Summary: "When Duty Calls" is an exposition of Jesus' instructions to his disciples in Luke 17:1-10. This passage teaches that obedience to Jesus requires holy fear, unlimited forgiveness, genuine faith, and total submission.


Luke 17:1-10

On July 4, 1976, Israeli commandos made a daring on the Entebbe International Airport, rescuing 103 Jewish hostages. In 15 minutes, the soldiers killed the seven kidnappers and set the captives free. But three hostages were also killed during Operation Entebbe. As the commandos entered the terminal, they shouted in Hebrew, “Get down! Crawl!” The Jewish hostages understood and dropped to the floor, while the kidnappers were left standing and were shot. But two the hostages hesitated, perhaps to see what was happening, and were also cut down. One young man was lying down and actually stood up when the commandos entered the airport. He, too, was shot with bullets meant for the enemy. Had these three obeyed the soldier’s command, they would have been freed with the rest of the captives.

The kingdom of God has executed a successful raid at the cross, where the atoning blood of Jesus delivered us from the bondage of sin. But the sovereign grace of God that sets us free through Christ also binds us to obedience to Christ. Refusal to obey is alignment with the enemy. Of course, obedience to Christ does not save you, cannot save you. Sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ – plus or minus nothing. But salvation is marked by obedience. We must obey when duty calls. The proper attitude of Christian discipleship resolves, “IF IT IS GOD’S WILL, I WILL!” What does it mean to follow Jesus with a spirit of obedience? According to Luke 17:1-10, obedience to Jesus requires holy fear, unlimited forgiveness, genuine faith, and humble faithfulness.


Luke 17 begins with bad news. Verse 1 says: “And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come.” Temptations to sin or “offenses” are things that cause others to fall into sin or fall away from God. It is to cause someone to stumble because of your behavior, statements, attitudes, or lifestyle. Christians may say and do things that cause others to stumble. Jesus says that these temptations to sin are inevitable. Nothing can stop them from happening. They are an undeniable reality of our fallen human nature. There goes your dream of finding a perfect church! It is impossible that no offenses should come. But the consequences of these offenses are grave. Jesus says, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” Woe is a statement of divine judgment. Jesus warns of the severe consequences one will suffer if you cause others to stumble.

In verse 2, Jesus describes these consequences in graphic terms: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” A Millstone was a huge boulder used to crush grain. The ancients would flatten a piece of stone and shape it into a circle. Then they would place the huge millstone on top of it, which would be tied to an animal, slave, or prisoner to pull. And the grain would be crushed into wheat as the heavy millstone rolled over it. It was called grinding the mill. Jesus warns, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” This is the Jesus’ response to those who feel it is all right to live any kind of way. This is Jesus’ response to those who think God is too loving and gracious to punish wrongdoers. This is Jesus’ response to those who say, “It’s okay. God understands.” The Lord says it is better to die a cruel, gruesome, tragic death than to answer to God for causing young, weak or immature believes to stumble into sin.

R. KENT HUGHES writes, “I must confess that I do not understand what woe could await a true believer who has scandalized others away from Jesus Christ that could make a horrible death preferable, but I believe what the Savior is saying.” So do I. And so should you. In fact, we should ask the Lord to help us to believe this warning so deeply that it produces a holy fear that disciplines us to live obediently. This is what Philippians 2:12 means when it says: “work out you own salvation with fear and trembling.” “Fear and trembling” is an idiom for a holy and healthy fear of God that moves you to do right. NORMAN CRAWFORD’S comment is quite helpful: “Careless offense is a terrible sin, intentional offense is an even greater evil, but both will meet with just judgment.”

So what should you do to avoid becoming a temptation to sin for others? In verse 3, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves!” We often make a mess our relationships by focusing on our needs and other people’s character, rather than focusing on our character and other people’s needs. Jesus says pay attention to yourselves. Take heed to yourselves. Watch out for yourselves. We are to be on guard to keep from doing things that cause other people to stumble and, more importantly, to keep us from facing the judgment of God. We should constantly pray the words of Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

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