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Bible: What Does Luke 9:23-45 Teach Us About Discipleship, the Transfiguration, Healing, and Prophecy?

Updated on September 8, 2016

Costly Discipleship


Call to Discipleship

The Lord’s call to discipleship in Luke (vv. 23-26) differs from both Matthew and Mark as follows:

(1) Luke is least specific about the constituents of Jesus’ audience (“all”); Matthew is more focused (“disciples”) [16:24]; Mark is the most specific (“the people . . ., with His disciples also”) [8:34].

(2) Except for the term “daily” (the Majority Text omits it in 9:23), Luke and Matthew are identical; Mark substitutes the word “Whoever” for “If” (8:34).

(3) Small changes also occur in the next verse.

Luke writes that those who lose their lives for My sake will “save” it (v. 24); Matthew has “find” it (16:25), while Mark pens “save,” but adds “for the gospel’s” (8:35).

(4) Luke substitutes “and is himself destroyed or lost” (v. 25) for the others’ “loses his own soul” (Mk. 8:36; Mt. 16:26), and omits “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mk. 8:37; Mt. 16:26).

(5) Luke and Mark share similarities in the final verse of this lesson, but Matthew departs significantly from their texts.

The former two mention those who are “ashamed of Me and My words” (v. 26; cf. 8:38); the latter omits all references to shame, both that of the “disciples” and of Jesus.

Instead, Matthew focuses on “reward each according to his works” (16:27)—something the others do not add.

Mark alone tacks on “in this adulterous and sinful generation” (8:38), and Luke alone inserts “when He comes in His own glory” (v. 26).

Matthew’s last verse mentions the Son of Man’s coming “in the glory of the Father with His holy angels,” but the form is altered (16:27).

The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ


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While speaking of the Messianic King’s coming to set up His earthly reign, Jesus prophesies that some of His apostles will “see the kingdom of God” before they die (v. 27).

[Matthew phrases it “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (16:28); Mark adds “present with power” onto Luke’s rendering (9:1).]

According to Luke, eight days later—both Mark and Matthew count six because they do not include the beginning and ending days (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible,37)—Jesus takes His inner circle up a mountain to pray.

[Only Luke identifies their purpose for being there, though the other evangelists indicate that the Lord took them up to be “apart by themselves” (Mark)/ “by themselves” (Matthew).

He (Luke) focuses on Christ’s activity (prayer) while the “transfiguration” takes place, but the others do not mention it at all (v. 29).]

Only Matthew and Luke note the changes to both Jesus’ face and His clothes (v. 29; cf. Mt. 17:2); Mark charmingly describes the Lord’s clothes only (9:3).

While Luke pictures Jesus’ face as “altered” (v. 29), Matthew more specifically shares that it “shone like the sun” (17:2).

Moses and Elijah with Jesus


Elijah and Moses suddenly appear with the Lord in glory (“behold”); only Luke elaborates upon what they talked about: His coming “decease” (lit. departure [death]) in Jerusalem (v. 31).

[This remarkable passage shows that OT saints have glorified bodies, unless these men appear as “visible spirits” (intermediate bodies) in this vision.

Elijah and Moses knew the future, so they also were fully aware how vital it was for Jesus to “accomplish” His death in Jerusalem.]

Unique to Luke is his admission that the “inner circle” was sleepy on the mount, but that they all became alert to see the kingdom (“His glory and the two men who stood with Him”) [v. 32].

[Apparently, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talk for awhile before the three apostles wake up from their rapturous, half-conscious state in order to fulfill the prophecy.]

Once more, Luke adds a singular detail to his account; only he avers that Elijah and Moses were “parting from Him” when Peter utters his emotionally-based suggestion (v. 33).

[Only Matthew omits commentary about Peter’s gaffe (17:4).]

Still again, Luke indicates that the apostles, though fearful, “entered the cloud,” possibly implying some movement on their part (v. 34); the other evangelists merely report that the cloud “overshadowed them” (Matt. 17:5a; Mark 9:7a).

