Luke 17 Kingdom Living.
Luke 17: 1-4 Repent And Forgive.
Stumbling blocks are part of living in a fallen world. Nevertheless, there is woe upon all who are guilty of these offenses (v. 1). Better to die, never to have an occasion to cause a little one to stumble (v. 2). We have an obligation as believers, that if a brother or sister sins against us, to rebuke them, and if they repent to forgive them (v. 3 Cf. Mt. 18:15-20). We are told by some that we should forgive even if one does not repent, but the scriptural testimony is quite different. The loving thing to do is to demand repentance. This is the goal of a rebuke. On the other hand, there are those who will forgive once or maybe twice, but then that is it. The argument goes that if they sin against us more than this, then their repentance is not sincere. However, Jesus said that even if they repent and seek forgiveness seven times in a day, a number signifying completeness, that we must forgive (v. 4). This is why He told Peter seventy times seven (Cf. Mt. 18:22). Don’t number the times! Those who reject this teaching don’t really understand how often we ought to repent before God every day for our own sins before him.
Luke 17: 5-10 Faith And Duty.
Normally we would see “disciples” asking questions, but here Luke is more specific, he says that the “apostles” said, “Increase our faith” (v. 5). However, Jesus taught that it is not the increase of faith that was important, because faith the size of a mustard seed, which is very small, can move a mulberry tree (v. 6). It is not the quantity of one’s faith but it’s quality. True faith evidences itself in humble duty, acknowledging that it is but the only legitimate response to the Lord’s commands (vv. 7-9). Faith shows itself in doing what the Lord has commanded (v. 10). The phrase “unprofitable servants” simply reinforces the point that no one brings anything to the work of salvation, including the exercise of faith. No one can repay the Lord (Rom. 11:35). Duty is simply the evidence of a God given faith.
Luke 17:11-19 From Unclean To Clean By Obedient Faith.
Jesus continued His journey to Jerusalem, and on the way He passed through Samaria and Galilee (v. 11 Cf. Lk. 9:51-53; Jn. 4:4). These ten lepers were among those on the outside looking in. These lepers “stood afar off,” therefore “they lifted up their voices” (vv. 12-13). The law required this distance (Cf. Lev. 13:46; Nu. 5:2). They address Jesus, not as Teacher, but as “Jesus, Master”. Is this a confession of repentance and faith? Jesus was given this name because He would “save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21), and there can only be one Master (Jn. 15:20). This was a statement of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Furthermore, they asked for mercy (v. 13).
We are told that the lepers are cleansed as they obey Jesus and proceed to show themselves to the priests (v. 14). A leper was required to show themselves to the priests, but only when they were cleansed (Lev. 13-14). This raises some interesting points. First of all, Jesus was intent on fulfilling the law. Secondly, Jesus was also intent on showing mercy and healing the sick. Thirdly, there is no contradiction between points one and two. Fourthly, the law did not prohibit a foreigner, such as those in Samaria and Galilee, from going to the priests. Fifthly, the decision by the lepers to obey was a step of faith, but also of obedience to the law.
Not only did the law not prohibit a foreigner from going to the priests, but it was a foreigner who returned to fall on his face before Jesus, give Him thanks, and glorify God (vv. 15-18 Cf. Jn. 4:9). It was through the instrumentality of faith that all were made well, but only one gave glory to God (v. 19 Cf. 7:50; 8:48; 18:42; Mt. 9:22; Mk. 5:34; 10:52). Nevertheless, their going to the priests was also a testimony to them of who Jesus was (Cf. 5:14; Mt. 8:4). Jesus had the power to heal. Jesus also taught, and commanded to be put into practice, that obeying the law was an evidence of faith. Before the gift of physical healing, there was the gift of faith.
Luke 17:20-37 The Kingdom Starts Within.
To the Pharisees who were looking for the kingdom of God in a conception of Messiah as establishing Himself in a political rule from Jerusalem, Jesus had to rebuke them by saying that the kingdom of God is within (vv. 20-21). Furthermore He also warns His disciples to not listen to those who will say that the Messiah as the Pharisees had conceived has appeared. It is interesting that Jesus said that they would “desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man” (v. 22). Much of this speculation centred around the eschatological figure ‘the Son of Man’ which hearkens back to the prophetic witness, like Daniel (7:13-14). However, He says “one of the days” not “the day”. We should not lose sight of the truth here, that there have been and will continue to be many days or comings of the Son of Man, though Jesus warns His disciples to not listen to those who claim they have witnessed His physical presence (v. 23 Cf. Mt. 24:23). This is in stark contrast to “His day”, when the Son of Man would indeed return, a day that would be as unmistakable “as the lightning that flashes,” but also unpredictable (v. 24; 26-37 Cf. Mt. 24:27; 37-39).
However, Jesus said “but first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (v. 25 Cf. Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). These things must be because the prophets predicted this, and the kingdom He came to inaugurate is a kingdom that begins with the need for redemption, that only His walk to the cross could fulfill. It would also come through the rejection of that generation, as He would bring to an end, by fulfillment, everything that that generation still hoped in- in Jerusalem and the temple. They would have observable warning signs of these events as Luke would later point out (21:5-33). However, Jesus came as God’s anointed, and as the Annointed One, He would fulfill all three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. He would reign at the right hand of the ancient of Days as a Prophet-Priest-King. This is His main point-His kingdom comes through the gospel, that is why He said it was within (v. 21). Life is a matter of priorities. For those who put their lives and the enjoyment of life above all else, they are destined to lose. But for those who put Christ first, life is what they will receive (v. 33).