JESUS ADDRESSES WRONG PERSPECTIVES ON THE PART OF HIS APOSTLES WITH A SERIES OF 4 CORRECTIONS
Mountain top spiritual experiences – such as the Transfiguration – are often juxtaposed next to the valleys of spiritual failure and correction. Here we see the Lord continuing His training program for the Twelve by addressing some important wrong perspectives on their part that needed loving correction.
Morris: Luke now brings together four short incidents in which he shows the disciples’ lack of faith, their slowness to learn, their pride and their intolerance. It is an impressive sequence and makes a sad conclusion to his Galilean section. The disciples have much to learn.
I. (:37-43a) CORRECTING A SPIRIT OF MINISTRY INADEQUACY – (LACK OF FAITH WHEN CONFRONTED WITH DIFFICULT MINISTRY CHALLENGES)
FOCUS ON THE GREATNESS OF GOD
A. (:37-40) Wrong Perspective of the Disciples = Lack of Faith When Confronted with Difficult Ministry Challenge
1. (:37) Following of the Great Multitude
“And it came about on the next day, that when they had come down from the mountain, a great multitude met Him.”
2. (:38-39) Facts of the Case
a. (:38) The Desperate Emotions
“And behold, a man from the multitude shouted out, saying,
‘Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy,’”
Lenski: Mark states that Jesus asked the scribes why they were disputing with the nine disciples, but that they were cowardly and said nothing; they had been taunting the nine and discrediting them before the multitude because they were not able to heal the boy.
b. (:39) The Displaying Symptoms – Demonic Attack / Destructive Results
1) Seizes him / Screams
“and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams,”
2) Convulses him / Foaming at the mouth
“and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth,”
3) Mauls him / Destructive Results Persists
“and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him.”
3. (:40) Failure of the Disciples
“And I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.”
This man had begged the disciples for help and was frustrated; now he begs Jesus Himself for help; intervene in my desperate situation.
The disciples had failed to believe that Jesus had made them sufficient for such ministry and had delegated to them power and authority over such demonic activity. This is all about doubts regarding ministry adequacy.
B. (:41-42) Correction = Jesus Rebukes the Demon and Heals the Boy
1. (:41) Engages the Enemy – In Contrast to Ministry Inadequacy of the Disciples
a. Problem = Lack of Faith and Sin on the Part of the Disciples
And Jesus answered and said, ‘O unbelieving and perverted generation,
how long shall I be with you, and put up with you?’”
Disciples should have been fully trained and equip to handle such ministry challenges by this point; Jesus expresses His exasperation with their dullness
Steven Cole: To be perverted is to go astray from the path of God’s righteous ways as revealed in His Word.
Donald Miller: words of one who is living in a foreign exile, far from his native habitat, and who is longing for the coming of the Kingdom, when his suffering will be over and his victory complete.
Lenski: From his own disciples Jesus had a right to expect something other than what this perverted generation was offering him. The pained lament, which is so fully justified, is followed by prompt action, the father is ordered to bring his son.
b. Public Battle – not backing away from the challenge
“Bring your son here.”
2. (:42a) Emphasis on the Difficulty of This Ministry Challenge
“And while he was still approaching,
the demon dashed him to the ground,
and threw him into a convulsion.”
3. (:42b) Execution of the Miracle – Authority / Power / Compassion
a. Authority of Jesus
“But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit,”
Goes toe to toe with the powerful enemy in this public setting and utterly defeats the unclean spirit
b. Power of Jesus
“and healed the boy,”
Jesus had been training His disciples to minister from the foundation of His authority and power; but they have been slow to mature and learn the lesson of complete dependence
c. Compassion of Jesus
“and gave him back to his father.”
C. (:43a) Testimony to the Greatness of God
“And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”
Look at how the disciples were concerned with establishing their own greatness (vv. 46-48) rather than exalting the greatness of God; no wonder they found themselves powerless in the face of this difficult ministry challenge
II. (:43b-45) CORRECTING A SPIRIT OF FALSE EXPECTATIONS – (EMBRACING THE SUPERFICIAL POPULARITY OFFERED BY THE FICKLE CROWDS)
FOCUS ON THE REJECTION BY MEN ASSOCIATED WITH JESUS’ REDEMPTIVE MISSION
A. (:43b) Wrong Perspective of the Disciples = Embracing Superficial Popularity
“But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing,”
B. (:44) Correction = Sobering Reality of Rejection Associated with Jesus’ Redemptive Mission
“He said to His disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’”
Turns directly to address the disciples in contrast to the crowds who were marveling at the wonders but not seeing them as signs of God’s presence and consistent with Messianic demands for repentance and faith.
C. (:45) Problem = Lack of Discernment
1. Failure to Understand – Why? Concealed from them
“But they did not understand this statement,”
“and it was concealed from them so that they might not perceive it;”
Morris: On the other side of the cross it must have been terribly difficult to grasp the truth that Jesus’ Messiahship meant His death.
2. Failure to Ask for Clarification – Why? Fear
“and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.”
Lenski: They did not want to know what they were afraid to know, and so they did not actually know. . . They were afraid that what Jesus kept dinning into their ears might actually be true, that the Sanhedrin might actually kill him. All their inner being fought against such an idea. This is not so strange when we see the same thing today, men’s minds resist clear evidence and knowledge because they do not want to have it true and dread that anything like that should be true. If it is, indeed, true that they would have to change all their thinking, convictions, and conduct, and that they will not do, no matter what is dinned into their ears. So the disciples had the picture of their Messiah fixed and would not upset and reverse it to comply with “this utterance” of Jesus.
