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The Fourfold Gospel

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17:1  And he said unto his disciples, It is impossible2 but that occasions of stumbling should come3; but woe unto him, through whom they come!

    SECOND GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Probably in Perea.) G. CONCERNING OFFENSES, FAITH, AND SERVICE. Luke 17:1-10

  1. And he said unto the disciples. Jesus here ceases to speak to the Pharisees, and begins a new series of sayings addressed to the disciples, which sayings are, however, pertinent to the occasion, and not wholly disconnected with what he has just been saying.

  2. It is impossible. In a world where Pharisees abound (1 Corinthians 11:19).

  3. But that occasions of stumbling should come. See Matthew 18:7.

17:2  It were well for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck1, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones2 to stumble3.

  1. It were well for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck, etc. See Mark 9:42. Not the large millstone mentioned by Mark and Matthew, but the small one which was turned by hand. See Mark 9:42

  2. Rather than that he should cause one of these little ones. Beginners in the faith, or weaklings (Romans 14:1).

  3. To stumble. See Mark 9:42.

17:3  Take heed to yourselves1: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him2.

  1. Take heed to yourselves. Our dangers are not overpassed when we avoid giving offenses, fir it is also required of us that we should forgive the evils which we receive.

  2. If thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. Righteousness has its obligation to rebuke as well as love has to forgive.

17:4  And if he sin against thee seven times in the day1, and seven times turn again to thee2, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him3.

  1. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day. A general expression indicating a great number of times. See Matthew 18:21.

  2. And seven times turn again to thee. See Matthew 18:22.

  3. Saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. The passage differs from that in Matthew in that the repentance of the sinner is required as a condition precedent to forgiveness.

17:5  And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith1.

  1. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. The apostles asked for faith that they might be able to fulfill the great moral requirements which Jesus had just revealed. Our Lord sanctions the wisdom of their prayer by showing the greatness of faith.

17:6  And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed1, ye would say unto this sycamine tree2, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea; and it would obey you.

  1. If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed. See Matthew 17:20. Says Godet,

    "The only real power of the universe is the divine will. The human will, which has discovered the secret of blending with this force of forces, is raised, in virtue of this union, to omnipotence."

    But our distance from omnipotence measures how far we are from attaining that desired union of will.

  2. Ye would say unto this sycamine tree. The sycamine tree is the well-known black mulberry tree, which belongs to the same natural order as the fig-tree, and is a tree distinguished for being deeply rooted.

17:7  But who is there of you1, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straightway and sit down to meat;

    Luke 17:7-10

  1. But who is there of you, etc. In this passage, which is in the nature of a parable, Jesus teaches that duty is coextensive with ability, and explodes the doctrine that it is impossible for a man to do "works of supererogation". Since in God's sight no man can even do his full duty (Psalms 143:2), it is impossible that he can do MORE than his duty. We may be rewarded for the discharge of our duty, but the reward is of grace and not of merit. Compare Luke 12:3-48. The theme is no doubt suggested by Luke 17:6. When one's faith endows him with great gifts he need not consider himself as an unusually profitable servant for he can do no more than it is his duty to do. Godet denies this connection with Luke 17:6, contending that miracles are not among "the things that are commanded", and for those who could bestow it, a gift of healing was as much an obligation as a gift of alms (Matthew 10:8; Acts 3:1-6). The paragraph is a fitting close to a discourse so much of which relates to Pharisaism.

17:11  And it came to pass, as they were on their way to Jerusalem, that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee1.

    JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM. TEN LEPERS. CONCERNING THE KINGDOM. (Borders of Samaria and Galilee.) Luke 17:11-37

  1. And it came to pass, as they were on their way to Jerusalem, that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee. If our chronology is correct, Jesus passed northward from Ephraim about forty miles, crossing Samaria (here mentioned first), and coming to the border of Galilee. He then turned eastward along that border down the wady Bethshean which separates the two provinces, and crossed the Jordan into Perea, where we soon find him moving on toward Jericho in the midst of the caravan of pilgrims on the way to the Passover.

