Some Words for the Disciples

Luke 17:1-10

This is an odd passage because Jesus, who has been addressing Pharisees and teachers of the law now, turns to His disciples again with some instruction that might not quite seem to fit the situation… Yet other than turning once again and speaking to the Twelve, the scene hasn’t changed. Jesus has just gone through a series of parables with the Pharisees about the condition of the heart. There have been various themes and examples; the love of money, corruption, putting God first, and the response in heaven to a sinner’s repentance…

And now this.

The first part is Jesus warning His disciples that believers must not cause one another to fall into sin (17:1-3a). Then He quickly tells them that they must forgive others who might sin against them. Even seven times in a day, if they repent, we must forgive (17:3b-4). We might conclude that Jesus is implying that our failure to forgive would cause others to sin. This if followed by the disciples’ reaction to 17:1-4…

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (17:5)

Do you see how this fits together? This is a part of a long and flowing narrative that began back in Chapter 14; this passage is not four separate items, it is one conversation, an aside really, in a very large narrative all on one occasion. Jesus has just been telling the Pharisees about how heaven rejoices more at the repentance of one sinner, than for all of the righteous, so great is God’s love for His children. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and tells them they must never cause even one of God’s “little children” to fall into sin. By implication we can add “like the Pharisees and teachers of the law do”. Then He tells them they must forgive, something the Pharisees and teachers of the law are not really known for doing, and then they ask for more faith: Apparently this sounded difficult to them.

Jesus tells a couple of parables to clarify the point He has just made:

The first one (17:6) is quite short, and the upshot is that they already have all the faith they need. Hold that thought…

Now He speaks of a master and a servant (17:7-10). The Master gives instructions to the servant, the servant does his job. In the process of His telling, Jesus makes it quite clear that the servant does his job because it is not his place to tell the Master how things are to be done. Jesus is the Master, the disciples are the servants, they have their instructions and all the faith they need to carry them out. They have received God’s great favor, they will soon receive His grace, and they will show this grace to those around them, for this is the way of love.

It is also quite a contrast to the ways of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

The scene ends on this note, but as Luke continues his story, Jesus will be showing the disciples what He has been talking about…

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