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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Luke 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-54

Chapter 11

TEACH US TO PRAY (Luke 11:1-4)

11:1-4 Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say,

O Father, let your name be held in reverence. Let your kingdom come. Give to us each day our bread for the day. And forgive us our sins as we too forgive everyone who is in debt to us. And lead us not into temptation."

It was the regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use. John had done that for his disciples, and now Jesus' disciples came asking him to do the same for them. This is Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer. It is shorter than Matthew's, but it will teach us all we need to know about how to pray and what to pray for.

(i) It begins by calling God Father. That was the characteristic Christian address to God. (compare Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15; 1 Peter 1:17). The very first word tells us that in prayer we are not coming to someone out of whom gifts have to be unwillingly extracted, but to a Father who delights to supply his children's needs.

(ii) In Hebrew the name means much more than merely the name by which a person is called. The name means the whole character of the person as it is revealed and known to us. Psalms 9:10 says, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee." That means far more than knowing that God's name is Jehovah. It means that those who know the whole character and mind and heart of God will gladly put their trust in him.

(iii) We must note particularly the order of the Lord's Prayer. Before anything is asked for ourselves, God and his glory, and the reverence due to him, come first. Only when we give God his place will other things take their proper place.

(iv) The prayer covers all life.

(a) It covers present need. It tells us to pray for our daily bread; but it is bread for the day for which we pray. This goes back to the old story of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-21). Only enough for the needs of the day might be gathered. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time.

"I do not ask to see

The distant scene--one step enough for me."

(b) It covers past sin. When we pray we cannot do other than pray for forgiveness, for the best of us is a sinful man coming before the purity of God.

(c) It covers future trials. Temptation means any testing situation. It includes far more than the mere seduction to sin; it covers every situation which is a challenge to and a test of a person's manhood and integrity and fidelity. We cannot escape it, but we can meet it with God.

Someone has said that the Lord's Prayer has two great uses in our private prayers. If we use it at the beginning of our devotions it awakens all kinds of holy desires which lead us on into the right pathways of prayer. If we use it at the end of our devotions it sums up all we ought to pray for in the presence of God.

ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE (Luke 11:5-13)

11:5-13 Jesus said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him towards midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves because a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to set before him'; and suppose his friend answers from within, 'Don't bother me; the door has already been shut and my children are in bed with me; I can't get up and supply you'--I tell you, if he will not rise and supply him because he is his friend, he will rise and give him as much as he needs because of his shameless persistence. For I say to you, 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks any father among you for bread, will he give him a stone? Or, if he asks a fish, will he, instead of a fish, give him a serpent? Or if he asks an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?'"

Travellers often journeyed late in the evening to avoid the heat of the midday sun. In Jesus' story just such a traveller had arrived towards midnight at this friend's house. In the east hospitality is a sacred duty; it was not enough to set before a man a bare sufficiency; the guest had to be confronted with an ample abundance. In the villages bread was baked at home. Only enough for the day's needs was baked because, if it was kept and became stale, no one would wish to eat it.

The late arrival of the traveller confronted the householder with an embarrassing situation, because his larder was empty and he could not fulfil the sacred obligations of hospitality. Late as it was, he went out to borrow from a friend. The friend's door was shut. In the east no one would knock on a shut door unless the need was imperative. In the morning the door was opened and remained open all day, for there was little privacy; but if the door was shut, that was a definite sign that the householder did not wish to be disturbed. But the seeking householder was not deterred. He knocked, and kept on knocking.

The poorer Palestinian house consisted of one room with only one little window. The floor was simply of beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes. The room was divided into two parts, not by a partition but by a low platform. Two-thirds of it were on ground level. The other third was slightly raised. On the raised part the charcoal stove burned all night, and round it the whole family slept, not on raised beds but on sleeping mats. Families were large and they slept close together for warmth. For one to rise was inevitably to disturb the whole family. Further, in the villages it was the custom to bring the livestock, the hens and the cocks and the goats, into the house at night.

Is there any wonder that the man who was in bed did not want to rise? But the determined borrower knocked on with shameless persistence--that is what the Greek word means--until at last the householder, knowing that by this time the whole family was disturbed anyway, arose and gave him what he needed.

