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Home > Commentaries > Barnes' Notes > Luke > Chapter 17

Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verses 1,2. It is impossible. It cannot but happen. Such is the state of things that it will be. See these verses explained in See Barnes "Matthew 18:6". See Barnes "Matthew 18:7".

{a} "It is impossible" Matthew 18:6,7; Mark 9:42

Verse 2. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verses 3,4. See Barnes "Matthew 18:5", See Barnes "Matthew 18:21", See Barnes "Matthew 18:22". Trespass against thee. Sin against thee, or does anything that gives you an offence or does you an injury.

Rebuke. Reprove. Go and tell him his fault, and seek an explanation. Acquaint him with what has been the effect of his conduct, and the state of your feelings, that he may acknowledge his error and repent.

{b} "rebuke him" Leviticus 19:17

Verse 4. No Barnes text on this verse.

{c} "thou shalt forgive him" Matthew 6:12,14; Colossians 3:13

Verse 5. Increase our faith. This duty of forgiving offences seemed so difficult to the disciples that they strongly felt the need of an increase of faith. They felt that they were prone themselves to harbour resentments, and that it required an additional increase of true religion to enable them to comply with the requirements of Jesus. We may learn from this--

1st. That Jesus has the power of increasing the faith of his people. Strength comes from him, and especially strength to believe the gospel. Hence he is called the Author and Finisher of our faith, Hebrews 12:2.

2nd. The duty of forgiving offences is one of the most difficult duties of the Christian religion. It is so contrary to our natural feelings; it implies such elevation above the petty feelings of malice and revenge, and is so contrary to the received maxims of the world, which teach us to cherish rather than to forgive the memory of offences; that it is no wonder our Saviour dwells much on this duty, and so strenuously insists on it in order to our having evidence that our hearts have been changed. Some have thought that this prayer that he would increase their faith refers to the power of working miracles, and especially to the case recorded in Matthew 17:16-20.

{d} "Increase our faith" Hebrews 12:2

Verse 6. See Barnes "Matthew 17:20". Sycamine-tree. This name, as well as sycamore, is given, among us, to the large tree commonly called the buttonwood; but the tree here mentioned is different. The Latin Vulgate and the Syriac versions translate it mulberry-tree. It is said to have been a tree that commonly grew in Egypt, of the size and appearance of a mulberry-tree, but bearing a species of figs. This tree was common in Palestine. It is probable that our Lord was standing by one as he addressed these words to his disciples. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. i.p. 22-24) says of this tree :

"It is generally planted by the wayside, in the open space where several paths meet." [Comp. Luke 19:4] This sycamore is a remarkable tree. It not only bears several crops of figs during the year, but these figs grow on short stems along the trunk and large branches, and not at the end of twigs, as in other fruit-bearing trees.

The figs are small, and of a greenish-yellow colour. At Gaza and Askelon I saw them of a purple tinge, and much larger than they are in this part of the country. They were carried to market in large quantities, and appeared to be more valued there than with us. Still, they are, at best, very insipid, and none but the poorer classes eat them. It is easily propagated, merely by planting a stout branch in the ground, and watering it until it has struck its roots into the soil. This it does with great rapidity and to a vast depth. It was with reference to this latter fact that our Lord selected it to illustrate the power of faith. Now, look at this tree--its ample girth, its wide-spread arms branching off from the parent trunk only a few feet from the ground; then examine its enormous roots, as thick, as numerous, and as wide-spread into the deep soil below as the branches extend into the air above--the very best type of invincible steadfastness. What power on earth can pluck up such a tree ? Heaven's thunderbolt may strike it down, the wild tornado may tear it to fragments, but nothing short of miraculous power can fairly pluck it up by the roots."

{e} "If ye had faith" Matthew 17:20; 21:21; Mark 9:23; 11:23

Verse 7. Having a servant, &c. This parable appears to have been spoken with reference to the rewards which the disciples were expecting in the kingdom of the Messiah. The occasion on which it was spoken cannot be ascertained. It does not seem to have any particular connection with what goes before. It may be supposed that the disciples were somewhat impatient to have the kingdom restored to Israel (Acts 1:6)--that is, Israel that he would assume his kingly power, and that they were impatient of the delay, and anxious to enter on the rewards which they expected, and which they not improbably were expecting in consequence of their devotedness to him. In answer to these expectations, Jesus spoke this parable, showing them,

1st. That they should be rewarded as a servant would be provided for; but,

2nd. That this was not the first thing; that there was a proper order of things, and that thus the reward might be delayed, as a servant would be provided for, but at the proper time, and at the pleasure of the master; and,

3rd. That this reward was not to be expected as a matter of merit, but would be given at the good pleasure of God, for they were but un- profitable servants.

