What Manner of Spirit


Luke 9:46-56

In Luke chapter nine, Jesus reveals who He is to His Apostles. He demonstrated to them that He is God. Along with this revelation, Jesus says something that confused and troubled the Apostles. He said:

Luke 9:22 (NKJV) The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Jesus told them repeatedly that He was going to Jerusalem to die. However, they did not understand. Luke tells us:

Luke 9:45 (NKJV) But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.

The Apostles could not understand what Jesus was telling them. Matthew tells us that when Jesus started telling them He was going to die at the hands of the chief priest and scribes, Peter rebuked Jesus. Matthew 16:22 says:

Matthew 16:22 (NKJV) Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

To make sense of the Apostle's inability to get what Jesus was saying, we need to look deeper into their understanding of who Jesus is. Both Luke and Matthew report that Peter had just made an extraordinary confession. Luke tells us:

Luke 9:20 (NKJV) He said to them, But who do you say that I am?”

 Peter answered and said, The Christ of God.”

Peter and the other Apostles knew that Jesus is God. Still, another element of their understanding was the meaning of Christ.” Their knowledge of what “Christ” means is where their problem began. The word Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew wordMessiah.” Both words mean anointed.” In the 21st century, the nameanointed” is not generally understood the same way the people of Jesus’ day understood it.

As an example of how the people of Jesus’ day used the word anointed” (i.e., Christ or Messiah), I want to take you to an incident in the Old Testament. Saul was the first king of Israel, but he rebelled against God. So, God told Saul that He would give the kingdom to someone else. Eventually, Saul figured out that the person God would give the kingdom to was David. For that reason, Saul tried to kill David. Naturally, David fled. About six hundred men followed David, so Saul chased David with an army. One night while Sauls army was sleeping, David snuck in and was able to get to Saul. The man accompanying David urged David to kill Saul. 1 Samuel 26:9 tells us that David said:

1 Samuel 26:9 (NKJV) Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lords anointed, and be guiltless?

The Hebrew speaking people of Jesus’ day, including the Apostles, would have heard this verse taught and read in the synagogues. And, the word they would have heard in Hebrew translated anointed” here in English is Messiah.” When we think of Messiah” or Christ,” we think of our Savior. But, in their thinking, Messiah” meant king.” The Lords anointed that David spoke of was king. 

Psalm 2 is understood to be a Psalm about the Messiah. Lets read what it says.

Psalm 2:2–9 (NKJV) 2The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

4He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

5Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

6Yet I have set My King

 On My holy hill of Zion.”

7I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

 ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

9You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potters vessel.’”

You probably noticed that verse two says, ...Against the Lord and against His Anointed.” Do I even need to point out that the word in the Hebrew of the Old Testament used for Anointed” in this phrase is the word Messiah.” Then in verse six, it says, I have set my King....”

The Apostles did not understand what Jesus was talking about when He said He would die and rise the third day because they understood that Christ” meant king. They expected God to give Christ the nations as His inheritance.

We see their understanding reflected in the argument they had. Luke 9:46 tells us:

Luke 9:46 (NKJV) Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.

From this, we understand that they expected Jesus to set up His kingdom and rule the nations. They were arguing about who would be the greatest in His kingdom. This understanding is why Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus started talking about His death in Jerusalem. But, consider Jesus’ response to Peter. Matthew tells us that Jesus said:

Matthew 16:23 (NKJV) Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

In this passage, Jesus points out that Peter was not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. In Luke 9, Jesus points out this problem in different terms. He says:

Luke 9:55 (NKJV) You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.

Leading up to this statement, Luke recounts three incidents reflecting the spirit Jesus was talking about. 

The first incident is a dispute that arose among the Apostles about who would be the greatest. Their dispute is found in verses 46 through 48.

The second incident is the Apostles stopping someone that was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. This incident is found in verses 49 through 50.

The third incident is the Apostles wanting to call down fire from heaven to punish those who refused to receive Jesus.

In all three cases, Jesus rebukes the Apostles. Lets consider these incidents.

