The Gospel of Jesus Christ was written down so that “you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, you might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Remember this as we move into the middle of Luke’s particular Gospel. The things he wrote and the many sermons that have been preached upon his beautiful Gospel are not intended to stuff our heads with knowledge but to bring us to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. As we have seen, our Lord began to make clear what kind of kingdom he came to establish and what is the only way to become a part of it. He must be rejected by the Jewish leaders and suffer the painful, shameful death of the cross. His glorious alteration was to teach them and us that all the mightiest men who ever lived could take away Jesus’ life had he not willingly laid it down (John 10:28). His glory is beyond our comprehension – certainly as the eternal Son of God but also as the God-Man, the Mediator of the covenant. And now we see a further reason to seek out Jesus Christ to save and sanctify us. He is the only One who can overturn Satan’s dominion in our lives so that being freed from sin we can live to righteousness by the power of his Holy Spirit.
But He Is So Mighty and Majestic (vv. 37-43)
He Does What His Disciples Cannot
Coming down from the mountain, our Lord made it clear to Peter, James, and John that they should not talk about what they had seen – not yet. The time for proclaiming his fuller glory would come after the cross. It is in the light of the cross that the glory of Christ is seen properly in its startling context – that he even though he was rich, he became poor, so humiliated and condemned in order to raise us up to be the children of God. A chaotic scene met them in the plain below – like Moses descending from Sinai’s glories to face Israel’s idolatrous debauchery and also like many believers have experienced after a particularly encouraging time of fellowship with God – conflict! People ran to Jesus. Somewhere nearby Jewish leaders were mocking Jesus’ disciples because they could not cast out a demon from a boy. His father shouted out to Jesus – “Lord, I beg you, look here upon my son, for he is my only child.” Such a cry could not fail to pierce the heart of Jesus, for he was also the only Son of his Father. The father hurriedly told Jesus about his son’s violent tormentor, a devil that would seize such hold upon him that the boy would cry out, tear himself, foam at the mouth, and throw himself around so violently into fire and water that he was bruised. This is what sin and Satan do to us all – leave us more dead than alive. From Mark’s account, we learn that this had been happening since the boy was virtually an infant, which shows Satan’s shocking malice. He would gladly rip apart babes and infants from their mothers’ arms and toss them into hell with him. In antiquity and in the present, one of Satan’s names is Molech – the devourer of children. The father asked the disciples to heal his son, but they could not. The father is likely weeping – “If you can do anything to help us, have compassion and help us” (Mark 9:22).
Jesus’ most devoted servants are sometimes unable to help us. They pray for us, give us counsel, even walk down the path a little with us, trying to show us how to put into practice the wisdom they have shared. But whether through our own fault, the weak faith of Christ’s servants, or our Father’s testing, each disciple must learn that Jesus Christ can do for us what the best of men cannot. This is important, for we are not to be slaves to men, even to good men. We should listen to them and follow their godly counsel, pray for them, and respect them for their labors for us, but the godlier they are, the more they will tell us to turn to Jesus Christ and depend upon his power alone. He uses men to do us good in a variety of ways, but all the good must be ultimately traced back to him. And especially, as we see here, when Christ’s true servants are weak through unbelief or other sins, they will fail us. Let him rebuke his own servants; let us in those times wait upon him to help us.
He Rebukes Their Unbelief
Before rebuking his disciples for their unbelief, Mark records that Jesus encouraged the man to believe: “All things are possible to him that believes” (Mark 9:23). This is not a formula for earthly prosperity but an encouragement to trust God to fulfill his promises and to lean more fully upon our Lord Jesus the more our faith is attacked and our spirits crushed by trouble and anxiety. What a hard lesson this is – amid the tears, to trust our Savior, to believe that he is the Christ of God and loves us. Our troubles tempt us to doubt his love – tempt us to disbelieve. He exhorts us to the opposite – the more we seem to be assailed and the heavier the tears, the more we should pour them into his bosom and cast ourselves upon his power and love and faithfulness.
