Sunday, November 18, 2012

Luke 17:1-19 - Forgiveness and Thanksgiving

338/365 Thanksgiving
338/365 Thanksgiving (Photo credit: martinak15)
The first Thanksgiving proclamation in North Carolina was issued by the Governor Richard Caswell in 1777. It was issued in acknowledgement that the defeat of the British at Saratoga was God’s work, not theirs.
By his Excellency Richard Caswell, Esq; Governor, Captain General, and Commander in Chief of the State.
A Proclamation.
Whereas I have received authenticated Intelligence that General Burgoyne, and the whole Army under his Command, after repeated Losses, surrendered themselves as prisoners of War to General Gates on the Fourteenth Day of October last; To the End therefore that we may not presumptuously attribute the late signal successes gained over our Enemies to our own Strength, and thereby forget the interposition of Divine Providence in our Behalf, whose assistance we have experienced, and more especially in this Particular, wherein the Goodness of God has been so visibly demonstrated; I have thought proper, with the Advice of the Council of State, to issue this Proclamation, appointing Friday the Twenty Eighth Day of this Instant to be observed in all Churches and Congregations in this State as a Day of General and Solemn Thanksgiving, and I do strictly enjoin the several Ministers and Preachers of the Gospel to embrace this opportunity of testifying, in the most solemn Manner, those Sentiments of Gratitude which the happy Event so justly demands.
Given under my Hand, and the Seal of the State, at New Bern, the Eighth Day of November, in the Second Year of the Independence of the said State.
By his Excellency's Command.

Today’s passage not only teaches us how obedient faith helps us handle offense with forgiveness, but faithful obedience also teaches us how to have thankfulness with praise.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 17:1-19 to teach believers that proper handling of forgiveness and thankfulness is a result of faithful obedience.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about obedient faith.
Pray and Read:  Luke 17:1-19

Contextual Notes:
Throughout his Gospel, Luke emphasizes the importance of walking in faith and avoiding unbelief. He has made it clear that every individual who meets Jesus Christ must make a decision about Him. Christ must be received or rejected. His claims must be believed or denied. When the Gospel shifts gears at Luke 9:51, he sharpens that focus by calling us to prioritize His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24) and loving our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37), to prioritize Jesus’ Presence (Luke 10:38-42) through prayer (Luke 11:1-13) and Jesus’ authority (Luke 11:14-28) through repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
Then Jesus presses that focus by warning against unbelief found in dead religion devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54), warning against the hypocrisy of the fear of man rather than the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12), warning against materialism instead of being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), warning against worry instead of trusting the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34), warning against a focus on the world instead of eternity (Luke 12:35-59), and calls us to reject our pride and embrace repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-9).
Then we will find the Kingdom of Grace (Luke 13:10-17) which begins humbly and grows rapidly to embrace the nations (Luke 13:18-21), a Kingdom of Repentance with a strict deadline of dire consequences (Luke 13:22-35), a Kingdom of Provision of healing (Luke 14:1-6), honor (Luke 14:7-14), and harvest (Luke 14:15-24), a Kingdom of Redemption that seeks the lost (Luke 15:1-10) and rejoices when they repent (Luke 15:11-35).
Therefore, the Lord warns us to use this world’s resources to prepare for the next (Luke 16:1-12). He warns us to choose our Master based on God’s Word (Luke 16:13-18). He warns that only those who respond to God’s Word with repentance in faith will avoid punishment (Luke 16:19-31).
Jesus then warns us to guard against causing others to sin (Luke 17:1-2), and sin in the fellowship must be confronted, confessed, and forgiven (Luke 17:3-10). The healing of ten lepers emphasizes the principle of thankfulness (Luke 17:11-19).

