The Unprofitable Servant

Jesus Warns...

Luke 17

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you,  rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?

8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 

10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”

11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, 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 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

22 Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”

37 And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?”

So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

(Luke 17)

I rediscover the real Jesus whenever I reread the four gospels.
This is always a convicting process as I easily buy into a fake version of Jesus, so common in our culture today.
The above Scripture was a end of the year wake-up call for me, as were Thomas Constable's comments.
To broaden perception of a day in the life of Jesus, I've added a message by Ray Stedman drawing on Mark 1.

A Harmony of the Gospels

Thomas Constable's Comments

on Luke 17

Verses 1-2

The introductory "and" (de in the Greek text, not translated in the NIV) indicates a logical connection with what has preceded. It is inevitable that disciples retard the spiritual progress of others occasionally because none of us is perfect. However that does not excuse personal responsibility when someone causes another to stumble into sin or apostasy (cf. Luke 11:52, Matthew 18:6). "Woe" recalls Jesus condemnation of the Pharisees in Luke 6:24-26. It indicates the seriousness of this offense.

1. The prevention of sin and the restoration of sinners 17:1-4

Verses 1-19

Jesus’ warning about disciples’ actions and attitudes 17:1-19

Jesus had been teaching the disciples about avoiding what men esteemed highly but which God viewed as detestable, namely, the pursuit of money. And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.' (Luke 16:15). By pursuing money hypocritically the Pharisees had turned many of their fellow Jews away from Jesus (Luke 11:52). "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." Jesus now warned the disciples about the possibility of their own improper actions and attitudes.

Verses 3-4

Jesus proceeded from warning against leading people into sin to the subject of helping those who do fall. The disciple’s responsibility in such cases is twofold: admonition of the sinner, and generous forgiveness of the penitent (cf. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12; 15 'If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Matthew 18:15; Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22).

The saying implicitly forbids the nursing of grudges and criticism of the offender behind his back.

Verse 5

Luke referred to the Twelve as apostles here probably was to highlight the importance of this teaching for disciple leaders. Evidently the apostles concluded that such a magnanimous approach to forgiving would require more faith in God than they possessed. They would have to believe that God could change a person’s heart even though he gave no evidence of genuine contrition by repeatedly sinning and then repeatedly professing repentance.

Verses 5-6

The importance of trusting God 17:5-6

Verses 5-10

The disciples’ attitude toward their duty 17:5-10.Jesus again followed instruction with illustration.

Verse 6

Jesus encouraged the disciples by reminding them that only a little trust in God’s ability can result in unbelievable change (cf. 20 "And He said to them, 'Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you." Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. (Matthew 21:21; 23) "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him." (Mark 11:23). A mustard seed was proverbially small (cf. Luke 7:13 "When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, 'Do not weep.'" (Luke 7:13). Mulberry trees grew to be as tall as 35 feet and were difficult to uproot. This response by Jesus amounted to telling the disciples that they did not need more faith. They just needed to use the faith they had.

"This word of Jesus does not invite Christians to become conjurers and magicians, but heroes like those whose exploits are celebrated in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews." [Note: Manson, p. 141.]  "It is not so much great faith in God that is required as faith in a great God."

Verses 7-9

Jesus told this parable to teach His disciples that warning sinning disciples and forgiving those who sinned and repented was only their duty. It was not something for which they should expect a reward from God. The Pharisees believed that their righteous deeds put God in their debt, as did many of the Jews. God will indeed reward faithful service. "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.". (Luke 12:35-37; 42) "And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, (Luke 12:42-48).

However that is not because His servants have placed Him in their debt but because He graciously gives them more than what is just. The teaching in chapter 12: "'Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Luke 12:35-37; Luke 12:42-48 "And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes."

(Luke 12:42-48) deals with the Master’s grace whereas the teaching here in chapter 17 ('Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat'? "But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.' (Luke (17:7-10) stresses the servant’s attitude.

Perhaps Jesus selected the example of a servant laboring in the field or tending sheep because this is the type of service His disciples render. In the situation Jesus pictured the one servant had several different responsibilities to his master. Jesus did not picture a large estate in which each slave had only one specialized task. Again the parallel with disciples’ duties is realistic. The point is not the master’s attitude in failing to express thanks for services rendered but the servant’s attitude in doing his duty without placing his master under obligation to him.

Verses 7-10

The parable of the unworthy servant 17:7-10

Verse 10

Jesus drew the application. His disciples should have the same attitude as good servants. By claiming to be unworthy they were not saying that they were totally worthless people. They meant that they were unworthy of any reward because all the service they had rendered was simply their duty to their Master. In the context the particular duty in view was forgiving generously, "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,' forgive him.' (Luke 17:3-4), but the teaching applies generally to all the duties that disciples owe God.

Jesus and the apostles taught elsewhere that the prospect of reward should motivate disciples to serve the Lord, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. "

1 Corinthians 3:24-27: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:28 "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming."