17:12  And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off1:

  1. There met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off. One may still meet such groups of lepers outside the villages. They do not stand directly in the road so as to make an actual meeting, but are off to one side and near enough to beg. The law required lepers to keep away from the rest of the people (Leviticus 13:45,46). The rabbis are said to have prescribed a fixed distance at which lepers must keep, but authority varies as to this distance, some giving it as a rod (sixteen and a half feet, or five meters), and others as high as a hundred paces (five hundred feet).

17:13  and they lifted up their voices1, saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us2.

  1. And they lifted up their voices. Such as they had, for the leper's bronchial tubes are dry, and the voice is harsh and squeaky.

  2. Saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. Considering their condition, their prayer was definite enough.

17:14  And when he saw them1, he said unto them, Go and show yourselves unto the priests2. And it came to pass, as they went, they were cleansed3.

  1. And when he saw them. The disciples about him probably at first obstructed the Lord's view.

  2. Go and show yourselves unto the priests. See Matthew 8:4.

  3. And it came to pass, as they went, they were cleansed. They received the blessing when they showed their faith by their obedience.

17:15  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back1, with a loud voice glorifying God2;

  1. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back. Like Naaman (2 Kings 5:15).

  2. With a loud voice glorifying God. A voice made strong by health and gratitude.

17:16  and he fell upon his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan1.

  1. He was a Samaritan. On his way to the priests at Mt. Gerizim the Samaritan turned back to express his thanks. Apparently nine of the lepers were Jews. A Samaritan was among them because they were along the border of the country, and because the fellowship of affliction and disease obliterated the distinctions of race, as it does to this day. In the leper-houses at Jerusalem, Mohammedans and Jews now live together despite the rancor existing between the healthy representatives of these two religions.

17:17  And Jesus answering said, Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

  1. Were there not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine? The Lord publicly noted the indifference and ingratitude of the nine and the thanksgiving of the tenth. As we look around today and see how many are ungrateful for the blessings which they receive, the words ring like an echo in our ears.

17:18  Were there none found that returned to give glory to God1, save this stranger2?

  1. Were there none found that returned to give glory to God. It sometimes happens that we receive most where we expect least.

  2. Save this stranger? Though the Samaritan's religion was partly Jewish, yet by blood he was a foreigner, as the word "stranger" means.

17:19  And he said unto him, Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole1.

  1. Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Thus Jesus emphasized the fact that the blessing came through faith, encouraging the man to seek higher blessings by the same means.

17:20  And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh1, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation2:

  1. And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh. The question of the Pharisees was doubtless a covert criticism. More than three years before this Jesus had begun to say that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 4:17); and they thought that after all this preparation it was high time that the kingdom should commence.

  2. He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. The Pharisees were looking for some manifestation of the sovereignty of God in the realm of the civil and the external, which would raise the Jewish nation to conspicuous supremacy, but they are told that the work of the kingdom is internal and spiritual (John 3:8; John 18:36; Romans 10:8; Colossians 1:27), and that its effects are not such as can be located in space. They were seeking honors and joys, and would find contempt and sorrow (Amos 5:18-20).

17:21  neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you1.

  1. The kingdom of God is within you. Some have thought it strange than Jesus should say "within you" when addressing the Pharisees, but the word "you" is used generally and indefinitely.

17:22  And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it2.

  1. And he said unto his disciples. Giving them instructions suggested by the question of the Pharisees.

  2. The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. If the Pharisees looked eagerly for a sensuous external Messianic kingdom, so also would the disciples be tempted in the days to come to cherish a somewhat similar yearning. Knowing that Jesus was to come again to rule in power and in great glory, they would, under the stress of persecution, hunger to see one of the days of his rule. The longing for the coming of the Christ is frequently expressed (Philippians 4:5; Titus 2:13; James 5:7-9; Revelation 22:20).

17:23  And they shall say to you, Lo, there! Lo, here! go not away, nor follow after [them]1:

  1. And they shall say to you, Lo, there! Lo, here! go not away, nor follow after [them]. In their restless eagerness the unwary disciples would be tempted to follow the false Messiahs who excited widespread admiration and attention.

17:24  for as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven1; so shall the Son of man be in his day2.

  1. For as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven. Against all this Jesus warns them, telling them that when the kingdom of heaven does at last assume a visible shape in the manifestation of its King, that manifestation will be so glorious, universal and pronounced as to be absolutely unmistakable.

