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6. Parabolic Address to the Disciples concerning Genuine Faith, which overcomes Offences (Luke 17:1-10)
1Then said he unto the [his1] disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend [or, cause to offend] one of these little ones. 3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass againtst thee, rebuke him; 4and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee,2 saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. 5And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6And 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.
7But which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by [immediately], when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat 8[recline at table]? 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 9shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that [the3] servant because he did the things that were commanded him4? I trow not.5 10So 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.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 17:1. Then said He.—It remains a difficult question whether we, in Luke 17:1-10, meet with a connected discourse of the Saviour or a collection of sayings which are here communicated without historical connection, and are arranged together chrestomathically by a somewhat loose thread. We might be almost tempted to see here not much more than a brief summary of the teachings which the Saviour, according to Matthew 18:6 seq., gave more in detail on another occasion. But if we consider that the parable of the Ploughing Servant, Luke 17:7-10, is entirely peculiar to Luke; that the parabolic expression of the sycamine tree may have been in a modified form repeatedly used by the Saviour (comp. Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21); that moreover the precept, Luke 17:3-4, is not exactly equivalent in substance with Matthew 18:21-22, and that the probable temper of the Pharisees after that which they had heard, Luke 15:1 seq., afforded a natural occasion for the warning against σκάνδαλα, we then see the scruples against the internal unity of Luke 17:1-10, vanish more and more. Several attempts to explain the connection of the different parts of the discourse in an internally probable manner are found in Stier, R. J. iii. p. 390. Comp. Lange, L. J. iii. p. 466.
Unto His disciples.—Comp. 16:1. Doubtless to be distinguished from the ἀπόστολοι, Luke 17:5, since now it is rather in part publicans only lately converted, Luke 15:1, who for this reason are named, as being yet weak in faith, μικροί, Luke 17:2.
Offences.—Perhaps with definite reference to what had just taken place, Luke 16:14. Σκάνδαλον, in the sense here meant, is that which the sincere disciple of the Lord with reason stumbles at, because it is dishonorable to the Lord and harmful to the church. The non-occurrence of these scandals is ἀνένδεκτον, disadvantageous or impossible, οὐκ ἐνδέχεται, non usu venit, Luke 13:33. It is of course understood that the Saviour speaks not of an absolute but of a relative necessity, proceeding from the sinful state of the world. But although the case is now by no means to be altered, yet this lessens not the responsibility of him who induces the coming and increase of the σκάνδαλα.
Luke 17:2. It were better for him.—The Perfects indicate that the Saviour will describe the condition of a man, around whose neck the millstone has been already hung, and who has been already drowned. He finds this fate, terrible as it is, yet still more desirable than if he were yet in life, in order (ἵνα) to give offence.—A millstone, λίθ. μυλικός, so must we doubtless read with Lachmann, Tischendorf, a. o., instead of μύλος ὀνικός, which appears to be taken from the Recepta, Matthew 18:6. The signification of the imagery is in both cases the same, only it must be remarked that here not only a simple drowning, but at the same time a sinking into the deepest abyss of hell, whose image the sea is, is meant Comp. further Lange on Matthew 18:6.
Luke 17:3. Take heed to yourselves.—According to the connection, “Take heed especially of the giving scandals, against which such heavy punishments are threatened.” Just such scandals they would give, if they were lacking in forgiving love. The Saviour foresees that, notwithstanding His endeavors to speak a word for the publicans, the chasm between these and the proud Pharisees will still continue. Therefore His new disciples must exhibit more than common love, if the friction with the others is not to be renewed every moment, and for this reason He now gives to them also the precept which He, according to Matthew 18:21-22, had previously already given in another form to Peter. If they were of one accord among themselves, and willing to forgive, then it could not be hard for them to take many a stone of stumbling out of the way even of their enemies.
Luke 17:3. If thy brother.—From the whole connection it appears that the Saviour is not speaking of sins in general, but particularly of such as one brother commits in intercourse with another. For this case He ordains no judicial rebuke, but a milder brotherly admonition (ἐπιτίμησον), a helping him to come right and to amend himself, in all long-suffering of love. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:14. If such correction brings him to humble acknowledgment of fault, forgiveness must not then be withheld, even if the trespass had already been six times repeated. If the Saviour here speaks only of a sevenfold trespass, He means essentially nothing else than when He spoke at another time of seventy times seven, and expresses therefore here also the qualitative infinity of forgiving love, in a symbolical number. But there prevails here greater moderation in the form of His saying, because He will not, by a seemingly overstrained requirement, repel and offend the μικροί, to whom He speaks. It is moreover worth while to compare the precept which He here gives for private intercourse, with that which He ordained for the exercise of discipline in the church, Matthew 18:15-18. To the individual brother, there is not permitted what at last may be allowed to the church, namely, to put one out as a publican and heathen. The forgiveness must be repeated as often as even the least trace of repentance is shown.
Luke 17:5. And the Apostles.—No wonder that in hearing such requirements of the Saviour, which really first of all concern themselves, the apostles feel a pressing necessity of inward strengthening, and with shame acknowledge how much they were yet lacking in that higher principle which could alone enable them in the severe conflict with flesh and blood really to gain the victory. As one man they utter the prayer for increase of faith; and it is noticeable how those who at other times could be so wretchedly divided by pride and emulation, now agree in so amiable a manner in this humble supplication, “really the sole example of such common so designated address in the Gospels,” Stier. As often, Luke here names Jesus emphatically The Lord, comp. Luke 7:31; Luke 22:61, et alic. in order to bring into view in what light He stood before the eyes of His apostles, when they felt themselves constrained to address themselves to Him with this supplication.
Increase our faith.—Literally, “Add faith to us,” πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν. With thankfulness they feel that they are not wholly lacking in faith, but at the same time they humbly consider that the intensive power of their faith is not yet great enough to enable them for such a work as was proposed to them, Luke 17:3-4. To understand here especially the faith of miracles (Kuinoel, a. o.), is entirely arbitrary. The Saviour’s answer also by no means requires this. It was something higher than external wonders; it was a victory over themselves that had just been spoken of, a triumph of love that could only be the fruit of an augmented faith. Whether they with this prayer desire a direct immediate strengthening of faith, is hard to state, but certain it is that the Saviour grants immediately a direct hearing to their prayer, and strengthens their faith, inasmuch as He gives them to hear first the word of encouragement (Luke 17:6), then afterwards also a word of humiliation (Luke 17:7-10).
Luke 17:6. If ye had faith.—The Saviour does not deny that they had any faith, but only gives them to feel how far they are removed from faith in the highest ideal sense, which alone can make them capable of fulfilling His own so strict requirement. How much faith accomplishes in the spiritual world, He indicates to them by pointing them to what alterations faith, when it is really necessary, brings forth in the natural world.—To this sycamine tree, δεικτικῶς. Perhaps a proof that this address was delivered in the open air, while the Saviour was continuing His journey. By a strong personification, the fig-tree is represented as a rational being which is capable of understanding such a command of faith, and obeying it. The συκάμινος, a tree frequently met with in Palestine. Comp. De Wette, Archäol., § 83. Perhaps, however, here the συκομορέα, Luke 19:4, is meant, which, like our oak, has a sturdy trunk and strong branches, deep and powerful roots, so that it is in a certain sense something as great to command such a tree, as to command a mountain: ἐκριζώθητι. Nay, the Saviour here expresses Himself still more strongly than in the parallel passage, Matthew 17:20, since the tree is not to sink itself, but actually to plant itself in the sea, where an ordinary tree can neither take root nor grow; and there is therefore a plain intimation, that often that which according to the ordinary laws of nature is entirely impossible, may in a higher order of things, in which faith has the dominion, come immediately to pass. As to the question how far we may expect a literal fulfilment of such promises, without falling into absurdities, Stier deserves to be compared on Matthew 17:20.
