About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 17

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ch.17:19-10   ch. 17:11-19   ch. 17:20-37

Sin, Faith, Duty (ch.17:1 - 10)

In chapter 17 Jesus is still talking to His disciples and you can bet the Pharisees are not far off.  What Jesus is pointing out here is that things will always happen to cause people to sin.  The reason for this is because we live in a fallen world.  At times we cause ourselves to sin, and then at other times other people cause us to sin.  But Jesus said, “Woe to that person” who causes someone to sin, it would be better for him to drawn in the sea than to “causes one of these little ones to sin”. 


There is some question to who “little ones” refer to.  Some might suggest that “little ones” are children who might have been in the presence of Jesus.  Others suggest that “little ones” refer to believers of any age.  I tend to believe the second because Jesus is talking to His disciples, and He has just said that people will try to make “you”, or them sin.  With the Pharisees in ear shout, those who cause others to sin are most likely directed towards them, and those who are sinning are the people the Pharisees lead.   


We see the severity of God’s wrath against those who willfully cause someone to sin.  God is far from pleased with such behaviour.  We need to understand and be aware of this in our dealing with others.  We need to try to not cause others to sin.  On the other hand, we will all be responsible for our own actions on the day of judgement.  So if someone causes you to sin, both you and he will have to account for this sin.  He will give account because he encouraged you to sin.  You will give account because you sinned.


In verse 3 Jesus said, “…if your brother sins rebuke him and if he repents forgive him”.  First of all, some suggest that the sin involved here is not a personal sin against you.  It is a general sin that may not be directed towards others.  The reason why some suggest this is because the next verse speaks of a sin that is directed towards you.  Yet in my thinking, this next verse helps explain this verse.  If the next verse says that if a brother sins against you 7 times, and this verse says “if a brother sins”, one could easily think that the first verse could be a sin against you, just as the second is. 


So I believe Jesus is saying that if a brother sins against you, rebuke him.  This rebuke is not done out of anger because of the offense.  It is done out of a concern to help the brother find forgiveness.  If the brother repents, that is, changes his thinking on the matter and admits that he has done wrong and will walk away from that wrong, then you can forgive him.


What does “forgive him” mean?  It means that we are pronouncing God’s forgiveness on the brother. We are acting in the place of God and pronouncing, because he has repented, that God forgives him.  Then if God forgives him, then we act accordingly to him as well.


We need to note that this is the first time in Luke’s gospel that he uses the term “brother”, and what I’d understand to be a fellow disciple. 


Now Jesus went one step farther.  He said that if a brother sins against you 7 times in a day and if he repents 7 times in a day, you must forgive him as well.  I think most of us think that the sinning brother who sins 7 times a day is committing the same sin.  This could be possible, but I am not convinced that is what Jesus had in mind.  If the brother sinned once and was truly repented, then there’d be a good chance he wouldn’t sin again.  Yet it may be possible that these 7 sins are different sins, each needing specific repentance and forgiveness.


I believe Evangelicals have not thought much about the idea of us forgiving sins on the behalf of God.  The reason being is that it is too closely related to Catholicism for many Protestants.  When forgiving someone, we are actually acting on God’s behalf and extending God’s forgiveness to him.   I think this is what Jesus meant when in John 20:23 He said, “If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven”.  Then beyond proclaiming God’s forgiveness, we act accordingly, in loving fashion.   


We also need to note the word repent.  We can only forgive sins for those who repent.  Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins. 


Some believe that you can forgive a person who sins against you.  Others believe that you cannot forgive a person who sins against you.  You can only act lovingly towards that person, and those actions don’t constitute forgiveness.   I tend to believe the second.  If God demands repentance before He offers forgiveness of sins then, who are we to extend forgiveness without repentance?   


You might suggest that we need to forgive those who sin against us even if they don’t seek repentance.  We need to act lovingly towards these people, but acting lovingly towards an unrepentant sinner is not forgiveness.


In verse 5 the apostles, meaning the Twelve, asked Jesus to increase their faith.  Why did they ask this question at this time?  It might be possible that they had this idea of proclaiming forgiveness to offending brothers.  Maybe they thought this was a hard thing to do and so they needed more faith.  They thought in terms of faith being something you can get more of, which is how many of us think today.


In one sense of the word we can get more faith, if faith is a gift.  There is “charismatic faith”, one of the gifts of the Spirit.  This is a special endowment of faith into our lives that can only come by the Spirit of God.


Then there is what I would call ordinary faith or trust that we can’t get more of.  We don’t get more trust, we simply trust Jesus more.  I think that this is partly the reasoning that Jesus uses in His answer to the apostles. 


