FOUR PERSPECTIVES ESSENTIAL FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH (STAYING ON COURSE) AND GLORIFYING GOD
It is easy to get knocked off course in our spiritual life. That is what makes the journey of Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress so vivid and dramatic. He encounters all sorts of dangers and temptations and distractions. Yet he finds the grace of God to be sufficient to enable him to continue on his way and reach his final destination.
Geldenhuys: Most exegetes regard this portion as a number of loose sayings of the Saviour, recorded here by Luke with no connection between them. Nevertheless it appears to us that there is a unity between the various pronouncements and that (although Luke does not expressly say so) they were uttered on one and the same occasion.
MacArthur: humble disciples are marked by restraint from offense, readiness to forgive, recognition of weaknesses, and finally, rejection of honor, rejection of honor.
I. (:1-4) GUARD AGAINST SIN HARMING YOURSELF OR OTHERS –
DON’T ALLOW SIN TO KNOCK YOU OFF COURSE
A. (:1-2) Do No Harm – Don’t Cause Others to Sin – Be Alert for Spiritual Snares
not a direct quote but some association with Hippocratic Oath
“He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through
whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he
were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.’”
Lenski: The Pharisees and the scribes were causing dangerous offense to the publicans and the sinners who were inclined to believe in Jesus and were already believing in him (15:1,2).
Geldenhuys: The Saviour here addresses His disciples expressly and warns them against the danger that their example, their words, their attitude or neglect of duty may do spiritual harm to others (especially the weaker ones in the circle of disciples – e.g. former “publicans” and outcast sinners who had turned to Him.) . . . the Saviour does not mean that those who have allowed themselves to be so influenced do not also bear their own measure of responsibility for falling into sin. Here He deals only with the responsibility resting upon all to live in such a manner that they do not lead others into sin.
Wiersbe: It is a serious thing to sin against a fellow believer and tempt him or her to sin (Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 10:32; 1 John 2:10).
Ron Ritchie: In that culture, everyone knew of the various types of millstones that were used to crush grain. Smaller millstones were for home use, but when it came to harvest time, farmers used much larger millstones, up to four or five feet in diameter. The grain was placed on a base stone, and then the millstone (which had a hole in the middle as big as a man’s head) was lifted up to the stationary stone, which had a center peg as an axle, so that once the milestone was in place it could be turned around in a circle by a mule or camel until the grain was crushed into fine flour.
As Jesus was saying this you can be sure he was warning his disciples about their future ministry, but at the same time he was looking at the lifestyle of the Pharisees. They were the very stumbling stones that he had in mind as he observed them trying to confuse and discourage the open-hearted tax-gatherers and sinners. The warning is very serious.
Darrell Bock: God’s concern for his children is seen in Jesus’ characterization of them as little ones. Caring for God’s children is baby-sitting: the responsibility is great because the children are precious in their parents’ sight. Children need attentive care. And teaching carries special responsibility (Jas 3:1).
In fact, those who lead others into error are at risk before God. So Jesus issues a warning: a Mafia-style death is better for the one who leads others into apostasy. Jesus pictures an execution with a concrete block tied around the necks of the condemned as they are cast into the sea. A millstone was a large, heavy stone used at the top of a grinding mill. It was a millstone that crushed Abimelech’s head in Judges 9:53. The picture is of severe judgment. You are accountable, Jesus says, so watch yourselves. Be careful to avoid sin (Ps 141:8-10).
B. (:3a) Guard Yourselves Against Sin
“Be on your guard!”
Make sure that you are not creating a stumbling block for others;
Make sure that you are not falling into sin yourself – before you can rebuke others.
C. (:3b-4) Balance Necessary Rebuke of Sin with Unlimited Forgiveness (based on Repentance)
“If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Do we truly take “rebuking” as a command from the Lord? When have we fulfilled this responsibility? Don’t be put off by an expectation that our brother may not respond positively.
Geldenhuys: “call his attention to his wrong behaviour (and not slander him behind his back!).
Lenski: We cannot think that this is merely the same sin repeated again and again because it would then be farcical for the sinning brother to say, “I repent!”
[But even if that is the case, we are to assume the best of the professed repentance and grant forgiveness.]
II. (:5-6) EXERCISE FAITH FOR DRAMATIC RESULTS –
DON’T ALLOW WEAKNESS TO KNOCK YOU OFF COURSE (or become an excuse)
A. Rather Than Pleading for Faith, Exercise Faith by Obeying
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’”
Geldenhuys: The foregoing pronouncements impressed the disciples profoundly with the severe demands made upon them, and they feel spontaneously that they will require supernatural grace and divine strength in order so to live that they may avoid offending others and always be prepared to forgive the repentant. So they ask the Saviour to give them greater faith – the faith that will make them spiritually stronger, and enable them to act as He has just commanded them to do.