Luke 17:7. But which of you.—The old complaint of lack of connection with what precedes (De Wette), is, with an attentive psychological exegesis, sufficiently disposed of. The Saviour could not have known His disciples, if He had not at once considered that even the bare prospect of the accomplishment of so great deeds was capable of making them immediately again selfish and haughty. He therefore, without delay, calls their attention to the truth, that even if faith strengthened them to the highest deeds they on their part could never talk of a special merit. The parable of the Ploughing Servant, also, may have been occasioned by the view of one laboring at the plough, under the eyes of the Saviour and the Twelve, and the question: which of you, is the less incongruous, since at least the sons of Zebedee belonged to a class above the lowest, and might therefore well have δοῦλοι, comp. Mark 1:20.
A servant ploughing or feeding cattle.—Two kinds of work are mentioned, in order definitely to designate the apostolical labor to which they should afterwards be called, and that on its more difficult as well as on its easier side. By the servant, δοῦλος, we are not to understand a μίσθιος, but a serf, who was entirely dependent on His lord, and was most strictly bound to do in blind obedience what was imposed upon him, “Quid magni facit ad arandum positus, si arat; ad pascendum, si pascit?” Grotius.
When he is come.—Εὐθέως is not to be connected with ἐρεῖ (De Wette, a. o.), but with παρελθών (Stier, Meyer), as appears evident from the antithesis μετὰ ταῦτα in the following verse. The work must be indefatigably accomplished. Rest follows afterwards, and there is no need of hurrying for that. When the work on the field is accomplished the domestic labor must then be performed, before one can be seated, and the master’s meal of course precedes that of the servant. The slave must be content to remain girded till the lord has at his leisure finished eating and drinking.—Περιζωσάμενος, a figurative mode of speech taken from the long garments of the Orientals, which they had to lay aside or gird up, if they wished to journey or to do any work.
Luke 17:9. Doth he thank that servant?—A question of holy irony, by which the Saviour does not precisely mean to approve the fact, that so many acts of service in daily life are performed without even a word of thanks, but simply reminds of what is continually wont to happen. On the added οὐ δοκῶ, the stamp of originality is in our eyes too strongly impressed for us, with Lachmann and Tischendorf, to doubt its genuineness. For the interpolation there is no reason, but the omission is easy to explain. Meyer, ad loc.
Luke 17:10. So likewise ye.—The Saviour will have His disciples, even after their work is faithfully accomplished, not esteem themselves higher than such servants.—Which are commanded you.—As well in the field as in the house. Everything, even the hardest not excepted. They have even in this case, instead of expecting special thanks, to say in deep humility: we are unprofitable servants, ἀχρεῖοι, not “poor, insignificant” (Rosenmüller), and as little in the unfavorable sense in which this word is used, Matthew 25:30, but simply such as have done nothing more than might be expected from δοῦλοι. If they had accomplished less they would have been even the cause of loss; had they accomplished more than what they were charged with, they would then have been χρεῖοι; but now they could, as ἀχρεῖοι, expect, it is true, the food and drink which was the servant’s portion after his day’s work was done, but no reward such as was conceded only to an extraordinary service. The Saviour does not demand that His people shall despise and reprobate themselves; He says still less that He Himself is disposed to view them as unprofitable servants; He disputes least of all that a rich reward awaits them, such as He had promised, Luke 12:31; but here only every meritum e condigno is denied, and they are expressly reminded that whatever reward they may at any time receive, it is always a reward of grace, which they are in no case to demand. How very especially this instruction was adapted to the case of the Twelve, and how their faith would increase in the measure in which humility grew in their hearts, they have perhaps even at once felt, and certainly afterwards experienced.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. What the Saviour says about the necessity of σκάνδαλα, shows us what a living consciousness He had of the antithesis which exists between the holy kingdom of God and the sinful world of man. An ordinary moral teacher would have said: “It is not fit that scandals should come;” the King of the kingdom of God on the other hand: “It is not fit that offences should fail to come: even the stone of stumbling will be the means of effecting My exalted aim;” comp. 1 Corinthians 11:19. Yet although He here out of evil causes good to proceed, the moral responsibility of him who occasions the σκάνδαλον remains terribly great, and—is by far too little considered. We must, however, take good heed not to apply arbitrarily to offences taken, the Saviour’s threatening respecting offences given.
2. It is remarkable how, in this didactic discourse of the Saviour, the direction to exercise forgiving love and that to practise unfeigned humility are connected with one another by the prayer for increase of faith. In order to be able to exhibit love, faith must first exist, but in order for us to have faith, humility must first be deeper and more grounded. It appears here, at the same time, how the Saviour strengthens the faith of His people not in a magical but in an ethical way. He leads them towards the mountain heights of a more developed life of faith, through the obscure depths of self-knowledge. “Out of the narrow place into the broad, out of the depth unto the height.”
3. The Saviour’s declaration about the transplanting of the sycamine-tree, must not be overlooked when the question, so variously answered, in respect to the possibility of a continuous gift of miracles in the church of the Lord, is discussed. Without any limitation whatever, He connects the gift of miracles with faith, and the assertion that this promise is exclusively applicable to the Twelve and their immediate successors, is purely arbitrary. The hyperbolical form of the imagery does not entitle us to deny the essence of the fact. And if history offers no perfectly attested proofs of the literal fulfilment of the promise, this comes from the fact that the greatest hindrances which faith must overcome, do not commonly show themselves in the physical, but in the ethical, sphere. It is true, so high a development of the force of faith will ever belong to the rarer facts, so long as there is yet so great lack of that humility which the Saviour here so emphatically commends.
4. The saying respecting the unprofitable servant remains a locus classicus for the main doctrine of the gospel, and of Protestantism,—the doctrine of the justification of the sinner by grace alone; and it is therefore for this reason fully in its place in the Pauline gospel of Luke. If the existence of a thesaurus supererogationis were possible, then the language which the Saviour here will put in His disciples’ mouths would only be the expression of a hypocritical humility. We may, on the other hand, evidently see that whoever refuses to call himself, in the here-indicated sense, a δοῦλος , makes Christ Himself a δοῦλος . Comp. Galatians 2:21. With the assertion (J. Müller, Chr. Lehre von der Sünde, 1. p. 48) that here at least the possibility of a virtue is presupposed by which one can do more than what is commanded, since otherwise even Christ would have had to bring His holy life under the category of δοῦλος , we cannot agree. For Christ stood to the Father in an entirely different relation from that of servant, with whom He here puts His people on a level. Nor is there a proof for the view that here it is a limited Jewish obedience that is spoken of, which, on an evangelical position, one could raise himself far above. On the other hand it is plainly shown, that he who believes himself to be able to do more than he is under obligation to do, must have very singular notions of the ideal perfection which the law demands. As to the rest, “this commendation of humility contradicts the passage Luke 12:37 only in appearance, inasmuch as Christ at that time wished to encourage, at this time to humble.” De Wette.
5. The parable of the Ploughing Servant is even yet of special significance for the pastoral office. The Saviour here shows plainly that His disciples are to be used for different labors in His service; the one for hard ploughing—the other for quiet pasturing; that they must never be disgusted if their work in a certain sense is never ended; that all which they really need and can justly expect, even for their temporal life, will be provided for them at the suitable time; but that they, even after the most faithful labor, must forever give up the hope of their receiving a recompense as their right, which they have represented to others as a gift of grace. How much fewer would have been the desolations caused by the cancer of the spiritual pride of hierarchs and clergy, if no minister of the church had ever desired or assumed for himself another point of view than that of the Ploughing Servant.
