|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:1-10 It is no abatement of their guilt by whom an offence comes, nor will it lessen their punishment that offences will come. Faith in God's pardoning mercy, will enable us to get over the greatest difficulties in the way of forgiving our brethren. As with God nothing is impossible, so all things are possible to him that can believe. Our Lord showed his disciples their need of deep humility. The Lord has such a property in every creature, as no man can have in another; he cannot be in debt to them for their services, nor do they deserve any return from him.
Verses 7, 8. - But which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by-and-by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? And here we have the Lord's answer to his disciples' request to increase their faith. They were asking for a boon he would not, nay, could not, grant them yet. A small measure of real faith was sufficient to teach them that God would give them strength enough to keep themselves from committing this offence against love and charity of which he warned them so solemnly; but they prayed for more. "They were asking for faith, not only in a measure sufficient for obedience, but for a faith which would exclude all uncertainty and doubt. They were looking for the crown of labour before their work was done, for the wreath of the conqueror before they had fought the battle... In other words, the 'increase of faith' 'for which the apostles prayed was only to come through obedience to their Master's will" (Dean Plumptre). The little parable was to teach them that they were not to look to accomplishing great things by a strong faith given to them in a moment of time, but they were to labour on patiently and bravely, and afterwards, as in the parable-story, they too should eat and drink. It was to show them that in the end they should receive that higher faith they prayed for, which was to be the reward for patient, gallant toil. And gird thyself, and serve me. It is scarcely wise, as we have before remarked, to press each separate detail of the Lord's parables. Zeller, quoted by Stier," makes, however, an application of this to the 'inner world of the heart,' in which there is no going straightway to sit down at table when a man comes from his external calling and sphere of labour, but we must gird ourselves to serve the Lord, and so prepare ourselves for the time when he will receive us to his supper." This is interesting, but it is doubtful if the Lord intended these special applications. The general sense of the parable is clear. It teaches two things to all who would be, then or in the ages to come, his disciples - patience and humility. It reminds men, too, that his service is an arduous one, and that for those really engaged in it it not only brings hard toil in the fields during the day, but also further duties often in the evening-tide. There is no rest for the faithful and true servant of Jesus, and this restless work must be patiently gone through, perhaps for long years.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But which of you having a servant ploughing,.... In order to keep the disciples humble in the performance of such miraculous works; and that they might not imagine they could have any thing at the hands of God by merit; and to excite them to go on from one duty to another; and never think they have done, or done enough, or more than what is their duty, Christ delivers the following parable.
Which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle; or "sheep", as the Syriac and Persic versions render it; or a "ploughman", or a "shepherd", as the Ethiopic version; which are both servile works, and done in the field: not that the disciples had any such servants under them, though the words are directed to them, for they had left all, and followed Christ; nor were they brought up to husbandry, but most of them in the fishing trade; Christ only puts this for instance, and supposes such a case:
will say unto him by and by; or straightway, immediately, directly,
when he is come from the field; and has done ploughing, and feeding his cattle, sheep, or cows, or whatever they are; as soon as ever he comes home; or "first", as the Persic version; the first thing he shall say to him, upon his return from thence,
go; to the other side of the room, and to the table there ready spread, and furnished; or "go up", as the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it; go up to the upper room where they used to dine or sup; see Luke 22:12 or "come in", as the Persic version renders it; and which some learned men observe, is the sense of the Greek word here used; come into the house,
and sit down to meat? or fall, and lie down on the couch, as was the custom in those countries at eating.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7-10. say unto him by and by—The "by and by" (or rather "directly") should be joined not to the saying but the going: "Go directly." The connection here is: "But when your faith has been so increased as both to avoid and forgive offenses, and do things impossible to all but faith, be not puffed up as though you had laid the Lord under any obligations to you."
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