Wiersbe: We might have expected the disciples to respond with the prayer, “Increase our love!” Certainly love is a key element in forgiveness, but faith is even more important. It takes living faith to obey these instructions and forgive others. Our obedience in forgiving others shows that we are trusting God to take care of the consequences, handle the possible misunderstandings, and work everything out for our good and His glory.
Deffinbaugh: we should note that while the disciples made a very clear request for increased faith, Jesus is not said to have granted it. This is such an obvious fact that we hardly even notice it, and yet it is very crucial to understanding our passage. The disciples asked Jesus for more faith, but Jesus did not grant it. A lack of faith must therefore not be the problem.
B. The Amount of Faith is not as Important as the Object of our Faith (right kind of faith)
“And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed,’”
Geldenhuys: a vigorous, living faith. The grain of mustard seed is exceedingly small, but it contains the germ of life which, when it germinates, shoots up irresistibly into a tree.
Steven Cole: When we encounter the difficult commands of Scripture, we should not focus on more faith, but on more obedience and humility. In this context, it seems to me that Jesus is offering a gentle correction to the disciples’ request, not a commendation of it. He is saying, “Don’t wait around for increased faith. Just a small amount of genuine faith can accomplish what is humanly impossible. Rather, focus on your duty to obey God and, when you have obeyed, don’t start thinking that you’re really something. Keep in mind at all times that you are just an unworthy slave who has done what was required of him.”
C. Faith Should Produce Dramatic Results
“you would say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and be planted in the sea; and it would obey
Donald Miller: genuine faith can accomplish what experience, reason, and probability would deny, if it is exercised within God’s will.
Merrill C. Tenney: Faith knows no impossibilities.
Lenski: Exactly this very thing the apostles would soon do over and over again, for at their word the kingdom would be transplanted, root, and branch, from Israel into the Gentile world in congregation after congregation – into territory in which no man would have thought the kingdom could grow and flourish; the Jews were sure that it could not. No charismatic faith was necessary for this, for the gospel was not spread through the world by anything but the ordinary faith of its bearers.
[cf. the nationalistic pride and exclusive attitude of Jonah which the Lord had to rebuke.]
III. (:7-10) HUMBLY OBEY AS SERVANTS THANKFUL FOR GOD’S GRACE –
DON’T ALLOW PRIDE TO KNOCK YOU OFF COURSE
A. (:7-8) What Behavior is Appropriate for a Servant? Giving Priority to His Master’s Interests
“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in
from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare
something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and
afterward you may eat and drink’?”
B. (:9) What Reward is Appropriate for a Servant? Not effusive thanksgiving but provision of basic needs
“He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
Next section will stress that the Lord is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving; we get things backwards if we are expecting the Lord to thank us; this is not to deny the legitimacy of the rewards which the Lord has promised for faithful service – but we act out of obedience; sense of responsibility to do what is pleasing to our Master
C. (:10) What Attitude is Appropriate for a Servant? Humble Obedience
“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy
slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”‘
Geldenhuys: When believers have received the gift of a living faith and as a result are able to perform glorious things in His service, there is great danger that they may become self-satisfied and may think themselves entitled to special marks of honour. . .as if he were such a meritorious and indispensable person in His service.!
Donald Miller: The task of the Christian is to serve in obedience to his Master, and to do what is commanded with all the powers which he possesses. He can never say that he has done more than his duty, and think of himself as one who could be considered praiseworthy. It is his duty to give his entire service to the One to whom he belongs.
J. McNichol: “Unworthy slaves” not in the sense of being worthless, but as doing nothing to bring their master extra profit for which payment was to be expected.
Ron Ritchie: I remember hearing the story of a faithful missionary couple who came back to this country following many difficult years of ministry in Africa. As their ship docked in New York harbor they heard a band on the dock playing welcome music for a returning passenger. Hundreds of this passenger’s family and friends were gathered to greet their loved one. The missionary couple hoped to have someone from their mission board greet them, but by the time they came down the gangplank the band and the welcoming crowds had all gone their separate ways. All that was left to greet them were a few seagulls and the trash from the celebration that had been held earlier on the dock. Not knowing what to do next, they walked a few blocks, carrying their suitcases in silence.
Finally, they found a rundown hotel and checked in for the evening. As they sat in the dimly lit room, the husband could not contain himself any longer. In anger and frustration he cried out to: “Honey, we worked so hard all these years. We have been faithful to our Lord, to our calling, to our mission board and to our people in Africa. You would have thought that someone from our board would have met us and welcomed us home, wouldn’t you?” After a moment of silence, his wife reminded him of their eternal hope: “But honey, we aren’t home yet!” she said.
