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Luke 11:1. The time and place when this incident occurred are indefinite, but there can be no doubt that we have not here part of the Sermon on the Mount, put out of its place. The form of prayer here given differs very considerably (by omission) from that in Matthew 6:9-40.6.13; as given in the best authorities it runs as follows: “Father, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.” It is almost certain that both the longer and shorter forms of the prayer were given on separate occasions, with the exception of the doxology, found in St. Matthew, which dates from the time when the prayer came into liturgical use.
In a certain place.—If this incident took place shortly after that last recorded—the visit of Jesus to Bethany—this place may be the Mount of Olives or Gethsemane. As John.—This fact is not elsewhere recorded.
Luke 11:2. Hallowed be Thy name.—“God’s name is not merely His appellation, which we speak with the mouth, but also and principally the idea which we attach to it—His Being, as far as it is confessed, revealed, or known” (De Wette). Hallowed.—“Kept holy,” “sanctified in our hearts.” Thy kingdom come.—The spread of Christ’s kingdom on earth and His triumphant reign hereafter (His second coming).
Luke 11:3. Daily bread.—No better English word than “daily” can be got to render the peculiar Greek word found only here and in Matthew 6:11, but considerable diversity of opinion has existed as to the precise signification of the term employed. Some have rendered it “sufficient,” “proper for our sustenance”; others, “for the coming day”; others, “spiritual bread” (Vulg. supersubstantialem). But all these meanings are to some extent implied in our phrase “daily bread”—suitable for our necessities, and provision for the immediate future; and though the primary reference is to literal food, reference to spiritual nourishment is not excluded.
Luke 11:4. Forgive.—Two words are used—“sins” and “debts” (“every one that is indebted to us”); we cannot forgive sins, but can release others from their obligations to us. As.—I e., “in the same manner as,” not “to the same extent as,” nor “because.” Lead us not into temptation.—God does not tempt to evil, but He may place us in circumstances in which we may feel our weakness and be in danger of yielding to temptation This is virtually a prayer for some way of escape to be opened up to us.
Luke 11:5. At midnight.—In the East people often travel by night, to avoid the heat.
Luke 11:7. My children, etc.—I.e., “my children, as well as I, are in bed.”
Luke 11:8. Importunity.—Lit., “shamelessness,” “impudence”—i.e., continued knocking and asking. For importunity in prayer see Isaiah 62:3-23.62.12; Genesis 18:6-1.18.7; Matthew 15:27-40.15.28.
Luke 11:9. And I say unto you.—The parable is not a conclusive argument. We know that a man can be harassed into giving, but how can we know that importunate prayer can prevail upon God? We know it upon Christ’s authority: He here pledges His word that it is so.
Luke 11:11. Bread.—There is a certain resemblance between the things asked for and those which might be substituted for them—a stone like bread, a fish like a serpent, an egg like a scorpion. No father with ordinary human feeling would mock his child by giving him useless or hurtful things in place of food.
Luke 11:13. Holy Spirit.—The best of all gifts. St. Matthew says “good things” (Luke 7:11).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 11:1-42.11.13
Christ Teaching how to Pray.—St. Luke seems to preserve the original setting of the Lord’s prayer, and St. Matthew the full liturgical form of the prayer.
I. Note the mould for the disciples’ prayers.—It is properly not the “Lord’s prayer,” but the servants’ prayer. It is not a formula, but a pattern. All the essentials are preserved in this shorter version.
1. Invocation. There is first the child’s cry to the Father. All Christian prayer begins with that, and Christ makes it possible so to begin, by giving to those who believe on His name power to become sons of God. Consciousness of sonship, confidence in the Father’s love, the child’s yearning towards Him, and the assurance that He hears, are all expressed in that one word, and without these our prayers are of small account.
2. Petitions. Those bearing on God’s glory must be first, and those bearing on ourselves second. God’s “name” is His revealed character. It is “hallowed” when worthy thoughts of Him and corresponding emotions dwell in men. God’s kingdom comes where His name is hallowed. It is that order or constitution of things in which He rules, not over ignorant tools or reluctant slaves, but over willing, because loving, sons. Its seat is within; its manifestation is outward. All social and individual good is comprehended in that prayer, for the hallowing of the name of the Father is the sole foundation of glad obedience to His sway, which is love, joy, and peace, for men and nations. The second class of desires—those for the supply of the suppliants’ wants—begin at the bottom and climb up. Mark that we are not to say “my” but “our.” Brotherhood follows sonship. Bread, not dainties; bread sufficient, not superfluous: bread for to-day, not for to-morrow;—how many would be content with that? The prayer for God’s glory comes first, because that is greatest; but that for bread comes first in its series, because it is least. The need for pardon is as universal and more crying than that for bread. It is the beginning of the spiritual life, but in this connection is meant for all stages thereof, and implies some previous experience, inasmuch as it makes our forgiving the reason for our being forgiven. While it is true that we cannot receive pardon into an unmerciful heart, a prior truth is that we must have experienced that pardon before becoming truly and habitually merciful. An unforgiving Christian is a monster, and will turn out unforgiven; but a heart that forgives, and has never sought and found God’s pardon, is as much of a contradiction.
