LUKE - CHAPTER 9
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and
authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.”
Power relates to Divine
enablement; authority, to the Divine right to use that power. The power and
authority given them were to authenticate their claims to be God’s
messengers. He who attempts to do spiritual work without the Lord’s
enablement and authority will hinder rather than advance the cause of Christ.
“Devils” is more correctly
demons, there being only one devil, Satan. Miraculous phenomena were for the
early Apostolic age only, and were a sign to Israel, reminding us that the
offer of the millennial kingdom didn’t cease until AD 70 when Jewish autonomy
was brought to an end. Such phenomena are not to be looked for today. Nor is
there any evidence that the power to exorcize demons continued beyond the
early Apostolic age.
The power of demons is great,
far in excess of man’s; but the Lord not only endowed the twelve with a power
greater than that of the demons: He gave them also authority over these evil
spirits of the air, so that they were made subject to the disciples, as they
were to the Lord Himself.
“And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.”
The gospel preached by the
Lord and His disciples wasn’t exactly the same as the gospel we are commanded
to preach. It was to Israel, and the call to repentance and faith was with a
view to entering the earthly millennial kingdom, but since that preparation
required saving faith in Christ, it qualified the believer not only to enter
that literal earthly kingdom, but also to enter heaven at the end of the
Millennium. That same gospel will be preached again in the Tribulation when
God resumes His dealings with Israel. The gospel committed to us is that
which calls for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to
enter here on earth by faith into the eternal kingdom, and then at death or
the Rapture, to enter heaven itself.
Healing of the sick continued
to be a sign to Israel, but only for the early Apostolic age. Healing by the
touch or word of one endowed with the gift of healing was not to continue
beyond the Apostolic age. Healing, like tongues, was a temporary gift given
for that early age only, as a sign to Israel to help them believe the message
preached by the Lord and His disciples.
“And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor
scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.”
The scrip was a bag, purse, or
satchel to hold personal belongings, etc. They were to go out in complete
dependence on the Lord to supply all their needs, their faith being
strengthened as He honored their dependence. His servants are to have the
same faith today. The idea of guaranteed financial support to those called to
“full-time” service is completely foreign to the teaching of Scripture, it
being the Holy Spirit’s prerogative to exercise individuals and churches
relative to the supply of the workers’ needs. The worker is thus taught his
total dependence on God, and is delivered from the temptation to tailor his
ministry to suit the tastes of those who pay his salary. The spontaneous
giving impelled by the Holy Spirit usually involves so many individuals, and
relatively small gifts, that there is little opportunity for any one man or
church to exercise control over the servant. He is thus free to minister
under the control of the Holy Spirit rather than the dominion of man.
“And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.”
When laboring in a
neighborhood, they were not to stay in different houses. The house that first
received them as guests was to remain their lodging until their departure, one
practical reason appearing to be that of delivering them from the stress of
having to move frequently from one house to another. Another suggested reason
is that it was to prevent their coveting more comfortable quarters.
“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off
the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”
Refusal to receive His
messengers was the same as refusal to receive the Lord Himself, so the shaking
off of the dust from their feet was the symbolic way of saying that the Lord
would likewise “shake them off,” i.e., refuse them entry into His house, His
“And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and
healing every where.”
There was implicit obedience
to the Lord’s commands, hence the power demonstrated in their lives; and
nothing has changed. There must be complete obedience if we would see the
power of God working through us.
“Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was
perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the
Tetrarch means prince or
ruler, and his perplexity or puzzlement was due to the fact that he thought
that John, whom he had had beheaded, had risen from the dead. Well might he
be anxious, for the resurrection of John would declare the impossibility of
successfully resisting God. John, of course, wasn’t resurrected, but he will
be, and his resurrection will demonstrate the truth that Herod’s murder of
God’s servant was not only futile, but that it compounded his own guilt, and
will bring a greater degree of eternal punishment.
“And some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old
prophets was risen again.”
