Sin, Forgiveness, Faith, and Service
1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. 4 Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 So the Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this black mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled out by the roots and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “Would any one of you say to your slave who comes in from the field after ploughing or shepherding sheep, ‘Come at once and sit down for a meal’? 8 Won’t the master instead say to him, ‘Get my dinner ready, and make yourself ready to serve me while I eat and drink. Then you may eat and drink’? 9 He won’t thank the slave because he did what he was told, will he? 10 So you too, when you have done everything you were commanded to do, should say, ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’”
The Grateful Leper
11 Now on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was entering a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance, 13 raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went along, they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He fell with his face to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. (Now he was a Samaritan.) 17 Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to turn back and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to the man, “Get up and go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
The Coming of the Kingdom
20 Now at one point the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, so he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
The Coming of the Son of Man
22 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 Then people will say to you, ‘Look, there he is!’ or ‘Look, here he is!’ Do not go out or chase after them. 24 For just like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage – right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; 29 but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
37 Then the disciples said to him, “Where, Lord?” He replied to them, “Where the dead body is, there the vultures will gather.”
C H Spurgeon
Luke 17:1. Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
Since the fall, we are so constituted that there are sure to be differences and disputes. It is a great mercy when men dwell together in unity. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is.” It is a work of grace; but nature has its lusting, and lusting lead to strivings; And so, as long as the world is as it now is, “it is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come.” Let us not, therefore, be either offence givers or offence takers. When anyone offends us, let us say, “It is impossible but that offences will come,” and let us make light of it; and let us be very careful that we do not cause others to offend. As for him through whom the offence comes, —
Luke 17:2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend —
Or cause to offend —
Luke 17:2-4. One of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent: thou shalt forgive him.
Perhaps someone remarks, “It looks as if he would do nothing else but keep on sinning and repenting.” Well, suppose he does so, that is precisely what you are doing, except that you do not go often repent when you sin. So, possibly, the offender is rather better than you are, after all, and if God is gentle in his dealings with you, you may well be gentle in your dealings with your neighbour.
Luke 17:5. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
They seemed so struck with the severity of this command that they asked for more faith that they might be able to obey it. And, dear friends, that is always the best thing to do. Do not refuse obedience to the Lord’s precept, but say, “Lord, increase my faith that I may be able to obey it. It can be done, or else thou wouldst not have given me the command. I cannot do it as I am without an increase of strength, therefore, as faith is the medium by which strength is received, Lord, increase my faith.”
Luke 17:6. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
Meaning that anything and everything should be possible to our faith; but we need much more of it than the most of us have. Remember how holy Bernard says, “If thou hast a hard task, ask God to give thee a hard resolution.” The diamond is difficult to cut, but it can be cut if you can find something harder. So, if there be a very difficult task set us, if we get faith that is more than equal to it, it will be accomplished. “With God all things are possible,” which means not only that God can do all things, but that we also can do all things when God is with us.
Luke 17:7-8. But which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
This world is the place of service; we are not to be expecting to have the festival here. The great supper comes at the end of the day. This is the time for us to serve, even as Jesus did when he was here; and we are to serve right on till the close of the day, even as Jesus did.
Luke 17:9. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
When the serving-man has done his day’s work, his master does not say, “I am very grateful to you, John, for what you have done for me.” He will have his wages, they will be his master’s thanks.
Luke 17:10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
“When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you.” Ah! but we have not come anywhere near that yet; even if we had, we should still be “unprofitable servants.” In our mind we should expect no thanks from our Master; but we should sorrow that we had not served him better.
Luke 17:11. And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
There is but One of whom we will think tonight, our divine Lord, who was on his way to Jerusalem. Passing along the frontiers of Samaria and Galilee, he had the Jews on one side of him, and the Samaritans on the other. He took a middle course, as if to show how he was going up to the New Jerusalem, loaded with blessings for the Jews on one side, and Gentiles on the other.
Luke 17:12. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers,
Oh, the abundance of human misery that met the Saviour’s eye: “ten men that were lepers”! I was reading only yesterday of what happened in Westminster, many years ago. When the king went along the highway, there were crowds of poor lepers on either side of the road, a shocking sight to see in this dear land of ours; and the king, in his tender mercy, simply passed a law that the lepers should not come near the road again to hook his gracious majesty with their misery. That is all he had to do for them; but our glorious King treated lepers very differently: “There met him ten men that were lepers.”
