God’s Word for You
Luke 17:11 on the borderland
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, November 12, 2018
11 Now on the way to Jerusalem he was going along the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee.
At this point, it seems as if Luke was thinking of the arrangement of his book. Having a few more accounts from Jesus’ life selected from the sources he investigated (Luke 1:3), he was not certain of where some of them fell in Jesus’ years of ministry. This, I think, is the material we have from this point until Luke 18:34. There the story progresses as it does in the other Gospels from Jericho to the Triumphal Entry (Palm Sunday), the days of Holy Week ending with the crucifixion and the resurrection. Some of the parables in this section Luke groups together as Matthew does, but in a different order.
The seven stories that make up this part of the Gospel are grouped in a pattern that fits a logical and pastoral order. Whether or not they are chronological doesn’t matter.
1, The healing of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), showing that salvation is for all and not just for the Jews.
2, The sermon on the coming of the kingdom (Luke 17:20-37) teaches both the crucifixion and the second coming on judgment day.
3, The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) promises justice and salvation for all who put their faith in him.
4, The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) teaches us not to be confident of our own righteousness, but to repent and trust in Jesus alone.
5, The invitation to the little children (Luke 18:15-17) teaches us that faith is a gift offered to everyone.
6, The interview of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) teaches us not to love our possessions, but to seek the one thing necessary: Christ himself.
7, Finally, Jesus predicts his death once again (Luke 18:31-34), reminding us of the importance of the crucifixion over every other event in the history of the world. It is the Event that gave to God satisfaction, paying for our sins.
This first incident happened sometime during the Lord’s final trip to Jerusalem. Jesus was skirting “the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee,” before he went through Perea. These were towns that were probably avoided by many Jews. Jesus was traveling, it seems, along a line beginning in the west near Joppa (Jonah 1:3), continuing through the new city of Antipatris (Acts 23:31), which was built by Herod the Great on the ancient site of Aphek (Joshua 13:4; 1 Samuel 4:1). From there the border curved in an arc bending a little south and then north again to pass close to Shiloh, which was always associated with the northern kingdom and then Samaria (1 Kings 14:4; Jeremiah 41:5).
Why did Jesus travel through this place, on the border between Israel and Israel’s enemies, the Samaritans? It can only be because of his mercy. He had compassion on the people of Samaria and wanted to come into contact with some of them so that his Gospel of forgiveness and the coming of the Kingdom of God would be preached in their country, too.
The grace of God is a certainty for us, and Jesus wanted the Samaritans to have the same confident faith. Our Confession states: “In order to make hope sure and to distinguish between those who are saved and those who are not, we must hold that we are saved through mercy. Unless it is qualified, this statement seems absurd. In courts of human judgment a right or debt is certain, while mercy is uncertain. The judgment of God is another thing altogether. Here mercy has God’s clear and certain promise and his command” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, IV,345). “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:17-18).
Many of us are Gentiles by birth. Christ loved us, too, and offered the gospel even to us. Praise God for Jesus’ example, reaching across borders and reaching out to outsiders, so that his merciful grace has come even to us, even to me and you.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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