Luke 17

CHAPTER XVII.

Christ teaches the necessity of avoiding offences, 1, 2.

How to treat an offending brother, 3, 4.

The efficacy of faith, 5, 6.

No man by his services or obedience can profit his Maker, 7-10.

He cleanses ten lepers, 11-19.

The Pharisees inquire when the kingdom of God shall commence;

Christ answers them, and corrects their improper views of the

subject, 20-37.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVII.

Verse 1. It is impossible but that offences will come] Such is

the corrupt state of the human heart that, notwithstanding all the

influences of grace, and the promises of glory, men will continue

to sin against God; and his justice must continue to punish.

See Clarke on Mt 18:6.

Verse 2. A mill-stone] That drowning a person with a stone tied

about the neck was an ancient mode of punishment, see proved in

the note on Mt 18:6, 7, to which let the following be added. To

have a mill-stone hanged about the neck, was a common proverb.

"Samuel saith, A man may marry, and after that addict himself to

the study of the law. Rab. Jochanan saith, No: shall he addict

himself to the study of the law with a mill-stone about his neck?"

The place in Aristophanes, to which the reader is referred in

the note on Mt 18:6, is the following:-

αρανμετεωρονειςτοβαραθρονεμβαλω

εκτουλαρυγγοςεκκρεμασαςυπερβολον

"Lifting him up into the air, I will plunge him into the deep: a

great stone being hung about his neck." Aristoph. in Equit. ver.

1359.

Verse 3. - 4. If thy brother trespass] See the notes on

Mt 18:21, 22.

Verse 5. Increase our faith.] This work of pardoning every

offence of every man, and that continually, seemed so difficult,

even to the disciples themselves, that they saw, without an

extraordinary degree of faith, they should never be able to keep

this command. But some think that this and what follows relate to

what Matthew has mentioned. Mt 17:19, 20.

Verse 6. As a grain of mustard seed] A faith that increases and

thrives as that is described to do, Mt 13:32, where see the

note. See also Mt 17:20.

This sycamine] The words seem to intimate that they were

standing by such a tree. The sycamine is probably the same as the

sycamore. Sycamore with us, says Mr. Evelyn, is falsely so

called, being our acer majus, greater maple. The true sycamore is

the ficus Pharaonis or AEgyptia, Pharaoh's, or Egyptian fig-tree;

called also, from its similitude in leaves and fruit, morosyous,

or mulberry fig-tree. The Arabians call it guimez: it grows in

Cyprus, Caria, Rhodes, and in Judea and Galilee, where our Lord at

this time was: see Lu 17:11. St. Jerome, who was well acquainted

with these countries, translates the word mulberry-tree.

Be thou plucked up by the root] See Clarke on Mt 21:21,

where it is shown that this mode of speech refers to the accomplishment

of things very difficult, but not impossible.

Verse 7. - 9. Which of you, having a servant] It is never

supposed that the master waits on the servant- -the servant is

bound to wait on his master, and to do every thing for him to the

uttermost of his power: nor does the former expect thanks for it,

for he is bound by his agreement to act thus, because of the

stipulated reward, which is considered as being equal in value to

all the service that he can perform.

Verse 10. We are unprofitable servants] This text has often been

produced to prove that no man can live without committing sin

against God. But let it be observed, the text says unprofitable

servants, not sinful servants. If this text could be fairly

construed to countenance sinful imperfection, it would be easy to

demonstrate that there is not one of the spirits of just men made

perfect, in paradise, nor a ministering angel at the throne of

God, but is sinfully imperfect: for none of these can work

righteousness, in the smallest degree, beyond those powers which

God has given them; and justice and equity require that they

should exert those powers to the uttermost in the service of their

Maker; and, after having acted thus, it may be justly said, They

have done only what it was their duty to do. The nature of God is

illimitable, and all the attributes of that nature are infinitely

glorious: they cannot be lessened by the transgressions of his

creatures, nor can they be increased by the uninterrupted, eternal

obedience, and unceasing hallelujahs, of all the intelligent

creatures that people the whole vortex of nature. When ages,

beyond the power of arithmetic to sum up, have elapsed, it may be

said of the most pure and perfect creatures, "Ye are unprofitable

servants." Ye have derived your being from the infinite fountain

of life: ye are upheld by the continued energy of the Almighty:

his glories are infinite and eternal, and your obedience and

services, however excellent in themselves, and profitable to you,

have added nothing, and can add nothing, to the absolute

excellencies and glories of your God.

