Public Ministry Begins - Part 3
In the third part of the first section of Luke's account (Luke 8:4-9:50) every event, miracle and teaching is also contained in either or both Matthew and Mark, except for one passage at the very end of the section.
Parables – Luke 8:4-21
The Parable of the Sower and the Seed – 8:4-18
This parable is contained in both Matthew and Mark's gospels. It is the first parable used by Jesus in His teaching ministry (Lenski, p. 443).
When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable:
- Luke 8:4
Luke notes that Jesus' popularity is on the rise as people not only from His own town, Capernaum, are coming out to hear Him, but many from other cities are coming as well.
In verses 5-8 Luke recounts Jesus' parable of the sower sowing seed on different types of soil (hard road/rocky soil/thorny soil/good soil) and the results of this (road/rocky/thorns = no growth, good soil = 30/60/100 times return).
9His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
- Luke 8:9-10
Since this is the first time that Jesus teaches using the parable style, His Apostles want to know two things: the meaning of the parable, and why has He begun using this style of teaching. Jesus answers their second question first: why parables? The word "parable" comes from a Greek word which meant "to lay beside." It was a teaching device used to compare ideas or things in order to provide greater understanding. Jesus, therefore, was telling them a story about something physical that could easily be understood (a sower sowing seed) in order to teach them about something that they could not see and had trouble grasping (the growth of the kingdom of heaven).
The Apostles knew what parables were since they were commonly used by other teachers. They wanted to know why Jesus had begun using them to teach the crowds. The Lord explains that He will now use parables to both teach His disciples about the kingdom (its establishment and growth) and shield unbelievers and opponents from the true meaning of these matters.
In verses 11-15 He goes on to give the deeper meaning (what the parable teaches about the kingdom) behind the parable story.
The Parable of the Lamp
16"Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 17For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."
19And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You." 21But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."
- Luke 8:16-21
Once Jesus has explained why He uses parables and how to interpret them (His identity is the key that unlocks them) He follows up with a second parable that calls on them to do two things:
- Be ready to proclaim to the world the things they will learn from Him.
- Be attentive to His teaching because the more they believed and learned, the more they would understand. On the other hand, the less one believed and learned, the less one would understand to the point where nothing would be believed or understood.
This last admonition to His disciples is a continuation of what He explained about His use of parables: some, because of their belief in Him, would gain more insight and knowledge from Him; those who did not believe would only understand the story of the parables but not the meaning which He provided. Eventually, the non-believers would lose interest altogether and completely miss the coming and fulfillment of the kingdom.
It is interesting to note here that Jesus uses the initial disbelief of His own family as a way of establishing the importance and necessity of faith in Him to access the things of the kingdom. Even the members of His earthly family have to believe if they want to enter in.
Miracles – Luke 8:22-50
Luke now changes scenes and describes, in successive order, three miracles that Jesus performs during a trip across the Sea of Galilee. Luke has described several instances of Jesus' teachings and follows up with a demonstration of His power that will serve to confirm the credentials of the teacher Himself. As far as Theophilus, the recipient of this gospel is concerned, if Jesus can do these things then this Gentile proselyte to Christianity can safely believe all the teachings of Jesus.
These three miracles are recorded in both Matthew and Mark, so we will only summarize and review them here.
Jesus Stills the Sea (8:22-25)
The first miracle takes place while they are, according to Jesus' instructions, in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Luke says that after Jesus went to sleep there arose a fierce storm that threatened to capsize their vessel. The storm must have been severe because Luke tells us that many of the Apostles, who were experienced sailors, feared for their lives.
Jesus is awakened and promptly calms the storm by speaking to it (commanding it to stop as opposed to various incantations and sacrifices used by pagan religions in their attempts to influence the weather). This was not the first miracle the Apostles witnessed (changing water into wine at Cana was first), but this one was done in their element, on the lake, and of a nature that other miracle workers in the past (e.g. prophet Elijah) had never done. This miracle forced them to reevaluate who Jesus really was (who controls the wind and sea by His word alone?): a teacher, a prophet, the Messiah, or more than these?
The Apostles came to Him in fear, perhaps hoping He could pray and ask God to save them somehow, but they were not ready for His reaction and demonstration of divine power. Afterwards, Jesus merely rebukes them for their lack of faith by asking them, "Where is your faith?"