II. A parable of prayer.—The central point of it is the power of persistent importunity, which is illustrated by a seemingly most incongruous narrative. The man in bed with his children, who gets up at last for as selfish reasons as had kept him lying, is a repulsive picture of selfish indolence, both when he refuses and when he gives. But the very contrast between that temper and the love of the Father, to which prayer appeals, is the point of the story. “If” such a miserable creature, “being evil,” is conquered by persistence, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give?” is the lesson here too. The contrast is complete. Selfishness and perfect love, slothful indifference to need and unwearied, all-embracing, never-resting beneficence, a yielding at last to save annoyance and get rid of an unwelcome presence and a yielding which has been delayed for our good, and gives joyfully as soon as we are capable of receiving. But is not the story so violently unlike God as to lose its power for the intended purpose? Not if we keep in mind the “How much more.” Persistent asking can melt even such a rock as that. What can it not do when it appeals to an infinite pity and a Divine desire to give?
III. The confidence of prayer.—Our Lord adds to the parable His assurance of the power of persistent prayer, and confirms it by an analogy which sets the parable in its right light. “Ask” “seek” and “knock,” perhaps, express a gradation. Desires breathed to God are not in vain, but they must be accompanied with seeking which is effort. Knocking implies repetition as well as earnestness. Here, then, is another lesson to the disciples, teaching them how to pray. Prayer is to be accompanied with appropriate effort, and to be persevering. But in what region of experience are these unconditional promises fulfilled? Surely not in this world of bitter disappointments, and baffled desires, and frustrated quests! It would be a questionable blessing if all our desires in regard to outward benefits were granted, and the Father in heaven would be less wise than many an earthly father, who knows that an indulged child is a “spoiled” child. The abounding promise is true absolutely in the spiritual realm, where fuller knowledge of God, a more Christ-like character, and more blessed communion with Him, wait for all who desire them and seek them in God’s way. The closing analogy lifts the child’s prayer to its true place. Mark the parallel between the “which of you” in the parable, and the “of which of you” in Luke 11:11 (R.V.). By the former our experience as petitioners is brought to illustrate the truth taught; by the latter, our experience as givers. Fatherly love is taken for granted; the thing enforced is confidence in fatherly wisdom. Jesus charges “evil” on all men, and emphatically exempts Himself. And then He bids us not to think that the grudging giver of the parable represents God, but to take the purest, most unselfish love which we know, and purify it yet more by taking away all taint, and to think of that as a dim shadow of the infinite love and wisdom which in the heavens hears and answers our poor cries.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 11:1-42.11.13
Luke 11:1. Before the Lord’s Prayer. “As He was praying.”—This prayer preceded the giving of His own prayer for the perpetual use of His Church and people below. It is impossible for us to exaggerate the importance of the occasion. Was not the occasion worthy of a special prayer of Christ to consecrate it? We must not presume to speak confidently where God has not spoken. But not on that account should we shrink from a serious pondering of mysteries too high and too deep for us: may it be but with reverence that we turn aside to see this great sight, the Saviour rising from His own prayer to give inspiration for ever to the prayer of others. Might not He be praying, in that prayer of preface and prelude, that the spirit of the prayer He was about to prescribe might be indeed the spirit in all future ages of His disciples and of His Church? That the filial heart might be the religion of His people—the filial and the brotherly? That sinners might be enabled to view aright their own standing—as sinners, yet sons; sons still, however sinful; not waiting to be made sons, but emboldened to claim and to exercise a sonship, which is theirs by birth, in right of a Divine creation, a Divine redemption, and a Divine evangelisation? That in this sonship, of right theirs, yet all of grace, they might see and feel to be included all mankind, however widely severed and dissociated by birth and place, by thought and phrase, by habit and custom in things secular or in things sacred? That His Church might ever be interested in the work of God, His cause and His glory, and might ever give the first place in its prayer to that which concerned these? That the great message of the forgiveness of sins might be so written upon the hearts of His people that they might be able to use it with quietness and confidence for their daily comfort and strengthening, forgetting the things behind and reaching forth always to the things before? That thus His Gospel might approve itself to the conscience and heart of mankind, as indeed the power of God unto salvation, a religion of light, life, and love, spreading blessing everywhere around it, and, like the crucified Lord whose living witness it is, lifted above earth while planted upon it, drawing all men unto it, and so unto Him?—Vaughan.
