What does Luke 9:38 mean?
ESV: And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.
NIV: A man in the crowd called out, 'Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.
NASB: And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, 'Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, because he is my only son,
CSB: Just then a man from the crowd cried out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, because he's my only child.
NLT: A man in the crowd called out to him, 'Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child.
KJV: And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child.
NKJV: Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus, Peter, James, and John are returning to the other disciples after Jesus' transfiguration (Luke 9:28–36). They arrive to find the nine arguing with scribes, surrounded by a crowd who quickly turn their focus from the argument to Jesus (Mark 9:14–15). We aren't told what the disciples and the scribes are arguing about. Presumably, it was related to this man's message. His only child has been demonized by an evil spirit that either gives him symptoms of epilepsy or exacerbates the disease he already has. Despite the fact Jesus has given the disciples the power to cast out all demons (Luke 9:1), they prove powerless, and the father begs for Jesus' help (Luke 9:39–40).

This is at least the third time Luke records Jesus coming to the rescue of an "only child." The first was the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7:11–15). The second was Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:41–42, 49–55). In that time and culture, being an "only child" was an important distinction. A significant part of the promise God gave the Jews refers to the perpetual ownership of the land. These parents need their children to inherit the family land and continue their family's position in the clan and the community. The widow especially needed Jesus' attention; without her son, she may have been destitute. If Jairus had no more children—and they still followed the Mosaic law—his daughter's husband would inherit his estate (Numbers 27:1–11). This father, too, both loves his son and needs him as an heir.
Verse Context:
Luke 9:37–43 records another story highlighting the disciples' misunderstanding of Jesus and their lack of faith. Jesus, Peter, James, and John return from the mountain. There, Jesus shone with God's glory and the disciples encountered Moses, Elijah, and God the Father. The disciples they left behind, despite having been empowered by Jesus to perform miracles (Luke 9:1–6), find it impossible to rescue a boy from a violent demon. Jesus scolds the lack of faith before He drives the demon away. This story is also in Matthew 17:14–20 and Mark 9:14–29.
Chapter Summary:
Luke 9 completes Jesus' Galilean ministry and begins describing His journey towards Jerusalem. Jesus gives His disciples miraculous power and commissions them to preach. The empowerment thrills the disciples but confuses Herod Antipas. A hungry crowd of thousands and hard teachings about following Jesus, however, shows the disciples' faith is short-lived. The transfiguration and the demonized boy precede stories of the disciples' continued confusion. They still struggle to accurately represent Jesus. Luke 9:51–62 begins the "travelogue" (Luke 9:51—19:27) with examples of the patience and sacrifice needed to represent Jesus as His followers.
Chapter Context:
Luke 9 straddles the two major sections biblical scholars call "Jesus' Galilean Ministry" (Luke 4:14—9:50) and "The Travelogue to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51—19:27). The Galilean ministry alternates calls to discipleship with stories on Jesus' authority and teachings. The travelogue records what Jesus did and taught to prepare the disciples for His crucifixion. After a final group of stories on how to respond to Jesus (Luke 9:51—11:13) and several examples of how the Jewish religious leaders reject Jesus (Luke 11:14–54), Luke presents Jesus' teaching on the kingdom of God (Luke 12:1—19:27).
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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