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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Luke 17

 

 


Verse 1

Luke 17:1. Then said he unto the disciples — Our Lord, about this time, thought proper to repeat to the people, who then attended on his ministry, and were desirous of being instructed by him, several particulars of his doctrine, which he had formerly delivered in a more private way to his apostles, and some others of his disciples, as follows: It is impossible but that offences will come — Considering the general corruption of human nature, the snares of the world, and the temptations of Satan, it cannot be but that one way or other offences will be given and taken: stumbling- blocks will be laid in the way of such as are travelling to the heavenly Jerusalem, and many will stumble at them, and fall over them; will be hindered in the way, or turned out of it; for many professing my religion will act in a manner very unsuitable to it, unworthy of themselves, and disgraceful to the holy name they bear. But wo unto him through whom they come — Let me warn you, therefore, as you love your own souls, to guard against the guilt and danger of being stumbling-blocks in the way of others. It were better for him, &c. — I assure you that such a one, especially he that by an immoral life proves a reproach and scandal to my cause, had better die by the hand of violence, and suffer the most shocking execution, than that he should offend, or cause to stumble and fall, one of these little ones, that is, one weak believer, or any other of my despised and persecuted followers. See on Matthew 18:7-9.


Verse 3-4

Luke 17:3-4. Take heed to yourselves — That you may neither offend others, nor be offended by others, but that you may keep all your passions under proper regulation, and may be preserved from those resentments of injuries, real or supposed, which, if yielded to, might occasion much sin to yourselves or others. If thy brother trespass against thee, &c. — But while our Lord cautioned them against all angry passions, and that quarrelsome temper which they naturally produce, he thus prescribed a seasonable and prudent reprehension of any fault that might be committed, accompanied with forgiveness on the part of the person injured, as the best means of disarming the temptations that might arise from such a disposition. See on Matthew 18:21. And if he repent, forgive him — Immediately, without insisting on any rigorous satisfaction. And if he trespass against thee seven times a day — That is, very frequently; and seven times a day turn again, saying, I repent — That is, if he give sufficient proof that he does really repent, after having sinned ever so often; thou shalt forgive him — Shalt receive him just as if he had never sinned against thee. But this forgiveness is due only to real penitents. See on Matthew 18:21-22. In a lower sense, we are to forgive all, penitent or impenitent, so as to bear them the sincerest goodwill, and to do them all the good we can; and that not seven times only, but seventy times seven.


Verse 5-6

Luke 17:5-6. And the apostles said, Lord, increase our faith — That we may thus forgive, and neither offend nor be offended. And he said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed — You would be able to overcome all temptations, even those, the conquering of which may be compared to the plucking up of trees and planting them in the ocean, that is, compared to things impossible. 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 undoubtedly proverbial, signifying, not the working of miracles, but the doing of things extremely difficult.


Verses 7-10

Luke 17:7-10. But which of you, &c. — But while you endeavour to live in the exercise of this noble grace of faith, and in a series of such services as are the proper fruits of it, be careful, in the midst of all, to maintain the deepest humility, as in the presence of God your heavenly Master, on whom, as you are his servants, you can have no claim of merit: Which of you, having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, &c. — To make his disciples sensible 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 had merited nothing thereby; 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, and expecting great rewards for it, it became them, after having performed all that was commanded them, to think and say that they had done nothing but their duty. When ye shall have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants — For a man cannot profit God. Happy is he who judgeth himself an unprofitable servant; miserable is he whom God pronounces such. But though we are unprofitable to him, our serving him is not unprofitable to us. For he is pleased to give, by his grace, a value to our good works, which, in consequence of his promise, entitles us to an eternal reward.


Verses 11-14

Luke 17:11-14. He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee — As Samaria lay between Galilee and Judea, and therefore our Lord, taking his journey to Jerusalem, must go first through Galilee, and then through Samaria, it is inquired why it is here said that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. To this Grotius, Whitby, Campbell, and some others, answer, that the original expression, δια μεσου σαμαριας και γαλιλαιας, means, between Samaria and Galilee, or through those parts in which the two countries bordered on each other; or through the confines of them. There met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off — As lepers were banished from the towns, they were likewise obliged to keep at a distance from the roads which led to them. Curiosity, however, to see the travellers who passed, or, it may be, an inclination to beg, having brought these ten as nigh to the public road as they were permitted to come, they espied Jesus, and cried to him, beseeching him to take pity on them, and cure them. They had heard of some of the great miracles which he had performed, and either knew him personally, having seen him before, or guessed that it might be he by the crowds which followed him. And he said, Go show yourselves to the priests — Intimating that the cure they desired should be performed by the way. And as they went — In obedience to his word; they were cleansed — Namely, by his wonder-working power; the efficacy of which was often exerted on objects at a distance, as well as on such as were near.


