THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Luke 9:51-19:48

Teachings on Discipleship and the Second Coming
Luke 17:1-37

. INTRODUCTION

We continue in the long section starting in 9:51 which deals with the last year of Jesus' ministry. During that year Jesus' focus is placed directly on Jerusalem. It fills his thoughts. He knows that it is only a matter of time before He departs this world. As a result so much of the remaining time is spent on developing the disciples so that they will be prepared to assume Jesus' mantle once He has ascended into heaven. In this chapter Jesus will instruct His disciples on the topics of (1) their relationship with other disciples, (2) their relationship with God, and (3) His second coming.

Between the 2 sections on Jesus' teachings, Luke inserts another healing miracle, this time the healing of 10 lepers. Although this miracle once more demonstrates that Jesus is divinely gifted with the power to heal, it more importantly focuses upon one of the major themes of the Gospel of Luke, that outcasts make up the kingdom of God. Although Jesus heals 10 men, only one returns to thank Him, a Samaritan. It was wild that the other nine Jewish lepers had no problem associating with the Samaritan as long as they were all lepers, yet once they were healed, their association with him seemed to dissolve. They most likely not only neglected Jesus, they also began to separate themselves from the Samaritan. Of the ten only the one Samartan returned to thank Jesus. Once more it is the outcast, the down-trodden, the poor who respond positively to Jesus and the kingdom of God.


TEACHINGS ON A PERSON'S RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS AND WITH GOD (17:1-10)

Relationship with Other Disciples (17:1-4)

The first area Jesus addresses is that of the disciple and sin. It is true that the Christian has no excuse to sin. Once a person becomes a Christian, the Spirit who created the universe and who raised Jesus from the dead comes to live within him. There is enough power within us because of the Holy Spirit so that we no longer have any excuse to sin. Yet Jesus is a realist. Whereas we have no excuse to sin, we are going to sin. Until Christ returns we are beset by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We live in an environment which is hostile towards Jesus Christ. Just look at the debate right now going on in our society regarding Christmas. Are we to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? Are we to delete every manger scene from public places? Moreover, we have our old sin natures within ourselves which continually try to drag us down. Finally, there is a demonic force led by Satan which tries to destroy the Christian. We are just going to give into these forces at some time or other.

John writes this very thing in 1 John 1. In fact he says that if you say you have not sinned, then not only is there no truth in you (1:8), you have also made God out to be a liar (1:10). This does not give us a license to sin (2:1); however, it does mean that we are going to sin and stand in need not only of God's forgiveness but also of other people's forgiveness. Sinning does not mean that you are not a Christian. It is noteworthy that whenever the Jewish priests received the lamb for sacrifice, they inspected the lamb, not the one offering the lamb. In the same way God inspects Jesus the Lamb, not us the Lamb died for. Remaining in sin may indicate you're not a Christian. Repenting and getting back up is a true indicator of the Christian.

Jesus first warns us not to be a stumbling block to one of these littles ones, that is, to believers. Jesus says that although stumblings are going to come (He is a realist), He warns us against being such stumbling blocks. By this Jesus does not mean that we are not going to sin. Rather He tells us not to cross the line and damage seriously another Christian's relationship with Christ. Paul saw the significance of what Jesus said here and expanded it into 3 chapters (1 Cor. 8-10). Most of the time we focus on smoking, drinking, and dancing as being stumbling blocks to other Christians. Normally the only people who are offended by such acts are self-righteous Christians. They are not weaker Christians who feel like they violate their relationship with Christ whenever they do these things. They offend superior Christians who would never drink, dance, or smoke. Probably the greatest way we are stumbling blocks is by being self-righteous and by condemning people who are not like us. They don't join the church organizations WE think are important. They don't give to the causes WE think are significant, etc. We drive away people who otherwise might be attracted to the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus warns us not to be such a stumbling block. In fact he says it would be better to tie a milestone around your neck and jump into the water to certain death than to be a stumbling block.

What to do though with a Christian who sins? We are to rebuke that Christian. This is a lost practice in the church. We are so worried about hurting people we like. What happens is that we will hurt people we don't care about yet refuse to discipline those we love who have erred. I've seen churches discipline poor white trash and yet refuse to deal with a person in a place of prominence. That is unconsionable. Well, if we really cared about them, then we would truly discipline them so that they would not remain in their sin and suffer spiritually.

How are we to respond whenever a person repents from his sin? We are to forgive him. What if that person continually sins and yet repents each time? We are then to forgive that person SEVEN TIMES, that is, we are to forgive them as many times as they sin and repent. Just as the Lord has forgiven you every time you've sinned and repented, so you are to forgive another every time that person sins and repents. In fact the NT way of showing that you believe Jesus has forgiven you is by forgiving those who have wronged you. (This doesn't mean that we put them in charge of the church's finances; however, we are not to hold their sin against them.)

