Daily Family Worship

Luke 9: The Transfiguration and Even More Miracles!

by | Feb 23, 2024

luke 9

As Jesus sent forth His twelve disciples on their first preaching tour, He was entering the closing period of His ministry in the region of Galilee. Jesus foresaw His approaching rejection and death; but before leaving for Jerusalem and the cross, He wished to offer Himself once more to the people of Galilee, among whom He had been laboring now for a long time. And for this purpose, He sent out the Twelve. They were given “power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.” Such miraculous gifts were limited to their own day, and were designed as credentials of their mission. It is true, however, that those who represent Christ must always be concerned for the mental and physical conditions of mankind – even though their great purpose is to bring them a spiritual message of good news. These men were the supreme representatives of the great band of heroes who have continued this same work to this very day, and who have made their message known in all times and all lands. And let us not forget that it is possible for every follower of Christ to have some part in making known the Gospel of His grace – whether they are a preacher in the pulpit, a laborer in the factory or office, or a mother in her home!

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that is recorded by all four evangelists. It was here that the Savior’s ministry in Galilee attained its climax. This was the hour of His greatest popularity. The crowds would have offered Him a crown, but He saw before Him the shadow of the cross. The Twelve had returned – weary with labor, but also elated by success. Jesus desired for them a season of retreat, rest, and instruction. They withdrew to a secluded place beyond Bethsaida, on the east shore of the lake; but there they were discovered again by the eager multitudes. Jesus showed His infinite sympathy by cordially welcoming the crowds which had intruded upon His privacy and His much-longed-for time of quietness. He gladdened their hearts with the Gospel-message, and He healed their diseases. And then, as the day declined, he pitied their hunger and met their needs by miraculously multiplying five loaves and two fishes.

For Christ’s disciples of today, there are serious messages in this familiar narrative. And perhaps none is more obvious than that of the measureless compassion of Christ! In imitation of His own spirit of sympathy, we should look upon the multitudes of souls all around us, which are perishing for lack of physical and spiritual food. Their call for help should not be regarded as an interruption to our personal plans; but rather, as a guide in shaping them and in bringing the Bread of life to the famishing world. And even if we ourselves are unable to give very much relief – yet if our all is offered to the Master, it will be multiplied marvelously by His Divine power.

The first clear prediction that Jesus made concerning His death was uttered after He had heard the famous confession of Peter. This was occasioned by a question which Jesus Himself had asked: “Who do the multitudes say that I am?” The answer is exactly the same as that which is given by multitudes of worldly people in our own modern days: John the Baptizer, Elijah, or one of the prophets – that is, Jesus is a reformer, a great preacher, and a good moral teacher. But such views of Himself never satisfied our Lord. So He asked pointedly, “But who say ye that I am?” And Peter answered with those famous words: “The Christ of God.” This is the great affirmation concerning Jesus, which the world today needs to hear! But at that time, He earnestly commanded His disciples to “tell this to no man.” The message would have been misunderstood at that time, and even the disciples themselves needed to first learn the truth concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection. No person today is qualified to testify for Christ if he does not know the meaning of His atoning death and “the power of his resurrection.”

Jesus then told His disciples of the absolute necessity of His approaching sufferings, and He assured them that He would be raised up again on the third day. This prediction of death must have astonished the disciples – as well as the further statement that every follower of Christ must likewise take up his own cross daily. Every Christian must die daily to self and yield himself entirely to the service of his Master. Such self-denial and sacrifice and obedience will result in the only experience that is worthy of the name “life.” To refuse to deny self will result in eternal loss; for those who are ashamed to follow the Master now will be rejected by Him when He returns “in his own glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.” Of this future glory of the coming Christ, three of the disciples were to catch a foregleam eight days later, on the Mount of Trans-figuration. Hence Jesus’ statement that “there are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.”

The transfiguration of Christ was closely associated with the predictions of His death, and also of His return in glory. It prepared Him and His disciples for the former, and it was a symbol and a foretaste of the latter. A divine splendor shone forth, irradiating the Body and even the garments of our Lord. Jesus had been accompanied on the mountaintop by Peter, James, and John; but suddenly, “there talked with him two men, who were Moses and Elijah; who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” This, then, was the high purpose of the event; it was to interpret to the mind of Christ more perfectly the meaning of His death; and it was to encourage Him to endure its anguish, by giving Him this glimpse of the glory that would follow. It is easy to understand why Moses and Elijah were selected for such a glorious conference as this. One was regarded as the symbol of law, and the other of prophecy; and the Old Testament laws and prophecies both pointed forward to Calvary. All that the Law and the Prophets had foreshadowed was about to be completely revealed and embodied in Jesus Christ. And part of that revelation was made in His death; but the full revelation will come when He returns in that glory, of which the Mount of Transfiguration only gave a foregleam!

