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Christ teacheth to avoid occasions of offence: to forgive one another: the power of faith: how we are bound to God, and not he to us. He healeth ten lepers. Of the kingdom of God, and the coming of the Son of man.
Anno Domini 31.
Luke 17:1. Then said he unto the disciples,— Having been derided by the Pharisees as a visionary, and insulted on account of his doctrine concerning the pernicious influence of the love of money, our Lord took occasion to speak of affronts and offences,— Σκανδαλα, stumbling-blocks, provocations to sin; and though he represented such things as highly useful in respect of the exercise and improvement which they afford to holiness and virtue; and unavoidable by reason of the pride, anger, revenge, malice, and other jarring passions of men, he did not fail to set forth their evil nature in their dreadful punishment. To understand our Lord in the passage before us, it is necessary that we attend to an obvious distinction. All offences or temptations are not of the same nature; some of them are things in themselves sinful; others of them are things innocent: Jesus speaks of the first sort; nor has he denounced against the authors of them a greater punishment than they deserve; because to their own intrinsicmalignity such things have this added, that they prove stumbling-blocks to others; and so are of the most atrocious nature. When the other sort of offences happen to be mentioned, they are spoken of in milder terms: if the offence be given to a fellow-Christian, the person guilty of it is peculiarly blamed for wanting that love towards his brother, which the Christian religion enjoins. If it be given to a heathen, he is charged with being deficient in due concern for the glory of God: in the mean time, it must be observed on this head, that though the weakness of well-meaning persons,—who, by relying on our example, may be led to imitate us in things which they think sinful,—is a strong reason in point of charity, why we should forbear those actions, however innocent, (unless we are under the greatest necessity of doing them;) yet the perverseness of malicious minds, that are apt to misrepresent things, does by no means lay any obligations on a good man to forbear what he finds convenient for him, provided he himself knows it to be innocent; for the difference of the persons, who are apt to be affected by our example, greatly alters the case of offences, and our behaviour with relation to them. See the note on Matthew 18:5-6.
Luke 17:3-4. Take heed to yourselves:— Our Lord speaks here concerning a quarrelsome temper in his servants, but especially in the ministers and teachers of religion;insinuating,thatmanygrievous temptations to sin arise thence; temptations both to the persons who are injured by that temper, because injuries beget injuries; and to those who are witnesses of the injury, as encouraging them to venture on the like evils. But he prescribes a seasonable and prudent reprehension of the fault, accompanied with forgiveness on the part of the person injured, as the best means of disarmingthetemptationswhichmay arise from such a disposition. Sentiments of this kind, delivered immediately after our Lord had been insulted by the falsest teachers, for inculcating the purest doctrine, proved how truly he forgave them all the personal injuries which they had committed against him, throw a beautiful light on the severe things which he had said of them in the course of his ministry, and are powerful recommendations of that most amiable of virtues, the forgiveness of injuries. See the note on Matthew 5:44.
Luke 17:5. The apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.— Our Lord's discourse in the preceding verses, being very opposite to the common notions concerning the Messiah and his followers, seems to have staggered the faith of the disciples a little. They began possibly to fear,that Jesus, who talked in such a manner, was not the person they had hitherto taken him for. They prayed him therefore to increase their faith; meaning, perhaps, that he should put an end to their doubts, by erecting his kingdom speedily, and distributing the rewards which they were expecting for their services. Or we may take the word faith, in its ordinary sense, for the true principle of holiness and virtue, which the disciplesdesired their Master to strengthen in them, because the duty that he had recommended was extremely difficult. Wontzogenius himself acknowledges, that the disciples applying to Christ to strengthen their faith, shews that they believed him to have a divine influence over the spirits of men.
Luke 17:6. Ye might say unto this sycamine-tree, &c.— "If you had but a small measure of faith, it would overcome all temptations; even those, the conquering of which may be compared to the plucking up of trees, and planting them in the ocean." Some, taking this example, by which the efficacy of faith is illustrated, in a literal sense, have supposed that the apostles desired Jesus to increase their faith of working miracles; but the expression is proverbial, signifying not the working of miracles, but the doing of things extremely difficult. See another proverb of the same kind, Matthew 17:20.