Jesus told them that they only needed faith, or trust, as small as a grain of mustard seed. By using this analogy Jesus is saying that the size of one’s faith is irrelevant. Simply trust me, and I will do what needs to be done is what Jesus is saying.


One thing that could possibly be done in Jesus’ analogy is that a mulberry bush could be uprooted and replanted in the sea.  In another place He says that a mountain could be picked up and thrown into the sea. Hyper faith people use this verse to support their position that you can do anything if you have enough faith, and if you don’t do anything miraculous then it is a result of a lack of faith. 


We might ask, “Why did Jesus use such a dramatic analogy”?  Why didn’t He say that if you trust me, you can heal someone’s sick body?  Jesus had done this, and so had the disciples.  But to uproot a tree and a mountain and throw them into the sea, even Jesus did not do that.  It is my personal opinion that Jesus was making a strong point here.  I really don’t think Jesus ever expected His disciples to do such a thing.  He never did it, and no one in history that I know of has done these things.  The closest Jesus came to such things was when he stopped the storm while they were at sea.


The point Jesus is making is that by simple trust in Him, we can do more than what we think we can do.  The apostles thought they could not do much and so they needed more faith.  Jesus said that faith is not something you can get more of.  “More faith” is irrelevant.  Simple trust can go a long way.


At this point I would like to insert an article I wrote on verse 6.


In Luke 17:6 Jesus said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'be uprooted and planted into the sea', and it will obey you".  Because of this statement, some people believe that if you have real faith you can speak to the bush in your yard and tell it to jump out of the ground and throw itself into your neighbour's pickup truck.  I grant you that would be convenient if you didn't want the bush any more. 


Let's put this verse in context.  Beginning at verse 1 Jesus said that there will always be things that cause people to sin, but woe to the one who causes someone to sin.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck.  Jesus continued by saying that if your brother sins, rebuke him.  If he repents, forgive him.  Note that you forgive only when repentance is exhibited.


Now notice the disciples' response to Jesus.  In verse 5 they said, "Increase our faith".  Why did they inject the idea that they needed more faith into the conversation?  Jesus was talking about forgiving the repentant sinner, not faith?  If you stop to think about it, the answer is obvious.  Being human, the disciples probably thought that forgiving such an offender was difficult, even if he did repent.  The disciples concluded that they needed more faith to forgive.  


Now notice Jesus' response to the disciples.  He didn't think they needed more faith.  In fact He told them that they needed less faith.  He compared faith to a seed.  Faith as small as a seed was sufficient to have a bush obey them, or in context, faith as small as a seed was sufficient to give them the ability to forgive a repentant sinner. 


This passage tells me that faith cannot be increased.  Faith isn't a commodity that you can get more of.  The Bible defines faith as trust.  You can't get more trust, but you can trust more.  These disciples needed to stop thinking in terms of getting more faith.  Instead, they needed to relax and simply trust Jesus.  He would give them the ability to forgive when repentance was evident.  It's like anything we do in life.  If we just settle down, take our time, and stop striving and sweating over the task at hand, we'll do a better job and have better results.


Jesus wasn't suggesting that the disciples go around casting bushes into the sea as if the bushes were demons.  There's no Biblical evidence that the disciples ever did such a thing.  There is Biblical evidence that they forgave when genuine repentance was exhibited.


The phrase "if you have faith" is an imperfect active indicative Greek verb phrase.  This means your faith, your trust in Jesus, should be continuous and certain.  You should continually and confidently rest in the hammock of Jesus' ability to do as He wishes in your life. 


The insertion of the word "if" in the phrase "if you have faith" tells me that the disciples didn't fully trust Jesus to give them the ability to forgive when repentance is evident.  It's clear to me that 100% trust in Jesus won't be realized in our lives until we are perfected in the next life.  We will battle with trust until our dying day.  That may sound like a lack of faith to some, but it's not.  I trust Jesus that when He comes for us, we will be like Him, as stated in 1 John 3:2.  Until then, we don't ask Jesus for more faith or more trust.  We ask Him to help us trust Him more than we presently do. 


I conclude that Luke 17:6 concerns forgiveness based on genuine repentance.  It's not about casting bushes into the sea by faith.  Besides, according to verse 2 Jesus would rather have the unrepentant sinner thrown into the sea.  Faith is trust.  It's relaxing comfortably and confidently in Jesus' ability to give us that which we need to serve Him.  That's what Jesus meant in John 16:23 when He told us that when we ask the Father for anything in His name we will receive it.  The words "in His name" tell us what we are to ask for.  We ask for things that will help us represent the name of Jesus on earth.  This doesn't guarantee us a new car, a big paycheck, or even healing of every illness that comes our way.  It does however; guarantee the tools we need to do His will. 


