The Gospel according to Luke (10)

9:23 to 10:20

It is important to realise that God does not force anyone to take up his cross and suffer. It is dependent on the individual to 'choose' to do it. The disciples would be familiar with cross-bearing because of the crucifixion of criminals in this manner. There is always the easy way which avoids the suffering and loss which is typified by the cross. Losing the life (or soul, Greek) means forfeiting voluntarily many of the pleasures and good things of this life for the truth's sake and looking forward to a resurrection life which is infinitely better and permanently satisfying. This is exemplified in the lives of prominent people in the Bible, such as Moses, who chose to give up all the wealth and power of Egypt, in order to suffer with the people of God (Israel). The epistle to the Hebrews states 'esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward ' (Heb. 11:24-26 A.V.). Other examples in Scripture can be easily found, such as the martyrs of the Book of The Revelation, who willingly give their lives for Christ rather than worship Satan in the form of the Beast.*

What must not be missed is that this teaching of the cross and suffering is not connected with sin and salvation, but with the faithful Christian life afterwards which leads to divine reward at the end.

The 'saving of the soul (or life)' is linked in Scripture with believers, not unbelievers. Suffering and loss cannot procure salvation from sin. If this were so, then salvation would be by works and merit rather than by grace. It rather applies to Christian life and service for the Lord Who, as the righteous judge, is not unmindful of what has been given up and endured for Him.

In each of the Synoptic Gospels, this episode is followed by the Transfiguration of the Lord and there is a purpose in this.

Verse 27 has been a problem to interpret from the earliest days. What did Christ mean by saying there were some standing there who would not taste of death before they saw the kingdom of God? Many have been the explanations of this difficulty, by making it refer to the Transfiguration, the Resurrection of Christ, the day of Pentecost, the destruction of Jerusalem, the Second Advent and Judgment and so on and obviously these ideas cannot all be right.

There is a passage in Peter's second epistle which must be considered, for it has a bearing on the Transfiguration:

'We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of His majesty. For He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came
from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain' (2 Pet. 1:16-18 N.I.V.).

Peter is clearly referring to the Transfiguration, for he was one of the favoured three who were taken by the Lord Jesus on to the mountain where the Transfiguration took place. As the Lord was praying, the glory of God appeared and covered Him. Luke says 'His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning' (verse 29). The sight was overwhelming in its brilliance and completely dazzled the disciples. Added to this, Moses and Elijah appeared in 'glorious splendour' and discussed with the Lord His exodus (literally), which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Moses had led the exodus and deliverance of God's people from Egypt. The Lord Jesus Christ was about to bring to pass an infinitely greater exodus that would deliver His people from the bondage of Satan's kingdom and bring them into His own rule of peace and freedom. The witness of the law and the prophets was symbolised in Moses and Elijah.

Altogether the scene of glory was too much for the disciples. Peter spoke, but he did not realise what he was saying (verse 33).

They heard the voice of God speaking to them the very words which were uttered at the Lord's baptism, and suddenly the glory vanished and Christ was left alone.

What did it all mean? We must look more closely at Peter's statement of his experience of the Transfiguration, given in his second epistle. The majesty and glory he describes, and declares that he saw 'the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ'; in other words it was a foretaste of the glory of the Lord's Second Coming (Matt 24:30) with its overwhelming power. Thus Peter, James and John had a taste of the coming kingdom before they tasted death, as the Lord had stated. The Second Coming of Christ is the glorious event that commences the setting up of God's kingdom on earth, and that great kingdom of the Lord's prayer (Matt. 6:10) cannot come without it.

As they were coming down from the mountain (possibly Hermon) a large crowd awaited them and one called out to the Lord to free his son from demon possession. As once before, he was his only child and was cruelly affected physically by the indwelling demon and the father was disappointed that the disciples had not been able to drive it out.

Something had gone wrong, for the Lord said:

'"O unbelieving and perverse generation ... how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here."' (verse 41 N.I.V.).

And these words evidently included the disciples, for He had already given them power to cast out demons (9:1). It looks as though unbelief had crept into the their minds, and this, as always, causes powerlessness and failure in a believer's experience and service.

Once again the Lord emphasises to the disciples what they still failed to grasp. He said, 'Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. But they did not understand what this meant' (verses 44,45).

That their attitude of mind was wrong is further evidenced by what follows:

'An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and made him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in My Name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One Who sent Me. For he who is least among you all -- he is the greatest"' (verses 46-48 N.I.V.).

Taking the little child to His side, the Lord gave the disciples an object lesson in all-needed humility, which He Himself had shown. By and by James and John would be bold enough to ask for the first places for themselves in the kingdom they expected.

At the root of it all was pride, one of the deadliest of all sins, which God has made quite clear He will never tolerate.

Until we are really humble we cannot learn or progress in the knowledge of the Truth. It stands written in the Word that God will abase proud people and those who exalt themselves, whereas His exaltation is for the humble.