Wrong though the conclusions
of the speculators were, the miraculous power demonstrated by the Lord
disturbed the tyrant, for obviously a supernatural power was at work, and his
guilty conscience must have suggested that it was Divine. Since, however, he
had beheaded the servant of the One from Whom that power emanated, he must
have begun to realize that he had good reason to be uneasy.
“And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such
things? And he desired to see him.”
Herod might behead the Lord’s
servant, but that was only to send the servant from the toil of earth into the
peace of heaven, where the power of men couldn’t reach. But what Herod didn’t
know was that he too, in a little while would pass from earth into the eternal
state, where he would not only be powerless to touch anyone, but where he
would have to account for his deeds on earth, the Lord of the martyred servant
exacting eternal vengeance for that murder.
Like many another, he sought
to see the Lord, but for the wrong reason: to gratify curiosity, not to obtain
absolution for his many sins. According to Scripture, the only time he did
see the Lord was just before the crucifixion when Pilate, trying to evade
responsibility, sent Him to Herod, see 23:6-12.
An important facet of the
gospel frequently omitted today is that of warning men and women that they may
be but a step away from eternity, and apart from the new birth, that step will
carry them first into hell and then into the eternal torment of the lake of
“And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done.
And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to
the city called Bethsaida.”
An apostle is a delegate,
ambassador, messenger, sent one, and in this broad sense the term applies to
every believer, for we are all sent to be Christ’s ambassadors or messengers,
preaching the gospel to every creature; but the twelve were apostles in a
unique way which limits the application to them only, and renders apostolic
succession impossible. They had to be witnesses of the Lord’s ministry,
death, and resurrection, see Acts 1:21-22, requirements which clearly confined
the office to men then living.
Bethsaida means house of
provision: house of hunting, with fishing-house as a possible third
meaning. It may be that He took them aside in order to provide needed rest
after their preaching tour, though there is no obvious reason why He should
have chosen the city of Bethsaida, unless it is that the city may be meant to
portray the world, for it is the place where God’s provision is made available
to all who will receive it; but it is also the place where Satan hunts for
souls, but where believers are to be God’s fishermen fishing for souls in the
great sea of unconverted humanity.
Their telling Him all
that they had done, stands in refreshing contrast to the published reports
distributed today, many of them being but thinly veiled solicitations for
money, or boasting of accomplishments.
“And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and
spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of
More would be accomplished if
our own conversation were more often about the kingdom of God. His healing
those in need of healing declares the Lord’s willingness to save as many as
are willing to accept His gift of life, but its being said that He healed
“those in need of healing” reminds us that those who would be saved must be
conscious of their need of salvation, as He Himself declared on another
occasion, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Mt
9:13. The complacent self-righteous are in as much need of spiritual healing
as are all others, but they deny themselves that healing by refusing to admit
their need of it.
“And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him,
Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round
about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place.”
The apostles appear to have
forgotten that the Lord Who had supplied all their needs on the preaching
tour, was as willing and able to provide for the needs of the multitude. The
mention of its being near the end of the day reminds us of the urgent need for
us to supply men and women with the bread of life by presenting them with the
gospel. Today could be our last opportunity to do that work. Its being in a
desert place reminds us that spiritually the whole world is a desert, but it
is in that desert that the Lord makes His provision available to sinful men.
“But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more
but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this
Clearly His command was meant
to test their faith in Him, and they failed the test. They looked at what
they had, instead of at Him. How often we too fail the same test! What
little we have, yielded to Christ, as were the loaves and fishes, can be used
by Him to meet the need of many. Since five is the number of responsibility,
this reminds us that if our five senses are yielded to Him we can be the
channels through which the bread of life is made available to perishing men
Relative to the two fishes,
two is the number of witness or testimony; and the fishes represent believers,
for the sea represents earth’s unconverted masses; fishermen represent those
who preach the gospel; and the fish, those who having trusted in Christ, are
dead to their former state, but are now available to Christ for the upbuilding
of others. The simple lesson of this passage is that what we have - no matter
how little it may seem - yielded to the Lord, will bring blessing to many.
Every believer can at least tell a sinner how to he saved, and we should never
forget the value of one soul in the Lord’s sight. It is worth more than the
“For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make
them sit down by fifties in a company.”
