Scripture: Ezra, chapter 4; Psalms 113 and 127; Luke, chapter 9
Luke 9:37-45 (NASB) – On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, because he is my only son, and a spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves. And I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.”
And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” Now while he was still approaching, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
But while everyone was astonished at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples: “As for you, let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not comprehend it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.
Observations: “Let these words sink into your ears.” How would you respond to that statement? I imagine that unless the speaker said it in a nasty, condescending way, I’d listen! So when JESUS says it, we’d better pay attention!
Jesus and his “inner circle” (Peter, James, and John) have just come down from the Transfiguration. The other disciples were unable to heal the boy who was afflicted by an evil spirit. Jesus’ statement in the first part of this passage sounds harsh: You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? As I read that, I wonder: to whom is he referring? To the crowds? To the man whose son was under attack? To the disciples who had been unable to deliver the boy?
The logical answer, I submit, is that he’s talking to his disciples. After all, at the beginning of chapter 9, “he gave them power and authority over the demons, and the power to heal diseases” (9:1, emphasis added). Why wouldn’t they have been able to deliver the boy? The only reason seems to be their lack of faith – hence, Jesus’ description of them as unbelieving.
After Jesus healed the boy, the crowd was amazed at the greatness of God – but Jesus took advantage of a “teachable moment.” The disciples’ faith was apparently waning. Jesus had given them power and authority over the demons, and power to heal diseases. Evidently, they thought that power and authority had stopped when they returned from their mission.
Perhaps their lack of faith was due to their misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission, and how it would unfold. As long as Jesus was with them, exercising power as “the Christ of God” (see Peter’s confession in Luke 9:20), they didn’t think they needed to have that power. Because of their expectations about the reign of the Messiah, they probably assumed that he would always be with them.
Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be handed over to men. That shouldn’t have been a shock to them; Jesus had said something similar in verse 22, after Peter’s confession. Their lack of faith was evidence that they hadn’t really listened, hadn’t understood what Jesus had said. So he tells them again, and he tells them in a way that should have made it clear.
But they did not understand this statement. Luke goes on to say that it was concealed from them so that they would not comprehend it. To be perfectly frank, I’m not sure exactly what that means. Did the Holy Spirit keep them from comprehending it? That seems unlikely to me. Why would the Spirit keep them from comprehending when Jesus wanted them to understand? Did Satan keep them from understanding? Again, I think that’s unlikely; if God could reveal to Peter that Jesus was the Christ of God (see Matthew 16 for Jesus’ statement, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven), could Satan really stop that?
I think the most likely explanation is that it was concealed from them because of their own deep-seated expectations about the Messiah. That seems to be reflected in the next passage, where the disciples are arguing with each other about which of them was the greatest (see 9:46). They still had much to learn about Jesus, and what it meant to be his disciple. They needed to unlearn a lot of the “folk theology” about the Messiah that their culture had adapted. In Paul’s familiar words, they needed to have the same attitude as Jesus, who emptied himself and became obedient unto death. Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be handed over to men.