So concludes an almost breathtaking succession of encounters between Jesus and people in need. Each story is unique; Jesus responds to each person as an individual, and there is no detectable formula to His way of treating people—except that in every case, His interactions are characterized by love and compassion.
Now Jesus takes His ministry of teaching the kingdom of God in word and deed to a new level: He sends out His disciples to do what they have seen Him do. Jesus commissions the twelve to multiply His ministry. They will go out from and then return to Jesus with reports of what they’ve experienced and learned. But it’s hard for them to get any time alone to talk. There are so many people who want time with Jesus!
9 Jesus convened a gathering of the twelve. He gave them power and authority to free people from all demonic spirits and to heal them of diseases. 2 He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3-5 These were His instructions:
- Travel light on your journey: don’t take a staff, backpack, bread, money, or even an extra change of clothes.
- When you enter a house, stay there until you leave that city.
- If a town rejects you, shake the dust from your feet as you leave as a witness against them.
6 The disciples left on their journeys from village to village. They preached the good news, and they healed the sick everywhere they went.
7-8 Their mission didn’t go unnoticed. The local official installed by Rome, Herod, was especially anxious about the news because rumors were flying. Some people said that Elijah or one of the other ancient prophets had been resurrected, while others said that John, famous for his ritual cleansing, was alive and preaching again.
Herod: 9 I am the one who beheaded John. So who is this man who is causing such a stir?
Herod was curious about Jesus and wanted to see Him.
10 The emissaries[a] whom Jesus had sent out returned, and Jesus took them away from the crowds for a time of retreat in a city called Bethsaida. They gave Jesus a full report of their accomplishments and experiences. 11 But soon the crowds discovered where they were and pursued Him. Jesus didn’t turn them away; He welcomed them, spoke of the kingdom of God to them, and brought health to those who needed healing.
12 Picture what happened while in Bethsaida, where Jesus and His disciples were spending time with the crowds:
The sun is low in the sky, and soon it will be dusk. The twelve come to Jesus with advice.
Disciples: Send the crowd away so they can find lodging and food in the nearby villages and countryside. We’re out here in the middle of nowhere.
Jesus: 13-14 No. You give them something to eat.
Disciples: Are You kidding? There are at least 5,000 men here, not to mention women and children. All we have are five loaves and two fish. The only way we could provide for them would be to go to a nearby city and buy cartloads of food. That would cost a small fortune.
Jesus: Just do this: organize them in little communities of about 50 people each and have them sit down.
15 They do what Jesus says, and soon groups of 50 are scattered across the landscape.
16 Then Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish, and He looks up to heaven. He praises God for the food, takes each item, and breaks it into fragments. Then He gives fragments to the twelve disciples and tells them to distribute the food to the crowd.
17 Everyone eats. Everyone is satisfied. Nobody goes away hungry. In fact, when the disciples recover the leftovers, they have 12 baskets full of broken pieces.
18 Once Jesus was praying in solitude. The disciples were nearby, and He came to them with a question.
Jesus: What are the people saying about Me?
Disciples: 19 Some people think You’re John the Baptist. Others say You’re the prophet Elijah, or else one of the other ancient prophets who has come back from the dead.
Jesus: 20 Ah, but what about you? Who do you say that I am?
Peter: God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.
Jesus (sternly): 21 Don’t tell anyone this. 22 The Son of Man must suffer intensely. He must be rejected by the religious establishment—the elders, the chief priests, the religious scholars. Then He will be killed. And then, on the third day He will be raised.
23 If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me. 24 If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. 25 Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?
26 If you’re ashamed of who I am and what I teach, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when He comes in all His glory, the glory of the Father, and the glory of the holy messengers. 27 Are you ready for this? I’m telling you the truth: some of you will not taste death until your eyes see the kingdom of God.
In this section of Luke, Jesus is working hard with the disciples. They have a lot to learn and not much time left to learn it. But their “not-getting-it factor” is quite amazing. Luke’s tone betrays him shaking his head and chuckling as he writes, thinking about how foolish the disciples can be at times. And, of course, he’s probably thinking of himself too . . . just as he hopes his readers will when they read about the stupid things the disciples say and do—one moment seeing and hearing glorious things, the next moment missing the point entirely.
28 Those words had about eight days to settle in with the disciples. Then, once again, Jesus went away to pray. This time He took along only Peter, John, and James. They climbed a mountainside and came to a place of solitude.