Luke 17:7. Go, and sit down— Come in, and sit down. See Raphelius, and ch. Luke 12:37. Our Lord here returns to his subject, telling the apostles, that after they had done their utmost to discharge the whole duty incumbent on them, as God's servants sent forth to seek and save lost souls, they were not to imagine that they merited any thing thereby: and to make them sensible of the justness of his doctrine, he bade them consider in what manner they received the services of their own dependants. They reckoned themselves under no obligation to a servant, for doing the duty which his station bound him to perform. In like manner he, their Master, did not reckon himself indebted to them for their services; and therefore, instead of valuing themselves upon what they had done, it became them, after having performed all that was commanded them, to acknowledge that they had done nothing but their duty, Luke 17:10. Our Lord in this manner concluded his discourse concerning thetrue use of riches, and the right manner of discharging their duty as God's servants, sent forth to seek and save lost sinners, knowing the frame of mind which his disciples were in. He saw their faith begin to stagger, because the expected rewards were deferred, and little encouragement was given them to think that they would ever be bestowed. Perhaps, likewise, he knew that they were at that time in some degree infected with the leaven of the Pharisees, who, having a high opinion of their own righteousness, zealously maintained the doctrine of the merit of good works, together with a possibility of a man's performingmore than was commanded him; that is, the possibility of performing works of supererogation. Or, though the disciples were free from these errors, Jesus, on this occasion, might think it fit to condemn them, because he foresaw that in his own church they would creep in, spread widely, and be productive of the most baneful consequences. See on Luke 17:10.
Luke 17:8. Gird thyself,— Servants at that time used to be girded while waiting on their masters. See chap. Luke 12:37.
Luke 17:10. Unprofitable servants:— 'Αχρειοι, mean, and inconsiderable, who cannot pretend to have merit in any thing. It deserves remarking, that our Saviour applies this,—not to the servants in the parable, but to his disciples,—to all men: for it cannot, I conceive, in strictness be said, that he is an unprofitable servant to his earthly master, who does all things whatsoever his master commands; but of men, as the servants of God, it may very justly be said. The Hebrew word שׁפל shepel, which the LXX render by the word αχρειος, 2Sa 6:22 seems truly to express the meaning of this place:—base, vile, inconsiderable, humble. "We are but unprofitable servants," says venerable Bede; "servants, because bought with a price, unprofitable because our service cannot profit the Lord, or because we are not worthy of the future glory: therefore this is the perfection of faith in men, if, all precepts being fulfilled to the utmost of their power, they acknowledge themselves imperfect." Dr. Waterland, in a sermon on the subject, explaining the phrase, observes, that, upon the whole, when any, even the best of fallen men, profess themselves to be unprofitable servants of God, they may reasonably be supposed to mean, that they are creatures who can make no beneficial returns, no proper requitals, to their Creator; that they are mortal creatures, who neither can nor will do any thing without the aids of divine grace: and further, that they are also sinners, who, instead of meriting a reward, or claiming it as a debt, cannot so much as claim from any right in themselves impunity in God's sight, but must be content to sue to him, in the humble petitionary form, for reward, for grace, and even or impunity; referring all to God's mercy and goodness, and that also purchased for them by the alone merits of Jesus Christ.
Luke 17:12. There met him ten men— As lepers were banished from the towns, they were likewise obligated to keep at a distance from the roads which led to them. Curiosity, however, to see the travellers who passed, or an inclination to beg, or perhaps a pre-concerted plan to find out Jesus, having brought these ten as nigh to the public road as they could, they espied our Lord, and cried to him, beseeching him to take pity on them, and cure them. It seems they knew him personally, having seen him before, or guessed that it might be he from the crowds which followed him. If it be asked how so many lepers came together, the answer is, that being secluded from the society of other men on account of their disease, they sought the comforts of society in the company of each other.
Luke 17:17. But where are the nine?— The ingratitude of these Jews will appear monstrous, if we consider that the leprosy, the malady from which they were delivered, is itself one of the most loathsome diseases incident to human nature; and a disease which by the law of Moses subjected them to greater hardships than any other distemper whatever. But though the cure of this dreadful disorderwas produced without the smallest pain, or even trouble to the lepers, and so speedily that it was completed by the time they had got at a small distance from him, (as appears by the Samaritan's finding Jesus, where they left him) the Jews would not give themselves the trouble of returning to glorify God, by making the miracle public, not to honour Jesus by acknowledging the favour. Such were the people who gloried in their being holy, and who insolently called the men of all other nations dogs: but their hypocrisy and presumption received a severe reprimand on this occasion; for our Lord, in his observation on their behaviour, plainly declared, that the outward profession of any religion, however true and excellent that religion may be in itself, is of no value before God, in comparison of piety and inward holy dispositions:—and in this view we should not be too forward to condemn the Jews;—for have we not too much reason to doubt whether, of the multitudes who are indebted to the divine goodness, one in ten has a becoming sense of it. We should labour to impress our hearts deeply with such a sense, always remembering what it is that God expects of us, and considering that as the exercise of gratitude towards such a benefactor is most reasonable, so it is also proportionably delightful to the soul. It is indeed like the incense of the Jewish priests, which, while it did an honour to God, did likewise regale with its own fragrancy the person by whom it was offered.
