Chapter seventeen is a compendium of several topics ranging from forgiveness, faith, and duty at the beginning to end times prophecy at the end. Luke did not intend to offer a timeline for these events; rather, he wanted to include them before approaching Passion Week in chapter 19.
In verses 1-4, Jesus taught that there is no limit to forgiving one’s brother when he repents. However, contrary to much modern Christian thinking, Jesus also insisted that sin should be rebuked and that causing a brother to stumble into sin is a serious offense. All of these are repeated throughout the apostolic letters and must be heeded even today. Verses 5-6 offer a short statement on how much could be accomplished if done in faith. On the other hand, from the perspective of being God’s servants, verses 7-10 imply that it does not take a lot of faith to obey God’s clear commands. As much as serving God can be a joy, and he has certainly promised rewards for those who serve faithfully, there is a sense that we obey simply because we should, even when it is not glamorous or joyful. Faithful service, at its core, is about God, not us.
Throughout this gospel, we have seen that Doctor Luke loved the healing miracles, emphasized Jesus’ compassion, and pointed out when Jesus included non-Jews in his ministry. The account in verses 11-19 includes all three. On his way to Jerusalem to offer himself and die, Jesus stopped to heal a group of lepers near Samaria. Although all ten of them were healed that day, only one – a Samaritan – turned around to thank Jesus for getting his life back. The fact that he was praising God for healing prompted Jesus to say that his faith had delivered him that day. We must take this to mean delivered both physically and spiritually.
In the final section, verses 20-37, Jesus gave a short teaching prompted by a question about when the kingdom would come. Some have taken verse 21 to mean that the kingdom is only a spiritual entity, residing in believers. However, the Pharisees believed the Messiah would bring the kingdom with him when he came. Because Jesus had already spent a few years identifying himself as the Messiah and offering his kingdom, their question was basically, “If you know so much, tell us when the Messiah will come and bring his kingdom.” His response was to point to himself again: “I’m here, but you have rejected me.”
The teaching on the coming kingdom was not to the unbelieving Pharisees but “to the disciples” (vs. 22). Jesus taught that a physical kingdom was still to come, and because specific signs would precede it, they should not allow themselves to be led astray by false prophets or false messiahs. Only after the Tribulation judgments on Israel and the unbelieving world will Jesus return to establish his kingdom. Matthew, Paul, John (in the Revelation), and the Hebrew prophets contain much more detail than Luke on this topic.