Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Luke 17

Verse 1-2

A Lesson on Offenses and Forgiveness.

On offenses:

v. 1. Then said He unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come; but woe unto him through whom they come!

v. 2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones.

In this chapter we have a number of lessons which were given, and incidents which took place, during the last journey of the Lord to Jerusalem. He did not take the direct route, but traveled back and forth in Southern Galilee and into Samaria, as occasion offered. The Pharisees had been reproved and silenced once more, and Jesus had leisure to teach His disciples without interference. See Mat_18:6-7. It is not possible, Jesus says, for offenses not to come. The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, and all the evil thoughts that take their rise in the heart come forth and show themselves in evil deeds, unless a person is on the watch all the time to subdue every sinful movement. But the majority of people in the world have no interest in doing this. So long as they do not come into conflict with the law of the state, they live and act pretty well as they choose. And the result is that occasions for stumbling are given. Things are done continually in the world at which the sincere disciples of Christ take justifiable offense, since they are dishonorable to the Lord and harmful to the Church. To these offenses belong all the deliberate and unpremeditated blasphemies of the Lord and His Word, the many transgressions of the Sixth Commandment in word, dress, picture, and deed, and other sins. The fact, however, that offenses are inevitable does not excuse the offender nor condone his sin, but the Lord pronounces a woe upon him. It would be a more fortunate end for such a one, it would be more to his advantage, if a millstone were placed about his neck, one of the two small millstones such as were in use for grinding in the houses, and that he were thrown out into the sea. This fate would be preferable to the other, by which the sinner that has offended would be condemned into the deepest abyss of hell. For the offense against one of the little ones of the Lord, against the children and the simple believers in the Scripture and its truths, belongs to the transgressions of the first rank. If the children of the world were at all conscious of the guilt and the damnation they load upon themselves by the many methods which they have devised for tripping the feet of the unwary, they would probably be more careful with the opportunities for sin in both the gross and fine forms which they are holding out on all sides, in theaters, dance-halls, pool-rooms, saloons, through suggestive pictures and stories, and in thousands of other forms.

Verses 3-6

Concerning forgiveness:

v. 3. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

v. 4. And if he trespass against thee seven times a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him.

v. 5. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

v. 6. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it should obey you.

The children of the world make it a point literally to scandalize, give offense with deliberate intent to hurt and to lead into sin. But among Christians it also happens, and frequently, that one brother offends the other, grieves him by some unpremeditated sin or in a moment of weakness. For that reason they should take heed, they should be on the lookout as regards themselves all the time, lest they themselves become guilty and scandalize a brother. And if a brother offends in any respect, the Christian that knows of the sin should earnestly admonish him, Mat_18:21-22. As soon as the brother thereupon repents of his sin, the Christian should forgive him, fully and freely, even though the same process be repeated seven times a day. The heart of the believers should partake of the nature of God's and Christ's, or God's in Christ, which knows neither end nor limit. Whenever the confession comes: I am sorry, then should the assurance be given in return that the matter is forgiven. Such a. measure of love for the erring brother, it is true, requires an unusual amount of love, and therefore a corresponding amount of faith. The apostles were conscious of that fact; as matters stood then, they hardly believed themselves equal to the task proposed by Christ. And so, after mulling over the admonition for a while, they put the request to Him to add to their faith. This prayer is necessary for every Christian every day, if he wants his love to keep pace with the many demands that are placed upon it. Faith must grow at the same rate as love. A Christian will search ever more diligently, he will plunge ever more deeply into the depths of the love of God in Jesus the Savior. Only in that way will he be able to practice the forgiveness toward his brother which is demanded by the discipleship of Christ. The Lord took the occasion to enlarge upon one of His favorite topics, that of the strength of faith. If they had faith only as large as the seed of a mustard-plant or tree, they would have the power to say to the fig mulberry or sycamore fig-tree standing before them that it should tear itself out by the roots and plant itself in the sea, and it would obey without question. Note: To grow in faith, in the power of faith, must be the earnest ambition of every Christian. Sincere prayer to the Lord, unwavering trust in His promises, a constant contemplation of His Word: those are the methods by which growth in faith may be accomplished.

Verses 7-10

No merit in works:

v. 7. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat;

v. 8. and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken, and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?

v. 9. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.

v. 10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.