1 Peter 4:13 "...but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. "

1 Peter 5:1-4 "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. "

Jesus was not contradicting that here. Here his point was that God is under no obligation to reward us. He will do so because He chooses to do so, not because He has to do so. Our attitude should be that God does not need us to serve Him and that serving Him is only our duty for which He is under no obligation to reward us.

Verses 11-13

"...While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee." Luke 17:11 is another geographical progress report (cf. 51 "When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; Luke 9:51; Luke 13:22 And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem." (Luke 13:22). These notations usually indicate the beginning of new sections in Luke and Acts, but there is continuity in the subject matter of Jesus’ teachings from what precedes. A new subject begins at the end of this pericope.

This incident happened somewhere close to the border between southern Galilee and northern Samaria. This accounts for the mixture of Jewish and Samaritan lepers in one group. Their common affliction had brought them together. The lepers stood at a distance from others because they were unclean and possibly because their disease was contagious. Biblical leprosy was contagious in some stages but not in others (cf. Leviticus 13-14). Their address to Jesus as Master (Gr. epistata, a word found only in Luke in the New Testament) indicated a measure of faith in Him. They realized that their only hope for healing was His mercy, not their worthiness. Their condition made obvious what they wanted Jesus to do for them, namely, remove their leprosy. On Lepers and Virgins.

Verses 11-19

3. The importance of gratitude 17:11-19

Luke’s narration of this miracle focuses on the response of the Samaritan whom Jesus healed. It is not so much a story that he intended to demonstrate Jesus’ divine identity, though it does that. It is rather another lesson for the disciples on an important attitude that should characterize them."

Not only is this narrative peculiar to Luke, but it also stresses several characteristically Lukan themes. Jerusalem is the goal of Jesus’ journey. "When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem." (Luke 9:5); "Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33); Jesus has mercy on social outcasts; he conforms to Jewish norms by requiring that the lepers go for the required priestly declaration of health (cf. Leviticus 14); faith and healing should bring praise to God (cf. Luke 18:43: "Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. "With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God;" (Acts 3:8-9); and the grace of God extends beyond Judaism, with Samaritans receiving special attention (cf. Luke 10:25-37 25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And He said to him, 'What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?' And he answered, ' You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself .' And He said to him, 'You have answered correctly; do this and you will live .' But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?' Jesus replied and said, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead." …(Luke 10:25-37)."

Verse 14

Probably the lepers did not expect Jesus to respond as He did. Rather than touching them, or pronouncing them clean, He gave them a command. The command implied that by the time they reached the priest they would have experienced healing. Normally a command to show oneself to a priest followed a cure "And He ordered him to tell no one, 'But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'" (Luke 5:14; cf. Leviticus 13:49 49 if the mark is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, or in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is a leprous mark and shall be shown to the priest. Leviticus 13:49; "'This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper," (Leviticus 14:2-3). The priestly examination would result in the lepers resuming normal lives. However these lepers could have refused to go and could have repeated their request to Jesus. Jesus was testing their faith and obedience. If they really regarded Him as their master, they should obey Him. They decided to obey and immediately experienced healing (cf. Luke 5:12-16) "While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, 'Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.' And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' And immediately the leprosy left him. And He ordered him to tell no one, 'But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.' But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:12-16).

Jesus healed them from a distance: "Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, 'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.' But Naaman was furious and went away and said, 'Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.' Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?' So he turned and went away in a rage. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, 'My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean'?' So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean." (2 Kings 5:10-14).

The lepers’ response would have taught the disciples and everyone else present the importance of trusting and obeying Jesus’ word. This was a lesson that Jesus had been teaching the Pharisees and the disciples, "And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. 'The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. 'Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery. 'Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores." (Luke 16:15-31). This miracle showed the benefit of obeying Jesus’ word because of belief in Him (cf. 10 "After looking around at them all, He said to him, 'Stretch out your hand!' And he did so; and his hand was restored." ( Luke 6:10); "Then He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand!' He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other." (Matthew 12:13) "After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored." (Mark 3:5). This lesson was not the main reason Luke recorded this incident, however.

Verses 15-16

The one leper who returned loudly gave God the glory for his healing. He thereby acknowledged that Jesus was God’s agent. His prostrate posture and his thanksgiving expressed his great gratitude to Jesus. "While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, 'Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.'

"And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus' feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house." (Luke 8:41);  "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." ( Luke 18:11) ; "And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, 'Take this and share it among yourselves;' (Luke 22:17); "And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' ((Luke 22:19). "And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage." (Acts 28:10-15). The fact that he was a Samaritan rather than a Jew is the key point in the incident. Luke’s mention of this fact set the stage for Jesus’ teaching that followed.

Verses 17-19

Jesus’ questions highlighted the ingratitude of the nine other lepers who were Jews, "Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner? '( Luke 17:18). They also made the point that Luke wanted to stress by recording this incident. The Jews had more knowledge about Messiah and His coming than foreigners. They should have recognized who Jesus was and expressed their gratitude as well. Their lack of responsiveness was typical of the Jews in Jesus’ day (cf. Luke 15:3-10) "So He told them this parable, saying, 'What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.\And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 'Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?" (Luke 15:3-10). In closing, Jesus clarified that it was the man’s faith in Him that led to his obedience and was responsible for his restoration, not just his obedience. Jesus was not implying that the other nine lepers lacked faith. They also believed in Him (Luke 17:13).

