For an introduction to this series, click here.
March 25, 2007
It's good to be back. I love going home, but that means being totally unplugged: no computer, no internet, no cell service, at least not at my folks' house. It's nice not to have to mess with them for a few days, but then you begin to miss them.
Jesus has a very different message in this chapter from the previous. After the encouragement we got in chapter 16, this chapter has one of the most depressing (I know that's not exactly the right word, but it's all I can come up with) statements ever made by Jesus: "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (17:7-10)
Too many times we aim too low. We think God is satisfied when we do some little thing at church or give God a little bit of our money in the offering. I am not sure what to think of all this. Jesus Himself said that if we give a cup of water in His name, we will be rewarded. Where is the line where duty stops and sacrifice (I guess that is the right word) begins? I don't know, but this is an encouragement to be like Paul and be always pressing toward the mark, something I don't think most of us understand and wouldn't do if we did.
Next we have the story of the 10 lepers cleansed. I'm sure you know the story. I have heard some people say they think the nine who were unthankful got their leprosy back. I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense to me, and neither is it stated in the scripture. More importantly, this is an example of general grace. This is the goodness that God gives to all men, both saved and lost. Another example would be Jesus' statement that God sends rain on the just and the unjust. God provides good things for everyone, but only a few turn to God for salvation. These nine men got their leprosy cleansed, but their souls were still desperately sick. Only one man recognized that God was at work in his life, and he came back. The ESV in 17:19 quotes Jesus as saying, "Your faith has made you well," but notes in the margin that another reading could be "Your faith has saved you." This sheds more light on the subject. Jesus was telling him that not only was his physical sickness cleansed, but he was now a new spiritual man, too.
Jesus next gives us a warning about the immediacy of the Day of the Lord: "The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, 'Look, there!' or 'Look, here!' Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day." (17:22-24)
The coming of the Lord will not be hidden. No one has a mystical monopoly on God's truth. When the Lord comes, all the true believers will be aware of it immediately. Lots of people in our day claim to be the only church that's doing it right or to have a secret key of knowledge, whether it is about the Lord's return or some other sort of teaching. Don't believe it. God doesn't keep secrets from His children.
Jesus continues with the warning about the coming judgment: "On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." (17:31-33)
This warning tells us to hold the things of this material world very loosely. Lot's wife, of course, looked back to Sodom as they were fleeing the destruction of the city. This was not just a passing glance, or at least it was not done out of a heart that was merely acting as an observer. If merely looking at the burning city was enough to turn someone into a pillar of salt then Abraham would be the same, because the Bible tells us that Abraham watched from afar off as Sodom burned. Lot's wife's look back was a look of longing to be back and a regret that she had to be leaving with her hypocritical husband. Lot was a believer, and no doubt at some points Lot got tired of all the wickedness in Sodom. His wife would maybe (I know this is not exactly in the Bible) then scold him for being stuck in his cranky uncle Abraham's ways. Lot would give in and come to terms with whatever it was, but he was still saved, and he knew what was right.