It isn’t for nothing that the
factor five, which speaks of responsibility, is found twice in this
verse. The multitude represents the world’s unconverted masses, and the
number, five thousand, declares the solemn truth that every man is responsible
to prepare to meet God.
Their being made to sit down -
the position that speaks of rest - would teach the truth that he who would be
saved must not only cease every attempt to earn salvation by works, but that
he must also leave the activity of a busy distracting world, and attend to the
matter of his soul’s salvation. His return to that world should be as
Christ’s witness. It can scarcely be doubted that those who ate of the
multiplied loaves and fish, reported the miracle where ever they went. We who
have eaten the Bread of life have a similar responsibility to share the good
news with others.
“And they did so, and made them all sit down.”
The repetition of the fact
that they sat down should be noted. Clearly he who would not submit to the
Lord’s arrangements would not be fed, and it is the same relative to
salvation. He who will not be saved in God’s way, will not be saved at all.
The man who would be saved must “sit down,” i.e., he must abandon all
self-effort, all attempts to be justified by works, and simply trust in the
finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he
blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the
It wasn’t until His commands
relative to the seating arrangement had been obeyed that He took the loaves
and fish and gave them to the disciples for distribution. There is blessing
only where there is obedience. Nor should we miss the fact that He was
careful to return thanks to His Father. We should be equally careful to
acknowledge God as the Supplier of all our needs, the Giver of every good and
“And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments
that remained to them twelve baskets.”
Beyond the satisfaction of
their literal hunger lies the spiritual truth that he who obeys the Lord Jesus
Christ will always be perfectly satisfied. The twelve baskets (one for each
disciple) filled with the uneaten surplus, teaches the truth that the Lord
will be no man’s debtor. Their service to the multitude was abundantly
rewarded, reminding us of what is written, “And whosoever shall give to drink
unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a
disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward,” Mt
10:42, see also Mk 9:41.
“And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him:
and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?”
Someone has remarked that
there is no record of the Lord’s ever having prayed with His disciples,
though He certainly prayed for them. Here also, though they were apparently
not far away, “He was alone praying.” It was the same when He prayed
in the garden of Gethsemane, see Mt 26:37-45. But why? The corporate prayer
of believers is the prayer of equals. The Lord, however, is not man’s equal.
He is man’s Creator and Lord. To have prayed with the disciples would
have implied equality with them. They, for example, when they prayed, had
need to confess sin, as do we, something the Lord did not have to do.
Again, it is to be noted that
the Lord’s questions were never to elicit information, but confession, the
present instance being no exception. He knew what men thought of Him, but He
wanted to hear from the lips of the disciples the confession that would be the
evidence of genuine faith on their part.
“They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, say,
that one of the old prophets is risen again.”
The factor common to all of
these is resurrection. The people believed that Jesus was a resurrected
individual, and while belief in His resurrection is an essential part of
salvation, see Ro 10:9, it will save no one apart from faith in Him as the One
Whose death makes possible the remission of sin. This Israel did not and
would not believe. There are many today guilty of the same error. They
profess to believe everything about Christ except the need of His death to
make atonement for their sin, and of His resurrection for their justification,
as it is written, He “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for
our justification,” Ro 4:25.
“He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The
Christ of God.”
Peter obviously spoke for all
the Apostles except Judas, and his confession declares the reality of their
faith. Nor was the confession the result of what might have been apprehended
by mere human intelligence, for Mt 16:17 records the Lord’s response, “Blessed
art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,
but my Father which is in heaven.”
“And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;”
“Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders
and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”
I regret being unable to
understand why He forbade the disciples to tell anyone that He was the
Messiah, nor have I found any of the offered explanations to be satisfactory.
It is interesting, however, to note that the very thing the people believed of
Him was still future. They believed Him to be one who had already suffered,
died, and been raised again, failing to see that Elijah, and Moses, and the
prophets were but types of Christ, their sufferings, rejection, and deaths
(Elijah excepted) being but figures of His. The truth is that apart from the
Holy Spirit’s illumination, man can have no true conception of the truth
relative to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is instructive to see that
it was the leaders of the nation who rejected Him, and it was they who incited
the people to follow their evil example. A practical lesson for today is that
elders, the present leaders of God’s people, have a solemn responsibility to
lead them wisely.
