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Bible: What Does Luke 9:1-22 Teach Us About the Training of the Twelve Apostles?

Updated on September 9, 2016

Jesus With His Disciples

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Content of Apostolic Message


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The Training of the Twelve

The transitional particle (de) (following an aorist middle participle with the prepositional prefix sun [“having called together to Himself”] signifies that Jesus apparently sent out the twelve on a short term missionary trip shortly after curing the little girl (vv. 1-2).

[Both Matthew and Mark insert other incidents between these events.

The former places various healings and kingdom activities there (cf. 9:27-38), while the latter locates Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth in this context—an event that occurred very early in the Lord’s ministry (6:1-6; cf. Lk. 4:16-30).

Matthew does not discuss this rejection until his thirteenth chapter (vv. 53-58).

These apparent conflicts deserve an explanation, but this writer cannot offer one.]

While similar to Luke’s report in most respects, Mark’s short account of the Lord’s directions to His apostles differs from his friend’s in several minor points:

(1) He notes that Jesus sent them out two by two (6:7);

(2) He inserts narrative in place of monologue—a mere stylistic difference (vv. 8-9);

(3) He has Jesus tell them to take a staff; Luke writes “staffs,” so perhaps the Lord meant, “Do not take more than one staff” [v. 3];

(4) He mentions their need to wear sandals (Mk. 6:9); Luke says nothing about this detail;

(5) He indicates both the intent of the apostolic preaching (“that people should repent”) [v. 12], as well as the James-like use of anointing oil for healing purposes (v. 13; cf. James 5:14); Luke merely reports what they did (v. 6).

[The Majority Text includes Jesus’ comparison of the divine judgment that will beset a city that rejects the apostolic message with the punishment that Sodom and Gomorrah will endure; NU omits this part of verse eleven in Mark.]

Matthew, on the other hand, offers extensive reporting of the Lord’s instructions (see 10:5-42).

John the Baptizer

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Sea of Galilee

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Meanwhile, Herod learns about Jesus.

Whereas all the evangelists relate the ruler’s perplexity over Jesus’ identity in relation to John the Baptist (Luke 9:7-9; Mark 6:14-16; Matt. 14:1-2), only the latter two provide the episode of the tetrarch’s beheading of the prophet (Matt. 14:3-12; Mark 6: 17-29).

This time Luke narrates the testimony of others concerning Jesus (vv. 7-8), and Mark records it as quoted material (6:14-15).

In addition, Luke’s Herod still has not concluded that Jesus is John risen from the dead (v. 9); the other evangelists note that the tetrarch had already reached this verdict (Mk. 6:16; Matt. 14:2).

After returning from their mission trip and testifying to Jesus about their works and words (Mk. 6:30)—Matthew says nothing about this “sharing” time—the apostles accompany Him to a Bethsaidan-owned “retreat” locale (v. 10).

[More textual difficulties persist here, for Matthew records that Jesus sailed “to a deserted place by Himself” (14:13).

If they joined Him at this deserted place, do the apostles then depart “in the boat by themselves” to another deserted place in order to rest and have supper (Mk. 6:31-32)?

It appears that Jesus goes with them, however, for He greets the multitudes and teaches them in this “deserted place” “when He came out” (of the boat, presumably) (Mk. 6:33-34).]

At this point, the apostles apparently “retreat” for awhile, and the compassionate Shepherd spends time teaching His sheep about the Kingdom and healing those who “followed Him” (v. 11; cf. Mk. 6:34; Mt. 14:14).

Feeding of the "5,000"

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The Actual Total


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Later (first evening time; between 3 PM and sun-down, according to Ryrie [New Testament Study Bible 32]), the apostles return and “suggest” to Jesus that He send away the supply-less multitude to buy food and find lodging for the night (v. 12; cf. Mk. 6:36).

Luke condenses the dialogue to one statement per party, combining the apostles’ responses and omitting Jesus’ question (v. 13).

Mark adds not only the apostles’ estimation of the cost of the bread (two hundred denarii) should the Lord direct them to buy it (6:37), but also another question from Jesus—“How many loaves do you have? Go and see” (6:38a)—as well as another short apostolic response (6:38b).

Matthew shortens the passage even further (14:16-17).

Five thousand men gather on the hillside (v. 14).

[Both Matthew and Mark also mention this fact, but place it at the end of the narrative; in addition, the former notes that women and children attended the “service” as well, so fifteen to twenty thousand people may have needed food (cf. Mk. 6:44; Mt. 14:21).]

Jesus commands His apostles to settle the audience in groups of fifty (v. 14b).

[Mark narrates this command—Luke pens it as a quote—for the people to sit down “on the green grass” in groups of hundreds and fifties (6:39-40), and Matthew indicates that the Lord Himself commanded the people to sit, but makes no mention of ranks of fifty or one hundred (14:19a).]

Luke notes that Christ took the loaves and fish, broke them, and gave them to His apostles (v. 16).

Mark writes more clearly that He broke the loaves and divided the fish among them all (6:41).

Matthew mentions Jesus blessing all the food, but breaking and distributing only the loaves to His men (14:19b).

Twelve baskets of bread fragments (and fish, cf. Mk. 6:43) the apostles then take up after the whole multitude eat to the full (v. 17).

At this point in his narrative, Luke departs significantly from Matthew and Mark.

Moving ahead to Peter’s famous confession (vv. 18-20), he leaps over Jesus’ walk on the Sea (Mk. 6:45-52; Mt. 14:22-33), more healings (vv. 53-56; Mt. 14:34-36), a discourse on defilement coming from within (7:1-23; cf. Mt. 15:1-20), the Gentile woman’s faith (vv. 24-30; cf. Mt. 15:21-28), the healing of a deaf-mute (vv. 31-37; cf. Mt. 15:29-31 [includes general healings]), the feeding of the four thousand (8:1-10; cf. Mt. 15:32-39), the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod (vv. 11-21; cf. Mt. 16:1-12), and the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida (vv. 22-26; Matthew omits this passage).

His treatment of the confession covers the essential elements that the others discuss—Jesus’ inquiry of the apostles concerning the “crowds’” perception of His identity (v. 18), the apostles’ response (v. 19), and Peter’s shortened answer to Jesus (v. 20).

Luke’s account differs from theirs in some respects, however.

He has Jesus inquire of the apostles after the Lord had been praying alone, and makes no mention of their location (v. 18; cf. Mk. 8:27 [Caesarea Philippi] or of His special title (cf. Mt. 16:13).

Luke’s words adhere closely to Mark’s; Matthew’s, however, addressing a Jewish readership, engages in a greater detailed report when Jesus personally responds to Peter—something the former evangelists omit (see Mt. 16:17-19).

Luke also shortens his record of Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection (vv. 21-22).

Both Mark and Matthew narrate His warning of passion and resurrection, while Luke reports it as a quotation (v. 22; cf. Mk. 8:31; Mt. 16:31).

In addition, Luke omits Peter’s rebuke and Jesus’ counter-rebuke (cf. Mk. 8:32-33; Mt. 16:22-23).

© 2013 glynch1

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