Do you ever read scripture and think, “Wow, that’s hard.” Welcome to Luke 17.
Jesus opens by talking about temptations to sin. I think it’s important here to distinguish that temptation does not equal sin. Jesus was tempted (Luke 4) but he was also sinless (Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). What Jesus is saying here is that facing temptation is inevitable. “There will always be temptations to sin.” BUT. That word denotes a change or a turn of direction. “But what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting!”
Jesus does not offer a lot of grace here. He doesn’t say, ‘Tempting others is bad, but as long as you don’t do it often, it’s ok.’ Nope. What he actually says is, “It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. So watch yourselves!”
To be tempted is expected and there are lots of great scriptures on how to manage and handle temptation, (Google: Scripture to help with temptation. – Memorize them.) but to be the tempter… well you’re in extremely bad territory.
Moving on to another difficult section is verses 3b-4. Jesus challenges us to forgive. How often? As many times as necessary if the person is repentant. Again, he doesn’t leave it as a suggestion, it is a command. “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day, and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” These are the scriptures that push buttons.
Jesus is not preparing us for goodness. He is preparing us for an eternity lived in righteousness with himself and the Father. With this thought, the disciples immediately ask, “Show us how to increase our faith.” I love this. This would be my response as well. Jesus you want us to forgive people who constantly do wrong to us? Oh Lord, I need some faith! HELP!
And in the most Jesus way, he teaches the apostles about faith. He doesn’t directly answer their question, he guides them with an illustration. The mustard seed in verse 6 shows that the amount of faith isn’t the point. It is the genuineness of the faith that matters. Even a tiny amount of genuine faith (mustard seed) allows us to do great miracles (throw a mulberry tree into the sea – which is quite large)!
Verses 7-10 continue the theme of “things that push buttons.” Jesus is illustrating the importance of obedience to the master (God). The master doesn’t thank the servant for his obedience. No, the obedience is expected. This does not mean that God won’t reward us for a life of obedience. But we shouldn’t be living in obedience to God because we have some selfish desire. As Jesus says, “We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty.”
We cannot know the day or time when Christ will return. Life will be going on as usual. We will be working, going to school, getting groceries, or participating in any other part of our normal routines. Just as the people of Noah’s time were surprised by the flood or similarly as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were unaware of their pending destruction, we won’t know the timeline.
Our role is not to figure out all of the details, but instead, to be ready. Jesus may come today, tomorrow, or centuries from now. Whenever Jesus does return, we need to be ready, both morally and spiritually. We need to live as if Jesus were returning this day.
*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke