Today: [Luke 17] Offenses and the True Nature of the Kingdom. In Luke 17, Jesus speaks to the consequences of both being offended and causing offense. He goes on to address the coming of the kingdom as not something to be outwardly observed but inwardly realized. This flew in the face of the Pharisee’s mindset and the mindset of many in Christianity. Jesus then insists that the kingdom will come as “lightning from one part of heaven to another.” When we understand what kind of lightning phenomena He is speaking of, it will inform us of the nature of the coming of the kingdom.
[Luk 17:1-37 KJV] 1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe [unto him], through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. 5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. 7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? 8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. 11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up [their] voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw [them], he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on [his] face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where [are] the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. 20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. 22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see [it]. 23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after [them], nor follow [them]. 24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one [part] under heaven, shineth unto the other [part] under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. 25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. 26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed [them] all. 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two [men] in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two [women] shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two [men] shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body [is], thither will the eagles be gathered together.
In verse 1 Jesus warns against offenses and controversies that would arise among His followers. The word for offense used here is the Greek word “scandalon” which is where the English word scandal originates. It is an interesting word because translated literally, it is a word picture of a bent sapling, or, “to bow.” In other words, it is a warning against stepping on a young believer. We all imagine a church without scandal, but Jesus says in v. 1 that this is impossible. For the one who said “all things are possible,” this is a powerful statement. It is nonsensical and naïve in the extreme to think that we can have a church or a community of believers that does not endure or have to deal with scandal from time to time. Nonetheless, Jesus says it would be better that a millstone be hanged around his neck and be cast into the sea than to be a person who unnecessarily causes scandal.
The metaphors of drowning that Jesus uses in verse 2 bear a more in-depth inquiry. The drowning death described was a form of execution known to Jesus hearers. It was gruesome and horrific not only for the death it caused but also resulting in the body being lost to the sea without loved ones being able to provide a proper burial. Is there a deeper meaning? The word millstone comes from a word that means “hardship, scarcity, and difficulty.” The sea, according to Isaiah 57:20, is described as the lost sea of humanity, the society of those without God. The imagery then suggests that those who originate offenses would open themselves to hardship and loss of fellowship among the saints. This picture is descriptive of many Christians today. By their own description, they live lives of difficulty and are starved for friendship and meaningful relationships. Could this condition arise out of the care for one another among us? Think about how the many believers who see their lives marred by hardship. Think about how desperate the need is for true fellowship in Christian culture. Could it be these things arise from a general callousness that believers have one for another, a lack of authentic koninea, or fellowship among us?
Jesus said if we were indeed His disciples, we would be known by those without, by the world around us for our love one for another. Is our love one for another the most obvious trait that non-believers observe among us, or is it something else? Believers and non-believers alike will universally agree that the church, Christianity as a whole is too judgmental. Is that because they are critical or because the church is profoundly judgmental and unloving not only toward unbelievers but toward one another as well? Rather than repenting and examining ourselves, we wrap ourselves in the garments of a victim mentality and lament why God allows us to suffer in such isolation and pain. Perhaps we should let the scripture discern us. Is it possible that we go through hardship, finding ourselves drowning in a sea of the ungodly culture of the world because we have been altogether too insensitive to the needs of and relations to one to another?
In verse 3, Jesus tells us if we are offended by a brother or sister, we are to take heed to ourselves. The word “heed” actually means “to hold.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “get a hold of yourselves!” But notice who He is speaking to. He is not telling the person causing the offense to get a hold of himself, but rather is telling the person who has suffered the offense or trespass to get a hold of themselves. Why doesn’t He address the one causing the offense? The answer is clear. The person causing the offense, like the one cast into the sea with a millstone around their neck, is a lost cause. If an offense comes and is made known to the offender, what is the typical response? Usually, the answer is, “so what! That’s just who I am, and if they don’t like it, I could care less!”
The rise of social media has heightened the lack of civility among Christians to the extreme. Behind the anonymity of the internet, Christian courtesy and kindness have all but disappeared. People make remarks and post comments that they would never do in person, yet, because they are hiding behind their keyboards, they spew their bile and heartlessness at will with no thought for the impact it may have upon those reading it. Will they repent? No, those who do such things are a lost cause. Pride and self-deception will not allow them ever to do anything differently. Jesus in Matt 15:14 declares to us, “leave them alone…” they are the blind leading the blind. The exhortation of verse 3 is not to the one causing the offense but to the person being offended. What are we to do? Forgive them. Forgive the insensitive, mouthy, uncaring person who walks all over your emotions, opinions, and sensibilities. Forgive them, because that is the only mercy they will receive. Even if they offend you seven times a day, feigning repentance each time, just keep forgiving them. Forgive, release, and bless. Why? Because if you don’t, you will become an offender just like them, under the judgments of hardship and isolation just like those who wounded you.
The disciples, on hearing this hard saying, strangely enough, do not ask Jesus to pray for them to have more love, but rather ask Jesus to increase their faith (v. 5). They have learned something about forgiving others that escapes modern Christianity: lack of forgiveness is not so much a love problem but a faith problem. We see getting wounded and offended as a matter of unfairness and victimization. We want others to feel sorry for us and pick up our offenses. In reality, offense is not an excuse to wallow in self-pity, but rather as an occasion to identify unbelief in our own hearts. It takes more than love to forgive; it takes faith, and faith is based on the word, which is why David declares in Psa. 119:16 if we love God’s word (by which faith comes), we shall in no wise be offended.
