The Shadow of the Cross 9:1-50
Luke presents here the climax of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. At the heart of this passage is Jesus’ prediction of His death on the cross. He also issues a call of His followers to follow Him in the way of the cross. Jesus opens with a mission statement to the twelve disciples. We also learn of the feeding of the five thousand which provides a background for the theme. For additional background information read Mark 6:45-8:27. Jesus made His death on the cross known as a result of Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah. In this passage Peter, James and John join Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration which gives further emphasis to the theme. This chapter ends with two episodes of how far the disciples had to go before they would fully practice the way of the cross.
Joining the Master’s Mission 1-9
For most of Jesus’ Galilean ministry the disciples had been with Him. Now it was time for the disciples to go out on their on to see how they would handle the ministry that they had been called into. It was their purpose to proclaim the reality of God’s reign and to demonstrate its truth by acts of compassion. This was a training mission that they would be capable to carry on when they received the power of the Holy Spirit.
This outing into Galilee was a short term mission trip. They did not need to spend time in preparation of provisions for their journey. They were told to just go. They were to accept hospitality from wherever they could find it and they were to quickly depart where they did not receive welcome. This they did as Jesus had instructed them.
Herod Antipas was the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. (3:18-20) He had heard reports of what Jesus and His disciples were doing in Galilee. Herod was also aware of the three explanations of who Jesus was. Some said that He was John the Baptist risen from the dead while others thought that He was the Prophet Elijah, and some said that He was an ancient prophet who had been brought back form the dead.
It was the report that He was John the Baptist risen from the dead that bothered Herod the most as it was he that ordered the beheading of John the Baptist. The beheading of John the Baptist was not something that Herod wanted to do and perhaps he had feelings of guilt that remained. Therefore, Herod wanted to see Jesus to assure himself that it was not John the Baptist. In Luke chapter 23 we see the full truth of Herod when he finally meets Jesus.
Breaking Bread 10-17
The disciples returned from their mission and reported all that had happened to them. Jesus then took His disciples and they withdrew from the people. The crowd heard of where they were going and followed them. Jesus did not respond to the intrusion of the crowd harshly but welcomed them and began to teach and heal them of their distresses.
Recorded in all four of the gospels is the feeding of the five thousand. It was an act of compassion that Jesus had for the people. It was also to be viewed as a sign of God’s reign. In the Gospel of John chapter six we gain insight into the aftermath of this miracle. The purpose of Jesus was for the people to see Him as the bread of life. That He was offering Himself for them but the people insisted on seeing Him and their King who could fil their empty stomachs.
A Different King 18-22
All of the Synoptic Gospels record the confession of Peter, (Matthew 16:13-23; Mark 8:27-33) but only Luke places it in the context of Jesus’ prayer life, “And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”
In general the people did not think of Jesus as the coming Messiah. The people thought of Jesus as John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the old prophets. The confession of Peter was all the more significant because of this. Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah of God. The word Messiah means the anointed one. The ancient kings were anointed. God had promised King David that his throne would be establish forever. (2 Samuel 7) When Judah fell and the dynasty of David was at an end the Jewish people looked for a son of David to reestablish the throne.
Peter was right in his confession that Jesus was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:17-19) But Jesus told them to tell no one that He was the Messiah, why? The people were looking for a different Messiah than Jesus was coming to be. Jesus had not come to conquer with the sword but to overcome evil with good. Jesus had come to be a different kind of King. The people were looking for a king that would deliver them from Roman rule and restore Israel to a powerful nation. Many of the Jewish people had come to expect that everything would be set right when their Messiah came.
If the disciples had spread the word that Jesus was the Messiah what would have happened? Many would have reacted to Jesus in the way that they believed He should be according to their misconceptions. They would have tried to make Him the King they thought He should be and not the King that He had come to be.
So Jesus did not refer to Himself as the Messiah. Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of man. By not using the title of Messiah He could become the Messiah He had come to be. As the Messiah that God had sent He must suffer, be rejected, killed, and be raised from the dead. There are two Old Testament ideas here that Jesus has combined. One idea is the suffering servant of Isaiah chapter 53. The other is that He will be vindicated as the triumphant Son of man in Daniel chapter 7.
