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Bible: What Does Luke 17 Teach Us About Forgiveness, Thanksgiving, and the Signs of Christ's Second Coming to Earth?
Jesus, the Teacher
Mustard Seed Faith
Forgive the Repentant
Christ’s next message to His disciples very much resembles what Matthew 18 relates, leveling the same condemnation against the one who causes stumbling blocks for “little ones” (vv. 1-2; cf. Matt. 18:6-7) and commanding believers to extend the same forgiveness to the repenting brother (vv. 3-4; cf. Matt. 18:15, 21-22).
In response to the apostles’ request for more faith (v. 5), Jesus answers that they do not need more faith—for a very small amount (“mustard seed” faith) is enough to handle huge obstacles (“uproot” the strong mulberry tree) [v. 6]—but they do need to do their duty (here, grant forgiveness).
To illustrate this point, the Lord relates the everyday occurrence of a servant who must attend to his master’s needs before caring for his own (vv. 7-8).
The servant receives no congratulations for doing his duty (v. 9); in like manner, the disciples (unprofitable servants all) should not expect laudations for simply obeying their Lord (v. 10).
The Thankful Leper
Jesus ends His lecture, and the fellowship moves on toward Jerusalem “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (v. 11).
Entering a village, the Lord “encounters” from a distance ten male lepers, who plead for mercy and receive it when they obey Christ’s command to “show yourselves to the priests” (vv. 12-14).
[The Law required a priest to confirm a healing (see Lev. 14:1-32); therefore, the lepers demonstrated faith in that, by the time they arrived at the priest’s dwelling, they would be healed.]
Only one of the ten, however—a Samaritan to boot, thus explaining the significance of Luke’s stating that the troupe traveled through Samaria—returns to Jesus, glorifies God, and gives Him thanks (vv. 15-16).
The Lord expresses more disappointment than surprise with the selfish ungratefulness of the nine Jews whom God healed (vv. 17-18).
Turning to the worshiping foreigner, He pronounces, “Your faith has made you well” (v. 19).
[When He tells him, “Arise, go your way,” does He mean that the cleansed man does not have to visit the priest now?
In what sense or senses does the man’s faith make him well? Did it save him spiritually as well as physically?
Do the nine show by their lack of thankfulness their apparent lack of saving faith as well?]
Jesus and Pharisees
"Within You" or "In Your Midst" ?
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Another episode finds Christ briefly responding to a question from Pharisees who ask when “the kingdom of God” would come (vv. 20-21).
[The context definitely points to the Messianic kingdom phase or aspect to the kingdom of God.]
The NASB clarifies the rather disappointing NKJV on two points:
First, the former reads: “is not coming with signs to be observed”; the latter omits the helpful reference to “signs.”
Understanding what the translator means by “signs” would help interpret Jesus’ meaning here, for signs—heavenly portents such as what Matthew 24:30 mentions (“the sign of the Son of Man”)—certainly do accompany His glorious appearance.
Jesus’ additional comment—“nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’—does not necessarily indicate that signs are miraculous events, though they do stir excitement (v. 21; cf. v. 23).
Jesus, therefore, intimates that the kingdom’s coming is not a spectacular or exciting event. It seems to be a quiet recognition of its presence.
Second, although NKJV includes “in your midst” in its center-column notes as a variant reading, it inserts “within you” in the actual text.
This editorial choice seems inaccurate, for, as Ryrie comments, “the kingdom was completely unconnected with the Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking (v. 20)” (New Testament Study Bible, 42).
NASB, on the other hand, interprets it correctly.
Therefore, the particular coming of the kingdom to which the Lord refers here is not the spectacular parousia at the end of the age, but His personal presence as the King “in your midst.”
The Coming of the Son of Man
One Taken Away
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Turning from the Pharisees to His disciples, Jesus launches into a lengthy discussion of the Tribulation events leading up to the parousia at the end:
First, He recognizes the elect’s (“you”) longing for this ultimate event (“one of the days of the Son of Man”) to occur and their continual frustration (“you will not see it”) [v. 22].
[What does He mean by “one” of the days? Does “days” refer to “ages” here?]
Second, Christ warns them about enticements to follow false Messiahs (v. 23; cf. Mt. 24:23).
Third, Jesus reveals the suddenness and glory of the Son of Man’s coming (“as the lightning flashes . . . shines . . . “) [v. 24; cf. Mt. 24:27].
Fourth, the Lord discloses that His passion and Israel’s rejection of Him precedes this parousia (v. 25).
[He leaves the length of time between the former events and the latter one an open question.
Presumably, the latter would have occurred in the first century had the Jews been receptive (cf. Acts 3:19-21).]
Fifth, Christ indicates that “in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (v. 30b), people will be as unprepared for His coming as they were for the judgment of the Flood “in the days of Noah” (vv. 26-27) and for the judgment of Sodom “in the days of Lot” (vv. 28-29).
They will be carrying on everyday life activities, and not taking God’s warnings seriously (v. 30).
When judgment finally begins to fall upon Israel, her people should not concern themselves with gathering their possessions; neither should they turn back toward their home when fleeing for safety, for then they would perish trying to save themselves (vv. 31-32).
[“Losing one’s life” seems to indicate not trying to hold onto the things of this life, but leaving them behind.
Those Jews who can let it/them go will survive the Tribulation of those days.]
Then Jesus informs them about the distinction God will make in that day, using two (or three, if it is authentic) examples of couples (engaged in varied affairs of daily life) whom the angels (presumably) will separate from each other.
One individual from each couple will find himself (or herself) alone to enter the kingdom (vv. 34-36), while the other the angel will transport to the plain of Megiddo where his or her body will serve as carrion for vultures (v. 37; cf. Rev. 19:17-19).
[This separation event, of course, does not depict the Rapture of the Church, for the Rapture is a mystery revealed to the Apostle Paul].
© 2013 glynch1