45. Ten Healed of Leprosy
Luke: A Walk Through the Life of Jesus
After talking about the reality of Hell in His warning to the Pharisees and religious elite in the previous passage, Jesus then turned his attention to the disciples to train them ahead of his departure and His ascension to the Father. In verses 1-10, the Lord Jesus gave four instructions to them. First, He warned them to be careful with the influence they have, reminding them and all in responsible positions of authority that there will be a calling to account for all that is said and done on our walk through this world (vv. 1-2). Secondly, Jesus talked about disciples being those who readily forgive and harbor no bad attitudes toward one another (vv. 3-4). Thirdly, He taught them how to increase their faith (vv. 5-6). Lastly, He focused on serving God with no expectations (vv. 7-10). Luke then highlighted for us Jesus’ noticing the grateful attitude of only one of ten leprous men that returned to give thanks (vv. 11-19).
Sin and Accountability (vv. 1-2).
1Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin (Luke” 17:1-2).
When Luke wrote his Gospel, he didn’t write it with chapter divisions. Chapter divisions were added much later by a man named Stephen Langton in the year A.D. 1227. Luke wrote that Jesus continued His journey toward Jerusalem after He spoke these ten verses we are now studying (Luke 17:11). We can logically conclude that verses 1-10 carry on from the talk in chapter 16 about the Rich Man and Lazarus.
The rich man had been quite concerned about his five brothers (Luke 16:28) for a perfect reason; he had been a bad influence in their lives. He was confident that they were headed for the same eternal destination in which he was. The rich man had an impact on the lives of his brothers, and he knew that they looked up to him and emulated his lifestyle. An eternity in hell with his brothers’ blaming him would be worse than the situation he was presently experiencing. The more influence a person has, the greater the responsibility and accountability he has. Perhaps, Jesus had the rich man in mind when He said, “but woe to that person through whom they come” (v. 1).
Leadership is an often-used word today, but what does it mean? How do we define leadership? When is a person a leader? The obvious answer is that a leader is a person who, through his influence, has followers. Adolf Hitler was a leader, a very influential leader for evil, leading his people along a destructive path. Winston Churchill also was a great leader for the British during the Second World War. Through his stirring speeches, the British people were inspired to stand firm at their lowest hour before America came into the Second World War. If one works backward from the point of obtaining followers, leadership would be the ability to influence others. Jesus is saying that, when we are dealing with eternity, the ability to influence others, if improperly used, can be damning to a person’s soul.
We live in a world where the temptation to sin bombards us every day. Jesus told them that “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come” (v. 1). He used the Greek word skandalon to describe the temptation to sin. It was used to describe the bait in a trap; we get the phrase scandal from it. Later, the word came to mean any stumbling block placed in a person’s way to trip him. Jesus warns us to be careful with the influence we exert. We are not to put stumbling blocks in the way of others that might cause “little ones,” i.e., those who are young in the faith, to fall from the grace of Christ. The Lord says that it would be better if a millstone were to be tied around scandal–givers’ necks and for them to be thrown in the sea rather than hinder the relationship between a person and God.
(Below: Upper and Lower Millstone)
Question 1) Who or what are the influencers today for good or for evil? What stumbling blocks have tried to trip you or influence you? Who has been a godly influence in your life?
Daily, we are bombarded by influencers through the Internet, television, radio, newspapers, etc. Indeed, the media exerts a powerful influence in our world today. All editors, politicians, business leaders, pastors, educational professors, school teachers, movie stars, film producers, and rock stars are all people who exert an ability to persuade people to follow them or model themselves after them. The higher the influence and trust in the office, which the leader has, the higher the accountability before God. It is a fearful thing to be an influencer, and one should tread lightly as he goes through this world as an influencer. Better to be taken early from this life, a millstone tied to him, and be thrown into the sea rather than cause one person to be tripped from following Christ because of something done or said.
Disciples Readily Forgive One Another (vs. 3-4).
3So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).
By this time, the disciples were living on top of one another in a close community for approximately three years. Things happened among the disciples that caused them to be in conflict with one another. They must have occasionally gotten under each other's skin. I think specifically of the time that James and John tried to get ahead of the other disciples by trying to get the principal places to the left and right of Jesus when the Lord would come into His kingdom (Matthew 20:20-24).
Can you imagine how the other disciples felt about this jockeying for position by the two disciples? Jesus was careful that they walked in a spirit of forgiveness for one another. The Lord is not teaching that we are to point out every single fault we see in one another. If a person is driving seventy–five miles an hour in a seventy–mile–an–hour speed limit, we should not think of correcting the person, i.e., we are not to be junior Holy Spirit! Allow the Lord to do His corrective and convicting work.
In the passage we are studying, the Lord Jesus talks about things we see in a brother with whom we are in a close relationship, and mutual accountability, such as the twelve disciples had with one another. First, there is to be a gentle private rebuke, and if it is not heeded, then bring two or three others. Only after that and if correction is still not heeded, then the problem should be shared with others that are also in a relationship with the person in the house church or small group (Matthew 18:15-17). Remember that all the early churches were house churches where the believers ate together and enjoyed close community (Acts 2:42-47).
These words we are looking at are not for a church of many thousands; it for only those that the person is in a relationship together in a house church or small group situation. I note that forgiveness was not to be extended until there was repentance (v. 3). I have found no place in the whole of the Scriptures where God forgives without repentance. As he was being crucified, Jesus prayed that God would extend forgiveness (Luke 23:34). We can also read where Stephen prayed a similar prayer of forgiveness to those that were murdering him as he was stoned (Acts 7:60). Nowhere are we told that forgiveness was granted without repentance on the part of those committing the injury. Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3).
To walk in a spirit of forgiveness is as much for our sakes as others. Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Shannon Wiersbitzky noted, “Being forgiven is like having all the worst bits of yourself stuffed into a balloon and then having that balloon set free.” It is a fragrance of Christ extended to others to live a life forgiving those who have hurt you. To be able to do such a thing requires the grace of God, and it brings us, quite literally, a freedom that is “out of this world.”
Increasing Faith (vs. 5-6).
5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you (Luke 17:5-6).
Question 2) Why were the disciples asking about increasing their faith after Jesus’ words about forgiveness? Why is faith compared to a mustard seed?
As they related to one another in their small group of thirteen, the twelve were often lacking in God’s grace. They needed a faith-lift to help them to forgive each other to the degree that Jesus was asking of them, i.e., seven times in a day (v. 4). They must choose to live in a way counter-culture to the world in which they were living. The disciples were also living at a time when hatred and bitterness against the Roman occupation had crept into the national soul of the Jewish people.
A mustard seed grows from a tiny seed to a tree. C. Marvin Pate, a Greek scholar, writing on the comment of Jesus, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…,” says:
The mixed condition (of the Greek sentence) is probably designed to affirm that the disciples did have faith, but that it required growth. Regardless of the technicalities of the grammar involved, however, the verse is clear in its focus—the smallest amount of faith in God can produce miracles.
For a seed such as the mustard seed to grow into a tree requires it to go through several stages. First, it must die to itself:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25).
When a seed is sown, its outer nature, the husk, must break open; it dies to itself, but the life that is within the seed begins to take root and grow. Each of us must die to our self so that the life of God that comes when we are born again of God’s Spirit (John 3:3) can grow and be nourished by the Word of God, which is the spiritual food that nourishes us (Psalm 1:1-3). The beautiful truth is that Christ comes and takes residence in our lives when we receive Him (Colossians 1:27). When Christ sits on the throne of our hearts, to every one of us is given a measure of faith:
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think