Our reading today begins with the sending out of the Twelve (9:1-6). Luke then tells us that Herod the Tetrarch (who governed Galilee) had heard about Jesus (v. 7). We see again the identification of Jesus with the Old Testament prophets (v. 8). We are told that Herod wanted to see Jesus (v. 9). We will see that he eventually gets his chance (see 23:8). The account of the feeding of the 5,000 agrees with Matthew and Mark.
We then come to the turning point of the story. Matthew does not speak of Peter’s confession until two-thirds of the way through his Gospel account. Mark does in at the halfway point. Luke does this here, only one-third(ish) of the way through. Luke focuses more on the end of Jesus’s ministry. Here, Luke omits the rebuke of Peter (see Mark 8:31-33), but includes Jesus’s call to deny ourselves and take up our cross (vv. 23-26).
In the account of the transfiguration, Luke again mentions the purpose for taking the three Apostles up on the mountain: prayer (v. 28). It was while praying to the Father that the glory of God broke through (v. 29). Also note that Luke tells us this happened “about eight days” after the sayings of verses 23-27. It could be that eyewitness accounts varied. This does not mean there is a conflict between this and the six day of Matthew and Mark. In verse 31, we are told what the topic of conversation was between Jesus, Moses and Elijah: Jesus’s departure that would be accomplished at Jerusalem. The Greek word translated “departure” is literally “exodus.” It is where the book of Exodus gets its name (from the Septuagint). Luke is careful to point out that the ultimate and new Exodus was about to be accomplished through Jesus’s sufferings in Jerusalem.
In Jesus’s second prediction of His death, Luke adds in that the disciples not only didn’t understand what Jesus told them, but that it was hidden from them. Luke will show it is revealed to them when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost in the book of Acts. That they didn’t understand because God withheld understanding from them almost makes the argument over who is the greatest excusable (vv. 46-48).
Luke then tells of Jesus travelling through Samaria (vv. 51-56). This would have been the most direct route to Jerusalem, where Jesus has “set His face” (v. 51). Also notice that the days drew near for Jesus to be “taken up.” This is a reference to His ascension. The final instructions to the Apostles will be given at Jerusalem for a reason. Luke foreshadows that here with this trip through Samaria. When the Samaritans reject Jesus (v. 53), the Sons of Thunder want to judge them with fire from heaven (v. 54). But Jesus rebukes them (v. 55). Soon, they will be sent back to Samaria to bring them the fire from heaven that is the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8:14-17).
This is not unrelated to the events that begin chapter 10. Here, Jesus sends out seventy others (10:1). Some manuscripts say it was 72 others. Why this discrepancy? Because copyists picked up on what Luke was doing here. The discrepancy comes in depending on how one translates Genesis 10. Depending on how you translate the Hebrew, there are either 70 or 72 nations mentioned. These are, of course, the nations that are born out of the Babel incident. The sending of the 70 (72) is recorded only by Luke, because he sees it as foreshadowing the mission of the church: reclaiming the nations for Christ. We will see this more clearly in the book of Acts.
This idea of the coming mission of the church being in view explains Jesus’s instructions here. He tells the 70 to pray for more laborers (v. 2). Whereas Jesus told the Twelve specifically not to go anywhere but to Israel (see Matt 10:5) – specifically not to the Samaritans! – here, this very likely happens while Jesus is in Samaria. Note also that Jesus tells them to speak of the kingdom of God (v. 9, 11). Then, Jesus pronounces woe on Bethsaida and Capernaum – towns in Israel – while comparing them to Gentile cities that would repent (vv. 13-15).
When the 70 return, their joy is that “the demons are subject to us in your name” (v. 17). This is another foreshadowing of reclaiming the territories of the gods (demons) for Christ. Jesus’s response is along the same lines. Satan was expelled from God’s presence in the Garden (v. 18 – see Isa 14:12, Rev 12:4). This authority – to cast our demons – is given to the church by Christ (v. 19). The serpents and scorpions are metaphors for Satan and his demons (as in Genesis 3 and the book of Revelation). The treading on them is the promise of Genesis 3:15, which Christ is now carrying out through His church and the expansion of His kingdom. What shall not hurt us is not literal snakes or scorpions, but the powers of darkness. And yet, we should not rejoice over that, but that we have our names written in the book of life in heaven (v. 20).
In Jesus’s rejoicing, we again see the Holy Spirit at work (v. 21). Note here what was revealed to the little children; what they see that they are so blessed. They see the plan of God. That Christ has been given sovereign control of all things (v. 22), and He has given dominion to His church (v. 19). And this is pictured in the sending of the 70 – likely to the Samaritans. And this is why Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, Jesus is the Samaritan! The man is the church. Jesus binds our wounds, and then gives us what we need in between His two comings. This is what He just told the seventy.
Luke then records the incident with Martha and Mary (vv. 38-42). This is the only time these two are mentioned outside of the fourth Gospel account. This story is practically cliché by this point. One sister is distracted by the anxieties of this world while one chooses to learn at the feet of Jesus. What is usually overlooked is Jesus’s assertion that what Mary has chosen “will not be taken away from her” (v. 42). This is akin to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6:19-20. Not only is Martha anxious over worldly things, she is anxious over things that are temporary.
Chapter 11 begins with Luke focusing on prayer again. In light of Luke’s foreshadowing of the role of the church with the sending of the 70, that those who ask of God are not given serpents or scorpions can be better understood (vv. 11-12). This is also why Luke tells us that what is given to us is the Holy Spirit (v. 13). This leads naturally into Jesus’s teaching about casting out demons (vv. 14-23). Jesus is the One stronger Who will overcome Satan (v. 22). He will then divide the spoil with His church. Whereas Matthew speaks of the return of the unclean spirit as a metaphor for the condition of that generation (see Matt 12:43-45 and its larger context), Luke interprets Jesus’s words to be speaking of actual spiritual warfare (vv. 24-26).
The woman in the crowd that yells out (v. 27) calls back Mary’s prayer in 1:48. However, Jesus calls those who obey the Word of God the truly blessed (v. 28). The remainder of the chapter has parallels in Matthew and/or Mark. The same is true for the start of chapter 12. Luke, however, includes the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit here in the context of acknowledging Christ (vv. 8-12). In this context, verse 10 speaks of the denial of Christ by the Jews during His earthly ministry. That is forgivable because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. But when Christ completes the work of His first advent with the sending of the Holy Spirit, there is no more atonement for sin. If one remains in unbelief after the sending of the Spirit (this present age), He will be judged. The rulers and authorities of verse 11 – the only place Jesus uses this phrase – may be a reference to spiritual powers.
The Parable of the Rich Fool (vv. 13-21) is unique to Luke. It goes hand in hand with what Jesus said in 10:41-42. This is why Jesus follows it up by echoing His teaching from the Sermon on the Mount about treasures in heaven (vv. 22-34 – see Matt 6:19-34). He follow this up with parables about our readiness for His return. The wise manager of verse 42 is the church. These are God’s spiritual people, who will be separated even from their physical family for the sake of Christ (vv. 49-53). So Jesus calls His followers to properly understand the present time (v. 56) and “settle our accounts” as it were through Christ before it’s too late (vv. 57-59). This idea will carry forward into chapter 13.