"That story," said Jesus, "will tell you about prayer." The lesson of this parable is not that we must persist in prayer; it is not that we must batter at God's door until we finally compel him for very weariness to give us what we want, until we coerce an unwilling God to answer.

A parable literally means something laid alongside. If we lay something beside another thing to teach a lesson, that lesson may be drawn from the fact that the things are like each other or from the fact that the things are a contrast to each other. The point here is based, not on likeness, but on contrast. What Jesus says is, "If a churlish and unwilling householder can in the end be coerced by a friend's shameless persistence into giving him what he needs, how much more will God who is a loving Father supply all his children's needs?" "If you," he says, "who are evil, know that you are bound to supply your children's needs, how much more will God?"

This does not absolve us from intensity in prayer. After all, we can guarantee the reality and sincerity of our desire only by the passion with which we pray. But it does mean this, that we are not wringing gifts from an unwilling God, but going to one who knows our needs better than we know them ourselves and whose heart towards us is the heart of generous love. If we do not receive what we pray for, it is not because God grudgingly refuses to give it but because he has some better thing for us. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. The answer given may not be the answer we desired or expected; but even when it is a refusal it is the answer of the love and the wisdom of God.

A MALICIOUS SLANDER (Luke 11:14-23)

11:14-23 Jesus was casting out a dumb demon. When the demon came out the dumb man spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, "He casts out demons by the help of Beelzebul, who is the prince of demons." Others, trying to put him to the test, sought a sign from heaven from him. He knew what they were thinking. "Every kingdom," he said, "that is divided against itself is devastated; and every house that is divided against itself falls; so if Satan is divided against himself how will his kingdom stand? You must answer that question because you say that I cast out demons by the help of Beelzebul. If I cast out demons by the power of Beelzebul, by whose power do your sons cast them out? You have become your own judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man in full panoply guards his own homestead, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger man than he comes and conquers him, he will take away the armour in which he trusted, and will divide his spoil. He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters."

When Jesus' enemies were helpless to oppose him by fair means they resorted to slander. They declared that his power over the demons was due to the fact that he was in league with the prince of demons. They attributed his power not to God but to the devil. Jesus gave them a double and a crushing answer.

First, he struck them a shrewd blow. There were many exorcists in Jesus' time in Palestine. Josephus, traces this power back to Solomon. Part of Solomon's wisdom was that he was skilful with herbs and had invented incantations which--drove out demons in such a way that they never came back; and Josephus states that he had seen Solomon's methods used with success even in his own day. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 8: 5: 2) So Jesus delivers a home-thrust. "If I," he said, "cast out devils because I am in league with the prince of devils, what of your own people who do the same thing? If you condemn me, you are only condemning yourselves."

Second, he used a really unanswerable argument. No kingdom in which there is a civil war can survive. If the prince of devils is lending his power to defeat his own emissaries he is finished. There is only one way for a strong man to be defeated and that is for a still stronger man to master him. "Therefore," said Jesus, "if I cast out devils, so far from that proving that I am in league with the prince of devils, it proves that the devil's citadel is breached, the strong man of evil is mastered, and the kingdom of God is here."

Out of this passage emerge certain permanent truths.

(i) It is by no means uncommon for people to resort to slander when honest opposition is helpless. Gladstone was interested in the reformation of the fallen women of the streets of London. His enemies suggested that he was interested in them for very different and very inferior reasons. There is nothing so cruel as slander, for it is apt to stick because the human mind always tends to think the worst and very often the human ear prefers to hear the derogatory rather than the complimentary tale. We need not think that we are free of that particular sin. How often do we tend to think the worst of other people? How often do we deliberately impute low motives to someone whom we dislike? How often do we repeat the slanderous and the malicious tale and murder reputations over the tea-cups? To think of this will not cause complacency but call for self-examination.

(ii) Once again we must note than Jesus' proof that the kingdom had come was the fact that sufferers were healed and health walked where disease had been. Jesus' aim was not only soul salvation; it was also whole salvation.