Verses 15-19

Luke 17:15-19. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed — Was so affected, that, with a heart full of gratitude and joy, he immediately turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God — Made a free and open acknowledgment of the signal mercy which he had received. Though he had kept at a distance from Jesus before, yet being sensible that he was now perfectly clean, he came near, that all might have an opportunity of beholding the miracles; and fell down on his face at his feet — In the deepest humiliation, giving him thanks as the immediate author of his cure; and yet this man was a Samaritan — One of that heretical nation, from which one would have expected less of any thing good than from the Jews, the professors of the true religion, and members of God’s visible church. Therefore, to make known the good disposition of the man, though he professed a false religion, and to intimate that the others, who had been more favoured with external privileges and advantages, ought to have showed as great a sense of piety and gratitude as he; Jesus said, Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? — Why did they not return to give thanks? This intimates that ingratitude is a very common sin; of the many that receive mercy from God, there are but few, very few, that return to give thanks in a right manner; that render according to the benefits done unto them. There are not found to give glory to God, save this stranger — ο αλλογενης ουτος, this alien — Such, ever since the captivity, the Jews have considered the Samaritans. They call them Cuthites to this day. Thus many, who profess revealed religion, are outdone and quite shamed by some that are governed only by natural religion, and that not only in moral virtue, but in piety and devotion. “The ingratitude of these Jewish lepers, now cured, will appear monstrous, if we consider that the malady from which they were delivered is in 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 distemper whatsoever. But though the cure of this dreadful affliction was produced without the smallest pain or even trouble to the lepers, and so speedily that it was completed by the time they had got a little way off, as appears by the Samaritan’s finding Jesus where he left him, these Jews would not give themselves the trouble of returning to glorify God, by making the miracle public, nor to honour Jesus, by acknowledging the favour. Such were the people that gloried in their being holy, and 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 observations 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.” — Macknight.


Verse 20-21

Luke 17:20-21. When he was demanded of the Pharisees — It is uncertain whether what is here mentioned took place while our Lord was on his journey, or after he came to Jerusalem; when the kingdom of God should come — That is, when the kingdom of the Messiah, which they had learned to term the kingdom of God, was to commence? They had very grand notions of the extent of the Messiah’s kingdom, of the number of his subjects, the strength of his armies, the pomp and eclat of his court, and were eager to hear of its being speedily erected. Or, being inveterate enemies of Christ, they might possibly ask the question in derision, because every thing about Jesus was very unlike to the Messiah whom they expected. He answered, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation — With such outward pomp as draws the observation of mankind: or, as Dr. Whitby explains the expression, not with that royal splendour or worldly grandeur which shall render it conspicuous in the eyes of the world, as you expect. Neither shall they say, Lo here, or, Lo there — This shall not be the language of those who are, or shall be, sent by me to declare the coming of my kingdom, nor shall men seek for it in this or that place, saying, Lo, it is here, or, Lo, it is there; for behold, the kingdom of God is within you — It is an internal, spiritual kingdom; erected in the hearts of men, consisting in the subjection of their wills to the will of God, and in the conformity of their minds to his laws. Wherever it exists, it exists in men’s hearts. See Romans 14:17. Or, as our Lord was addressing the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, and cannot be understood as speaking of the power his kingdom had gained over their hearts, whose temper was entirely alienated from the nature and design of it; the clause, perhaps, ought rather to be rendered, The kingdom of God is among you. Thus Beza, Raphelius, Whitby, Doddridge, and many others understand it: namely, as signifying that the Messiah’s kingdom began now to appear among them, the gospel of the kingdom being now preached, miracles, in confirmation of it, being wrought, and the grace of God, which accompanied it, turning many sinners from the evil of their ways, and transforming them into the divine image. Thus Grotius paraphrases the passage, “Already among you;” that is, “among this very Jewish people, that kingdom begins to exert its power; you not observing it, and an evident sign of this are miracles. Accordingly, Matthew 12:28, Christ speaks to the same Pharisees after this manner: If I, by the finger of God, cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come nigh unto you; or rather, come upon, or among you, (as εφθασεν εφυμας, properly means,) where, by the word you, the whole Jewish people are in like manner intended.” See also Matthew 21:43, where our Lord says, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you.


