Introduction: I receive a senior adult newsletter from a Sunday School class in North Carolina. A woman who read one of my books and made a contact with me edits it. She sends it with a cover letter, and for the last few months her cover letter has contained updates about her battle with cancer. The June edition came this week, and I want to read you a little of what she said in her cover letter:
Having a terminal illness will cause you to check up on your life and see where you stand before a holy God—and that is how it should be…. I know I am forgiven of my sins and I know where I am going the second my last breath is taken here on earth. Death isn’t an ending for me; it is an open door straight into the Presence of God… My timeline is getting closer now. Though I don’t know when, I do know my earthly time is passing quickly. This world is losing its hold on me more every day. Its importance and daily activities with the hustle and bustle just isn’t important anymore… I am getting to where my concentration and short-memory isn’t so good… Other things are going downhill as well. I may not be able to write much of a cover letter a little later, and someone else will be doing the senior paper without my help soon. So I wanted to be sure I say what the most important thing in life is to me while I have the opportunity…”
And she went on to appeal to her readers to receive Jesus as Savior. Well, in Luke 17, Jesus was getting closer to the cross and He did not have a lot of remaining time. He was still en route from Galilee to Judea, still on His way to Jerusalem. In this chapter, He articulated several attitudes that seemed very important for living with little time left. Think of this chapter as a manual on how we should live if we only had a few months remaining in life. Notice that Jesus tended to say things in the extreme in this passage. He was trying to pound some important truths into our heads. One commentator says that in this chapter Jesus was giving “miscellaneous advice” to His disciples. He covered a number of topics as they walked along the roadways of Samaria. There doesn’t seem to be one single tread that links the paragraphs of chapter 17 together, except for our Lord’s conversing with His disciples in light of upcoming events.
1. Don’t Be Unforgiving (v. 1-4). Is there anything in your life that could adversely affect the spiritual life of another person, especially of a young person? (“These little ones”-v. 2; could also refer to new or weak Christians). Jesus said in a very blunt way, it would be better to drown than to lead someone else into sin. And furthermore if your buddy sins, don’t follow him into sin; rather rebuke him (v. 3). If he confesses, forgive him and resume your fellowship with him. If he doesn’t repent, than you might need to find another friend. But in any event, don’t hold to sin or to grudges, and learn to be a quick forgiver.
2. Don’t Be Unbelieving (v. 5-6). Perhaps the disciples were taken back by the Lord’s teachings. They said, “If we’re going to live like that, we need more faith.” Jesus replied that mustard-sized faith could move mountains. That assumes, of course, that it is God’s will for the mountain to be moved. The point Jesus is making is that it’s not the size of our faith that matters as much as the object of our faith. It’s like the old illustration of walking across ice. You can have lots of faith, but if the ice is thin you’ll fall into the water. But if the ice is thick, you might be nervous with a weak faith, yet you can venture all the way across the lake because the object of your faith is solid. How much better when both the size and the object of our faith are steadfast, allowing us to skate with joy!
3. Don’t Be Unprofitable (v. 7-10). In this parable, Jesus told of a servant who worked hard, yet received little affirmation. Likewise, said Christ, when we have done all we have been commanded to do, we have only done our duty. This is a wonderful attitude-balancer. Whenever we’re prone to get a little proud of some accomplishment, we just need to remember that no matter what we do, we are unprofitable servants who have only done our duty. God alone makes us profitable for His kingdom.
4. Don’t Be Ungrateful (v. 11-19). Now Luke relates a particular incident that happened in the regions of Samaria as Jesus continued His journey to Jerusalem. Ten lepers met Him, and He healed them. But only one came back to say “Thank you.” It was a living lesson in how easily we can take Him for granted and live unthankful lives.
5. Don’t Be Unready (v. 20-37). Recently there was a crackpot who announced that Jesus would come on a certain day. The danger in this kind of heresy is that it will trivialize the entire truth of the Second Coming of Christ. In this passage, Jesus pointed His followers to the future, to His return and a time of judgment. He compared our age to the age of Noah (a flood was coming on the earth) and the days of Lot (when fire was falling from heaven). Our world is closer to judgment than we realize, and like Noah and Lot we live in decadent times but we’re placed here as a warning to the world.
Conclusion: I’m always happy when I can find a logical link between paragraphs so that everything in a chapter or passage ties into a single theme. But in this chapter, I like the miscellaneous nature of the content. It’s as though we’re walking along with Jesus as He rambles over a series of topics, each of them aimed at a different aspect of our attitude. Taken together, they tell us how to be Last Days People.