Luke 17

Introduction

‘Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.’ Luke 17:1-3

Sin, Faith, Duty

We should never underestimate the severity of Jesus’ warning here, make no mistake about it, He isn’t just speaking about someone causing someone else to stumble in terms of causing someone to sin but He’s speaking about someone causing someone to stumble to the extent that they cause them to lose their soul, in other words, they cause someone to lose their eternal salvation, Matthew 18:6-9.

The result of someone doing so is worse than death. Jesus mentions a ‘large millstone’, this is the large millstone that is turned by a donkey, which contrasts with the smaller millstones which are turned by the human hand.

Why is their fate worse than drowning? Deuteronomy 32:35 / Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30. Simply because eternal death is worse than physical death.

Anyone who persecutes Christians in order to cause them to stumble will be held accountable. Anyone who seeks to cause God’s children to stumble will not receive any deliverance but will be punished because they hurt God’s children, Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30.

Because Jesus uses the word, ‘woe’ we can be sure of the seriousness of the crime and the punishment of the crime, Luke 17:1 / 1 Corinthians 11:19 / 1 Timothy 4:1. Not only does Jesus gives us the warning, but He also gives us the promise that ‘such things are bound to come’.

We shouldn’t be surprised when these things happen, and people fall away because of them, so we must be diligent and help each other and watch out for each other’s souls.

We could focus on those who cause others to stumble but maybe it’s useful to look at ourselves as Jesus wanted the disciples to do.

We must be on our guard against false teachers and those who would encourage us to stumble, mainly those in the world but we must also take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves, is there is anything in our lives that needs to be cut off? Matthew 18:6-9.

Our soul is just too precious to play games with, our eternal salvation is just too important to throw away,

‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3-4

Jesus once again reminds us of the importance of forgiveness. If someone sins against another, the person who sins needs to be rebuked, Matthew 18:15, and if they repent, then they must be forgiven.

We must be willing to forgive others, as we received forgiveness from God at our baptism, Acts 2:38. Having a forgiving spirit identifies us as possessing the nature of God who forgives.

If we cannot forgive our people, then certainly we aren’t of the nature of God, and thus, not a candidate for heaven, Matthew 18:35 / James 2:13.

The example of seven times a day isn’t to be taken literally, Jesus is simply saying, we are to forgive an unlimited number of times, yet we may rebuke in love, Leviticus 19:17 / Matthew 18:15 / Matthew 18:21.

He’s saying that a person should always be ready to forgive, it’s not a matter of counting, it’s a matter of conduct, Matthew 6:12 / Matthew 18:21-22 / Matthew 18:35 / James 2:13.

‘The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.’ Luke 17:5-6

After speaking about the importance of forgiveness, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus tells them if they had the faith as small as a mustard seed, Matthew 21:21-22 / Mark 11:23-24 / Luke 17:6 / 1 Corinthians 12:9 / 1 Corinthians 13:2, they could achieve much, Matthew 17:14-20.

Nothing would be impossible to them, for nothing is impossible for the One who actually does the miraculous work, Mark 9:23 / John 11:40.

Parable Of The Unprofitable Servants

‘Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10

Jesus now shares a parable with His disciples concerning a master and his servant.

When the servant is finished ploughing or looking after the sheep, does the master tell the servant to sit at the table for dinner? Of course not, the master tells the servant to make the dinner and serve the master while he eats. After the master has had his meal, only then does the servant eat and drink.

The point is that the servant waits on the master, the master doesn’t wait on the servant. The master doesn’t thank the servant for his work, the servant is supposed to do what he was commanded. The master doesn’t have to thank him for doing so.

The point of this parable is clear when we read verse 10. Jesus says that when we have done everything that God has commanded us to do, here is what we’re supposed to say, ‘we are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.’

It is not the master’s responsibility to make life easy for the servant, God doesn’t exist to make our lives easier. It is the servant’s responsibility to work hard for the master, after we have worked hard for the master, we have only done our duty.

We don’t deserve any kind of special recognition. If we hadn’t done what we did, we would be a failure, we would be a rebellious servants. By doing all that God has commanded, we are simply being a servant.

Can you imagine the servant in the story going around thinking how awesome he was because he ploughed the field and made the master dinner? What a fool! Those are your duties.

That is what you were supposed to do. God owes us nothing! There is nothing we can do to put God in a position of owing us something. There is nothing we can do to place God in our debt.

Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy

‘Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ Luke 17:11-13

Jesus is getting closer to His destination, that is the cross, which has been Jesus’ goal since He came in the flesh, Genesis 3:15. In context between verses 10 and 11, we see that Jesus went to Bethany, Ephraim, Samaria and Galilee, John 11. He’s on His way to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51, Luke 13:22.

Leprosy

The term ‘leprosy’ which includes the words leper, lepers, leprosy, and leprous occurs 68 times in the Bible, 55 times in the Old Testament, ‘tsara’ath’ and 13 times in the New Testament, ‘lepros’, ‘lepra’.