6. This whole instruction of the Saviour is justly used to controvert the doctrine of the holiness of works in the Ap. Augsb. Conf. 3: “Hœc verba clare dicunt, quod Deus salvet per misericordiam et propter suam promissionem, non quod debeat propter dignitatem operum nostrorum. Christus damnat fiduciam nostrorum operum, arguit opera nostra, tanquam indigna. Et prœclare hic inquit Ambrosius: agnoscenda est gratia, sed ignoranda natura, promissioni gratiœ confidendum est, non naturœ nostrœ. Servi inutiles significant insufficientes, quia nemo tantum timet, tantum diligit Deum, tantum credit Deo, quantum oportuit. Nemo non videt, fiduciam nostrorum operum improbari.”
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
A religion without scandals is in this sinful world impossible.—The woe uttered upon the man through whom scandals come: 1. Terrible; 2. righteous; 3. salutary.—There is a punishment which is infinitely heavier than harm to body and loss of life.—The high value which the Saviour attributes to the little ones in the kingdom of heaven.—The greatest man who gives scandals, stands below the lowest who suffers them.—The requirement of willingness to forgive our brother, in its length, breadth, depth, and height, Ephesians 3:18.—Under the Old Covenant, sevenfold vengeance, Genesis 4:23-24; under the New Covenant, sevenfold forgiveness.—Rebuke of sin must be united with compassion for the sinner.—No wealth in love without growth of faith.—In the prayer for increase of faith all Christians must join, like the apostles.—How far this prayer is necessary: 1. In particular for the Twelve; 2. how far it remains necessary in general for all believers.—What this prayer, 1. Presupposes: a. that one already has faith, b. but has yet too little, and c. that the Saviour is the only one from whom we can receive more. What this prayer, 2. demands: a. more light, b. more power, c. more fellowship of faith. What the prayer, 3. effects: a. the disciple becomes through the hearing of it perfect, b. the kingdom of God is advanced, c. the Lord is glorified.—Fitting text for a communion sermon: this prayer the best communion prayer, because it was faith which, a. before the communion was most lacking to us, b. because it at the communion is first demanded, c. after the communion may be put to many severe tests.—The all-overcoming power of faith: 1. From what it is visible; 2. why it is not more seen.—A faith like a mustard-seed has power enough to transplant a whole tree.—The relation of labor to recompense in the kingdom of God.—The minister of the kingdom of God like a ploughing servant, one who 1. Is called to various, often wearying labor; 2. can never regard his work as entirely accomplished; 3. in his service receives and enjoys what is needful; 4. but even after the faithfully accomplished task, can never establish any claim to well-deserved reward.—The unprofitable servant very profitable, the most profitable servant unprofitable.—How true recompense for labor in the kingdom of God only begins when one has given up all prospect of reward.—The Saviour esteems His servants more in proportion as they have learned to esteem themselves less.
Starke:—Quesnel:—God, with whom all things are possible, could easily prevent all scandals, but He admits them for holy reasons.—Bibl. Wirt:—Take care that thou to no one, but especially to young children, give the least scandal.—Love never grows weary in forgiving.—Brentius:—Christians may well be elevated above all prosecutions for trespass, because God the Lord has in such holy wise reserved to Himself all vengeance.—Faith grows not like tares; because it has its root in God, it must also grow through God.—Zeisius:—Even weak faith is a Divine power, does miracles, saves, and is not rejected, Mark 9:24-25.—Let one examine himself whether he be in the faith, that he may not account his unbelief for a weak faith.—Nova Bibl. Tub:—It is not enough for us to begin our spiritual labor and service of God well,—we must also continue it uninterruptedly till the Lord Himself gives us our holiday.—Canstein:—A devoted and faithful servant gives his lord the honor, and concedes to him in all things of good right the preëminence.—First the work, after that the reward. The first we owe, the latter follows from grace.—Hedinger:—Away spiritual pride: where is perfection? Genuine servants of God never in their own view do enough; they would ever be glad to have done yet something more, so great is their desire to serve God and to win souls.
Heubner:—Faith is the power as for all good, so also for invincible placableness.—Prayer the means of strengthening faith, and therefore daily necessary.—It is not the chief concern that faith should be at the very beginning strong, if it is only fresh, sound, impelling.—To uproot even that which is deeply rooted and appears impossible to move, is through faith in Christ possible.—Without labor no repose, without conflict no enjoyment.—He is the worthiest who esteems himself unworthiest.—Faith bids: Ever at rest; love, faith’s daughter: Never at rest.—Arndt:—The utterance of humility in reference to the good that we have done: 1. It confesses that all good which we do is only our duty; 2. that we succeed in it only through God’s grace; 3. that it ever remains imperfect.—Lisco:—How necessary for every citizen of the kingdom humility is.
Luke 17:1; Luke 17:1.—Αὑτοῦ has a decided weight of authority. See Tischendorf, ad locum.
Luke 17:4; Luke 17:4.—The more this εἰς σέ is required by the connection, the more probable is the conjecture that, strongly as it is attested, it is an interpolation a seriore manu.
Luke 17:9; Luke 17:9.—The ἐκείνῳ of the Recepta is lacking in A., B., D., [Cod. Sin.,] L., X, &c., and appears to be only an explicative addition.
Luke 17:9; Luke 17:9.—Αὐτῷ. The spuriousness of this word is pretty certain [only found in D., X. of the uncials], and is conceded by most of the modern critics.
[Luke 17:9.—Οὐ δοκῶ. This sentence is not found in B., Cod. Sin., L., X., although it has 11 other uncials for it, with most of the cursives, the Vulgate, most copies of the Itala, both the Syriac versions, &c. Tischendorf retains it, Lachmann brackets it; Tregelles, Alford omit it. Meyer vindicates it, and Bleek is doubtful. Alford meets Meyer’s allegation that it might have been inadvertently left out on account of its resemblance to the following οὕτω, by remarking that this is always written ουτως in the ancient MSS. if we suppose it an interpolation, it must be the marginal ejaculation of some ancient scribe at the hypothetical presentation of so preposterous an inversion of relations. But it appears more natural to take them as our Lord’s own words.—C. C. S.]
I. The Journeyings through the Boundaries between Samaria and Galilee, and the noticeable Events during the same. Luke 17:11 to Luke 18:14
1. The Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
11And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13And they lifted up their voices [the voice, or, a cry], and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? [Have not the ten (οἱ δέκα) been cleansed?] but where are the nine? 18There are not found that returned to give glory to God [Are there none found returning, &c.?], save this stranger [foreigner, ἀλλογενής]. 19And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole [lit., saved thee].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 17:11. And it came to pass.—An exact harmonistics would have, after Luke 17:10, to insert the account of the raising of Lazarus, and the deliberation of the hostile Sanhedrim held in consequence of this, John 11:1-53. After these events the Saviour tarries some time in the small town of Ephraim, till the approaching Passover calls Him again to Jerusalem, John 11:54-55. In the beginning of this last journey to the feast follow the occurrences related by Luke 17:11 seq. The healing of the ten lepers did not, therefore, take place during an excursion of our Lord from Ephraim (Olshausen, Von Gerlach), but at the very beginning of the journey to the feast, which Luke alone gives an account of. Once more before He takes leave of His public life, the Saviour will in part wander through the regions which had been the theatre of His earlier activity, and so by words and deeds show that He does not avoid His mighty enemies.
Διὰ μέσου.—There is no ground for altering the reading either into μέσον, διὰ μέσον, or ἀνὰ μέσον. See Meyer, ad loc. The expression intimates, not that He was travelling through the midst of the two here-named lands—for in this case not Samaria but Galilee would have to be first named—but that He was travelling in the midst between these two lands, so that He kept on the borders without penetrating into the interior of the country, in confinio, Bengel. So also Lange, L. J. 2. p. 1065. The opinion that the mention of Samaria took place only in consequence of the appearance of a Samaritan in this narrative, Luke 17:16 (Strauss), is one of the frivolities of the negative criticism, which contribute not a little to throw suspicion upon its moral character.