Luke 17:18. There are not, &c.— Has there none been observed returning to give glory to God, except this stranger? Heylin. Wynne, instead of the word stranger, renders it alien, αλλογενης,— an alien to the commonwealth of Israel: for as Jesus was now in Samaria, this man could not properly be called a stranger.
Luke 17:20-21. The kingdom of God cometh not, &c.— While Jesus was in Ephraim, (John 11:54.) the Pharisees asked him, when the kingdom of God, by which they meant the Messiah's kingdom, was to commence? They had very grand notions of the extent of the Messiah's kingdom, the number of his subjects, the strength of his armies, the pomp and eclat of his court; and were eager to have that glorious empire speedily erected; or, being inveterate enemies of our Lord, they might ask the question in derision, because every thing about Jesus was so unlike to the Messiah whom they expected. To correct their mistaken notions, our Lord tells them, that the Messiah's kingdom does not consist in any pompous outward form of government, to be erected in this or that particular country with the terror of arms and the confusion of war; but that it consists in the subjection of men's wills, and in the conformity of their minds, to the law of God, to be effected by a new dispensation of religion which was already begun: accordingly, they were not to seek for it in this or that place, saying, Lo here! or Lo there! for the kingdom of God, the new dispensation of religion, productive of thedominion of righteousness in men's minds, was already begun among them, being preached by Christ and his apostles, and confirmed by innumerable miracles. The phrase εντος υμων, signifies more properly among you, than within you, as we render it; for it is certain that our Lord could not properly say, that the kingdom of God was in the Pharisees, to whom he spoke, whose temper was entirely alienated from the nature and design of it.
Luke 17:23. And they shall say to you, &c.— "They, that is, the Jews, who, after having rejected me, shall long for the appearance of the Messiah, (Luke 17:22.) and eagerly listen to every pretender who shall assume that character."
Luke 17:32. Remember Lot's wife.— This unfortunate woman had been informed by angels of the destruction of Sodom, and promised deliverance; but was expressly forbidden to look back, on any account, in the time of her flight; because it was proper that they should flee speedily, in the faith of this divine declaration, and perfectly contented, or at least endeavouring to be so, that they had escaped with their lives. Nevertheless, she presumedto entertain doubts concerning the destruction of her wicked acquaintance, because she did not fully believe the angels' message. Moreover, being inwardly sorry for the loss of her relations and goods, and at the same time not sufficiently valuing the kindness of God who had sent his angels to preserve her, she lingered behind her husband, discontented and vexed, allowing him and his two daughters to enter into Zoar before her, thereby laying a temptation in Lot's way to took back upon her, on account of the danger to which she was exposing herself. But no sooner had Lot with his children entered the place of their refuge, than God poured out the fulness of his wrath upon the offending cities. The thunder, the shrieking of the inhabitants, the crashing of the houses falling, were heard at a distance. Lot's wife, not yet in Zoar, was at length convinced that all was lost; and being exceedingly displeased, she despised the gift of her life; for, in contradiction to the angels' command, she turned about, and looked round at the dreadful devastation; probably also bewailed her perishing kindred and wealth, (Genesis 19:14.) But her infidelity, her disobedience, her ingratitude, and her love of the world, received a just, though severe rebuke. In an instant she was turned into a pillar of salt, being burned up by the flames, out of whose reach she could not fly; and so was made a perpetual monument of God's displeasure to all posterity. Her looking back, though in itself a thing indifferent, yet as it was done contrary to the divine prohibition, and expressed such a complication of evil dispositions, was so far from being a small sin, thatit fully deserved the punishment inflicted on it. See on Genesis 19:26.