There is a great contrast between the portrait of Jesus that we see on the mountaintop, where He is encompassed by glory; and the picture of the poor demoniac boy, surrounded by the multitudes on the plain. Long before this point, Jesus had learned what it was to exchange the glories of heaven for the shadows and sufferings of earth; and the compassion which drew Him from the skies was never withheld while He was ministering here below, even at times when He naturally might have been absorbed in thoughts concerning His coming sufferings and redeeming work. He was instantly moved with tender pity as he heard the agonizing words of the father, and as He saw the distress of the son. However, he was even more moved by the unbelief, sin, anguish, and godlessness of the world which He had come to save – and of which, this scene was only a symbol and a picture. Yet Jesus neither hesitated nor delayed in the path of duty, or in the presence of human need. He “rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.”

While all were wondering and astonished at Jesus’ Divine power and marvelous works, He turned to His disciples so that He might impress upon them the dark secret which was resting on His soul. He told them that the time was near when He was to be given up to suffer and die. “But they understood not this saying.” Here was a Man Whose sympathy was tender toward all, but who sympathized with Him? And how often has one of His followers carried a burden of hidden sorrow, even when they are in the company of friends, and surrounded by admiring throngs!

In verses 46-50, we find the disciples of Jesus engaged in a dispute as to which of them should be the greatest in His Kingdom. He rebuked them, for there is no place for pride among His followers. Our nearness to Him is not won by selfish effort, nor is it granted by arbitrary decree; it is conditioned upon the humble service which we may render in His name. “He took a little child, and set him by his side,” because the care of a child is a symbol of humble service; and it was this spirit which Jesus praised. To care for a child, or to care for men and women who – like children – are in need of our help and sympathy and support, is a service rendered to the Master Himself. The willingness to undertake such humble service is the measure of true greatness.

The mention of “service” reminded John of a recent incident, which he felt to be quite to his credit. “Master,” he said, “we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us.” Jesus, however, rebuked him; and He said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” There is no place for sectarianism among the followers of Christ. We may love and admire our particular denomination; but we are never to stop the work of a fellow-Christian, no matter how much he may differ from us. If he or she is doing their work in the name of our crucified and risen Christ, then we must not forbid them.

The record of the last journeys of our Lord toward Jerusalem forms a unique feature in the Gospel of Luke. The direction of the journeying was first eastward through the borders of Galilee and Samaria, then across the Jordan River, and then southward through the region of Perea. Here Luke emphasizes Christ’s Divine foresight and, at the same time, His human courage. He indicates that Jesus plainly saw His coming death, but He unfalteringly moved forward to the agonies of the cross.

The first incident of these journeys was in a village of the Samaritans. Messengers had gone before Jesus to make preparations for the large group which followed Him, but the Samaritans would not receive Him. James and John suggested that they should “bid fire to come down from heaven and consume them.” There was indeed something admirable in the indignation of these disciples, for the Samaritans had just offered Jesus a terrible insult. It is truly refreshing, in our times of general indifference and sluggishness, to see people who are deeply hurt by the disrespect that the world shows to Christ and His cause. But although there is a place for righteous indignation, there is no place among the followers of Christ for sinful anger or personal revenge. The time of judgment has not yet come; for now, it is still a time of grace. It is not the duty of Christ’s people to attempt to administer vengeance, for that is the Lord’s responsibility alone; we are commissioned to preach the Gospel of love and mercy. “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (verse 56). And so Jesus and His disciples “went to another village.”

The three incidents in the concluding verses of this chapter show how carefully Jesus was sifting those who wished to become His followers. Of course, He is eager to have people vow their allegiance to Him, and to openly acknowledge their discipleship; but among His followers, there is no place for rashness. He wants us to count the cost. He also wants us to know that no relationship, however tender, can be regarded as a sufficient excuse for refusing to become His follower. And any hesitation in this matter indicates that one has not fully appreciated the glory and privilege that is involved in the call of Christ. There is no room for indecision among those who are to be heirs of His Kingdom.

O Jesus! We praise You as the One Whom the heavenly voice declared to be God’s Beloved Son, and we also thank You that we are “accepted in the beloved!” Amen.

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