This passage isn't telling us to cast bushes into the sea by faith.  Such thinking is an unbiblical New Age and ultra positive thinking philosophy that has been inflicting Christians for some time now.  Let's be confident and secure in the fact that we can trust all of who we are with Jesus.  That's trust.  That's faith.  That's what Luke 17:6 really means.


Jesus seemed to have shifted gears with his next thought.  It does not seem related to what He just said, and it could well be possible that some time had elapsed.  Jesus told a parable about a man who had a servant. The servant was working in a field and came in from work Jesus asked the apostles if they thought the master of the farm would invite the servant to sit down for a meal.  Jesus’ answer was “no”.  The master would ask the servant to prepare a meal for him, serve it, and then and only then, could the servant go and eat. 


The idea here is that the servant has a particular job to perform in serving his master.  The simple fact is that servants are expected to serve.  Servants “do what they are told to do”.  So in like manner Jesus said the same about those who follow and serve Him.  In verse 10 Jesus told His apostles how to think.  They should say, after doing what they were told to do, “we are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty”.


What I believe Jesus is saying here is that we as Christians are all His servants.  We should not demand or even expect more because we do what we are told to do.  Pride and arrogance should not be found in a servant of Jesus.  Humility should be the ruling factor in our lives, but that is not always the case in our modern day church.

Ten Healed Of Leprosy (ch. 17:11 - 19)

Verse 11 begins with the words "now on the way to Jerusalem…" We may forget, but Jesus is still on His way to Jerusalem.

While traveling near the border of Samaria and Galilee Jesus met up with 10 men with leprosy. They did not want to get close to Jesus so they yelled out "master, have pity on us". These men knew that Jesus had power to help them. They called Him "master". They asked Jesus to pity them, or extend mercy their way. These were desperate men. They wanted to be healed, but they asked for mercy. All men are desperate. All men should be crying out to God for mercy.

There is no word that Jesus even came close to these 10 men. He only told them to show themselves to the priests, and as they left, they were healed. Most likely Jesus was obeying the Law of Moses by sending them to the priest for ceremonial cleaning.

One of the 10 men actually came back to Jesus and thanked Him greatly for what He had done. Luke specifically points out that this man was a Samaritan, half Jew, half Gentile. Remember, Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Yet this man so hated by the Jews came back to Jesus to give Him a special thanks. This is often the case. Those who are the lowest in the social order are the most thankful.

This section ends by Jesus commenting on the one man that returns. He called him a "foreigner" because he was a Samaritan. He noted that there were 9 other people who got healed but never returned to give thanks to God. We can pretty safely assume those other 9 were Jews, although it is not so stared.

Jesus told the man that "his faith" had made him well. Remember, faith is "trust". Jesus was telling the man, since he trusted Jesus to heal him, He did.

The Coming Of The Kingdom Of God (ch. 17:20 - 37)


In verse 20 we note that some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. Of course, they were thinking of a physical and political kingdom.  The Old Testament clearly stated that a Messiah would come from the lineage of David to rule Israel , restore its nationhood, and free Israelis from their enemies. 


Jesus’ response must have puzzled them.  He said, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, “here it is”, or, “there it is”, for the Kingdom of God is within you”.  An alternative reading for “within” would be “among” you, as some suggest. 


Whether you translate the word as “within”, or “among”, the point of Jesus’ answer is that the Kingdom of God is not a political identity.  It is a spiritual kingdom that cannot be seen by “careful observation” as the Pharisees were used to.


The Kingdom of God also could not be seen in such a way that someone could point to it and say, “there it is”.  The Kingdom of God came to earth on the day of Pentecost.  It was already on earth in one sense of the word because Jesus, the King was on earth.  But it would come in its fullness when God poured out His Spirit on those who would give themselves to Him. 


We should understand that in this present ere, the Kingdom of God is invisible to the world around us.  It can only be seen in how Christians live.  That being said, when Jesus returns to earth, the Kingdom of God will come in a visible and material way as Jesus rules from Jerusalem . 


The answer that Jesus just gave was to the Pharisees.  The next statement that Jesus made was to His disciples.  He told them that “the time would come when they would long to see one of the Days of the Son of man”.  Jesus had just spoken of the Kingdom of God which was spiritual.  Now He spoke of the “Days of the Son of Man”.  These days that He is now speaking of is the time after His return to earth, when the Kingdom of God would become physical, as well as spiritual.  When Jesus returns, He will set up a physical; you might even call it political Kingdom on earth.  It was these days that the disciples of Jesus would long for. They would long for those future days but they would not see them, that is, until those days came.