Since faith, according to the Lord's own explanation, shows itself in good works, in deeds of mercy and forgiveness and other miraculous acts such as are impossible without faith, the thought might have arisen in the hearts of the disciples that works were therefore meritorious, that they earned something in the sight of God. But this thought the Lord precludes by a parabolic narrative, a parallel with strong application. "Christ's purpose is not to teach in what spirit God deals with His servants, but to teach rather in what spirit we should serve God. " If a master has a slave that has been plowing or doing the work of a herder out in the field, and this servant comes home in the evening, he will not say to him: Go at once and get your supper. The master will continue to require the services of the slave, bidding him first prepare the supper for the master, then gird up his clothes about him and wait at the table. After the lord of the house has eaten and drunken, then the slave may also have his supper. The master would not think of thanking the slave for the work he has thus performed, for the service was taken as a matter of course; it was all in the day's work. The picture is not too harsh or overdrawn, but is taken from conditions which were usual in the time of Christ throughout the Roman Empire. Now the Lord makes the application, saying that even so all believers, when they have done all that they were commanded to do, which includes all the demands which grow out of all situations confronting men at all times, when they have done their full duty (if that were possible), yet they will have nothing to boast of, nothing for which they could demand anything of God in return. They are still unprofitable servants; they have but done that which was expected of them as their duty. There is no merit or worthiness before God in them even then. If God looks upon the good works of the Christians with a kindly countenance and praises and rewards them, that is not a matter of merit, but of free grace. All the greater is our obligation of love.

Verses 11-14

The Ten Lepers.

The cleansing:

v. 11. And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

v. 12. And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off;

v. 13. and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

v. 14. And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass that, as they went, they were cleansed.

Jesus did not travel to Jerusalem by the shortest route, but journeyed by easy stages along the boundary between Galilee and Samaria, now in the one, then again in the other province, as occasion offered, and He found villages which had not yet heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now when He was about to enter into a village in that region, ten leprous men came out to meet Him. Observing the strict rule concerning infection, they did not come all the way to Christ, but stood at some distance, near enough, however, that their hoarse voice might be heard. And they called in unison, to increase the carrying power of their prayer: Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us! That was a prayer of faith. They knew Jesus through the medium of the wonderful stories that had been told about Him. The message concerning Christ had worked faith in their hearts. Their plea for mercy was an expression of this faith. "This is testified to by their words, when they say: Have mercy on us! He that seeks mercy will surely not buy and barter it, but seeks only grace and mercy, as one that is unworthy of it and most assuredly merits something entirely different. " And Jesus, seeing them, and fully aware of their miserable plight, ordered them to show themselves to the priests. It was commanded in the Law of Moses that such persons as supposed themselves to be cured of the dreadful disease of leprosy or had actually been cured, must present themselves to one of the priests on duty at the sanctuary, in order that their condition might be established. For if they had been cured of their sickness, they were required to bring certain prescribed sacrifices connected with their cleansing, Lev_13:2; Lev_14:2. Jesus did not heal the sick men outright, in order not to arouse the opposition of the priests unduly, for they would have had the power, if they so choose for enmity toward Him, to declare that the men were still leprous. Jesus combined tact and discretion with kindness and mercy. Therefore it happened that the men became clean after they had left His presence, while on their way to the sanctuary. Mark that their going, in these circumstances, was an act of faith. Without seeing the miracle, they believed that it would happen to them. And so it came about.

Verses 15-19

The grateful Samaritan:

v. 15. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

v. 16. and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks; and he was a Samaritan.

v. 17. And Jesus, answering, said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?

v. 18. There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger.

v. 19. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.

