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Bible Commentaries
Luke 17

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Verses 1-4

Stumbling Blocks

The Lord warns His disciples of coming stumbling blocks. He says this in view of the Pharisees that are still under His hearing. These are the people who do not listen to Moses and the prophets, but to their own interpretations of them. However, they do call upon Moses and the prophets and that makes them so dangerous. Therefore the Lord warns His disciples of those who cause people to stumble.

He foretells them that there will be no escape from situations where they will face great temptations and deceptions that will test their faith in Him. If their eyes of faith are not constantly focused on Him, they will stumble and will follow such deceivers.

The Lord addresses His disciples in their responsibility. The words “woe to him through whom they come” are especially addressed to the religious leaders, who will try to prevent the disciples to follow a rejected Lord in His kingdom. He judges sharp about people who seem to serve God, but who are deceivers of those who want to follow Him in simple faith.

The Lord does not think only of the religious leaders. He also warns the disciples that they have to take care of themselves. A disciple is also capable of doing wrong things and can become a stumbling block for someone else. It is no excuse when we say that the other person is weak when he stumbles because of our behavior. It is precisely because this other person is weak that this must be a reason to help him and to make sure that we do not bring him to sin.

The stumbling block the Lord points to here, is the lack of willingness to go to a brother who sins. If we don’t go to him, the sinning brother is encouraged to think that sin doesn’t matter, and what will he fall into then?

Another stumbling block is that we do not forgive a brother who has sinned against us. If we tell others in detail about the sin that has been committed, it will be a stumbling block or blockade for forgiveness and restoration. We should not tell others what happened, but rebuke the brother in love. True brotherly love will convince the other of his sin, for through his sin the brother is not in fellowship with God, but in the power of satan.

If there is repentance, he must forgive his brother. He must let him know that it is good between him and God and between each other through his confession (1 John 1:9) and let him know this by having brotherly contact with him again (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:8). Cooled relationships by a done, but also confessed sin blocks real forgiveness.

Another stumbling block is to set a limit to forgiveness. The Lord points this out when He speaks of sinning “seven times”. The number, seven times, indicates that the other is completely wrong. The fact that everything happens in one day makes the test even greater. It is clear, however, that humanly speaking it is a hopeless case. Forgiveness does not seem to make any sense.

Then let us remember that in His indefatigable grace, God is thus dealing with us. If it wasn’t so, it would be completely hopeless for us, not only when we were still in our sins, but also now as believers. In the same way as God has dealt and acted with us, we must also deal with our brother.

Verses 5-10

Unworthy Slaves

What the Lord has said about forgiveness every time there has been sinned and repentance is expressed about it, is followed by the question of the apostles to increase their faith. They feel that to be able to act like this, they need a lot of faith.

Luke here changes the form of address from disciples to “apostles”. They are the spiritual leaders in the kingdom. They must set an example in these things. It is precisely in this place of responsibility that it is important to be humble, to be the least, to be the servant of all. It may also have to do with the special authority that the apostles have received from the Lord to forgive sins (John 20:23). This has nothing to do with forgiveness of sins for eternity. This forgiveness can only be given by God on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross and faith therein.

For the earth there is a forgiveness that people can give to others. First, if it is a sin against someone personally, as has been suggested by the Lord before. Secondly, more generally when it comes to sins that have not been committed against someone personally or sins that can no longer be confessed to the person against whom they have been committed. Then a man can relieve the burden of his conscience from a believer who lives with the Lord. The believer can assure him on the basis of God’s Word that God forgives sins when there is repentance.

The Lord shows that it is not the quantity of faith that matters, but whether it is living faith. A mustard seed is small, but it is alive. If there is living faith, it is capable of supernatural things. The Lord does not say that by faith we should uproot a mulberry tree and then plant it in the sea. What He wants to teach us is that we can only be redeemed from our own ‘I’ by faith. That own ‘I’ is stuck deep in our soul with its roots. That tree has to get out. This can only be done by faith that focuses on Christ, so that He increases and we start thinking smaller and smaller about ourselves (cf. John 3:30).

Then the Lord warns of another danger: that there could be boasting about deeds we have done in faith. If in faith we do not let our own ‘I’ work and if we have committed deeds of faith, then that is something we could boast about. To this end, the Lord tells us that we are only slaves engaged in the task given to us. If we have been able to do anything in faith, we should not think that we have made God our Servant, Who, because of our work, will let us directly sit down to eat to enjoy our achievements.