29-32 Jesus began to pray and the disciples tried to stay awake, but their eyes grew heavier and heavier and finally they all fell asleep. When they awakened, they looked over at Jesus and saw something inexplicable happening. Jesus was changing before their eyes, beginning with His face. It seemed to glow. The glow spread, and even His clothing took on a blinding whiteness. Then, two figures appeared in the glorious radiance emanating from Jesus. The three disciples somehow knew that these figures were Moses and Elijah. Peter, James, and John overheard the conversation that took place among Jesus, Moses, and Elijah—a conversation that centered on Jesus’ “departure”[b] and how He would accomplish this departure from the capital city, Jerusalem.
33 The glow began to fade, and it was clear that Moses and Elijah were about to disappear.
Peter (to Jesus): Please, Master, it is good for us to be here and see this. Can we make three structures—one to honor You, one to honor Moses, and one to honor Elijah, to try to capture what’s happening here?
Peter had no idea what he was saying.
34 While he spoke a cloud descended, and they were enveloped in it, and fear fell on them. 35 Then a voice came out of everywhere and nowhere at once.
36 Then the voice was silent, the cloud disappeared, and Moses and Elijah were gone. Peter, James, and John were left speechless, stunned, staring at Jesus who now stood before them alone. For a long time, they did not say a word about this whole experience.
37 They came down the mountain, and the next day yet another huge crowd gathered around Jesus. There was a man in the crowd who shouted out.
Man in Crowd: 38 Teacher! Please come and look at my son here, my only child. 39 From time to time, a demonic spirit seizes him. It makes him scream and go into convulsions. He foams at the mouth. It nearly destroys him and only leaves after causing him great distress. 40 While You were up on the mountain, I begged Your disciples to liberate him from this spirit, but they were incapable of helping us.
Jesus: 41 O generation faithless, twisted, and crooked, how long can I be with you? How much can I bear? Bring your boy here.
42 The boy had taken a few steps toward Jesus when suddenly the demon seemed to rip into the boy, throwing him into convulsions. Jesus spoke sternly to the demonic spirit, and the boy was healed. Jesus presented the boy to his father.
43 The crowd began cheering and discussing this amazing healing and the power of God, but Jesus turned to His disciples.
Jesus: 44 Listen. Listen hard. Let these words get down deep: the Son of Man is going to be turned over to the authorities and arrested.
45 They had no idea what He meant by this; they heard the words but missed the meaning, and they felt too afraid to ask Him to explain further.
46 Later the close followers of Jesus began to argue over the stupid and vain question, “Which one of us is the greatest disciple?”
47 Jesus saw what was going on—not just the argument, but the deeper heart issues—so He found a child and had the child stand beside Him.
Jesus: 48 See this little one? Whoever welcomes a little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. The smallest one among you is therefore the greatest.
John: 49 Master, we found this fellow casting out demons. He said he was doing it in Your name, but he’s not one of our group. So we told him to stop.
Jesus: 50 What? No! Don’t think like that! Whoever is not working against you is working with you.
51 The time approached for Him to be taken back up to the Father; so strong with resolve, Jesus made Jerusalem His destination.
52 He sent some people ahead of Him into the territory of the Samaritans, a minority group at odds with the Jewish majority. He wanted His messengers to find a place for them to stay in a village along the road to Jerusalem. 53 But because the Samaritans realized Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they refused to welcome them.
Jesus (turning toward them and shaking His head): 55 You just don’t get it. [56 The Son of Man didn’t come to ruin the lives of people, but He came to liberate them.][g]
He led them on toward another village. 57 Farther along on the road, a man volunteered to become a disciple.
Volunteer: I’ll follow You to any destination.
Jesus: 58 Foxes are at home in their burrows. Birds are at home in their nests. But the Son of Man has no home. 59 You (to another person)—I want you to follow Me!
Another Volunteer: I’d be glad to, Teacher, but let me first attend to my father’s funeral.
Jesus: 60 Let the dead bury their dead. I’m giving you a different calling—to go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
A Third Volunteer: 61 I’ll come, Jesus. I’ll follow You. But just let me first run home to say good-bye to my family.
Jesus: 62 Listen, if your hand is on the plow but your eyes are looking backward, then you’re not fit for the kingdom of God.