The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50
6. The nature of the Messiah's kingdom, 9:1-50
v] Healing an epileptic boySynopsis
The inner circle of disciples had just experienced the wonder and grandeur of Jesus' transfiguration, but now they descend to the real word of sin and death, a world lost apart from Christ. Here Jesus must again face the stupidity and unbelief, not only of the crowds, but even his own disciples. The disciples had failed to heal an epileptic boy and so Jesus takes charge, lays hold of the evil powers, heals the boy and so leaves the crowd astonished at the divine majesty evident in his ministry.
Faith is the essential element for entry into the kingdom of God.
i] Context: See 9:1-9. The healing of the epileptic boy is the fifth episode of The nature of the Messiah's kingdom, 9:1-50. In this episode we are reminded that membership in the kingdom rests on faith, v37-45, a faith which issues in a humble Word-directed service, v46-50.
ii] Structure: This healing narrative, The healing of the epileptic boy, presents as follows:
A father asks Jesus to heal his son, v38-40;
A rebuke from Jesus, v41:
"you unbelieving and perverse generation ......"
Jesus heals the boy, v42;
2nd. passion prediction, v44:
"the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men."
The disciples are confused, v45.
By comparing Luke's shaping of the synoptic tradition with that of Mark and Matthew we are able to discern his intentions for this passage. Unlike Mark's account of this episode, Luke drops the conversation about John the Baptist and Elijah, so moving the exorcism closer to the transfiguration. As Marshall puts it. Jesus appears on the scene "like a visitor from another world who has to put up with the unbelief of men." Luke also drops the discussion about the need for faith when faced with a difficult exorcism, an issue developed by Matthew in his account of this miracle, and immediately moves to the second prediction of Jesus' passion, v43b-45, and its accompanying discipleship issue, v46-50.
We end up with a twin focus:
First, we see Jesus in his glory (evident in the transfiguration), expressed in his authority over the powers of darkness, an authority ultimately realized at great cost to himself. This theme is evident in Luke's added comment in v43, "they were all amazed at the greatness of God."
Second, we see the unbelief, not just of the crowds, but of the disciples themselves. Although they possess Jesus' authority over the powers of darkness, they fail in their exercise of that authority, even questioning others who, in Jesus' name (under his authority), do the very thing they have failed to do, v49-50.
So, from the transfiguration through to 9:50 we witness the nature of identification / union, through faith, with the glorious suffering servant and the consequences of a failure of identification / union with Christ, cf. notes 9:18-27.
The Son of Man: Jesus' adoption of the mysterious messianic title "Son of Man" from Daniel 7, serves to restrict his messianic claims to those with eyes to see. The crowds hear nothing more than Jesus' claim to be "the man." The secret, revealed to the disciples only, is that he is a suffering Son of Man. Jesus certainly sees his messianic role in terms of Isaiah's suffering servant, but Daniel's glorious Son of Man (the one who receives dominion from the Ancient of Days) also suffers. Nolland notes that in Daniel 7, the saints of the Most High are delivered up into the hands of the fourth beast. Luke paints Jesus' corporate role, representing the journey of faithful Israel from Egypt to the promised land. In this journey, the faithful child does not put the Lord to the test even though done in by circumstance. It is for this reason we do well to identify with Jesus, stand in the shadow of his faithful cross-bearing. Of course, as identification alters our status (ie. we are regarded as faithful sons), so it inevitably alters our state (ie. we are no longer concerned with precedence over others, cf. v46-48). So, the humiliation of the Son of Man is likely to find its origin in Daniel rather than Isaiah. Note also, unlike Mark, Luke makes no mention of the resurrection, further underlining the Son of Man's humiliation.
The common synoptic tradition. The most widely held theory is that Mark was the first to record and edit the oral tradition of the gospel, then Luke used Mark and another source, today given the title Q, along with his own sources for his gospel, and then finally Matthew who used both Mark and Luke to shape his gospel. Although not an issue vital to an accurate interpretation of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, it is possible that all three gospel writers worked independently of each other, using as their source a common oral gospel tradition, at that time firmly established within the New Testament church, but evidencing slight local differences.