It is very significant that the apostle Paul stresses the need for real humility at the beginning of the practical section of Ephesians. The worthy walk commences with 'Be completely humble and gentle' (Eph 4:1 N.I.V.) and if this is not in evidence, Christian witness can be nullified and spoiled. It was a sad spectacle to see the Twelve arguing with each other as to who was the greatest and would occupy place number one. After the Lord's correction it appears that John wanted to change the subject, for he immediately asks Christ concerning one who was casting out demons in His Name, yet was not one of their group. 'We tried to stop him, because he is not one of us', he said. Christ's answer was a corrective again, 'Do not stop him ... for whoever is not against you is for you'. As a matter of fact this man had evidently learned the lesson which the disciples had failed to do. He trusted the Name and power of the Lord Jesus and found it worked!

From this point in the Gospel what has been termed 'the travel narrative' begins and extends to 19:41. A great part of its contents is found only in Luke and this includes the sending of messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to get things ready for the Lord, for He had resolutely set out for Jerusalem (verses 51-53). But, we are told, the people there did not welcome Him and this was because they judged His journey was to visit the Temple at Jerusalem, which they, as the northern kingdom, had repudiated in Old Testament days, and they still had antagonism to Jewish customs. Luke three times mentions Christ making His way to Jerusalem (9:51; 13:22; 17:11) and John mentions three journeys to Jerusalem during the later ministry (7:10; 11:17,18; 12:1).

When James and John saw the Samaritan indifference, they said to the Lord, 'Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?' (verse 54). Some MSS add, 'as Elijah did'. Perhaps the recent appearance of Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration reminded them of the incident in 2 Kings 1:10-12. They were indeed 'sons of thunder'. And yet the transforming grace of God turned John into the apostle of love, as his epistles show! The practical application of the truth of God leads to deeper Christlikeness. We are told the Lord turned to the two disciples and rebuked them and they passed on to another village (verses 55 & 56).

The next section of the Gospel goes back to emphasize again the cost of discipleship. Luke records three cases where this applied. The first man said to the Lord, 'I will follow you wherever you go'. This was a rash statement, so Christ reminds him, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head'. In other words He had no settled home, and the implication was, 'now will you follow Me?' (verse 58).

The second man, after being bidden by the Lord to follow Him, replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father', which was evidently an excuse for not obeying the Lord. The casual disciple can soon find a plausible reason for not being an active one. Christ's reply was a seeming paradox:

'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God' (verse 60 N.I.V.),

and this occurs also in Matthew 8:22. The meaning is that the spiritually dead are always on hand to bury the physically dead, but the claims of the Lord come first.

The man did not necessarily mean that his father had just died, but rather that he could not leave his father to follow the Lord around the countryside, for his father might die at any time, which was just an excuse.

The third volunteer said. 'I will follow you Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family'. This case is given by Luke alone. Christ's reply was again a corrective,

'"No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."' (verse 62).

The first part of the reply is an old agricultural proverb. If a ploughman does not give all his attention to his work, the furrow goes crooked. To look back would be fatal for straight furrows. The same thing could be said for a runner in a race. He must keep his eyes fixed on the goal and avoid distraction by looking away or backward. This is what the apostle Paul emphasized in Philippians, 'Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus' (Phil. 3:13,14 N.I.V.). The race claims the first attention of the runner and this is what the disciple must learn and put into practice.

So we see that the first of these cases was an impulse which did not count the cost. The second was the distraction of conflicting duties and the third that of a divided mind.

These lessons are given to help us get our priorities right. Christ's service cannot be taken up and laid down when we feel like it. It is faithful persistence that counts with Him.

Chapter 10

The chapter begins with the appointment of the 70 'others', the last word pointing back to the mission of the Twelve in Galilee (9:1-6). Some MSS. read '72' instead of 70. Professor A.T. Robertson comments:

'The seventy elders were counted both ways and the Sanhedrin likewise and the nations of the earth. It is an evenly balanced point'.

No important doctrine hangs on it. These men were sent in pairs for companionship and testimony as with the Twelve (Mark 6:7) and they could cover a good deal of territory and prepare the way for the Messiah. The Lord Jesus says the same to them as to the Twelve. These missionaries are not to be hampered with baggage, but should accept hospitality. When rejected they are to renounce the place and its fate would be worse than Sodom's. They were to preach the kingdom and heal the sick. To receive or reject the 70 is to receive or reject Christ and the Father Who sent Him. Capernaum would be cast down in her pride. In like manner the judgment would fall on Korazin and Bethsaida. Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago if they had had the same evidential miracles performed in their midst. Dr. Plummer writes, 'the desolation of the whole neighbourhood, and the difficulty of identifying even the site of these flourishing towns, is part of the fulfilment of this prophecy' with their great guilt of rejecting their Saviour and King after all His wonderful teaching and miraculous signs (10-16).

The 70 returned with joy and rejoiced that even the demons were subject to them (verse 17). The Twelve had been expressly endowed with this power when they were sent out (Luke 9:1), but the 70 were told only to heal the sick (10:9). The demons were one sign of the conflict between Christ and Satan. They had been subdued and in a vision the Lord Jesus saw Satan conquered and fall from heaven, quick and startling like a flash of lighting. The victory of the 70 over the demons forecast his downfall and now they rejoiced over the evil spirits and the fact that, in the Lord's power, they had overcome the enemy (verses 17-20) and his efforts had been defeated.


* This context is dealt with in detail in the author's Commentary on Matthew . See The Berean Expositor vols. 51 to 55.