The Demoniac Cured (8:26-39)
This is another miracle described by both Matthew and Mark. The healing takes place once they land on the other side of the lake where they were met by a demon-possessed man. Jesus has shown His power over the elements and in this instance He both converses with the demons and orders them out of the man and into a herd of pigs nearby. This not only establishes His power and authority over spiritual beings but also demonstrates that the man was actually possessed by evil spirits and not simply suffering from some type of mental illness.
It is interesting to note that even though Jesus' closest disciples had not yet grasped who He was, the evil spirits not only knew who He was but what their ultimate judgment and punishment would be (cast into the abyss, verse 31). Luke describes how the demon-possessed man is immediately returned to his right mind and that the villagers are alerted after their herd of pigs ran into the sea and drowned once the demons entered them. The people react to these things with fear and ask Jesus to leave, and the man formerly demon-possessed is sent back to his home region to witness about his healing.
Both Matthew and Mark tell us that later on Jesus returned to this region and this time was well received as people came to Him for healing (Matthew 14:34-36, Mark 7:31). The inference is that the groundwork for this was laid by the demon-possessed man who obeyed Jesus and returned to his home region to witness about his healing at the hands of the Lord.
The Woman with the Hemorrhage and Jairus' Daughter (8:40-56)
Luke closes out this section by describing two other miracles performed when Jesus and the disciples crossed back over the lake and returned home. This scene takes place several days after their return. We learn from Matthew 9:
- Jesus heals a paralytic
- Calls Matthew
- Dines at Matthew's house which was by the Sea of Galilee since, as a tax collector, much of his business was to gather taxes at the port
While He is teaching a crowd of people who had gathered at Matthew's house in Capernaum, the leader (elder) of the local synagogue named Jairus appeals to Him to come and heal his young daughter who is at home dying of an undisclosed illness. Luke forgoes several details because this incident is also described in Matthew and Mark, and so summarizes the two miracles.
Jesus accepts to go to the synagogue leader's home to heal the child. He is interrupted for a time by a woman also needing His help, and during this delay the girl dies. Jesus eventually arrives at the house and brings the child back to life.
The Woman with the Issue of Blood
It is interesting that Luke, a doctor himself, would add the detail that no one, not even doctors, could heal this woman who had suffered for 12 years. Her hemorrhaging stops when she touches Jesus' cloak. The Lord then forces her to publicly acknowledge her healing in order to confirm her changed status (ritually unclean to clean and thus able to return to normal social and religious activities) and witness her faith in Him.
Luke finishes with the description of Jesus' miracles and will then turn to the ministry He will entrust to His Apostles and disciples.
Ministry of/to the Twelve – Luke 9:1-50
Apostles Sent Out (9:1-6)
Jesus has spent a considerable amount of time teaching, performing miracles and preaching in His home region of Galilee. Before heading to Jerusalem and the greater challenges awaiting there, He instructs and sends out the Apostles on their initial tour of ministry.
In only a few verses we see how thoroughly the Lord equips them.
And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.
- Luke 9:1
He equips them with spiritual power which will give authority to their preaching. People can trust their message because they see the power behind the message. Today the "power" is the gospel itself (death, burial, resurrection of Christ - Romans 1:16) witnessed by our holy lives.
And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.
- Luke 9:2
He provides them with the content of their message (the kingdom is near). Today, the message is that the kingdom is here and all must enter in.
3And He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city.
- Luke 9:3-4
He will supply for their needs in His own way through the hospitality of those they instruct. He cautions them not to solicit help from door to door as beggars. The same can be said for and to those who choose to leave all for ministry today.
5And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." 6Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
- Luke 9:5-6
Jesus also provides for their emotional needs. They will be rejected and even persecuted, but they must not respond with fear, revenge, guilt or disappointment. Their response to these things will be their witness of the judgment to come. In other words, they are a witness of judgment for those who received the message but refused it. It works in the same way today, our task is not to save, our task is to proclaim the gospel and the judgment to come. If we have done this, we have fulfilled our ministry.
Results of Their Ministry (9:7-11)
7Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. 9Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him.