The first incident is the dispute about who would be the greatest. The Apostles were assuming they would have roles in His kingdom. Their position in the coming kingdom was on their minds, and this was not a passing concern. It was part of their purpose. In Matthews account, he tells us:

Matthew 20:20–21 (NKJV) 20Then the mother of Zebedees sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21And He said to her, What do you wish?”

She said to Him, Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

The Apostles sought greatness, which means they also sought glory for themselves. We all tend to do this, so understanding Jesus’ response is crucial for us. Luke tells us:

Luke 9:47–48 (NKJV) 47And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, 48and said to them, Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”

The kings of this world do not grant access to children or make friends of children. But, granting access and giving friendship is what receiving means. To receive is also to extend a hand and help.

Jesus taught the opposite of human thinking when He said, ...he who is least among you all will be great.” In these verses, least and great are opposites, like black and white are opposites. Another translation of the words used would be big” and small.” Jesus told us to seek Gods kingdom first. Paul told us to consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). The first thing I must learn when Jesus is Lord and Master is that it is not about me. I do not have to worry about anything because Jesus has promised to take care of me. This promise allows me to focus on serving God by serving others without worry or fear.

The Apostles quickly changed the subject. They say:

Luke 9:49 (NKJV) Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.

John said this in answer to Jesus’ statement that the least would be great. Its as if John were saying, See how I have forgotten about self and am focusing on the kingdom!” But, what authority did the twelve have to forbid anyone from doing anything? If arguing who would be greatest was about glory, this incident was about control. 

The original temptation in the Garden was to be like God, and we all desire to be the god of our own lives. We also try to extend our god-like control to the world around us. We require that those around us think like us and accept our judgments. James deals with our judging, and he says our judging amounts to taking the place of God. James 4:11-12 says:

James 4:11–12 (NKJV) 11Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

The implication here is that we take the Lawgiver's place, and we have no standing to do so. Romans 14 speaks of the same problem when it says:

Romans 14:4 (NKJV) Who are you to judge anothers servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

The only answer to this very human problem is to die to self. Romans 12:1-2 says we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. Galatians approaches it from a different angle when it says, I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). In the verses just preceding this incident in Luke, Jesus said that if we are to be His disciples, we must take up our cross daily, implying that we must die to self.

Self raises its ugly head again in the third incident. In the third incident that Luke reports, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem along with the Apostles. As they traveled through Samaria, Jesus sent messengers ahead to prepare for them. The text does not say, but I imagine they were making advance arrangements for lodging and meals since they were traveling as a group. However, there was historical, hereditary hatred between the Samaritans and Jews. If we want to look for examples of racism in the Bible, the conflict between the Samaritans and Jews would undoubtedly qualify. Jesus did not deserve to be refused service and accommodations just because He was traveling to Jerusalem. This was an injustice.

The Apostles wanted to punish the offenders. Not everyone in the village would have known about what took place. Also, there were innocent children in the town. But, the Apostles suggested destroying the whole village. They wanted to give vengeance and right a wrong. Instead of judging individuals, this was judging a group.

The Old Testament account of Jonah and his desire to see Nineveh destroyed is another example of this kind of thinking. Listen to what God said to Jonah when Jonah insisted that God should have destroyed Nineveh.

Jonah 4:11 (NKJV) And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock? 

Jonah valued himself and his need for justice more than he loved people. Valuing ourselves over others is a human tendency. Our tendency to love ourselves and seek what we think is justice is why God tells us:

Romans 12:19 (NKJV) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Gods concern in Nineveh and Jesus’ concern in Samaria was the people. The human concern was their wounded sense of justice.

All three of the incidents recounted by Luke share a common theme. In each case, self was put first and in the place that only God should occupy. Jesus told the Apostles:

Luke 9:55 (NKJV) You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.

It is so easy to operate in the flesh, and when we do this, we do the devils work without realizing it. Remember what Jesus said to Peter?

Matthew 16:23 (NKJV) Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

Peter was doing the devils work because he was operating in the flesh, thinking of the things of men. Our propensity to operate in the flesh is why Romans 6:11 says:

Romans 6:11 (NKJV) Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Self must die, and this only happens by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must heed the words of Galatians 5:16.

Galatians 5:16 (NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

The spirit we are to be of is the Holy Spirit, not the flesh.


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