His disciples were not expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead. (24:11) If Jesus had predicted His resurrection then why were the disciples surprised by it? Jesus had told them but they were not listening. They became caught up by His suffering and death that they did not hear the words of His resurrection. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark Peter rebuked the Lord for His prediction of death and resurrection. Jesus in return rebuked Peter. (Mark 8:32-33) Luke does not record this but he did show the disciples misunderstanding and how they missed the point about cross bearing. (9:45-46) The disciples had confessed Jesus as the Messiah but not the Messiah Jesus would be but that of popular understanding.
The Cross a Way of Life 23-27
Jesus follows His prediction of the cross by explaining that anyone who follows Him will have to take up a cross. In Jesus’ day that meant in taking their cross and carrying it to the point of their execution. A follower of Jesus must be willing to die for Him and with Him. The meaning of this lies in the background of His words about saving one’s life and being ashamed of Jesus. However, the use of the word daily shows that Jesus meant more than a willingness to endure martyrdom for His sake. The follower of Christ must be willing to live a cross-way-of-life on a daily bases.
The meaning of this is more than what is often meant by cross bearing. It is more than enduring some burden or trial for which we have no control. This is part of the Christian life, but it is not cross bearing. It is a voluntary commitment to live by the principle of self-giving love.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” These verses present the paradox of this way of life. A cautious life is not life at all. On the other hand one who risks all for God and others find life. One who goes through life grasping everything for themselves end up losing everything.
Verse 32 is a difficult verse to practice and 27 is a difficult verse to understand. What does seeking the Kingdom of God refer to in this verse? Some say the Kingdom of God was already there if people had the eyes to see it. (27:20-21) Others believe that Jesus was referring to events of the near future. Others believe that Jesus we speaking of events of the future. The transfiguration, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, the spread of the gospel in Acts, and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
A Voice from Heaven 28-36
At the Baptism of Jesus a voice came from Heaven and said “Thou art my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.” (3:22) The voice was to confirm the mission of Jesus. Now at the transfiguration a voice came from Heaven and spoke to Peter, James, and John, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”
Jesus was strengthened and reassured on His commitment on His way to the cross. It was also to challenge Peter, James, and John to accept what Jesus was telling them about the way of the cross.
The transfiguration is recorded in each of the synoptic gospels. (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8) Only in Luke does it say this took place while Jesus was praying. And only in Luke is it recorded what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were talking about, “were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
The Greek word for departure is Exodus. Moses led God people in a triumphant Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. Elijah had a triumphant exit from earth to Heaven. Moses and Elijah also represented the Old Testament Prophets, which Jesus had come to fulfill. Jesus was about to make a triumphant Exodus through death and resurrection from earth to heaven. God had sent Moses and Elijah to reassure Jesus on His mission.
Peter, James, and John had been awakened when this was taking place. Peter being bold as he usually was offered to make three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Peter’s suggestion was inappropriate as Jesus was now set on His mission and could not be accomplished by camping on the mount. Jesus now needed to come down from the mount and set His face toward Jerusalem. The voice from Heaven confirmed that Peter, James and John were to listen to Jesus when He told them of the events ahead of them.
A Great Need and Weak Faith 37-45
From the glory of the mount they came done and were faced with the desperate need of humanity. From the crowds that met them there came a father and his only son in desperation. The father expressed the helplessness of the disciples to aid him and his son.
Jesus replied to there anxiety with these words, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” These words of Jesus were probably directed to the crowds and to the disciples. It may have been that there were some in the crowd who were trying to embarrass Jesus and His disciples. Jesus healed the boy and the crowd was astonished.
Failure of Understanding the Cross 43-45
From the mount the voice from heaven had told the disciples to listen to Jesus. Now Jesus told them to, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But the disciples still lacked understanding. From verse 45 we might see that something or someone was causing the meaning to be hidden from them. But it may have been their preconceived ideas were so strong that they could not understand what Jesus was telling them about His death.
The Making of a Great Person 46-50
This passage starts off by showing us how far the disciples were from understanding and commitment to the way of the cross. The fell into an argument as to which of them was the greatest.
Jesus often used a child to teach His disciples. In Luke 18:17 He uses a child to demonstrate the kind of humble trust needed to receive the Kingdom. A humility and trust that children have. This may have been the purpose of Jesus in verses 47-48. The child was least and he was willing to be the least. Jesus emphasized the humble service of receiving a child in His name. His point is that whoever takes the time to love and help a child is great in His Kingdom.