This episode / pericope is paralleled in Matthew 11:25-27 and 13:16-17. Note the similar feel with John 10:15, 17:2.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 9:37
The healing of the epileptic boy, v37-45: i] Setting, v37: The mountain (as with the wilderness) is a place of revelation and communion with God. Yet, like Moses, Jesus must come down to an earthly reality of superficial faith and rejection
th/ exhV hJmera/ dat. "the next day" - on the following day. Dative of time.
katelqontwn (katercomai) aor. part. "when [they] came down" - having come down [them]. A genitive absolute participle, which construction usually forms a temporal clause, as NIV. A similar construction is found in Mark. It is when Jesus comes down from the mountain that he is confronted by a questioning crowd which includes an embarrassed group of disciples.
apo + gen. "from [the mountain]" - Expressing separation; "away from."
autw/ dat. pro. "[met] him" - A dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb sunhnthsen, "met with."
ii] A father asks Jesus to heal his son, v38-40: A crowd had just gathered around a desperate father who had looked to Jesus' disciples to drive an evil spirit out of his child, but who had failed. Jesus joins the crowd and the father again pleads for help. Luke makes no comment about the quality of the father's faith; he has asked for healing, both from the disciples and now Jesus, so he obviously believes that Jesus is able to help. Although the child's condition is described in terms of epilepsy, the base problem is demonic.
apo + gen. "[a man] from [the crowd]" - the preposition here functions as a partitive genitive ie. identifying a particular part of the "crowd", so "a man in the crowd", NEB.
ebohsen (boaw) aor. "called out" - cried out, shouted out. This is a passionate appeal, made loudly to gain attention.
legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle.
sou gen. pro. "[I beg] you" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "I beg."
epibleyai (epiblepw) aor. inf. "to look [at]" - to look on with care/attentiveness [on/at/to]. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing the content of the request; "I ask that you take a look at my son." The sense is "take an interest in", "have regard for", possibly "look with compassion upon", Nolland, although we do still tend to say"take a look at."
oJti "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus should take a look at his son.
moi dat. pro. "[he is] my [only child]" - [he is unique] to me. Dative of interest, advantage, or as Culy, dative of possession. A statement particular to Luke, serving to underline the father's distress.
idou "-" - look, behold, pay attention. Emphatic interjection.
pneuma (a atoV) "a spirit" - An evil spirit, a demonic power, an unclean spirit, but of course this may just be the way a first century person would describe a neurological condition, here epilepsy.
lambanei (lambanw) pres. "seizes" - takes hold of. Present tense underlines the continuing nature of the condition.
exaifnhV adv. "suddenly" - immediately, suddenly. Temporal adverb expressing a momentary lapse in time.
krazei (krazw) pres. "screams" - cries out, shouts out. Either the boy, or the spirit through the boy.
sparassei (sparassw) pres. "it throws [him] into convulsions" - tears apart, pulls to and fro, convulses.
meta + gen. "-" - with [foam]. Expressing association.
afrou (oV) "he foams at the mouth" - foam. "Foam" is used in a negative sense of seizures. A hapax legomenon.
mogiV adv. "it scarcely ever" - hardly, scarcely (with toil and pain). It hardly ever both leaves/withdraws from him or stops bruising/wearing out/destroying him. Underlining the continuing, possibly regular, nature of the condition. Rather than the NIV "destroying", a literal "bruising" may be intended.
apo + gen. "leaves him" - [departs] from [him]. Expressing separation; "away from."
suntribon (suntribw) pres. part. "destroying [him]" - mauling, crushing , breaking. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "departs"; "it rarely departs from him and mauls him". "It is only with a struggle that it leaves him, and it is wearing him out", TNT.
edehqhn (deomai) aor. "I begged" - I besaught, asked. Luke emphasizes the urgency of the Father's request.
twn maqhtwn (hV ou) gen. "[your] disciples" - the disciples [of you]. A genitive of direct object after the verb "I begged."
iJna + subj. "to [drive it out]" - Forming a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what they "asked / begged".
ouk hdunhqhsan (dunamai) aor. pas. "they could not" - they were not able, they were unable. Aorist implies a specific attempt to do something. The disciples tried to help the boy, but failed. "They were not able to do what I asked." Note that both Matthew (little faith) and Mark (no effective prayer of faith) provide a reason for this failure, but Luke doesn't (in so many words). Verse 41 provides the only clue, "unbelieving", but who are the unbelieving ones?