Luke 17:33. Whosoever shall seek to save his life, &c.— As in the whole of this discourse our Lord is speaking of the temporal calamities which were to befal the Jewish nation, his words in this verse must be interpreted accordingly intheir primary meaning: "Whoever, in order to save his life, shall flee into the city, because it is strongly fortified and garrisoned, shall meet with the destruction from which he is flying; whereas they shall be safe who flee into the open towns, and defenceless villages, which, in the opinion of many, may be thought equal to throwing away their lives." At the same time the words may undoubtedly be considered as of general interpretation, and be profitably applied to every private Christian.
Luke 17:35-36. Left.— Dismissed. Elsner.
Luke 17:37. Wheresoever the body is, &c.— "As eagles find out, and gather round a carcase; so wherever wicked men are, the judgments of God will pursue them; and particularlyin whatever part of the land any number of the unbelieving Jews are, there will the Romans, the executioners of the divine vengeance upon this nation, be gathered together to destroy them." The expression is proverbial, and will appear to have been beautifully applied, when it is remembered that the Romans bore in their standards the figure of an eagle, and that a certain kind of eagle mentioned by Aristotle is found to feed on carcases. Dr. Clarke explains our Lord's answer thus: "Your question is of no moment; no matter where or when the same thing comes to pass; wherever the case and circumstances are alike, there also will the event be proportionably the same; as wheresoever the prey is, thither will the birds of prey resort: so wherever the doctrine of Christ is received, there is the kingdom of Christ; and wherever the persons to be judged shall be found endued with the like diversity of qualifications, there also shall the impartial judgment of God, the searcher of hearts, distinguish them with the like distinctions."
Inferences drawn from the cure, &c. of the ten lepers, Luke 17:11-19. The Jews and Samaritans could not abide each other; yet here in the leprosy they became social: here was one Samaritan leper with the Jewish lepers: community of sufferings had made them friends, whom even religion had disjoined. What virtue there is in misery, that can unite even the most estranged hearts!
These ten are met together, and they meet Christ; not casually, but upon due deliberation: no wonder if they thought no attendance too long to be delivered from so loathsome, so miserable a disease. We are all sensible enough of our bodily infirmities; O that we could be equally weary of our spiritual maladies and deformities, which are no less mortal, if they be not healed; and they cannot be healed by any human means. These men had died lepers, if they had not met with Christ. O Saviour, give us grace to seek, and patience to wait for thee, and then we know thou wilt find us, and we shall find a remedy.
Though these men came to seek Christ; yet, finding him, they stand afar off, whether for reverence, or for security, God had enacted this distance: it was their charge, if they had occasion to pass through the streets, to cry out, I am unclean; it was no less than duty to proclaim their own infectiousness; there was not danger only, but sin in their approach; and yet these lepers, though far off in the distance of place, are near in respect of the acceptance of their prayer. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him in truth.
He that stands near, may whisper; he that is afar off, must cry aloud: so did these lepers, (Luke 17:13.) yet did not so much the distance as the ardour of desire strain their voices: that which can give voice to the dumb, can give loudness to the vocal.
All cried together, uniting their ten voices in one sound, that their conjoined forces might besiege that gracious ear. All affected with one common disease, all lift up their voices together; and Jews and Samaritan agree in joint supplication. When we would obtain universal favours, we must not content ourselves with solitary devotions, but join our spiritual forces together, and supplicate the Almighty in full assembly. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. O holy, happy violence, which is thus offered to Heaven: how can we want blessings, when so many cords draw them down upon our heads!
Too much like these lepers in our condition, why do we not imitate them in their conduct? Whither should we fly, but to our Jesus? How should we stand aloof in regard to our own wretchedness? How should we also lift up with them the voice of supplication, and sue for favour in those well-adapted terms, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! Jesus, when he saw them, said, Go, shew yourselves unto the priests (Luke 17:14.): the disease is cured ere it can be complained of; for their shewing to the priest, presupposes them to be whole.
The original command in this case runs, "either to Aaron or to one of his Sons." But why to them? The leprosy was a bodily sickness; what is this to spiritual persons?—But this affection of the body is joined with a legal uncleanness, and it must come under their cognizance, not as a sickness, but as an impurity. Nor was it only the peculiar judgment of the priest that was here intended, but the thankfulness of the patient too; that, by the sacrifice which he should bring with him, he might render to God the glory of his cure. O God, whomsoever thou curest of their spiritual leprosy, are bound to present thee with the true evangelical sacrifices, not of their praises only, but of themselves, which is their reasonable service.
