International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday May 1, 2016
Purpose: To rest content in the fact that faith serves attentively rather than demands attention
Bible Lesson: Luke 17:1-10
Key Verse: Watch yourselves! If your brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. (Luke 17:3)
Luke 17:1-10 (CEB)
(1) Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause people to trip and fall into sin must happen, but how terrible it is for the person through whom they happen. (2) It would be better for them to be thrown into a lake with a large stone hung around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to trip and fall into sin. (3) Watch yourselves! If your brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. If they change their hearts and lives, forgive them. (4) Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I am changing my ways,’ you must forgive that person.” (5) The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (6) The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (7) “Would any of you say to your servant, who had just come in from the field after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Come! Sit down for dinner’? (8) Wouldn’t you say instead, ‘Fix my dinner. Put on the clothes of a table servant and wait on me while I eat and drink. After that, you can eat and drink’? (9) You won’t thank the servant because the servant did what you asked, will you? (10) In the same way, when you have done everything required of you, you should say, ‘We servants deserve no special praise. We have only done our duty.’”
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
There are a couple of points that need to be made as we look at these verses in Luke. First there is the crowd that is addressed. The followers of Jesus fall into four categories, “the crowds,” “the Disciples” “the Apostles,” “the Twelve.” Many of the crowd were also disciples, a few would be Apostles, that is, those that saw Jesus after the resurrection, and then the twelve that are mentioned by name. We often confuse those disciples that followed Jesus, with the twelve named disciples which are often called the “Twelve.”
The other thing we need to take into consideration when reading these verses is, these verses are a summary of what Jesus has been teaching in the prior chapters.
Unfortunately, I doubt many have heard any sermons based to these verses, because they are sort of contrary to all we have been taught. We have been taught and society sort of teaches that we should be rewarded for doing the right thing. Our lesson and Jesus’ teachings make it plain that there is no privilege that comes from doing what is right or expected.
How we treat our fellow Christians is far more important than any freedoms we think we have because of our faith. While we are all guilty of sin, the sin that causes a brother or sister to fall needs forgiveness. Most of us can accept forgiveness but not all are willing to grant it. How terrible if your words or actions are the cause of someone's failure. We cannot harbor hurts that last beyond forgiveness.
Granting forgiveness to those that have sinned against you is not optional. No matter how many times they ask, our response should always be, “you are forgiven.” There is one caveat, they should show a willingness to change “their hearts and lives” after they have been taught how Christians should act.
So, how is your faith increased? Contrary to the way we tend to think about it, faith is not a spiritually quantifiable asset we can store up and bring to bear on the dire situations we face in life. Even if it were, Jesus’ reply to his apostles is so blunt as to be shocking. It is as if he told his apostles, “You know, it really doesn’t take a lot of faith to do astounding things. Even the tiniest, most imperceptibly small amount of faith is sufficient to do what I just told my disciples I expected of them. But you’re right; you don’t have even that much faith!”
What Jesus says is “It’s not great faith you need; it is faith in a great God.” “If you’re willing to put your faith in me, to trust me, then you’ll accomplish spiritual feats that make avoiding sin and offering forgiveness seem like child’s play.”
Jesus’ final summary statement is a reminder that there is no privileged status in the kingdom of God. Apostles do not receive spiritual perks unavailable to mere disciples. If we believe that our faithful acts, righteous beliefs, biblical wisdom, or spiritual practices are earning for us a divinely preferential treatment or putting God in our debt, we are sadly mistaken. Jesus’ words served as a warning to his apostles (and everyone else who was listening) not to treat faithful service as a means to another end, as some of the religious authorities were (Matthew 23:6-7). Faithful service is its own end. Faithful service is what is expected, and what we should do.
It is, however, as imperative today as it was in Jesus’ day for us to realize that we are not God’s equals, never will be, and cannot act as if we are. Even if we were to spend the rest of our lives following God faithfully, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly before God (Micah 6:8), it would still be the case that the best we could say is, “we have only done our duty.”
There is a hymn that comes to mind and it was my father’s favorite, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”