The main focus of chapter nine is that Jesus is teaching His apostles that He is the suffering Savior. Our passage today is the third emphasis of this truth.
The first time Jesus reveals this truth to His apostles is when He asks them, “Who do you say that I am.” Peter answers, “The Christ of God.”
Jesus responds with letting them know that the Christ of God will 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 9:22)
The second time His apostles learn of His suffering on the cross is at the transfiguration. Only three apostles hear, Peter, John, and James. The three apostles hear Moses and Elijah speak of Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem. The Father speaks from Heaven and gives confirmation to the three that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament prophecy who will be the guilt offering for sin. They are to listen to Jesus.
Today, Jesus drives the point home to His apostles. The point is made after the descend off the mountain and enter into the valley below.
The title for this message is Majesty. We will see where this word comes from as we go through the passage. Another title can be, “Lessons in the Valley.”
The Ups and Downs of Christianity
Jesus and the three apostles descend from the mountain into the valley below. We see a stark contrast between what takes place on the mountaintop and in the valley below.
On the mountaintop, Jesus and the three apostles see the glory of God. Both Moses and Elijah stand with Jesus in glorified, perfect bodies. We see them full of life, healthy, and beaming with radiant light. They speak in unity with one another. It is a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God.
The valley presents a pitiful site of the human condition. An only son is demon-possessed. The boy will suddenly scream as the demon seizes him and throws him into a writhing convulsion. He foams at the mouth and twists in agony as the demon brings about bodily harm. Imagine the contrast between seeing Moses and Elijah in glorified bodies and the sad condition of this poor child.
On the mountain, it is fitting to joyously build tabernacles to celebrate the triumphant Christ who will deliver His people. In the valley, a large crowd clamors and pushes to see Jesus. There is nothing joyous. The father, like so many of the people in the crowd, experiences suffering and pain.
On the mountaintop, we witness a kingdom of glory and the goodness of heaven. In the valley, the stark reality of the kingdom of darkness is on full display as the principalities and powers of evil are bent on destroying the lives of people.
Luke describes for us the ups and downs of the Christian life here on earth. Today, we gather to celebrate and be encouraged by the word of God. Our soul leaps for joy as we rejoice in our salvation. We are on the mountaintop, free from the evils of this world. It is Sunday, the Lord’s Day!
Tomorrow, it will be Monday. We will descend from this brief time of worship and enter into the valley of this world. Some will go to work in healthcare and see people suffer from pain and sickness. We will read on the news of how evil permeates our culture.
Christianity is full of mountaintop experiences, but also the darkness of the valley. The solace we can take is knowing our experience is normal. The apostles face many days of glory while on this earth, but they also will have to walk in the sorrowful trouble and heartache of the valley.
The good news is that we are not alone in the valley. Jesus is with His apostles, and Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us. Though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, His rod and staff will comfort us.
An Unbelieving and Perverted Generation
Another truth about our experience in the valley is the reality of living in a world with an unbelieving and perverted generation.
The father of the demon-possessed boy begs Jesus to look upon his son. He tells Jesus that the disciples could not cast out the demon.
Jesus proclaims a very sad reality. He declares the people of that generation to be unbelieving and perverted.
Commentators differ on who Jesus is speaking about. If we look at the plain reading of the text, Jesus is speaking against a generation. It is a truism. He is speaking in general terms just as Moses declares in Deuteronomy 32:5. He gathers the people of Israel to say that they “have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation.”
When Moses makes his declaration, we know that not everyone is perverse and crooked. There are good people, such as Joshua, who do not meet the description.
In the same way, Jesus is speaking to a generation who will turn their back on Jesus. The crowd is guilty. They are unbelieving and continually look for signs and wonders. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign” (Matthew 12:39). When Jesus doesn’t deliver, they crucify Him.
The Scribes are among the people Jesus is addressing (Mark 9:14). We know the scribes and Pharisees are jealous of Jesus. They are unbelievers who pervert the laws of God to their own advantage.
The disciples also have issues. In the upcoming passages, we see them fail miserly and need to be rebuked by Jesus. On the night He is betrayed, Peter will deny Jesus while the rest, except John, scatter and hide.