The lepers did not, would not, go of themselves, but are sent by Christ (Luke 17:14.); Christ, who was above the law, would not transgress it: he knew that this was his charge by Moses. Justly might he have dispensed with his own injunction; but he would not: though the law does not bind the divine Legislator, yet will he voluntarily bind himself. This was but a branch of the ceremonial law; yet would he not slight it, but in his own person sets the example of a studious observance. How carefully should we submit ourselves to the royal laws of our Creator, and to the wholesome laws of our superiors, when the Son of God would not omit this punctuality in a ceremony.
Had this duty been neglected, what clamours had perhaps been raised by his envious adversaries! what scandals diffused!—though the fault had been that of the patients, not of the physician. They that watched Christ so narrowly, and were apt to take such miserable exceptions at his sabbath cures, at his disciples' unwashen hands, &c.—how much more might they have calumniated him, if by his neglect the law of leprosy had been palpably transgressed? Not only evil must be avoided, but offence also (see Luke 17:1.): that offence is ours, which we did not prevent when we might. But neither offence to others, nor torment or death in respect to ourselves, should prevent our fulfilling the clear will of God.
What a noble, what an irrefragable testimony was this to the power and truth of the Messiah! How can this Jewish nation but believe, or be made inexcusable in not believing? When they shall see so many lepers come at once to the temple, all cured by a secret volition, without word or touch; how can they choose but say, "This work is supernatural; no limited power could do this; how is he not God, if his power be infinite?"—Their own eyes shall be witnesses and judges of their own conviction.
This act of shewing to the priest, was not more required by the law, than pre-required of these lepers by our Saviour, for the trial of their obedience. It has ever been God's custom, by small precepts, to prove men's dispositions: obedience is as well tried in a trifle, as in the most important charge; yea, so much the more, as the thing required is less. What command soever we receive from God, or from our human superiors agreeably to the will of God, let us not scan the weight of the injunction, but the authority of the enjoiner. Difficulty or ease in the execution of the command, are equally vain pretences for disobedience.
These lepers are wiser: they obeyed, and went. What was the issue? As they went, they were healed, (Luke 17:14.) Lo! had they stood still, they had still been lepers: now they went, they are whole.—What haste the blessing makes to overtake their ready obedience.
Yet besides this recompence, O Saviour! thou wouldst herein have respect to thine own just glory. Had not these lepers been cured in the way, but in the end of their walk, upon their shewing themselves to the priests, how much light had the miracle lost! Perhaps the priests would have challenged it to themselves, and attributed it to their prayers: perhaps the lepers might have thought it was thy purpose to honour the priests as the instrument of their marvellous cure. As it is, there can be no colour of any other participation: as thy power, so thy praise admits of no partners.
And now, methinks, I see what astonishing joy revels among these lepers, as they perceive this instantaneous cure. Each tells the other what a change he feels; each comforts the other with the assurance of his outward cleanness; each congratulates the other's happiness, and thinks and says, how joyful this news will be to their friends, to their families! Their society now serves them well to applaud, and to heighten their own felicity.
The miracle, wrought indifferently upon all, is differently received. One only was thankful (Luke 17:15.). Where the ox finds grass, the viper sucks in poison. O my God! if we look not up to thee, we may come, and not be healed; we may be healed, and not be thankful.
This one man breaks away from his fellows to seek Christ, and pour forth the fulness of a grateful heart. It is a base and unworthy thing for a man so to subject himself to the examples of others, as not sometimes to resolve to be an example to others. When either evil is to be done, or good neglected, how much better is it to retire and go the right way alone, than to err in company!
O noble pattern of thankfulness! What diligent officiousness is here! What a hearty recognition of the blessing! What a humble reverence of his Benefactor! He falls down at his feet, giving him thanks, as acknowledging at once Christ's beneficence and his own unworthiness. Happy were it for all Israel, if they would but learn of this Samaritan.
It is not for nothing, that note is taken of the country of this thankful leper;—He was a Samaritan. The place is known and branded with the infamy of paganism: outward disadvantage of place or parentage cannot block up the way of God's grace towards the penitent sinner, whatever be his country; as, on the other hand, the privileges of birth and nature avail us nothing without repentance.
How sensible wert thou, O Saviour, of thy own beneficence; (Luke 17:17.) were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? The favours of God are universal; not a creature but tastes of his bounty: his sun and rain are for others besides his friends. But none of his gracious dealings escape either his knowledge or record. Why should not we, O God, keep a book of our receipts from thee, which, agreeing with thine, may at once declare thee bounteous and us grateful!
