James the Apostle

Sep 1, 2021
Luke builds his Gospel by showing how Jesus calls his twelve apostles and then trains them. This training takes the form of spending time with Jesus, watching him do miracles and healings, and listening to his teachings. By Luke 9, the basic training is over and advanced training has started. Jesus empowers the apostles and gives them authority to drive out demons and cure people, and to teach about the Kingdom of God.

Luke tamps down their success by saying they returned to Jesus and reported the results, but Jesus just took them and withdrew to the small town of Bethsaida. Luke follows this with the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The apostles should have learned that they had the power to feed the people, but they did not understand this even after Jesus encouraged them. They must have been very confused about what power they did and didn’t have.

On another occasion, Jesus takes an opportunity to set the record straight. He puts Peter in the position of having to state who Jesus is. When Peter correctly named Jesus as the Christ, it becomes undisputed among the apostles who they are serving. Rather than extol all the good things that are going to happen, Jesus explains how much they will have to suffer. He knew he had to keep their expectations in check. In another instance of overturning their expectations, Jesus takes three of them up on the Mount of Transfiguration and confirms their belief in him.

Have you ever thought how confused the disciples must have stayed? One moment they learn about the benefits of following Jesus, and the next they learn the cost of that following will be suffering. One moment, Jesus shows his Messiahship by healing unhealable people, and the next he is talking about his death.

To add to the apostles’ bewilderment, Jesus has the habit of saying confusing things. In this chapter alone he says, “It is the least among you who is the greatest”; “whoever is not against you is for you”; and whoever want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” It is easy, after 2000 years of received wisdom about Jesus, to envision how awesome it would have been to be with him, but maybe the apostles didn’t feel that way all the time.

One verse not to miss is Luke 9:51. Luke is making a transition in this passage by saying Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. From this point on, Jesus is irrevocably committed to going to Jerusalem and to the cross.