- Luke 9:7-9
Their preaching was so effective that it reached the ears of Herod who was the ruler of the Galilean region. Luke reports that this evil king was perplexed because he thought that John the Baptist had somehow come back from the dead to haunt him (he thought this because he had unjustly executed John - Mark 6:14-29).
The People of that Region
10When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. 11But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.
- Luke 9:10-11
As a result of their preaching even more people were eager to see and hear Jesus.
The 5000 Fed (9:12-17)
Here is another episode that is described by both Matthew and Mark. Suffice to say that this gathering is yet another sign of Jesus' growing ministry and a direct result of the Apostles' preaching in the region. The miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish to feed 5000 people served the Apostles by once again demonstrating Jesus' ability to meet every need in any circumstance, and it showed the people that His teaching was based on power not persuasion.
The Cost of Discipleship (9:18-27)
The scene changes again and we find Jesus alone with His disciples after these incredible events.
18And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the people say that I am?" 19They answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." 20And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." 21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day."
- Luke 9:18-22
Jesus reveals the two truths that they must accept as His time with them draws to a close:
- His Identity: To recognize and accept that He is the divine Son of God.
- His Mission: The goal of His ministry here on earth is to die on the cross and then be gloriously resurrected.
Once these are revealed, Jesus goes ahead and describes the true cost of being His disciple: everything you have.
23And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
- Luke 9:23-27
Part of a disciple's training is to know the true mission and calculate its cost.
The Transfiguration (9:28-45)
I include the transfiguration in the section on ministry to the Apostles because three Apostles are given an extraordinary opportunity to see Jesus in a glorified state. This experience should put beyond doubt their previous confession that Jesus was the Son of God and as such shared a divine nature with the Father. They believed that He was the Messiah but needed further proof concerning His divinity, and Jesus goes beyond the performing of miracles to provide it.
28Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. 33And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah"—not realizing what he was saying. 34While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" 36And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.
- Luke 9:28-36
Healing of the Demon Possessed Boy (9:37-45)
After this episode, Luke describes another miraculous healing, this time of a demon possessed boy that the Apostles, who had been left behind, failed to heal (unlike Matthew, Luke does not explain why). After healing the boy, Jesus, perhaps sensing that these events are making the Apostles confident for the wrong reasons, reminds them again that He will eventually be killed, and yet, they still do not understand.
Who is the Greatest
46An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great."
49John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." 50But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you."
- Luke 9:46-50
Jesus' warning about His impending death, in order to keep His Apostles focused, is confirmed here as they (perhaps provoked by Peter and the others who witnessed the transfiguration) begin debating who among them is the greatest. They may have argued that the greatest were those who performed miracles or witnessed visions or were favored by Jesus. The Lord reminds them that the one who simply believes (without the witness of miracles or visions) has both the blessing of the Father and the Son.
John, who was with Peter and James on the mount of transfiguration, reveals their collective sense of privilege (we are Jesus' Apostles) by stopping someone else doing works in Jesus' name (note he says that this person does not follow "us," the Apostles, and not "You," Jesus). The Lord answers John and closes this section with a mild rebuke telling John not to create enemies unnecessarily.
Summary and Lessons
Luke closes out his account of Jesus' growing ministry in and around His home town of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee.
In the next chapter we will begin where Jesus prepares Himself and the Apostles for the stiffer opposition they will face as they head south towards Jerusalem.
Here are only a few of the many lessons we can draw from the material discussed in this chapter:
Where is Your Faith?
Jesus posed this question to His Apostles after He calmed the storm. Faith is demonstrated during the storms of life, not the periods when the seas are calm. When things in life go wrong, ask yourself, "Where is my faith?" not, "Why is this storm happening to me or, why is this storm not over yet?"
Jesus is Never Late
They told Jesus that He was too late, the little girl died, no use in coming. Only those whose faith is weak see Jesus as being late, not fair, not caring, etc. Jesus is never late or early for the faithful who wait on Him patiently. His timing may not accommodate our desires but it is always right to accomplish His will and purpose for our lives.
- Create your own parable that uses modern day references to teach something about Christianity. Read your parable to the group for comment and discussion as to its accuracy and teaching effectiveness.