Verse 11. He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee] He

first went through Galilee, whence he set out on his journey; and

then through Samaria, of which mention is made, Lu 9:51, 52. All

who went from Galilee to Jerusalem must have necessarily passed

through Samaria, unless they had gone to the westward, a very

great way about. Therefore John tells us, Joh 4:4, that when

Jesus left Judea to go into Galilee, it was necessary for him to

pass through Samaria; for this plain reason, because it was the

only proper road. "It is likely that our Lord set out from

Capernaum, traversed the remaining villages of Galilee as far as

Samaria, and then passed through the small country of Samaria,

preaching and teaching every where, and curing the diseased, as

usual." Calmet.

Verse 12. Ten-lepers] Concerning the leprosy see the note on

Mt 8:2; and on Le 13:1, &c. and

Le 14:1, &c..

Which stood afar off] They kept at a distance, because forbidden

by law and custom to come near to those who were sound, for fear

of infecting them. See Le 13:46; Nu 5:2; 2Ki 15:5.

Verse 13. They lifted up their voices] They cried with one

accord-they were all equally necessitous, and there was but one

voice among them all, though ten were engaged in crying at the

same time. As they were companions in suffering, they were also

companions in prayer. Prayer should be strong and earnest, when

the disease is great and inveterate. Sin is the worst of all

leprosies; it not only separates those to whom it cleaves from the

righteous, but it separates them from God; and nothing but the

pitying heart and powerful hand of Christ Jesus can set any soul

free from it.

Verse 14. Show yourselves unto the priests.] According to the

direction, Le 13:2, &c.; Le 14:2, &c. Our Lord intended that

their cure should be received by faith: they depended on his

goodness and power; and though they had no promise, yet they went

at his command to do that which those only were required by the

law to do who were already healed.

And-as they went] In this spirit of implicit faith; they were

cleansed. God highly honours this kind of faith, and makes it the

instrument in his hand of working many miracles. He who will not

believe till he receives what he calls a reason for it, is never

likely to get his soul saved. The highest, the most sovereign

reason, that can be given for believing, is that God has

commanded it.

Verse 15. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, &c.] It

seems that he did not wait to go first to the priest, but turned

immediately back, and gave public praise to the kind hand from

which he had received his cure.

Verse 16. He was a Samaritan.] One who professed a very corrupt

religion; and from whom much less was to be expected than from the

other nine, who probably were Jews.

Verse 17. Where are the nine?] Where are the numbers that from

time to time have been converted to God? Are they still found

praising him, with their faces on the dust, as they did at first?

Alas! how many are turned back to perdition! and how many are

again mingled with the world! Reader! art thou of this number?

Verse 18. This stranger.] Often God receives more praise and

affectionate obedience from those who had long lived without his

knowledge and fear, than from those who were bred up among his

people, and who profess to be called by his name. The simple

reason is, Those who have MUCH forgiven will love much, Lu 7:47.

Verse 19. Thy faith hath made thee whole.] Thy faith hath been

the means of receiving that influence by which thou hast been

cleansed.

Verse 20. Cometh not with observation] With scrupulous

observation. That this is the proper meaning of the original, μετα

παρατηρησεως, KYPKE and others have amply proved from the best

Greek writers. As if he had said: "The kingdom of God, the

glorious religion of the Messiah, does not come in such a way as

to be discerned only by sagacious critics, or is only to be seen

by those who are scrupulously watching for it; it is not of such a

nature as to be confined to one place, so that men might say of

it, Behold it is only here, or only there: for this kingdom of

God is publicly revealed; and behold it is among you; I proclaim

it publicly, and work those miracles which prove the kingdom of

God is come; and none of these things are done in a corner."

Dr. Lightfoot has well observed that there are two senses

especially in which the phrase "kingdom of heaven," is to be

understood. 1. The promulgation and establishment of the Christian

religion. 2. The total overthrow of the Jewish polity. The Jews

imagined that when the Messiah should come he would destroy the

Gentiles, and reign gloriously over the Jews: the very reverse of

this, our Lord intimates, should be the case. He was about to

destroy the whole Jewish polity, and reign gloriously among the

Gentiles. Hence he mentions the case of the general deluge, and

the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As if he had said: "The

coming of this kingdom shall be as fatal to you as the deluge was

to the old world, and as the fire and brimstone from heaven were

to Sodom and Gomorrah." Our Lord states that this kingdom of

heaven was within them, i.e. that they themselves should be the

scene of these desolations, as, through their disobedience and

rebellion, they possessed the seeds of these judgments.

