Luke 17

The latter part of the previous chapter, verse 14 to the end, was
spoken to the Pharisees: at the beginning of this chapter the Lord
again addresses His disciples. The rich man had stumbled over his
possessions into hell, and now the Lord tells His disciples that, the
world being what it is, "offences," or occasions of stumbling are
inevitable. The great thing is to avoid being an "offence" to anyone
else, to even the least important. The consequences are so serious that
anything is better than that.

Yet this does not mean that we should never speak to our brother for
fear of stumbling him. The very opposite: if he should go astray into
sin, we are to rebuke him, and immediately he repents forgive him; and
this, even if it should repeatedly happen. We might imagine that we
should run the risk of stumbling him by rebuking him, but we should
really do so by not rebuking him. It is of course assumed that the
rebuke is administered not in human anger but in the power of Divine

Teaching such as this made the disciples feel that they needed to
have their faith increased. The Lord's reply seems to infer that it is
not a question of the quantity of faith but of its vitality. A mustard
seed is very small but it is alive! Live faith accomplishes results of
a supernatural order. Many a time have heavy paving stones been forced
up by tender sprouts, proceeding from live seeds embedded beneath them.
Even vegetable life has powers which appear miraculous, and much more
so faith which is living. Nevertheless no faith that we have and no
service that we render gives us any kind of claim upon God. We can
never accomplish more than it was our duty to do. This seems to be the
truth inculcated in verses 7-10.

The Lord was now on His way to Jerusalem, and we come to the
touching incident concerning the ten lepers. All of them had some
measure of faith in Him, for they appealed to Him as Master and they
obeyed His direction to go to the priests, in spite of the fact that
there was at the moment no change in their condition. Yet when the
cleansing reached them nine of them continued their journey to the
priests, so as to complete their ceremonial cleansing at the earliest
moment. Only one deferred the ceremonial part in order to give the
first place to his Benefactor. The Jewish mind was more bound by what
was ceremonial: the poor Samaritan was free to render praise and
thanksgiving to the Saviour in the first place and receive his
ceremonial cleansing afterwards. Sovereign mercy had been dispensed,
and he got lifted above the customs of the law by a glimpse of the
Person who dispensed the mercy. In result he got the assurance of being
made whole from the Lord's own lips, with the acknowledgement that his
faith had been the instrument of it. This was worth far more than any
assurance he could get from the priests. Intelligent faith always puts
Christ first.

In verses 20 and 21, Luke sets the obtuse unbelief of the Pharisees
in contrast with the faith of the Samaritan. They only thought of the
kingdom of God arriving with outward show, so as to be observed of all.
The Lord told them that it was not at that time coming in that way, but
that already it was amongst them, inasmuch as He-the King-was in their
midst. The kingdom was amongst them for He was amongst them. The
Pharisees were quite blind to this, but the Samaritan had evidently got
a sight of it, hence his hurried return to give thanks at His feet.

In verse 22, Jesus again turns to His disciples, speaking of "the
days of the Son of Man," and of course it is the Son of Man who is to
take the kingdom, when the hour does arrive for its public
establishment, as had long before been made known in Daniel 7: 13, 14.
Now they, like the Samaritan, had faith and already saw the power and
authority of God vested in the Lord Jesus. They would also in due
season see the Son of Man revealed in His glory, and of this verse 30
speaks as well as verse 24. But meanwhile His rejection was going to
supervene, and the sayings reported to the end of the chapter were
evidently addressed to them as representing saints who should be here
until the time in which He is revealed in glory. Many there have been
who have desired to see one of His days, and have not seen it.

As the time of His advent approaches two things will become
prominent. First, there will be much activity on the part of the powers
of evil. Imposters will present themselves in this place and in that,
as verse 23 indicates. Second, there will be on the part of men
generally absorption with the things of earth. In the days of Noah and
of Lot men were absorbed in their pleasures, their business and their
schemes; consequently judgment caught them unawares and they all
perished. Thus it will be in the day of the revelation of the Son of

The great thought embodied in verse 33 occurs no less than six times
in the Gospels, and the Lord seems to have uttered it on four different
occasions. The context here makes it very striking. Men immerse
themselves in the things of earth seeking to save their lives. In
result they only lose them. The believer is to let go these things in
favour of the far greater things that are revealed to him. He preserves
his life, as will be very manifest when the Lord comes. Lot's wife
illustrated this principle. The angels pulled her body out of Sodom,
but her heart was still there. She lost everything, and her own life as
well. We do well to remember her.

Those who are on earth when the Lord comes will do well to remember
her also. If they do they will not think of attempting to retrieve
their stuff from the house, or to return from their field. That day
will come with the swiftness of an eagle's swoop. Just as the eagles
congregate wherever their prey is found, so the judgment of God will
reach all who are subject to it. The kingdom, when established, will be
marked by discriminating judgment against evil. The sinner will be
taken in judgment, and the righteous left to enjoy the blessing, no
matter how closely they have been associated together. Had the
Pharisees realized that the public establishment of the kingdom would
involve this, they might not have wished to raise the question as to
when it would come.

It is worthy of note that the three cases mentioned by the Lord in
verses 34-36, suppose night-time, early morning and full day-time
respectively. When He comes men will be instantaneously arrested in all
parts of the earth, just as they are.