Today: [Luke 17] Offenses, and the Coming of the Kingdom. In Luke 17 Jesus describes a gruesome form of execution as what is in store for those who cause offenses. He goes on to speak of the coming of the kingdom in quite veiled and unique language 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 in a manner that the majority of Christians have never thought of.
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[Luk 17:1-19 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.
In verse 1 Jesus warns against offenses and controversies that would arise among them. The word for offense that is used 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 this is the one thing, the very one thing that Jesus says is impossible. For the one who said “all things are possible” this is a very potent statement. It is unrealistic, and naïve in the extreme to think that we can have a church, or a community of believers that does not give rise to scandal from time to time. For the one in whom the scandal is occasioned, Jesus says it would be better that a millstone be hanged around his neck and be cast into the sea.
The metaphors Jesus uses in verse 2 bear a deeper 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 hardship and are starved for fellowship and meaningful relationships. Could the arise out of the lack of watch care for one another among us? Think about how many believers who see their lives marred by hardship. Think about how desperate the need is for true fellowship and relationship among us. Could it be these things arise from a general callousness that believers have one for another, a lack of true, koninea, or fellowship among us? Jesus said if we were truly 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 being critical or because in fact the church is deeply 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 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, and dreadful. 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 common response? Usually the response is “so what! That’s just who I am and if they don’t like it, I could careless…” The arise of social media has exaserbated this to the extreme. Behind the anonymity of the internet Christian civility and kindness has all but disappeared. People make remarks and post comments that they would never do in person but because they are hiding behind their keyboards they spew their vitriol and unkindness 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 to ever 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 callous, mouthy, uncaring person who literally 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. 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, as painful as it is should not be something used as a basis for self-pity, but as an identifier of unbelief in our own hearts. Do you have not just love, but faith to forgive?
Jesus goes on by way of illustration speaking of a sycamine 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 in fact speaking to something much more systemic and widespread. The sycamine tree Jesus is describing, if you research is is not a mere sycamore tree as we know it but a certain 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. 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 come to the realization 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…”
[Luk 17:20-37 KJV]
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.
The Pharisees standing by listening to Jesus instruct His disciples 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 literally is “ocular evidence”. How many times do you see Christians say “I want to see something” as though some outward evidence of any kind 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 Jews idea of the kingdom and alien event to the Christian idea of the kingdom. The Jews were clearly asking about God’s linear purposes through time, when the Romans would be driven out and Jewish rule constituted 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 that 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, 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 lightening 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 to 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 phenomena 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 us and to the Pharisees is 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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