Luke 11:1-42.11.13. Lessons on Prayer.
I. The need of help in prayer.
II. The pattern prayer.—It is full of simple trust; it is unselfish; it is simple; it is reverent; it is spiritual.
III. Importunate prayer.
IV. Promises for prayer.—Taylor.
Luke 11:1. “When He Ceased.”—While continuing His journey, the Lord remained faithful to His habits of personal devotion. He did not content Himself with that constant direction of the soul towards God, which has so often been supposed to be the meaning of the precept, “Pray without ceasing.” There were in His life special times, positive acts of prayer. This is indicated in the words that follow: “when He ceased.”—Godet.
Prayer the Distinguishing Mark of God’s Children.—Speech distinguishes men from animals; speech rising into prayer distinguishes the children of God from the children of this world.
A Desire to be Like Christ.—They observed in their Master, while He prayed, a strange separation from the world, a conscious nearness to God, a delight in the Father’s presence, and a familiarity in communion with the Father, which seemed to them like heaven upon earth. Fondly desiring to partake of these blessed privileges, they besought their Master to show them the way.—Arnot.
“Teach us to pray.”—We forget that we are to learn to pray; and that prayer is to be learned, as all other things, by frequency, constancy, and perseverance.—Law.
Social Prayers of Jesus.—The request and its occasion, taken together, convey to us incidentally two pieces of information. From the latter we learn that Jesus, besides praying much alone, also prayed in company with His disciples, practising family prayer, as the head of a household, as well as secret prayer in personal fellowship with God His Father. From the former we learn that the social prayers of Jesus were most impressive. Disciples hearing them were made painfully conscious of their own incapacity, and, after the Amen, were ready instinctively to proffer the request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” as if ashamed any more to attempt the exercise in their own feeble, vague, stammering words.—Bruce.
The Disciples’ Request.—The request was brought before the Lord Jesus on a remarkable occasion, or at least at a moment of great solemnity. The Lord was praying in a certain place.
I. Perhaps it was a fixed place, an understood place, which He had chosen for the purpose.
II. It appears, too, that He was occupied in this way for some time. This seems to follow from the expression “when He ceased.”
III. It is evident likewise that while He was so occupied they watched and waited. No one ought, if it can be avoided, to be interrupted during the exercise of prayer.
IV. But there was more than this in the case of Jesus. They were manifestly filled with reverential awe.
V. Yet they longed to learn something of this power of intercourse with our Father in heaven. They remembered, too, how John the Baptist had spoken of this intercourse—how he had given instructions to his disciples concerning prayer—and when the Lord had “ceased” they laid their request before Him: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
VI. It was a request which led to great results. Never was a question which brought an answer more prolific of benefit to mankind.—Howson.
A New Stage in the Life of the Disciples.—The disciples had, doubtless, been accustomed to pray, but it was a new and further stage in their disciple-life when they thus expressly asked some further and fuller teaching in prayer. It was one thing to pray; it was another thing to feel their need and defectiveness in this so much that they directly ask for help, not only to pray better, but, as it now seemed to them, to pray at all. “Lord, teach us to pray” is always a new stage in disciple-life.—Maccoll.
“As John also taught his disciples.”—In this beautiful half sentence we learn something concerning the Baptist which we should never have known otherwise, something which may teach us for our own benefit.
I. We have abundant information in the Gospel narrative respecting the Baptist’s sternness, courage, faithfulness, his summoning all men to repentance, his self-denial, his fearlessness in rebuking sin in high places, his utter devotion to Christ, his deep humility, his consciousness that he was only a messenger preparing the way for One greater than himself. But these for the most part were severe qualities, containing even what we may call an element of harshness. Where in all this do we perceive any traces of that tenderness and patience which are implied in the statement that he “taught his disciples to pray”?
II. Let us look at the matter from another point of view. St. John is named in the New Testament beyond the limits of the Gospel History. His great shadow is, indeed, cast across all the Scriptural narrative of the history of the earliest Church. But all this does not touch in the least what we find in this beautiful half-sentence of our text. Nay, the very grandeur of John the Baptist seems, at first sight, almost in contrast with the other impression. For in teaching how to pray there is personal sympathy, minute attention, consideration, and gentleness. We hardly expected to find this in the Baptist, but we do find it; and is it not a great example?—Howson.