(iii) Luke finishes this section with the saying of Jesus that he who was not with him was against him and that he who did not help to gather the flock helped to scatter it abroad. There is no place for neutrality in the Christian life. The man who stands aloof from the good cause automatically helps the evil one. A man is either on the way or in the way.

THE PERIL OF THE EMPTY SOUL (Luke 11:24-28)

11:24-28 When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it goes through waterless places seeking for rest. And when it does not find it, it says, "I will go back to my house from which I came out." So it comes and finds the house swept and in order. Then it goes and gets in addition seven spirits worse than itself, and they enter in and settle there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

When he was speaking a woman lifted up her voice from the crowd and said, "Happy is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you sucked." "But," he said, "rather, happy are those who hear the word of God and keep it."

Here is a grim and terrible story. There was a man from whom an unclean spirit was expelled. It wandered seeking rest and found none. It determined to return to the man. It found his soul swept and garnished--but empty. So the spirit went and collected seven spirits worse than itself and came back and entered in; and the man's last state was worse than his first.

(i) Here is the fundamental truth that you cannot leave a man's soul empty. It is not enough to banish the evil thoughts and the evil habits and the old ways and leave the soul empty. An empty soul is a soul in peril. Adam C. Welch liked to preach on the text, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). When he did so his opening sentence was, "You've got to fill a man with something." It is not enough to drive out evil; good must come in.

(ii) That means we can never erect a real religion on negatives. Take a very clear example--the problem of Sunday observance is still not solved in the church today. Too often it is approached with a tirade against the things which people allow themselves to do on Sunday and a catalogue of forbidden things. But the man to whom we speak has a perfect right to ask, "Well, what may I do?" And unless we tell him, his last state is worse than his first, for we have simply condemned him to idleness, and Satan is adept at finding mischief for idle hands to do. It is always the peril of religion that it may present itself in a series of negatives. Cleansing is necessary; but after the rooting out of evil, there must come the filling with good.

(iii) The best way to avoid evil is to do good. The loveliest garden I ever saw was so full of flowers that there was scarcely room for a weed to grow. In no garden is it enough to uproot weeds; flowers must be sown and planted until the space is filled. Nowhere is this truer than in the world of thoughts. Often we may be troubled with wrong thoughts. If we go no further than to say to ourselves, "I will not think about that," all we do is fix our thoughts upon it more and more. The cure is to think of something else, to banish the evil thought by thinking a good thought. We never become good by not doing things, but by filling life with lovely things.

Luke 11:27-28 show Jesus speaking sternly but truly. The woman who spoke was carried away by a moment of emotion. Jesus pulled her back to reality. The moment of emotion is a fine thing; but the greatest thing is a life of obedience in the routine things of everyday. No amount of fine feeling can take the place of faithful doing.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PRIVILEGE (Luke 11:29-32)

11:29-32 When the crowds were thronging upon him, he began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah; for just as Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the south will rise up in judgment with the men of this generation and will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and--look you--something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and--look you--something greater than Jonah is here."

The Jews wanted Jesus to do something sensational to prove that he really was the anointed one of God. Later than this, about the year A.D. 45, a man called Theudas arose claiming to be the Messiah. He persuaded the people to follow him out to the Jordan with the promise that he would cleave the river in two and give them a pathway through it to the other side. Needless to say he failed, and the Romans dealt summarily with his rising; but that is the kind of thing the people wanted Jesus to do to prove his claims. They could not see that the greatest sign that God could ever send was Jesus himself.

Just as once long ago Jonah had been God's sign to Nineveh, so now Jesus was God's sign to them---and they failed to recognize him. When Solomon was king the Queen of Sheba recognized his wisdom and came from far to benefit from it; when Jonah preached the men of Nineveh recognized the authentic voice of God and responded to it. In the day of judgment these people would rise up and condemn the Jews of Jesus' time, because these Jews had had an opportunity and a privilege far beyond anything they had ever had and had refused to accept it. The condemnation of the Jews would be all the more complete because their privileges were so great.

Privilege and responsibility go ever hand in hand. Think of two of our greatest privileges and how we use them.