See Clarke on Mt 3:2.

Verse 21. Lo here! or, lo there!] Perhaps those Pharisees

thought that the Messiah was kept secret, in some private place,

known only to some of their rulers; and that by and by he should

be proclaimed in a similar way to that in which Joash was by

Jehoiada the priest. See the account, 2Ch 23:1-11.

Verse 22. When ye shall desire to see one of the days] As it was

our Lord's constant custom to support and comfort the minds of his

disciples, we cannot suppose that he intimates here that they

shall be left destitute of those blessings necessary for their

support in a day of trial. When he says, Ye shall desire to see

one of the days of the Son of man, he either means, ye of this

nation, ye Jews, and addresses his disciples as if they should

bear witness to the truth of the declaration; intimating that

heavy calamities were about to fall upon them, and that they

should desire in vain to have those opportunities of returning to

God which now they rejected; or, he means that such should the

distressed state of this people be, that the disciples would

through pity and tenderness desire the removal of those

punishments from them, which could not be removed because the cup

of their iniquity was full. But the former is more likely to be

the sense of the place.

Verse 23. And they shall say] Or, And IF they shall say. Two

MSS., the Syriac and Armenian, have εαν, IF.

See here] KM, sixteen others, and the later Syriac, have ο

χριστος, Behold the Christ is here. This is undoubtedly the

meaning of the place. See Clarke on Mt 24:23.

Verse 24. As the lightning, that lighteneth] See this

particularly explained, Mt 24:27, 28.

Verse 25. But first must he suffer many things] As the cup of

the iniquity of this people shall not be full till they have

finally rejected and crucified the Lord of life and glory, so this

desolation cannot take place till after my death.

Verse 26. As it was in the days of Noe] See Clarke on Mt 24:38.

Verse 27. They did eat, they drank, &c.] They spent their whole

lives in reference to this world; and made no sort of provision

for their immortal souls. So it was when the Romans came to

destroy Judea; there was a universal carelessness, and no one

seemed to regard the warnings given by the Son of God.

Verse 29. It rained fire and brimstone] Instead of it rained,

Ge 19:24 justifies the insertion of the pronoun

he, as implied in the verb εβρεξε; for it is there said that

Jehovah rained fire and brimstone from Jehovah out of heaven.

Verse 31. He which shall be upon the housetop] See this

explained on Mt 24:17.

Verse 32. Remember Lot's wife.] Relinquish every thing, rather

than lose your souls. She looked back, Ge 19:26; probably she

turned back also to carry some of her goods away-for so much the

preceding verse seems to intimate, and became a monument of the

Divine displeasure, and of her own folly and sin. It is a proof

that we have loved with a criminal affection that which we leave

with grief and anxiety, though commanded by the Lord to abandon

it.

Verse 33. Whosoever shall seek to save his life] These or

similar words were spoken on another occasion. See on

Mt 10:39; 16:25, 26.

Verse 34. - 36. On the subject of these verses see

Mt 24:40, 41. The 36th verse Lu 17:36 is, without doubt,

an interpolation; see the margin. It was probably borrowed from

Mt 24:40. The whole verse is wanting in-ABEGHKLQS, more than

fifty others, the Coptic, AEthiopic, Gothic, Slavonic, and many of

the fathers: Griesbach has left it out of the text. Well might our

translators say in the margin, This 36th verse is wanting in most

of the Greek copies. Griesbach thinks it might have been omitted

on account of the similar ending, (see the preceding verse,) or

that it was borrowed from Mt 24:40.

Verse 37. Where, Lord?] In what place shall all these dreadful

evils fall? The answer our Lord gives in a figure, the application

of which they are to make themselves. Where the dead carcass is,

there will be the birds of prey-where the sin is, there will the

punishment be. See Clarke on Mt 24:28.

Thither will the eagles (or vultures) be gathered together.

The jackal or chakal is a devourer of dead bodies; and the vulture

is not less so: it is very remarkable how suddenly these birds

appear after the death of an animal in the open field, though a

single one may not have been seen on the spot for a long period

before. The following chapter seems to be a continuation of this

discourse: at least it is likely they were spoken on the same

occasion. Both contain truths which the reader should carefully

ponder, and receive in the spirit of prayer and faith, that he may

not come into the same condemnation into which these have fallen.

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