Luke 17:12. Ten lepers.—Upon the leprosy see on Luke 5:12-16, and Lightfoot on Matthew 8:2. In 2 Kings 7:3 we find an example of leprous men, driven by need, having united themselves with one another in a company. As unclean, they were obliged to remain at least 4 ells distant from the untainted. See Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2. That even to them in their isolation the report of Jesus had made its way, is a striking proof of the greatness of His fame.
Luke 17:13. Jesus, Master, ἐπιστάτα, not κύριε.—Although they do not yet know the Saviour’s Messianic dignity, yet they account Him a prophet, mighty in deed and word; their faith is sincere without being perfect, on which account also the Saviour does not repel them. But in order to show to the disciples that He in the manner in which He accomplishes His benefits is bound to no form whatever, as well as at the same time to try the faith of the lepers, He this time effects the cure in an entirely peculiar way. Full of leprosy as they yet are, they must go to the priests, in order to have themselves declared clean by these. In this, it is true, there is implied the indirect promise that they would actually become clean even before they came to their priests, but yet it was no easy requirement that they should, yet unhealed, begin their journey thither. It appears that the Saviour in this way would not only try them, but also avoid any occasion whatever for scandal, and give the representatives of the Theocracy their due honor, comp. Leviticus 13:2; Leviticus 14:2. Probably the Israelitish lepers now go towards the village lying in the vicinity (the whole scene we have to conceive as yet outside of the κώμη), while the Samaritan went probably to his own priests, who, without doubt, observed the same laws of purification. In the midst of their believing journey the healing at once comes to pass.
Luke 17:15. Turned back.—Not after he had reall been declared clean by the Samaritan priests (Calvin, Luther, Lange); for in this case the Saviour would not have been able to wonder that the nine others had not returned, since these certainly had to make a much longer journey to their priests. No, ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν all were healed, and all ought to have returned at once, in order to thank their Deliverer. That the nine had allowed themselves to be kept back by the influence of hostilely disposed priests (Berl. Bibl.), is an entirely arbitrary conjecture. Not hours, but only moments had intervened between the command and the healing, between the healing and the thanksgiving. Or are we to suppose our Lord to have tarried inactive a half day at the entrance of the κώμη, in order to see whether one would perchance return?
A Samaritan.—The other lepers, without doubt, after the priest had declared them clean, returned joyfully to their dwelling; but the Samaritan does not content himself with having received the benefit, he will also praise the Benefactor. His thankfulness is of the right kind, for it displays itself as a glorifying of God, Luke 17:15, and that is well-pleasing to the Saviour, Luke 17:18. But the praise of Him who was the first cause of the benefit brings no prejudice to the honor to which the Mediator of this healing may make claim. With loud voice he praises God, and falls down at Jesus’ feet, ready, as is of course understood, after that to obey His command, and now to go to the priests.
Luke 17:17. Where are the nine?—In order to understand the full melancholy earnestness of this inquiry, we must consider this event in its historical connection. The Saviour here also is not concerned for honor from man, but He who knows well what is in man knows also that gratitude towards God could not be very heartfelt, where one did not feel himself obliged even to a word of thanks towards his human benefactor. His complaint, in and of itself a just one, if we regard the extraordinariness, the undeservedness, and the magnitude of the benefit bestowed, becomes the mote affecting, if we consider the time in which it was uttered. Well acquainted with the plans which had already been forged in Judæa for His destruction, the Saviour yet once again makes this boundary-tract of Galilee the theatre of His saving love, and even at the first miracle on this journey it is manifested how very much the prevailing tone of feeling is now altered. For formerly a miracle performed on one, animated many hundred tongues to His praise; now, on the other hand, the healing of ten unhappy ones does not even elicit from the majority of the healed, still less from the inhabitants of the village, even a single word of thanks. He has this time rather concealed than made conspicuous the brilliant character of the miracle by its form, but He experiences at the same time how the Doer of the miracles is at once forgotten, and while He on His part, even in this last period, displays His respect for the law and the priesthood, He is rewarded therefor with a mean slight. The observation of this fact goes to the Saviour’s heart; and as He had just shown Himself the compassionate High-priest, He feels Himself now the deeply contemned Messiah. Yet the complaint to which His sadness gives utterance, is at the same time a eulogy for the one thankful one who had appeared before Him, and with the words: “Rise up, go thy way, thy faith hath saved thee;” the benefit is for this one heightened, confirmed, sanctified.
It was perhaps the learning of this distinction between the Samaritan and the Jews, which occasioned Luke, from his broad Pauline point of view, to note down this occurrence, which, we know not from what special reasons, the other Synoptics pass over. Not improbable is the view that he here by a speaking example wished to place in a clear light the unthankfulness of the Jews towards the Saviour, which showed itself throughout His course. Comp. Schleiermacher, l. c. 215. But that Luke does not for all this show any unwarranted, unhistorical preference for the Samaritans (Schwegler, a. o.) appears sufficiently from Luke 9:53.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The essence of faith manifests itself in the ten lepers. Faith recognizes in Jesus the only willing and all-sufficient Helper, and allows itself to be impelled by life’s necessity to take refuge in Him. It is observed by the Saviour with pleasure, exercised by trial, and never put to shame, so far as the heart is upright before Him, even when the conceptions of the understanding, respecting the Redeemer, are as yet extremely defective. It is the only way to salvation, not only in a natural, but also in a spiritual, respect, and must, if it is of the right kind, reveal itself in sincere thankfulness towards God and towards the Saviour.
2. No less appears here the nature of true thankfulness. It can only be required and attested when one knows himself to be healed and redeemed by Christ; but then it can and may not possibly fail to appear. Like love, so also is thankfulness towards God most intimately connected with thankfulness towards man, comp. 1 John 4:20. “Deo ingratus, non erit hominibus gratus.” Melanchthon. It reveals itself with irresistible force, as in the case of this Samaritan, who, after he had first with hoarse voice [i. e., husky with leprosy.—C. C. S.] called on the Redeemer, returns again immediately after his healing, in order with loud voice to give God the glory. And as unthankfulness does not only deny the Saviour, but also perturbs Him, so, on the other hand, genuine gratitude is rewarded by augmented gifts of grace, Luke 17:19, so that the declaration: “He that has, to him shall be given,” finds here also its full application.
3. The ingratitude of the nine, in contrast with the one Samaritan, bears so far as this a symbolical character, that it gives an example of the unfavorable reception which the Saviour ever found in Israel, in opposition to the higher esteem which was accorded Him in the heathen world.
4. The love which the Saviour here also, as often, exhibits for the Samaritans, was for the apostles a pædagogic lesson, which, as appeared from the extended commission that was given them, Acts 1:8, was doubly necessary, and afterwards also bore its fruits in the zeal with which they preached the Gospel to Samaria too. Acts 8:0.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Augmenting hostility hinders not the Saviour from working so long as it is day.—Leprosy, the image of the defilement and the misery of sin.—How life’s necessity brings together and unites men.—Misery’s cry of distress: 1. Unanimously raised; 2. graciously answered.—Jesus, a Master who takes compassion on those who call on Him in distress.—Jesus, in the healing of the ten lepers, revealing Himself as the image of the invisible God, comp. Psalms 50:15.—Perplexing requirements and ways of the Lord have no other purpose than to strengthen the yet weak faith.—The Divine institutions of the Old Testament are by the Saviour in the days of His flesh honored and practised.—What is adventured in faith on Jesus’ word is never resultless.—Not always are good and evil found just where we should expect them a priori.—The great contrasts which present themselves in the history of the ten lepers: 1. Great misery on the one hand, great grace on the other hand; 2. great unthankfulness from many, thankful recognition from one; 3. Israel blessed with benefits, but rejected by its own fault—the stranger praised and accepted.—Human thankfulness and unthankfulness in relation to the Lord, and the Lord in relation to them.—How true thankfulness towards God reveals itself in the glorifying of Jesus.—The sad inquiry, Where are the nine? 1. What were they once? 2. where are they now? 3. What do they afterwards become?—The thankful stranger a true citizen of the kingdom of God.—He that honors grace received is worthy of greater grace!—What is the faith that has any true saving power? A faith which is: 1. Humble in entreaty; 2. courageous in approaching; 3. joyful in thanksgiving.
