Do you know when to confront someone who has hurt you? Do you know how often you should forgive someone? Jesus tells us today. What is your attitude about serving God? Are you grateful for what God has done and is that important? Find out today. What do you know about Jesus second coming? Jesus talks about his return in this chapter. Are you ready?
Jesus Tells about Forgiveness and Faith / 17:1-10
17:1 Because people are sinful and because people live in relationship with one another, they will tempt each other to sin. The Greek word skandala used here denotes any hindrance that causes another person to fall into sin, whether through temptation or false teaching. Jesus explained that while there would always be temptations, that did not excuse the person who does the tempting. Jesus may have been referring to the religious leaders who taught their converts their own hypocritical ways (see Matthew 23:15). These leaders were perpetuating an evil system through their false teaching. A person who teaches others has a solemn responsibility (James 3:1).
17:2 Leading another person astray is very serious. Jesus explained that the consequences were so severe that it would be better to have a millstone tied around one’s neck and be thrown into the sea than for a person to face God after causing others to stumble. A “millstone” was a heavy, flat stone used to grind grain. Even such a death of being plunged into darkness would be minor, however, compared to what this person would face in eternity. Jesus used the term little ones to refer not just to children but to his followers. Those who turn people away from God will receive severe punishment.
- LIFE APPLICATION – THE LITTLE ONES
- Jesus warned about God’s wrath for those who offend, abuse, or lead astray the little ones. Jesus warns off any predators who would hurt children in any way. How appropriate such a warning is in this day when child predators are so common. While we must guard against physical abuse, be aware of and work against the mental and spiritual corruption of children as well. Jesus’ warning envisions an additional group. The “little ones” can be new disciples. Indifference to the training and treatment of new Christians can leave them theologically vulnerable. Make the follow-through care of recent converts and new members a high priority in your church.
17:3-4 Careful leadership is important for Jesus’ followers, but so is constant forgiveness. When there is sin among God’s people, they are responsible to rebuke one another. To “rebuke” does not mean to point out every sin, for Jesus also warns against being judgmental (6:37). To “rebuke” (always in love) means to bring sin to a person’s attention with the purpose of restoring that person to God and to fellow humans. In context here, this refers to sin that could pull that person or others away from God, and thus result in serious judgment Jesus spoke of in 17:2. When a person feels that he or she must rebuke another Christian for a sin, it is wise for that person to check his or her attitudes and motivations first. Unless rebuke is tied to forgiveness, it will not help the sinning person. Jesus explained, in fact, that if the other person repents, the rebuker must forgive. And that forgiveness extends constantly.
- LIFE APPLICATION – EFFECTIVE CONFRONTATION
- Rebuking a fellow believer requires care. Finding fault and expressing it effectively are delicate proceedings. People are easily offended. In a first-time confrontation, try these six steps:
- Pray for God’s help in getting your concern across without generating antagonism or defensiveness.
- Approach the other person as a friend, not an adversary.
- Imagine the most innocent possible reason for the other’s fault, not the most insidious or repulsive.
- Make your approach a series of gradual and mutual agreements: “Could I speak to you?” “I’m having trouble with something. May I ask you about it?”
- State your case once clearly. Repetition becomes the pounding of a sledgehammer.
- Express gratitude for the conversation, confidence in the friendship, and cordial expectations for the future. Show that you harbor no doubt that the matter has been solved.
17:5-6 The disciples told Jesus, “We need more faith.” Jesus didn’t directly answer their question because the amount of faith is not as important as its genuineness. What is faith? It is total dependence on God and a willingness to do his will.
A mustard seed is small, but it is alive and growing. Like a tiny seed, a small amount of genuine faith in God will take root and grow. The apostles didn’t need more faith; a tiny seed of faith would be enough, if it were alive and growing.