The incident teaches that people whom Jesus delivers and who believe on Him have a moral obligation to express their gratitude to Him for what He has done for them. It also illustrates the fact that the Jews were happy to receive the benefits of Jesus’ ministry without thanking Him or connecting His goodness with God. The chiastic structure of Jesus’ three questions (Then Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?' (Luke 17:17-18) is another indication that the focus of attention is on the ingratitude of the nine healed lepers.

I. Jesus’ teaching about His return (17:20-18:8)

Again an action by the Pharisees led to a brief answer from Jesus followed by a longer explanation for the disciples. "Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him." "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13); "Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him." (Luke 16:14 to 19) "And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:19). Luke’s conclusion of Jesus’ teaching on this occasion included a parable, "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.' For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'' And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said..." (Luke 18:1-8).

Verses 20-21

1. A short lesson for the Pharisees 17:20-21

Jesus’ teaching about the arrival of the kingdom arose out of a question from the Pharisees. It was a reasonable question since both John the Baptist and Jesus had preached for some time that the kingdom was at hand. Probably they asked it to discredit Jesus who now spoke of the kingdom as postponed (cf. Luke 11:53-54) "...When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say." (Luke 11:53-54). "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord !'' (Luke 13:34-35). Most of the Jews expected a Messiah, according to their messianic ideas, to appear very soon and free them from their Roman yoke.

"The form of the Pharisees’ question shows that they are thinking of the Kingdom as something still future. They believe that it will come; and they ask ’when?’"

Jesus probably meant that signs that the Pharisees asked Jesus to perform would not precede the messianic kingdom. "As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, 'This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah." (Luke 11:29). Another view is that Jesus meant no signs that people can observe will precede the kingdom. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 654-55; Manson, p. 304.] However, He told the disciples that the sign of the coming of the Son of Man would precede it. "As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?' Matthew 24:3; For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:27). A third view is that Jesus meant that the coming of the kingdom would not be an observable process. Still, as the Old Testament predicted the coming of Messiah to reign, it certainly would be observable. A fourth view is that Jesus meant that the kingdom would not come because the Jews observed certain rites such as the Passover. They could not make it begin. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day apparently believed that Messiah would come at a Passover celebration. The Greek word parateresis, translated "signs to be observed" (NASB) or "careful observation" (NIV), literally means watching, spying, or observation. Nevertheless there is nothing in the context that connects with the idea of observing Jewish rites.

There would be no dramatic change in Jesus’ day to announce that the kingdom had arrived either. The kingdom was already among Jesus’ hearers in the person of the King. "But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Luke 11:20), but because the nation had rejected Jesus His hearers would not see the kingdom. God had postponed it: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord !'' (Luke 13:34-35).

"...a kingdom can hardly be ’here’ or ’there’, and so the reference must be to the ruler himself."

The NIV translation "within you" (Gr. entos hymon) is unfortunate because it implies a spiritual reign within people. The Old Testament teaching concerning the messianic kingdom was uniformly an earthly reign that included universal submission to God’s authority. Nowhere else does the Old or New Testament speak of the kingdom as something internal. Moreover even if the kingdom were internal, it would hardly have been within the unbelieving Pharisees whom Jesus was addressing. It was in their midst or among them in that the Messiah was standing right in their presence. If they had believed on Him, the kingdom would have begun shortly, immediately after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension, the Tribulation. "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.'" (Daniel 9:24-27), and His return. It was within their reach.

Verses 22-23

Jesus next gave His disciples more instruction about the coming of the kingdom. One of the days of the Son of Man refers to one of the future days when the Son of Man will be reigning on the earth (cf. Luke 17:24-25 (NAS) "...For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation." Luke 17:24-25; "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:30), perhaps the first day. The use of "Son of Man" recalls Daniel 7:13-14, 'I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 'And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 that predicts the earthly reign of Messiah. The disciples would desire to see the kingdom come because they would experience persecution before Jesus returned. There would be many false alarms about His return, but disciples should not allow others to mislead them. "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,' or ‘There He is,' do not believe him." (Matthew 24:23). "And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ'; or, ‘Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;" (Mark 13:21).

Verses 22-33

Characteristics of the last days 17:22-33

Verses 22-37

2. A longer explanation for the disciples 17:22-37

This teaching is quite similar to portions of the Olivet Discourse (cf. Matthew 24:23-28), "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,' or ‘There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." (Matthew 24:23-28) 

"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:37-39), though the differences suggest separate teaching situations. It is one of several teachings that Luke recorded that deals with the future (cf. Luke 12:35-40) "

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 'But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.' …is man,' (and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.

"...But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.' And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, 'When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment."

Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk,  46the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.  And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. ' (Luke 12:41-48)

"And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, 'When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.' Then He continued by saying to them, 'Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom." (Luke 21:5-33).

This one stresses the distant future and the Second Coming. The one in chapter 21 deals mainly with the near future from Jesus’ perspective and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Luke 14:7-24:

Verses 24-25

Jesus’ return would be unmistakable "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be."(Matthew 24:27) "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30) The messianic kingdom will not creep up on people. People living on the earth then will not discover that it began some time ago and that they are then in it. Everyone will know when it begins. However before the Son of Man begins His reign He first had to suffer and experience rejection by the unbelieving Jews of His day saying, 'The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed. (Luke 9:22; 41 And Jesus answered and said, 'You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.' (Luke 9:41)

"As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, 'This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah...The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29-32)..."so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.' (Luke 11:50-51)

"Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' (Luke 24:26); ...and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day."

"From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." (Matthew 16:21) "...explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.' (Acts 17:3).

Verse 26

When Jesus said the days of the Son of Man would be similar to the days of Noah He meant the days just before the Son of Man’s reign. This is clear from the comparison with the beginning of the Flood. In Noah’s days and toward the end of the Tribulation, just before Jesus returns, people were and will be unresponsive to preached warnings of coming judgment. "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:37-39. "...and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:5). In Noah’s day, "The wickedness of man was great on the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" ...Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5). "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence" "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence."(Genesis 6:11).

Verse 27

"Eating and drinking" and "marrying and being given in marriage" are phrases that describe people living life normally. The return of Jesus would suddenly disrupt their lives and call them to a judgment. People living in Noah’s day were unprepared for the flood. Similarly most people living just before the Second Coming will be unprepared for the judgment that will follow Jesus’ return, and they will perish in it. "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 'Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' (Matthew 25:31-46).

Verses 28-29

This second example of unexpected judgment reinforces the first. It also repeats the hope that some will escape divine condemnation when the Son of Man returns, namely, the righteous living on earth then. By comparing moral conditions on the earth at the Second Coming with Sodom, Jesus was picturing the worst kinds of evil running rampant. Destruction unexpected by most people fell quickly and interrupted normal daily living.

Verses 30-31

The word "apocalypse" comes from the Greek word apokalypto, meaning "to appear," that occurs here. Jesus’ sudden appearing at the Second Coming will constitute the greatest apocalypse in history. When it begins everyone must flee for cover. "Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak." (Matthew 24:17-18); "The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat." (Mark 13:15-16) "Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city." (Luke 21:21).

Verses 32-33

Lot’s wife is an instructive example of someone who underestimated the destructive power of God’s judgment and perished because she was slow to seek refuge. She sought to preserve her former way of life, and in doing so she perished. "But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:26; cf. Matthew 10:39). Likewise people living when Jesus returns will need to seek physical refuge rather than clinging to earthly treasures (cf. ch. 12). The salvation of Lot’s wife is debatable. Therefore we should probably take her as a warning to all people including believers. This view finds support in the "whoever" of Luke 17:33: "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." Physical destruction is in view. "On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back." (Luke 17:31).

Verses 34-36

The parable of the one taken and the one left 17:34-36.

The point of these examples is that when Jesus returns He will separate people, even those who are intimate companions. The unstated reason is implicit, namely, to judge some and not the others. Some will be ready for His return and others will not. The idea of sudden destruction resulting in judgment runs through the entire passage.

The presence of two men in one bed may be another indication of the moral condition of that time. The Greek masculine gender could describe a man and his wife, however. But the main idea is their close association. It was common for a mother and daughter or two female friends to grind grain together in Jesus’ day (cf. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Matthew 24:41). Perhaps Jesus intended the fact that one separation takes place at night and the other during daytime to reinforce the fact that He could return at either time. Of course, whenever He returns some people on earth will be sleeping and others will be awake. Those taken will experience punishment and will die while those left will enter the kingdom since they will be believers. This is the opposite of what will happen at the Rapture (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (NAS) "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Then Jesus will take the godly into heaven and will leave the unbelievers on earth to enter the Tribulation.

[Note: See Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, pp. 176-91, for a discussion of the differences in the biblical descriptions of the Rapture and the Second Coming, which argue for a pretribulation Rapture.] 

A scribe probably inserted Luke 17:36. [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.] Luke 17:36 (cf. 40 "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left." (Matthew 24:40). It is absent in the best ancient Greek manuscripts.

Verse 37

What to look for 17:37. Evidently the disciples wanted to know where this judgment would occur. Rather than giving them a geographical site, Jesus told them what to look for. The presence of corruption would indicate the coming of one to clean it up. Similarly the presence of a dead body outdoors indicated that a vulture would be along soon to eat the carrion (cf. Matthew 24:28 28 "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." Matthew 24:28; Revelation 19:21). Jesus may have been using a proverbial expression.

