Luke 9:46

ESV An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.
NIV An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.
NASB Now an argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.
CSB An argument started among them about who was the greatest of them.
NLT Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.
KJV Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.

What does Luke 9:46 mean?

Luke 9 swings wildly from highs to lows. It begins with the disciples experiencing great victory. They use Jesus' empowerment to heal, cast out demons, and spread the message of God's kingdom (Luke 9:1–6). Peter confesses Jesus is the Messiah (Luke 9:18–20). Three of the disciples get to see Jesus' glory (Luke 9:28–36).

After the transfiguration, however, the disciples lose the narrative. They are defeated by a demon, can't understand Jesus' warning about the crucifixion, reject a potential ally, and offer to burn down a village (Luke 9:37–55). In this center story, they argue over who is greatest.

This event takes place in Capernaum, possibly in Andrew and Peter's house (Mark 9:33). The trip to the house has been marked by two ongoing conversations: Jesus' coming death and an argument about which of them is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1; Mark 9:31–34).

Luke arranged his stories primarily by theme, not strict chronology. Luke 9:18–50 is a collection of stories wherein Jesus calls the disciples to a deeper followership, and the disciples largely fail. Some time has transpired between Jesus' exhortation that a follower must "deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow" (Luke 9:23). The awe-inspiring transfiguration was past enough that Peter, James, and John apparently have lost their fear of Jesus' glory. Yet they remember He is chosen by God and, therefore, will one day rule.

But His rule will not look like the world. Jesus explains that status in God's kingdom is based on humility, not position. A child has no power and is therefore humble (Matthew 18:4). Seemingly powerless and humbled, Jesus will submit to the hands of men who will kill Him (Luke 9:44). The disciples need to learn to do likewise.
What is the Gospel?
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