By and by. This should have been translated immediately. He would not, as the first thing, or as soon as he returned from the field, direct him to eat and drink. Hungry and weary he might be, yet it would be proper for him first to attend upon his master. So the apostles were not to be impatient because they did not at once receive the reward for which they were looking.

To meat. To eat; or, rather, place thyself at the table.

Verse 8. I may sup. Make ready my supper.

Gird thyself. See Barnes "Luke 12:37".

Verse 9. I trow not. I think not; or I suppose not.

Verse 10. Are unprofitable servants. We have conferred no favour. We have merited nothing. We have not benefited God, or laid him under obligation. If he rewards us, it will be matter of unmerited favour. This is true in relation to Christians in the following respects:

1st. Our services are not profitable to God (Job 22:2); he needs not our aid, and his essential happiness will not be increased by our efforts.

2nd. The grace to do his will comes from him only, and all the praise of that will be due to him.

3rd. All that we do is what is our duty; we cannot lay claim to having rendered any service that will bind him to show us favour; and

4th. Our best services are mingled with imperfections. We come short of his glory (Romans 3:23); we do not serve him as sincerely, and cheerfully, and faithfully as we ought; we are far, very far from the example set us by the Saviour; and if we are saved and rewarded, it will be because God will be merciful to our unrighteousness, and will remember our iniquities no more, Hebrews 8:12.

{f} "unprofitable" Job 22:3; Psalms 16:2,3; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 11:35; 1 Corinthians 9:16,17

Verse 11. The midst of Samaria and Galilee. He went from Galilee, and probably travelled through the chief villages and towns in it and then left it; and as Samaria was situated between Galilee and Jerusalem, it was necessary to pass through it; or it may mean that he passed along on the borders of each toward the river Jordan, and so passed in the midst, i.e. between Galilee and Samaria. This is rendered more probable from the circumstance that as he went from Galilee, there would have been no occasion for saying that he passed through it, unless it be meant through the confines or borders of it, or at least it would have been mentioned before Samaria.

{g} "Samaria" Luke 9:51,52; John 4:4

Verse 12. There met him. They were in his way, or in his path, as he was entering the village. They were not allowed to enter the village while they were afflicted with the leprosy, Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2,3

Lepers. See Barnes "Matthew 8:2".

Stood afar off. At a distance, as they were required by law. They were unclean, and it was not lawful for them to come near to those who were in health. As Jesus was travelling, they were also walking in the contrary way, and seeing him, and knowing that they were unclean, they stopped or turned aside, so that they might not expose others to the contagion.

{h} "stood afar off" Leviticus 13:46

Verse 13. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 14. Go show yourselves, &c. See Barnes "Matthew 8:4". By this command he gave them an implied assurance that they would be healed; for the design for which they were to go was to exhibit the evidence that they were restored, and to obtain permission from the priest to mingle again in society. It may also be observed that this required no small measure of faith on their part, for he did not first heal them, and then tell them to go; he told them to go without expressly assuring them that they would be healed, and without, as yet, any evidence to show to the priest. So sinners, defiled with the leprosy of sin, should put faith in the Lord Jesus and obey his commands, with the fullest confidence that he is able to heal them, and that he will do it if they follow his directions; and that in due time they shall have the fullest evidence that their peace is made with God, and that their souls shall by him be declared free from the defilement of sin.

Were cleansed. Were cured, or made whole.

{i} "Go show yourselves" Leviticus 13:2; 14:3; Matthew 8.4; Luke 5:14
{k} "as they went" 2 Kings 5:14; Isaiah 65:24

Verses 15,16. One of them, &c. This man, sensible of the power of God and grateful for his mercies, returned to express his gratitude to God for his goodness. Instead of obeying at once the letter of the command, he first expressed his thanks to God and to his Great Benefactor. There is no evidence, however, that he did not, after he had given thanks to God, and had poured out his joy at the feet of Jesus, go to the priest as he was directed; indeed, he could not have been restored to society without doing it; but he first poured out his thanks to God, and gave him praise for his wonderful recovery. The first duty of sinners, after they have been forgiven and have the hope of eternal life, is to prostrate themselves at the feet of their Great Benefactor, and to consecrate themselves to his service. Then let them go and show to others the evidence that they are cleansed. Let them go and mingle, like a restored leper, with their families and friends, and show by the purity and holiness of their lives how great is the mercy that has cleansed them.

He was a Samaritan. See Barnes "Matthew 10:5". This rendered his conduct more remarkable and striking in the sight of the Jews. They considered the Samaritans as peculiarly wicked, and themselves as peculiarly holy. This example showed them, like the parable of the good Samaritan, that in this they were mistaken; and one design of this seems to have been to break down the opposition between the Jews and Samaritans, and to bring the former to more charitable judgments respecting the latter.