Jesus is stating a generality. The generation of people in Israel is lost. It doesn’t mean that they are all destined for hell and will not be saved. Jesus is speaking about their general condition at the time.
We know this to be true because of what Peter says during his sermon on the day of Pentecost. Listen to what he tells the people of his generation:
And with many other words, he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:40-41)
The lesson Luke is showing us is that in the valley, sin runs amuck. Jesus gives a verdict against an entire generation of people; they are unbelieving and perverted.
We live in the valley of this world. As we look around this world, we can conclude that the people of our age are unbelieving and a perverse generation. The Apostle Paul warns Timothy of how people will increasingly become perverted. He writes:
For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:2-7)
We have mountaintop experiences in our Christian walk. But just as Moses, and many times in the history of Israel, and in the times of the early church, Christians live among generations of unbelieving and perverted people.
Unbelief grieves Our Savior
The condition of the hearts of people deeply grieves our Lord. He says to all who can hear,
… how long shall I be with you and put up with you? (Luke 9:41)
We can hear how Jesus’ heart is broken. He is deeply grieved and with good reason.
He is grieved with the apostles. Look at the verse at the beginning of chapter nine. It wasn’t very long ago that Jesus calls the twelve together, and gives them power and authority over demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1). In just a short time, their faith dwindles. It is their lack of faith that they are unable to cast out the demon in the young boy (Matthew 17:20).
Jesus looks in the crowd and sees scribes arguing with His disciples (Mark 9:14). They cause Him much anguish and grief. The crowd does not bring much joy either. Jesus knows the reason they follow Him is that they seek after signs and miracles (Matthew 12:39). They don’t want Jesus as much as they want Him to make life better.
The lesson in the valley is that we will fall short of bringing joy to Jesus. We can all point to times in our Christian walk that we grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). We often are self-seeking and cause strife or division in the church. We offend one another.
I am not easy to be around. I know I cause people grief. And, you know that at times you cause me grief as well. We all walk around carrying a sinful body that refuses to die and makes war with the spirit.
If we feel grieved by others, and we are often guilty of causing grief, imagine what it must be like to be Jesus, a man without sin living in a generation of unbelieving and perverted people. His people are lost. He grieves for our condition.
In our grief over the sin of others and ourselves, it is not hard to imagine the grief Jesus has as He walks among us.
Celebrate that Jesus’ Compassion is Unfailing
Thankfully, there is good news. Jesus’ grief does not dictate His purpose or plan. Jesus sets aside His grief and looks upon us with compassion.
The good news is what He says to the father of the young demon-possessed boy.
Bring your son here. (Luke 9:41)
What joyous words! What a glorious Savior.
The lesson we learn from this event in the valley is that Jesus’ love for people is not performance-driven. Yes, people are unbelieving. Yes, people are perverted. There is not one person in the crowd deserving of Jesus’ love and compassion. Despite their sin, Jesus says, “Bring your son here.”
Jesus calls out to us in the same way. We can fail him every day, but He still calls out to us and wraps His arms around us. The compassion of Jesus never fails. He is faithful to love. It is His character. He calls out to sinners and says that there is forgiveness.
Evil Fights to the Bitter End
As Jesus calls out for the father to bring Him the boy, Luke describes a very ugly scene. As the boy is approaching, the demon slams him to the ground and throws him into a convulsion (Luke 9:42a). It is an incredibly sad and difficult spectacle to witness.
The young boy is ravaged by demonic power. The demon makes every effort to prevent the boy from going to Jesus. The boy is bleeding and bruised. Perhaps some in the crowd begin to cry with pity. Some people likely avert their eyes from the hideous picture. Everyone is helpless. Who dares interfere with such evil forces? There but for the grace of God, go I.
What is the lesson in the valley? Never underestimate how evil fights Jesus to the bitter end. The forces of darkness will do everything in their power to keep us from Christ. They still fight today. They will make every last-ditch effort to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). They will continue to fight until every one of them is locked in hell forever.
Be Amazed at the Greatness of God
Jesus gives a command. Bring the boy. The demon has no choice but to bring the boy to Jesus. Jesus only has to speak, and the demon leaves. Jesus gives a simple rebuke.