Verse 22 is the first recorded
mention by the Lord of His approaching death and resurrection, and the
establishment of His Church, see the parallel account in Mt 16:15-21.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
The “all” here appears to
refer, not just to the twelve, but to the people in general, and the “if any
man will come after me” makes it clear that salvation involves man’s will. It
is by the free-willed choice of Christ as Savior that men will enter heaven,
and it is also by a free-willed choice to reject Him that men will enter hell.
The choice to receive Him as
Savior, however, involves cost. He who would gain heaven must be willing to
give up the world, and he who would enjoy peace and blessing must have his
will in complete subjection to that of Christ.
The matter of taking up the
cross daily has been much misunderstood, many believing that it refers to the
enduring of sufferings and trials such as sickness, bereavement, unemployment,
loneliness, etc. This is far from the truth. The taking up of the cross is
to walk daily as one who has been crucified to the world by the cross of
Christ, as it is written, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,”
Ga 2:20, see also Ga 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I
unto the world.” This goes very far beyond enduring occasional exceptional
trials. To take up the cross is, in fact, to live as did the Lord Himself.
And as He was impelled by love for His Father, for men and women, and by the
glory that lay beyond the cross, so are we to be impelled by the same motives.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his
life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
The message appears to be to
believers, and goes beyond the scope of literally saving or losing one’s
physical life. It includes the willingness to forego riches, pleasure, fame,
ease, etc., in order to serve the Lord more effectively. It must be noted
also that it is the life, not the soul, that may be lost or saved. The
thought is that the believer who lives for self will find at the Bema that he
might as well not have lived, for there will be no reward for such a life.
The believer, however, who for Christ’s sake, forgoes the things the world
prizes, will find that what the world thought to have been a wasted life will
prove to have been instead a life saved and eternally enriched. This is made
clear by what follows.
This primary application to
the believer, however, doesn’t preclude its application to the unbeliever
also, but with very different consequences. The disobedient believer will lose his
reward, but the unbeliever will lose his soul.
“For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself,
or be cast away?”
First, as related to the
unconverted man, his living for the things of this world will result in the
loss of his soul; relative to the believer, the same folly will result in the
loss of reward at the Bema. He is a wise man who evaluates the things of
earth by the standards of heaven.
“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of
man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s and
of the holy angels.”
There will of course be first
the Lord’s coming for His Church; but the coming referred to here is His
coming to end the Tribulation and inaugurate His millennial kingdom. Here the
stumbling block isn’t the lure of earthly things, but rather the fear of man’s
mockery. How many are in hell today because they feared the laughter of men
more than the judgment of God! How many believers have been afraid to witness
for Christ because they too feared the mockery of men more than they valued
His commendation! How foolish that pride will prove to have been when the
Lord in assigning governmental positions in His administration will make those
appointments based on the degree that the individual was willing to suffer
shame on earth for His sake! Far outweighing the shame we are willing to
endure for His sake, will be the eternal glory with which He will recompense
In context, however, it seems
that the primary warning relates to loss of the soul rather than of reward.
“But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste
of death, till they see the kingdom of God.”
It is generally agreed that
the reference here is to the experience of the three disciples on the mount of
transfiguration, introduced in the next verse, the link between this and the
preceding verse being apparent when we remember that the glory displayed on
the mount was simply a foretaste of the glory that will be Christ’s when He
returns to reign. It was the anticipation of sharing that glory that enabled
the writer of Hebrews to exhort, “... let us lay aside every weight, and the
sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that
is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who
for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Heb 12:1-2.
“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter
and John and James, and went into a mountain to pray.”
Matthew and Mark say six days,
and the generally accepted explanation for the difference is that Luke
includes the day when the Lord spoke, and the day of the transfiguration
itself, while the other two writers exclude those two days.