In Luke 11:23 we learn that a person is either with Christ or against Him. When compared to verse 50 it implies that this is a judgment that is made by the person himself and not a judgment about others. Here in verse 50- Jesus is talking about judgements that we make about others.
The disciples were critical because the exorcist was not following Jesus. He wasn’t a part of their group. The point that Jesus is making is that not everyone is a part of the same group of believers. This was not an issue for the disciples to discern. It was an issue that was between the other group and Jesus. The issue for the disciples is to have a tolerant and glad spirit to all those who strive to serve Jesus.
On to Jerusalem 9:51-19:27
This is the longest section in the Gospel of Luke. The theme of this section is captured in 9:51. “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem.”
This theme does not mean that Jesus headed to Jerusalem directly by the shortest route. The theme has to do with the commitment of Jesus to go to Jerusalem. The point of this is that every action of Jesus was pointed towards the climax of His mission. Toward the end of His ministry in Galilee Jesus had clearly told His disciples what awaited Him in Jerusalem. At the mount of transfiguration the Prophets Moses and Elijah had come to speak with Jesus and to reassure Him about this very thing.
Jesus would face rejection and crucifixion ahead of Him, but also resurrection. From this point on the shadow of the cross lay across the path of Jesus. Jesus would suffer much in the coming days but the resurrection and ascension lay beyond the cross.
Handling Rejection 51-56
For the first time in the Gospel of Luke the Samaritans are mentioned. The people of a Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus because He was a Jew and on His way to Jerusalem. James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven because of the Samaritans rejection of Jesus. But Jesus rebuked them. Earlier in the gospel account Jesus had taught His disciples to love their enemies. (6:27)
Would be Followers 57-62
Those who desire to follow Jesus must follow Him on the way to the cross. In this passage we see three that expressed an interest in following Jesus but did not have the commitment that is required. The way that Jesus dealt with them may sound as if He was trying to discourage them. Actually it was a challenge to cause them to truly follow Him.
To the first man Jesus tried to help the man saw the cost of following Him. The man had told Jesus that he would follow Him wherever He went. But Jesus made it known that following Him was a way of sacrifice and self-giving.
The other two wanted to follow Jesus but had other things to do first. We are not sure if the man’s father had died or if he wanted to stay with his father until he had died. But Jesus stressed to Him the greater importance and the absolute priority of following Him.
Family is important for all of us but even that does not take precedence over our commitment to following Jesus. People can always find a reason to not t totally commit to something. If one is to follow Jesus, then he must follow completely committed.
James, Son of Zebedee
James, son of Zebedee and brother of John, was one of the twelve Apostles, and he was among one of the first to be killed as a follower of Jesus. His mother, Salome, was possibly the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which would make him Jesus’ cousin. (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1; John 19:25) His name usually occurs before that of John, which may suggest that James was the older of the two. He should not be confused with James, the son of Alphaeus, (Luke 6:15) or James, the brother of Jesus.
Originally fishermen like their father, (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19) James and John fished with Peter and Andrew, another pair of brothers who became disciples. (Luke 5:10 They were among the first Jesus called to be His disciples, and they left everything, including their father, to follow Him. (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:22; Mark 1:20) Jesus called them “sons of thunder,” (Mark 3:17) which might imply that they had vehement personalities, (Luke 9:54) but the exact connotation is unclear.
James and his brother John were among those closest to Jesus. With Peter, they formed an inner circle of trusted disciples who accompanied Jesus on special occasions, as when He healed Jairus’ daughter, (Luke 8:51; Mark 5:37) conversed with Elijah and Moses on the mountain, (Luke 9:28; Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:2) and agonized in prayer in the garden. (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33) At one point, the two brothers evoked the indignation of the other disciples by asking for special positions of privilege in the coming Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-27)
Perhaps because of James prominence among the disciples, Herod Agrippa had him killed soon after Jesus’ death, which pleased the Jewish leaders, (Acts 12:2-3) and fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about him drinking the bitter cup that Jesus drank. (Matthew 20:23; Mark 10:39)
James was an ordinary working person that Jesus called to be His disciple. His willingness to leave everything he knew, work, family, and home, to follow Jesus in simple trust, and eventually die for Him, makes him a model of committed discipleship.