Sermon Points:
1.   Forgiveness is the result of faithful obedience (Luke 17:1-10)
2.   Thankfulness is the reward of obedient faith (Luke 17:11-19)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   After speaking such stern warnings to the Pharisees’ attitudes, in chapter 17, Jesus gives a private caution to his disciples (|| Matt. 18:6-35) about theirs toward others and each other. The common thread is His concern about attitudes which must be nurtured in the community of believers. Luke provides the antidote to the sneering, cynical and worldly unbelief of the Pharisees.
b.   Luke 17:2 – millstone: This is a word indicating the large round stone weighing hundreds of pounds with a hole in the center, pulled by a donkey to grind grain. It would cause certain drowning, and the dreadful image Jesus gives is that this is an execution only done by pagans. Jesus teaches his disciples that it would be better for them to die physically than to repel someone from coming to Him because of their attitude. The “little ones” (Matt 18:6-7; Mark 9:42) are not only children (in fact, there is no indication that children are present even in the parallel passages), but also people still weak in faith who were forsaking Pharisaism and coming to faith in Christ. (There is no reason why both are not in view.) If his disciples looked down on those who were slow in coming to a decision, then they might be turned away. Therefore, Jesus cautioned them to be careful about their attitudes so that no one would be repelled from Him.
c.   Luke 17:3-4 – If your brother sins, rebuke him:  Jesus also cautions his disciples about dealings with other believers in Christ. Jesus says that the one sinned against should call it to the attention (rebuke) the one committing the sin. The word for rebuke (epitimeson)  occurs 29 times in the NT and is a strong reproof or stern warning. In essence, Jesus lays on us the obligation to care enough for someone to confront them. If that loving information (rebuke) brings repentance and a request for forgiveness, that one is to be forgiven, no matter how many times the offender asks. “Seven times” is not meant as an exact number, but as “many times” a day, as in Psalm 119:164. There is no limit to forgiveness. Jesus draws this principle of rebuke and forgiveness from Leviticus 19:17-18. It is Jesus alone who emphasizes such unlimited forgiveness (Matt 18:21-22).
d.   APPLICATION: Jesus’ command goes against the grain of a self-centered and permissive society like ours. We Christians tend to be sloppy in our thinking about forgiveness. Too many of us mistake “overlooking” and “ignoring” for forgiveness. It is popular – and sounds spiritual – to be passively forgiving, to overlook and endure the sinful activity of people whose actions are destroying the reputation of the church and the unity and spiritual authority of the church. But Jesus puts forgiveness in a very different perspective. Forgiveness is an essential element in a process of reconciliation. Jesus gives a flow chart of Sin – Rebuke – Repentance – Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the result of the process. Jesus makes forgiveness a command. Even more striking: Jesus says the victim of another’s sin has two obligations, while the offender has one. He says that it is our responsibility to Him as a servant to (1) lovingly confront by rebuking the person who has sinned against you. (2) The offender is then to own up to his sin and repent. At that point (3) if he repents are the victim is to forgive. Why if? Because to bring reconciliation, forgiveness must be received as well as extended. If another person is unwilling to acknowledge his fault, he will not receive forgiveness. We must always be willing to forgive (Luke 17:4), but we cannot say, “I’ve forgiven him or her” until we have exposed the sin and the person who sinned against us has repented.
e.   Luke 17:5-6 – Increase our faith! The disciples saw how hard it would be to accept responsibility for rebuking, obtaining repentance, and extending unlimited forgiveness. So they asked for more faith! The mustard seed (Luke 17:6) was proverbial for something very small. The mulberry tree has been identified as the black mulberry, which has a vast root system which enables it to live up to six hundred years. To uproot such a tree required major effort. Planting it in the sea is impossible. The point is that faith does the impossible. Jesus shows them that it is not the amount of faith that counts but rather the One in whom the faith is placed. That faith in Him is demonstrated in obedience.
f.    Luke 17:7-10 – Jesus makes his point with an illustration of a servant and master. The story of the servant drives Jesus’ last theme home. A servant’s task is to obey his master. After a long day of work, does the master fix the servant’s supper? No, the master expects not only a day of hard work, but also for the servant to make his supper and to eat afterwards himself. Does the master thank the servant for doing what he is told to do? No. It is what the servant does – he is obedient because that is what servants are. In the same way, Jesus says, the focus is not on having more faith, but on having more obedience.
g.   APPLICATION: Jesus’ point is not that we must be groveling slaves, but that He expects an absence of pride consistent with those who are simply obeying Him as a matter of loving duty. We demonstrate our obedience not by somehow producing more faith but by simply obeying the One in whom we claim to have faith. Faith in action is obedience, and without obedience there is not any faith. I think the letter of James would agree with that point.  Jesus’ response can be paraphrased, “Faith is fine for moving mountains, but I’m not talking about faith. I’m talking about obedience. I told you to confront and forgive.”
h.   APPLICATION: If Jesus is Lord, we are responsible to do what He tells us to do. And Jesus tells His followers to confront, repent, and forgive as a way of live in the community of faith, the church! How often we cry out for more faith, when all we need really is simple obedience to the Lord’s commands.

