
1) When the would-be follower discovered triumph involved homelessness, it seems to have changed his commitment (58).
2) When another found out it would mean the central focus of all priorities would be the Kingdom, it seems to have changed his commitment (59-60). The burial of relatives were considered the highest of all priorities and obligations.
3) When another found out it would mean forward movement at all times, no longer being able to look backward and longing for another day, time, or lifestyle, he seems to have changed his mind (61-62).
In all three of these illustrations, Jesus was seeking to define the source of real triumph, making Christ and His Kingdom the center of one's priority system no matter what sufferings may be encountered in order to reach God's greatest triumphs.