iii] A rebuke from Jesus, v41: Jesus now rebukes their lack of faith, but who is he rebuking? The crowd's response is superficial, they are only "amazed", so they certainly fit the bill. Yet, what about the disciples? They obviously doubted that they had the power and authority to cast out demons when Jesus had explicitly given them this power and authority. The problem is serious, because in the end, faith is the means of entering the kingdom.
apistoV adj "unbelieving" - disbelieving, lacking faith. Seeing it is a disbelieving and perverse/perverted/crooked generation, the "unbelieiving" ones are possibly the "people" as a whole, so TEV. Yet, it is more likely that Jesus intends this rebuke for his disciples. They are the ones who possess the promised authority/power over the demons and so clearly they have doubted the effectiveness of this promise. So, the disciples represent this generation.
apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] replied" - having answered [Jesus said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "said", virtually redundant. A common expression.
diestrammenh (diastrefw) perf. pas. part. "perverse [generation]" - having been made perverse [generation]. The participle serves as an adjective, attributive, limiting "generation".
eJwV pote + fut. "how long" - until when. Forming a interogative temporal clause, future time; "How much longer."
proV + acc. "with" - toward. A positional sense (at/with rather than movement toward) is surely intended, although the preposition would then be followed by a dative.
anexomai (anecomai) fut. "put up with" - will I endure. "How long must I be patient with you?" Israel's failure to rely on God's promises, particularly during the wilderness journey, prompts a similar divine exasperation/weariness. Jesus may be speaking from the divine perspective, but also from the perspective of the one faithful Israelite, Christ, who must carry his brother's little faith.
uJmwn gen. pro. "you" - A genitive of direct object after the verb "put up with."
iv] Jesus heals the boy, v42: Jesus "rebukes" the evil spirit, confronting it as a personal influence rather than an inanimate thing. In typical fashion the dark powers don't give up without a fight.
prosercomenou (prosercomai) gen. pres. part. "while [the boy] was coming" - approaching. The genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause, as NIV. The subject of the verb is obviously the boy, "while the son was still coming." It is possible that the attack is prompted by the boys coming to Jesus, although this may just be another regular convulsion.
errhxen (rJhssw) aor. "threw [him] to the ground" - break, tear, burst out, threw down [him]. The meaning "throw down" is best. The boy falls to the ground and has a convulsion.
epetimhsen (epitimaw) aor. "[Jesus] rebuked" - Probably in the sense of "checked". Jesus' words are instantaneously effective.
tw/ pneumati tw/ akaqartw/ dat. "the impure spirit" - the unclean spirit. Dative of direct object after the verb
iasato (iaomai) aor. "healed [the body]" - Jesus "cured" the boy. Luke normally uses this word of a physical healing rather than an exorcism. This may well indicate that Luke understands the ailment more in terms of a physical complaint than demon possession.
tw/ patri (hr roV) dat. "[gave him back] to [his] father" - [he returned him] to the father [of him]. Dative of indirect object.
v] The response of the crowd, v43: The crowd's response is typical. Faith is the only valid response, and this crowd is without faith.
exeplhssonto (ekplhssw) imperf. "they were [all] amazed" - Who, the disciples or the crowd? Both!!!
epi + dat. "at" - Here with a causal sense; "because of."
magaleiothti (hV) "the greatness" - majesty/magnificence. Another word for "glory", hinting at divine glory. Note how Luke's account is far shorter than Mark's. Luke's own comment here, along with the brevity of his account, serves to compare the disciples' failure with Jesus' "glorious" success.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive is most likely adjectival, possessive, although Culy opts for verbal, subjective. "God's greatness and majesty in Jesus' activity", Stein.
qaumazontwn (qaumazw) gen. pres. part. "while [everyone] was marveling" - wondering, marveling. The genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause, as NIV. The typical response of crowds ("everyone") is to marvel at, be amazed at, Jesus' mighty works ("everything he was doing"), although Luke does not feature this response as clearly as Mark does. Note how Luke contrasts this response by the crowd with Jesus' prediction of his death, a contrast not found in Matthew or Mark.
epi + dat. "at [all]" - Here probably taking a causal sense; "because of all that he was doing (imperf. = durative)."
