Study Notes

Luke 9:37-62

9:37-40 Down from the mountain

Remember last week, we left off with Jesus being transfigured on the top of Mt. Hermon. This was an incredible, mystical, spiritual experience for Peter, James, and John. But now they've come down o this terrible trouble. Have you ever noticed that hot on the heels of every mountaintop experience is a valley right behind it?

High times on the mountain with the Lord, when He's speaking to us, when we're in tight fellowship with Him, when incredible spiritual things are happening. Then there's the valley times - when things are the pits, when we're struggling with our circumstances, when the Lord seems quiet and distant, when everything is going wrong. Where did the Lord go? Why was He with me on the mountain, but I'm abandoned in the valley?

In the Old Testament book of 1Kings, the Arameans had fought Israel in the mountains and lost. So the next year, they decided to fight against them on the plain, saying:

1Kgs. 20:28 ..."The LORD is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys"...

The Lord said, "Because the Arameans have said this, they will be defeated." We often fall into that trap, believing that the Lord is with us in the mountain times, but that we're alone in the valleys. And we, too, are defeated when we say, "The Lord is not with me in this valley." David knew better. He wrote in Psalm 23:

Ps. 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me...

He is with us in valleys, just as He is on the mountaintop.

What most of us don't realize is that the ideal is not living from mountain to valley to mountain to valley. Instead of going from hyper to downer to hyper to downer, the Lord desires that we walk a consistent walk, a level walk - not affected by outward circumstances. Isaiah chapter 40 says:

Isa. 40:3-4 ...Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley;

This week, a brother in a tough time told me, "What happens to me is none of my business - I lifted it up to Him, so it's His problem." If most of us were in the situation, we'd be calling it a valley - but this brother had lifted up his valley to a place of normalcy. That's the kind of maturity we want in our walk with Christ - instead of extremes in hypers and downers, consistency. May we level every mountain and lift up every valley!

9:41-43a Unbelieving and perverted generation

Why could the disciples not cast it out? In Matthew 17,

Matt. 17:19-20 ...the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith"

From our perspective, Jesus accusing the disciples of their lack of faith seems rather harsh. After all, if you think about it, they did have faith - they had tried to cast out the demon, and as a matter of fact, they were surprised when they were not able to cast it out. Sounds like faith to me. If they had faith enough to be surprised when the demon wasn't cast out, why did Jesus rebuke them for their lack of faith?

Because we're talking about two different kinds of faith. The disciples expected the boy to be delivered - they had all cast out demons before - and they had faith that the demon would be cast out this time, too. They had faith that something would happen. And that's what most of us believe faith is. But the faith that Jesus is talking about isn't faith that something will happen, it is faith in Him. Every time that Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well" to someone, what kind of faith was He speaking of? Faith in Him, not faith in healing.

9:43b-50 Will wisdom die with us?

"Hey Jesus, we say a guy in the ministry that didn't go to our Bible college - so we tried to stop him. 'Cause after all, we're the true disciples, right?"

Job. The Bible says that he was a righteous man. But he'd been stricken with a sickness so horrible and painful that he wanted to die. Three of his friends came to give him some "comfort". They sat with him in silence for seven days. But when they could not listen to his groanings any longer, they began to rebuke him, and tell him exactly what they thought was wrong with his life and his walk with God. You see, they were convinced that they had all the answers, they were convinced that they could instruct Job in a "more perfect way". Job sarcastically said to them:

Job 12:2 "Truly then you are the people, and with you wisdom will die!

Do you know a group like Job's friends? Some people with all the answers, who claim that they know it all? Who say they've got the only direct line to God, and the rest of us are deceived and missing out? The disciples had begun to be like that - thinking that anyone doing anything spiritual outside of their group was wrong.

The fact is that the Lord uses many people in many ways to accomplish many things. As Paul said,

1Cor. 12:5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.

May none of us ever fall into the trap of a "we are the people, and wisdom will die will us" attitude. Jesus' answer was, "If their ministry is not going against me, then it must be for Me, right? They were, after all, casting out demons in My name, weren't they?"

Bickering disciples

On the way, they were bickering about who was the greatest. People who have such a pompous pride towards outsiders always end up battling with their fellow insiders. Unfortunately, Jesus' disciples are still arguing today. And make no mistake about it, "who is the greatest" is what every argument in every church arises over. Oh, the subjects might all sound different on the surface, but behind the scenes, the reasons are all the same: "My way is better, my idea is better, my songs are better, my color paint is better, my plan is better, my version of the Bible is better, my interpretation is better..."

