Our reading today continues the teachings of Jesus while at the house of the Pharisee (see 14:1). After the parables of the previous chapters that contrast Israel with the spiritual people of God, Jesus again addresses His disciples (17:1). He speaks about the responsibility we have to each other. We are not to place stumbling blocks before each other (vv. 1-2), we are to call out sin in each other and encourage repentance (v. 3), and always be ready to forgive (v. 4). The Apostles recognize their reliance on God to be able to do this and ask Jesus for greater faith (v. 5). Jesus responds by telling them that they don’t need a great faith to do great things (v. 6). Rather, what they need is obedience (vv. 7-10).
Jesus then leaves the house of the Pharisee and heads for Jerusalem, where He will enter the next day. In the cleansing of the ten lepers (vv. 11-19), we are usually told that the point is gratitude. And while Jesus does indeed comment on the nine that do not come back to thank Him (v. 17), the point is really that out of the ten, it was the foreigner (a Samaritan!) that displayed faith in Jesus (vv. 18-19). A literal translation of verse 19 would be, “your faith has saved you.”
Verse 20 and 21 are unique to Luke. Jesus is asked by Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. The Pharisees would be thinking of a political Messiah who would reign visibly in Israel. Jesus corrects their understanding. The kingdom would be inaugurated with Jesus’s completed work – His death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit. There would not yet be a visible reign, but a spiritual reign. That is why the kingdom of God, according to Jesus is (literally) within or inside of those of the kingdom.
Jesus then moves on to expound the work He was about to do. He would be going away (v. 22). And when He comes again and the kingdom is made visible, there will be no question about it (vv. 23-24). But before that can happen, He has to be rejected and crucified (v. 25). Then, at the appointed time, there will be some suddenly saved (as Noah, who prepared for many years for the appointed time, was saved before destruction fell on others – vv. 26-27) and others suddenly destroyed (like Sodom, who lived wickedly until their destruction – v. 29). But in the meantime, those who seek salvation must not turn back to their old way of life (vv. 31-32). Rather, we are to give up everything in this world in favor of the world to come (v. 33). Those “taken” in verses 34-35 refer to the judged, as is evidenced by the corpse (v. 37 – see Rev 19:17-21).
In chapter 18, Jesus again focuses on prayer. This time, He is still speaking in the context of the final salvation of the elect. The point of the Parable of the Persistent Widow (18:1-8) is that God’s people should not cease to pray for His coming (see 11:2). Will Christ find us so doing at His return (v. 8)? Jesus then returns to the idea of self-righteousness in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (vv. 9-14). Even in their prayers, the self-righteous reveal their hearts, whereas the repentant and humble prayer leads to salvation. Jesus then holds up the children as an example of humility (vv. 15-17).
The account of the rich young ruler (vv. 18-29) is paralleled in Matthew and Mark. However, here it is meant as a juxtaposition to the account of Zacchaeus (which is unique to Luke – 19:1-9). Zacchaeus responds properly, where the rich young ruler did not That is why Zacchaeus is saved and a true son of Abraham (19:9). When Jesus again predicts His coming death and resurrection, Luke pints out that understanding was still hidden from the disciples (18:34).
The Parable of the Ten Minas (vv. 12-27) is a loose parallel of Matthew 25:14-30. Here, however, Luke tells us that Jesus tells this parable because He was approaching Jerusalem and because some of His followers had the same misconception about the Messiah as the Pharisees (17:20). The point of the parable is what we do in the time between Christ’s two comings and what it says about our spiritual state. It is important that His disciples understand that there is a gap between the inauguration of the kingdom and the consummation of the kingdom, especially since He knew what was going to happen next.
The Triumphal Entry parallels the accounts in Matthew and Mark. Luke includes an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees (vv.39-40). This again shows the contrast between the physical people of God and the spiritual people of God. Jesus’s remark about the stones (v. 40) shows a fulfillment of what John the Baptist said in 3:8. Jesus then again laments over Jerusalem (vv. 41-44 – see 13:34). Jesus here predicts the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Rome in 70 A.D. The stone reference may also have a metaphorical meaning (as in, there will be no believers in Israel), as that event will mark the end of the physical nation because of their rejection of Christ.
The cleansing of the Temple (vv. 45-48), the challenge by the religious leaders (20:1-8) and the Parable of the Wicked Tenants are paralleled in Matthew and Mark. The exception is the response of the religious leaders (v. 16) who understand that this is about them (v. 19). The rest of chapter 20 has parallels in Matthew and Mark.