Jesus pointed to a nearby mulberry tree and said that even small faith could uproot it and send it into the sea. Mulberry trees grow quite large (as high as thirty-five feet). Matthew’s Gospel records a similar teaching when Jesus said that a mountain could be told to throw itself into the sea (Matthew 21:21). It is the power of God, not faith, that uproots trees and moves mountains, but faith must be present for God to work. Even a small “seed” of faith is sufficient. There is great power in even a little faith when God is there
17:7-10 When Jesus’ followers obey, they have only done their duty and should regard it as a privilege. They should not expect thanks, for they were only doing what they were supposed to do. Jesus used the example of a slave who renders service and does not expect to be thanked. Obedience is not something extra done for God; it is the duty of anyone who desires to be Christ’s follower. Before God, all people are sinners, saved only by God’s grace, but believers are saved and therefore have great worth in God’s Kingdom. They must lay aside selfishness and treat others with respect and common courtesy.
With these words, Jesus was not rendering service as meaningless or useless, nor was he doing away with rewards. He was attacking unwarranted self-esteem and spiritual pride—perhaps such as many of the religious leaders were exhibiting, or what the disciples themselves might be tempted to fall into as they would seek to serve God. Jesus’ followers focus their eyes on God with their goal only to serve and please him. They don’t work for recognition or rewards or even for God to praise them for their hard work. They understand that their duty is to serve the Master.
- LIFE APPLICATION – A SERVANT’S EXPECATIONS
- Everyone in Jesus’ day understood the role of a slave. That person did the duty he or she was purchased to perform. The owner owed no thanks for work done, and a slave wouldn’t expect it. So many people want recognition and appreciation for every small step they take to help or serve. Loyalty and obedience are merely the beginning of a believer’s obligation. When believers seek praise and reward, they serve themselves and not God. Examine your motives. What do you expect when you serve others?
Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy / 17:11-19
Ten lepers were healed, but only one leper—a Samaritan—returned to thank Jesus. This story, unique to Luke, highlights the faith of a foreigner in Israel. One of the major themes of Luke is the remarkable faith of Gentiles. Although many of the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus, a number of foreigners wholeheartedly placed their trust in him (7:1-10).
17:11-13 Jesus was traveling along the border between Galilee and Samaria. Galilee was Jewish; Samaria was occupied by Samaritans who were despised by the Jews. The exact location is unknown, but that Jesus was near the border accounts for a Samaritan in the group of lepers. People who had leprosy were required to try to stay away from other people and to announce their presence if they had to come near. Thus these ten lepers were standing at a distance, outside the city, and they were crying out to Jesus for mercy. They called Jesus Master—they knew who he was and what he could do for them. They did not try to get close, however, perhaps because of the crowd that was probably still following Jesus (14:25).
17:14 Jesus sent the ten lepers to the priests (as prescribed by the law, Leviticus 14) before they were healed, and as they went, their leprosy disappeared. Jesus did not touch these men or even speak words of healing as he had done for most of his healings. This time he simply gave them the command to go show themselves to the priests. Jesus was asking the men to respond in faith so that, by their obedience, what they desired would happen. All the men responded in faith, and Jesus healed them on the way.
17:15-16 Jesus healed all ten lepers, but only one of them returned to thank him. It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit—nine of the ten men did so. Only the thankful man, however, learned that his faith had played a role in his healing; and only grateful Christians grow in understanding God’s grace. God does not demand that his people thank him, but he is pleased when they do so. And he uses their responsiveness to teach them more about himself. The surprise of this story is that this Samaritan, used to being despised by Jews (except perhaps for his fellow lepers), would dare to go to this Jewish healer and prostrate himself before him. But this man’s faith went deep enough that he saw God’s hand in the healing. Once again Luke was pointing out that God’s grace is for everybody.