Starke:—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—The world is a hospital full of infirm and sick.—J. Hall:—Like and like agree well; pure to pure, impure to impure.—O Jesus, give us grace to seek Thee and strength to wait on Thee.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—From the leprosy of sin there can no one heal us but He that is called Jesus, Matthew 1:21.—Nothing agrees better together than human misery and Christ’s compassion.—Hedinger:—Whoever will spiritually recover, let him show himself to experienced people and Christians.—Christ is indeed a Physician of all men, but He does not heal all in one way.—O man, if God hath graciously heard thy Eleison, forget not then to bring Him thy Hallelujah.—Quesnel:—With genuine thanksgiving there is true humility.—Bibl. Wirt.:—Shameful is unthankfulness towards our neighbor, but much shamefuller towards God and His many benefits.—Learn to suffer and shun ingratitude.—Follow not the multitude; better be with the one than with the nine.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—On humiliation follows exaltation, on repentance departure in peace.—Canstein:—So great and glorious is faith, that that is attributed to it which yet is only God’s grace and benefit.
Lavater:—Even the thanks that are most His due, Christ rewards with new manifestations of grace.—Heubner:—The true penitent goes towards Christ indeed, but remains in humility, nevertheless, standing afar off.—The spiritually sick also, when he needs comfort, should show himself to the priest.—The priests cannot make clean but declare clean.—Those of erroneous belief put to shame very often the confessors of the true religion.—The multitude of evil and the rareness of good examples in human society.—Christ now, as then, experiences the unthankfulness of men.—Unthankfulness so frequent a phenomenon because humility is lacking.—He that prays without giving thanks, closes to himself the door of acceptance of his prayer.
On the Pericope.—Couard:—Our life must be a continued praying and giving thanks: 1. Praying in relation to our necessities; 2. giving thanks in relation to the Divine benefits of grace.—Ahlfeld:—Where are the nine?—How is it as to thy thanksgiving prayers towards God?—Rautenberg:—The intent of the Divine help: 1. That we may recognize the Divine help; 2. receive it with thanksgiving; 3. through it grow in holiness.—Westermeyer:—Comp. Psalms 50:15; Psalms 1:0. The commended call; 2. the promised help; 3. the owing thanks.—W. Otto:—Unthankfulness is the world’s reward; this Isaiah 1:0. An experience gained in the world; 2. an accusation preferred against the world; 3. a shame lying upon the world. 4. a harm arising for the world.—Fuchs:—Christ makes us clean: 1. From what? 2. whereby? 3. Whereto?—Souchon:—Insincere and sincere faith.—Stier:—How the Lord here to our shame complains of the unthankfulness of men.—J. J. Miville:—Compelled piety.
2. Discourses of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God (Luke 17:20-37)
20And when he was demanded of [inquired of by] the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not withobservation [i. e., so that it can be gazed at]: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you [rather, in the midst of you].22And he said unto the disciples, The [om., The] days will come, when ye shall desireto see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. 23And they shall sayto you, See here; or,6 see there: go not after them, nor follow them. 24For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other partunder heaven; so shall also7 the Son of man be in his day. 25But first must he suffermany things, and be rejected of [by] this generation. 26And as it was in the days ofNoe [Noah], so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe [Noah]entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted,they builded; 29But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstonefrom heaven, and destroyed them all. 30Even thus shall it be in the day when theSon of man is revealed. 31In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff [goods] in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in32the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserveit. 34I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken,35and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be36taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, andthe other left.8 37And they answered and said [say] unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever [Where] the body is, thither will [also9] the eagles be gathered together.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 17:20. Inquired of by the Pharisees.—The ground, occasion, and purpose of this inquiry can only be conjecturally determined. To understand it as put by sympathizing inquirers desirous of salvation, is forbidden by the partially rebuking and partially earnestly warning answer of our Lord. Apparently these Pharisees were not unacquainted with the growing hatred of the Jewish magnates against Jesus, and had in secret their sport at the fact that the kingdom of God, of which John and Jesus had already so long testified, still remained invisible, and that our Lord, after long labor in Galilee, had acquired no greater following, as had just before appeared. But as often good comes out of evil, so have we here also to thank a concealed enmity for an instruction of the Saviour which assails an error of His adversaries at its root, and possesses abiding worth for all future ages.
With observation, μετὰ παρατηρήσεως, literally, with or under observation, so that it can be recognized and observed by outward tokens, and that one could exclaim with assurance, Lo here, lo there! We are not primarily to understand this of external pomp and brilliancy (μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας, Grotius), but in general everything external that can be seen with the eyes and grasped with the hand. By this answer, the Pharisees are at the same time instructed that it is a fruitless trouble to inquire after a definitely fixed point of time, when it shall suddenly come. Of this unnoticed coming of the kingdom of God, the Saviour could not well give any more striking proof than this, that the kingdom of heaven had already in its incipiency appeared among them, without their having even yet in their earthly-mindedness observed it.
Luke 17:21. In the midst of you, ἐντὸς ὑμῶν.—From the future to which they were looking, the Saviour directs their eyes back upon to-day. Inasmuch as the King of the kingdom of God was already living and working in the midst of them, this kingdom had already come potentially into their nearest neighborhood. The explanation, in animis vestris (Chrysostom, Luther, Olshausen, Heubner, Hilgenfeld, and others, and also the deceased Amsterdam Professor A. des Amorie van der Hoeven), is indeed capable of being philologically defended, and finds also some weak analogies in individual Pauline expressions (1 Corinthians 4:20; Romans 14:17; Colossians 1:13), but is not favored by the connection. For the translation, “in the midst of you,” there are the following grounds: 1. That in this way the antithesis between the external coming and the being already actually present is kept more sharply defined; 2. that the kingdom of God had not been truly set up in the hearts of these Pharisees; 3. that in John 1:26; John 12:35; Luke 7:16; Luke 11:20, the same thought which is expressed in our translation is expressed in another way, while, on the other hand, for the apparently profound but really not very intelligible statement, that the kingdom of God is found in the man, no other proofs are to be found in our Lord’s own words. It would be better, without doubt, to connect with one another the two significations of ἐντός (Stier, Lange), although there is nothing contained in the connection that decidedly requires us to interpret ἐντός otherwise than as the simple antithesis of ἔξω, intra vos. Not with entire injustice, apparently, Meyer calls the idea of the kingdom of God as an ethical condition in the soul, modern, not historico-biblical.