"Vultures hovering over dead bodies" graphically depict the death and judgment that comes with Jesus’ return as the judging Son of Man Luke 17:37 And answering they said to Him, 'Where, Lord?' And He said to them, 'Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.' (Luke 17:37)."

The general teaching of the parable is that Jesus’ appearing and the beginning of the kingdom will be sudden and unexpected by most people who are alive then. It will be an unmistakable event in history and will involve physical danger for earth-dwellers because divine judgment will follow immediately. No one will be able to miss it when it occurs. Jesus did not say exactly when it would occur, but clearly it would not happen immediately. An interval of time would have to elapse.

A Day in the Life of Jesus

by Ray Stedman

It is a popular literary style today to trace through the events of one day in the life of a person. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has given us a remarkable book in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Perhaps you have read some of Jim Bishop's books, like The Day Kennedy Died or The Day Lincoln Died. There is something similar in the gospel of Mark, as Mark traces for us A Day in the Life of Jesus.

It begins in the bright sunshine of a Galilean morning when Jesus walks out alongside the lake, moves into a mid-morning visit to a synagogue in Capernaum (for this was a Sabbath day), takes in an afternoon visit some hours later at the home of Peter and Andrew, and traces the events of a busy evening in that city, as thousands gathered to be ministered to by Jesus. The account concludes with a solitary prayer vigil in the hills during the lonely hours of the early morning. Thus a full twenty-four hours is given to us in this account -- put together from the brief memories Mark had of Jesus and the stories Peter had told him.

One theme is apparent as you read through the stories of the incidents in this day, and that is the authority of Jesus. You remember that in the first study of this series we saw that it is at least possible that Mark himself was the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked him the secret of eternal life, and to whom Jesus said, "Go, sell what you have; and come, follow me," (Matthew 19:21). I personally believe Mark was that young man, and that he did exactly that: gave away all he had, and came and followed Jesus. If this is the case, it would account for Mark's seeming fascination with the power base from which Jesus operated. He is struck by the authority of Jesus, and yet by his servant-character. This would be new to Mark. He would not understand at first how authority could come from being a servant. But the theme that flows through all these accounts is a radical principle which is apparent in the Scriptures: to one who voluntarily serves, God gives the power also to rule.

There are six marks of the authority of Jesus recorded in this one day. The first is given to us in Verses 16-20:

And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20 RSV)

It would be a great mistake to think that this is the first time Jesus ever saw these men. They were disciples of John the Baptist, and Jesus had met them earlier down in Judea, and they had even followed him for a time as his disciples. So this is not their first encounter. But it is the story of their official call to a continual discipleship. The remarkable thing about this, the thing that impressed Mark, was Jesus' claim to competence in their lives. He said to them, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." He assumes the entire responsibility for this.

These men were fishers of fish. They were simple Galatian fishermen, rough, somewhat ignorant, untutored, unlearned, elementary men, governed by Jewish passions and prejudices, narrow in their outlook. Before they could become fishers of men, they would have to become universal in their view. They would have to learn how to walk in a way that relied upon the power of the Spirit of God. And Jesus assumes the responsibility to do this. That is encouraging to me! Because whenever he calls you and me to any task, the Lord himself assumes the responsibility to fit us for it -- if we follow him, if we yield to him.

In his book, What Should This Man Do?,Watchman Nee makes the very captivating suggestion that not only does Jesus undertake to equip these men fully for the task to which he calls them, but also that he plans to do it in a way which retains the personality of each. This is suggested in what Mark records that these men were doing at the moment Jesus called them. Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea, throwing circular nets out on each side of the boat in order to catch the fish. This suggests that they were to become evangelists. That would be their process of reaching out, casting out to those around. As the account goes on we will see how Andrew becomes the disciple who leads people to Jesus, even as he has brought his brother Peter to Christ. Peter becomes the great evangelist when, on the day of Pentecost, he preaches the gospel to three thousand people.

But James and John were doing something else -- they were mending their nets. The Greek word for "mending" is the same word which appears in Ephesians 4, where Paul says of pastor/teachers that they are to "equip" (or mend) the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Just as James and John were equipping their nets, getting them ready, when Jesus called them, so this would be the work they would be doing as fishers of men. They would do it as teachers, equipping the saints. Again, this is what you see in the lives of these men throughout Scriptures.

This is beautiful thought, because it indicates that when our Lord calls us he not only equips us, taking full responsibility to teach us everything we need to learn in order to fulfill that calling, but he does it in such a way as to retain those nuances of personality that mark us as us.

While I was at Wheaton College this past week a young student came up to me at the close of a chapel service and, with a very earnest look on his face, said, "Look, all week long you've been talking to us about Christ's working through us, saying that he will do the work. I have a question: How can Jesus work through us without destroying our personality?" I cast about for an answer, and all of a sudden an illustration came flashing into my mind: "When you prepare breakfast, if you plug an electric toaster and an electric mixer into the same outlet, would they both do the same thing?" He said, "I see what you mean." Of course they would not. They both use the same power, but they do not do the same thing. So it is with Jesus. He is the power in the Christian life, the One who is able to live in us and manifest himself through us -- whatever the demand of life may be -- but the result always retains something of our individuality. The glory of the call of Christianity is that we are all empowered by the same mighty One, but that we lose nothing of the distinct flavor of our particular personality.

