The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Luke 17

Luk 17:1

TO HIS DISCIPLES: First to the Pharisees (Luk 16), and now to his disciples.

Luk 17:2

A MILLSTONE: "Mulikos" = lit, a millstone of a donkey, ie one turned by a donkey: cp sw Mat 18:6; Rev 18:21,22. For putting a small stone in another's path, he shall have a LARGE stone tied about his neck! A Greek and Roman punishment of prisoners: cp Rev 18:21.

THESE LITTLE ONES: New disciples (Joh 13:33; Mat 10:42; 1Jo 2:12,13), not small children.

Luk 17:3

WATCH YOURSELVES: Examine yourselves more severely than you examine others (1Co 11:28).

If your brother trespasses, then rebuke him; but always stand ready to forgive him -- not just once or twice, but seven times in one day if need be! And the apostles, recognizing that such an attitude requires faith, pray Jesus to increase their faith. It is for us from time to time to exercise this kind of faith -- faith that, despite perplexing problems, all things will work together for the good of Christ's ecclesias; faith that our brethren will by God's mercy stand firm in the faith despite ever-present failings; faith that God will realize His plan without our constant brooding and worrying, or our presumptuous intervention in matters that do not directly affect us. Can we not develop such faith that God will do His part? This is the faith that pleases God, and without which He cannot be pleased!

Luk 17:5

The disciples recognize that time-after-time forgiveness requires great faith.

Luk 17:6

Though small at beginning, it must be proper type, and then it will grow: Mat 13:31.

MULBERRY TREE, 'BE UPROOTED': "Sycamine" in KJV, but prob mulberry, although used in LXX (Psa 78:47; Amo 7:14) for fig-sycamore. Sym removal of Jewish nation -- to drift upon sea of nations. Cp language: Mar 11:22,23; 2Ch 7:20 (WEnj 130). Grows rapidly, with huge root system, and would be almost impossible to uproot (LB 23). Repr the offenses and wrong attitudes, which take root in us as weeds, choking the true word of God.

Luk 17:8

Even those who left the "field" of Israel and went into the "house" of the ecclesia must expect to serve.

Luk 17:9

The KJV adds at end, "I trow [think] not!"

Luk 17:10

EVERYTHING YOU WERE TOLD TO DO: Including forgiveness of sins (vv 3,4) and removing offences (v 6).

"WE ARE UNWORTHY SERVANTS; WE HAVE ONLY DONE OUR DUTY": "To receive the grace of God in vain, is to be destitute of this fruit (of the Spirit); it is to know the Gospel without being so influenced by it as to yield to it the results it contemplates in the renovation of the heart, the purification of the affections, the reformation of the life, the opening of the generous impulses towards men, and the fountain of gratitude and adoration towards God; and the abandonment and crucifixion of all that is contrary to the mind of Christ. Where this is the unfortunate state of things: where the heart is still set on earthly things; and the sympathies are yet undrawn out towards the things of Christ; where sin is yet followed and God still distant; where holiness is unknown, and self-denial not understood, nothing waits but a 'fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversary.' The 'unprofitable servant' is to be cast out. The servant who can show nothing done for the name of Christ: nothing ministered to the wants of the saints; nothing beyond a life spent at the shrine of self interest and self gratification -- has little to look for in the day of reckoning. Even those who do their duty are sensible of the inadequacy of their claim upon Divine approbation; having done all, they say, 'Behold we are unprofitable servants; we have done what it was our duty to do', even as Christ enjoins. If this is the case with them, where shall the faithless and unholy appear?" (SC 132).

"Let us ever keep that saying of Christ in mind. It is a healthy and wholesome view. All that we have and are belongs to God, by right. It is no special virtue to use everything in His service: it's our common duty. We are very deeply privileged to be allowed to use God's goods in His service and to be 'fellow-workers' with Him. We can never give God an infinitesimal fraction of what He has given and has promised us. Stamp your heel promptly and decisively on any stupid stirring of self-glory or self-satisfaction: God hates such folly. If doing all is still unprofitable, what is God's judgment of those who do even less?" (GVG).

"Don't give God instructions; just report for duty!"