The slave must know his place. He is at his master’s complete and constant disposal. When he finishes the work for his master outside, he must continue inside to serve his master. The service to the master is paramount and asks everything. Only when the Master’s wishes have been fulfilled to his satisfaction can the slave go to eat and drink. That’s not hard, it’s normal. There is no thanks to the slave. Surely he only did what he was told to do, didn’t he? He gets no thanks for that.

Grace in no way weakens our obligations. Certainly, we may know that the Lord will reward all the good we have done for Him. But is He obliged to do so? And that is what this is all about. We are not entitled to anything as slaves of the Lord. Is it not already an enormous privilege to serve such a Lord Who with all the love of His heart has freed us from the power of darkness and sin at the expense of His own life? What a moderation it would be to assume that He had to reward us for what we do for Him. We owe our lives to Him.

When we have done what we should do, we also realize that there was a lot that wasn’t as it should have been. It should not be difficult to say in all honesty that we are “unworthy slaves”. The progress of the Lord’s work is not dependent on us. He works it through us as His slaves. Often we are unwilling or ignorant. That He continues with us is as great a proof of grace as He ever began with us. He knew what He began when He saved us, and yet He did it. That makes Him so great. For that He is worth all worship. This is reflected in the next history.

Verses 11-19

Cleansing of Ten Leprous Men

Luke reminds us again that the Lord is on his way to Jerusalem to die there. His route has been determined. On this route are Samaria and Galilee. The disciples are not mentioned. In the history with the ten leprous men it is about how someone becomes a worshiping disciple.

When the Lord comes into a village, He meets ten leprous men. These men, in accordance with the law of the leper, remain standing at a distance (Leviticus 13:45-1 Corinthians :). But instead of shouting ‘unclean, unclean’, they call to the Lord that He will have mercy for them. They shout more in their distress than in faith. Yet that is enough to draw His attention to Himself.

And He does not only hear them; He also sees them. He sees how miserable they are. He does not speak a word of healing, as in a previous case of healing, nor does he touch them (Luke 5:13). He orders them to go to the priests and show themselves to them. He sends them to the priests who will soon condemn Him to death (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64). His command means as much as ‘you are healed’. It would have been useless to have them declared unclean by the priest. They knew that.

They accept the word of the Lord and go away in that conviction and are healed on the way. The Lord, by His command, challenges the faith of these men, while also maintaining the prescriptions of the law for those under the law. The law requires that a person who has been healed from the plague of leprosy, without saying how this healing could happen, will show himself to the priest to be cleansed. This is carefully described in detail in Leviticus 14.

It is an important prescription that these lepers must follow, for thus it becomes a testimony of the power of God who now works on earth. Because, of course, the question will arise: How are these lepers healed? This will in this case immediately draw attention to the fact that the Christ of God is present and that He truly reveals the power of God in grace.

They have to go first. They do not see anything on their bodies when they are told to go, but when they go, it happens that they are cleansed. When one of the ten, a Samaritan, sees that he is healed, he does not walk on to the priests. He returns to the Lord, for in Him He has found God. He recognizes that Christ is the source of God’s blessing.

The Samaritan is outside Judaism and therefore not entangled in the traditions with which the Pharisees imprison the people. He is therefore free to go back to the Lord. The other nine could say that he is presumptuous, disobedient, and they are not. For they act according to the word of the Lord and he is not. He told them clearly that they had to go and show themselves to the priests. However, he is the only one who understands that the Lord Jesus is God. Therefore he goes back to show himself to Him, to throw himself down before Him at His feet and to thank Him. He no longer has to stand at a distance.

The Lord sees the one and asks for the nine others. He has cleansed all ten of them of their leprosy, but the nine have only benefited from His power and are content to remain Jews. They do not leave the old sheepfold, but remain locked up in the legal system. Neither in Him nor in the power of God have they seen anything attractive. After having experienced the advantage of it, they carry on in the same old way. There is no thanks to Him in them.

The Lord asks where they are, a question that still has to be asked today. Where do Christians still come together with the aim of worshiping Him and God for the great work that He accomplished on the cross for their purification?