So Mark is impressed with this amazing competence of Jesus, for men simply do not act this way. Sign up for a course in personality development, or management skills, and invariably you are subjected to a standardizing process which tries to force everybody into the same mold. Unfortunately we do this in Christian circles as well, so that we all come out of the sausage grinder as identical little sausages -- chop it off anywhere and it is still baloney! But Jesus does not do that, and Mark marvels at the competence of this amazing man.

The second mark of authority he records in the following passage:

And they went into Capernaum [Notice the word "they" -- Peter, Andrew, James, and John went with our Lord into Capernaum]; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:21-22 RSV)

Here Mark is amazed at the comprehension of Jesus, the vast scope of his knowledge, his insight into humanity and into life. He was particularly impressed with the authority with which he spoke. All who were present were astonished at his authority. He did not teach like the scribes they were accustomed to hearing: "Now, Hillel says this, and Gamaliel adds this, while other authorities contend..." Jesus made no reference to any authority other than himself. Yet his words were so insightful, so true to the experience and inner convictions of the men and women there that they nodded their heads, "Of course!" and knew what he said was true. J. B. Philippians entitled a book, The Ring Of Truth. That is an apt description of how Jesus taught. His words had that ring of truth, acknowledged by all who heard him speak. It was self-authenticating truth, corresponding to an inner conviction in each person who heard him, so that they knew that he knew the secrets of life.

This is important, because it means that we ought to measure every teaching by what Jesus has said about the subject. The previous time I was at Wheaton College was several years ago when the campuses of this nation were torn with riot and dissension, and even Christian colleges were not spared. I was invited to teach a class on current events, and we discussed various problems like capital punishment and, of course, the Vietnamese war. I was greatly dismayed as I listened to these students because they constantly referred everything to secular authority. Finally, I stopped the class, and said to them,

"Look, this is a Christian college. Yet no one in this class has made any reference at all to what God has to say about these matters. But his, ultimately, is the only viewpoint that counts. And it is in what he says that the truth lies."

Truth is what you find in the teachings of Jesus. We are to correct our psychology and our philosophy by the truth he sets forth.

I want to share with you a quotation I ran across some ago, from an outstanding American psychiatrist named J. T. Fisher:

If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene, if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage, if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and an incomplete summary of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearning. Here rests the blueprint for successful human life, with optimum mental health and contentment.

That is why, there in the synagogue at Capernaum, they were astonished at the teaching of Jesus. And as I read through the Scriptures, and see the things that Jesus said, I am frequently absolutely dumbfounded at the amazing wisdom and insight into life that he represents, and at how he reveals how far afield secular thinking often is, how wrong it is, when everybody around is praising it and saying it is right. That is why we need the insights of this amazing man, as we study our lives, and human life in general.

The next mark of the authority of Jesus is a very remarkable response to the teaching of Jesus that Sabbath morning, Verses 23-28:

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God. " But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:23-28 RSV)

Mark sums it all up for us in the response of these people in the synagogue. They were astonished, amazed, and said, "With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." This represents the command of Jesus. There is no doubt that the unclean spirit in this man was reacting to the teaching of Jesus. He could not stand it! The insight our Lord gave on that morning was so piercing, so revealing of error and the foggy thinking of men, that the demon was tortured with truth, and he broke out in this angry interruption: "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!" And Jesus rebuked him, commanded him to be silent.

The film, The Exorcist has so caught the popular imagination that people are flocking in droves to see it. I have not seen it myself, but have read several reviews of it, made from various points of view. It is the story of a girl possessed by an evil spirit, a demon. She is supposedly set free of it by two men who intercede on her behalf. But from what I have heard and read of the film, I do not think it is quite what it seems to be. The girl may be freed temporarily from the evil spirit, but it is not a story of triumph over evil. It is the demon who triumphs, for he destroys the two men in the process. It is an evil and frightening film.

But you do not see anything of that here in this account. When this demon is confronted with Jesus, he is forced to leave the person he was inhabiting. The word of Jesus is victorious right from the start. The spirit is reluctant to go, as is obvious from the way he convulses this person and cries out with a loud voice. But he must leave -- that is the point. He is overwhelmed by a superior power. And through all the centuries since, the only name demons have ever feared is the name of Jesus. It is Jesus who sets men free and delivers the oppressed. It is well to remember, as we are experiencing in our own day a tremendous invasion of demonic forces, that no religious mumbo-jumbo, or church ritual, is going to set people free. It is Jesus whom demons fear, the authority of Jesus to command the unclean spirits to obey.

This particular obedience was so remarkable that Mark records, "And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee." When Mark says "at once," he does not mean in a few days or a few weeks; he means in a few hours. This was such a remarkable situation that within hours the word had spread like a flame all through the area. By evening, they were bringing the sick and demon-possessed into the city to be healed by Jesus, as we will see in a few moments. The word had gone out like wildfire that here was one who could command the spirits of darkness, and they would obey.