Luke 17:22. And He said unto the disciples.—The Pharisees have been sufficiently disposed of with the above answer, which Luke has alone preserved to us. But the Saviour does not on this occasion give up the subject which they had brought into discussion, but continues, perhaps in their presence, to instruct His disciples still further about the approaching coming of the kingdom of God. In the eschatological discourse, Luke 17:22-37, which now lies before us, the same phenomenon is repeated which we have already several times met with. Here also Luke communicates sayings which Matthew has presented in an entirely different connection, and again the inquiry cannot be avoided, which of the two has maintained the most exact chronological sequence. If we compare the first and the third Gospels with one another, it appears that Luke 17:23-24, and Matthew 24:23-27; moreover Luke 17:26-27, and Matthew 24:37-39, as well as Luke 17:35-37, and Matthew 24:40-41, coincide almost verbally. Now, it is true the possibility cannot be doubted that our Lord uttered several of these sayings on several occasions, but, on the other hand, it can hardly be denied that many of the words here given by Luke appear in Matthew in a much more happy and natural connection; that it is much more probable that our Saviour, towards the end of His life, spoke to His intimate disciples alone concerning these secrets of the future, and not some weeks before to a circle of hearers so mixed as that in the midst of which Luke here places us; and that finally it is almost inconceivable that the long eschatological discourse, Matthew 24:0, should have consisted in a great measure only of reminiscences of a previous instruction, Luke 17:0. From all these grounds we believe that Luke 17:22-37 stands in about the same relation to Matthew 24:0 as Luke 6:17-49 and Luke 12:22 seq., to Matthew 5:7. In opposition to Schleiermacher and Olshausen, who concede to Luke the preference, we think, with Ebrard, Lange, and others, that we see in the redaction of the third gospel in this place heterogeneous elements, that is, such as, although in themselves undoubtedly genuine, have yet been here inserted only because of the opportunity, and outside of their original historic connection; but we prefer to assume that the Saviour on this occasion did communicate a certain eschatological instruction, without, however, already, as afterwards, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, but that individual striking expressions from a later discourse have been by Luke woven proleptically into this one. How much has been transferred from one discourse to the other, it is probable will never admit of any other than an approximate determination.
Days will come.—The psychological connection of this first word to the disciples, and of the last to the Pharisees, strikes the eye at once. Scarcely has the Saviour uttered the assurance that the kingdom of God already exists in the midst of them, when He thinks also of the prerogative of His disciples, who had been already received into the same, but at the same time—and how could it at such a time be otherwise?—on the pain of impending separation. It is as if He feared that His friends, from the assurance that the kingdom of God had already really come, would now also draw the conclusion that the King would forever abide in the midst of them. As He is far from blowing up again even the weakest spark of an earthly hope which He had previously controverted with so much emphasis, He now makes haste to prepare them for grievous times. Under the pressure of manifold tribulations, they were for the moment to wish in vain to see even one of the victorious blessed days of the revelation of the Messiah. The Saviour is thinking of one of those days of happiness such as only the αἰὼν μέλλων could and should bring. He does not mean that they would long for one of the days which they were now experiencing in converse with the yet humiliated Christ, but that they would sigh after the revelation of the Glorified One, who should bring an end to all their wretchedness and satisfaction to their longing. We must not, therefore, explain with Bengel, “cupiditatem illam postea sedavit Paracletus,” but rather, “hanc cupiditatem tantummodo sedare potest Parusia.” Impelled by this natural but impatient longing, they might easily incur the danger of allowing themselves to be misled by false Messiahs, against which the Saviour warns them in the following verse.
Luke 17:23. Go not after them.—Comp. Matthew 24:23-27, and Lange, ad loc. It is without ground that Schleiermacher here disputes that we are to understand false Messiahs. Let the reader call to mind also the Goetæ, who shortly before the destruction of the Jewish state led so many thousands by the promise of miracles into the wilderness and into destruction. See Josephus, Ant. Judges 20:8; Judges 20:6. Comp. De Bell. Judges 2:13; Judges 2:4; Acts 5:36-37; Acts 21:38, and Homily 76 of Chrysostom.
Luke 17:24. The lightning that lighteneth.—The tertium comparationis between the Parusia and the swiftness of the lightning which shows itself on the dark sky, is not its unexpected appearance, but its indubitable visibleness; even as one, when the lightning flashes from one region of heaven to the other (ἐκ τῆς, sc. χώρας), does not need to inquire whither and where the flash shows itself. If the day of the Son of Man is once present, this will no more be a matter of doubt than it is a matter of uncertainty whether ἡ has darted through the air or not. Ἡμέρα signifies here the παρουσία, which the days designated in Luke 17:22, ἡμέραι, do not precede, but follow.
Luke 17:25. First … suffer many things.—The prediction of suffering and dying which often returns in this last period is here, too, not wanting. “In Luke 17:25 He gives the great deciding announcement against all false παρατήρησις, that the Messiah previously, in a first manifestation, must suffer and be rejected. See on Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:12.” Stier. One must, therefore, not by any means, as the Pharisees do, expect the promised Parusia too early, since this must in any case be preceded by a mournful event. Our Lord cannot with sufficient earnestness impress it on the minds of His disciples that His way goes down into the depth, while they are secretly dreaming of high places of honor.
Luke 17:26. In the days of Noah.—Comp. on Matthew 24:37-39. Although the coming of our Lord will be the perfect redemption of His disciples out of all tribulations (comp. Luke 17:22), it is here represented especially as a judgment upon the godless and unbelieving world, and this judgment is typified in the fate of the contemporaries of Noah. The Asyndeton between the different verbs heightens the living and graphic force of the portrayal of their careless life in the midst of the most powerful voices of awakening. We may, perhaps, from the fact that the terrible side of the event is made especially conspicuous, while the delivery of Noah is not mentioned, conclude with some probability that the Saviour addressed these words originally to a wider circle than that of His believing disciples.
Luke 17:28. In the days of Lot.—The second example, which Luke alone relates, is especially remarkable, not only on account of the peculiar coincidence in character between the here-mentioned time and the antediluvian period, but also on account of the striking application which in Luke 17:32 is made of the history of Lot’s wife. Here also there is no other conception of the destruction of Sodom implied than that in Genesis 19:0. and elsewhere.
Luke 17:31. He which shall be upon the housetop.—The Saviour gives the counsel to immediate flight, with the abandonment, in case of need, of all that is possessed on earth. It is true, He has not in this connection, as in Matthew 24:17, as yet spoken of the destruction of Jerusalem; but the admonition is in this place not on that account by any means incongruous, as De Wette precipitately asserts. Nor have we, with Meyer, to understand a flight for deliverance to the coming Messiah. This last explanation has visibly arisen from perplexity, and is only seemingly favored by the example of Lot’s wife. We may here, in general, understand a city taken by invading enemies, from which it is only possible to save one’s life, if he hurries away at the instant, without, at the danger of life, dragging anything with him. The same is the case with him who is fallen upon in the field, which is here conceived quite as generally as the city. The main thought is evidently this: that no temporal possession ought to engage the interest when eternal good must be won at any price. Comp. Matthew 16:25. [I do not see how any one can regard Luke 17:31-37 as anything else than a fragment of our Saviour’s subsequent prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. It fits perfectly into that, while it is impossible to see any immediate applicableness here. It is doubtless inserted here as an element of the eschatological discourse of our Lord, and so far connected with the preceding context.—C. C. S.]
Luke 17:32. Remember Lot’s wife.—It would be inferring too much from this remark of our Lord to wish to conclude from it that He assumes that Lot’s wife was, on account of her momentary transgression, given over to endless misery. Much more temperately has Luther judged concerning it: “For her disobedience’ sake, Lot’s wife must bear a temporal punishment, but her soul is saved. 1 Corinthians 5:5.” As to the rest, in what her trespass consisted is sufficiently well known from Genesis 19:26. Through her unlawful looking back, she has become the type of that earthly-mindedness and self-seeking which wishes to preserve the lesser at any cost, and thereby loses the greater. It is worthy of note, that in the book of the Wisdom of Solomon, also, Luke 10:7, the same warning image is held up before us, so that this passage in the Gospel is one of the very few in which we may, perhaps, find an indirect allusion to one of the Apocryphal books. Respecting the exact manner of the death of Lot’s wife, and the legend concerning the pillar of salt, see the Commentaries on Genesis 19:0, especially the remarks of T. W. I. Schroeder, Das erste Buch Mosis ausgelegt, Berlin, 1844, p. 373.