It is important to remember that we are not to hold a person's sin against that person. I've heard from too many people that whereas they will forgive a person, they won't forget what that person did to them. That violates the very essence of Christian forgiveness. The word "forgive" in the Greek (aphiemi, pron. a-PHEH-ay-mee) literally means "to let go." When we hold a person's sin over his head, we have not let go of that sin, that is, we have NOT forgiven that person.

Why would a person refuse to forget, that is, let go of a person's sin? Probably in order to try to control that person. As long as I don't let go of that person's sin, I am trying to exercise power over that person. I am wanting that person to kow tow to me. What if a person refuses to let go of my sin? How am I to respond? I should respond by letting it be between the Lord and that person. I've done all I could do. Now the rest is up to them and the Lord.

I love the story about Dr. J. Howard Williams and the funeral. Dr. Williams was not only pastor of FBC Corsicana, he later became executive director of the BGCT and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. One day he forgot that he was supposed to do a funeral. What was he doing instead? He was playing golf. He caught holy grief from the bereaved family. Although he repeatedly asked their forgiveness, the family refused to forgive him. Finally, he said, "I've asked your forgiveness; I can do no more." That is the attitude we should have when people refuse to let go of our sin after we've repented.

What should I do if a person does not repent? Am I to forgive that person? Yes. I stand constantly within God's forgiveness. First John 1:9 literally says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just TO HAVE FORGIVEN us our sins . . ." In other words, God has already forgiven us even before we sinned. I can refuse that forgiveness and live a life apart from God; however, that forgiveness is there waiting for me anytime I am ready to receive it. In the same way our forgiveness should be there waiting for people as soon as they are ready to receive it.


Relationship with God (17:5-10)

After Jesus expounds on the need to forgive, one of the disciples asks Jesus to increase his faith. Jesus replies that the amount of faith a person has is not as important as the fact that he does have faith. The main thing is having a NT kind of faith. If I have the kind of faith Jesus speaks about, then with it I am able to have a mulberry tree uprooted and flung into the sea. I am able to do that even if that faith is the size of a mustard seed, proverbially called the smallest of all seeds (even though it is not).

Too often we want great faith, yet having faith and having faith in the right person is what matters most, not how much faith you have. One man may have great faith, while another may have little faith. Great Faith may believe that he can walk across a frozen pond even though the ice is only 1/2 an inch thick, while Little Faith is afraid to walk across a pond covered with ice 2 feet deep. Great Faith runs across the pond, while Little Faith with great trepidation walks across his pond, afraid that at any moment he will plunge to his death. Who makes it across to the other side? Little Faith. Not only because he had faith (even though it was only a little) but also because he placed his faith in the right object (thick ice). In the same way Great Faith will plunge to his death if his faith is not in Jesus, while Little Faith will experience eternal life if his faith is in Jesus.

Be very careful with faith. I once heard somebody say that we needed to do such and such at a church. When I expressed my doubts, they replied: "You just need more faith!" My response is "I have faith in what Jesus tells me, not in the plans you come up with!" That is the only faith Jesus responds to.

In the second part of this section Jesus relates the story of a master and his servant/slave. Underlying this story is the belief that we are all servants in our relationship with God. This is something that we don't like to promote since it does not feel very good and since it definitely would not be accepted by today's culture. In fact you might argue that as sons and daughters of God, we are not servants. Yet in ancient societies the son was obedient to the father. The son who cursed his father and mother was actually to be put to death according to Mosaic Law. Isaac was so obedient to Abraham his father that he was willing to let his father sacrifice him on Mt. Moriah. Whatever else might define a right relationship with God, obedience is a critical part of that relationship.

In this story a servant comes in from the fields. Jesus asks the rhetorical question: "Will the master then tell him to sit down and relax while he makes his supper?" The answer is definitely "No!" Instead the servant is to go into the kitchen after he gets in from the field, prepare his master's supper, serve him that supper, and only after that eat dinner for himself. Should he expect any praise from his master? Again this is a rhetorical question. The answer is a definite "No!" His attitude should be "I did all that I was commanded to do, even if I did that much!"

I am huge on affirming people because I like to be affirmed. Whereas it is nice to be affirmed, we should not expect it. In fact it is better if you don't expect affirmation or seek after it. You will find yourself structuring your life and your plans based on whether or not something will bring you affirmation and praise. You will suffer depression if you don't get the affirmation you crave. Jesus is NOT saying that the Father will not affirm us on Judgment Day. Rather He is saying that we should NOT structure our lives based on the affirmation of other people. We serve one person, Jesus Christ. Doing His will should be all that should govern our actions.


TEACHINGS ON THE SECOND COMING (17:20-37)

After relating the story of the 10 lepers, Jesus launches into a discussion on His second coming. This same discussion is found in the larger section on Jesus' teachings regarding the second coming in Matt. 24 and Mark 13. Luke though separates it because he will contribute something significant to Matthew and Mark's treatment of the second coming in Luke 21. We shall see what he contributes as we come to that chapter.