Luke sides with Mark and does not include Matthew’s “in Whom I am well pleased” part of the Father’s address (v. 35; cf. Mt. 17:5b).

Neither do the former two note with Matthew that the apostles had fallen “on their faces and were greatly afraid,” nor that Jesus had comforted them (Mt. 17:6-7).

They only recognize that Jesus was alone “when the voice had ceased” (v. 36)/ “when they had looked around” (Mark 9:8).

Luke abruptly ends this episode by reporting the apostles’ long-lasting reticence (v. 36).

The others, however, proceed onto further discussions about Elijah (see Mt. 17:9-13; Mark 9:9-13).

Healing the Epileptic

Luke’s account of Jesus’ healing of the “epileptic” boy—the shortest among the three Synoptic gospels—both omits and adds details to the incident.

For instance, the evangelist records that this miracle transpired on the day after the Transfiguration (v. 37)—a bit of chronology the others pass over.

He also leaves out the fact that the apostles had been disputing with scribes before Jesus appeared on the scene; so does Matthew (but cf. Mk. 9:14, 16).

Still other differences exist. Luke’s “man from the multitude” introduces his dilemma to Jesus differently, addressing Him as “Teacher” (v. 38).

Mark uses the same designation, but has the father utter a request distinct from the others (9:17), while Matthew employs another title—“Lord”—and reports the man “medically” diagnosing his son’s condition (17:15).

Compare the three introductions below:

Teacher, I implore you, look on my son, for he is my only child.
Teacher, I brought you my son, who has a mute spirit.
Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic (lit. moonstruck) and suffers severely

[Is it reasonably possible for the man to have made all of these introductory statements, and for the evangelists simply to have chosen the one that best suited them?]

The father’s explanations of his boy’s behavior also vary from evangelist to evangelist. Again, compare the texts below:

And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.
And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashing his teeth, and becomes rigid.
For he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

Even the man’s plea for help from the apostles, while accurate in the essentials in all three gospels, shows significant variations as follows:

“So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not” (v. 40)
“So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not” (9:18c).
“So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him” (17:16).

Except for minor deletions and substitutions, Jesus’ rebuke of the current generation’s unbelief remains essentially the same in the three gospels.

Mark leaves out “and perverse” and “here” (9:19); besides those changes, it is identical to Matthew.

Matthew and Luke share the same introductory address (“O faithless . . . you . . .”), but the latter evangelist conjoins Jesus’ two questions into one and substitutes “your son” for “him” (v. 41).

Unlike Mark, Luke simply delineates the action—the demon reacts (throws the boy down and convulses him), and Jesus responds (rebukes the spirit, heals the child, gives him back to the father)—without including any further conversation between Jesus and the father (v. 42; cf. Mk. 9:20-27).

Luke, nevertheless, provides a more complete version of the action than does Matthew (see Mt. 17:18).

He, however, omits Jesus’ instruction as to why the disciples failed to cast out the spirit (cf. Mk. 9:28-29; Mt. 17:19-21).

In the midst of enthusiastic crowd reaction—“amazed,” “marveled”—Jesus solemnly foretells His coming betrayal to His disciples (vv. 43-44).

[Interestingly, Mark indicates that the Lord predicted not only His betrayal but also His death and resurrection, and spoke these words not within hearing distance of the crowd, but apparently someplace else (9:30-32).

Matthew writes that the prophecy took place “while they were staying in Galilee (17:22).]

Predictably, His audience remains clueless as to the meaning of these words.

Not only are they themselves spiritually incapable of understanding, but God does not allow them to comprehend.

Besides being obtuse, the disciples also fear Jesus’ response if they would ask Him to explain (v. 45).

[As this passage shows, Jesus put limits on His patience in the face of unbelief and spiritual stupidity, and does show righteous anger from time to time.]

© 2013 glynch1


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