17:17-19 Jesus had been distressed many times with his own people’s lack of acceptance and faith (7:9; 8:25; 12:28). This time was no different. Ten men had been healed, but only one, the foreigner (referring to the man from Samaria), came back to give glory to God. Jesus was not so much concerned about being thanked as he was about the men’s understanding of what had happened. The other nine went off, free from leprosy but not necessarily free from sin through the salvation Jesus could offer. This one man was freed, so Jesus sent him on his way with the knowledge that his faith had made him well. He not only had a restored body, his soul had been restored as well.
*We can assume that Jesus was felt hurt because nobody thanked him. But he was also disappointed for another reason. He tells the leper who came back. “Your faith has made you well.” Ten were healed, but only one was made well and that’s more important than being healed. Unless gratitude is a part of our nature we can’t be whole people. Ingratitude is more contagious and harmful than leprosy.
Jesus Teaches about the Coming of the Kingdom of God / 17:20-37
17:20-21 Up to this point in the chapter, Jesus was explaining how his followers should live. From 17:20–18:8, as a response to a question brought by the Pharisees, Jesus discussed when the Kingdom of God would come. The Pharisees did not understand that the Kingdom of God had already arrived with Jesus. Jesus had made this clear in 11:20. In 19:11-27, he will explain that the full expression of God’s Kingdom is yet to come (and is still to come). These are the days “between”—the Kingdom has arrived in Jesus Christ, yet it has not arrived in its fullness. Believers are waiting for it, as Jesus has already described (12:35-48), knowing that it could come at any moment. So Jesus’ words here explain the nature of the Kingdom now.
Jesus explained that the Kingdom isn’t ushered in with visible signs; in other words, no one can project when it will come by looking for supernatural signs. Nor will anyone be able to point to anything that proves that the Kingdom is here or there. The Kingdom of God was among the people because Jesus was among them. When Jesus returned to heaven, the Kingdom remained, and continues today, with the work of God’s Spirit in people’s lives and in relationships. Still, today, believers must resist looking to institutions or programs for evidence of the progress of God’s Kingdom. Instead, they should look for what God is doing in people’s hearts. Rather than looking for signs or trying to figure out timetables, each person should look into his or her own heart to be sure to be ready. When the Kingdom arrives, will you be ushered in or sent away?
17:22 Jesus turned his attention back to his disciples and explained that days would come when they would long to share in the days of the Son of Man, but they won’t be able to. We are not certain whether this longing on the disciples’ part would be for the return of the days when Jesus was among them physically (for he would soon be gone physically), or if their longing looked ahead to the “days” of the end times when the Kingdom would arrive and Jesus would return. Most likely their “longing” would be looking ahead for what had been promised (because the following verses concern the Second Coming). That they won’t be able to share in it means that they would not see his arrival in their lifetimes. There would be an intervening time between Jesus’ first and second comings.
17:23-24 In these intervening days, after Christ has returned to heaven and as his followers await his return, there will be much speculation. Some will attempt to pinpoint exactly when Jesus will return; others will attempt to mock believers’ expectations. Some will claim to be the Messiah; others will say that Jesus has returned—and people will believe them. Jesus warned believers never to take such reports seriously, no matter how convincing they may sound. When Jesus returns, his power and presence will be evident to everyone, like lightning that flashes across the sky. No one will need to spread the message because all will see for themselves.
17:25 Before this great return occurs, however, Jesus would return to heaven from earth. In order for that to occur, he would suffer terribly and be rejected, and then be crucified. This would happen soon, for it would be this generation who would do it, specifically this generation of religious leaders who would arrange for Jesus to be put to death (9:21-27, 37-44; 18:31-34).
17:26-27 To illustrate the suddenness of his return, Jesus used two examples, the first being the flood (see Genesis 6–7). In the days before the flood, life went on as usual for most people, with the exception of Noah who had been building a huge boat for many years. Then, it began to rain, the flood came, and everyone drowned.
Jesus was warning against false security. Although life will continue as usual until the day of Christ’s return, believers must always be ready to go at a moment’s notice. When Christ returns, there will be no second chances. Some will be taken to be with him; the rest will be left behind.
