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Luke 9:7-9 - WHO IS HE

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This week we consider a passage in which Herod is scrutinizing the message and miracles of Jesus and wrestling with the question “Who is he?”

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Who Is He?


In the first chapter of Luke, at the meeting of Mary and Elisabeth, when each was pregnant (with John the Baptist and Jesus respectively), Mary spoke prophetic praise to God that touched upon the work of God through her own son. This predictive psalm included the idea that Jesus would face opposition from those in powerful places: “he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

One of the primary powerful persons in opposition to Jesus was Herod Antipas. The “Herod” in the passage we consider today is Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great who ruled Galilee and Perea from 4 BC– AD 39.

Herod would later be instrumental in the murder of Jesus. In Luke 13 we will see that he was plotting to kill Jesus. In Luke 23 he and his lackeys mocked and ridiculed Jesus as they passed on the opportunity to save him but instead delivered him back to Pilate.

Luke introduces Herod into this part of his narrative about Jesus as a figure of worldly and wealthy opposition to God’s work. More importantly, Herod is used to signify the main theme of this entire section: Who is Jesus?

Luke 9:7-9 ESV

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9 Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

Main Idea: Jesus’ miracles and message—including those of the disciples—give rise to the question, “Who is he?” We, with all humanity, must wrestle with this question understanding it has eternal ramifications.

Reports about Jesus

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening …


Luke 1 – the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus was in the time of Herod’s father, Herod the Great

Luke 3 – the ministry of John the Baptist was in the time of Herod Antipas who would imprison John for speaking against him

Luke 8 – a household manager of Herod is following and supporting Jesus

Not mentioned: the beheading of John the Baptist (due to focus on Jesus)

Luke introduces a dark cloud to his mostly positive and upbeat narrative. This is a bad omen in the form of the entrance of Herod into the storyline.

All That Was Happening

Message of Jesus (and the disciples)

• Luke 4:42-44 ESV 42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

• The good news of the kingdom of God is that through Christ’s work in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension a way has been made by which men are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light; we have forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God.

Miracles of Jesus (and the disciples)

• Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law: Luke 4:38-39

• Many Healed After Sabbath Sunset: Luke 4:40-41 ESV 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

• Miracles in Luke Large Catch of Fish: Luke 5:1-11

• Jesus Cleanses a Leper: Luke 5:12-14

• Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic: Luke 5:17-26

• Healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath: Luke 6:6-11

• Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant: Luke 7:1-10

• Widow's Son Raised from the Dead at Nain: Luke 7:11-17

• Wind and Wave Obey Jesus: Luke 8:22-25

• A Demon-Possessed Man Healed: Luke 8:26-33

• Jairus Daughter Brought back to Life: Luke 8:41-42,49-56

• Woman Sick for Twelve Years Healed: Luke 8:43-48

• Disciples Healing and Casting Out Demons: Luke 9:6 ESV And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

What would Herod have heard in regards to what had happened? He would have heard of Jesus’ message which was clearly similar to that of John the Baptist. He would have heard of the unprecedented miracles of healing, deliverance, and power over natural forces.

Reflections on Jesus

... and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen.

Was Jesus the reincarnation of John, Elijah, or some other prophet?

• Jesus clearly wasn’t John the Baptist. If their presence together in the baptism of Jesus wasn’t proof enough, Herod rightly recognizes that Jesus couldn’t be John the Baptist since he had John beheaded.

o It is interesting to note that Luke only mentions this as an aside whereas other authors of Gospels give John’s beheading its own report. This is likely due to the fact which we have already noted: Luke is overwhelming concerned with—in this section and in his Gospel as a whole—the identity of one person: Jesus Christ.

• Jesus also wasn’t Elijah.

o First, Luke gives his nod to John the Baptist being the Elijah-like prophet when he reports the words of the angel to Zechariah: Luke 1:16-17 ESV 16 And he [Zechariah’s son] will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

o Second, soon in Luke’s gospel-account we will see Jesus standing on the mountain of transfiguration with Elijah: Luke 9:28-31 ESV 28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

• Though Jesus was not a reincarnated Old Testament prophet, he was a prophet like those from Israel’s history as we will see.

Was Jesus a prophet?

Sam Storms: “A prophet’s primary function in the Old Testament (OT) was to serve as God’s representative or ambassador by communicating God’s word to his people. True prophets never spoke on their own authority or shared their personal opinions, but rather delivered the message God himself gave them.”

John 12:49 ESV For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

Luke 9:22 ESV 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Prediction: His Own Betrayal By One Of His Disciples

Prediction: All Of His Disciples Would Leave Him

Prediction: Peter Would Deny Him Three Times

Prediction: He Would Suffer Because Of The Religious Rulers

Prediction: He Would Die In Jerusalem

Prediction: He Would Die By Crucifixion

Prediction: He Would Die During The Passover

Prediction: His Resurrection From The Dead On The Third Day

Was Jesus only a prophet?

The New Testament epistles never refer to Jesus as a prophet. Theologian Wayne Grudem speculates that this may be the case because Jesus far greater than any of the Old Testament prophets, in two ways:

1. He is the one about whom the prophecies in the Old Testament were made.

2. Jesus was not merely a messenger of revelation from God (like all the other prophets), but was himself the source of revelation from God.

So Jesus was the prophet par excellence, but was he even more than that?

