I have read Matthew far more than I have read Luke, so at first, Luke 17 sounded like a bad compilation of stories. Then I re-read it, and began to see the theme running through, like pearls strung together in a necklace.
Do not make your brother stumble – confront his sin and forgive him every time. It is so comforting that God is like this, always forgiving our sins. No matter how often we repent in a day.
The apostles weren’t sure they could forgive that often – increase our faith! Jesus reminded them that it only takes a little real faith to make things happen. God is so powerful, He can use our stumbles to move in mighty ways.
Jesus tells the story of the “job description” – servants are not rewarded for doing what they are required to do. While forgiving people seems to be difficult to us, it is something God considers a normal part of our relationship to Him. While faith seems like it is hard to pursue, it is a basic action in our life with God.
Luke records the story of the ten lepers next. Jesus gives them instructions, and they all carry them out, but only one goes the extra step to say “thanks”. He went beyond what was required, and Jesus was amazed: it was a Samaritan who had more faith!
Luke finishes with a question by the Pharisees: when will the kingdom of God come? Jesus, You keep talking about this kingdom. How do we know it’s coming? Jesus tells them that it is not going to be plainly obvious, but it would be, “in the midst of you.” (This might be an allusion to Acts 2 if you want to jump ahead!) Jesus describes the days of the Son of Man (referring to Himself). This may refer to His return to earth known as the “Second Coming,” or it may refer to His coming rejection, death, burial, and resurrection.
Faith is not something that is easy to see. Yet it so characterizes lives that they change direction and steer along a path that is counter-intuitive. I do not fully understand this chapter, but I have come away with this question: what is my faith like? Am I giving God what is required of me, or running back to say “thanks” and starting a relationship? How am I representing the kingdom of God? I pray that we all find changes in our lives from the answers to these queries.