In this passage Jesus teaches his disciples principles that are entwined in the Lord’s Prayer. He discloses to them the plain truth and power of every soul which is surrendered to him, as well as the dangers and duty of our position in Christ.
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Section 117c | Four Lessons on Discipleship
1 He said to the disciples,1 “It is impossible2 that no occasions of stumbling3 should come, but woe to him through whom they come!4¯5 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Be careful. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.6 4 If he sins against you seven times in the day, and seven times returns, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”7 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”8 6 The Lord said,“If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree,9 ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 But who is there among you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say when he comes in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down at the table,’ 8 and will not rather tell him, ‘Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not. 10 Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.’ ”10
- How well have you headed the four lessons for disciples: faithfulness, forgiveness, authority, and duty?
- What temptations have weakened and undone your own life and the ministries, churches, friends you’ve known? What potential do you see in them? What then can or should be done?
- How are you measuring up as His disciple? What changes do you need to make? Do you need certain freedom from any bondage, authority over any temptation, or reconciliation with Christ or a neighbor? What areas of your life need to be surrendered to the Lordship of Christ?
- How has God particularly equipped you to carry out the duty of every disciple?
Learning Objectives: Love, forgiveness, Lordship, surrender, spiritual authority, faithfulness, Christian duty.
- When we look at the preceding chapters in Luke and the chronology in the Harmony of the Gospels, we see that Jesus offered this lesson in the context of the meal in Perea in which the Pharisees and teachers in the Synagogue were murmuring about Jesus association with sinners and tax collectors (Sections 116, 117a and 117b). Jesus is repeating a lesson which he had provided them various times: Matthew 18:7 and its parallel passages as seen in Section 91 and Luke 12:35-48, Section 108c.
- The word is inadmissible, unallowable – and its a “genitive articular infinitive” – but its more easily understood in other translations such as the Message which reads: ““Hard trials and temptations are bound to come, but too bad for whoever brings them on!”
- The Greek word used here is skandalon, used also for the stick that springs a box trap. CR Song of Solomon 2:15; 1 Peter 5:8; Eph 6:10-20.
- Temptation tests the faith of true disciples and it can be the undoing of those whose confidence is in the flesh. When we succumb to its wiles or tolerate its authority it brings upon both the disciple and the commoner reproach, persecution, heresies, and what is worse – sometimes bondage to evil forces and the lies they spin which further ensnare the soul by the mind of the Christian who has not understood, surrendered, believed, and relied upon the authority of Christ. CR: 2 Ths 2:10-12;
- God said that to the seven churches (Rev 2; Rev 3) that He knew their works, and the challenges they were facing. Paul’s wrote letters to various congregations in other cities facing other troubles. John Walvoord wrote in The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1989): “Many expositors believe that in addition to the obvious implication of these messages the seven churches represent the chronological development of church history viewed spiritually. They note that Ephesus seems to be characteristic of the Apostolic Period in general and that the progression of evil climaxing in Laodicea seems to indicate the final state of apostasy of the church. The order of the messages to the churches seems to be divinely selected to give prophetically the main movement of church history”.
- And what of the person who does not repent or ask for forgiveness? Forgive them too, as the Father has forgiven you by the authority of the substitutionary sacrifice which Jesus offered. Think of it as a loving parent does for their own young child who does wrong. Would they hold a grudge against them if they never repented or asked for forgiveness? No. Let us love one another then, for God is Love.
- This is a hard lesson. It places the responsibility for reconciliation on every disciple, and when met with failure then the forgiveness not judgement. NT scholar David Guzik wrote “If someone seems ripe for the judgment or discipline of God, let God do it. Get out of the way. God doesn’t need you as an instrument of His judgment, only as an instrument of His love.”
- Faithfulness and love like this are not within our grasp alone – it takes our surrender to God to master such inward and outward characteristics.
- The Sycamore (mulberry tree) has tremendous root system able to sustain the tree for its entire life (75-100 years). Bitterness and unforgiveness have the potential to stay with you and corrupt your relationships for a lifetime. Don’t let it. Exercise your faith not in your own strength or goodness but the goodness of God – who loved us before the world began.
- What is our Christian duty? It is most certainly the Great commission, the equipping of the saints and the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11-21).