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GRACE IN VIEW OF OFFENSES
We have seen the grace of God clearly and beautifully declared, yet the world rejecting it. The Lord Jesus then spoke to His disciples. What should be their attitude in view of the reality of this marvelous grace, and in view of the fact that it was commonly despised? No matter how greatly grace may be abused, we are called upon to maintain it always in its fresh purity and truth in every personal relationship. Offenses (or causes of stumbling) will arise: there is no doubt of this; but the ignoring of grace is to blame. "Woe to him through whom they (offenses) do come!" Are we as sensitive to such evil as to agree that death by drowning is better than our being the cause of stumbling little ones (v.2)?
If grace is not operative in another, this does not excuse any lack of grace on my part. In the case of personal trespass, grace wilt rebuke the offender, not haughtily, but in genuine love, for it is not grace or love to allow sin to continue. If there is repentance, then grace fully forgives. Lest we should set a limit if the offense is repeated, the Lord insists on forgiving seven times in a day, so long as the offender turns again to the offended in repentance (v.4).FAITH AND SERVICE
It is little wonder that the apostles ask in such a case, "Lord, increase our faith," for grace and faith are inseparable companions. Only faith can draw the resources of God's grace. The Lord answered that if their faith was only as large as a tiny mustard seed, their word could root up "this mulberry tree" (which is noted for its deep, spreading roots), and cause it to be planted in the sea. Evidently He was referring to the deep-rooted sin that re-asserts itself even seven times in a day. There is such power in the grace of God, when laid hold of by faith, as to root out and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Certainly this is naturally impossible, but faith recognizes that God's grace is greater than every obstacle: it depends on God.
Verses 7 to 10 remind us that we must be servants, not masters. Faith does not act independently, but in obedience to God and His Word. One may say he has faith to do great things, but if those things are not definitely the will of God, his claim is not faith at all. As servants we must keep a servant's place: this is vital when seeking to act by faith. A servant may be working in the field, plowing or feeding cattle (typical of gospel work and pastoral work connected with men), but when coming in to his master's house he was still a servant, and in Israel he was then to serve his master before receiving his own meal. Let us take this principle to heart. Whatever good work we may have done for the blessing of others, this does not entitle us to a higher place than servants. Rather, such work should be followed by direct service to the Lord Himself, that is, a spirit of submissive communion and worship that puts His pleasure first.
When a servant has done what the master commanded, does he expect special recognition, special thanks and praise? No! He simply did what was normally expected of him. So we too, after we have done all that was commanded us, have no reason to expect to be the objects of God's special favor: it is better to think of ourselves as unprofitable servants, for we know we could have done more. Real profit would be in doing more than what was commanded out of honest love for our Lord; and when such a thing is true we would never think of boasting of it. On the other hand, if we have not done all that has been commanded, what kind of servants are we? We saw in verses 1-4 a forgiving spirit, now in verses 5-10 a humble spirit, which is also a becoming feature of the knowledge of the grace of God in a world that rejects that grace.
TEN LEPERS CLEANSED
Now in verses 11 to 19 a thankful spirit is added. The Lord passed through Samaria and Galilee enroute to Jerusalem. Notice that Luke puts Samaria first, though Galilee was the more distant from Jerusalem. It is another reminder that Luke does not write chronologically, but uses a moral order. At one of the villages along the way, ten lepers pled for mercy, though they spoke from a long distance because of their sad physical condition. The Lord Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests, for it was the priests in Israel who were to judge as to whether one's leprosy was cured (Leviticus 14:1-3). As the lepers went in obedience to His word, they experienced the great miracle of the healing of their leprosy. One can imagine their excitement as they saw the miracle take place before their eyes!
One of them realized immediately that the Lord Jesus was entitled to a place higher than the priests; and while he probably went to them later, yet he gave the Lord first place by turning back and loudly glorifying God, falling at the Lord's feet with thanksgiving. Here was spontaneous, genuine appreciation of the Benefactor. Grace was rightly received and realized: whatever others did, he would express his unfeigned thankfulness before satisfying men's judgment as to his being healed. It is added that he was a Samaritan (v.15).
We may be sure the Lord valued this response; but He asked "where are the nine?" How easy it is to be glad for what one receives while having virtually no appreciation of the Giver! Sad, selfish condition! Also, at least some of the nine were Jews, because the Lord spoke of the Samaritan as "this stranger," so even Jews, being blessed as they were by Him, had still no real heart for their Messiah!