Prayer marked the Lord’s life
on earth, see for example verse 18. His going up to a mountain reminds us
that effective prayer requires separation from the things of the world. He
who would enjoy the Lord’s peace “which passeth all understanding” must take
time aside from the distractions of a busy world, in order to speak with God
Since eight is the number of a
new beginning, the eight days may be meant to show us that the glorious reign
of Christ symbolically portrayed in His transfiguration on the mountain, will
mark a new beginning for the earth: it will in fact be the great sabbath of
rest which will bring this world’s turbulent history to a glorious peaceful
Why He should have taken with
Him only Peter, John and James isn’t disclosed, though it may perhaps be meant
to remind us that even to believers there are given varying measures of
disclosure of Divine revelation.
“And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment
was white and glistering.”
What Divine glory was hidden
behind the veil of the Lord’s human body! Nor can we understand why this
glimpse of that glory should have been given to the chosen three, unless it
was to confirm their faith, but if so, it still leaves the question, Didn’t
the others also need that confirmation? Why wasn’t the revelation given also
Since clothing is a Biblical
symbol of righteousness, the glistering whiteness of His raiment may have been
to give visible expression to that righteousness, but again the question
arises, Why? since there is nothing to indicate that the disciples ever
believed Him to be anything but holy.
The Jamieson, Fausset and
Brown Commentary contains the interesting comment that, “The light ...
shone not upon Him from without, but out of Him from
within.” The Lord’s glory is intrinsic, not reflected as was that which
shone on the face of Moses on the mount.
“And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias
“Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease (exodus) which he should
accomplish at Jerusalem.”
Others have pointed out that
here we have a symbolic picture of what will be in the Millennium. Christ
will then be revealed in all His glory. Moses represents believers who will
have died and been raised at the final stage of the resurrection of life;
Elijah, the saints who will have been translated at Christ’s coming for His
church; the three disciples (not glorified), converted Israel on the
millennial earth; and the multitude at the bottom of the mountain, those of
the nations who will enter the millennial kingdom. The reason for the
glorification of Moses and Elijah, but not the three disciples, is because the
former represent believers who will be in heaven in the Millennium in their
glorified bodies; the latter, millennial Israel and the Gentiles still on the
earth in their natural bodies. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that
those believers whose earthly lives will have ended prior to Christ’s return
in glory, will be dwelling on the millennial earth. They will be in heaven
with us during that glorious age.
Their speaking of Christ’s
approaching death, literally exodus, marks the paramount importance of that
death. Apart from it there could be no life either for the descendants of
Adam, or for the creation over which he had been given dominion. The
reference to His death as an exodus emphasizes the end of His experience as a
Man here on the earth.
It is generally accepted that
Moses represents the law; and Elijah, the prophets, so their appearing with
the Lord during this revelation of His glory is particularly appropriate since
in the final analysis His glory is the culmination of all that is testified to
by the law and the prophets.
“But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they
were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.”
It is significant that the
same three disciples who slept here for part of the time at least, are they
who also slept when He agonized in prayer in Gethsemane. Their sleeping on
both occasions would remind us how sluggish these earthly bodies and minds are
relative to spiritual things. That they didn’t sleep all the time is
certified by the words, “when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two
men that stood with him.”
“And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus,
Master, it is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles; one for
thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.”
How strong the human tendency
is to try to portray spiritual things by means of physical symbols, but the
spiritual man is not to be dependent on his five senses relative to what is
spiritual. This is the expedient of the natural man who cannot comprehend
spiritual things, but it is to have no place in the life of the believer, for
the Holy Spirit delivers him from the need of such tangible representations,
the Lord’s promise to His redeemed being, that the Holy Spirit will make
spiritual things clear to them, see 1 Co 2:10-16.
“While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they
feared as they entered into the cloud.”
The cloud, it is generally
agreed, was not vapor, but rather the Shekinah cloud in which God veiled His
glory, to hide His appearance from their sight, for no man may see God and
“And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, this is my beloved Son: hear
God thus rebuked the foolish
suggestion of Peter, which would have made Moses and Elijah the Lord’s
equals. As has been noted already, Christ has no equal. He is Lord of all.