Luke 11:2-42.11.4. The Warrant and the Liturgy of Prayer.
I. The Lord’s Prayer is Christ’s warrant for prayer.—It settled, once for all, the great question of praying. “When ye pray”—as, of course, you do pray. Prayer is sometimes called an instinct. It is an instinct of the original nature—the nature made in God’s image, after God’s likeness—would that the fallen being always found it so! Certainly prayer has no exemption from the assaults of a scoffing generation. Thankful ought we to be that we have our Saviour’s express warrant for it. The Lord’s prayer is that first and before all else. His example would have been something. His permission, His encouragement, His command to pray, would have been more. But this form of words is a sort of sacrament of prayer, an outward visible sign presenting to the very senses the assurance of the inward spiritual grace attending and following.
II. The Lord’s Prayer is the one inspired liturgy of the Christian society.—“When ye pray, say,” is a warrant for the lawfulness of forms of worship. As such, it supplies a want. It guarantees uniformity, so far as uniformity is a condition of unity. The Lord has in it instituted a liturgy for the perpetual security of harmony and sympathy in the addresses of His people to the God and Father through Him. Let us make much of this gift of gifts as a substantial bond of union among all Christian people, however widely, in other respects, divided and separated. They have a common prayer, if not a Common Prayer-Book. They who unite in the Lord’s Prayer join in the one liturgy which has come down from heaven.
Beauty and Value of the Lord’s Prayer.—The beauty and value of the lessons in the Lord’s Prayer arise from:
1. The tone of holy confidence. It teaches us to approach God as our Father (Romans 8:15), in love as well as holy fear.
2. Its absolute unselfishness. It is offered in the plural—not for ourselves only, but for all the brotherhood of man.
3. Its entire spirituality. Only one petition is for any earthly boon, and that only for the simplest.
4. Its brevity, and absence of all vain repetitions.
5. Its simplicity, which requires, not learning, but only holiness and sincerity, for its universal comprehension.—Farrar.
The Lord’s Prayer.
1. Christ teaches us to pray as well for temporal as for spiritual necessities.
2. But still more for spiritual than for temporal. One petition only for daily bread; five are devoted to higher concerns.
3. The glorifying of the name of God must stand yet more in the foreground than the fulfilment of our necessities.
II. Frame of mind.—The Saviour here teaches us to pray:
1. In deep reverence.
2. In child-like confidence.
3. In a spirit of love for others.—Van Oosterzee.
I. The address.—
1. The filial relation to God.
2. The fraternal relation to our fellow-men.
3. Heaven our destination (faith, love, and hope respectively, all combining to bring us into a true frame of mind).
II. The petitions.—
1. Those which concern the glory of God.
2. Those which express the wants of men.
Devotion to God and Acceptance of His Gifts.—Devotion to God and acceptance of His gifts are contrasted in the Lord’s Prayer.
I. Devotion to His name, to His kingdom, and to His will.
II. Acceptance of His gifts in reference to the present, the past, and the future.—Lange.
The Petitions.—Having risen to what forms the highest and holiest object of believers, the soul is engrossed with its character (first petition), its grand purpose (second petition), and its moral condition (third petition); in the fourth petition the children of God humble themselves under the consciousness of their dependence upon Divine mercy even in temporal matters, but much more in spiritual things, since that which, according to the first portion of this prayer, constituted the burden of desire, can only be realised by forgiveness (fifth petition), by gracious guidance (sixth petition), and deliverance from the power of the devil (seventh petition).—Meyer.
God and Man.—The prayer sets forth
(1) God’s relation to man, and
(2) man’s relation to God.
I. Petitions which have to do exclusively with God.
1. Thy name be hallowed.
2. Thy kingdom come.
3. Thy will be done. These occur in a descending scale—from Himself down to the manifestation of Himself in His kingdom; and from His kingdom to the entire subjection of its subjects, or the complete doing of His will.
II. Petitions which have to do with ourselves.—
1. “Give us our bread.”
2. “Forgive us our debts.”
3. “Lead us not into temptation.”
4. “Deliver us from evil.” These occur in an ascending scale—from the bodily wants of every day up to our final deliverance from all evil.—Brown.