(i) Available to everyone is the Bible, the word of God. It did not cost nothing. There was a time when it was death to teach the English Bible. When Wycliff wrote to a certain scholar, about the year A.D. 1350, asking him to teach the common people the gospel stories in the English tongue, he answered, "I know well that I am holden by Christ's law to perform thy asking, but, natheless, we are now so far fallen away from Christ's law, that if I would answer to thy askings I must in case undergo the death; and thou wettest well that a man is beholden to keep his life as long as he may." Later on, Foxe was to tell us that in those days men sat up all night to read and hear the word of God in English. "Some gave five marks (equal to 40 British pounds), some more, some less for a book; some gave a load of hay for a few chapters of St. James or St. Paul in English." It was Tyndale who gave England its first printed Bible. To do so, as he said himself, he suffered, "poverty, exile, bitter absence from friends, hunger and thirst and cold, great dangers and innumerable other hard and sharp fightings." In 1536 he was martyred. When, some years before, the authorities had burned the book, he said, "They did none other thing than I looked for; no more shall they do if they burn me also."

There is no book which cost so much as the Bible. To-day it is in serious danger of deserving the cynical definition of a classic--a book of which everyone has heard and which no one reads. We have the privilege of possessing the Bible and that privilege is a responsibility for which we shall answer.

(ii) We have freedom to worship as we think right; and that, too, is a privilege which cost the lives of men. The tragedy is that so many people have used that freedom in order not to worship at all. That privilege, too, is a responsibility for which we shall answer.

If a man possesses Christ, and Christ's book, and Christ's church, he is the heir of all the privileges of God; and if he neglects them or refuses them he, like the Jews in the time of Jesus, is a man under condemnation.

THE DARKENED HEART (Luke 11:33-36)

11:33-36 No one lights a lamp and puts it in a cellar or under a bushel, but upon a lamp-stand, so that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound your whole body is full of light; but if the eye is diseased the whole body is full of darkness. Take care, then, lest the light that is in you is darkness. If, then, your whole body is fun of light, without any part of darkness, it will be altogether bright as when the lamp with its ray gives you light.

The meaning is not easy to grasp, but probably it is this. The light of the body depends on the eye; if the eye is healthy the body receives all the light it needs; if the eye is diseased the light turns to darkness. Just so, the light of life depends on the heart; if the heart is right the whole life is irradiated with light; if the heart is wrong all life is darkened. Jesus urges us to see that the inner lamp is always burning.

What is it that darkens the inner light? What is it that can go wrong with our hearts?

(i) Our hearts may become hard. Sometimes, if we have to do something unaccustomed with our bands, the skin is irritated and we have pain; but if we repeat the action often enough the skin becomes hardened and we can do what once hurt us without any trouble. It is so with our hearts. The first time we do a wrong thing we do it with a tremor and sometimes with a sore heart. Each time we repeat it the tremor grows less, until in the end we can do it without a qualm. There is a terrible hardening power in sin. No man ever took the first step to sin without the warnings sounding in his heart; but if he sins often enough the time comes when he ceases to care. What we were once afraid and reluctant to do becomes a habit. We have nobody but ourselves to blame if we allow ourselves to reach that stage.

(ii) Our hearts may become dull. It is tragically easy to accept things. In the beginning our hearts may be sore at the sight of the world's suffering and pain; but in the end most people become so used to it that they accept it and feel nothing at all.

It is all too true that for most people the feelings of youth are far more intense than those of age. That is specially true of the cross of Jesus Christ. Florence Barclay tells how when she was a little girl she was taken to church for the first time. It was Good Friday, and the long story of the crucifixion was read and beautifully read. She heard Peter deny and Judas betray; she beard Pilate's bullying cross-examination; she saw the crown of thorns, the buffeting of the soldiers; she heard of Jesus being delivered to be crucified, and then there came the words with their terrible finality, "and there they crucified him." No one in the church seemed to care; but suddenly the little girl's face was buried in her mother's coat, and she was sobbing her heart out, and her little voice rang through the silent church, "Why did they do it? Why did they do it?"

That is how we all ought to feel about the cross, but we have heard the story so often that we can listen to it with no reaction at all. God keep us from the heart which has lost the power to feel the agony of the cross--borne for us.