But to the disciples – what a strong rebuke! “Oh faithless and perverse generation” – surely he was not speaking to the father of the boy, whose faith had brought him to Jesus, or to the Jewish leaders, for they were his enemies and obviously had no faith in him. It was to the disciples that he directed this rebuke. They had seen his mighty power, raising the dead, casting our demons, feeding multitudes, calming seas, but before this demon, they were beaten back. Their faith was weak at this moment, perhaps overwhelmed by the intensity of this demonic activity or worried about Jesus’ lengthy absence. His rebuke calls them back to reality. Do you still not know who I am? Not trust me? Can you not make a believing appeal to the Father in my name and persist in warfare until you obtain the good he has promised? One feels the weariness of his soul – “How long shall I be with you, and suffer you?” It is not impatience talking but hatred of unbelief. He could grow exhausted in battle. It is also perhaps his holy desire for his disciples to know and trust him to be what he had repeatedly revealed to them and taught them. I am the Son of God and promised Savior of the world. I am the living fulfillment of Isaiah 61 – healing, raising, recovering sight, freeing slaves. Do you believe that I am he?
Do we believe? Do you believe this morning? If you do not repent of your sins and come to Jesus Christ you call God a liar – that he is not able to deliver you from your sins, will not listen to your cries, and has not sent his Son into the world to save and give you eternal life. Unbelief is evil, a horrible sin that our Lord still rebukes. He rebukes it not only in you lost ones, whom he invites to come and be delivered from your tormentor, but also he rebukes it in those who know him truly, as the nine did – or eight. Do you not trust that I am able to cast out the spirit of hate, lust, selfishness, and fear so that you can love your wife as I loved mine? Crush the spirit of control, fear, and having always to be right so that you can reverence your husband and put on his meek and quiet spirit? It is unbelief that keeps us from coming to Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Deliverer from sin and Satan. No, he cannot help me submit to my parents – or perhaps I do not want him to help me do this, for I love my rebellion more than I am willing to admit – but this is a different kind of unbelief, is it not? The unbelief of outright rebellion and rejection of God’s word – No, I do not believe God knows what is best for me. I will not perish for my unbelief of his word. But you will as will I, for breaking his holy law about parents and children will send you to hell just as surely as if you were the worst tyrant the world has ever seen. Only Jesus Christ can deliver you, heal your frustrated, rebel’s life, and restore you to peace. Otherwise, if your unbelief keeps you away, the devils will keep tormenting you, bruising your soul, ruining your relationships, and giving you not a moment’s peace. Please, I urge you to repent of unbelief and turn to Jesus Christ.
He Casts Out Evil Spirits
“Bring here your son” – despite the man’s confession of remaining unbelief, which he asks for help anyway – “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Let none of you think that Jesus will help you because your faith is perfect, or that he will not help you because your faith is assailed by many doubts. This is faith’s main quality – that weak or strong, it looks to Jesus Christ. This is God’s gift to us – that we are enabled by his power to confess and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that he will help us. Then, whether running or crawling to him, or weeping, as this father was, we come and lay our case at his feet. This demon knew his hour was come – and what a picture of the abasement of the angelic nature brought on by its rebellion – from brighter than the stars to foaming at the mouth, tearing, and roaring – a true and horrible picture of sin. Jesus rebukes him, sends him away, and releases the boy to his father. They were all “amazed with wonder,” dumbfounded at the majesty of God, as the language more specifically implies – absolutely astonished at God’s power over the devil and the manifestation of that power exhibited at the bare word of Jesus Christ.
And he is the same, struggling sinner, and will cast out your demons. We talk a great deal about being patient with certain sins, and rightly so, or that sanctification is progressive, which is equally true. Let this not keep you from coming to Jesus and making direct appeal to him to release you from sin’s dominion and Satan’s blinding influence in your life. When you come to Jesus Christ, your sins and your demons must perish as you come, when you arrive, in his presence. They cannot live before him, but you will, if you believe upon his name. Come in the midst of your tears and even uncertainty. If you know not the Savior, you are Satan’s slave and dupe; there is only One who can deliver you. Come now before you die bound to the devil and perish in hell forever. Jesus Christ breaks the strongest ties of sin and addiction. Come and cast yourself upon his mercy, upon the cross of his victory, and the empty tomb of his vindication. If you know him but have relapsed or seek further healing, do the same. Sometimes true disciples need to be rebuked for their unbelief, which in their case is essentially forgetting who Jesus is and therefore refusing to trust, come, and obey. Receive his rebuke this morning and come afresh to him who first saved you and who pledges to receive you again into the fold of his faithful ones. And if you have never left him but desire only to be closer to him, his arms are wide enough to receive you also. Believe this, and come. Keep casting away your heart idols, the voices that whisper “he cannot” or “he will not” help me with this little thing. Yes, he will, for he knows his sheep by name, which means he knows our burdens. Believe his promise and come!