Luke 11:2. “When ye pray, say.”—That briefest, tersest, fullest of all forms of prayer, the only exhaustive one, the only perfect and sufficient, because all-embracing and all-comprehending, one. How can we put into words all that the Lord’s Prayer had in it for the Church and for the Christian? I do not believe that childhood or youth, or even middle life, or anything short of old age, can at all fully appreciate the Lord’s Prayer. It is condensed, it is deep, it is difficult. No commentary and no catechism can elucidate without diluting, or improve without spoiling it. Not until that age comes which demands above all things the real and the strong and the substantial, the thing that can be leaned upon and rested upon and (when the time comes) died upon, can any man know in himself all that the great Lord did for us when He answered that request, “Teach us to pray,” and answered it in the particular form to which eighteen centuries have appropriated the grand title “The Lord’s Prayer.” Let us earnestly ask ourselves whether we have been faithful to the precept, “When ye pray, say”? Do we make full use of ourselves of the prayer? Do we, in our use of it, think into it, and think out of it, some of its hidden treasures of grace? Do we take literally enough its companion words in St. Matthew, “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions … your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.… After this manner therefore pray ye”? Is not the old weary round too often trodden in our praying, as if indeed the Lord’s Prayer were not?—Vaughan.
Our Intercessor.—Just as we have our Saviour as our Intercessor in heaven, so we, in our prayers on earth, take the words of our Intercessor to help us.—Cyprian.
“Our Father, who art in heaven.”—This implies
(1) that we have access to God, and
(2) that we may rely on Him with full and unshaken confidence.
“Our Father.”—Not “My Father.” The plural reminds us
(1) of our brotherhood in Christ, and
(2) of the duty of common prayer. God is our Father
(1) because He is our Creator and Sustainer, and
(2) because we are His adopted children by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:26).
A Personal God.—This phrase is a denial of Atheism, Pantheism, and Deism, for it recognises a God, a Personal God, who is our Father through Christ.
“Hallowed be Thy name.”—Cf. Malachi 1:6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if, then, I be a father, where is Mine honour? and if I be a master, where is My fear?
General Character of the Prayer.—The prayer is that the existence of God may be believed, His attributes and perfections adored and imitated, His supremacy acknowledged, and His providence owned and trusted in.—Bloomfield.
Fulfilment of this Petition.—We can fulfil this prayer
(1) by joining with our brethren in the public worship of God;
(2) by reverence of demeanour in the house of God;
(3) by refraining from sinful and profane talk; and
(4) by reverencing everything belonging to God—His word, His day, His sacraments, His ministers, and His people.
“Thy kingdom come.”—
1. God’s spiritual rule over the souls of men.
2. The extension of His Church, as of His visible kingdom.
3. His heavenly kingdom, which is to come after the resurrection, and to endure for ever.
“Thy will be done.”
I. Because it is the will of the author of our being and the fountain of all existence.
II. God’s will should be done by us because it is supported by the whole constitution of things.
III. God’s will is to be done by us because it is a perfect will, a righteous and loving will, the will of a father.
IV. God’s will is to be done because it rests on perfect knowledge and the widest survey of things.—Leckie.
Submission of Our Wills to God’s Will.—Our wills are to be sacrificed to the will of God; we are
(1) to obey His commandments, and
(2) to suffer what He may lay upon us with faith and submission and contentment.
“As in heaven.”—“Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word” (Psalms 103:20).
The Trinity.—The first three petitions are inseparably triune: the name to be hallowed, of the Father just invoked, of the Son whose kingdom is to come, of the Spirit through whose inworking the children of God are disciplined and enabled to do His will.—Stier.
Luke 11:3. “Give us day by day our daily bread.”—This teaches us
(1) that everything we enjoy is the gift of God;
(2) that as God is willing and able to give, we should not be overwhelmed by earthly anxieties and cares;
(3) that our desires should be modest and reasonable; and
(4) that we should ever be thankful for having received from God so much more than daily bread.
“Give us.”—The prayer
(1) acknowledges that we are indebted to God for our simplest boons;
(2) asks for them all;
(3) asks them only day by day;
(4) and asks for no more (cf. Proverbs 30:8).—Farrar.
The Present, the Past, and the Future.—As the prayer for daily bread raises us above care for to-day, and the prayer for the forgiveness of sins is meant to quiet us concerning the past, so is the prayer against temptation a weapon for the uncertain future.—Van Oosterzee.
Luke 11:4. “Forgive,” etc.—The last three petitions have regard to
(1) the beginning,
(2) the progress, and
(3) the end of spiritual life in the world; the worshipper confesses his guilt, deprecates danger, and asks for deliverance from the evils to which he is exposed.
“For we also forgive.”—As the first invocation put away all idolatry and image-worship, so is all murder, and anger, adultery, stealing, slandering, and whatever other evil to our neighbour there may be, put away from the heart and will of him who prays the fifth petition and abides in it.—Stier.
“Indebted to us.”—We cannot forgive sins, as such—that belongs to God; but only as obligations from man to man, represented by the commercial phrase “indebted.”
“Lead us not.”—The memory of past faults suggests the idea of present weakness, and excites a fear of falling into sin in time to come.
Opportunity and Desire.—Our prayer is, Let not the tempting opportunity meet the too-susceptible disposition. If the temptation comes, quench the desire; if the desire, spare us the temptation.—Farrar.
“Deliver us from evil.”—The expression is a military term, which describes the deliverance of a prisoner who has fallen, or who is on the point of falling, into the power of the enemy. The enemy is the Evil One, who lays snares in the path of the faithful. They, conscious of the danger which they run, and of their own weakness, ask God not to permit them to be taken in the snares which may have been set for them by the adversary.—Godet.
“Temptation … evil.”
1. Concealed pitfalls.
2. Open dangers. The petition teaches us
(1) humility—we are to ask for help against all temptations, even the smallest, and not to be led near them; and
(2) caution—for if our prayer is to be effectual, we must shun evil and the appearance of evil.
Luke 11:5-42.11.13. The Efficacy of Prayer.—This is proved by—
I. An example of how importunity avails, even in the case of a disobliging neighbour.
II. Daily experience (Luke 11:9-42.11.10).
III. The fatherly character of God (Luke 11:11-42.11.13).
Luke 11:5-42.11.10. Indifference overcome by Prayer.—After Jesus had taught His disciples how to pray, He went on to speak to them in a parable that seems to cast a new light on some of those relations of man to God which are to be affected by this mysterious agency. For instead of representing the Divine nature as open and tremulous to our cry, it is represented to us here as if wrapped in a slumber heavy as midnight, and only to be awakened by our persistent and most urgent endeavour. The same view of matters is presented in the parable of the Importunate Widow and the Unjust Judge. The first feeling we have about the matter is either that there has been some mistake in the way these parables are reported or that it is hopeless for try to understand them. We say, “This householder asleep at midnight! What can this mean?” I think the meaning is that Jesus would teach us in this way what we aro learning in many other ways—that the best things in the Divine life, as in the natural, will not come to us merely for the asking; that true prayer is the whole strength of the man going out after his needs, and the real secret of getting what you want in heaven, as on earth, lies in the fact that you give your whole heart for it, or you cannot adequately value it when you get it. So, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” means, “Put out all your energies, as if you had to waken heaven out of a midnight slumber, or an indifference like that of the unjust judge.” The parable teaches something in our life we seldom adequately consider—viz., what might be called the indifference of God to anything less than the best there is in man—the determination of Heaven not to hear what we are not determined that heaven shall hear.—Collyer.
Luke 11:5-42.11.8. Duty of Hospitality and Neighbourliness.—We are here taught incidentally:
1. The duty of hospitality, and that not grudgingly, or of necessity, but cheerfully shown.
2. The duty of friendly and neighbourly accommodation.
Luke 11:5-42.11.7. A Contrast.—All the circumstantial features form a contrast to the Friend in heaven, who never gives such an answer (though it may at first seem so to unbelief). God does not sleep, He never shuts His door against us; He has no favourite children who divert His attention from us; He does not think it a trouble to hear, and to grant. And though man sometimes is really not able to help, yet God is always both willing and able.—Stier.
A Parable on Importunate Prayer.—Jesus was well aware how God often shows Himself so little like a father that those who trust in Him are tempted to think Him rather like a man of selfish spirit, who cares only for his own comfort. Such precisely is the representation of God as He appears in the parable of the Selfish Neighbour.
I. The relevancy of the parable requires that His character should be regarded as representing God—not as He is, indeed, but as He seems to tried faith.—It is thus tacitly admitted by Jesus that, far from giving His children what they need before they ask, God often delays for a lengthened period answers to prayer, so as to present to suppliants an aspect of indifference and heartlessness. The didactic drift of the parable is: You will have to wait on God, but it is worth your while to wait. Man can be compelled to hear by importunity and excessive knocking. God is not a man to be compelled, yet it may be said that the apparent reluctance of Providence can be overcome by persistent prayer which refuses to be gainsaid or frustrated, continuing to knock at the door with an importunity that knows no shame. In other words, with full consciousness how much there is in the world which seems to prove the contrary, Jesus asserted the reality of a Paternal Providence continually working for the good of those who make the kingdom of God their chief end.
