The Fate of the Messiah and Disciples. Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” 21 He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. 22 He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Immediately, Peter’s confession of Jesus is qualified in three respects: (1) Jesus orders the disciples not to tell anyone; (2) Jesus tells the disciples that he must be killed; and (3) Jesus teaches the disciples what following him will require.
The Greek verb for “rebuke” or “sternly order” (epitimaō) in v. 21 is a strong word that has been used previously for Jesus’ commands to unclean spirits (4:35, 41), fevers (4:39), and the wind and the sea (8:24). These previous occurrences of the term have built the impression that it describes Jesus’ response to impersonal or demonic forces that threaten his work as the agent of the kingdom. The force of its use for Jesus’ response to the disciples at this point cannot be missed. Similarly, the verb for to “command” (parangellō) has a peculiar use in Luke, where it is used almost exclusively for Jesus’ commands to those around him that they not tell others what they have seen or heard (5:14, a leper; 8:56, Jairus and his wife; cf. 8:29).
Scholars have offered much speculation about the reason behind the rebuke and the command of silence. Most speculation centers around the state of the Jewish people in subjection to Rome and their desire for deliverance. They were ready to follow almost anyone who claimed to be Messiah and in fact there had been many petty revolts. If Jesus been widely hailed as “Messiah,” people would have understood it as a political and military claim – completely missing Jesus’ proclamation of the true meaning of the Reign of God.
Between the rebuke the coming prediction, we are also prone to miss that Herod’s question is now being answered a third time. First came the answer proposed by the crowds (9:18–19); then the disciples’ answer, voiced by Peter (9:20); and now Jesus’ own answer (9:22). Jesus’ own answer emphasizes neither fulfillment of the works of the prophets nor his role as a Davidic king but the necessity of his death and resurrection – and thus ties his identity to that of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah – and intones a moniker: the Son of Man.
The Son of Man [Culpepper, 201] The first point that Jesus underscores regarding his role as the Son of Man is its necessity. God’s redemptive will demands it. The term that denotes the necessity, “must” (dei), occurs 18 times in Luke. The necessity that God’s plan of salvation be fulfilled guides the course of events in Luke’s “orderly narrative.” Jesus must be in his Father’s house (2:49), just as later he must preach the kingdom of God (4:43). By the end of the Gospel, Jesus’ death and resurrection will be wrapped in divine necessity (24:7, 26, 44). Along the way Jesus teaches that other things also are necessary (see e.g. 11:42; 12:12; 15:32), so that the teachings on discipleship (the Didache) are linked by the force of God’s will to the necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection (the kerygma).
The fact that Jesus must “suffer” (paschō) does not occur in the second and third passion predictions (9:44b; 18:31–33), but it virtually becomes a shorthand reference for Jesus’ redemptive death in 17:25; 24:26, 46. As a result of the deaths of faithful martyrs during the Maccabean revolt, the suffering of the righteous was understood to have redemptive significance for Israel: “[the martyrs] having become, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated” (4 Macc 17:21–22).
Similarly, rejection is not mentioned in the second or third passion predictions, but its occurrence in 17:25 and 20:17 shows that it was a significant element of the passion tradition and that it was related to Ps 118:22. On the other hand, whereas the second and third passion predictions declare that Jesus will be “handed over,” that motif is absent from the first prediction. The combined group of elders, chief priests, and scribes appears again in 20:1, where they challenge Jesus in the Temple. A similar group, where the officers of the Temple take the place of the scribes, arrests Jesus on the Mount of Olives. (22:52). The three groups listed in the passion prediction are also absent from the second and third predictions, demonstrating once more that there was no set form for these predictions. The three groups, however, were represented in the Sanhedrin, and they foreshadow the role of that council in Jesus’ trial (see 22:66).
The heart of the passion predictions is the declaration that Jesus would be killed (9:22; 18:33; 24:7) and rise or be raised “on the third day” (9:21; 18:33; 24:7, 46). Luke’s temporal phrase here is more precise than Mark’s “after three days” (Mark 8:31; cf. “on the third day” in Hos 6:2 and 1 Cor 15:4). Jesus’ answer to Herod’s question effectively explains why Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ cannot be broadcast publicly and charts the course for the rest of Luke’s narrative.
Luke 9:20 the Messiah of God: Luke is the only synoptic gospel writer to use the title savior for Jesus (Luke 2:11; Acts 5:31; 13:23; see also Luke 1:69; 19:9; Acts 4:12). As savior, Jesus is looked upon by Luke as the one who rescues humanity from sin and delivers humanity from the condition of alienation from God. The title christos, “Christ,” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew masiah, “Messiah,” “anointed one.” Among certain groups in first-century Palestinian Judaism, the title was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:6). The political overtones of the title are played down in Luke and instead the Messiah of the Lord (Luke 2:26) or the Lord’s anointed is the one who now brings salvation to all humanity, Jew and Gentile (Luke 2:29-32). Lord is the most frequently used title for Jesus in Luke and Acts. In the New Testament it is also applied to Yahweh, as it is in the Old Testament. When used of Jesus it points to his transcendence and dominion over humanity.
Luke 9:21 not to tell this to anyone: In Mark’ account, Jesus enjoins the apostles to “tell no one about him” (emphasis added). Luke’s account places the emphasis on “this” (touto – this thing) referring to the role of Messiah
Luke 9:22 Son of Man: The expression ho huios tou anthrōpou (“Son of Man”) first appears in 5:24. Here it is used to explicate the messianic ministry of Jesus (cf. 17:24–25). This suffering Son of Man serves to qualify the Jewish expectation of a messiah who is defined by political power and might (cf. Pss. Sol. 17). Jesus’ rejection has been noted (cf. 4:24; 7:31–35), but this is the first explicit note that he would suffer death as the Messiah of God (cf. 9:43b–45; 18:31–34). The precise background for this combination of ideas and titles is unclear. The “Son of Man” title, of course, recalls Dan. 7:13–14, but the connection between suffering and this Son of Man is weak in its context. A more likely candidate is Isa. 53, where one finds the combination of the motifs of prophetic necessity and a new exodus towards God.
be rejected: the use of the word apodokimasthēnai (“be rejected”) in 9:22 (cf. Mark 8:31) may have been taken from Ps. 118:22 (117:22 LXX): lithon ho apedokimasan hoi oikodomountes (“the stone that the builders rejected”).
the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes: the rejection is specifically by these three parties. They make up the Sanhedrin which was the courts of the Jewish people sitting in Jerusalem and enacting religious authority at Rome’s leave. In Luke 24:20 they will actively oppose Jesus and are blamed for his death.
- Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) 198-205.
- Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) 336-85.
- Jerome Kodell, “Luke” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris, (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989). 975-78.
- Eugene LaVerdiere, Luke, vol. 5 of the New Testament Message (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990) 129-33
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970 available at http://www.usccb.org/bible/index.cfm