Study Notes

Luke 17:1-19

17:1-2 Stumbling Blocks

The first mention of stumbling blocks in the Bible is in Leviticus 19.

Lev. 19:14 "You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD."

Here "stumbling block" is just that - a literal object that a blind man would stumble over and fall down. Can you imagine how wicked a person would have to be to place a stumbling block in front of a blind man that he would trip over? But somehow, for someone young and immature, it comes very easily. During our elemetary school years, we spend the most time either falling down or trying to make others fall down. Everyone in elementary school seems to fall (no pun intended) into two categories. Either you're a "tripper" or a "trippee".

The tripper is the guy who sticks his leg out in front of you as you're walking down the aisle handing out papers, or as you're running to get one of the good swings. He always gets a good guffaw at your expense.

And the trippee is of course the one on the other side of the tripper's leg. And you'll notice that nobody ever falls down well. You skin your knee, or hit your head, or get "road burn" (gravel imbedded in the palms of your hands). Sometimes you think that laughing might help defer the humiliation, but people laugh at you anyway. Even the most famous trippee of all time, Chevy Chase, ended up addicted to pain killers because all that stumbling and falling really hurts.

Now equate this "tripper/trippee" situation to your walk with God. Because "stumbling block" is also a figure of speech to actions or attitudes that cause someone to trip, fall, or be misdirected in their spritual walk. And just like in elementary school, there are trippers and trippees. What do those trippers shove out in front of the trippees? Not a leg, but an idol. Not a block, but an attitude of iniquity. In Ezekiel, we read that iniquity, inward sin in our hearts and minds, is a stumbling block. The Lord said,

Ezek. 18:30 ..."Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you."

Ezek. 44:12 "Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn against them," declares the Lord GOD, "that they shall bear the punishment for their iniquity."

And Hosea wrote,

Hosea 14:1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.

What can cause you to stumble, to be a trippee? Idolatry, iniquity, and the people, the trippers, who introduce you to these things. Jesus pronounces a woe upon the trippers - those who would cause God's children to stumble in their walk with Him. If there is a person who is causing you to stumble down into the attitudes and actions of the world, they are bringing horrible judgment upon themselves. If you are doing that in another person's life, you are bringing that judgment upon yourself. So don't let anyone stumble you - and don't stumble anyone else.

Wait a minute - could WE actually be "trippers" - those who stumble others? Absolutely. For example, a situation arose in the early church regarding meat that had been sacrificed to idols. You see, many Christians found out that you could go to the local temple of this or that false god, and buy meat really cheap! But other Christians who were weaker in their faith stumbled because of that practice. It caused them to fall into their old practices of going to the temples of the false gods. Aren't we free to go out and buy meat sacrificed to idols? Sure. But Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 8,

1Cor. 8:9-13 But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.

That is the right attitude - if your liberty is causing someone to stumble in their walk with God, give up that liberty! Romans 14 says,

Rom. 14:19-21 ...Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.

"I have the liberty to have a glass of wine with my dinner." "I have the liberty to go to this movie." "I have the liberty to do this, smoke this, read this, listen to this." Often, we are spending so much time defending the practice of our liberty, we are dragging brothers and sisters down into sin. Now there's a reason it's mostly elementary school kids that trip or are tripped: because when we grow up and mature, we get control of ourselves! We recognize the harm we can cause others by tripping them, and realize the way to avoid being tripped up. Let's apply that same grown-up maturity to our walk with Christ!

17:3-10 Rebuke, Forgiveness, Faith, and Duty

This is a difficult teaching to apply, because forgiveness is not something which comes naturally to us, and rebuking is even less palatable to our way of thinking. It is so easy to hold a grudge, to hold onto unforgiveness, and it is so easy to avoid the conflict of a rebuke. But the Lord says we must rebuke, and we must forgive.


Jesus says, "When your brother sins, rebuke him." But none of us like to make waves, do we? None of us like to seem critical or judgmental. But rebuking someone for sin can simply be pointing it out to them in love.

Let's talk for a second about what it does NOT mean. It does not mean criticizing people for everything that you disagree with - we are talking about blatant sin here. Something that you can point out biblically and say, "this is obviously sin - you need to stop that". Jesus also said, "your brother". He is talking about a fellow Christian, not a person who doesn't know the Lord or what He requires of them. And I'll tell you what - there are a couple people in my life that feel free to rebuke me when my speech becomes carnal or critical, or when my attitude needs adjustment. And I love them for it. Proverbs 27 says,

Prov. 27:5 Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.

I can't tell you how much it grieves me when I hear people talking about how "this person in the church lied to me, or hurt me, or let me down, or sinned against me". The first person you need to tell is the Lord. And, after that, if there IS a second person that you tell, it had better be the person that did it to you. It's no one else's business before that. If they don't repent, you follow Jesus' instructions in Matthew 18. If they do repent, than you must forgive them.