(iii) Our hearts may be actively rebellious. It is quite possible for a man to know the right way and deliberately to take the wrong way. A man may actually feel God's hand upon his shoulder and twitch that shoulder away. With open eyes a man may take his way to the far country when God is calling him home.

God save us from the darkened heart.

WORSHIP OF DETAILS AND NEGLECT OF THINGS THAT MATTER (Luke 11:37-44)

11:37-44 After Jesus had spoken a Pharisee asked him to dine with him. He came in and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised when he saw that he did not dip his hands in water before he ate. The Lord said to him, "You Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are full of grasping and wickedness. Fools! Did he who made the outside not make the inside also? But cleanse the things that are within--and look you--all things will be pure for you.

But woe to you Pharisees! because you give tithes of mint and rue and every herb and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done without omitting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! because you love the chief seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market places. Woe to you! because you are like tombs which are not seen, and the men who walk over them do not know that they are doing it."

The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before eating. This was not a matter of cleanliness but of the ceremonial law. The law laid it down that before a man ate he must wash his hands in a certain way and that he must also wash them between the courses. As usual every littlest detail was worked out. Large stone vessels of water were specially kept for the purpose because ordinary water might be unclean; the amount of water used must be at least a quarter of a log, that is, enough to fill one and a half egg-shells. First the water must be poured over the hands beginning at the tips of the fingers and running right up to the wrist. Then the palm of each hand must be cleansed by rubbing the fist of the other into it. Finally, water must again be poured over the hand, this time beginning at the wrist and running down to the fingertips. To the Pharisee, to omit the slightest detail of this was to sin. Jesus' comment was that, if they were as particular about cleansing their hearts as they were about washing their hands, they would be better men.

There were certain dues which the meticulously orthodox would never omit to pay.

(a) The first fruits of the soil. The first fruits of the seven kinds--wheat, barley, vines, fig-trees, pomegranates, olives and honey--were offered in the Temple.

(b) There was the Terumah (Hebrew #8641). The first fruits were given to God, but the Terumah was a contribution to the upkeep of the priests. It was the presentation of the first fruits of every growing thing. The amount to be given was one-fiftieth of the total yield.

(c) There was the tithe. The tithe was paid directly to the Levites, who, in turn, paid a tithe of what they received to the priests. It was one-tenth of "everything that can be used as food and is cultivated and grows out of the earth." The meticulousness of the Pharisees in tithing is shown by the fact that even the law said it was not necessary to tithe rue. No matter what their inner hearts and feelings were like, however much they neglected justice and forgot love, they never omitted the tithe.

The chief seats at the synagogue were the seats out in front facing the audience. In the congregation itself the best seats were at the front and they decreased in honour the further back they got. The advantage of these seats was that they could be seen by all!

The more exaggerated the respect of the greetings the Pharisees received in the streets the better they were pleased.

The point of Luke 11:44 is this. Numbers 19:16 lays it down that "whoever in the open field touches a grave shall be unclean seven days." To be unclean was to be debarred from all religious worship. Now, it might be that a man might touch a grave without knowing that he was doing it. That did not matter; its touch made him unclean. Jesus said that the Pharisees were exactly like that. Although men might not know it their influence could do nothing but harm. All unawares, the man who came in contact with them was being touched for evil. Men might not suspect the corruption but it was there; all the time they were being infected with wrong ideas of God and of his demands.

Two things stand out about the Pharisees and for these two things Jesus condemned them.

(i) They concentrated on externals. So long as the externals of religion were carried out that was all that mattered. Their hearts might be as black as hell; they might be utterly lacking in charity and even in justice; but so long as they went through the correct motions at the correct time they considered themselves good in the eyes of God.

A man may be regular in his church attendance; he may be a diligent student of his Bible; he may be a generous giver to the church; but if in his heart there are thoughts of pride and of contempt, if he has no charity in his dealings with his fellow men in the life of the everyday, if he is unjust to his subordinates or dishonest to his employer, he is not a Christian man. No man is a Christian when he meticulously observes the conventions of religion and forgets the realities.