Until that day came Jesus told His disciples that many would come and say “there is the Kingdom”, or, “here is the Kingdom”.  The disciples are not to believe any man who says such a thing.  Man will not announce the coming of God’s future Kingdom.  The Arch angel himself will announce this Kingdom with the blowing of a great trumpet as we know from Scripture.


The reason why no man will have to announce the coming of the future Kingdom is that as Jesus said in verse 24, the sky will light up as with lightening.  As lightening streaks across the sky, so it will be when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom on earth – every eye will see His return.


It's been said by some that via T V and the internet every eyes will see Jesus' return.  That isn't so.  Every eye will literally see Jesus return to earth because as He circles the earth, maybe a number of times, every last person on this planet will see Him.  


In verse 25 Jesus said that before all these things come, the Son of Man must suffer many things at the hand of this generation.  We have seen Jesus talk about “this generation” before.  They would be judged very severely by God and would not be put off to the end of this age.  They were judged in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem , and will be judged again as well at the end of this age.


In verses 26 to 30 Jesus compared the days leading up to His return to the days of Noah, and the days of Lot .  In both cases, people were eating, drinking, marrying, buying and selling.  That is to say, they were living as they normally would, not thinking of any pending disaster at their doorstep. Yet disaster came to the earth in Noah’s day, and it struck Sodom in Lot ’s day.  The intent of Jesus’ words is that to the unspiritual eye, there will be no hint of the coming of Jesus. Yet as we know from other Scriptures, for those of us with understanding, we will see this day coming.  We may not know the exact day or hour, but we will read the signs of the times and will be ready.


Jesus told His disciples that Sodom was not judged until Lot left the city.  Some Prophetic Futurists use this statement to support a pre-tribulation rapture.  I think that is stretching things a bit.  There might well be a pre-tribulation rapture, but I'm far from convinced that was the point Jesus was making.  His main point was that those in Sodom continued on with their lives without any hint that judgment was ready to destroy them.    


In verse 30 Jesus said that on that Day when Jesus comes, if you are on your roof top, don’t even think of going into your house.  If you are in the field, don’t think about going home.  You probably won’t have time anyway, that’s my thought, not Jesus’.


At this point we need to understand the exact time Jesus is speaking about.  He's talking about the time just prior to the Great Tribulation as it has been called.  For those believers that are still alive just prior to His return, there is no need to do anything or go anywhere.  You simply wait for His return.  It's my understanding that those believers living during the tribulation period will understand the book of Revelation as they were meant to understand it.  They will know that the time is very near.  Jesus is simply telling those people not to give up.  The time of His return is almost here. 


Jesus reminded His listeners about Lot’s wife who looked back towards Sodom and was instantly judged by God.  Jesus told His listeners that when He returns, there would be no time to try to save your life.  It will be too late.  Again, the temptation during the Great Tribulation will be to give into the anti-Christ in order to save your life.   Jesus is simply saying, "Don't give in.  Be willing to lose your life, and if you do, you'll save it in the end."  However, if you save your life by giving into the anti-Christ you'll lose it for eternity.     


Jesus said that whoever tries to save His life on that day will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it.  This is not the first time Jesus has said this.  He wants us to always live this way, right up until the end when He returns.  Although this verse applies specifically to those believers living near the end, every believer in every era should live by this rule.


In verse 34 Jesus speaks of the night in which He will return.  Does that mean His return will be in the evening while we are sleeping?  Well, it is always evening in some part of the world.  So for some, His return will be at night. During this night, two people will be in bed.  One person will be taken and the other left behind.  Also, in a field two women will be working.  One will be taken, while the other left behind.


One question is; “Those who are taken, where will they be taken to?"  Another question is; "who are those taken and who are those who remain?"  The disciples might have asked Jesus the same question.  In verse 37 they asked, “where Lord”?  What the word “where" refers to might be debatable, but, I think Jesus' answer clues us in on the answer to this question.   


Jesus answered the “where Lord” question by saying, “where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather”.  What does this mean?  I believe the dead bodies are the bodies of the unbelievers who have been judged at the return of Jesus at the Battle of Armageddon.  The book of Revelation speaks of this feast when the birds will eat of the dead bodies. 


I believe those who are taken are those who meet Jesus in the air at His return and return with Him to rule the earth for a thousand years.     


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