Sinful Men Will Kill Him? (vv. 44-45)
The Son of Man Delivered Up
Luke will often follow this order in the time leading up to Calvary – after the Lord shows his power, he then begins talking about his sufferings. One reason is to prevent the disciples from false ideas about his kingdom and another is to prepare them for what lay ahead. The great conundrum of the cross must eternally remain, not that a weak and hated man was crucified, but that the Lord of glory was crucified. And here he uses his messianic title, Son of Man, which emphasizes both his true humanity and his mediatorial glory as foreseen by Daniel (7:13-14). Jesus was truly and fully “God manifested in the flesh.” “And the word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld his glory.” And why? So that he might be delivered into the hands of sinful men (Luke 24:7). In Jesus’ case, to deliver means to be handed over into the custody, to be judged, condemned, and scourged for sinners.
It is the most astounding aspect of the gospel. Could he not simply have loved everyone into heaven? Did the Jews respond to his love? Do men today hear John 3:16 and immediately repent of their sins? Sinners are obstinately sold to do sin, depraved and alienated from God through wicked works. Having chosen to save his people, there was no other way but for the Son of Man to be delivered up. Yes, he was and is glorious beyond our comprehension, but a snap of his fingers would not satisfy divine justice or magnify divine mercy. He had to become what our sins had done to us – a condemned criminal – in order to drink and drain the cup of God’s wrath against sinners. Only thereby could he break the power of death by paying sin’s wages in full. Only then could we be righteous – by the HOLY ONE of God become sin for us, our sins imputed to him and his obedience to us. Only then could God be just and the justifier of him that believes on Jesus Christ. It is a plan of such wisdom and magnitude that the angels never tire of looking into it. It is sad that we tire so easily of hearing about it.
But notice also the remarkable statement that he had to be delivered into the hands of men. In another instance he will say sinful men (Luke 24:7). Heavenly fire did not consume Jesus, as it did Elijah’s burnt offering. In some depth of God’s wisdom, it was determined that sinful men had to try, condemn, and crucify the Son of Man in the flesh. I do not understand this, but I am utterly shocked and mesmerized by it. It is one of those little gospel kernels that reveals its completely heavenly origin. Had the Christian religion been imagined by men, fire from heaven would have come down. Something so obviously miraculous would have occurred that everyone would be instantly converted by the weight of glory. But no! Wicked men committing judicial travesty crucified Jesus Christ, and he submitted to their wickedness. He sank to the lowest imaginable level. Perhaps this is the point. God-with-us became “no man,” a worm, less than man, to suffer the weight of our foul crimes against heaven and raise us up to be heirs of heaven. Praise God for his wisdom and for the willing humiliation of our Savior. For my part, I think this is one certain reason for the utter awe of heaven-clarified hearts and minds, angelic and human.
God Must Open Our Ears to His Gospel
And our Lord will increasingly insist upon teaching his disciples about his sufferings and humiliation that Judas’ very stomach will be sickened so that he is driven to exasperation and treachery. This is not the kingdom of which we want to hear. Why, to listen to some people in the church talk, had they been with Jesus, they would have bypassed all this gospel stuff – hey, we have heard it all before – and picked Jesus’ brain about the finer points of theology or the esoteric truths of philosophy or a study of being and becoming – but let us hear no more about the Son of Man being delivered up. But even the apostle who was caught up into the third heavens “determined to know nothing else among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). This is the great leveling doctrine, for no human pride can stand unchallenged before it. It is the great God-exalting doctrine. The most advanced disciple, if he is truly advanced in Christ’s school, will never quite leave kindergarten when it comes to this doctrine. He will find in the gospel of Jesus Christ the great wisdom that dazzles the most penetrating thinker, the great love that humbles and motivates, and the great courage that inspires faith to face and overcome the world. And why? Because there is nothing about which we need to hear more than that the Holy God is reconciled to us through the death of his beloved Son, and that in Jesus Christ we have peace and righteousness through his resurrection from the dead.