a.   Luke 17:11 - During this time Jesus is mere months away from the Cross, His death, burial, and Resurrection. As he begins the last stage of his Journey for His final appearance in Jerusalem, He is traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. He is staying away from the Galilee, where Herod Antipas wants to kill him, and Judea where the Sanhedrin is plotting to kill Him. Near the border, some apparently from Galilee meet Him to join Him as He goes up to Jerusalem (Mark 15:41; Matt 27:55). Jesus encounters at one village ten lepers. It was no secret that He healed lepers; He had done it at Luke 5:12-16. Ten stood at a distance, called him master, and asked for pity.
b.   Luke 17:12-13 – Ten men had leprosy: Biblical leprosy was a variety of skin diseases that could have included lupus, ringworm, psoriasis and others. Lepers were required to keep their distance from people and cry out, “Unclean!” (Lev 13:45-46). Because of the ostracism, lepers sought out each other, even those with whom they would not ordinarily associate, like a Samaritan.
c.   Luke 17:14 – Go show yourselves to the priest: The OT had strict guidelines (Lev 13-14) for examination and isolation for leprosy. The priests diagnosed and declared lepers clean. Jesus did not want evidence of their faith, so He gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their faith through obedience. He tells them simply, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” Their obedience would prove their faith. Once they demonstrated it, “as they went,” they were healed “they were cleansed.”
d.   Luke 17:15-16 - When Jesus heals the ten men with leprosy, one returns to thank him, and that one is a hated Samaritan. He was a Samaritan: Shocking for Jesus’ hearers, Samaritans were despised, and he returned with a grateful heart (cf. 2 Kings 5; Luke 4:27). The Samaritan threw himself at Jesus’ feet. Before, he could only call to Jesus from afar for help, but now he could come into His very Presence to offer worship and thanksgiving. The Samaritan leper revealed his commitment to Christ. It didn’t take much faith to go to the priest to see if he was healed. Coming back and falling down at His feet made the man a disciple.
e.   Luke 17:17-18 - Christ wanted his disciples to realize that they were indebted to the One who bestowed blessings on them and to respond by giving thanks and adoration as the Samaritan had done. The incident both demonstrates Jesus’ compassion and symbolizes what is happening in Jesus’ ministry. The religious leaders reject the gospel while outsiders (sinners, tax collectors, and Samaritans) joyfully receive it with a heart of gratitude. The incident contrasts the attitude of Israel toward the blessings of the Messiah with the attitude that characterizes the hated Samaritan.
f.    APPLICATION: Thanksgiving is the recognition of indebtedness. The giving of thanks is a recognition that blessings have been bestowed on you, not through your own doing, but by grace. A thankless person counts any benefit as his just due for which he feels no sense of obligation or need to return thanks.
g.   Luke 17:19 – Your faith has healed you: To make it very clear that this Samaritan had been cleansed because of faith in His person, Jesus declares, “Your faith has made you well.” The original language says, “Your faith has delivered you or saved you.” Luke uses the verb sozo (sesoken), a word used to refer to healing, to add the meaning of spiritual healing. There is an interesting contrast with the earlier word, cleansed (katharizo; ekatharisthesan). Jesus’ remark suggests the benefit of trusting Jesus’ ability to deliver. The Samaritan benefited from the healing in a way the other nine did not.  All ten were healed, but only one was saved.
h.   One returned – Faith healed not only the one leper who returned, but also the nine who appealed to Jesus for pity – and then took off! A grateful heart is one what recognizes Gods’ undeserved favor poured out for us and responds with faith and obedience. What moves us to stay close to Jesus? What will move us to the obedience that Jesus says is so critical? A spirit of praise and thankfulness, that keeps us ever mindful of all Jesus has done to heal us from the deadly disease of sin.
i.    APPLICATION: True faith in Christ has a reward called thanksgiving. Once Jesus reaches out to us in grace, we must respond to Him by building a continuing love relationship with Him in which we gratefully offer Him our praise.

F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1216-1217.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 681, 686.
S. MacLean Gilmour, “Luke.” George Arthur Buttrick, gen. ed., The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 8: .
Paul John Isaak, “Luke,” Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), .
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 236-237.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 345-346.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 341-348.
Alfred Plummer, International Critical Commentary on Luke, 5th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 28: .
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 195-196.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 668.
A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary. Vol. 4 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 4: .
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 135.
Mark Strauss. “Luke.” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:453-455.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), .
J. Willcock, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Luke (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1896), 24:462-463.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 545-547.

[1] North Carolina Gazette, November 14, 1777