For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. — Luke 17:24
A woman in our congregation, Barbara, has testified many times about how the importance of being ready for Christ’s return was brought vividly to her attention when she was a young girl. One evening her mother, father, and older sister went to a Christian outreach meeting. Barbara was old enough to be left home alone, and her parents told her that they would return before it was late. She was fine with that arrangement, and the evening went by without incident.
As the family’s expected return time drew near, Barbara went out to wait on the front porch. She looked up the road, expecting to see the lights of their approaching car within a few moments. However, the minutes ticked by, one after another. After some time had passed and there still was no sign of her family, Barbara began to get anxious. Then the thought came to her: What if Jesus had come and taken them to Heaven? What if she had been left behind? She knew that she had not given her life to the Lord and if He returned to this earth, she was not ready.
As that thought took shape in her mind, her concern grew. Finally she saw the lights of a car approaching. What a relief! She did not want to appear worried, so she hurried inside the house and sat down with a book in her hand. However, the car continued on by her house. Then she was more worried than ever! This happened several times, and each time her fear increased.
Finally her folks did return, of course. All was well, and her immediate anxiety subsided. However, the Lord was able to use that episode to get Barbara’s attention. Just a few days later, she gave her life to the Lord. And oh, the peace she experienced, knowing that whenever Jesus did return to earth, she was ready!
Luke, along with the other authors of the Gospels and New Testament epistles, recorded that during Jesus’ earthly ministry, He taught on several occasions that He would come back to earth one day. No one knows exactly when Christ’s Second Coming will occur. However, Scripture does provide some details about that event. For example, today’s focus verse indicates that it will take place as quickly as lightning flashes across the sky. Those who are alive and serving God when Christ returns will be instantaneously raptured.
Since we do not know when that day or hour will be, we need to be ready at every moment. Jesus repeatedly instructed His disciples to be prepared for His return, and the Early Church lived in anticipation of that event. Believers of every era are challenged in God’s Word to live in that same state of continual readiness. Are you ready? You can be . . . you must be!
Today’s text covers four distinct teachings of Christ’s earthly ministry. In verses 1-10 of Luke 17, Jesus taught His disciples about forgiveness, faith, and duty; in verses 11-19, He healed ten lepers and used their response to teach about gratitude to God; and in verses 20-37, He taught about the Kingdom of God. In verses 1-8 of chapter 18, He gave a parable related to persistence in prayer.
While Jesus’ instruction regarding how to deal with those who cause offenses (verses 1-4) is applicable to all, it is particularly necessary for Christ’s followers because of their responsibility toward their fellowman. The Greek word translated “offense” in verse 1 is skandalon (from which our English word scandal is derived). It is an immensely strong word which goes beyond an error or misstep that can be recovered from; it means a “trap” or “snare,” and has the sense of spiritual destruction. Jesus was giving a very forceful warning against causing new or weak Christians to falter in their spiritual walk.
Jesus went on to indicate how His followers were to respond to one who trespassed against them: they were to forgive. The disciples evidently were dismayed by Jesus’ stern teaching regarding offenses, and expressed their need by saying to Him, “Increase our faith” (verse 5). Jesus responded by comparing faith to a mustard seed, indicating that although it is small, it is alive and has potential for growth.
The brief parable recounted in verses 7-10 does not relate directly to Jesus’ preceding teaching, but is a part of a theme (which began with chapter 13) of opposition to the teachings of the Pharisees. The parable points out that there is no merit in works; tasks for the Master are simply the duty of servants. For that reason, the follower of God should not commend himself regarding what he does in the service of God.
The lepers who met Jesus as He approached a village “stood afar off” (verse 12) in accordance with Mosaic Law which prohibited such individuals from living in populated places (see Leviticus 13:46).
Jesus’ instruction for the ten to show themselves to the priests was also in accord with the Law (see Leviticus 14:2-7). The fact that Jesus used the plural form “priests” in verse 14 could indicate that the leprous men were originally from different areas. When they stepped out in obedience and faith before seeing any visible change in their physical condition, healing occurred. However, only one of the ten returned to give thanks. The fact that Luke called attention to his ethnicity — according to verse 16, he was a Samaritan — highlights an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that Luke frequently emphasized: the Lord had compassion for all, even those who were despised by society. In verse 19, Jesus’ comment that “thy faith hath made thee whole” undoubtedly referred to spiritual wholeness, as the man who gave thanks had already been healed of his leprosy.
Jesus’ teaching concerning the Kingdom of God in verses 20-37 was precipitated by an aggressive question from the Pharisees, who “demanded” to know when the Kingdom of God would come. These religious leaders believed the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom, overthrow Roman authority, and make the Jews the rulers of the world. Since Jesus had not done this, the Pharisees seemingly assumed that He would be forced to admit He was not the Messiah. Jesus responded by turning to His disciples and teaching about the true nature of the Kingdom of God.
The parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) was a continuation of the previous discourse. At other occasions as well, Jesus taught the importance of persevering in prayer, but in this instance, He used a form of logic that moved from the least to the greatest. The point was this: if an unscrupulous and unwilling judge ultimately dispensed justice because of persistent petitions, how much more could they depend upon a good and loving God to answer prayer, even though at times the answer seemed to be delayed!
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VI. The instruction of the Son of Man
D. Instructions concerning the Kingdom of God
2. Instructions concerning the nature of those in the Kingdom
b. Instructions before the disciples
(2) Concerning offences and forgiveness (17:1-10)
3. Instructions concerning the coming of the Kingdom
a. The background (17:11-19)
b. The inquiry and response about the Kingdom (17:20-21)
c. The instructions about the Kingdom (17:22-18:8)
(1) Concerning His coming (17:22-37)
(a) The nature of His coming (17:22-24)
(b) The prerequisite for His coming (17:25)
(c) The suddenness of His coming (17:26-37)
 Various examples (17:26-29)
 Vivid description (17:30-37)
(2) Concerning the necessity of prayer (18:1-8)
The exact timing of the return of Christ to this earth is unknown, but the fact that it will happen is certain. We need to be ready!