Text: Luke 17:1-19
Event(s): Jesus warns of offenses, Jesus talks about faith vs duty, Ten lepers cleansed
Luke 17:1 “it is impossible that no offenses should come” An offense is anything which would cause another person to stumble. The word “offense” comes from the Greek word, “skandalon” and refers to the movable stick or the trigger of a trap. So this could refer to anyone intentionally provoking another to do evil, such as in setting a snare, or a trap for them. Or it could also refer to someone who misleads another and causes another person to stumble and sin.
It is a very serious offense in the eyes of God to hinder the the progress of a spiritually immature believer. But Jesus is saying that it’s inevitable really, that we, as disciples even, could on occasion slow the spiritual progress of others, because none of us is perfect. This is why it is so important, that even though we value our teachers, preachers, leaders, etc. the loudest voice we have speaking to us is that of the Holy Spirit – God Himself.
Luke 17:2 “one of these little ones” This does not just refer to children, though of course that does apply. (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21) It refers to children in the faith, i.e. new believers.
Luke 17:3-4 “and if he repents, forgive him” In light of what Jesus just shared in verses 1-2, we see that not forgiving someone is equal to setting a trap for them, or causing them to stumble. When we hold un-forgiveness in our hearts, we are creating a “clog” in the way the kingdom should function in and through us. People are not able to experience the grace and mercy that is a foundational characteristic of kingdom life. And of course, forgiveness is not limited only to the occasions when we are fortunate enough to have our brother come and repent to us. Even without an apology, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the grace to forgive in our hearts.
“The saying implicitly forbids the nursing of grudges and criticism of the offender behind his back.” -Howard Marshall, New Testament Scholar
Luke 17:5-6 “Increase our faith” The disciples didn’t think they had what it took to forgive in this way, to love in this way. (Don’t we often feel the same way when we examine our own hearts?) Yet Jesus’ response basically said that they didn’t need “more” faith. If their faith was genuine, that’s all they needed, even if it was small. We often don’t realize the potency of what we already have. The amount of faith is not nearly as important as the genuineness of our faith. The faith of a child, which Jesus referred to often, is a great example of this. (Matthew 18:2-4)
Luke 17:7-10 “The parable of the unworthy servant” I love that this example is included here, because I believe this is one of the greatest areas where we see offense rear it’s ugly head. The point is not the master’s attitude in failing to express thanks for services rendered, but the servant’s attitude in doing his duty without placing his master under obligation to him. That’s the key. Had he thought himself owed something special because he was doing what he was essentially “hired” to do would have rendered him “unworthy”. It would be like working at our job, where we’re getting paid to do a certain task, and expecting reward or some kind of special recognition because we’re doing what we’re getting paid to do. When we think of this in a spiritual sense, when we do what God has asked us (and commanded us to do – such as forgiving others) we shouldn’t expect some special reward or recognition. We shouldn’t think God indebted to us.
Luke 17:11-19 “The ten lepers” Jesus was testing their faith AND their obedience. Notice, the miracle came, not in an instant, but through their obedience and walking out the command they had been given. (How often, though, do we expect to see our miracle before we act?) But it was this one man’s faith that set him apart (vs 19) The others were obedient and received their miracle. But this man combined faith with his obedience and because of that, he was made well (sozo, meaning whole) not just cleansed (katharizo, meaning cured). Faith plus obedience resulted in a very thankful attitude, in which obedience alone cannot.
Today’s Takeaway: Today, I’m prompted to search my heart for any area where my obedience may not be wrapped in faith or love. Obedience is a mark of spiritual maturity, but love and faith is a mark of spiritual relationship and intimacy. I pray my life is marked by both.
Additional (optional) reading: Today’s events are unique to the Gospel of Luke. However, for additional reading, I particularly like how the AMP Bible renders today’s text.