In chapter 17, Jesus continues his teaching by acknowledging that there are going to be stumbling blocks in life. But there is something worse than facing stumbling blocks. It is the one who causes the stumbling blocks. Jesus says, ” It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (v 2, NASB)
He then goes a step further telling his disciples that not only do they need to avoid causing stumbling, the need to watch out for each other. He tells them, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (v 4) What is more, it does not matter how much someone sins. If they ask for forgiveness over and over, we need to forgive them over and over.
The response of the apostle is the response of anyone honest. Living up to what Jesus is asking seems impossible. In light of this, they turn to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. Jesus tells them what we all need to understand. Faith is a powerful thing. Even with the smallest amount of faith, “like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (v 6)
Jesus next discusses doing what he had commanded us to do. He draws the comparison to a person with a servant. He says the master tells the servant what to do. When the servant does it, the master does not say thank you, because the servant has only done what he was commanded. In the same way, Jesus says “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.’” (v 10) It seems a little harsh, but it is the truth. We do not deserve any thanks for simply doing what we are supposed to do. We are to do it because it is right.
Luke then goes on to tell us about an event as Jesus was traveling between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, he was met by ten men who were suffering from leprosy. The men asked Jesus to heal them. He tells them to show themselves to the priest. As they were traveling, to see the priest, they discovered that they had been healed. One of the ten immediately returned to Jesus, thank him and praise him. Luke also points out that this one man was not even an Israelite; he was a Samaritan. This does not go unnoticed by Jesus, who says, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Vv 17 – 18) Jesus tells him that it is his faith that has made him well.
After this, Luke tells us that the Pharisees had been questioning Jesus about when the Kingdom of God was going to come. Jesus tells them that it is not coming with signs. He tells them that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (v 21)
As we come to the end of the chapter, Jesus now turns to his disciples to talk to them about the coming of the Kingdom. He tells them that the day is coming when you will not need to run after signs. He says, “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” (v 24) Jesus then points out that he must suffer and be rejected.
Jesus also tells them that when it comes, it will come as a surprise. Just as the people in Noah’s day, and the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, were eating and drinking up until the disaster hit, so too will people be surprised by the coming of the Kingdom. When it comes, there will be no time to turn around. He then gives several examples of two people together and one is taken away suddenly.
Luke finishes by telling us the Disciples’ response. “And answering, they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.’” (v 37) I have to admit, this is a little confusing, but I believe that Jesus is telling them of the disaster that will come in that day. The vultures are symbolic of death. That is what it will be like on that day.
My takeaways from this passage are: 1) we need to help others not to stumble and help restore those who do. 2) Faith, even in the smallest amount, can accomplish great things. And 3) The Kingdom of God will come quite unexpectedly.