This passage basically focuses on the theme of the Kingdom of God, especially with its coming. Jesus informs us that there are 2 stages to His coming. Time has shown us that verses 20-21 refer to His first coming, while verses 22-37 refer to His second coming. His first coming was to inauguarate His kingdom, while His second coming consummates His kingdom.

Most of us are quite familiar with the concept of inauguration. When George W. Bush inaugurated his administration in January 2001, we had an idea of what kind of administration he was going to have. Now four years later we have a much clearer picture of what his administration was going to be like. At the end of the 8 years of his adminisrtartion, we will know perfectlly what kind of adminisrtation he had. In the same way 2000 years ago Jesus inaugurated His kingdom; we are getting a good idea of what kind of kingdom He came to establish. When He returns though, we will have a perfect picture of what kind of kingdom He came to establish.

Moreover the 2 stages come in different ways, the first quietly and the second quite dramatically. The first coming was so quiet that people did not say: "Look, here it is!" or "There it is!" It snuck up upon many of them unawares in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus claimed though that the kingdom was in their midst. What does Jesus mean by that? First, the Jews thought that the kingdom had not been established because the Romans were not defeated and they were not dictating to the rest of the world. One Jewish tour guide told me that when the Messiah comes, she is going to ask Him if this is His first or second coming. Jesus though could say that the kingdom had already come to earth because He the King was in their midst. Whereas He was not ruling to the same extent He would in the future, He nevertheless as the king had already established the kingdom with His first coming. The kingdom of God came with the coming of Jesus the king.

There would be a radical difference though between His first coming and His second coming, between the first stage of the kingdom and the second stage. First, there will be an interval between the first and second stages of the kingdom. Jesus very clearly states that a time would come when the disciples would long to see the Son of Man (Jesus) and yet would not see Him. Although it may mean that the disciples would not live until the second coming of Christ, it definitely means that an interval exists between the first and second stages of the kingdom, between His first and second comings.

Moreover, whereas the Jews could debate all day long about whether Jesus was the king and had established God's kingdom, there would be no doubt though about the kingdom and His second coming. Before Jesus' return many will point to others as being the Messiah. How will you know that that person is not Jesus the Messiah? By the fact that people had to point him out to you. You are not going to need anybody to point out Jesus to you at His second coming. His coming is going to be so dramatic that all doubts will be erased as to whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. As the lightning lights up the entire sky from one end to the other, so shall Jesus' second coming be entirely visible to all mankind.

(Just a note here. Most of us have heard about the Antichrist who will come before Jesus returns. The word anti in Antichrist can be used in 2 ways: (1) against and (2) instead of. In fact it can be used both ways at the same time. In the first case it means that the Antichrist is against Christ. In the second case he comes in place of Christ, that is, he claims to be the Christ. In this latter sense he is also against the true Christ.)

Jesus then issues a dire warning that most people simply are not going to be ready for His second coming. Just like the people of Noah's and Lot's days were not prepared for the coming judgment of rain and fire, so the people in the last days will not be prepared for Jesus' second coming. Notice that what the people are involved in is not all that bad: eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage. They were not bad people. It was simply that this was the sum total of their lives (along with football, cheerleading, clothes, houses, popularity, and movies). They simply were not living out of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as destruction overtook the people of Noah's and Lot's day unwares, so destruction will come upon most people unawares at the last day because they were oblivious to what was going on.

Moreover the second stage of the kingdom, a time of judgment, will come upon people suddenly. Whenever the people received news that an invading army was approaching, they would run down from their rooftops into their homes and retrieve all their valued possessions to keep them safe, or if they were in the field, they would run back and get their garments which they had put aside in order to work. With the second coming there is no time for preparation once it occurs. The time to prepare for Jesus' second coming is NOW!

Also people are not to protect the things of this world. Right now during the first stage of the kingdom we do have to deal with things of this world. During the second stage of the kingdom though the things of this world will pass away. If we try to protect the things of this world when the second stage approaches, we will show ourselves to be citizens of the kingdom of this world and not citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, the second coming of Christ is going to divide people from others, even from people with whom we have the most intimate relationships. For example, although 2 men are so close that they lie next to each other as on a camping trip (this is not sexual), only the follower of Jesus will be taken, that is, brought into the kingdom. Although 2 women are so close to each other that they work together grinding their wheat, only the one who follows Jesus will be taken, that is, brought into the kingdom of heaven. Our relationship with Jesus is paramount, superceding all other relationships. As a result, if we do not want to be the one left behind, we need to make sure that our relationship with Jesus is paramount BEFORE He returns.

From this passage and its parallels in Matt. 24 and Mark 13 Paul seems to be deriving the concept of the rapture. Whether or not this passage refers to the rapture can be debated, it nevertheless does teach us that our relationship to Jesus is paramount. If our relationship with Christ costs us precious human relationships, then we are to sacrifice those relationships, whether our loved ones include children, parents, friends, spouses, etc.