Thomas Constable: Jesus told this parable to teach His disciples that warning sinning disciples and forgiving those who sinned and repented was only their duty. It was not something for which they should expect a reward from God. The Pharisees believed that their righteous deeds put God in their debt, as did many of the Jews. God will indeed reward faithful service (12:35-37, 42-48). However that is not because His servants have placed Him in their debt but because He graciously gives them more than what is just. The teaching in chapter 12 (vv. 35-37, 42-48) deals with the Master’s grace whereas the teaching here in chapter 17 (vv. 7-10) stresses the servant’s attitude.
Deffinbaugh: The underlying principle might therefore be summarized: MASTERS HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DEMAND COMPLETE OBEDIENCE FROM THEIR SLAVES, BUT SLAVES HAVE NO RIGHT TO DEMAND ANYTHING FROM THEIR MASTERS.
IV. (:11-19) GLORIFY GOD BY GIVING THANKS FOR THE HEALING YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH – THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL –
DON’T ALLOW INGRATITUDE TO KNOCK YOU OFF COURSE
[Most commentators would not associate this paragraph with the preceding section but treat it independently.]
Walter Liefeld: Not only is this narrative peculiar to Luke, but it also stresses several characteristically Lukan themes. Jerusalem is the goal of Jesus’ journey (cf. 9:51; 13:33); Jesus has mercy on social outcasts; he conforms to Jewish norms by requiring that the lepers go for the required priestly declaration of health (cf. Lev. 14); faith and healing should bring praise to God (cf. 18:43; Acts 3:8-9); and the grace of God extends beyond Judaism, with Samaritans receiving special attention (cf. 10:25-37).
A. (:11-13) Jesus is the Source of Undeserved Mercy
“While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
R. Chestnut: Some things you ought to know about leprosy:
1. Leprosy is a repulsive disease.
a. Gross to look at (open ulcers are not pretty).
b. The smell is repulsive.
c. In Scripture when people are healed of leprosy it is often called “a cleansing” rather than “a healing.”
2. Leprosy is a contagious disease.
a. Mildly contagious, but contagious nevertheless.
b. In Bible times people with leprosy had to live apart from others; OT law declared them
ritually unclean; had to announce their coming by shouting “UNCLEAN!”
c. Illust. A leper felt unimaginable feelings of alienation and loneliness. Leprosy was the AIDS of the first century. If you’ve ever seen the lepers in the movie BEN HUR then you have a sense of how terrible this disease was.
3. Leprosy is an incurable disease.
a. Until 50 years ago there was not even a treatment for it!
b. To become a leper was to lose all hope of living a normal, happy life.
B. (:14a) Jesus Commands Our Simple Obedience
“When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
C. (:14b) Jesus Accomplishes Our Complete Healing
“And as they were going, they were cleansed.”
D. (:15-18) Jesus Deserves Our Abundant Thanksgiving and Directs Our Worship to Glorify God
“Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they? 18 “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”
Morgan: Christ values gratitude and misses it when it is not expressed.
John A Martin: The nation accepted the things that Jesus could do (such as heal them and feed them), but it did not want to accept Him as Messiah. However, those outside the nation (such as this Samaritan leper – a person doubly repulsive to the Jews) were responding.
Lenski: Majorities impress us too much. What would you have done if you had stood alone against nine? Majorities can go wrong as easily as an individual may go wrong. The decisive thing is the right, the true, and not the numbers. Luther stood against the world of his day; he stood with and for the truth. It is still true that God and one make a majority.
Thomas Constable: The incident teaches that people whom Jesus delivers and who believe on Him have a moral obligation to express their gratitude to Him for what He has done for them. It also illustrates the fact that the Jews were happy to receive the benefits of Jesus’ ministry without thanking Him or connecting His goodness with God. The chiastic structure of Jesus’ three questions (vv. 17-18) is another indication that the focus of attention is on the ingratitude of the nine healed lepers.
Steven Cole: Note that this leper’s praise was heartfelt: he glorified God “with a loud voice” (17:15). If before his voice had been hampered by leprosy, it was freed up now and he exercised it with full force! Others may have been embarrassed by his exuberance, but he didn’t care! Jesus had healed him and he was going to make it known! This leper’s glad praise should be that of every person whose heart has been healed by Jesus’ mighty power.
E. (:19) Jesus Responds to Genuine Faith
“And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’”
– Antidote for Sin = Watchfulness, Rebuke and Forgiveness
– Antidote for Weakness = Faith leading to Spiritual Life and Power
– Antidote for Pride = Humility and Servant-like attitude
– Antidote for Ingratitude = Thankfulness
Stay on Course!