Luke 17:33. Whosoever shall seek to save his life.—See on Luke 9:24, and comp. Matthew 10:39; John 12:25.—Ζωογονήσει, preserve alive, as in Acts 7:19, namely, in the last decisive moment at the Parusia. The Saviour’s discourse here goes yet deeper, inasmuch as He here speaks not merely, as before, Luke 17:26-30, of the danger which threatens those entirely careless, but also of that which threatens such disciples as, like Lot’s wife, had indeed made the first step towards escaping the future destruction, but, alas! afterwards remained standing midway in the way of salvation.
Luke 17:34. I tell you—Comp. on Matthew 24:40 seq. The Saviour strengthens His admonition still more by allusion to the definitive terrible division, which will coincide with the great decision. At His coming, that is torn asunder which outwardly, as well as inwardly, appeared to be as closely as possible joined together. Two examples thereof Luke gives, while the third, Luke 17:36, appears to be transferred from Matthew 24:40. See notes on the text. The first is taken from companionship at night; the other from companionship by day. Ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτί is not in the sense of tempore illo calamitoso (Grotius, Kuinoel), but is a simple designation of the time which one is wont to spend upon his bed, perhaps with the secondary thought of the uncertainty of the Parusia, which comes as a thief in the night, Matthew 24:44. At the beginning of the second example, Luke 17:35, we might, on the other hand, supply: ταύτῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. Unexpectedly does the Parusia come; whether by day or by night is all one; dissimilar, only outwardly united things are then forever severed. By the κλίνη μία we have not necessarily to understand conjugal companionship—at all events both pronouns are masculine—but every connection which is intimate enough to entitle to a common bed, as was the case in the following example with the common labor by day. On the other hand, there appear in the other example two women (μία, ἑτέρα), who, according to the Oriental custom, are grinding upon the hand-mill there in use, Exodus 11:5, and are, therefore, occupied with one and the same appointed work. No matter now whether the Parusia come by day or by night, one of the two is taken away, the other left;—in which, of course, it is understood that our Lord is not thereby giving any fixed rule. Two may be on one bed and both taken; two, on the other hand, may be laboring in one field and both be left; but it may be that even the most intimate companionship will be interrupted by the Parusia. The one is taken, comp. John 12:26; John 14:3, the other surrendered, without respect of persons, to the certain catastrophe.
Luke 17:36. Where, Lord?—Not an expression of terror (quomodo, Kuinoel), but a definite inquiry after the locality in which all this should take place; even as the Pharisees, Luke 17:20, had inquired definitely after the time of the revelation of the kingdom of God. Although now the Saviour, in this connection, according to Luke, has not been speaking particularly of the destruction of Jerusalem, it seems, however, as if the disciples had a presentiment that the predicted scenes of terror might, perhaps, come to pass even in their neighborhood, in the Holy Land, and wished now that the Saviour would compose their fears about this. He, however, gives them neither an evasive nor an entirely definite answer; but only recites a proverb, respecting which, comp. on Matthew 24:28.—Τὸ σῶμα, in Matt. τὸ πτῶμα, to be understood especially of the animal body, which as soon as it lies lifeless becomes the welcome spoil of birds of prey. If one does not incline to see here any allusion to the Roman eagles which swept down upon the unhappy Jerusalem, as upon their prey, we can then, in general, paraphrase this answer thus (Stier): “Everything in its time and order, according to what belongs to it! Ask not with importunate curiosity after Where, How, or When, but behold: Where the corruption of death is, there must the eagles come! When it has become night, then will the lightning bring an awful light! Only do you take care to be found as the living and as children of the light!” In no case have we occasion, with De Wette, to complain that the enigmatical proverb has, by the redaction of Luke, lost in perspicuity.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The answer of our Lord to the question of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God shall come, is of the utmost moment for controverting all grossly sensuous chiliastic expectations and notions which in the course of the ages have ever and anon come up in the bosom of the Christian church. The longing of the Pharisees to be able to state: Lo here, lo there, has remained alive in the hearts of thousands who bear the Saviour’s name. It is the natural consequence of earthly-mindedness and pride, which even in the regenerate is indeed kept down, but not yet eradicated. From such eyes the secret power and the spiritual form of the kingdom of God is even today hidden. It is easier, moreover, to comprehend in their full force the parable of the Treasure and that of the Pearl, than that of the Mustard-Seed and that of the Leaven. Very often, also, there is found, even in Christians, the craving for heathen display of signs, which at bottom bears witness, not to a strong, but to nothing else than a weak, faith. Over against this coarser or more refined Chiliasm, there stands a more or less one-sided Spiritualism, which, perhaps, has found acceptance in yet more extended circles. Not seldom has the saying, that the kingdom of God comes οὐ μετὰ παρατηρήσεως, been misused and exaggerated, in the sense that this kingdom will never on earth display itself in a glorious form worthy of itself. No; the kingdom of God comes not with observation, but when it has once come, we shall nevertheless be well able to say: Lo here ! For here, too, holds good Oetinger’s word: “Corporeality is the end of God’s ways.” Chiliasm, however, for the most part, in view of the body, overlooks the spirit; Spiritualism, in view of the spirit, the body; both forget that man in this sphere also may not arbitrarily sunder what according to God’s ordinance is meant to be forever most intimately united. To grossly sensual Chiliasts we are to hold up the utterance: “The kingdom of God is already in the midst of us,” while one-sided Spiritualists must be reminded of the Saviour’s declaration to His disciples: “For as the lightning, &c.—so shall also the Son of man be in His day.” The kingdom of God comes with gentle, scarcely noticeable step, but not to remain invisible.
2. A threefold coming of the kingdom of God is to be distinguished: First, the Saviour appeared in humility, in an humble servant’s form; after that He comes in the Spirit invisible, but with heightened power; finally, in majesty and glory in the clouds of heaven. The first phase endured thirty-three years, the second has endured already more than eighteen centuries, and the last makes of the present economy a decisive end. The first period was concluded by the Passion and Death of our Lord; the second will not end without a sorrowful Passion of His dearly-purchased church; the last reveals the perfect glory which shall come in the place of suffering and striving, for the Head as for the members.
3. It is a great error and gives occasion to many misunderstandings, when that which our Lord here says of the kingdom of God is applied without any limitation to the Christian church. So long as the kingdom of God is not fully come, it becomes no one to say decisively and exclusively: “Lo here! or, lo there!” By this, however, it is by no means intended that there are no definite signs by which the true Church of the Saviour can be known as such, and distinguished from false, apostate churches. Word and sacraments remain the tokens of the true outwardly visible Church, to which every believer must attach himself; and therefore the Evangelical Church of our days is to strive not less against a one-sided Clericalism than against a sickly Darbism, which does not allow the church constitution established by the Saviour and His apostles to assert its rights.
4. The Donatistic striving which has revealed itself in the course of the centuries in all manner of forms among believers, is here condemned by our Lord in its inmost essence. Men are bent upon making even now an external distinction upon one bed, upon one field, at one mill, between believers and unbelievers; the Saviour, on the other hand, will not have the external union of that which is dissimilar, if it already exists, destroyed by force until He Himself appear with His fan in His hand. Separatism is an anticipation of the great day of decision.
