Part 2 of a commentary on Jesus’ leadership style and strategies in Luke 8 and 9…
Luke 9:18 One day as Jesus was alone, praying, he came over to his disciples and asked them, “Who do people say I am?” Prayer is a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life. In the gospels we find Jesus praying morning, noon and ni
ght (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42, Luke 11:1, Luke 6:12, Mark 14:32). How is your prayer life? Jesus uses questions a lot. They are a good technique to check for understanding.
Luke 9:19 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.” Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!” A master teacher, Jesus starts with a non-threatening general question and then moves closer to home.
Luke 9:21 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about this. 22 “For I, the Son of Man, must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “I will be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. I will be killed, but three days later I will be raised from the dead.” One can imagine stunned silence as Jesus dropped this bombshell around the campfire. You get the impression reading the gospels that Jesus was the life of the party. Not here. This is party pooping par excellence. Jesus’ shocking message violates all cultural expectations they had of a conquering Messiah…yet, neither those with evil intent nor death would have the last word.
Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. 25 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process? Go read those last 3 verses over a few times. Then two or three more times and let them wash over your soul. Do these things (putting aside selfish ambition, shouldering a cross, losing our lives to find life) characterize your “following” of Jesus?
26 If a person is ashamed of me and my message, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in my glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. We live in a day of soft-selling the cost of commitment to Jesus. The next time you are feeling spiritually timid, remember that Jesus told us that he is coming back for his own in glory with holy angels.
27 And I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see the Kingdom of God.” “It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” (Heb 9:27, NRSV). Jesus doesn’t say they won’t die, just that they will see the Kingdom. This seems reminiscent of what people report in deathbed experiences.
Luke 9:28 About eight days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain to pray. Again, all this praying. The painfully obvious application: If the Son of God needs to spend time with his Father repetitively, how much more do we?
29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, You have really been praying when that happens! and his clothing became dazzling white.
30 Then two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. 31 They were glorious to see. And they were speaking of how he was about to fulfill God’s plan by dying in Jerusalem. I don’t really know what to do with this experience. Apparently Peter, James and John didn’t either (see 9:36) Did Peter, James, and John come down and say, “I see dead people”? (anachronistic reference to the movie The Sixth Sense). My advice: don’t wait around for this to happen again.
Luke 9:32 Peter and the others were very drowsy and had fallen asleep. I am glad that I am not the only sleepy saint! Now they woke up and saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, this is wonderful! We will make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Jesus is “transfigured” and Peter doesn’t know what to do so he reverts to his go-to gift, his mouth-which once again gets him into trouble. As you read the gospels you will notice that Peter is often talking when he should be listening. Many leaders’ strategy seems to be, “When in doubt do something religious.” Slowing down and engaging in spiritual discernment would be a better strategy in such instances.
Peter’s many flaws encourage me. After all, God knew his faults and chose and used Peter anyway.
Jesus reveals himself differently to different groups. To the multitude: he demonstrates miracles and teaches…and is conspicuously unafraid to rattle the cages of the religious elite. These are Jesus’ “evangelism events.” To the disciples: he trains them and sends them out in his name to share the Good News. They share meals with Jesus around the campfire. He explains secrets to them (like the meaning of the parable of the soils). They get to know his heart. This is his small group discipleship. Peter, James and John are his inner circle- they get to come with him nearly everywhere. They are at the mount of transfiguration, they are praying with him in the garden of Gethsemane on the night he dies. They go with him everywhere. They are his emerging leader development, the ones he will entrust his ministry to.
34 But even as he was saying this, a cloud came over them; and terror gripped them as it covered them.
Luke 9:35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” You would think after all they had seen that “listen to him” was one message the disciples would not need. Seeing is not necessarily believing! (see John 20:29 when Jesus speaks to Thomas: “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’”
36 When the voice died away, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone what they had seen until long after this happened. If you witnessed something miraculous and unexplainable would you tell others? or not? Why? Why not?
Luke 9:37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a huge crowd met Jesus. In the last chapter Jesus is trying to keep the word about him “on the DL”. Now, his popularity is out of control.
38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, look at my boy, who is my only son. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It is always hitting and injuring him. It hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast the spirit out, but they couldn’t do it.” This demon is manifesting itself in an epileptic manner. This is a passage that people in our day and age are not comfortable with. We want some definition…a medical explanation. It is significant that the eyewitnesses, even the author, a man of science, thought that what they were seeing had a supernatural component.
Luke 9:41 “You stubborn, faithless people,” Jesus said, “how long must I be with you and put up with you? Bring him here.” 42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. A lot is going on here: 1. A dad fears for his child 2. A boy is in the grip of a demon. 3. The crowd knows it is about to see a great show that would blow away reality tv. 4. A demon is trying to avoid a confrontation it knows it will lose. 5. The disciples are sheepishly trying to hide: “You faithless people” This is probably directed at the disciples. The crowd doesn’t appear “faithless” in this instance. After all, they have come to find Jesus. Jesus’ frustration is with the disciples who gave up on the boy and left. I wonder if they told that story about the boy they couldn’t heal around the campfire when they were bragging about their ministry success. (Luke 9:10) Watch what details you omit when speaking with others. Are you inflating your resume? Making yourself sound more competent than you are? Tell not just your victories but your defeats as well! But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. In all of these deliverances from demons Jesus leaves the person behind (Eg. the Gerasene demoniac, Luke 8:26-39). Is it to leave behind a witness? Is it to prevent the sullying of Jesus’ name by association? Is it some other reason?
43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this display of God’s power. The power of God brings awe. If no one is awed then, perhaps, it is time to go get on our faces…and maybe stay until our faces are “changed.” (Lk 9:29)
While everyone was marveling over all the wonderful things he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed.” 45But they didn’t know what he meant. The significance of Jesus message was hidden from them, they could not understand it. Jesus is reminding them, “Don’t get caught up in the hype, the circus won’t last…I came for another reason.” He came to redeem. His blood must be shed. His purpose was not to be remarkable or relevant. His purpose was redemption. It was a life about death so that we could live in Him. (II Cor. 5:15)
Luke 9:46 Then there was an argument among them as to which of them would be the greatest. He had just told them to put aside their “selfish ambition” twenty-three verses previously in the same chapter. Is God having to teach you the same lessons over and over?
47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” We have struggled with this verse since the day Jesus said it. We want more power. Jesus wants more faith.
Luke 9:49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. We tried to stop him because he isn’t in our group.”
Luke 9:50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.” Jesus isn’t as hung up on denominational membership as some of us are. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be “one”. It helps me to remember that Jesus’ other followers are not against us…even those who may think they are. An open mind, an open hand and an open heart are how we should approach our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can appreciate and celebrate fellow believers without having to agree with or join them. Many will have different theologies, philosophies and political ideology. God is bigger than our political, theological and denominational affiliations.
Luke 9:51 As the time drew near for his return to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. None of us are called to crucifixion for humanity. However, resolution and clarity of call are…and they are sadly lacking from the church today. God needs spiritual discerned women and men who know Him and know what He has called them to be about.
52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But they were turned away. The people of the village refused to have anything to do with Jesus because he had resolved to go to Jerusalem. There are ethnic, religious and cultural expectations at play here. Can you imagine their selfishness? What they have said is, “If I don’t get what I want from you, Jesus, you can just leave.” O wait, we say that with our lives with regularity. Ouch.
54 When James and John heard about it, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we order down fire from heaven to burn them up?” The disciples think that they are justifiably angry. I wonder if Jesus pointed out that, since they had recently argued about who would be “the greatest in the kingdom” themselves, that they had little room for casting stones? This has a little twinge of racism to it. After all, they “shook off the dust” in the Galilean towns. But they want to “call down fire” on the racially and religiously impure Samaritans.
55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village. He is a gentle savior. He doesn’t force Himself in on them…and He doesn’t get worked up over things that are off-mission. Jesus has set his face like flint for Jerusalem. He knows who he is and where he is going. He will not be slowed down, distracted or thrown off the scent. I pray that this mission-focus would be true for us today as we share the hope of Jesus with those who do not yet know him.