In the Old Testament, the instances of leprosy most likely meant a variety of infectious skin diseases, and even mould and mildew on clothing and walls.

In the New Testament, it seems to mean an infectious skin disease. The disease itself was considered by some as some kind of sin but not necessarily a specific sin relating to the leper themselves.

The Life Of A Leper

We can’t begin to imagine what life would have been like for a leper as they lived in their own colonies, separated from society. Their food and clothing needs would have been provided by their families and close friends.

Living in isolation can never be easy, not being able to shake someone’s hand or hug your husband or wife or even your children. This explains why they stood at a distance.

Imagine never being able to go to the temple to worship God, imagine not being able to work, imagine the itchiness and daily struggles they would have had!

This was through no fault of their own, but because they were lepers they couldn’t associate with society because they were classed as unclean by the law, Leviticus 13:45-46 / Numbers 5:2.

‘When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.’ Luke 17:14-16

After any leper was cleansed of his disease, the law said they were to present themselves to a priest in order to receive confirmation that he was clean, Leviticus 13:1-6 / Leviticus 13:45- 49 / Leviticus 14:1-32 / Luke 5:14. Unlike other miracles of Jesus, they seemed to be healed along the way to the priests.

Interestingly, the text implies that we have ten lepers, nine seem to be Jewish and one a Samaritan but here they are in the same place, physically, emotionally, spiritually, there’s no hatred of the different races here, they are all helpless and in a hopeless situation, they all called out for pit and they all received it.

I wonder if they would have associated with one another after their healing? Or would it be life back to normal?

It’s also interesting that only one of them praised God and even more interesting that he happened to be a Samaritan man, Luke 5:25 / Luke 18:43.

It’s interesting because he was the one that the Jewish society as a whole would have rejected, whether he was clean or not but because Jesus showed him mercy, he was filled with thanksgiving, which is something we all must do, Acts 13:46-48 / 1 Corinthians 15:10 / 2 Corinthians 4:15.

Not only did he praise God, but he also praised God ‘loudly’, we can only imagine the joy in his voice as he shouts ‘thank you, God’.

Life-Changing Healing

Imagine how their lives would have been changed after their healing, imagine them hugging their wife or husband and children for the first time in whatever amount of time they’ve had this disease.

Imagine being able to go to the priests to show themselves and to be able to socialise again and worship God in the temple again, get a mainstream job and walks through the market places in Jerusalem. This healing was life-changing on all kinds of levels, physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually.

The Grateful Leper

‘Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’ Luke 17:17-19

I believe there may have been a tone of sadness in Jesus’ voice when He asked this question and it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t ask this question because He didn’t know the answer, He asked the question to get everyone to think about their thanksgiving to God when they are shown mercy. This one grateful leper shows the contrast between him and the other nine lepers.

Why didn’t the other nine come back to give thanks?

We don’t really know why the other nine didn’t return to Jesus, but I like what Coffman says concerning this question.

One waited to see if the cure was real.

One waited to see if it would last.

One said he would see Jesus later.

One decided that he had never had leprosy.

One said he would have gotten well anyway.

One gave the glory to the priests.

One said, Oh well, Jesus didn’t really DO anything.

One said, just any rabbi could have done it.

One said I was already much improved.

We will never know why the nine didn’t return but what we do see is that people can be healed physically but remain sick spiritually. The Samaritan was healed both physically and spiritually, hence Jesus tells him his faith has healed him, remembering that his faith alone didn’t heal him, he had to trust in the Great Physician, Jesus to do the healing.

Have You Thanked Him Today?

We have so much to be grateful for but there are times we simply forget to thank Him for what He has done and continues to do in our lives because of the business of our lives these days.

But the busyness of life is really just an excuse. We must take time to thank Him and show we appreciate everything He does in our lives, 2 Corinthians 9:11 / Philippians 4:6.

The Coming Of The Kingdom Of God

‘Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21

The Pharisees come to Jesus asked Him when God’s kingdom would come, Matthew 3:2. The Pharisees were looking for an earthly king who would lead the Jews in a rebellion against Rome and re-establish Israel as a major power on the world scene.

However, they severely misunderstood what the kingdom of God was all about. It was not a physical kingdom, but a spiritual one. Jesus said the kingdom would come relatively quietly. It would not arrive as an occupying army, but it would arise within the hearts of individuals.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This was a matter of much importance to them, and they had taught that it would come with parade and pomp. It is not unlikely that they asked this merely in ‘contempt’, and for the purpose of drawing out something that would expose him to ridicule.’

‘Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.’ Luke 17:22-25

Notice that Jesus now takes the opportunity to discuss other future events with His disciples. Verses 22-37 deal with the Second Coming of Jesus. The Second Coming of Jesus is certain, however, the day of his coming is uncertain, Matthew 24:36.

There would be false messiahs and false prophets. Here and in Matthew 24:23-26 / Mark 13:21-23, they are again warned, Matthew 24:4-5 / Mark 13:5-6 to ignore false Messiahs and false prophets.