III. (:46-48) CORRECTING A SPIRIT OF SELFISH AMBITION – (STRIVING TO BE THE GREATEST)
FOCUS ON RESPECTING THE LEAST SIGNIFICANT INDIVIDUALS
A. (:46) Wrong Perspective of the Disciples = Spirit of Selfish Ambition
“And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be the greatest.”
Donald Miller: Here was self-centered ambition of the worst sort. Did the question arise partly because three of them had been favored on two occasions? (8:51; 9:28). Were the others jealous? Did the three boast of their privileges?
J. Ligon Duncan: If these men could walk with Jesus and still succumb to self preoccupation and pride, don’t think that you can’t. Don’t think that you don’t. They were probably arguing about which one of them was closest to Jesus, which one of them was in the position of spiritual prominence in the group, which one of them was going to have certain authority when Jesus’ kingdom was brought in in its fullness. We know that those kinds of conversations went on several places in the gospels, don’t we? But it reveals to you pride, doesn’t it? What does it reveal to you about them? It reveals to you that the disciples themselves had an overestimation of self and an underestimation of God. They took themselves very seriously. They were very ambitious. They may have been religiously ambitious, they may have been spiritually ambitious, they may have been ecclesiastically ambitious, but it was a sinful ambition. It was about advancing self. They had a high view of self and they had a low view of the greatness of God and consequently their pride got the best of them. That’s always entailed in pride, isn’t it? An overestimation of self and an underestimation of God.
B. (:47-48) Correction = Respect the Least Significant Individuals
1. (:47) Object Lesson = Little Child
“But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart,
took a child and stood him by His side,”
Morris: The child stands for the helpless and the unimportant. The test of loving service is that we receive such in the name of Christ. . The really great man is the lowly one. . . In the kingdom men do not compare themselves with one another. True greatness consists in lowly service.
MacArthur: This pride that destroys unity; that shatters relationship, that creates a pecking order, this pride that pollutes because it manifests heart depravity, this has to be dealt with. And the way you deal with it is to start right here. You’re nothing and you need to know it. You’re absolutely nothing. You have nothing of achievement to commend yourself.
2. (:48) Point of the Lesson
“and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me;
and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me;
for he who is least among you, this is the one who is great.’”
Steven Cole: Pride begins in the heart and must be dealt with on the heart level —
Jesus knew “what they were thinking in their heart” (9:47). Pride was at the root of the original sin, where Eve thought that she could be like God if she disobeyed Him and ate the forbidden fruit. It is at the root of almost all sin, because we proudly think that we know better than God who has given us His commandments. We wrongly think that we know what is best for us, even if it goes against what God has clearly said. So to deal with pride, we must confess our selfish rebellion against God and humble ourselves before Him. If God gave us what we deserve, we would go straight to hell! We must repent of pride and seek His grace.
Also, dealing with pride on the heart level means examining our motives for what we do. Why do I serve Christ? Is it out of love and gratitude to Him, or is it to be recognized by others? What happens if I don’t receive the recognition that I think I deserve? Do I get hurt feelings and quit? Do I grow jealous of those who seem to be in the limelight? Or, do I truly rejoice with the success of other servants of the Lord because the name of the Lord is being glorified?
So often we’re like Linus in the Peanuts cartoon strip. His sister, Lucy, asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. He replies that he wants to be a humble country doctor. He says that he will live in the city and every day he will get in his sports car and drive to the country where he will heal everyone. In the last frame he says that he will be a world-famous humble little country doctor. So often, in our hearts we want to be world-famous humble servants of Jesus!
– Pride is fed by competition; humility is fed by cooperation.
– Pride is fed by our association with the “important’; humility is fed by our association with the “lowly.”
IV. (:49-50) CORRECTING A SPIRIT OF SECTARIANISM – (LIMITING THE MINISTRY OF THOSE WHO DIFFER)
FOCUS ON TOLERANCE
A. (:49) Wrong Perspective of the Disciples = Spirit of Sectarianism
“And John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to hinder him because he does not follow along with us.’”
J. Ligon Duncan: I need to tell you that ministers by nature are suspicious, insecure, and jealous people. And when we see other ministers doing better than we’re doing we get jealous and we get insecure and we get suspicious. And all of those things are another way of saying that our pride gets the best of us.
B. (:50) Correction = Tolerance
“But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.’”
Geldenhuys: The zeal of the disciples for the honour of their Master in forbidding him to cast out demons in His name was, therefore, a wrongful zeal – probably stimulated by pride and selfishness. So the Saviour teaches them to be more magnanimous and more tolerant.
Steven Cole: I hesitated before I used the word “tolerant,” since it is a greatly misused word. It seems to be the supreme virtue in our country right now, and there is a correct sense in which tolerance is a virtue. The word is used wrongly as a means of opening the door to any and every kind of sin. In this wrong sense, we are told that it is arrogant for us to say that any behavior or belief is wrong; all beliefs and behavior are neutrally the same. In this sense of the word, Christians cannot be “tolerant.” We must hold firmly to sound doctrine and to biblical standards of morality. But in the correct sense, the word tolerant means treating those who differ from us with kindness, courtesy, and respect. I am using the word in this sense when I say that we must be tolerant with our fellow servants of Christ.
Personal Illustration: daughter Jenny – coming up with thesis statement for Richmond University annual dialogue (winner got a scholarship award) – “Tolerance is the new modern virtue” – we didn’t win