The Samaritan received from the Lord an assurance given to none of the others, "you faith has made you well." The Lord was clearly not referring to the man's physical condition, for the nine others also had been healed, even apart from faith. The man was spiritually heated, brought in reality of faith to God, and given this precious assurance. Again, only faith can rightly appreciate and respond to the pure grace of God.
THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Verses 20-37 show that grace produces a watchful spirit in those who know it, and who know grace has been refused by the world. The Pharisees demanded to know when the kingdom of God should come. Very likely they hoped that He would give an opinion as to which they might be able to find Him wrong. How little were they prepared for His answer! He told them that the kingdom of God does not come with observation. This truth was paramount for the time: the kingdom of God was among them (marginal reading), and they did not observe it. For what is a kingdom without a king? The King Himself was there, the Son of Man; and there were some at least whose hearts had been drawn in subjection to His authority, without display, without ostentation. While the millennial kingdom will be introduced in great power and glory, observed by all creation, yet God's kingdom was and is now being formed in a vital, moral, quiet way by hearts responding to the lowly grace of Him who is King, but asserting no claims to a throne at present. The Pharisees, however, looked for the kingdom while refusing the King!
The Lord then addressed His disciples. There were days in the future that would cause a yearning for one of the days of the Son of Man, that is, His coming in great power to deliver His people Israel from the terrible throes of the great tribulation.
Because the time would seem long (and indeed almost 200 years have gone by), there would be deceivers to ensnare souls with false hopes: "see here, or see there," that is, some plausible substitute for the promise of the Messiah. The disciples were warned to refuse to follow such things. For when the Son of Man comes to reign it will be as apparent as lightning flashing across the sky. While this will introduce the millennial kingdom, yet notice that the emphasis is not on the kingdom, but on the King Himself, the Son of Man.
They were not to expect this coming in the near future. First the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected, which would involve His being put to death. How long this rejection would continue is not suggested at all, yet this has continued following His resurrection for almost 2,000 years, and verse 26 is still future.
Events leading up to His coming to reign will not impress the world as being unduly spectacular. Normal living will continue as it did in the time of Noah, although (as in Noah's day) in a time of great evil and distress, which Scripture calls the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). Certainly people were aware of the testimony of Noah as to judgment, and there will be no lack of testimony then also, but people of the world will continue in an independent way, still concentrating on the material things of life, eating and drinking and marrying -- things not wrong in themselves, but too often the only object of men's existence. Forgetting God, they will be suddenly shocked by His unexpected intervention in their affairs as He comes to judge them (2 Thes 5:3).
Similar things are said as to the days of Lot, when men were occupied with their own prosperity and pleasure. We know in fact from the history (Genesis 19:4-10) that Sodom was also guilty of the dreadful moral corruption of homosexuality, but the Lord only spoke here of their concentration on living for this life (v.28), adding to the previous verse that they bought, sold, planted and built, which things indicate their preparation for continued living on earth, but with no concern for eternity. But when believing Lot went out of Sodom (practically dragged out), the city was suddenly destroyed by fire and brimstone (burning sulfur) from heaven.
Such will be the sudden intervention of the Son of Man when He is revealed in power and glory at the end of the great tribulation (Revelation 19:11-21). As in the case of Lot, when the signs become evident as to judgment, let no one linger, even to collect his belongings before fleeing. "Remember Lot's wife." She had gotten outside of Sodom, but looked back and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). She was not decisive but half-hearted in leaving Sodom. The Lord was pressing a moral lesson for all mankind, as is usual in Luke; though this refers to the same time as does Matthew 24:16-18, for when judgment sweeps over the land of Judea it will be sudden and swift, and following immediately in the wake of the setting up of "the abomination of desolation," an idolatrous image, in the temple area of Jerusalem.
One who sought to save his life would lose it, because he considered his possessions his life (v.33). This is a moral lesson for all times, but to be strikingly seen at that future time of the tribulation. God, in view of and prior to the revelation of the Son of Man, will use the ungodly to carry out His own discriminative judgment. Of two men sleeping in one bed, one will be taken in death, the other spared for blessing. Of two women grinding together, one will be killed, the other spared, her life preserved (v.35). Verse 36 is not included in most Greek manuscripts, so there is a question as to its being scripture. In fact, since the subject is prefaced "in that night," it is hardly likely that men would be working in the field. But the emphasis of this whole portion is on the fact of God so overruling the sweeping carnage of the land of Israel that those will be singled out for death whom He has decreed to die.
To answer the question as to where the one in each case is taken, the Lord spoke of the eagles being gathered together where the body is. In other words, when judgment is called for, God will have the executors of that judgment prepared to carry it out.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 17". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26