Thesis:The plight of man is worse than his worst nightmare.
Introduction:In our studies of Luke 9 I have been saying, over and over, that this chapter is about the question of whether people will "follow Jesus". The opening paragraph is the record of Jesus' first reallyserious challenge to the "faith" of "The Twelve". The second paragraph is the record of the core issue of "faith": Herod was a "tetrarch" whose fundamental identity was that of a man committed to being "in control". The third paragraph is the record of a very much "ramped up" challenge to the "faith" of "The Twelve". They came at Him as "Herods" and He met them with a demand that both He and they knew was "beyond them". Now we come to the fourth paragraph (9:18-27) and even the most superficial reading of it has the potential to make the hair on the back of one's neck stand up. As an extended statement, it is as blatant as anything we will ever read about what is really involved in "believing". It is not about going from village to town to city preaching the Kingdom without any visible means of self-provision, though, clearly, that was one of the details. It is not about giving in to Jesus on the issue of whether, and how, the needs of others will be met. What it is really about is whether one who professes to "believe" has actually come to grips with what "believing" means.
This morning we are going to begin an extended consideration of Jesus' words to His "disciples" in view of Luke's preliminary comments.
I. The Implications of These Preliminary Comments.
A. There is another declaration of a "given" in a complex universe fouled by rebellion.
1. The "given" is that the vast majority of worthy accomplishments only come to pass through a myriad of lesser accomplishments.
2. The declaration has two major parts.
a. The first part is Luke's use of "it came about".
1) According to use, this is one of Luke's favorite theses.
a) He uses the word so translated 40% of the times it is used in the New Testament (132 verses in Luke and 120 in Acts as opposed to Matthew's 69 uses and Paul's combined 133 in all of his epistles).
b) As a physician he was used to the problems of human bodies and the complexity of any real solutions.
2) Luke's point is that nothing just "happens"; everything "comes about" as the consequence of a myriad of other things that have "come about".
b. The second part is Luke's comparative reference to Jesus' activity.
1) In 9:16 he told us that Jesus "looked into heaven" before he "blessed" the loaves and fishes and began to multiply them in order to feed 100 groups of 50 "onlookers".
a) Indubitably this is a passing reference to "prayer".
b) It is remarkable for its brevity in the light of the task.
2) In the opening statement of our current paragraph, Luke gives a more deliberate focus to the issue of Jesus "praying".
a) He is more direct.
b) He is more detailed.
3) In connection with his "it came about" statement, Luke's record that Jesus was "praying" is a not-so-subtle declaration that He fully grasped how crucial is each step of the way on the path toward the final accomplishment.
3. The point is made: not even Jesus attempted to pursue His course as a "Herod": the complexity, made even worse by the corruption, was not going to be made "better" by anyone who dismisses the absolute cruciality of the Father's direct involvement.
4. This is the beginning of the "preliminary" considerations to Luke's record of this hair-raising paragraph.
B. There is a presentation of the "purity" and "uniqueness" of Jesus' "not like Herod" approach to His Father-given task.
1. Luke decided to employ a relatively rare Greek "idiom" that the translators simply translate "alone".
2. This "idiom" has two direct implications of meaning.
a. On the one hand, it stands in tension with Luke's next statement: the disciples "were being together with Him" (imperfect tense to intensify the picture).
1) In Matthew 6:6 Jesus taught others to deliberately kill off a major corruption of "prayer" by isolating themselves from others so that "others" have no place in the petitioner's mind.
a) This is no small demand because the desire to be impressive is no small temptation.
b) Being "alone" means there will be no "preaching to the audience" in the guise of "prayer".
2) Luke's statement is an explanation that, though Jesus' disciples were "together with Him", Jesus practiced what He preached (He was, in a final and absolute sense, totally unconcerned about anyone's opinions except the Father's).
b. On the other hand, it stands in tension with the "crowds" and the "disciples" and points to a common failure.
1) The question of what the crowds' thinking about His identity was is no small thing: John 8:24.
2) Thus, the "the disciples were together with Him" becomes a physical fact that desperately needs to become a "believing" fact.
3) Luke's statement is a declaration that the disciples were not really "with Him" yet because He, alone, was praying (there is still too much of "Herod" in them).
C. There is a potent suggestion that in this fallen world what people think about Jesus is far more difficult to "get right" than feeding 5,000 men with five loaves of bread.
1. Most people have little problem with whether they could feed 5,000 people with one kid's lunch.
a. This is a physical-world reality that is simply too well established to cause any raised eyebrows.
b. For this cause, it is considered to be a "major" miracle by those who are consumed with the physical world's arguments about "Life" and only seen by Jesus as a matter needing a cursory "look into heaven" to be done.
2. By the same token, most people see no real problem with their approach to their "thinking".
a. In areas of "religion" everyone has an opinion and most people hold it at a level where they simply agree that "politics and religion" are banned subjects of conversation in family gatherings.
b. But, the truth is this: when it comes to what people are going to "think" about Jesus in respect to how that will play out for them, Jesus considered it a matter requiring farmore effort in "prayer" than dishing out enough food for a small army of people.
3. Luke's point is consistent: what Sin has done to humanity is more profound than anyone has yet to realize.
a. Mankind's tendency to "Herodize" life is not a pimple on the face; it is a virus on the aortic valve of the heart.
b. Luke, like Jesus, wants Theophilus to "live", but he has no delusions about whether that will be "easy", or not.