{l} "glorified" Psalms 30:1,2

Verse 16. No Barnes text on this verse.

{m} "Samaritan" John 4:39-42

Verses 17,18. Where are the nine? Jesus had commanded them to go to the priest, and they were probably literally obeying the commandment. They were impatient to be healed and selfish in wishing it, and had no gratitude to God or their Benefactor. Jesus did not forbid their expressing gratitude to him for his mercy; he rather seems to reprove them for not doing it. One of the first feelings of the sinner cleansed from sin is a desire to praise his Great Benefactor; and a real willingness to obey his commandments is not inconsistent with a wish to render thanks to him for his mercy. With what singular propriety may this question now be asked, Where are the nine? And what a striking illustration is this of human nature, and of the ingratitude of man! One had come back to give thanks for the favour bestowed on him; the others were heard of no more. So now. When men are restored from dangerous sickness, here and there one comes to give thanks to God; but "where are the nine?" When men are defended from danger; when they are recovered from the perils of the sea; when a steamboat is destroyed, and a large part of crew and passengers perish, here and there one of those who are saved acknowledges the goodness of God and renders him praise; but where is the mass of them? They give no thanks; they offer no praise. They go about their usual employments, to mingle in the scenes of pleasure and of sin as if nothing had occurred. Few, few of all who have been rescued from "threatening graves" feel their obligation to God, or ever express it. They forget their Great Benefactor; perhaps the mention of his name is unpleasant, and they scorn the idea that they are under any obligations to him. Such, alas! is man, ungrateful man!

This stranger. This foreigner; or, rather, this alien, or this man of another tribe. In the Syraic version, "this one who is of a foreign people." This man, who might have been least expected to express gratitude to God. The most unlikely characters are often found to be most consistent and grateful. Men from whom we would expect least in religion, are often so entirely changed as to disappoint all our expectations, and to put to shame those who have been most highly favoured. The poor often thus put to shame the rich; the ignorant the learned; the young the aged.

Verse 18. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 19. Go thy way. To the priest; for without his certificate he could not again be restored to the society of his friends, or to the public worship of God. Having now appropriately expressed your gratitude, go to the priest and obey the law of God. Renewed sinners, while their hearts overflow with gratitude to Jesus, express that gratitude by obeying God, and by engaging in the appropriate duties of their calling and of religion.

Verse 20. Was demanded. Was asked.

Of the Pharisees. This was a matter of much importance to them, and they had taught that it would come with parade and pomp. It is not unlikely that they asked this merely in contempt, and for the purpose of drawing out something that would expose him to ridicule.

The kingdom of God. The reign of God; or the dispensation under the Messiah. See Barnes "Matthew 3:2".

With observation. With scrupulous and attentive looking for it, or with such an appearance as to attract observation--that is, with pomp, majesty, splendour. He did not deny that, according to their views, the time was drawing near; but he denied that his kingdom would come in the manner in which they expected. The Messiah would not come with pomp like an earthly prince; perhaps not in such a manner as to be discerned by the eyes of sagacious and artful men, who were expecting him in a way agreeable to their own feelings. The kingdom of God is within men, and it makes its way, not by pomp and noise, but by silence, decency, and order, 1 Corinthians 14:40.

Verse 21. Lo here! or, Lo there! When an earthly prince visits different parts of his territories, he does it with pomp. His movements attract observation, and become the common topic of conversation. The inquiry is, Where is he? which way will he go? and it is a matter of important news to be able to say where he is. Jesus says that the Messiah would not come in that manner. It would not be with such pomp and public attention. It would be silent, obscure, and attracting comparatively little notice. Or the passage may have reference to the custom of the pretended Messiahs, who appeared in this manner. They said that in this place or in that, in this mountain or that desert, they would show signs that would convince the people that they were the Messiah. Comp. See Barnes "Acts 5:36,37".

Is within you. This is capable of two interpretations.

1st. The reign of God is in the heart. It does not come with pomp and splendour, like the reign of temporal kings, merely to control the external actions and strike the senses of men with awe, but it reigns in the heart by the law of God; it sets up its dominion over the passions, and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

2nd. It may mean the new dispensation is even now among YOU. The Messiah has come. John has ushered in the kingdom of God, and you are not to expect the appearance of the Messiah with great pomp and splendour, for he is now among you. Most critics at present incline to this latter interpretation. The ancient versions chiefly follow the former.

Verse 22. The days will come. He here takes occasion to direct the minds of his disciples to the days of vengeance which were about to fall on the Jewish nation. Heavy calamities will befall the Jewish people, and you will desire a deliverer.

Ye shall desire. You who now number yourselves among my disciples.