He told them to “let this saying sink down into your ears.” I am reminded of Isaiah’s plea – or is it the Suffering Servant’s plea – “Lord, who has believed our report?” There is nothing we need more than new ears, the ability to hear God’s word and take it into our inmost selves by faith and repentance. Only our Savior can open our ears, for only his ears were opened (Ps. 40:6). Sin has plugged our ears so that we run from our Father’s voice. This is because we have broken his commandments – every one of them. Each one of us has worshipped other gods; as believers, we often worship the god of what others think of us or crave their admiration for our pet people and pet projects. We have broken God’s Sabbath and not worshipped him in all the ways he has revealed his name. We have not honored our parents, and the Lord Jesus said that whoever dishonors his father and mother should suffer the death penalty (Matt. 7:10-13). Each one of us has hated our neighbor, lusted after something God has not been pleased to give us, and coveted our neighbor’s goods or wife. We deserve to die, so of course we do not want to listen. We blame how easily we are distracted, or perhaps the preacher stepped on our toes, or another believer did something to us that we will not forgive. Strange and horrifying that many will be in hell because they preferred to blame everyone else for their problems and would never face their own sins.
This is the reason we need to ask Jesus Christ this very morning to open our ears. If he has opened them, we must plead with him to keep them open, for we “belong to Christ only if we hold the beginning of our confidence firmly unto the end” (Heb. 3:6). It is true that James encourages us to be doers, and not simply hearers of the word, so hearing alone is not enough. To hearing we must add obedience, or we have not really heard. But we cannot obey and will have no strength to obey unless we have heard the Lord Jesus. This saying of his must sink down into our ears. It is the most important thing we can ever hear. Think, Christian, of your most aggravating sin or your most pressing duty. Think of the one duty you know you should do or idol you should give up. You have tried, made fresh resolutions, but have failed and fallen back into the old ways. Where is the strength to be found? Would it not be better to make your peace with your sins? No, hear again the voice of Jesus Christ. “I have been delivered up for your sins.” He was delivered up so you would never come under condemnation. A great part of the believer’s progress depends upon clear views of just how cleansed and forgiven and accepted we are. We do not try to obey God to prove something to him or because others are watching or, God forbid, because the saving work of Christ is insufficient. No, we want to obey because we are looking at Jesus and understand more the wonder that he was delivered up for our sins. Wait – I am forgiven – all my false starts and falling – way more than seven times, by the way. Yes, if you are looking to Jesus Christ, pleading his blood, trusting God’s promise of mercy, you are forgiven. This is the reason that the angels want to know more of this “delivered up.” God’s grace amazes to this very moment, and he offers it to you, child of God.
But if you are not a child of God and you are deaf to the gospel, you must first ask Jesus Christ to open your ears so that this saying can sink down and save you. Your case is desperate, I must honestly tell you, for you must hear God’s voice to live, but you cannot hear it. You do not want to hear him. You will listen to anyone else before you will listen to him. You will convince yourself that you are listening to him while you are really listening to yourself. This is an age that confuses its own desires with the smile of God. If I feel good about this, it must be God’s will, right? Wrong. Sinners prefer the voice of Satan to the voice of God. I urge you therefore to ask Jesus Christ to help you hear his “the Son of man is delivered into the hands of men.” Ask him to help you repent. Ask him to help you feel how urgent your situation is, that it is possible you will die today, and the first time you hear God’s voice is when he sends you into the fiery abyss – or that you will live today, but without the joy and peace you might have had if you had surrendered your life to Jesus. Do not let this be you, but I fear it will be some of you, unless you hear Jesus Christ now. When his word is preached, he opens heaven. He will save you now. He will apply the deliverance he obtained at Calvary to your heart. He will give you peace with God by cleansing away your sins through his blood. This is the reason he came. He alone can cast out demons and save you from everlasting hell. Will you come? You have heard, now of the Deliverer, Jesus Christ. Those crowds heard him that day. Judas heard, but Judas is in hell. He did not believe and repent. Hear the voice of the Son of God and live. Hear now. Do not call God a liar by thinking there is another way to be saved. “Neither is there any under name under heaven by which we must be saved.”