He emphasizes the difference between the nine and the one by asking for it, more by remarking, that only this one stranger gives glory to God. He expresses his disappointment that the nine Jews, the members of His people, did not go to God. At the same time he emphasizes the gratitude of him who stands outside the people of God, but has now in reality become part of them.

The Lord has an additional blessing for the Samaritan, for only he receives the word of salvation from Him, while the nine have only received the announcement of the cleansing of their leprosy. He no longer says a word about showing themselves to the priest. The Samaritan has found God. In the healing of his leprosy he has experienced the gracious power of God, a power he has recognized in Christ and because of what he has given glory to Him.

Verses 20-21

The Kingdom of God Is in Christ

The Pharisees have a question. They want to know when the kingdom of God will come. They think, they are ready for the kingdom. They think, the question is only when the kingdom will be ready for them. It is a question of blind unbelief. It’s like asking for a sign. They have no eyes to see, because they are blind and because they are blind, they do not see the kingdom of God, because it “is not coming with signs to be observed“. By this, the Lord means that it does not come into external power and glory.

Yet He has provided an abundance of evidence that the kingdom of God is present among them, as it is present in His Person. However, they do not recognize God’s King in Him, although He revealed the true power of the kingdom in the many victories over satan and over all the consequences of sin in this world. The true power of the kingdom is revealed in the dependent and obedient Man, in the never failing power of God that is working through Him.

They are blind to all of this. They do not appreciate it because they do not appreciate God. As a people they long for what would exalt them and destroy the enemies, but they do not long for what will glorify God and humiliate man. Therefore, the Lord shows them in His answer that, from the time of His rejection until He returns to glory, it is not a matter of “Look, here [it is]!’ or, ‘There [it is]!”, but of faith to acknowledge the glory of His Person and to see that the power working in Him is the power of God.

The kingdom of God is in their midst and they do not see it because they do not see Him. They think little about the Lord Jesus. This is the downfall for anyone who hears the testimony, but refuses to accept it.

Luke speaks of the kingdom of God, not of the kingdom of heaven. Only Matthew speaks of the kingdom of heaven, and he says nowhere, as long as the Lord was on earth, that the kingdom of heaven had come. He does say, however, in accordance with what Luke says here, that the Lord said: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).

The kingdom of God was there when Christ was on earth. He proved this by revealing the power of the Spirit in countless victories over satan. The kingdom of heaven came only after He went to heaven, and from heaven began His hidden reign over the earth. When He returns to glory, He will exercise that government in public form, and there will be no difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. Then will the kingdom come in power and glory and be established.

Verses 22-25

The Days of the Son of Man

The Lord addresses the Word to His disciples. For the Pharisees, He has no further information about the kingdom. For His disciples He does have further teaching about the kingdom of God in its future form and even more about the days that precede it. These will be days when they will long for one of those days they enjoyed during the time of the Lord’s presence on earth.

To His disciples He can speak freely about the future form of the kingdom, that is the form to which the thinking of the Pharisees was limited. The disciples had accepted the Lord by faith, and however little insight they might have, they understood that the kingdom of God was among them. Therefore He can give them divine light about the future, when He will visibly establish the kingdom.

He warns them not to be deceived. Just before His coming there will be many false christs who present themselves as the promised Messiah. He points out that one will say, “Look there! Look here!”. He has just said to the Pharisees that this will not be said (Luke 17:21) because He, the King of God, stood before them in Person.

The Lord gives His disciples insight into the way He comes. They don’t have to listen to all kinds of misleading voices, because when He comes, it will be unmistakably clear that it’s Him. They don’t have to think they should search for Him, as if He will be somewhere in a hidden place. He comes like lightning lightens over the whole earth. Every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). No one will have to tell another that He is there. His glory and majesty will then be perceptible to all, while His glory can now only be seen by faith (John 1:14). Then it is “His day”.

Before that, He must first suffer a lot and be rejected by this generation. Their wickedness and rebellion against God must reach their summit. Then comes the judgment.

Verses 26-33

The Days of Noah and of Lot

The Lord compares the days of the Son of Man with the days of Noah. Then people lived their own lives in a way that God had to say that the earth was corrupt before Him and that it was full of violence (Genesis 6:11-2 Kings :). The days of the Son of Man are the days when He exercises His dominion as the Son of Man over creation. That reign will begin with the righteous judgment of sin.