Verses 22-25

Luke 17:22-25. The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man — One day of mercy, or one day wherein you might converse with me, as you do now. Having spoken to the Pharisees, he now addressed his disciples, and in the hearing of the Pharisees prophesied concerning the destruction of the Jewish state, whose constitution, both religious and civil, was the chief obstacle to the erection of his kingdom; for the attachment which the Jews had to their constitution was the spring of all their opposition to Christianity, and of their cruelty to its abetters. A prediction of this nature, delivered as the continuation of his answer to the Pharisees, who desired to know when Messiah’s kingdom should come, plainly signified, that it would first become conspicuous in the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth. But because love and compassion were eminent parts of our Lord’s character, he spake of that dreadful catastrophe in such a manner as might be most profitable to his hearers. He told them, first of all, that they and the whole nation should be in the greatest distress before the destruction of their constitution, and the full establishment of Messiah’s kingdom; and that they should passionately wish for Messiah’s personal presence to comfort them under their afflictions, but should not be favoured with it. Next he cautioned them against the deceivers which, in that time of universal distress, would arise, pretending to be the Messiah, and promising to deliver the people from the powers which oppressed them. He told them, that these deceivers would lurk a while in private, till, by the diligence of their emissaries spreading abroad their fame, and exhorting the people to go out to them, they had gathered a force sufficient to support them. They shall say to you, See here, or see there; go not after them — Do not go forth to them, nor follow them, for by this mark you shall know them to be deceivers. For as the lightning, &c., shall the Son of man be in his day — So manifest, so swift, so wide, so irresistible, so awful in its consequences shall his coming be. He shall come, indeed, but in a manner very different from that in which the generality of this people expect him, even to execute a sudden and unavoidable destruction upon his enemies, and establish his religion and government in a great part of the world. See notes on Matthew 24:23-27. But first he must suffer many things — See on Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33.


Verses 26-30

Luke 17:26-30. As it was in the days of Noe, &c. — In the next place, he foretold the stupidity of the generation he should come to destroy, comparing it to that of the old world, about the time of the flood; who, being wholly unaffected with the admonitions which Noah gave them, while building the ark, and with the threatenings which he then denounced, went on as usual, following their ordinary occupations, and pursuing their pleasures, both lawful and unlawful, in great security. The consequence of which was, that, ere they were aware, the flood came and destroyed them all. See on Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39. Likewise, as it was in the days of Lot — The Jewish people shall be sunk in carnal security at the coming of the Son of man to execute judgment upon them, as the Sodomites were, when they were unexpectedly destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven.


Verse 31-32

Luke 17:31-32. In that day — (Which will be the grand type of the last day,) when ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies; he which shall be upon the house-top, let him not come down — See on Matthew 24:17-18; Mark 13:15. Remember Lot’s wife — And escape with all speed, without ever looking behind you. See note on Genesis 19:26.


Verses 33-37

Luke 17:33-37. Whosoever shall seek to save his life, shall lose it — The sense of this and the following verses is, Yet, as great as the danger will be, do not seek to save your lives by violating your consciences; if you do, you will surely lose them; whereas, if you should lose them for my sake, you shall be repaid with life everlasting. But the most probable way of preserving them now is to be always ready to give them up: a peculiar providence shall then watch over you, and put a difference between you and other men. Two men shall be in one bed, &c. — See on Matthew 24:40-41. The minds of your enemies shall be so overruled by God, that, in cases where two persons are equally in their power, one of them shall be carried off, and the other left to make his escape. And they said, Where, Lord, shall all these things happen? And he said, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered — As eagles find out, and gather round a carcass, so, wherever wicked men are, the judgments of God will pursue them; and particularly in 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, called περκνοπτερων, [black winged] mentioned by Aristotle, Hist. Ani., Luke 9:32, is found to feed on carcasses. — Macknight.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 17:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/luke-17.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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