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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

Luke 17

Verses 1-10

(Probably in Peræa.)
Subdivision G.
cLUKE XVII. 1-10.

c1 And he said unto the disciples [Jesus here ceases to speak to the Pharisees, and begins a new series of sayings addressed to the disciples, which sayings are, however, pertinent to the occasion, and not wholly disconnected with what he has just been saying], It is impossible [in a world where Pharisees abound, etc.-- 1 Corinthians 11:19] but that occasions of stumbling should come; but woe unto him, through whom they come! [See Romans 14:1] to stumble. [See Psalms 143:2), it is impossible that he can do more than his duty. We may be rewarded for the discharge of our duty, but the reward is of grace and not of merit. Compare Luke 12:3-48. The theme is no doubt suggested by Luke 17:6. When one’s faith endows him with great gifts he need not consider himself as an unusually profitable servant for he can do no more than it is his duty to do. Godet denies this connection with Luke 17:6, contending that miracles are not among "the things that are commanded" in the terms of Luke 16:10; but miracles were commanded, and for those who could bestow it, a gift of healing was as much an obligation as a gift of alms ( Matthew 10:8, Acts 3:1-6). The paragraph is a fitting close to a discourse so much of which relates to Phariseeism.]

[FFG 517-518]

Verses 11-37

(Borders of Samaria and Galilee.)
cLUKE XVII. 11-37.