In Luke 17:22, “the days of the Son of Man” means the days when the Lord Jesus was on earth. In Luke 17:26, “the days of the Son of Man” are the days preceding His second coming to earth. These are the days in which we also live. Next comes “His day” (Luke 17:24), the period that refers to His reign in glory.

That we too live in the days before His coming, we see from the references to the days of Noah and of Lot. Those days were characterized by the same things that characterize our days. The Lord describes the life of the days of Noah from a different perspective than in Genesis. He points to the everyday life of ordinary people. That life consisted of eating and drinking and marrying. You might ask yourself why this should be judged. Surely, these are not sinful things, but all orders set by God Himself, aren’t they? That is true, but when these things make up man’s life and they have excluded God from their world, they are evil activities. Therefore the judgment has come upon all, no one has escaped.

The Lord also refers to the days of Lot. We know from Genesis what kind of a depraved city Lot lived in. But also here the Lord presents Sodom as a city in which people lived to whom the daily activities consisted of various activities that were not in themselves wrong or sinful. Remarkable is that He no longer speaks about marriage. That had ended in the wicked Sodom.

The judgment is because they do all ordinary activities without even giving God a place whatever in them. Ban God from daily life and judgment comes. Sodom has experienced that. Lot could be saved with difficulty. He even had to be dragged along (Genesis 19:16), because he delayed leaving Sodom. The judgment is upon all come, no one is escaped.

The judgment of the earth and the judgment of Sodom, the two examples of total and final judgment, represent the situation that will also arise on the day the Lord Jesus appears as the Son of Man. In the case of Noah, a warning has preceded it. For one hundred and twenty years he built on the ark and all this time he preached that the judgment would come (2 Peter 2:5), but they did not believe him. Therefore, the judgment for all those people has suddenly come. The judgment about Sodom has also suddenly come, with only a warning for Lot and his family. Likewise, the coming of the Son of Man to judge will suddenly take place (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Then will all those who have corrupted the earth become corrupt (Revelation 11:18).

When the Son of Man comes, there is no time to lose. Then it will become clear what the heart is focused on. The Lord warns to find nothing important. Any delay in fleeing is fatal. Delay is caused when someone thinks of valuable things they have at home. Wherever someone is, there is only one thing important at that moment and that is saving their life. Anyone who, despite the seriousness of the situation, chooses for his goods, proves that these things are idols for them. They have him in control. The result is that he dies.

Faithfulness to the Lord and to His testimony shall be true and saving wisdom. Anyone who finds some earthly possession more important than his life will lose his life. The Lord remembers to the wife of Lot. She could not come loose from Sodom in her heart, and that was fatal to her (Genesis 19:17; Genesis 19:26). Her heart was at the place where God brought judgment.

How is that with us? He who thinks he can hold on to life in this world, while the Lord says he must let go of it, will lose his life. Whoever lets go of his life and gives it into the hand of the Lord, will be allowed to preserve it.

Verses 34-37

Taken or Left

God knows who really are disciples of the Lord Jesus and who are only disciples in appearance. Whosoever does not belong to Him, He takes them away by judgment. Those who do belong to Him will stay behind to enter the kingdom of peace.

In His judgment he distinguishes between the closest relationships, such as those of man and wife who lie together in bed during the night. Another scene is that of two women grinding flour in the morning to bake bread. One of them will also be taken away by the judgment, while the other remains behind to enter the kingdom of peace. Another scene is the work on the field that two people are working on during the day. There, too, the separation takes place.

Thus we see three situations in which people will find themselves when the Lord appears suddenly: at night, in the morning, and during the day. It shows that His coming is seen everywhere on earth. In one part of the hemisphere it is night and people lie on their bed, in the other hemisphere it is day and people are at work.

The character of the judgment makes it clear that this is not about the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70. We see the hand of God Who knows to distinguish between what He must take away by judgment and must save to enter the realm of peace. Nor is it the judgment of the dead, but a judgment on earth: they are in a bed, at the mill, in the field.

The disciples ask where the judgment will take place. The Lord answers that it will be where the dead body, the bait, is. A dead body is a body without a spirit. It represents the wicked Israel that has rejected God in Christ. It is also every other dead body, wherever it is, because it is generally applicable to every human being individually. On anyone who has no life out of God and is therefore a dead body, judgment will descend as vultures to whom prey does not escape because that prey is lifeless.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/luke-17.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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