Jesus goes on by way of illustration, speaking of a sycamore tree being plucked up by the roots. Now, what does this have to do with not allowing yourself to get offended or being an offender? Jesus almost seems to be changing the subject but is speaking to something much more systemic and widespread. The sycamore tree Jesus is describing if you research it is not a mere sycamore tree as we know it but a specific variety or strain of fig tree. What does the fig tree represent? Clearly, in Jesus’ teaching, the fig tree is Israel. In other words, Jesus is saying; if the disciples had any faith, they would command the entire corrupt, offensive religious system they are ensconced in, and persecuted by to be done away with altogether. Isn’t that rather extreme? No, because this is the religious system, the prevailing religious system of the day that is going to crucify Jesus Himself, and bring about the martyrdom of 10’s of 1000’s of believers.
Paul himself had to deal with this in Acts 13:46 when he declares he is abandoning Judaism altogether and its corrupt synagogue system and turning to the Gentiles. Why? Because he was hateful? Or because he was faithful? What about Christianity today? Is the prevailing religious system of our day any different, in character or tone, than the religious system that crucified Jesus? Perhaps at some level, we must realize to ask ourselves if we have enough faith to abandon Christianity as a religious system and sub-culture and seek the establishing of something as far removed from Christianity as we know it, as Christianity in the first century was from first-century Judaism. Our response might be the same as the disciples – “Lord increase our faith…”
The Pharisees standing by listening to Jesus instruct His disciples finally speak up, demanding Jesus to explain when He thought the kingdom would come. They weren’t asking because they thought Jesus would tell them anything they would believe, but because they were seeking for Him to make plain statements by which they could accuse and condemn Him. Jesus’ answer rebuffed the Pharisees, but it informs us: The kingdom of God does not come with observation. That word is “ocular evidence.” How many times do you see Christians say “I want to see something” as though some outward evidence would be proof of the coming of the kingdom? Listen, if you can see it – it isn’t the kingdom (if you are going to believe what Jesus is saying…” Jesus has an idea in His mind regarding the nature of the kingdom, and it is very different from the Jew’s idea of the kingdom and alien even to the Christian concept of the kingdom. The Jews were asking about God’s linear purposes through time when the Romans would be driven out, and Jewish rule reconstituted in the region and their national sovereignty restored. Jesus is telling them that what they are looking for is not how the kingdom would be made manifest.
In verse 21 Jesus goes on to warn us that when others are saying “lo here” or “lo there” that we are not to follow after because whatever Jesus considered the kingdom to be, it was something that was to be found within the heart of man, not in the timeline of future history. Can you receive this? The kingdom is not “out there” somewhere in time and space, in some cosmic something that is headed toward us. The kingdom, as far as Jesus is concerned, is on the inside of us. The kingdom that is not inside of you, by Jesus’ definition, is not the kingdom. More than the kingdom is anywhere else; it is within you. Jesus then turns to the disciples in verse 22 and tells them also that what they are looking for is not going to come about as they might have hoped. He goes on to say that when the Son of Man comes, it will be (v. 24) as lightning striking from one part of heaven to the other. This is what the coming of Christ shall be like. This is a very specific description of a rare form of lighting we call “a bolt from the blue.” It comes when in a totally clear blue sky lighting streaks across the horizon.
Meteorologists have recorded this phenomenon of lighting or a bolt from the blue as a form of lighting different from other lighting events. Most lighting occurs when a negative charge traveling along the ground arcs and connects with a positive charge in the heavens. A bolt from the blue, however, is when the opposite happens, specifically when a POSITIVE charge traveling along the ground discharges by pulling down a negative charge in the heavens. What does this tell us? The subject is still “Lord increase our faith.” The positive charge moving along the ground is our faith rising up to discharge the negative works of the enemy in the heavens above us. Satan is the small “g” god of this world. He didn’t attain that rank legitimately. There is no record or even a suggestion that God ever made Satan the god of this world. Satan became the god of this world when Adam fell and abdicated his God-given dominion that then was taken up, illegitimately by the devil. Jesus is saying to the Pharisees and us that the kingdom of God will come when it flashes out from the belly, the heart of faith-filled believers and discharges negates the power of the negative that Satan has caused to dominate the earth for 6000 years. That is Jesus’ idea of the coming of the kingdom. Not God circumventing from above, but man in Jesus’ name, by the authority of the shed blood of Calvary saying “enough is enough” and pulling down the strongholds not only from themselves but from the entire planet!
This may seem impossible to us, but Jesus goes on to describe the dreadful struggle between heaven and earth that would be ongoing because Satan and his hosts are the eagles (vultures) spiritually that will lurk above the corpus or body of humanity, preying upon mankind like carrion eaters until the church, the community of the redeemed rise up and pull him down by their faith, by their refusal to get offended, by their determination to cast the dead religious system around us into the sea and walking out the literal coming of the kingdom as something originating in us and not just some fanciful nirvana that will come by some totally disconnected set of events that we have no control over.
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