II. It must be observed that, while giving this assurance to His disciples that God would attend to their spiritual welfare, Jesus did not lead them to expect that in this sphere there would be no occasion for exercising the virtue of patience.—On the contrary, it is clearly implied in the parable that the delays which make God assume so untoward an aspect take place in connection with all the objects referred to in the Lord’s Prayer: the advancement of the kingdom, daily bread, the personal spiritual necessities of disciples. Hence we learn that even the Holy Spirit may not be given at once in satisfying measure to those who earnestly desire it, though sure to be so given eventually. The Holy Spirit is given in ample measure to all earnest souls, but not even to the most earnest without such delays as are most trying to faith and patience.—Bruce.
I. This ever-mindful God, our loving Father, has a way of His own, and we must meet Him in His own way.—He is very willing to give good gifts—more so than our earthly fathers. But He must be entreated to give them.
II. Ye shall receive, but not with out asking. And then, too, not always at once.—This is the lesson of the parable. Because of His importunity, the man got what he wanted. He would not be put off. He asked till he got.
III. How much more will our Heavenly Father give good gifts.—especially that best gift, His own Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christian peace, and joy, and love, and holiness—if we ask, and ask again, and will not let Him go until He blesses us!—James Hastings.
How God Appears to the Timid Mind.—The parable is intended to set forth, not the actual way in which God ought to be regarded, but how He may be represented to a man, by his ignorance and fear, by one who is in need, and has ventured at some midnight hour to knock at God’s door. Now that He has begun to ask, why should he leave off? Let him continue to ask. Importunity and a little delay will do him good in this first venture. He will come back more confidently next time, for God will seem more a friend than He was before.—Maccoll.
Utter Selfishness Depicted.—The utter selfishness of the man to whom the appeal is made is vividly depicted.
1. Though addressed as “friend,” he omits any such appellation in his reply.
2. His first words are rude, surly, and abrupt.
3. He details the obstacles that stand in the way of granting the request—the trouble involved in opening the door, and the risk of awakening the children.
Luke 11:5. “At midnight.”—He designed us to understand that if a man, unwillingly roused from his sleep by some petitioner, is compelled to give, with how much greater kindliness we may expect bounty at the hands of Him who “never slumbereth” and who is the very person who rouses us to call us upon Him.—Augustine.
“Three loaves.”—I.e., cakes of bread. There is no mystical significance in the number—it is simply an appropriate detail in the parable: one loaf for the guest, one for the host who sits down at table with him, and a third in reserve.
Importunate Faith.—When the heart, which has been away on a journey, returns suddenly at midnight (in the time of greatest darkness and distress) home to us—that is, comes to itself and feels hunger—and we have nothing wherewith to satisfy it, God requires of us bold, importunate faith.—Meyer.
Luke 11:7. “Trouble me not.”—The reluctance is real: but God’s reluctance is apparent only, and even this appearance arises from reasons which work for our best good.
Luke 11:8. “Importunity.”—I.e., shamelessness. How expressive the word, and how instructive! It teaches us the nature of true prevailing prayer. The prayer which gains its end is prayer which knocks till the door is opened, regardless of so-called decencies and proprieties, which it seeks till it obtains, at the risk of being reckoned impudent, which simply cannot understand and will not take a refusal, and asks till it receives.—Bruce.
Importunity in Prayer Reasonable, and Incumbent upon us.
I. Because of the majesty and holiness of Him whom we address, and our own weakness and sinfulness. Indifference and lukewarmness are out of place.
II. Because of the great value of the spiritual deliverances and blessings we implore.
Encouragements to Importunity in Prayer.
I. It tends to quicken our desires.
II. Such prayer has the promise of being answered.
III. The record in Scripture of successful importunate prayers.—Jacob, Elijah, the Syro-phenician woman, St. Paul, and Christ Himself.
Luke 11:9. “I say unto you.”—A marked distinction is to be drawn between the use of this phrase in the preceding verse and that made of it here. The former is unemphatic—any one would admit that such “shamelessness” would be likely to prevail in the circumstances described; any one could say, “He would be sure to rise and give whatever was asked.” But in this verse Christ emphatically assures us on His own testimony that like importunity does avail in prayer to God. Our warrant for believing in the efficacy of importunate prayer rests, not upon analogies or arguments, but upon the testimony of Christ Himself.
1. Asking, Seeking, Knocking.—We ask for what we wish.
2. We seek for what we miss.
3. We knock for that from which we feel ourselves shut out.—Brown.
“It shall be opened.”