There is the further lesson that we aren’t left to decide what we will do or
not do. Our lives are to be governed by the written Word which is the
revelation of Him Who is the Living Word.
“And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close,
and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.”
By way of confirming what God
had said, Moses and Elijah were removed, leaving the Lord alone, preeminent in
His glory; and as their eyes were to be fixed on Him, so are ours.
Again, I am at a loss to know
why they should have been commanded to be silent regarding what they had seen
on the mount, and again, the offered explanations are unconvincing.
“And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the
hill, much people met him.”
“And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee,
look upon my son: for he is mine only child.”
“And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him
that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.”
That there is a spiritual
lesson in this section is beyond question, but I regret being unable to
discern what that spiritual lesson is, unless we are meant to see in this
tormented child a picture of the human race afflicted by Satan, the physical
wounds being but pictures of the physical, mental, and moral miseries
resulting from Satan’s dominion over men.
“And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.”
The Lord’s statement in Mk
9:29, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting,” may
indicate perhaps that the failure of the disciples to exorcize this demon may
have been due to their failure to ask God’s help in prayer. The practical
lesson for us is to remember the necessity of constantly seeking God’s help in
our prayers. Incidentally, the proper word is demon, not devil. There are
many demons, but only one devil, Satan.
“And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall
I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.”
The rebuke appears to have
been a general one embracing all who were present, though perhaps having more
specific application to the disciples for their failure to bring the child to
Him immediately upon discovering their own inability to cure him.
“And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And
Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him
again to his father.”
The malignant hatred of Satan
is disclosed in the fact that the demon tormented the child right to the end.
The devil is without compassion, nor does he appear to be capable of
“And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered
every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,”
“Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be
delivered into the hands of men.”
The Lord’s exhortation was no
doubt impelled by the knowledge that His approaching death would overshadow
all the miracles He performed, and tend to undermine the disciples’ faith.
Their remembrance of those miracles, together with His declared foreknowledge
of His death, would dispel doubt, and strengthen their faith.
“But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they
perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.”
Their lack of understanding
reminds us that apart from the enlightenment given by the Holy Spirit we
cannot understand spiritual things - and He had not yet been given. It should
remind us also that even though He indwells every believer, His ministry is
hindered when we grieve and/or quench Him. Our growing in grace and spiritual
knowledge cannot be apart from obedience.
Their fearing to ask Him for
an explanation reminds us that we are often guilty of failing to ask for
knowledge, not because of fear, but indifference, an apathy in regard to which
James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask
in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea
driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall
receive any thing of the Lord,” Jas 1:5-7.
The failure of the disciples
to grasp the reality of the Lord’s words relative to His death and
resurrection confirms that Israel’s fixation with a conquering Messiah had
blinded them to the equally clear line of prophetic truth that He must first
die to make atonement for sin, rise again, ascend to heaven, and then return
seven years later in power and glory to end the Tribulation and inaugurate His
“Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.”
This confirms that the
expectation of Israel at that time was that the millennial kingdom was about
to be set up; and had it not been for their failure to recognize the Lord as
the Messiah, their expectation would have been fulfilled in those days. They
could have had the millennial kingdom, and we would now be in the eternal
state, without altering one word of Scripture, for the Church isn’t mentioned
by the prophets, and has been brought in without prior direct disclosure,
during the interval in which Israel has been set aside. With the completion
of the Church, and her impending rapture to heaven, however, God will resume
His dealings with Israel, and following the seven years of the Tribulation
era, the millennial kingdom will be set up as foretold in Scripture.
Their reasoning related to
their anticipated places in the kingdom, and were it not that what is recorded
is confirmed by the activity of our own evil hearts, it would be hard to
believe that such a spirit should have existed amongst those who enjoyed a
place of unprecedented privilege. This same evil ambition for preeminence has
wrought much harm in the Church.
“And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him
“And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth
me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is
least among you all, the same shall be great.”
The desire for prominence
develops gradually with age, being little seen amongst very young children.
