Sunday, May 23, 2010



As we continue in this study of Jesus and the kingdom in Luke we come to Luke 17.

Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

Things that cause people to stumble are inevitable. These are traps that are continually set in your path. However the worst trap or temptation is when one person causes another to stumble. Jesus mentions "little ones" here which could mean new believers or literally children. I believe He is speaking of the insignificant, those who don't stand out as leaders-the "little" and "powerless" people of our society.

The punishment is severe-to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Each household had a small stone mill to grind grain into flower. Obviously, you would surely drown with this heavy millstone around your neck. NOTE He says that it would be better to be punished in this way (with a millstone around your neck). In other words, you deserve worse than this, if you cause the "little" ones to stumble.

Then Jesus turns the attention toward what happens when a person sins against you: "If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them."

Did you get that? When a brother or sister sins against you, call them on it. If they "repent" or have a change of heart, admitting that they were wrong, then you are to forgive them. BUT on top of that, if they sin against you seven times in one day, then you are to come back to them seven times and forgive them! The disciples' response is interesting:

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."

Wow, Jesus, if we are going to practice this kind of response toward those who sin against us then we need a large amount of faith. Jesus quickly points out to them that they only need faith as small as a mustard seed and you will be able to do miraculous things. I think this is because it isn't the amount of faith, but the object of the faith that matters. So, you have more than enough faith to be effective. Then Jesus goes into a story:

In these first 10 verses of Luke 17 it's as if Jesus is setting forth a list of spiritual qualities we are to embrace in the kingdom-a quality of spiritual life that doesn't cause others to stumble, a community that knows how to forgive and get along, a faith that is powerful and now, HUMILITY.

You see, we exist to serve God, and not vice-versa. It was inappropriate for slaves to feed themselves before they fed their master, no matter how hungry they were. God promises to meet our needs, but that's not the main point. We are not to view ourselves as God serving us-"What have you done for me lately, Lord?" But, we are to gratefully take on the responsibility of serving God. We don't work for God in an advisory capacity. He is God and we are not! We are not to be looking for God's praise or blessing because we serve Him. He is our God and we are to be His servants.

These four qualities are part of what makes up lifestyle in the kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of man. If you are a follower of Jesus, the King, then you must seek to embrace the kingdom lifestyle that goes along with it. This is not a system of do's and don'ts, but a lifestyle that you will discover is most meaningful and fulfilling.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, when He said, "All of you who are weary and burdened down, come to Me." Or, my favorite paraphrase of that same message is: "The Lord says, 'this is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom.'"

That's the joy of embracing the lifestyle of the kingdom! Have you tasted of that yet?