The Gospel has similarities with Matthew’s collection of Jesus’ teachings often referred to as Community Discourse (Mt 18). Scholars trace the similarity to a source common to Luke and Matthew, often called Quelle (Source). The first teaching has to do with the “child” as symbol of humility. Jesus tells the community to be like children and take care that the “little ones” do not lose their faith in him.
Jesus warns his disciples against giving the little ones skandala, the Greek word rendered here as “things that cause [them to] sin.” We often understand “scandal” as referring to sexual or other offenses against the common sense of propriety. Skandalon is rather a hindrance, something that makes someone trip or fall. In the case of the “little ones,” that probably refers to believers whose faith is not yet solid; to “scandalize” them is to lead them to fall and lose their faith in Jesus, which merits a severe punishment.
Elsewhere in the Gospel, when Peter rebukes Jesus for speaking about his impending passion, Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a skandalon (obstacle) to me” (Mt 16:23). Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death is seen as a satanic attempt to deflect Jesus from the course appointed him by God, which will cause him to “fall”; hence, the severe words directed at Peter.
GOSPEL • LUKE 17:1-6
Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
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