Our Saviour did not ask this by way of doubt, but of exprobation. Full well did he count the steps of those absent lepers; but he upbraids their ingratitude, that they were not where they should have been. There are not found that return to give glory to God, save this stranger. Had they been all Samaritans, this had been criminal: but now they were Israelites, their ingratitude was more foul than their leprosy: the more we are bound to God, the more shameful is our unthankfulness. There is scarce one in ten that is careful to give God his own: this neglect is not more general than displeasing; and Christ had never missed their presence, had not their absence been hateful and injurious.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The discourse given us, Luk 17:1-10 is particularly addressed to the disciples, and contains,
1. A warning against giving offence. It must needs be, considering the natural corruption of our nature, the craft of Satan, and the temptations of the world, that offences come; but woe to persecutors, who discourage and oppose the work of God; woe to seducers, who corrupt the truth, and deceive the souls of men with pernicious heretics; woe to faithless professors, whose carnal lives stumble the weak and harden the wicked: better were it for them to die with the vilest of malefactors, than live to increase their everlasting misery.
2. A command to forgive all injuries. Take heed to yourselves, as not to give offence, so also not to take it. When others are provoking, hold in your own spirit, and in patience possess your souls; let no angry thought, no passionate word or wish, no violence, break forth or be indulged. Mildly endeavour to convince an offending brother; and the moment he expresses his repentance, let the arms of forgiveness and reconciliation be open to him. If he, through carelessness, forgetfulness, or imprudence, seven times in a day repeat the offence, and turn again, professing his sorrow, and promising greater watchfulness, we must still forgive, and neither upbraid him, nor keep in mind his repeated provocations.
3. In the next place, instruction is given, how we can alone discharge this difficult duty. Lord, say the apostles, Increase our faith. This is the root whence all other graces flow; as this strengthens, they increase and manifest themselves. The apostles themselves were conscious of the weakness of their faith; they knew that his grace alone could supply their wants; therefore in prayer to him they make their application. We must go to the same Saviour, and he will not send us empty away. To their request the Lord replied, 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: such being the mighty efficacy of divine faith; and every duty, under its influence, becomes practicable.
4. Christ enjoins upon them humility in all their services. Whatever works they were enabled to perform, whatever difficulties they might be called to encounter, they must regard themselves as his servants, and fulfil the duties of their station; nor think they had merited any thing by their labours: for, as a servant, when he returns from his work in the field, does not expect to be attended, but is required first to wait on his master before he sups himself, nor is thanked for so doing, because it is his duty; in like manner must Christ's ministers and servants, when they have done their best, acknowledge that they are unprofitable servants; and if they had indeed performed all things commanded them, they would have done no more than was their duty to do, and would have no merit to plead; our goodness extendeth not to God, we can never make him our debtor for duty, while we must daily own ourselves his debtors for pardoning and sanctifying grace.
2nd, The leprosy was a disorder not only incurable, and most nauseous, but which rendered the unhappy patient ceremonially defiled, and excluded him from the comforts of human society. We have the miraculous cure of ten men afflicted with that miserable disease.
1. They met Christ on his journey, hearing it may be of his coming that way; and assembled to move his compassion, and unite their supplications to him. Keeping at a humble distance, they lifted up their voice and cried aloud for mercy to him, whom fame had proclaimed the Saviour of the miserable. Note; (1.) A humble sense of our own vileness should deeply affect our souls in all our approaches to God. (2.) Joint sufferers should unite their prayers, and thus more powerfully besiege the throne of grace.
2. Christ sent them to the priests for inspection, whom the law had made the judges of leprosy. And herein he intimated his design to cleanse them, if they in faith obeyed his direction; and withal hereby his power and glory would be made evident to those in the sanctuary, who, pronouncing these persons clean, might learn by what means the wondrous cure was wrought.
3. As they went, they were healed. They did not hesitate about the journey, or say, To what purpose should we go? but went in faith, and were accordingly healed: for in the way of duty we may expect Christ's powerful hand of grace to work effectually for us, where we are utterly unable to help ourselves.
4. One of the poor lepers no sooner received his cure, than he immediately returned, with a loud voice glorifying God, adoring the power and grace which he had so richly experienced; and fell at the feet of Jesus, with warmest gratitude expressing his acknowledgments of the mercy which he had received. Note; The least we can render to God for his goodness towards us, is praise; and therein we are bound to be speedy and hearty, deeply sensible that we are less than the least of all his mercies.
