Luke 9:37–45 . . . Bible Study Summary with Photos
The Disciples' Defeat and Dismay
Let's look back at the disciples' participation in the earlier events of chapter 9. At the very beginning of the chapter, the disciples were sent out to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1–9). This appears to be the disciples' maiden voyage, so to speak, on the seas of public ministry, which they conducted apart from the physical presence of the Lord Jesus. During this brief training mission, the disciples successfully preached and ministered, which included the casting out of demons (9:1). Now, at the end of chapter 9, they must feel equipped. They've participated in the feeding of the five thousand and been part of the great confession, at which time the identity of Jesus as Israel's Messiah was professed. While three are on the mount of transfiguration, observing the transformation of our Lord and Moses and Elijah, and hearing the testimony of the Father, the other nine are down below, failing noticeably in their ministry efforts.
The Disciples' Defeat: The Demonized Boy (vv. 37–43a)
As Jesus and the three disciples come down from the mountain, they meet a large crowd filled with confusion. The disciples seem to have lost control, arguing with the scribes rather than ministering to the needs of the people (cf. Mark 9:14). A demon had caused epileptic-like symptoms, among others, to a boy who'd scream, go into convulsions, and foam at the mouth (see v. 39, shown below). The indwelled demon would also attempt to destroy the boy by causing him to fall into fire or water (Matthew 17:15). But there's more: He was also possessed by a spirit that Jesus called a "deaf and mute spirit" (Mark 9:25). All in all, the boy's life was in constant danger; his life was one of sheer torture, not to mention the agony that this caused his parents. The father was desperate, but the disciples were defeated in their attempts to cast out the demon.
A large crowd was gathered around the nine disciples. Seemingly it wasn't an entirely friendly crowd, for among them were "teachers of the Law," who were arguing with them. The crowd was delighted to see Jesus return and they rushed to him. The man with the demonized child begged Jesus to rid the child of his demonic oppressor. He hastened to point out that he begged the disciples to do it, but that they were unable. Our Lord's response catches many of us off guard: "You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?" Jesus seems angry and frustrated — emotions we see elsewhere in confrontations with the Pharisees and at the cleansing of the temple. But to whom is our Lord directing his anger when he says this? The boy's father? The disciples? Those in the crowd? Because our Lord used "generation," he appears to address his rebuke to all: The father, the disciples, the "teachers of the Law," and the entire crowd.
The father was unbelieving, as we see more clearly from Mark's account (Mark 9:22–24). The disciples lacked faith, coming to Jesus in private and asking, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:19–21). The disciples were bewildered. They couldn't understand how they could have delivered people from demonic control in the past, but not now. Both Matthew and Mark record the private query of the disciples as to why they were unable to cast out this demon; Luke doesn't record it.
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
— Mark 9:23–24
Why might Luke's account be so terse? Mark includes a conversation with the boy's father while he also includes Jesus' encouraging word, "All things are possible to him who believes," and the father's unforgettable response, "I believe, help my unbelief." Matthew and Mark also include the disciples' question, "Why couldn't we cast it out?" and Jesus' answer about faith and prayer. But none of this is in Luke. Why the omission? Why is Luke so abrupt? When you realize that the passage Luke wrote was under divine inspiration, what stands out is Jesus' stiff rebuke in v. 41, followed by the healing. Luke has a particular lesson of discipleship to teach us in this passage.
Luke has lined up for us a series of three failures (so far) of Jesus' disciples, followed by one rebuke after another. When each of us receives a hearty rebuke from our Lord, we're to revisit the Holy Spirit's message through Luke's gospel and learn from it. See the progression over the next few verses: rebuking unbelief (vv. 37–41a); rebuking the unclean spirit (vv. 41b–43); and the disciples' inability to understand Jesus' upcoming betrayal (vv. 44–45). If you were one of the disciples that day, you'd have felt stung at Jesus' rebuke. However, sometimes we need to receive a heart-felt rebuke that wakes us up and shows us where we're really headed. Better a rebuke than something more severe (as documented in Proverb 14:35).
The Disciples' Dismay: Jesus' Upcoming Death (vv. 43b–45)
Today's passage presents the second time that Jesus has predicted his sufferings. We looked carefully at his first prediction (9:22). The disciples didn't understand him then. In fact, Peter had rebuked Jesus (Matthew 16:22), which Jesus wasn't about to let Peter get away with. He told them to "listen carefully," an expression that should have been especially significant to the three who'd heard the Father's exhortation to "listen to" Jesus the Messiah (9:35). He then went on, once again, to tell of His coming death and resurrection (vv. 43–45). Although grieved by his words, the disciples didn't understand them and were afraid to ask Jesus what he meant.
Jesus' first and second predictions differ somewhat. This second one — "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men" (v. 44) — doesn't include the most dire consequences. The verb is Greek paradidomi, 'hand over, turn over, give up' a person, as a technical term of police and courts, 'hand over into (the) custody (of).' But it can also refer to "the reprehensible act of betrayal, whereby a free man of good repute, who may well be innocent, is ruined." In the end, ironically, it's one of Jesus' select disciples who delivers him to the authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane with the falsest kind of kiss.
The Lord knows that there's only so much that his children can handle before there's a meltdown of our sensibilities, when you can't take it anymore. So v. 45 tells us that they didn't understand his prediction. Might Jesus have reacted by telling his disciples, Oh, come on, guys, let me tell it to you again. No! In actuality, "it was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it." The reason they didn't understand it is that they wouldn't have been able to handle it. Rather than tell them, You might not like it but I'm going to tell you all the details, we learn that "It was hidden from them."
It was concealed because only one person knew the future: Jesus Christ. So when he told them, I'm going to be delivered into the hands of men, namely the chief priests, scribes, and elders, to suffer many things, only he knew what those sufferings would be and only he could conceal them. In addition to Luke telling his readers of Jesus being "delivered into the hands of men," Mark adds, "and they will kill him; and when he has been killed, he will rise three days later" (Mark 9:31).
On a human level it must have been very hard for the disciples to think about the transfiguration experience, appreciate the demoniac miracle, and at the same time try to think through how the powerful Son of God would be placed into the hands of wicked men. It simply was too hard to understand. After all, hadn't Jesus been declared by Peter as "the Christ of God"? And wasn't Jesus always talking about bringing all to the kingdom of God? But now he's talking about his death on a Roman cross. The idea of the Messiah being crucified by the Romans seemed to be a contradiction in terms.
So we have the tender High Priest, the compassionate Lord, withholding information that would be way too devastating for them to handle. If they'd have known all that was going to happen, they'd have fled and missed their last six months of training. Dismayed, they couldn't handle more than they were handling at the moment.
Thankfully, God in his graciousness continues to teach us step by step, day by day, year by year. We don't get all truth all at once. As Paul reminds us, "For now we see in a mirror dimly..." (1 Corinthians 13:12).
It Makes You Wonder . . . .
- Q. 1 Think how you've usually responded to a rebuke by parents, teachers, employers, spouses, spiritual leaders, etc. What's been healthy about your response?
- Q. 2 If Jesus were to graciously conceal an upcoming disaster in your life, would you ask him to reveal it to you?
This Week's Passage
Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy
37The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not."
41"You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here."
42Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44"Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." 45But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.