The Reason for Astonishment

Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Luke is full of verses that tell us of the power and works of Jesus. In this chapter of alone Jesus feeds the five thousand, Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus is transfigured, and Jesus heals a demonized boy. Yet, if we read these verses only focusing on what Jesus can (or did) do, we can miss the full meaning of Jesus’ power and why they are written in this gospel.

In verses 37-43 we have a story of Jesus healing a young boy from the power of an evil spirit that was seizing him. At the rebuke of Jesus the spirit left the boy and in verse 43 we read; speaking of those who witnessed Jesus heal the boy, “And all were astonished at the majesty of God” (Luke 9:43 ESV). The Greek word behind the English “astonished” is ekplēssō which indicates that they were filled with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed (BDAG). Peter, James, and John all got to see the glory of Jesus on the mountain during the transfiguration, and now all these other people experience perhaps the same level of amazement. Interestingly enough verse 43 does not end with them simply being astonished, but it continues on by stating, “But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’” (Luke 9:43-44 ESV).

From this warning we can see that Jesus desires to point his disciples to something deeper and fuller than only doing miracles. While all those who witnessed Jesus do this were focused on his power, Jesus did not let his disciples dwell on his power, but pointed them to his true purpose. Instead of being astonished with the fact that Jesus had power over demons, Jesus wanted his disciples to be astonished at the fact that he would soon be delivered up to be crucified. Also, we can see that being amazed at Jesus’ works do not necessary lead to faith. Many people witnessed the power and glory of Jesus, yet did not follow him, many who praised him when he came into Jerusalem were yelling “crucify him” one week later.

Verse 45 goes on to say, “But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying” (Luke 9:45 ESV). While I believe there is a deep theological truth to be understood from this verse, on the surface I also believe they did not understand what Jesus was talking about because of their wrong misconception of who the Messiah would be. The Jews were not awaiting a Messiah that would be delivered into the hands of men, instead they expected a powerful Messiah that would be a conqueror. While Jesus is powerful, and a conqueror, he was also delivered up to suffer and die on the cross. While Jesus did heal and perform miracles during his ministry, his main purpose was to come and die.

Often we can also have misconceptions about who God is, his purposes, and His will. If Jesus healed peopled before why am I still sick? If God is all powerful why is there so much evil in the world? While the disciples spent over three years with Jesus they still did not understand his true purpose for coming. It was not until after his resurrection did they fully understand what he came to do. Like verse 45 that says they did not understand, we also do not understand everything about God. Yet if we have true faith we will trust Jesus no matter what. It is as if Jesus warned his disciples “Do not follow me because of my power.” Because Jesus knew he would soon be crucified. Yet instead Jesus says, “Commit to me, yes the all-powerful Messiah, but also the Suffering Servant, the one sent to die for your sins.” As followers of Jesus we should not be caught up in greatness and power, instead we should be caught up in the cross of Calvary, the amazing humility and suffering Jesus went through to save us.

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