John Calvin brought to prominence a structure that helped theologians study the work of Christ which was called the munus triplex (triple function). The munus triplex offered a perspective that took the Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king and employed them as a lens through which to study Christ.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: “Christ fulfills these three offices in the following ways: as prophet he reveals God to us and speaks God’s words to us; as priest he both offers a sacrifice to God on our behalf and is himself the sacrifice that is offered; and as king he rules over the church and over the universe as well.”

I think this structure of considering and studying Jesus Christ and his saving work of redemption is edifying, enlightening, and enjoyable. There are many biblical connections that theologians have made that will enrich our understanding of Jesus.

For instance, one theologian brought to light that the three offices of Christ correspond with the threefold misery of men brought on by sin-ignorance, guilt, and bondage. Ignorance is healed by the prophetic; guilt by the priestly; the tyranny and bondage of sin by the kingly office.

Riddlebarger: “Prophetic light scatters the darkness of error; the merit of the Priest takes away guilt and procures a reconciliation for us; the Power of the King removes the bondage of sin and death. The Prophet shows God to us; the Priest leads us to God; and the King joins us together and glorifies us with God. The Prophet enlightens the mind by the Spirit of illumination; the Priest by the Spirit of consolation tranquilizes the heart and conscience; the King by the Spirit of sanctification subdues rebellious affections.”

I commend to you studying, contemplating, and meditating on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king.

Reaction to Jesus

9 Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

Many commentators recognize the reaction of Herod—“Who is this?”—being emblematic of a paradigm which incorporates the entire Gospel of Luke; the identity of Jesus. The questioning response of Herod is undoubtedly the emphasis in this section. “Who is he?”

In this section of Luke, the emphasis began on the sea of Galilee when the disciples were witness to Jesus’ miraculous calming of the wind and waves. Luke 8:22-25 ESV 22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

It culminates with Jesus question to the disciples in a few verse: Luke 9:18-20 ESV 18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

It presents to us the crux of our passage: “Who is he?” And as I suggested in the main idea, this is a question that every human being will have to answer, and how you answer it will impact your life now and forever more than any other question you face.

How do you answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

He is a curiosity!

• That’s how Herod approached things; he is a curiosity and I would like to see him. Herod was one of the most powerful men in the region and could have easily seen Jesus. But he only perceived Jesus as a curiosity.

• I’m going to check what People magazine says about him. Maybe I’ll even check the National Enquirer. He’s an interesting fellow with all his miracles and his message. Who is he? He’s a curiosity.

• “Curiosity killed the cat” is a saying that communicates the idea that inquisitiveness can lead one into dangerous situations. But when it comes to Jesus, you need to be curious, and you better not stop at mere curiosity.

• Unbeliever, have you only ever engaged with Jesus as a curious inquirer?

• Demonstrating a curiosity about Christ will avail you of nothing in this life or the life to come. If you stop at curiosity and inquisitiveness, you remain separated from the salvation that Jesus’ message and miracles are supposed to demonstrate to you.

How else do we answer the question, “Who is he?”

He is a person worthy of respect.

• That is how the people who saw him as a prophet were answering that question.

• The OT prophets had stopped with Malachi; suggesting Jesus was in the company of those prophets was giving him a respectful “thumbs up.”

• They even connected him with a big name prophet: Elijah.

• Who is Jesus? He is someone worthy of my respect.

• Believer, some of you have stopped your pursuit of Christ at the level of respect admirer. You, at some point in your life turned from your sin and put your faith in Christ. You received the benefits of salvation: you received the forgiveness of sins and redemption from sin; you were justified; you were reconciled to God and adopted into his family; and if those things are true you will spend eternity with him.

• But somewhere along the line you stopped pursuing Christ and became content being someone who sees Jesus worthy of respect. Believer, this falls far short of what you are called to; this is a far cry from how you should answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

• Jesus IS worthy of our respect but he is so much more than that. He is supposed to be the love of your life who you pursue at the expense of everything else. He is the prophet of God who revealed the way of salvation to you and the Father to whom you would be reconciled. He is the priest who sacrificed himself to pay the debt your sins incurred and to receive the punishment that you deserved. He is the king of kings who defeated your enemies who enslaved you to bondage. Admiring Jesus as worthy of your respect is not enough.

• You need to pursue him with reckless abandon. You need to probe into the glories of this Jesus through reading his Word so you can better answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” You need to chase after a deeper appreciation for who Jesus is through communion with in him prayer. You need to devote your life to seek the multi-faceted answer to who Jesus is through fellowship with the saints. He is so much more than a person worthy of respect.

• The chorus of my favourite worship song:

o My heart is filled with a thousand songs

Proclaiming the glories of Calvary

With every breath, Lord how I long

To sing of Jesus who died for me

Lord, take me deeper

Into the glories of Calvary

• Do you have a thousand songs in your heart about the glories of Calvary and Jesus who died for you? Do not stop at respecting Jesus! Endeavour to always be worshipfully and affectionately and intelligently and obediently adding to your answer to “Who is Jesus!”

If you don’t know Christ, get beyond curiosity and pursue that answer with all the strength you can muster. We would be glad to help you to answer the question, “Who is he?”

If you do know him, do not get stuck in the rut that sees Jesus as someone to respect and abandon your life to seeing—with the eyes of your mind and the eyes of your heart—all the beauty and glory and wonder of who Jesus is!

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