Reflection on Luke 9
Do you realize that Luke has more words than any other book in the New Testament? It has a total of 19,842 words (I only counted the words twice, someone might want to check me). I am just kidding, a quick google search revealed that Luke is the longest in New Testament and 12th overall in all of the Bible. The second longest in the NT? Acts which Luke also wrote – it clocks in at 18,450 words.
I am aware this as sometimes it feels like the chapters of Luke just keep going. I am not complaining, they just have a few more words than most other books in the NT. For example – the Gospel of Mark only has 11,304 words – this is 8500 less than Luke.
Okay, that is enough stats. Here is what I think are some of the really important and cool things in Luke 9.
Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and disease. And Jesus sent them out to proclaim God’s Kingdom. As I said last week, it is worth noting that God’s Kingdom is the larger umbrella by which Jesus does what He does while on earth (and now) and it is also what we are called to work under. The healings/casting out of demons were a way of showing God’s Kingdom. Notice in verse 6 they proclaimed the good news – again the good news is referencing God’s Kingdom.
Once it says in verse 18 Jesus was praying by himself – I am assuming we are still in Bethsaida or nearby – see verse 10. During this time of prayer, the disciples joined him and asked them a question. “Who do people say that I am?” They gave Jesus other’s thoughts: John the Baptist, Elijah or another prophet come back to life. Jesus then gets personal: What about you, who do you say I am? Peter jumps in and says you are the Christ sent from God. Jesus warns them not to tell anyone and then He does two things:
Verse 21-22: One, He tells them that He must suffer and be killed at hands of the religious leaders. And on the third day Jesus said He would rise again. We know how the story ends, but those reading or hearing this for the first time would have had no idea. So they would have experienced Jesus as one that has authority -see thoughts on chapter 8 and then in He is declared the Christ. And then Jesus says He must die. This has to be a bit disorienting to them – both to those that heard it and to the first readers and thus it should hit us also. But Jesus is not done.
Verse 23 – Second, Jesus then says, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” So again, first hearers and we need to hear this. 3 movements listed: say no to yourself, take up a cross and follow me (go where I go).
Say no to yourself – you have turned away from your own wants/desires that don’t align with God. This is not a life of misery, but a life that realizes and proclaims – my life is not about me.
Take up your cross – they would have heard death. This would not be a statement that would have been easy to hear at all or to process quickly. It not for us either. We are called to sit with this verse and ask: what does it mean for me to lay down my life for the sake of God’s work in me.
And follow me – we are called to go where Jesus calls. It is not self-denial or death for the sake of suffering – it is because that are the places that Jesus was willing to go for all of humanity and because that was God’s will. Therefore we can follow Jesus – He is a good and faithful leader.
There is much more that happens in this chapter – feeding of 5000, transfiguration, healing, heading to Jerusalem, sons of thunder getting their nickname, disciples arguing about who is the greatest.
But we end with a story that brings us right back to the themes in 9:23.
In verses 57-62 – a person wants to follow Jesus. Jesus reminds the man it will cost him.
I have no home Jesus says.
He says let the dead bury their dead.
You don’t need to say goodbye to your family.
No one Jesus says that puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom.
To follow Jesus is about moving ahead with Him for the sake of God’s kingdom, not trying to manage the past.
There is probably much more to that last story of Jesus in this chapter, but that is where it is hitting me this week.
Strength and courage,