Ten lepers had shown faith; ten lepers had been healed. But out of that entire number only one felt the obligation of thankfulness. Only one, seeing what a miracle had been done in his case, felt the need of turning back and giving thanks to the Healer. This man sought the Lord, who was probably still in the village, meanwhile praising God loudly and with fully restored voice. And when he found Jesus, he fell down on his face before Him, at His feet, in complete surrender, signifying his willingness to be the Lord's servant forever. And all the while his mouth poured forth words of thankfulness. And yet this man, who thus put to shame his former companions in misery, was a Samaritan. a member of the race which was despised by the Jews and Galileans. The incident made a deep impression upon Jesus. In a bitter cry over the ingratitude of the former lepers He said: Is it not that ten were cleansed? But the nine, where are they? Were there not found such as would turn back to give glory to God but only this stranger, this man of a different race, and one that is ordinarily looked down upon by the Jews? "That is the true worship of God, to come back, to praise God with a loud voice. That is the greatest work in heaven and earth, and also the only one which we may show God; for of the others He has no need, neither does He receive them: only to be loved and praised by us, that He likes... But that is terrible, that the Lord just knows that ten have been cleansed, a fact they had not reckoned with; and He does not hold His peace about it, but asks for them and seeks them: Where are the nine? O what a terror that will be when at that time they will feel the question and have to answer where they went when they did not give honor to God! We have all vowed in Baptism to follow Christ and His doctrine; no one has vowed to follow the Pope, bishops, and clerics. Thus Christ has altogether rejected and prohibited the doctrine of men. " This question is a very important and serious one for all Christians. The gifts of God which we have received from Him through the means of grace during our whole life amount to far more than a cleansing from bodily leprosy. We have received, and are continually receiving, the riches of God's unmerited love and mercy Sunday after Sunday, day by day. And yet we are very dilatory about the gratitude which we owe to Him in thoughts, words, and deeds. The Lord will think kindly of us for any show of appreciation, as He showed in this instance. For He dismissed the Samaritan with the words: Arise, go thy way; thy faith has healed and saved thee. Jesus does not refer to the faith of the others, which had been extinguished in the midst of their newly found happiness. He praises only the faith of him that. remained faithful. Those who forget His kindness He also forgets. Many a person has come to faith, had the beginning of faith in his heart, learned to pray in trouble, to trust in God for help; but later the same person, by base ingratitude, has suffocated the young plant of spiritual life. Faith for a time, followed by backsliding, results in the loss of faith and also of the mercy of God. Only lasting, grateful faith will provide lasting help and will save a person in body and soul.

Verses 20-25

Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

Of the coming of the kingdom:

v. 20.And when He was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation;

v. 21. neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

v. 22. And He said unto the disciples, The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of an, and ye shall not see it.

v. 23. And they shall say to you, See here; or, See there; go not after them, nor follow them.

v. 24. For as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven shineth unto the other part under heaven, so shall also the Son of Man be in His day.

v. 25. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

The resentful, peevish attitude of the Pharisees came to the front with increasing frequency. Here Jesus was approached by them with a question which was intended to make Him an object of ridicule. His continual reference to the coming of the Kingdom provoked the question. The Pharisees wanted to know when the kingdom of God would come. They wanted to know the time, they wanted visible evidence. For their idea of the kingdom of Christ or of the Messiah was that of the modern millennialists, of a visible kingdom, a physical entity, brought into being by a political or social revolution and upheaval. But Jesus corrected their foolish ideas, telling them that the kingdom of God does not come with observation, in a way or mode that everyone can see and measure it. It cannot be observed with the eye, it is not a vulgar, physical, visible body or realm. To attempt to fix its definite position, its limits, its boundaries in the world by the application of the senses, by sight, is foolish; for the kingdom of God is within, in the hearts of the believers. He that accepts the mercy of the King of grace is a member of the Kingdom of Grace, but by faith only, which is in the heart and cannot be seen by human beings. And all external signs of the presence of the Kingdom and its power in the hearts of the believers are not infallible, since these same signs may be feigned by such as are hypocrites. Upon this spiritual, invisible Kingdom the thoughts and minds of men Should be set. Only he that is a member of the Kingdom of Grace here will be a member of the Kingdom of Glory up yonder.

The disciples themselves were not at all clear in this matter, they were still battling with carnal ideas as to the kingdom of the Messiah, and therefore the Lord gives them a few signs of the deceiver's methods. For it was the Lord's Constant custom to support and comfort the minds of His disciples. Days will come when they would desire and wish for only one day of the revelation of the perfect glory of heaven, when just one day's experience of the bliss to be would give them new strength to bear the trials and persecutions of the world. But the final revelation will not come until the day fixed by the decree of God. Then there will be false prophets and false Christs Who will point and say: Lo, here is Christ; lo, there! See Mat_24:23; Mar_13:21. The believers must not permit themselves to be deceived by such talk, for it will be a temptation. a delusion, and a snare. As for Christ, His final advent will partake of the nature of the lightning. In one moment He will shine, with all the glory of His splendor, from this quarter under heaven unto that; He will be visible to all people of the earth. But before this glorious consummation there will be a long time of waiting and watching for the believers, with a sore trial for their patience. First of all the great obligation rests upon the Lord to suffer in the great Passion, to be rejected by the present generation. Christ must bear His cross first, and His Church, the members of His kingdom, will be. come partakers of this suffering, before the great day of glory dawns.

