Concerning Offenses, Faith, and Service.
^C Luke XVII.1-10.
^c 1 And he said unto the disciples [Jesus here ceases to speak to the Pharisees, and begins a new series of sayings addressed to the disciples, which sayings are, however, pertinent to the occasion, and not wholly disconnected with what he has just been saying], It is impossible [in a world where Pharisees abound, etc. -- I. Cor. xi.19] but that occasions of stumbling should come; but woe unto him, through whom they come! [See page 432.] 2 It were well for him if a millstone [not the large millstone mentioned by Matthew and Mark, but the small one which was turned by hand] were hanged about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones [beginners in the faith, or weaklings -- Rom. xiv.1] to stumble. [See page 432.] 3 Take heed to yourselves [our dangers are not overpassed when we avoid giving offenses, for it is also required of us that we should forgive the evils which we receive]: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. [Righteousness has its obligation to rebuke as well as love has to forgive.] 4 And if he sin against thee seven times in the day [a general expression indicating a great number of times], and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. [See p.437. The passage differs from that in Matthew in that the repentance of the sinner is required as a condition precedent to forgiveness.] 5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. [The apostles asked for faith that they might be able to fulfill the great moral requirements which Jesus had just revealed. Our Lord sanctions the wisdom of their prayer by showing the greatness of faith.] 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea; and it would obey you. [See pp.424, 426. "The only real power of the universe," says Godet, "is the divine will. The human will, which has discovered the secret of blending with this force of forces, is raised, in virtue of this union, to omnipotence." But our distance from omnipotence measures how far we are from attaining that desired union of will. The sycamine tree is the well-known black mulberry tree, which belongs to the same natural order as the fig-tree, and is a tree distinguished for being deeply rooted.] 7 But who is there of you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straightway and sit down to meat; 8 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? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? 10 Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. [In this passage, which is in the nature of a parable, Jesus teaches that duty is coextensive with ability, and explodes the doctrine that it is possible for a man to do "works of supererogation." Since in God's sight no man can even do his full duty (Ps. cxliii.2), it is impossible that he can do more than his duty. We may be rewarded for the discharge of our duty, but the reward is of grace and not of merit. Compare Luke xii.3-48. The theme is no doubt suggested by verse 6. When one's faith endows him with great gifts he need not consider himself as an unusually profitable servant for he can do no more than it is his duty to do. Godet denies this connection with verse 6, contending that miracles are not among "the things that are commanded" in the terms of verse 10; but miracles were commanded, and for those who could bestow it, a gift of healing was as much an obligation as a gift of alms (Matt. x.8; Acts iii.1-6). The paragraph is a fitting close to a discourse so much of which relates to Phariseeism.]