5. Christ expresses his approbation of his conduct, and encourages his faith. Nine out of the ten went on; but this man, though a Samaritan, a stranger to the commonwealth of Israel, evinced deeper gratitude and more unfeigned religion than those who professed themselves of the peculiar people of God. Our Lord therefore dismisses him with an assurance of a present internal salvation. His faith had not only obtained his cure in common with the rest, but had brought salvation into his soul. Note; (1.) Ingratitude is a common sin. How many more receive mercies from God than are thankful for them? (2.) We often meet with the greatest gratitude where we least expected it: while sometimes they who make profession of religion, most grievously disappoint us.
3rdly, We have our Lord's answer to the Pharisees' question, when the kingdom of God should come; that glorious temporal kingdom of the Messiah which their prejudices taught them to expect.
1. He informs them that it will come with none of that outward show which they imagined, nor occasion any such observation as they looked for; as when a prince makes his progress through his kingdom, every mouth is full of it, Lo here he comes, or lo there he resides: for behold the kingdom of God is within you; the heart is the seat of the Messiah's kingdom; there he sets up his throne, bringing the soul, with all its faculties, into obedience to his blessed Self. Note; (1.) Christianity knows no sect or party; Christ is not confined here or there; but all, who believe in him and love him in sincerity, are subjects of his happy government. (2.) We must look into our hearts whether Christ be formed in us. All true religion is internal and experimental, and without this the form and shew of godliness avail nothing.
2. He directs his discourse to his disciples, with a view to warn them of the difficulties that they must encounter.
Far from becoming great men in this world, esteemed and honoured as they flattered themselves, they would meet with such seasons of distress and persecution, as would make them look back with desire and regret upon one of these days, when they enjoyed Christ's personal presence with them, and wish for it in vain.
3. He foretels them of his speedy and unexpected appearance to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish people; when driven to extremities, they would be ready to hearken to every impostor who pretended that Christ was here or there, ready to rescue them from the power of the Romans; but, like lightning, he would appear and utterly consume that devoted city and nation. Or, this may represent also the mighty efficacy of his gospel, which, with irresistible power and rapidity, should spread to the ends of the earth, notwithstanding all opposition.
4. He informs them that the Messiah must suffer many things, and be rejected of that generation: but when, by death, he has completed the great work of atonement, then all his enemies and theirs must fall before him.
5. His coming to destroy Jerusalem would be sudden and terrible, as the flood which consumed the old world, and the fire that devoured the cities of Sodom; while the sensuality and carnal security of the Jewish people would be like that which prevailed in the days of Lot and Noah, whose warnings were despised and disbelieved, till the threatened ruin came, and, too late, brought the dire conviction of their truth. So would the unbelieving Jews reject the warnings of Christ and his apostles, and perish as these despisers of old. Note; (1.) The inordinate pursuit of this world's gratifications is apt to lull the soul into a fatal security. (2.) It is common for sinners to go fast asleep into eternal misery, and not to be apprehensive of their danger till they lift up their eyes in torments.
6. He admonishes his disciples, as soon as they saw the danger approach, and the Roman army advancing to Jerusalem, to flee without delay; nor to regard what they left behind in the city, nor stop to cast a look thither-wards, lest, as Lot's wife was made a monument of divine vengeance, a like destruction should overtake them, if, solicitous about what they left, they should look back, or go back to save it. In these days of persecution, when tempted to save their lives by base compliances, they must remember that this would be the sure way to perish everlastingly; while readiness to meet death itself, in the way of duty, would most effectually secure their eternal life and glory. Note; (1.) We should often remember Lot's wife, and tremble at the thought of drawing back. (2.) If we would make a right estimation of our gain and loss, we must look forward to eternity, and take that into the reckoning.
7. God's distinguishing providence will in that day take care of his believing people, who, though exposed to the same dangers as others, shall be then singularly preserved, and escape from the general desolation.
8. In answer to his disciples, who inquired, Where, Lord? what will become of those who are left, and where shall the judgment light, he informs them, Where the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together: wherever the Jews are, the Romans, as eagles, will pursue them, seize them in their fastnesses, and utterly root them out of the land. And this may be applied to Christ himself, to whom all his believing people eagerly flock and feed on him, to the great strengthening and comfort of their souls.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 17". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12