Jesus heals the boy of his hurting bruises and any physical damage brought on by the demon. And Jesus gives the boy back to the father.
Everyone is amazed at the greatness of God. The word in Greek for greatness can also be translated majesty. The reason to point this out is because of how Peter uses the same word in his letter to describe the transfiguration.
In 2 Peter 1:16-17, he writes, “… we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Peter witnessed the majesty of Jesus on the mountaintop. In the valley below, the people are amazed at the same display of majesty when Jesus heals the boy.
The majesty of Jesus is on display everywhere. It is seen on the mountaintop and in the valley below. Our Savior is unchanging. Jesus is majestic (great) on the mountaintop when we worship His glory. And, Jesus is majestic and great when He ministers to us in the deepest valley. Jesus is majestic when we need Him to be most. No matter how dark life’s trials become, Jesus is always majestic.
Don’t Fall for Momentary Glory
Everyone is marveling at the miracle. The disciples are also amazed. We now come to the most important lesson in the valley. While everyone is marveling at what Jesus is doing, Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His apostles.
Jesus turns to the apostles and makes a profound statement. He is very firm. It is important that we understand what Jesus says.
Verse 44, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”
Notice the connection to everyone being amazed by the miracle, and Jesus making this stern statement to His apostles. He is letting them know before they get all excited about the crowd’s adoration, it is important they focus on the purpose Jesus came to this earth. Don’t get caught up in the adoration of the crowds, the miracles, or mountaintop experiences. The marveling is short-lived.
The same crowd that seeks to elevate Jesus because of His miracle-working power, is the same crowd that will deliver Him over to be crucified. Jesus wants them the disciples to know that it is vitally important they never lose sight of His primary mission.
Jesus didn’t come to only perform miracles. The miracles point to a greater purpose. They are a sign that He came to seek and to save the lost. The boy is released from a demon and has complete healing today. But, the boy will still be lost and perish in his sin without the crucifixion. The crowd does not recognize the mission of Jesus. But, the apostles had better listen.
Jesus is teaching His apostles to listen. God just told three of them to “Listen to Him.”
Unfortunately, the apostles do not listen as they should. They do not understand Jesus’ statement and are afraid to ask for an explanation (Luke 9:43b-45). Luke is helping us to see the problem. They are not listening and believing. About a month or so earlier, Jesus expressly tells them the importance of listening.
Turn to Luke chapter 8:9-15. Jesus explains the importance of hearing with the right heart.
His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And 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. "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. "Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:9-15)
Luke is showing his readers that the disciples are not listening. They are hearing, but not holding the word fast in an honest and good heart.
Jesus expressly tells the apostles that to them it is granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, yet they fail to ask Him to explain the statement.
Luke will use the upcoming account to highlight that the apostles are not hearing and applying the truths Jesus is speaking. Jesus will correct the apostles three times. Each time, we can recognize that they did not hear and apply what Jesus teaches them.
We can find solace in knowing that the apostles are just like us. We all fail to hear as we should. We fall short. Praise God that Jesus doesn’t save us because of our performance. He saves us despite our performance. We ought not to use the failure of the apostles as an excuse. We need to be diligent to hear and obey our Lord. But, we can also know that He is full of grace and compassion. Hallelujah!
What we may learn from this passage is that we need to be careful with how we view Christianity. Our walk with Christ is not about marveling over the signs and wonders. Rather, the big picture is the suffering Christ. He has come to die for our sins. Jesus expresses to His disciples the importance of keeping the main thing, the main thing.
No matter how dark the valley gets, if we keep our eyes on salvation, nothing else matters. If life gets difficult, we only need to look at the truth that we have a suffering Savior who died for us so we may be with Him in eternity. We have a grand perspective of walking in the valley because we have a grand Savior.
In the valleys of life, listen to the suffering Savior. The greatest majesty of Jesus is not found in the miracles, although they are great and awesome. The majesty of Christ is that He is the Suffering Savior.
When we are in heaven, we are not going to be marveling at His power or authority. Jesus’ power and authority are truly marvelous. We will be praising the glory of God’s grace. We will be marveling at how such a magnificent God goes to His death so we may be saved. We will marvel at the Bridegroom laying down His life for His bride.