Luke 17:12. Which stood afar off:
The rule was that they should never come upon the public road, or near the highway, lest the disease should be taken by others who might come near them.
Luke 17:13. And they lifted up their voices,
Not much of voices were they likely to have, for the leprosy dries the throat, and the voice is low and husky, and when lepers cry, “Unclean, unclean,” it is an awfully sad sound, but very weak. These ten lepers lifted up their poor voices.
Luke 17:13. And said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
They raised a plain cry, and the whole ten of them had to lift up their voices before they could be well heard.
Luke 17:14. And when he saw them,
Even before he heard them, he saw their pitiable condition.
Luke 17:14. He said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests.
That is all Jesus said to the lepers: “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” They were not to go to the priests till they were clean, for the priests could not heal them. It was the healed man who went to the priests to get a certificate that he was healed, and so might mingle in society again. It was a strange message, then, that the Saviour gave to these lepers: “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” And oh, the faith of these men! With only this shell of a promise, as it were, they cracked it, and found a promise inside it, for they said to themselves, “He would not send us to the priests for nothing; he would not mock our misery; he must mean to heal us:” and therefore away they went. A grand faith this! You are to come to Christ before you feel any grace in you; you are not to wait until you feel you are healed, and then come to him. Come just as you are, without any sense of grace, or any kind of feeling within you that is worth the having. Come just as you are.
Luke 17:14. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
As the sinner believes, he is saved. As a man begins to go towards the Saviour, the Saviour’s grace meets him.
Luke 17:15. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed,
They all saw that they were healed, and they all must have felt extremely glad. Oh, the happiness of feeling the hot blood cooled, and full health taking the place of languor and disease!
Luke 17:15. Turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.
This was a sure sign that he was healed, that he had his voice back; the disease had so thoroughly gone that the sound, which seemed to hide away in his husky throat, now came out clear and loud, like the stroke of a bell.
Luke 17:16. And fell down, on his face at his feet, giving him thanks
When I read these words just now, I thought, that is where I would like to be, and that is what I would like to do, all my life, to fall down, “at his feet, giving him thanks.”
Luke 17:16. And he was a Samaritan.
Ah, me! nine of the seed of Israel were ungrateful, and only one poor outcast Gentile was grateful to the Lord for the miracle of healing that had been wrought.
Luke 17:17-19. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There, are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith, hath made thee whole.
May the Lord Jesus thus speak to many a poor, leprous sinner here tonight! “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”
Luke 17:11-12. And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers which stood afar off:
Leprosy was very common in Palestine in Christ’s day. How thankful we ought to be that, in this country, at any rate, it has almost entirely died out! There used to be, in almost every town, a lazar-house provided for lepers, so common was leprosy in this country. Certain diseases seem to die out by degrees, and we should be very grateful that some of the worst forms of disease, by which men have been afflicted, have passed away. In this case, there were no less than ten in one village. They “stood afar off,” as was most proper, lest they should communicate the contagion to others. They had to cry out, and warn men not to come too near them, saying, with covered lip, “Unclean! unclean! unclean!” The muffled sound that they made, if the word could not be distinguished, helped to warn the passers-by to give them a wide berth.
Luke 17:13-14. And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests.
For no man could be pronounced clean even if he were healed, until he had undergone the ceremony prescribed in the Mosaic law. These lepers were to go to the priests just as they were, so their going was an act of faith.
Luke 17:14. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
What a wonderful thing that must have been!
Luke 17:15-16. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
One of those off-casts and out-casts that the Jews would not own, — one of the men that they said were of a mongrel breed, — only half Israelite and half idolater. “O grace, it is thy want, Into unlikeliest hearts to come!”
Luke 17:17-25. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. And when he who demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. And he said unto the disciples, 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. And they shall say to you ‘See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. For as the lightning, that lighten out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
Though our Lord purposely left much with regard to his coming indefinite, he gave his disciples two instances, from the early history of the world, of the condition in which many would be found at his appearing.
Luke 17:26-32. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
Remember Lot’s wife.