Boles, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Many persons, impostors, and self-deceived aspire to fill the places of persons of honour. Many did come claiming to be the Christ. There is still a constant stream of men claiming to be God’s chosen servants, leading multitudes into sin and infidelity with pretended claims.’

They were to ignore them because, and the Lord gives a reason why they must ignore the false messiahs. This is the same warning Jesus gave his disciples when discussing the fall of Jerusalem, Matthew 24:4-5 / Matthew 24:11. They are to ignore them because when the Lord does come, it will not be in the desert or some obscure place.

He will appear instantaneously and will be seen by everyone who has ever lived, Matthew 24:27 / Revelation 1:7. The Essenes in the desert at Qumran were expecting a Messiah who would throw off the Roman yolk. Their seclusion did not save them from being massacred by the Roman army.

The coming of the Son of Man will be obvious to all. Therefore, we shouldn’t listen to people who claim that the Son of Man is here or there.

Jesus says that is going to be a time coming when they will desire the days of the Son of Man, but mustn’t be fooled by going out and looking for it. When the days of the Son of Man arrive, the coming will be quite visible.

Before any of these things happen, Jesus will suffer and be rejected by that generation to whom Jesus was speaking to. The death of Jesus was a significant event prior to the fall of Jerusalem or the fall of Rome. While still a significant event, it is less important as a time marker for events in our lifetime or to mark the second coming of Christ.

‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.’ ‘It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.’ Luke 17:26-29

Jesus illustrates the fact that people wouldn’t pay attention to the warnings before the judgment with two past events, the flood in the days of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot.

Jesus didn’t say, “The days before I come, there’s going to be turmoil all over the world, there will be famine and distress.”

He said, “Do you know what is going to characterise the world before I come back? Normal things, people are going to be planting their fields, people are going to be planning weddings, they will never notice.”

And if you know someone who is getting married soon, that’s a sure sign that Jesus is coming. The only sign before the flood was the preaching of Noah, Genesis 6:5 / Genesis 7:6-23.

And you know it’s not wrong to have a wedding or to plan a party, that’s not what He’s saying. What He’s saying is, “the tragedy is going to be that when God comes back, what’s going to characterise the world is an exceeding casual world.”

And the only warning the world is going to get is the witness of the church. I guess there would have been some people around in Noah’s time thinking to themselves, ‘I believe in God, I believe what Noah said is going to happen, but I’ll wait just before he finished building that ark before I step onboard.’

We can’t do that with God and the reason we can’t do that with God is because like Noah we have already been warned about what’s going to happen. And just like the people in Noah’s time, if you chose to ignore that warning you’re going to drown in the flood.

The illustration Jesus used is the same one He used to discuss circumstances prior to the final judgment, Matthew 24:37-39. Peter said that people will scoff at the idea of the world ending, 2 Peter 3:4-6.

‘It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:30-37

The parallel to these verses in Matthew 24:17-18 and Mark 13:15-16 refers to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.  It means when they saw the Roman armies, they should flee immediately and not go into the house to rescue any belongings. In this context, it means when Jesus comes, one’s hope must be on Christ. If one has his trust in material things, they will not do him any good.

The story of Lot’s wife is told in Genesis 19:17-26. The basic problem of Lot’s wife that caused her disobedience was her trust in material things instead of God. One should remember Lot’s wife and trust in God, not in earthly material possessions.

The person who trusts in material possessions will lose his life. The person who denies himself takes up his cross and follows Jesus will have eternal life. The real values of life are spiritual.

When one believes in Jesus Christ and obeys him, he is putting his trust in God and spiritual things. This person will have eternal life, Matthew 7:24-27.

When Jesus comes, there will be a separation of the righteous and the wicked. The righteous will rise to meet Jesus in the air, the other will be left, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It will be sudden, there will be no time to flee and no place to go from the presence of the Lord, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.

When Jesus comes, women will be at work. One will be taken up to meet Jesus in the air, the other will be left. There is no warning, Jesus comes and time is no more. It will be too late to change one’s eternal destiny at that time. One can change his destiny while he is living, but not after death or when Jesus comes.

Note that verse 36, isn’t in the most reliable manuscripts although it is in Matthew 24:40, ‘two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.’

They ask where will the Messiah be found? The Greek word here may mean either eagle or vulture. The imagery of this context is of the vulture. Where there is a dead body, the vultures will gather.

Jesus means where there is sin, the judgment of God will be seen, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. When Jesus comes, there will be the resurrection of the dead and then the judgment, John 5:28-29. The important thing is to prepare so that there will be no fear of judgment.

In short, He’s telling them that He would arrive unexpectedly and He would find many people who weren’t prepared for it, Matthew 24:40-41. We must always be prepared for the Lord’s sudden appearance.

Matthew and Mark continue with three parables illustrating the need to always be prepared for the Lord’s appearing, emphasising that we cannot know when he will come, Matthew 25:13. Mark has an additional warning, Mark 13:34-37.

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