c11 And it came to pass, as they were on their way to Jerusalem, that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee. [If our chronology is correct, Jesus passed northward from Ephraim about forty miles, crossing Samaria (here mentioned first), and coming to the border of Galilee. He then turned eastward along that border down the wady Bethshean which separates the two provinces, and crossed the Jordan into Peræa, where we soon find him moving on toward Jericho in the midst of the caravan of pilgrims on the way to the passover.] 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off. [One may still meet such groups of lepers outside the villages. They do not stand directly in the road so as to make an actual meeting, but are off to one side and near enough to beg. The law required lepers to keep away from the rest of the people ( Leviticus 13:45, Leviticus 13:46). The rabbis are said to have prescribed a fixed distance at which lepers must keep, but authority varies as to this distance, some giving it as [529] a rod, and others as high as a hundred paces]: 13 and they lifted up their voices [such as they had, for the leper’s bronchial tubes are dry, and the voice is harsh and squeaky], saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. [Considering their condition, their prayer was definite enough.] 14 And when he saw them [the disciples about him probably at first obstructed the Lord’s view], he said unto them, Go and show yourselves unto the priests. [See 2 Kings 5:15], with a loud voice [made strong by health and gratitude] glorifying God; 16 and he fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. [On his way to the priests at Mt. Gerizim the Samaritan turned back to express his thanks. Apparently nine of the lepers were Jews. A Samaritan was among them because they were along the border of his country, and because the fellowship of affliction and disease obliterated the distinctions of race, as it does to this day. In the leper-houses at Jerusalem Mohammedans and Jews now live together despite the rancor existing between the healthy representatives of these two religions.] 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine? [The Lord publicly noted the indifference and ingratitude of the nine and the thanksgiving of the tenth. As we look around to-day and see how many are ungrateful for the blessings which they receive, the words ring like an echo in our ears.] 18 Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger? [It sometimes happens that we receive most where we expect least. Though the Samaritan’s religion was partly Jewish, yet by blood he was a foreigner, as the word "stranger" means.] 19 And he said unto him, Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. [Thus Jesus emphasized the fact that the blessing came through faith, encouraging the man to seek [530] higher blessings by the same means.] 20 And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo here! or, There! for, lo, the kingdom of God is within you. [ Romans 14:17. The question of the Pharisees was doubtless a covert criticism. More than three years before this Jesus had begun to say that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and they thought that after all this preparation it was high time that the kingdom should commence. They were looking for some manifestation of the sovereignty of God in the realm of the civil and the external, which would raise the Jewish nation to conspicuous supremacy, but they are told that the work of the kingdom is internal and spiritual ( John 3:8, John 18:36, Romans 10:8, Colossians 1:27), and that its effects are not such as can be located in space. They were seeking honors and joys, and would find contempt and sorrow ( Amos 5:18-20). Some have thought it strange than Jesus should say "within you" when addressing the Pharisees, but the word "you" is used generally and indefinitely.] 22 And he said unto his disciples [giving them instructions suggested by the question of the Pharisees], The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. 23 And they shall say to you, Lo, there! Lo, here! go not away, nor follow after them: 24 for as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day. [ Acts 26:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. If the Pharisees looked eagerly for a sensuous external Messianic kingdom, so also would the disciples be tempted in the days to come to cherish a somewhat similar yearning. Knowing that Jesus was to come again to rule in power and in great glory, they would, under the stress of persecution, hunger to see one of the days of his rule. This longing for the coming of the Christ is frequently expressed ( Philippians 4:5, Titus 2:13, James 5:7-9, Revelation 22:20). In their restless eagerness the [531] unwary disciples would be tempted to follow the false Messiahs who excited widespread admiration and attention. Against all this Jesus warns them, telling them that when the kingdom of heaven does at last assume a visible shape in the manifestation of its King, that manifestation will be so glorious, universal and pronounced as to be absolutely unmistakable.] 25 But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation. [Thus when he speaks of his glory Jesus is careful to mention the humiliation and suffering which precedes it, that the faith of his disciples may not be weakened by false expectations and misunderstandings. The day of glory was not for that generation, since it would reject him.] 26 And as it came to pass in the days of Noah [ Genesis 7:11-23], 27 They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot [ Genesis 19:15-28, Ezekiel 16:46-56, Judges 1:7]; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: 30 after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed. [Our Lord here gives us two historical incidents of the false security of the ungodly, and in doing so he endorses them as real history. The antediluvians and the citizens of Sodom discharged the business of the day and laid their plans for to-morrow and had no thought of evil or anticipation of trouble down to the very moment that the bowls of wrath were poured upon them. Despite all warnings, they were taken by surprise when completely off their guard. The coming of Christ shall be a like surprise to the people of the last day ( Matthew 24:44, Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15), and it shall be a day of like punishment-- 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.] 31 In that day, he that shall be on the housetop. [the flat roofs of Oriental houses [532] are used much the same as we use porches], and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away: and let him that is in the field likewise not return back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. [ Genesis 19:26, Luke 9:62.] 33 Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. [See Revelation 22:10-12). If in that hour we be found seeking to save our carnal treasures, it will be a sign that we have lost the spiritual from our lives and have no heavenly treasures.] 34 I say unto you, In that night there shall be two men on one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 There shall be two women grinding together [making meal or flour with the little stone hand-mills, as they still do in the East]; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. [Day and night exist simultaneously upon the earth, and the Lord’s coming will be at noon to some and at midnight to others. His saints will be found mingled with the rest of the people and engaged in duties befitting the hour. But the Lord will receive them to himself as his own ( John 14:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and they will be ready to be detached from their worldly ties that they may go to meet and welcome the bridegroom at his coming-- Matthew 25:6, Matthew 25:7.] 37 And they answering say unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Where the body is, thither will the eagles also be gathered together. [The disciples desired to know where this manifestation and division would take place, looking upon it as a local prediction. Jesus gave a proverbial answer, the meaning of which is that sin courts and draws to itself punishment and destruction just as a carcass draws winged [533] scavengers. Applying his words, we may say that as the corruption of the antediluvians drew upon them, the devastation of the flood, and as the crimes of the Sodomites called down upon them, the fires from heaven, and as the unbelief of the Jews of Christ’s day caused the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of the nation, so the wickedness of the men of the last times will result in the ending of the world. The word translated eagles is generic, and included the vultures also (Pliny Nat. His. ix. 3). It is likely that the Revision Committee retained the word "eagles" instead of vultures because of the mistaken notion of Lightfoot and others that our Lord here makes a covert allusion to the eagles which were borne upon the Roman standards. A passage similar to the latter part of this section is found at Matthew 24:17-41.]

[FFG 529-534]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 17". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.