Here is the reason for the command that we should receive repentant sinners, and for the command that we should seek reconciliation with our brethren despite their imperfections: we are ALL unprofitable servants; the most we can possibly do is but our duty. Our Father has for each of us an inheritance infinitely greater than we could ever earn. Let us not be found in the position of appearing to deny that inheritance to others who have, in the last analysis, applied for it upon the same basis as we: not by works -- lest any man should boast -- but by the unlimited mercy of a loving Father.

Luk 17:11

ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM: Another (perhaps final) circuit of preaching, ending in Jerusalem.

Luk 17:12

TEN MEN: Sym 10 men "out of all nations": Zec 8:20-22. Ten men also = "minyon", minimum number of Jews to constitute a synagogue.

AT A DISTANCE: Like the publican in Luk 18:13.

Luk 17:13

"With torn garments and disheveled hair, the lepers should have gone around crying, 'Unclean! Unclean!' and should have dwelt alone -- Lev 13:44,45" (NMk 21). Note the supreme confidence of the lepers: here was a man who could confer cleansing, despite the Law.

HAVE PITY: Luk 18:13,38.

Luk 17:14

AS THEY WENT: They had to start the trip before they would be healed.

Luk 17:15

ONE OF THEM, WHEN HE SAW HE WAS HEALED, CAME BACK, PRAISING GOD IN A LOUD VOICE: "Jesus our Master has had mercy on us too. We as leprous men have been cleansed. We see the mercies of our Lord each day performed before our eyes. How many of us fail to return to glorify God with a loud voice! Let us look in gratitude and notice all the blessings God has bestowed on us through his Son. Let us give the Glory to God throughout our every waking moment. Maybe a little reminder where we will see it often will keep our focus where it belongs today. Continual praise from me and you is not sufficient enough to glorify our Father, but it will help us look to the greater day. We all long for the day when His glory will fill the earth, and His praises will resound from every being in the universe" (CPv).

Luk 17:16

HE THREW HIMSELF AT JESUS' FEET AND THANKED HIM: "Sin is like leprosy. Just as leprosy eats away at your flesh consuming you until you die, so sin causes sickness and death in both a physical and spiritual way. And just as leprosy makes you an outcast from society, so sin removes us from the presence of God.

Ten men came to Jesus asking to be healed of their leprosy. Jesus told them to go to the priests, and as they went they were cleansed. It is only by coming to Jesus and asking for forgiveness from our sins that we can be forgiven and eventually healed from the consequences of our sins. Our healing from sin and the healing that the lepers were given is a gift from God. It is something we don't deserve, and are only given by the grace of God.

Only one of those ten lepers came back, praising God with a loud voice, to thank Jesus. It seems that only one realized the value of his cleansing and was thankful for it. Ten percent. Is it still the same today? Of all the people that ask for forgiveness, how many people return in prayer or song to give praise and glory to God and to say, 'Thank you'? When you last asked God for forgiveness did you return to give thanks, or are you one of the 90% who don't? Give thanks, and be one to whom Jesus says, 'Rise and go, your faith has made you well' " (RP).

Is this the only instance in the Gospels where Jesus is actually thanked? And it is by a Gentile, not a Jew.

Luk 17:19

WELL: The other 9, although healed of leprosy, were still not "well"!

Luk 17:20

OBSERVATION: "Parateresis", careful examination. The word is used often of Pharisees seeking to trap Jesus in his actions or words: Mar 3:2; Luk 6:7; 14:1; 20:20; Act 9:24; cp Gal 4:10.

Luk 17:21

WITHIN YOU: "In the midst of you" (RSV). Or "within your grasp" (BS 14:163). Cp Isa 12:6: "the Holy One in midst of you". Christ is addressing unbelievers, the Pharisees (Mat 23:33; Luk 11:39). Surely the Kingdom of God was not in THEIR hearts! The Kingdom of God was brought near in the person and the preaching of Jesus (Luk 10:9,11; 11:20).

Luk 17:24

LIKE THE LIGHTNING: Sudden, brilliant, instantaneous, followed by a "storm", ie v 30. Cp Mat 16:17; 2Th 1:7,8. // Mat 24:27.

