Read Luke Chapter 17
It’s difficult to pick up a theme in this chapter, Luke seems to take us all over: stumbling blocks; forgiveness; faith; doing your duty; gratitude; the coming of the Kingdom of God; the return of Jesus and living for God until the end. So lets pick up on some of those things.
Luke 17:1 “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!“
In saying this Jesus is being realistic about the fact that we will stumble, but that even still those that cause us to stumble are not without blame. You must be on your guard against sin, but if someone does sin against you, your attitude should be one of discipleship and continual forgiveness. Like with a parent to a child, when a child stumbles it is a ‘teachable moment’, so our emphasis is on restoration not punishment. Seven times, is not prescriptive of how many times we should forgive, it is descriptive of forgiving every time and all the time (Seven is often used to refer to completeness in Scripture). If you don’t feel you have enough faith to forgive this much, Jesus is saying that it’s not about the quantity but the quality of your faith: You don’t perhaps need more faith you need to use what faith you have and God will cause it to grow as you do.
Luke 17:3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
It is odd to imagine this kind of boss in this parable being a picture of God. But the ‘boss’ is only expecting the worker to do the work he is employed to do. Perhaps there is a lesson for us about our attitude towards our employment here, but perhaps more significantly a lesson in how we should not seek praise for just doing what is right, since it is expected of us. If we connect this to the previous verses we could say that we are expected to be forgiving and to avoid causing any to stumble. So next time you do a good deed or act Christianly, remember that this is your new normal, don’t seek recognition, just get on with it.
Luke 17:10 “…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.’”
We must garner an attitude of gratitude and not take God for granted. Just like the Samaritan foreigner (in first century Jewish thought), we don’t deserve all that God has accomplished in Christ for us, so we must remember all that He has done and glorify God (17:11-19).
The Jews of that day were very alive to the coming Kingdom of God, but they completely misunderstood the nature of that Kingdom. They were imagining the restoration of the glory days under King David and Solomon and the overthrow of Roman rule. Jesus makes it quite clear that it is nothing of the sort, that it won’t be something they can see but will be within, or among them. The Kingdom of God is advanced as one heart at a time responds and surrenders to King Jesus in answer to the Gospel. Even though they were looking for the Kingdom, they will reject the King:
Luke 17:25 “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
They were encouraged to avoid looking for physical signs of the coming Kingdom, since it (or He) was here already, but Jesus does go on to talk about His own second coming. Even then, we are not to go running after every possible thing that looks like He has returned, we are to go on about our business: eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling and working. The fact is the day will come suddenly, while normal life is happening.
Luke 17:33 “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.“
Perhaps Jesus is warning us what life in the Kingdom is really like and how we should prepare for His second coming: We must have a good attitude and keep short accounts in our dealings with others, being quick to forgive and recognising that we will all stumble at times, because life and following Jesus is a tough gig. But judgement is coming on those who do not join the Kingdom of God (17:37).