- LIFE APPLICATION AS THE WORLD TURNS
- In every age, it has been easy to assume that life goes on, never spending a second thought on God’s promised intervention. But don’t think God has forgotten. One day soon all of God’s glory and fury will burst into view. The kingdom that grew slowly—at your local church, in your small-group Bible study, at youth-group outings, and in prayer with friends—will explode into plain sight, and God’s truth will be known by all. Reach out to those yet untold of Christ’s love and mercy. Help them be prepared for Christ’s return.
17:28-29 The second example of the suddenness of Christ’s return is the destruction of the city of Sodom (recorded in Genesis 18–19). Sodom, along with the nearby city of Gomorrah, was destroyed by God because of their great wickedness. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, had chosen to settle in the city of Sodom (Genesis 13:11-13). The people of Sodom, wicked as they were, went about their daily business. Then, the morning Lot left Sodom, the city was destroyed. The destruction came so suddenly that only Lot and his family escaped. Angels came and spared Lot and his family from the fire and burning sulfur.
In the time between Christ’s first and second comings, some may be lulled into complacency by the fact that life continues with its normal activities. Many today see life moving ahead with no interruptions. But Jesus made it clear that judgment would come, unexpectedly, without warning, in the middle of what would begin as a routine day.
- LIFE APPLICATION GET READY!
- Christ will return with no warning. Most people will be going about their everyday tasks, indifferent to the demands of God. They will be as surprised by his return as the people in Noah’s day were by the Flood (Genesis 6–8) or as the people in Lot’s day were surprised by the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19). No one knows when Christ will return, but his return is certain. He may come today, tomorrow, or centuries in the future. Whenever Jesus comes, believers must be morally and spiritually ready. Live as if Jesus were returning today.
17:30-32 When the Son of Man returns, there will be no time to return home for anything. Those outside should not go back inside to try to pack; those working out in the field must not return to town. Jesus exhorted his listeners to remember what happened to Lot’s wife! When angels led Lot and his family out of the city, the angels warned them not to look back (Genesis 19:17). Surely the sound of destruction reached their ears, but they were not to turn around. Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Clinging to the past, she was unwilling to completely leave the evil of the city and the comfort of her possessions.
The time for deciding about Christ will pass in a single moment. Those who were waiting and longing to see that day (17:22) will rejoice at its arrival. Those who did not believe it would happen will not have time to do anything about it. It will be too late.
17:33 Christ’s return will cause great upheaval and danger. This is described in other prophecies regarding the end times, such as chapter 21 and the book of Revelation. Whoever clings to this life will lose it, for nothing in this life will remain. When Christ returns everything will change. Clinging to this world is foolish, for it will pass away. Clinging to life is foolish, for it too will pass away. Jesus said much the same thing in 9:24 and Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; John 12:25.)
17:34-35 The sudden return of Christ and the sudden end of all chances to change one’s decision about him will result in sudden separation of his followers from those who chose not to follow. People may be close enough in this world—even sleeping in the same bed or working together at the same job. While these people may have looked no different from the outside, one difference will separate them forever. When Jesus returns, he will take his followers to be with him (see 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
- LIFE APPLICATION – ARE YOU GOING?
- When God’s kingdom comes, will you be included? You can be sure of it! Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior today. In a prayer, admit your need, ask for pardon from your sin, and thank God for welcoming you into his family. Live for your Lord today. Help someone overcome a problem. Give someone an encouraging word from the Bible. Pray for someone in trouble.
17:37 Those listening to Jesus’ words of warning wanted to know where all of this would take place. To answer the disciples’ question, Jesus quoted a familiar proverb. One vulture circling overhead does not mean much, but a gathering of vultures means that a dead body is nearby. Likewise, one sign of the end may not be significant, but when many signs occur, the Second Coming (the end) is near.
Until tomorrow, Darrell
Sources: Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary, Mastering the New Testament/Luke
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