Luk 17:26

Vv 26-30: Jesus is stressing the interventionist nature of his return. With respect to the flood and the destruction of Sodom, life seemed to be going on quite normally... UNTIL the final catastrophic intervention of Yahweh. The same will be true at the time that Jesus returns.

Luk 17:27

Eating, drinking, marrying... these are all activities which are not wrong in themselves, but only as they become obsessions to those caught up in materialism and self-indulgence. We do well to remember that such activities are the mere "scaffolding" of a life, but not the life itself. They are all destined to come to an end with the return of Christ.

THEN THE FLOOD CAME AND DESTROYED THEM ALL: "Universal was the doom; neither rich nor poor escaped: the learned and the illiterate, the admired and the abhorred, the religious and the profane, the old and the young, all sank in one common ruin. Some had doubtless ridiculed the patriarch -- where now their merry jests? Others had threatened him for his zeal which they counted madness -- where now their boastings and hard speeches? The critic who judged the old man's work is drowned in the same sea which covers his sneering companions. Those who spoke patronizingly of the good man's fidelity to his convictions, but shared not in them, have sunk to rise no more, and the workers who for pay helped to build the wondrous ark, are all lost also. The flood swept them all away, and made no single exception" (CHS).

One hundred different varieties of evil and indifference and neglect were all swept away by the waters of the flood -- unique though each form of life was at the time, they were at last all together in a common death. The only ones who were saved were those who actually sought places in the ark of safety.

Luk 17:29

Noah and Lot, 2 great examples of judgment upon the world: flood and fire!

Luk 17:31

Do not worry about material things.

NO ONE WHO IS ON THE ROOF OF HIS HOUSE, WITH HIS GOODS INSIDE, SHOULD GO DOWN TO GET THEM: But rather descend stairs on outside of house -- ie in extreme haste (LB 43).

Luk 17:32

REMEMBER LOT'S WIFE: Noah saved (some of) his family, but Lot did not! Lot's wife, of course, looked back with longing eyes to her life in Sodom and most likely started back in that direction before being inundated with salt and sulfur.

Exhortation (v 33): "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." We will need to show faith and trust in the mercy of God and Jesus, and be willing to put our hand in the hand of the angel when summoned to judgment. Poss there could be an initial choice as to whether or not to go. [See LD 34-38; WGos 620-622.]

This is obviously one of the shortest verses in the Bible, and in it Jesus is commanding us to remember someone whose name we never knew! Neither her name, nor anything she ever said or did is recorded in Scripture, and yet the Lord wants us to remember her. There is one exception to the above statement, of course, and this is the key. When God tried to save Lot and his family from the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, "his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt" (Gen 19:26).

This strange miracle -- whether it was an instantaneous chemical transmutation, or a sudden burial by erupting bodies of salt, or a gradual petrifaction process as her body was buried and later transformed in a fall of volcanic ash -- really happened, for the Lord Jesus thus confirmed it, as he did the destruction of Sodom, itself (Luk 17:28,29)! The reason why he commands us to remember it and profit by its lesson is given in the next verse: "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" (Luk 17:33).

This same paradoxical formula is given by Christ in very similar terminology no less than five other times in the four gospels (Mat 10:39; 16:25; Mar 8:35; Luk 9:24; Joh 12:25), a fact which surely indicates its preeminent importance.

Therefore, one should remember Lot's wife, whenever he or she is tempted to hang on to a comfortable life style in a wicked world. Lot, himself, was a rather worldly-minded believer, but when he consented to flee the doomed city, his wife lagged "behind him," and kept "looking back," grieving over the imminent loss of her material comforts and high social position among her ungodly neighbors. Finally, the Lord's longsuffering patience was ended, and her carnal desire to save her old life caused her to lose her whole life. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (sw 'life')?" (Mat 16:26).

Luk 17:34

TAKEN: As in vv 35,36, "paralambano" = to take to oneself, as a wife (cp Mat 1:20,24). Sw in Joh 14:3.

Luk 17:37

WHERE?: Where left? Left to the vultures, left as dead! Cp Mat 25:10-12.

DEAD BODY: Jerusalem, destroyed by Romans.

VULTURES: Romans: Deu 28:49.

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