Next we have the account of a simple event in the home of Simon and Andrew, Verses 29-31:

And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. (Mark 1:29-31 RSV)

This is early afternoon by now, and Mark's emphasis is on the compassion that moved Jesus. If you read this account rather superficially it sounds like a case of labor shortage. Simon and Andrew had invited Jesus and James and John home with them, only to find that the mother-in-law who perhaps usually did the serving, was sick. So they apologized to Jesus, "told him of her." The English translation seems to suggest that they even asked him to heal her. But the Greek makes clear that this was not the case; it was Jesus' idea to heal her. When he heard about the sickness, he took the initiative, approached her, laid his hand upon her, and the fever left her. And it was out of a grateful heart that this restored woman ministered to the needs of these people that afternoon.

Now, it was not a necessary miracle; she was not particularly sick. The fever doubtless would have run its course and she would have recovered in a few days. But it speaks of the compassion of the heart of Jesus that he responded to the suffering of this dear woman, light though it was, and touched her, delivered her, restored her to service that afternoon. Mark records for us that this is a compassionate Christ who ministers with such authority and power.

Then we have the evening account, Verses 32-34:

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:32-34 RSV)

At sundown the Sabbath ended, and they began to bring from the surrounding region all these sick and demon-possessed people for Jesus to heal. Mark tells us "the whole city was gathered together about the door." If you visit Capernaum today you will find it a very small town, perhaps a half dozen houses. The ruins of a synagogue are there. Some have felt it was the very synagogue in which Jesus taught. However, the majority of scholarly opinion is that it dates from the second century, although it was probably built on the site of the synagogue described in this account. But at that time Capernaum was the most flourishing city on the lake, the largest city of all. It was where Jesus made his home.

So people brought him their sick and diseased and demoniacs to be healed. What a busy, full evening he spent there in Capernaum! Mark records for us the amazing control Jesus exercised over these demons. He laid a vocal quarantine upon them. He would not permit them to speak, because they knew him. This is very significant, for it is the first indication of the desire Jesus frequently manifested to de-emphasize the spectacular, to keep it under control, to play down deliverance from demons, and physical healing. On a number of occasions Jesus said to those he healed, "Go and tell no man." That is "Don't tell anyone about this. Just accept your healing. But don't spread the word around." Yet invariably they disobeyed him, and soon it was recorded of him that he could no longer come and minister in the city because of the crowds that followed him. It is evident that Jesus did not want those crowds -- not on those terms.

What a contrast this is with some people today. There are healers who go about advertising their healing campaigns, and try to bring out the crowds on that basis, emphasizing the spectacular in what they do. But you see nothing of this in the Bible. Even with the apostles, the physical healings that went on in their ministries were played down, just as in Jesus'. They never advertised them. There is no record in Scripture of people giving public testimonials in order to increase the crowds, or of being "zapped by the power of God," or any of the theatrics you see so much of today. These are totally unbiblical.

Now, God does heal -- and thank God for physical healings. But they are only temporary blessings at best. What Jesus continually emphasizes is the healing of the spirit of man -- the healing of bitterness and hostility and lust and anger, of worry and anxiety and a critical spirit. This is what he is after deliverance from these ugly and evil things -- because this is of eternal value. The healing of the spirit is a permanent thing. So Jesus turns his back on popular acclaim, tries to suppress it and keep it under control, in order that he might be free for the ministry of greater importance. Mark gives us the final account, the sixth picture, in Verses 35-39:

And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him, "Every one is searching for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:35-39 RSV)

After this full day -- and what a full day it was, what a heavy ministry our Lord had that day, with all the healing he did in the evening! -- Mark records that early in the morning, before it was daylight, Jesus went out on the mountainside and there, alone by himself, he prayed. But even there he was not safe. His disciples interrupted this communion, told him that everyone was looking for him. And Jesus reveals the heart and substance of his prayer in what he says in reply: "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." This is what he was praying about -- that God would lead him, doors would be opened, and hearts prepared in the cities to which he would go next.

Why did Jesus seek the Father's face like this, in these hours of pressure? The only answer we can come to is that he wants to make clear that the authority he had was not coming from him. This is what our Lord is trying to get across to us so continually in the Scriptures -- that it was not his authority by which he acted; he had to receive it from the Father.

I do not know any more confusing doctrine in Christendom today -- one which has robbed the Scriptures of their authority and power in the minds and hearts of countless people -- than the idea that Jesus acted by virtue of the fact he was the Son of God, that the authority and power he demonstrated were due to his own deity. Yet he himself takes great pains to tell us this is not the case. "The Son by himself can do nothing," (John 5:19). Why do we ignore his explanation, and insist that it is he, acting as the Son of God? He tells us that "it is not I; the Father who dwells in me, he does the works," (John 14:10). And all the power that Jesus manifested had to come to him constantly from the One who dwelt within him.