(ii) They concentrated on details. Compared with love and kindness, justice and generosity, the washing of hands and the giving of tithes with mathematical accuracy were unimportant details. Once a man came to Dr Johnson with a tale of woe. He worked in a paper factory; he had taken for his own purposes a very little piece of paper and a very little bit of string, and he had convinced himself that he had committed a deadly sin and would not stop talking about it. At last Johnson broke out, "Sir, stop bothering about paper and packthread when we are all living together in a world that is bursting with sin and sorrow." How often church courts and church people get lost in totally unimportant details of church government and administration, and even argue and fight about them, and forget the great realities of the Christian life!

THE SINS OF THE LEGALISTS (Luke 11:45-54)

11:45-54 A scribe answered, "Teacher, when you talk like that you are insulting us." Jesus said, "Woe to you scribes too! because you bind burdens upon men that are hard to bear and you yourselves do not lay a finger on the burdens. Woe to you! because you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed! So you are witnesses that you agree with the deeds of your fathers, because they killed them and you build them tombs. Because of this God in his wisdom said, 'I will send prophets and apostles to them, some of whom they will slay and persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, will be required from this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias who perished between the altar and the Temple.' Yes, I tell you, it will be required from this generation. Woe to you scribes! You did not enter in yourselves and you hindered those who were trying to enter."

As Jesus went away from them, the scribes and Pharisees began to watch him intensely, and to try to provoke him to discuss on many subjects, for they were laying traps for him, to hunt for something out of his mouth which they could use as a charge against him.

Three charges are levelled against the scribes.

(i) They were experts in the law; they laid upon men the thousand and one burdens of the ceremonial law; but they did not keep them themselves, because they were experts in evasion. Here are some of their evasions.

The limit of a Sabbath day's journey was 2,000 cubits (1,000 yards) from a man's residence. But if a rope was tied across the end of the street, the end of the street became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that; if on the Friday evening he left at any given point enough food for two meals that point technically became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that!

One of the forbidden works on the Sabbath was the tying of knots, sailors' or camel drivers' knots and knots in ropes. But a woman might tie the knot in her girdle. Therefore, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well a rope could not be knotted to it, but a woman's girdle could, and it could be raised with that!

To carry a burden was forbidden, but the codified written law laid it down, "he who carries anything, whether it be in his right hand, or in his left hand, or in his bosom, or on his shoulder is guilty; but he who carries anything on the back of his hand, with his foot, or with his mouth, or with his elbow, or with his ear, or with his hair, or with his money bag turned upside down, or between his money bag and his shirt, or in the fold of his shirt or in his shoe, or in his sandal is guiltless, because he does not carry it in the usual way of carrying it out."

It is incredible that men should ever have thought that God could have laid down laws like that, and that the working out of such details was a religious service and the keeping of them a matter of life and death. But that was scribal religion. Little wonder that Jesus turned on the scribes, and that the scribes regarded him as an irreligious heretic.

(ii) The attitude of the scribes to the prophets was paradoxical. They professed a deep admiration for the prophets. But the only prophets they admired were dead; when they met a living one they tried to kill him. They honoured the dead prophets with tombs and memorials, but they dishonoured the living ones with persecution and death.

"Your new moons," said Isaiah, "and your appointed feasts my soul hates." "He has showed you, O man, what is good," said Micah; "and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?" That was the essence of the prophetic message; and it was the very antithesis of scribal teaching. No wonder the scribes, with their external details, hated the prophets, and Jesus walked in the prophetic line. The murder of Zacharias is described in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21.

(iii) The scribes shut the people off from scripture. Their interpretation of scripture was so fantastic that it was impossible for the ordinary man to understand it. In their hands scripture became a book of riddles. In their mistaken ingenuity they refused to see its plain meaning themselves, and they would not let anyone else see it either. The scriptures had become the perquisite of the expert and a dark mystery to the common man.

None of this is so very out of date. There are still those who demand from others standards which they themselves refuse to satisfy. There are still those whose religion is nothing other than legalism. There are still those who make the word of God so difficult that the seeking mind of the common man is bewildered and does not know what to believe or to whom to listen.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Luke 11:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/luke-11.html. 1956-1959.


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Saturday, July 22nd, 2017
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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