5. There is a heaven-wide distinction between the eschatological expectations which the friends of modern liberalism cherish, and those which are called forth by this teaching of our Lord. It is commonly supposed that in the proportion in which the principles of humanitarianism, culture, free thought, and the like, are more and more widely diffused, the world will become ever increasingly wiser, better, and happier. The Saviour here opens to us a very different view of the times immediately before the end. Of culture and false semblance of external secular enlightenment, there will then undoubtedly be as little lack as in the days of Noah and Lot. But instead now of the great mass becoming continually better and more earnest, we have to expect, on the other hand, according to the Saviour’s words, a time of carelessness, hardening, and carnal security, just like that which preceded the destruction of the ancient world and the ruin of Sodom. These are the perilous times in the last days, of which Paul also speaks, 2 Timothy 3:1; and all which in the Apocalypse is prophesied of the great apostasy of the last period of the world, is only a wider expansion of the theme here given.
6. The Saviour emphatically teaches us how the human race remains at all times ever alike in the midst of continually growing judgments of God. The contemporaries of Noah and of Lot, the Antichrist who shall arise before the last Parusia, are men of one sort. On these grounds the here-mentioned earlier judgments may also be regarded as types and symbols of the yet following ones, and of the last of all. Because in the neighborhood of Noah and of Lot carelessness had reached the highest grade, these generations are especially fitted to be the type of the last generation which shall see the coming of the Lord. No wonder, therefore, that in the epistles of Peter and Jude the history of the flood and of the destruction of Sodom have attributed to them so great a significance and so high a value. See 1Pe 3:19-21; 2 Peter 2:5-9; Judges 7:0.
7. There exists a sublime parallelism in the way in which the Saviour, Luke 17:26-29, has described the days of Noah and Lot. This uniformity and this rhythm of the words acquires, however, a higher significance if we find therein an exact expression of the wonderful agreement which exists between men and things in earlier and later times. The careless worldly life reveals itself from century to century, every time in the same stereotyped phases and forms. But just as unexpected as were the flood and fiery rain, will also the last coming of the Lord be—a day which begins like other days, and finds the one on his bed, another in the field, and a third at the mill; but it will not end like other days.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The permitted and the unpermitted longing after the revelation of the kingdom of God.—Agreement and difference between the inquiry of the Pharisees, Luke 17:20, and that of the disciples, Acts 1:6.—The tokens of the coming of the kingdom of God are: 1. Not so palpable; 2. not so dubious; 3. not s [illigible words found] restricted, as human short-sightedness imagines: a. not with observation; b. it is in the midst of you: c. and one shall not say it is (exclusively) here or there.—The still and hidden coming of the kingdom of God in hearts and in the world: 1. The Pharisees forget it; 2. it is explicable from the nature of the kingdom of God; 3. it is confirmed by history; 4. it is assured for the future.—The kingdom of God is in the midst of you: 1. What an inestimable matter of thanksgiving; 2. what a heavy accountability.—The kingdom of God in the midst of us avails us not, so long as it is not come into our heart.—The presages of the last coming of the Lord: 1. Painful longing (Luke 17:22); 2. dangerous misleading (Luke 17:23-25); 3. growing carelessness (Luke 17:26-30).—When the Saviour is missed with sorrow and expected with longing desire, He no longer makes long delay.—Even the best disciple of the Saviour is exposed to the danger of being misled by false seeming.—The vox populi in the kingdom of God by no means the vox Dei.—The lightning flash which illumines the dark heavens, the image of the appearance of the Son of Man, who makes an end of the dark night of the world.—The Divine necessity of the suffering which precedes the glorifying of the Saviour.—The history of the past a prophecy of the yet hidden future.—What is it that has come to pass? Even that that shall come to pass hereafter, Ecclesiastes 1:9.—The days of Noah an image of the days of the Son of Man. In both we see: 1. A decisive judgment pronounced; 2. a long delay occurring; 3. a careless unconcern maintained; 4. a righteous retribution descending; 5. a sure refuge open.—The unaltered character of careless indifference: 1. In the days of Lot; 2. at the destruction of Jerusalem; 3. at the last coming of our Lord.—Careless unconcern in view of threatening judgment: 1. An ancient evil; 2. a dangerous evil;3. a curable evil.—The day of the Son of Man a day of terror and glory.—The warranted and the deplorable impulse of self-preservation.—Lot’s wife a monument of warning for earthly-minded disciples of the Lord; we see her: 1. Graciously spared; 2. at the beginning delivered; 3. presumptuously disobedient; 4. wretchedly perishing.—Whoever will arrive in Zoar must no longer look back towards Sodom.—No earthly gain can make good harm to the soul.—The unexpected separation of that which was externally united, on its: 1. Terrible; 2. beneficent; 3. powerfully awakening and comforting, side.—True fellowship is that which outlives the last day.—The coming of the Lord the end of: 1. Slothful rest; 2. slavish labor; 3. constrained companionship.—Where the carcass is, thither do the eagles gather: a proverb confirmed in the history: 1. Of the heathen; 2. of the Jewish; 3. of the Christian, world.
Starke:—Canstein:—Whoever conceives Christ’s kingdom as fleshly and earthly, will never learn to know it, much less attain thereto.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Whoever seeks the kingdom of God without himself, loses it within himself.—Hedinger:.—Christ’s comfort, presence, and light often hide themselves in temptation.—Quesnel:—Let us not follow that which men tell us, but that which Jesus Christ first told us in the Scriptures and confirmed by miracles.—What takes place little by little through faith will take place in one instant when Jesus Christ shall show Himself visibly to all men to judge the world. Now is the day of man, then will it be the day of God.—Canstein:—The securer the world, the nearer Jesus Christ with His kingdom, 1 Thessalonians 5:3.—Brentius:—It is an evil plague that men, when God’s judgments break in, become the worse the longer they threaten; this should of right bring us to consideration.—Like sins occasion like punishments, God in His nature unchangeable.—The end of a thing is better than the beginning; yet let us seek to persevere in the way that we have begun even to the end, that we may not tempt God, Revelation 3:5.—When people are diverse, so is also the end of the world diverse.—When proverbs have a good Biblical sense, and express a matter briefly, we may very profitably and becomingly avail ourselves of them.
Heubner:—The fleshly man esteems all according to the outward pomp and glitter.—It is suspicious for a preacher to create a furore, which is often only a fire of straw.—The salvation of the church comes not through intervention of the power of the state, but from within.—Knapp:—Live thyself continually deeper and more intimately into the kingdom of God.—Chr. Palmer:—How differently our Lord answers the question, When does the kingdom of God appear? in the case of different questioners: a. to those who as yet knew nothing thereof He says, It is already here; b. those who already bear it in their hearts He points to the future, for which they should watch, wait, and hold themselves ready.—Whereby we may try ourselves as to whether our hope in the coming of the kingdom of God is not a delusive one.—Neander:—The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.
Luke 17:23; Luke 17:23.—Rec.: ἰδοὺ ὧδε ἢ ἰδοὺ εκει. The ἤ before the second ἰδού. although Lachmann defends it, appears to be borrowed from Matthew 24:23, and is properly rejected by Tischendorf, [Meyer, Tregelles, Alford.]
Luke 17:24; Luke 17:24.—Καί, although dubious, as it is wanting in many manuscripts, is found, however, in B., D., [om., Cod. Sin.,] and has been on this ground, as it appears, properly retained by Tischendorf and at least bracketed by Lachmann. [Tischendorf in his 7th ed. omits it, as do Meyer, Tregelles, Alford.—C. C. S.]
Luke 17:36; Luke 17:36.—In all probability an interpolation from Matthew 24:40, and therefore rejected by almost all later critics, with the exception of Scholz. De Wette hesitates. [Om., A., B., Cod. Sin., 14 other uncials, and much the larger part of the cursives.—C. C. S.]
Luke 17:37; Luke 17:37.—Καί is rightly received by Tischendorf into the text, on the authority of B., [Cod. Sin.,] L., [U., Λ.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 17". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent