Archive for the ‘Luke 17’ Category

Well today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember when Jesus presented himself to Jerusalem as king. 

We are looking today at “How to be ready for the great gathering” that is, the resurrection of the righteous. I think that this is a timely topic for Palm Sunday. Consider this: 

  • At Jesus’ first coming, he presented himself as king, but very few were ready
  • At Jesus’ second coming, when he appears in glory as king, will we be any more ready?


We saw last week why we need to be ready for when Jesus returns and sends out his angels to gather those who claim him as Lord. We need to be ready because the unfaithful will be separated out from the faithful.

We saw how Jesus talks about this a lot. Here are just two examples:

  • Matthew 25 – parable of the bridesmaids: five make it in, five don’t
  • Matthew 25 – parable of the talents: two make it in, one doesn’t 

So there is a sorting process, and some who are gathered, or who seek to be gathered, will not make it into the eternal kingdom. While those who are found faithful will be gathered to Jesus, will be resurrected, and will receive eternal rewards.

Now we know that . . .

The foundation of our salvation is the gift of grace in Jesus 

It is based on what he did for us through his life, death and resurrection. To receive this gift, we must:

  1. Acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, whom God has sent to be the Savior of the world.
  2. Turn from our old life of sin and wrongdoing, and commit to live a new life just as Jesus has taught.
  3. Ask for and receive the new life that comes through Jesus. This includes the forgiveness of our sins and also new life by the Spirit; new birth.

Without this you don’t get anywhere! This is the foundation. And this is all assumed in what our Scriptures talk about today, for Jesus is speaking to his disciples – Christians. 

The question that is focused on in our scriptures today is: Have we been faithful with the grace we have received?

It’s one thing to receive the mercy of God’s salvation. It’s another to continue on in that mercy until the end; to be faithful. It is as Jesus said, in the midst of the trials and testings of this life, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” – Mark 13:13

And on that day of sorting we want to be found among those who are faithful! So here are . . .

Three marks of faithfulness 

. . . that Jesus speaks of, that show us how to be alert and ready for his coming.

#1. Be Dead To Your Earthly Life. This comes from Luke 17:28-35 –

“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”

Jesus teaches us here that the great gathering of the resurrection will be like when the angels gathered Lot and his family out of Sodom. Jesus said, “Just as in the days of Lot (v. 28) . . . so it will be when the Son of man is revealed” (v.  30). So lets look at this comparison:

The Gathering from Sodom:

  1. Angels were sent to gather Lot and his family
  2. Lot’s wife longingly looked back to her home in Sodom
  3. She was attached to her life in Sodom  and was judged. She was sorted out of the faithful remnant.

The End Time Gathering:

  1. Angels will be sent to gather us (as we saw last week)
  2. We should not tarry or turn back. This is what Jesus is talking about in v. 31. In that day don’t seek to grab your possessions, or if you are in the field don’t turn back toward your home.
  3. So this raises the question for us – Are we attached to our earthly life?

As he says in v. 33, in the context of his second coming, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” This is a warning. Don’t be attached to your earthly life! That is, to your family, possessions, status and earthly plans.  

If you cling to your earthly life on the day of gathering, you will be sorted out, just like Lot’s wife. That’s why Jesus said, in v. 32 – “Remember Lot’s wife.” That’s the lesson here. She sought to preserve her life and so she lost her life. Don’t be like her.

We have to be able to let it all go, to lose it all in a moment – unsaved loved ones, our possessions, our projects and our earthly dreams. 

And the way to prepare for this is to choose now to die to your earthly life. In the words of Jesus “to lose your life.” Already now put God first above all else on this earth. Then you will be ready and not hesitant on the great day of gathering when the angels come for you. 

#2. Do the will of God, just as Jesus teaches. By far, Jesus talks about this the most when he speaks of being ready for the great gathering. 

We will focus in on one example: Matthew 7:21-23 –

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” 

  • Notice that they confessed Jesus as Lord. They looked to him as the Messiah.
  • They did works by the Spirit of God – prophesying, casting out demons and performing miracles 
  • And they ministered in the name of Jesus

These are disciples that thought all was OK in their lives. Indeed they thought that they were outstanding followers of Jesus, waiting for their commendation. But they don’t make it in!

Why? They did not obey the will of God. Jesus has just taught about this in the Sermon on the Mount, right before this passage – much of it focused on what it means to love our neighbor. They didn’t practice this.

As Jesus says in v. 21 it is “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” who “will enter the kingdom of heaven” on that final day of sorting.

But these people knowingly allowed sin to remain in their lives. They chose not to deal with it. This is why Jesus said, “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” They are sorted out due to continued unrighteousness in their lives.

What do we learn about being ready for the great gathering? Obey God in every part of your life. Put into practice all that Jesus has taught and modeled for us. Hold nothing back; no part of your life. 

And when you fail, repent and find forgiveness and move forward again. Endure in your obedience until the end.

#3. Do your work for the Kingdom. That is, whatever God has called you to do, whatever God has gifted you to do, make sure you do it.

Jesus speaks of this in several passages, but we will focus on the familiar Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. Here’s a summary:

  • Jesus, the master is going away 
  • And so he gives to his servants specific tasks to do according to their abilities, while he is gone
  • Two worked hard at their tasks and were blessed when the master returned
  • One didn’t work. He was lazy and did nothing and was judged. Jesus says about him, “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 25:30.

It will work the same way for us on that final day when Jesus returns. If you do nothing to work for the kingdom, you will be sorted out as well.

What do we learn about being ready for the great gathering? Serve Jesus with your life, your gifts, your time, your resources. Find out what Jesus wants you to do, and then get busy! Work hard to advance the kingdom.

A final note

Now, I know it can be a somber thing to think about this business of being sorted, and some being sorted out. But we are given this teaching (and there is a lot of it) so that we can examine our lives and make the changes we need to make in order to be ready. So that we can indeed be found faithful. 

But, having said that, lets end on a more joyful note. For if you:

  1. Die to your earthly lives so that you are ready to go
  2. Do the will of God and 
  3. Work hard for the kingdom – you will be blessed! 

You will hear these words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We will have Jesus’ seal of approval before all of creation.

He will say, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” We will be rewarded for our faithfulness; for all of our troubles and sacrifices for him. It will all be more than worth it.

And he will say, “Enter into the joy of your master.” We will have joy with Jesus for eternity in the kingdom of God. (Matthew 25:21)

William Higgins

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updated 5/24/19

The literary structure of Luke 17:11-19

We are looking at the story of the ten lepers from Luke 17:11-19. I have always liked this story, and I want us to see what we can learn from it this morning.

Luke 17:11-19 – “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’”

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem

Verse 11 says – “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”  The idea of Jesus traveling up to Jerusalem one final time is a real theme in the gospel of Luke, beginning in Luke 9:51. This says – “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” We also have several other notices of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem – (e.g. – Luke 9:53, 13:22)  So in our passage we are once again reminded that Jesus is taking his last fateful trip to Jerusalem.

Here we encounter him “between Samaria and Galilee.” It was normal for Jews to travel south from Galilee to Jerusalem and not go through Samaria, but to skirt around in on the border.

Verses 12-14 recount the . . .

Healing miracle

 . . . that is at the center of this story. Verse 12 says, “And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance.” Now leprosy in the Bible is not just what we call leprosy, or, Hansen’s disease. It referred to various kinds of diseases that affect the skin; that make it inflamed, scaly or splotchy. This would include things like psoriasis or eczema. Perhaps some of us would qualify as lepers according to the law of Moses because of our skin ailments!

So the problem is not necessarily that it’s life threatening, rather it’s a matter of ritual uncleanness according to the law of Moses. Leviticus 13:45-46 lays out some of the rules for lepers – “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ . . . His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

This last phrase explains why they “stood at a distance.”

  • Because they were unclean, lepers were social outcasts, who lived in small groups or colonies. (This would be similar today to the mentally ill or drug addicted who are homeless and live in camps or shelters apart from others.)
  • Although they were outcasts they stayed near enough to roadways to ask for alms (donations) which is why they see Jesus about to enter the village.

Verse 13 says – “and (the ten lepers) lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’”  They apparently had heard about Jesus. They knew his name and called him “Master” – a title of respect. They most likely knew of him as a miracle worker.

Although lepers did call out for mercy for alms – here, when they say – “have mercy” it’s a call for healing. Have mercy on us by healing our leprosy.

Verse 14 says, “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.” The phrase – “Show yourselves to priests” – refers to what Moses commanded when someone’s leprosy went away. They go to the priest, who certifies that they are clean and takes them through the rituals necessary to re-enter society (Leviticus 14). This certainly confirms to us that Jesus honored the Mosaic law in his ministry to Jews. He told them to do what Moses commanded.

But what is really interesting, in terms of the healing, is that Jesus tells them to go before they are healed. You are supposed to go after the skin condition is gone, and the priest certifies this. But he tells them to act as if it is already done!And amazingly, they did what Jesus said. They acted in faith. Simply based on the word of Jesus, they go to find a priest.

And then it says, “as they went they were cleansed.” As they acted in faith, God granted their request. For a leper to be cleansed is to be healed (v. 15). They are “made well” or literally saved from their condition (v. 19).

Healing a leper was a significant event. In Jesus’ day it was held that only a miracle from God could cure a leper. It was like raising someone from the dead (2 Kings 5:7). Here Jesus heals ten at once.

And again, this is not just a physical malady. It’s a social one. They are able to be a part of society again; to be with family; to work; to have dignity and honor.

The thankful Samaritan

Verses 15-16 say, “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Here we learn that one of the now healed lepers is a Samaritan. From a Jewish point of view he was a double outcast – a leper and a Samaritan, since the Samaritans were viewed as enemies and heretics, which is why most Jews avoided going through Samaria.

Well, he’s the only one who, when he notices his healing, turns back to praise God and fall at Jesus’ feet to thank him. What a twist in the story! The good guy is the Samaritan, and not the other, presumably Jewish lepers.

He recognized that Jesus was the key; the means of his healing. (This is the only place in the gospels where you have thanks given to Jesus.)

Jesus’ response

Verses 17-18 say, “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ “ He told them to go to the priests! So this seems kind of odd that he is criticizing the nine. But, of course, this didn’t preclude them from stopping and giving thanks once their healing was apparent.

Jesus is saying, the nine should have also given thanks to God and specifically to him for his role in giving them God’s mercy.

Verse 19 says, “And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” The last phrase can be translated “you faith has saved you.” And because of this some think that the Samaritan is given something more than the nine – true salvation or a true healing. But it’s really just Jesus’ way of saying, “yes, you’re healed, now you can go live your life.” He does this in other places as well. (See also Luke 7:50; 8:48; 18:42.)

3 lessons from this story

1. Jesus loves to give God’s grace to outcasts – whether it be sinners, tax collectors or prostitutes. We see this all the time in the gospels. And here it is a Samaritan and a leper.

Are you an outcast? Are you excluded and put down? There is good news in the Gospels – Jesus loves you and wants to bless you with God’s grace.

But this raises the question for us as followers of Jesus from the other end. “How are we when we encounter outcasts?”  How do we respond to those our society considers unclean – the homeless, the drug addicted, prostitutes, those in same-sex relationships?

Do we minister God’ grace to bring healing and restoration? Or do we avoid them, put them down, hate and exclude them?

Jesus loved outcasts. And it’s a good thing because we are all simply sinners and outcasts, whom Jesus has had mercy on. And we are to pass this mercy on to others as well.

2. We need to act in faith. They had tremendous faith in Jesus. They acted before they saw the reality, just based on Jesus’ command. They still had their leprosy!

But isn’t this the essence of faith? As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” They believed that if they did what Jesus said, they would be healed.

This is an example to us. When we ask God for something and God responds by telling us to do something, do we sit back and wait? Do we wait for some results first, some evidence that we can see? Or do we move forward according to what God tells us to do, expecting God to be faithful?

3. We need to give thanks for what God has done in our lives. Specifically, it is always appropriate to stop and give thanks to God and our Lord Jesus.

We can be so focused on duty, doing what God has told us to do (like the nine) that we don’t realize and acknowledge what God has done for us.

So, don’t be one of the nine. Yes, they had faith and were blessed. But don’t be like them! Be like the one who was blessed and also showed gratitude.

So many people ask God for things, “God help me with this problem!” “Fix this crisis!” But how many, when God has mercy, turn and give thanks? Be one of the few who give back thanks to God and his Son, for his great mercy in our lives.

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We have looked off and on at Luke 17:3-4 about forgiveness and repentance and going to the one who has sinned, bringing in Matthew 18:5. Now we look at some additional teaching from Jesus on forgiveness, that comes after these verses. I will share this with you as two short sermons.

Does forgiving others seven times in a day require you to be super-spiritual? Luke 17: 5-6

We start with v. 5 –

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’”

This verse picks up from v. 4 where Jesus taught the disciples to forgive seven times in a day. The apostles must have thought – ‘That’s impossible!’ ‘Who can do this?’ ‘You would have to be super-spiritual; you would have to have great faith to do this teaching.’ And so their response is to ask Jesus, “Increase our faith.”

This is similar to the objection they raise when Jesus teaches them about divorce and remarriage. “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” – Matthew 19:10. And it is also similar to their response to Jesus’ teaching on wealth. “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’” – Matthew 19:25. So also here, Jesus tells them something that seems impossible to them, and they react to it.

Jesus’ response comes in v. 6.

“And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this Sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”

Lets look at what this means. First, we are dealing with proverbial imagery here:

  • A grain of mustard seed was proverbial for something really small.
  • Despite most translations (mulberry tree), Jesus seems to be referring to the sycamore tree, which was a large, deeply rooted tree that was used in proverbs as well, to talk about something that is difficult to move.

In this case, the idea is to speak to it so that it is uprooted and planted into the sea. This would be a spectacular sight! Mark and Matthew, in other contexts, have a similar saying where you speak to a mountain and cast it into the sea. This saying (and the others) is not meant to be taken literally. It is a proverb. It speaks of doing the impossible. Jesus means – if you have even the smallest faith, you can do the impossible. 

On another level, Jesus is addressing a misconception about faith in v. 6. The apostles don’t understand the way that faith works. You don’t sit back and wait until you get enough faith so that it seems easy. You act on the faith you have – in the midst of it being difficult. And that’s how your faith grows. So their question is a bit odd. They don’t need to receive something. They need to do something with what they have already received.

Putting all this together, Jesus’ answer to the apostles is this: To do the impossible (or what seems impossible to you) all you need is to act on even the smallest amount of faith.

With regard to the difficulty of forgiving someone  seven times in one day, you don’t need to be super-spiritual, or have unusual faith. You just need to act on the faith you have.

This teaching, in these verses, has to do with forgiving others seven times in a day. But it certainly applies to lots of things Jesus teaches, which seem really hard to us: Not seeking wealth, but giving it to the poor; not worrying about our economic future, but trusting in God to provide; practicing nonresistance and loving our enemies; not judging others or speaking angry words that tear others down; being faithful in difficult life circumstances; or fulfilling a special calling that God has given to you.

The message to us from these verses is that – yes, what Jesus teaches is hard. It may seem impossible to us. But if we exercise the little faith that we have and step out – we can do it.

Does forgiving others seven times in a day qualify you for special recognition? Luke 17:7-10

This passage connects with the preceding verses of Luke 17 in that it addresses the apostles’ misunderstanding that only the super-spiritual can practice forgiveness in the way that Jesus teaches. The implication being that people that can obey such hard teaching would deserve special recognition from God. The logic goes like this – you would have to be super-spiritual to forgive someone seven times in one day. And those who are so super-spiritual would surely deserve something special from God in terms of reward.

We begin with v. 7

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table?’”

We are dealing with the culture of that day where household slaves were not uncommon. In this case we have a farmer with one slave who does both outside and inside chores. The question is, after the slave has worked outside all day, will you stop and feed him? Will you do something special for him for doing his work? The answer is clearly expected to be “no” in this context.

Vs. 8-9 say,

“Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?”

In this context, the slave does not gain credit for doing what he is supposed to do, which is to work hard. He worked outside all day and then has to come inside and cook for his master before he can relax and eat.

Even though he does this hard work, there is no social obligation or debt created on the part of the master so that the master would say, ‘You have worked hard, let me give you some special recognition.’ Working hard is what slaves do.

Then comes the punch line in v. 10 –

“So you also, [you are slaves to God] when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

God doesn’t owe us any thanks or any debt when we do what he tells us to do, even if it is hard. In fact, even if we obeyed God perfectly all our lives – which none of has done or will do – God would still not owe us anything. We are still only doing what are supposed to do in the first place.

The specific application here is, do you get special recognition for forgiving others seven times in one day; for being supposedly super-spiritual? No. You are only doing what you are supposed to do as God’s slave!

Again, this teaching, in these verses, has to do with forgiving others seven times in a day, but it certainly applies to lots of things Jesus teaches – which seem really hard to us: Not seeking wealth, but giving it to the poor; not worrying about our economic future, but trusting in God to provide; practicing nonresistance and loving our enemies; not judging others or speaking angry words that tear others down; being faithful in difficult life circumstances; or fulfilling a special calling that God has given to you.

The message to us from these verses is that when you start stepping out in faith and are doing the impossible on a regular basis – don’t think that you deserve special credit from God. Don’t get a big head. You are only doing what you are supposed to do.

William Higgins

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