One of the days of the Son of man. The Son of man here means the Messiah, without affirming that he was the Messiah. Such will be the calamities of those times, so great will be the afflictions and persecutions, that you will greatly desire a deliverer--one who shall come to you in the character in which you have expected the Messiah would come, and who would deliver you from the power of your enemies; and at that time, in the midst of these calamities, men shall rise up pretending to be the Messiah, and to be able to deliver you. In view of this, he takes occasion to caution them against being led astray by them.

Ye shall not see it. You shall not see such a day of deliverance-- such a Messiah as the nation has expected, and such an interposition as you would desire.

Verses 23,24. And they shall say, &c. Many false Christs, according to Josephus, appeared about that time, attempting to lead away the people. See Barnes "Matthew 24:23"; also Matthew 24:24-27.

{r} "they shall say to you" Matthew 24:23; Mark 13:21.

Verse 24. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 25. See Barnes "Mark 8:31".

{s} "But first" Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22

Verses 26,27. See Barnes "Matthew 24:37" also Matthew 24:38-39

{t} "in the days" Genesis 7:11,23

Verse 27. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 28-30. They did eat, &c. They were busy in the affairs of this life, as if nothing were about to happen.

The same day, &c. See Barnes "Genesis 19:23-25".

It rained. The word here used might have been rendered he rained. In Genesis it is said that the Lord did it.

Fire and brimstone. God destroyed Sodom on account of its great wickedness. He took vengeance on it for its sins; and the example of Sodom is set before men to deter them from committing great transgressions, and as a full proof that God will punish the guilty. See Jude 1:7; Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14. Yet, in overthrowing it, he used natural means. He is not to be supposed to have created fire and brimstone for the occasion, but to have directed the natural means at his disposal for their overthrow; as he did not create the waters to drown the world, but merely broke up the fountains of the great deep and opened the windows of heaven. Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim (Deuteronomy 29:23), were four great cities, on a plain where is now the Dead Sea, at the south-east of Palestine, and into which the river Jordan flows. They were built on ground which abounded, doubtless, as all that region now does, in bitumen or naphtha, which is easily kindled, and which burns with great intensity. The phrase "fire and brim stone" is a Hebrew form of expression, denoting sulphurous fire, or fire having the smell of sulphur; and may denote a volcanic eruption, or any burning like that of naphtha. There is no improbability in supposing either that this destruction was accomplished by lightning, which ignited the naphtha, or that it was a volcanic eruption, which, by direction of God, overthrew the wicked cities.

From heaven. By command of God, or from the sky. To the people of Sodom it had the appearance of coming from heaven, as all volcanic eruptions would have. Hundreds of towns have been overthrown in this way, and all by the agency of God. He rules the elements, and makes them his instruments, at his pleasure, in accomplishing the destruction of the wicked.

{u} "Lot went out of Sodom" Genesis 19:23,24
{v} "When the Son of Man" 2 Thessalonians 1:7

Verse 29. No Barnes text on this verse.

{u} "Lot went out of Sodom" Genesis 19:23,24

Verse 30. Even thus, &c. Destruction came upon the old world, and upon Sodom, suddenly; when they were engaged in other things, and little expecting this. So suddenly and unexpectedly, says he, shall destruction come upon the Jewish people. See Barnes "Matthew 24:31" See Barnes "Matthew 24:17,18".

{v} "when the Son" 2 Thessalonians 1:7

Verse 31. See Barnes "Genesis 19:26"

Verse 32. Remember Lot's wife. See Barnes "Genesis 19:26". She looked back--she delayed --perhaps she desired to take something with her, and God made her a monument of his displeasure. Jesus directed his disciples, when they saw the calamities coming upon the Jews, to flee to the mountains, Matthew 24:16. He here charges them to be in haste--not to look back--no!; to delay--but to escape quickly, and to remember that by delaying, the wife of Lot lost her life.

{w} Genesis 19:26

Verse 33. See Barnes "Matthew 10:39"

{x} "shall seek to save" Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25

Verses 34-36. See Barnes "Matthew 24:40" See Barnes "Matthew 24:41"

{y} "Whosoever shall seek" Matthew 24:40,41

Verse 35. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 36. No Barnes text on this verse.

{3} Verse 36 is wanting in most Greek copies.

Verse 37. See Barnes "Matthew 24:26".

Where, Lord? Where, or in what direction, shall these calamities come? The answer implies that it would be where there is the most guilt and wickedness. Eagles flock where there is prey. So, said he, these armies will flock to the place where there is the most wickedness; and by this their thoughts were directed at once to Jerusalem, the place of eminent wickedness, and the place, therefore, where these calamities might be expected to begin.

{z} "Wheresoever the body is" Job 39:30; Matthew 24:28

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 17". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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