The source is the same - the cause is consistent. Jude said that the ones who cause divisions are the worldly-minded people. And James asked

James 4:1-2 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.

Divisions in the church go by many masks, but the source is the same, the cause is consistent: Self-centered, self-serving, selfish, worldly-minded people who want to be the greatest among the disciples. Heaven forbid that we would be the cause of divisions and arguments.

9:51-56 Fire from heaven?

Two brothers - James and John. Jesus nicknamed them "the Sons of Thunder". I wonder why? Now where did James and John come up with this fire from heaven thing?

In 2Kings 1, we read the story of Elijah the prophet dealing with Ahaziah, a wicked king over Israel in Samaria: Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice in his room from the second story, and was severely injured. He sent messengers saying, "Go inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover." But Elijah gave a message to the messengers: "Tell the king, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub? Since you've done this, you'll never get out of bed - but shall surely die.'"

Ahaziah didn't like that, so he sent a captain with 50 men to grab Elijah. But Elijah called down fire from heaven and it consumed them all. So the king sent another captain with 50 men. Elijah again called down fire from heaven to consume them.

Remember that just the day before, James and John had seen Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration. Now here they were in Samaria, where he had twice called down fire from heaven. James and John aren't going to be rebuked for their lack of faith again. Now excercising "great" faith, they say:

Luke 9:54 "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"

"Alright!" James and John are thinking, "High five! No more rebukes for our lack of faith, right?" But Jesus

Luke 9:55-56 ...turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

Once again, we see the problem of having "zeal without knowledge". We can be all fired up, having a gung-ho, going-for-it, feet-first faith, but if it's not in accordance with knowledge - with the Word of God - the Lord is not pleased with it. Just because we're sincere doesn't mean we're not sincerely wrong. The only way to know if our faith is firmly focused in the right direction is to search the Scriptures - prove what you believe. Paul said to the Corinthians:

1Cor. 4:6 ...Learn not to exceed what is written...

When the disciples began to speak in tongues in Acts chapter 2, Peter stood up and said to the crowds:

Acts 2:16 ...This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel...

If we're believing it, we'd better know why. If we're doing it, we'd better be able to explain it. James and John had lots of zeal - but not a lot of knowledge. You can have a great heart for God, but if you've got no education in His Word, you're setting yourself up for rebuke. The opposite is also true: you can have a doctorate in theology, but if you don't have a heart for God, what good is that? God wants your heart and your mind. He says:

Jer. 17:10 "I, the LORD, search the heart, (and) I test the mind..."

And we're instructed to love the Lord with all of our hearts, and all of our minds. James and John had hearts to follow Jesus, to be on fire for Jesus. But they were severely lacking in the knowledge of Jesus. It is so important have knowledge with our zeal. Paul said to Timothy:

2Tim. 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of truth.

9:57-62 Following Jesus

Three people say to Jesus, "I'd like to follow You, but..." The first didn't like the idea of possibly doing without. "Gosh Jesus, don't you at least have some kind of ministry headquarters set up so we'd have somewhere to sleep and take a shower?" He didn't like the uncertainty of what lay ahead. He wanted to know exactly what was in store for him. And Jesus would say to him, "Sorry, but with Me, every day is a new adventure!"

The second one said, "You know what Jesus? As soon as my dad dies, I'll have a big inheritance. Then I'll be able to follow you." And Jesus would say, "Sorry, but My kingdom's not about money and financial security."

The third one said "I'll follow you! Just let me run home and say goodbye to everyone". This guy was putting a priority on his past personal relationships - going back to the old life right after committing to this new life in Christ. But Jesus said, "Once you've put your hand to the plow, there's no looking back."

In order to plow a straight furrow, a plowman had to fix his eyes on one point far ahead on the horizon. In that manner, he was able to plow straight and parallel furrows. But if he looked back, even for an minute, the furrow became crooked. Jesus is saying, "Follow me and don't look back."

Jesus is still saying, "Follow Me" to each one of us. Will we make excuses? "Well, I just don't like the uncertainty of what lies ahead if I follow You." or "I'm waiting to be a little more secure in my life, tie up some loose ends." or "I'm really enjoying my life the way it is - I like my friends and my family, and if I follow You, who knows what'll happen to those relationships? Do I need to go this minute?" But Jesus says to all those excuses:

Mark 8:36 "...What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"