The reason Jesus stresses this is that this is what he wants us to learn. We are to operate on the same basis. Response to the normal, ordinary demands of life, and power to cope with it, must come from our reliance upon him at work within us. This is the secret -- all power to live the Christian life comes not from us, doing our dead-level best to serve God, but from him, granted to us moment by moment as the demand is made upon us. Power is given to those who follow, who obey. The Father is at work in the Son; the Son is at work in us. As we learn this, then we are given power to meet the demands and the needs which are waiting for us in the ministry yet to come.

This is why Jesus was up on the hillside praying -- that there might be such a keenness of relationship with the Father that there would be no hindrance to the flow of the Spirit of God through him as he went out to these other cities. What a difference it makes when we begin to understand this principle!

This is what we labored to teach the students at Wheaton last week. Many of them caught on, and came to us with exciting stories of what God had already done through them that very week, as they began to trust the power of God to work. One student said that he had gone home one evening thinking on the words, "Everything coming from God; nothing coming from me." As he tried to involve himself in his studies, his mind kept going out to his dad, who was not a Christian. So he phoned him and said, "Dad, the Billy Graham film, Time of the Town is in town; would you go with me tonight?" His father demurred, said he was tired. But the boy pressed him to go. His dad said, "All right, son, I haven't done anything with you for a long time. I'll go with you." They went, and he received the Lord that night. That boy was so excited to see God at work in him!

When I was in Mexico a few weeks ago, I spent an evening with Miss Eunice Pike, the sister of Dr. Kenneth Pike -- both of them noted and capable linguists. Miss Pike was telling me about the early days of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico. Cameron Townsend, the founder, had gone to Mexico to try to get permission from the Mexican government to translate the Scriptures into the languages of the Indian tribes. The government was adamant that this should not take place, was completely opposed to it. The official to which he had to appeal said to him, "As long as I am in this office, you will never be given permission. We don't want the Bible in the Indian languages -- it will only upset them." He absolutely refused. Townsend did everything he knew, went to every official he could find, had all his Christian friends praying that God would open this door. But it seemingly remained totally closed.

Finally he decided that he would give up pressing the issue, and he and his wife would go and live in a little, obscure Indian village, learn the language, minister to the people as best they could, and wait for God to move. They lived in a tiny trailer in this village, just the two of them. It was not very long before he noticed that the fountain in the center of the plaza produced beautiful, clear spring water, but that it ran off down the hill and was wasted. He suggested that the Indians plant something in an area to which the water could easily be diverted, and thus make use of it. Soon they were growing twice as much food as before, and their economy blossomed as a result. The Indians were grateful. Townsend wrote this up in a little article and sent it to a Mexican paper he thought might be interested.

He did not know of it, but that article found its way into the hands of the President of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas. He said, "What is this? A gringo, an American, coming here to live in an Indian village, where we can't even get our own people to live, and helping them this way? I must meet this man!" He ordered his limousine and his attendants, and they drove to that little Indian village, where they parked at the plaza. It happened that Townsend was there and saw the car. He asked who it was, and was told it was the President of Mexico.

Cameron Townsend is not one to miss an opportunity. He went up to the car and introduced himself and, to his amazement, heard the President say, "You're the man I've come here to see!" He invited him to come to Mexico City and tell more about his work, and when he heard what it was, he said, "Of course! You can come to Mexico to translate the Scriptures into the Indian languages." That began a friendship which continued throughout the lifetime of President Cardenas, who died just a few years ago. His power and authority were used of God all those years to open doors to Wycliffe translators throughout that country.

Only God can do things like that -- bring the President down to see the peon! And that is what the church is missing so in these days. We have everything so arranged, and planned, and strategized, and over-organized, that there is hardly any room for God to operate at all. But this is what Jesus knew -- how God would work in his unique and wonderful way, and open doors that nobody could anticipate, if he were the instrument ready and prepared to respond to that kind of power within. And this is the secret that impressed Mark -- the authority of the servant. The one who serves is the one who rules.

How far removed that is from the way we all too often live today. God grant that, as we study together, we will learn the great lessons Mark seeks to lay upon our hearts -- that we are to live as Jesus lived, exactly as he lived, by the same power and force, and to know that it is he, working in us, who does the work.


Thank you, our Father, for the reminder of these lessons. Help us understand that these are not intended merely to be lessons in ancient history. This is the way we are to live today. The same God is alive, the same power is available, the same principle operates, ready for us to be its instrument in any and every situation in which demand is laid upon us. We ask it in Christ's name, Amen.

OCTOBER 06, 1974


Jesus is a Single Man

Jesus, Plain and Simple

The Childhood of Jesus

Jesus takes a Bride

The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Christ

Jesus Christ and His Bride

Keys to the Song of Solomon 

The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Christ

Jesus Christ and His Bride

Keys to the Song of Solomon 

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James Cohen and the Boston Camarata: Jesus is the Light of the World

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