Of course we know that we are called to be forgiving, but the difficult part is doing it. Most of us, even when we're willing to try, we don't really even know how to forgive. How can we do it? How can we forgive people when they burn us, when they lie to us, when they let us down, when they hurt us, when they sin against us? The book of Hebrews gives us the answer. It says,

Hebr. 9:22 ...without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

So how's that supposed to help you forgive the person who sins against you? The shedding of blood - your bleeding, not theirs. Obviously, you don't cut yourself and say, "I forgive you." But you spiritually suffer the wrong. Peter wrote in his first epistle,

1Pet. 2:20-24 ...If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

You see, by Jesus' doing right, by His bleeding, by His bearing our sins, we were forgiven and brought into right relationship with Him. And Peter said that Jesus is our example. So by our doing right, by our bleeding, by our bearing others sins upon our bodies, they can be brought into right relationship with us.

Is forgiveness easy? No, it's torture - it's total crucifixion of your flesh. But it is possible, and it is right, and it is required. The Lord commands you to forgive, even if it means doing it seven times a day.

Faith or Obedience?

The disciples' reaction to this teaching on forgiveness was misguided. They wanted to be able to apply the teaching of Jesus to their own lives, but it seemed so difficult. They thought that forgiveness would come simply from having great faith.

Jesus' response is that faith can accomplish many great things, but forgiveness is about obedience, not faith. He then puts it in simple language - since you are servants of God, act like servants of God. Doing what God tells you to is the least that God expects. Jesus said that when a slave does what his master tells him to,

Luke 17:9 "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

Forgiving everyone who sins against you is a commandment from God. And it doesn't take great faith to accomplish it - just a self-sacrificing obedience to do what He's told you to do.

17:11-19 Ten Lepers

Ten men with leprosy called out for Jesus to heal them. He simply told them to go show themselves to the priests. Why would He do that? Did He think that the priests could heal their leprosy? No, He was telling them that they were healed, and to obey the Law of God. In Leviticus 17, God gave the law regarding the leper who was cleansed:

Lev. 14:1-7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper, then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. The priest shall also give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water. As for the live bird, he shall take it, together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field."

So, although there was no cure for leprosy, God made provision for the miraculous healing from it. What is with that strange sacrifice of the two birds - one killed, and the other released? Just like all of the ceremonies of the Law, it is an amazing, prophetic picture. In the ceremony, we see the following happen:

1 - The cleansing ceremony required two birds, cedar wood, a scarlet string, and hyssop.

2 - The first bird was slain in an earthen vessel, so that the blood and water would mix in the vessel.

3 - Then the live bird was fastened to the wood, and with the scarlet string and the hyssop, was dipped into the blood of the first bird.

4 - The leper would be sprinkled 7 times with the blood and water.

5 - The live bird would go free.

As prophecy, these things represent the work of Jesus Christ, in cleansing us from our leprosy, a picture of sin...

1 - These birds, who have come out of the heavens, both represent Jesus Christ, who has come from heaven.

2 - Jesus Christ came to earth in the form of a man, an earthen vessel. Just like the bird, He was slain at the hands of the priests. And just as the blood and water mixed in the vessel, so too, after Jesus had died on the cross,

John 19:34 ...One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.

John wrote in his first epistle,

1John 5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.

3 - Jesus Christ, too, was fastened to the wood of the cross.

The scarlet string, in Genesis 38, marked the first-born. In Joshua 2, the scarlet cord was an escape from death and a mark of deliverance. All three of these descriptions are attributes of Jesus Christ - He is the firstborn from the dead, he is our escape from the second death, and He is our deliverance.

Hyssop was the long-stemmed plant that the Israelites used to apply the slain passover lamb's blood to their doorposts at the points of the cross (Exodus 12). It is also interesting to me that when Jesus was on the cross,

John 19:29-30 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

The bird, the wood, the scarlet string, and the hyssop were all soaked in the blood and water.

4 - Those of us who have been going through the book of Revelation know that the number 7 represents completeness. In sprinkling the leper seven times, he was experiencing a complete cleansing.

1John 1:7 ...The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

All sin is cleansed - we are completely clean.

5 - Then the live bird is released again to the heavens. Jesus Christ, slain in an earthen vessel, His blood completely cleansing us, rose again to heaven, and is alive today.

Where are the 9?

How important it is for us to give thanks and glory for God's blessings and healings in our lives! We learn here that Jesus notices its absence. Often, we don't feel like being thankful. But giving thanks is not to be dependant on our feelings of the moment. David wrote,

Ps. 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness

Asaph wrote,

Ps. 50:14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving...

It is often a sacrifice, a denying of our flesh, a pushing away of the trials and tribulations of the moment, to stop and give thanks to God. I have learned to give thanks to God every time I come before Him with a simple ceremony. In my times of prayer, I do what Psalm 100 commands:

Ps. 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name.

Before saying, "God, cleanse my sin", or "Lord, please meet this need", I give Him thanks for everything that comes to my mind.

1Ths. 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

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