Verses 26-30

The suddenness of Christ's advent:

v. 26. And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.

v. 27. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the Flood came, and destroyed them all.

v. 28. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;

v. 29. but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

v. 30. Even thus shall, it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

The distinguishing characteristic of the time just preceding the final advent of Christ, the Son of Man, will be an indifferent carelessness. The days of Noah are an example. The warning had gone out through the mouth of this preacher of righteousness that the people should repent of their foolish ways. But they gave so little heed to the warning that they continued in all the manner of complete abandon in the desires of the flesh up to the very hour of the cataclysm: they ate, they drank, they married, they were married; men and women, the entire generation, past all hope of redemption. And then, with the sudden frightfulness that has characterized the judgments of God in similar situations, came the day on which Noah entered into the ark; then came the Flood and destroyed them all. And the days of Lot are another example of the utter, blind heedlessness of the people. In Sodom and Gomorrah the inhabitants continued in the delights of the flesh as well as in all their lines of business, work, and endeavor: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, up to the very hour of the catastrophe that overwhelmed the cities, when it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The people of the last times will not have learned their lesson from the previous calamities; when the Son of Man will be revealed before their astonished, horrified eyes on the last day, He will find them as unprepared for His coming, as deeply steeped in the foolishness of the Noachites and of the Sodomites as any generation ever was.

Verses 31-37

Final warnings:

v. 31. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

v. 32. Remember Lot's wife.

v. 33. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

v. 34. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

v. 35. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

v. 36. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

v. 37. And they answered and said unto Him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

The thought which stands out from the Lord's warning is this, that it will be too late to prepare for the Lord's coming when His hour has come, when the Judgment bursts upon the world. The suddenness of the breaking of Judgment Day will take every person where he just happens to be at that time. A man will be up on the flat roof of the house. He will neither have, nor should he attempt to take, time to go down and get any instruments or possessions. A man will be out in the field. He also should not turn back behind him for anything of this world's goods that he may have valued. As when an army of the enemy makes a sudden successful assault and only precipitate flight will save the inhabitants, he that turns back for money, clothes, or other goods is lost, so the person whose mind is still attached to the things of this world on the last day is beyond hope of salvation. The example of Lot's wife should be before the minds of the believers at all times. Had she not turned behind her to satisfy her curiosity, she might have saved her soul with the rest. Her hesitation proved her destruction. See Mat_16:25; Mar_8:35; Luk_9:24. He that in the last emergency will have nothing in mind but the saving of this earthly life and the goods that are necessary for its preservation, will lose forever the true life in and with God; but he whose desires are free from all love for this world and what it has to offer, that has denied himself and all that this life might have given him, he will save his life, the life in God, his soul and its eternal salvation. Christ repeats this warning once more, with great emphasis. In that same night two men will be occupying the same bed, of whom one will be accepted and the other rejected. Two women will be grinding flour at the same mill; one will be accepted, the other will be rejected. Two men will be in the field; the one will be accepted, the other will be rejected. And the emphasis of the Lord was not without its effect upon the disciples. In awe and fear, they barely breathe the question: Where, Lord? Where will all this happen? And He told them: Where the dead body is, there will the eagles gather themselves together. The world, especially in the last days, will be, and today is, like a decaying carcass, whose stench rises up into the heavens. And judgment and destruction will come upon the entire spiritually dead and morally rotten human race. It is a strong, but fitting figure, revealing the world as it is, in its true condition, without a redeeming feature to recommend it in the sight of God.

Summary.Christ gives a lesson concerning offenses and forgiveness, heals the ten lepers, receiving the thanks of one, and gives a discourse concerning the kingdom of God and the coming to Judgment.

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Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 17". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/luke-17.html. 1921-23.