oi|V dat. pro. "that [Jesus did]" - which [he was doing] Dative by attraction.
vi] Jesus' 2nd. passion prediction, v44: Jesus now gives his second passion prediction, the first followed Peter's confession, 9:18-22. This time Jesus uses the phrase "betrayed into the hands of men", whereas before he used the terms "suffer", "rejected", and "killed". "Betrayed", or probably better, "handed over", is the inevitable consequence of the divine plan of salvation. Also, this time Jesus does not mention being raised from the dead on the third day. He does again use the enigmatic title "Son of Man" for the glorious, but suffering messiah.
qesqe uJmeiV eiV ta wJta uJmwn touV logouV "listen carefully to what I am about to tell you" - put in your ears these words. An idiomatic expression. What "words" are in Jesus' mind? Usually read as the teaching Jesus is about to give, but, given the context, the words are more likely to be the statement of the crowd concerning the greatness of God evident in Jesus' ministry; "take a moment to reflect on what they are saying about me", "listen carefully", Phillips. Bock suggests that the phrase parallels "he who has ears to hear, let him hear."
gar "-" - for, since, then, indeed. Here probably expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples should take note of this momentary affirmation of Jesus' ministry by the crowds, because, in the blink of an eye they will be calling out "crucify him." Nolland thinks the clause is "elliptical: the clause that follows both explains the solemnity of Jesus introduction and is what he has intended to introduce"; "for I want you to know that the Son of Man .....". Bock and Marshall think gar is epexegetic / appositional of touV logouV toutouV, "these words"; "namely that the Son of Man ....." If this is what Luke intended he would have used iJna + subj., oJti, or an infinitive.
mellei (mellw) pres. "is going" - Rather than the more common meaning of "about to come" (Jesus is about to be humiliated), the sense here is more likely expressing the inevitable handing over of the Son of man in the future, therefore "must be, has to be." This probably concerns divine intention, and certainly of Jesus' intention to fulfill the divine plan of salvation.
paradidosqai (paradidwmi) pas. inf. "to be betrayed" - to be delivered over, given over, handed over. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is about." Possibly "betrayed", but if the "delivered over" is referring to the divine plan of salvation, then either the passive sense "handed over", or the active sense of "taken into custody", along with "must be / it is necessary", may be a better rendering.
eiV ceiraV anqrwpwn "into the hands of men" - into hands of men. The phrase illustrates human power and is negative rather than positive, therefore, the sense may be "[hand over to] the authorities" or even "the mob."
viii] The disciples are confused, v45: The disciples understandably cannot comprehend how the messiah could possibly be humiliated. For them, the messiah comes to reign; he is David's son. It's all a bit beyond them and they are just too embarrassed to ask to Jesus explain himself.
de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.
h\n parakekalummenon (parakaluptw) perf. pas. pat. "it was hidden" - had been hidden. A periphrastic pluperfect construction probably serving to emphasize the durative nature of their lack of understanding. Any understanding of Jesus' necessary humiliation was concealed from the disciples. Circumstances, rather than divine intervention, is the likely reason. A humiliated messiah was beyond their comprehension and so it was only after Jesus' death and resurrection that they understood why the Son of Man must suffer. Some commentators suggest a Satanic blinding is responsible.
ap (apo) + gen. "from [them]" - Expressing separation; "away from."
iJna + subj. "so that" - This construction usually forms a final clause expressing purpose, but sometimes consecutive, expressing result, or at least a hypothetical result, as here. An understanding of Jesus humiliation was hidden from the disciples so as a result they were not able to understand the meaning of Jesus' prediction. Their lack of perception hindered them from understanding God's plan of salvation in the humiliation of the Son of Man.
efobounto (fobew) imperf. pas. "they were afraid" - Matthew has the disciples filled with grief, hinting that the disciples do understand that Jesus is predicting his death, but unable to understand why God's messiah should be overwhelmed by the forces of evil. Therefore, "ashamed to ask" my be a better rendering.
erwthsai (erwtew) aor. inf. "to ask [him]" - to ask. The infinitive is forms an object clause, probably epexegetic explaining the nature of their fear - they were too afraid to ask Jesus the meaning of his comment.
peri + gen. "about [it]" - concerning [this word]. Expressing reference; "concerning".