  2. So shall the Son of man be in his day. See Acts 26:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

17:25  But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation1.

  1. But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation. Thus when he speaks of his glory Jesus is careful to mention the humiliation and suffering which precedes it, that the faith of his disciples may not be weakened by false expectations and misunderstandings. The day of glory was not for that generation, since it would reject him.

17:26  And as it came to pass in the days of Noah1, even so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

    Luke 17:26-30

  1. As it came to pass in the days of Noah. See Genesis 7:11-23. Our Lord here gives us two historical incidents of the false security of the ungodly, and in doing so he endorses them as real history.

17:27  They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage1, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came2, and destroyed them all.

  1. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage. The antediluvians and the citizens of Sodom discharged the business of the day and laid their plans for tomorrow and had no thought of evil or anticipation of trouble down to the very moment that the bowls of wrath were poured upon them.

  2. Until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came,
  3. and destroyed them all. Despite all warnings, they were taken by surprise when completely off their guard.

17:28  Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot1; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

  1. Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot. See Genesis 19:15-28; Ezekiel 16:46-56; Jude 1:7.

17:29  but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all1:

  1. But in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. See Luke 17:27.

17:30  after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed1.

  1. After the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed. The coming of Christ shall be a like surprise to the people of the last day (Matthew 24:44; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15), and it shall be a day of like punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

17:31  In that day, he that shall be on the housetop1, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away2: and let him that is in the field likewise not return back.

  1. In that day, he that shall be on the housetop. The flat roofs of Oriental houses are used much the same as we use porches.

  2. And his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away. It seems strange that the terrors of the last day should be accompanied by any thought or concern for property, but such is the plain intimation of the text.

17:32  Remember Lot's wife1.

  1. Remember Lot's wife. See Genesis 19:26; Luke 9:62. If our hope has been centered upon earthly things, we will be found seeking them even in that hour, just as the face of Lot's wife was turned toward Sodom despite the glare of the penal fires. Our earthly characters become fixed, and great catastrophes do not change them (Revelation 22:10-12).

17:33  Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose [his life] shall preserve it1.

  1. Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose [his life] shall preserve it. If in that hour we be found seeking to save out carnal treasures, it will be a sign that we have lost the spiritual from our lives and have no heavenly treasures.

17:34  I say unto you, In that night there shall be two men on one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left1.

    Luke 17:34-36

  1. In that night there shall be two men on one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Day and night exist simultaneously upon the earth, and the Lord's coming will be at noon to some and at midnight to others. His saints will be found mingled with the rest of the people and engaged in duties befitting the hour. But the Lord will receive them to himself as his own (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and they will be ready to be detached from their worldly ties that they may go to meet and welcome the bridegroom at his coming (Matthew 25:6,7).

17:35  There shall be two women grinding together1; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left2.

  1. There shall be two women grinding together. Making meal or flour with the little stone hand-mills, as they still do in the East.

  2. The one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. See Luke 17:34.

17:37  And they answering say unto him, Where, Lord1? And he said unto them, Where the body [is], thither will the eagles also be gathered together2.

  1. And they answering say unto him, Where, Lord? The disciples desired to know where this manifestation and division would take place, looking upon it as a local prediction.

  2. And he said unto them, Where the body [is], thither will the eagles also be gathered together. Jesus gave a proverbial answer, the meaning of which is that sin courts and draws to itself punishment and destruction just as a carcass draws winged scavengers. Applying his words, we may say that as the corruption of the antediluvians drew upon them, the devastation of the flood, and as the crimes of the Sodomites called down upon them, the fires from heaven, and as the unbelief of the Jews of Christ's day caused the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of the nation, so the wickedness of the men of the last times will result in the ending of the world. The word translated "eagles" is generic, and included the vultures also (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 9:3). It is likely that the Revision Committee retained the word "eagles" instead of vultures because of the mistaken notion of Lightfoot and others that our Lord here makes a covert allusion to the eagles which were borne upon the Roman standards. A passage similar to the latter part of this section is found at Matthew 24:17-41.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 17". "The Fourfold Gospel". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/tfg/view.cgi?book=lu&chapter=017>. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.  

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