It is that same unassertive spirit which the Lord values highly amongst His
own, His approval of it being the strongest incentive for us to cultivate it.
“And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils (demons) in
thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.”
Even in those early days, and
where we should have least suspected it - amongst the disciples - the
sectarian spirit existed, nor has time diminished its activity. One has only
to look at the multiplied sects into which the professing church is divided,
to see the obvious evidence of its existence.
however, is the burgeoning and equally evil ecumenism which would remove every
divinely appointed barrier between what is scriptural and what isn’t. Much
spiritual wisdom is needed to recognize the path of obedience lying between
“And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for
The litmus test of every
religious activity is whether it advances the cause of Christ. If it doesn’t
it must be rejected.
“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he
stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,”
This reminds us that the
Lord’s death was no accident occurring by human caprice. It was appointed by
God before time began. Nor should we miss the significance of its being
described as the time “that he should be received up,” that is, of His return
to heaven. His resurrection was also appointed by God before time began.
This is designed to direct us beyond the sorrow associated with His death, to
the glory of His resurrection, that resurrection being as necessary for our
salvation as was His death. The two are inseparably linked together.
His steadfastly setting His
face to go to Jerusalem assures us that the place of His death was also
appointed by God before time began. It shows us also, however, the antithesis
of the Lord’s submission to the Father’s will: there was that activity of His
will which would permit nothing to hinder His doing the Father’s will. Of
practical relevance is the truth that there ought to be the same activity of
“And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a
village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.”
guardianship, is a picture of this world which is the scene of God’s
guardianship; and as the Lord sent messengers to announce His coming to that
region long ago, so today does He send us to announce His coming, not just to
a region, but to the whole earth. The fact that that coming is for the
execution of judgment which will see every unbeliever banished bodily into
hell, ought to dispel lethargy, and lend wings to our feet in the preaching of
the Gospel. It is of paramount importance with God, and should be also with
“And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to
The passage of time has
changed nothing. Like Samaria, the world still refuses to receive Him, and
for the same reason: He requires men to do His Father’s will, that is, believe
on Him Whom the Father has sent, as it is written, “This is the work of God,
that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,” Jn 6:29.
“And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou
that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias
How prone we are to take
revenge! How quick to forget what grace and mercy have been shown us!
“But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, ye know not what manner of spirit
ye are of.”
This seems to remove all doubt
as to whether they had yet been born again. Clearly they had, and while their
attitude may have been appropriate for the age of law in which they lived,
they were soon to pass out of that age into the new era which God says is to
be marked by our displaying the truth that we ourselves are debtors to grace
greater than finite minds can measure.
“For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And
they went to another village.”
Even before the age of law had
ended the Lord would display the grace that was to characterize the new
dispensation which His death and resurrection would bring in. Their going to
another village where they were apparently received, reminds us that however
many may reject the Gospel, there are others who will believe. God’s house
will be filled.
“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto
him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”
“And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
Discipleship has its price,
and the Lord would have every follower fully aware of the cost, rather than
have the man discover after he has begun, that the price is more than he is
willing to pay. Those who would be Christ’s disciples must be prepared to
give up the world.
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to
go and bury my father.”
“Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the
kingdom of God.”
Prospective disciples are thus
taught that they are not to entangle themselves with the things of this world
beyond what is necessary. There are enough of the spiritually dead to attend
to the affairs of those who are also spiritually dead. The preaching of the
Gospel is the disciple’s primary business.
Incidentally, it is generally
understood that the father wasn’t dead, but that the son felt responsible to
care for him until he did die.
“And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them
farewell, which are at home at my house.”
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and
looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
This seems to teach the
imperative of acting in God’s time, and of recognizing that His work has first
priority. He who would serve effectively cannot vacillate between the demands
of God and those of men.
Some have stressed that what
is recorded of these three relates to the believer’s service, not to a man’s
becoming a believer, and certainly that view has a measure of validity, but it
is to be remembered that the things which disqualified the men are not only
those which impair service, but which also keep many from becoming believers.
There is nothing in all this world more important than the salvation of one’s