And lively hope with violence assail
The kingdom of the heavens, and overcome
The will of the Most High; not in such sort
As man prevails o’er man; but conquers it,
Because ’tis willing to be conquered, still,
Though conquered, by its mercy conquering.”
Dante (Parad. xx.).
Luke 11:10. Receiveth … findeth … it shall be opened.”—Two of the verbs are in the present, the third is in the future; and this last is because the opening of the door is not the action of the person who knocks, but of another within.
Asking Apparently in Vain.—If any complain that they have “asked,” “sought,” “knocked in vain,” let them be reminded—
I. That prayer is not always answered immediately.—The reason why God sometimes delays His gifts may be because that which is long looked for is sweeter when obtained, but that is held cheap which comes at once.
II. That is often an act of the truest love to withhold a favour, however earnestly prayed for.
III. That prayer, though sometimes actually refused, for merciful reasons, at the time, is sometimes, perhaps always, eventually answered in a different and far higher sense than was expected or desired.—Burgon.
The Most Wonderful of the Parables.—In some respects this parable and that of the Unjust Judge, are the more wonderful and precious of all the parables. The rest present such views of Divine grace as may be shadowed forth by the ordinary manifestations of human character and action—such as a shepherd bringing back his sheep, or a sower casting his seed into the ground; but these two go sheer down through all that lies on the surface of human history—down through all the upper and ordinary grades of human experience—and penetrate into the lower, darker, meaner things at the bottom, in order to find a longer line wherewith to measure out greater lengths and breadths of God’s compassion.—Arnot.
Luke 11:11-42.11.12. Bread, Fish, Eggs.—The three articles of food are not taken at haphazard. Bread, hard-boiled eggs, and fried fish, are the ordinary articles used for food by a traveller in the East.
The outward resemblance between the wholesome articles of food and the useless or hurtful substitute, renders the form in which the lesson is cast all the more picturesque and happy.
Luke 11:11. God’s Giving.—God gives us
(1) more than we ask,
(2) what we cannot ask;
(3) against our asking.
Luke 11:13. “Being evil.”—Original sin is here very distinctly implied.
No Flattery of the World in Scripture.—Scripture does not commend itself to the world by speaking well of it; more wonder is it that Scripture has been received by men as God’s Word.—Wordsworth.
Christ Implies His own Sinlessness.—Not “we being evil”: an indirect but unmistakeable testimony to His own sinlessness.
“How much more.”—He has both
(1) will to give, and
(2) wisdom to give good things only. He will give us as largely as we can receive of His own Holy Spirit.
Luke 11:14. Casting out a devil.—There seems to be little doubt that this miracle is the same as that in Matthew 12:22, as wrought apparently in Galilee. In St. Matthew’s Gospel there is, however, no precise mention of time or place. It is quite hopeless to attempt to fix the exact order in which the events occurred. Dumb.—And blind (Matthew 12:22).
Luke 11:15. Some of them.—“Pharisees” (Matthew 12:24), “scribes which came from Jerusalem” (Mark 3:22). Beelzebub.—The form of the name in Greek is Beelzebub; the original Hebrew word is Baal-zebub, the form of Baal worshipped at Ekron. The meaning of the latter name is Baal or Lord of the fly, a designation which has parallels in classical mythology. The meaning of the form of the name Beelzebub is either Lord of dung, so called in derision by the Jews, or Lord of the dwelling, as prince of the lower world (cf. Matthew 10:25, “Master of the house”), or Lord of idols, and therefore, as here, “the chief of the devils.”
Luke 11:16. A sign from heaven.—In proof of His Messiahship. Perhaps a portent like those foretold by Joel (Luke 2:30-42.2.31).
Luke 11:17. Every kingdom.—The kingdom of evil as an organisation with a personal head may be torn by discords, but being wholly evil must be unanimous in its opposition to the kingdom of God. “An organisation which acts against itself, its own distinctive aims, must destroy itself.” The same reasoning is applied to the case of a house and of an individual person.
Luke 11:19. Your sons.—I.e., your disciples. The Pharisees countenanced cases of exorcism wrought by spells and incantations, and perhaps in some instances actual miracles of the kind were accomplished by faith in God and by invocation of the Divine Name. Christ by no means seems to deny the validity of all the cures. As matters stood, therefore, collusion with Satan was not the necessary explanation of casting out devils; and the holiness of Christ’s character, as well as the air of authority with which He wrought miracles, were additional reasons against such a dishonourable explanation of His mighty deeds.
Luke 11:20. The finger of God.—An allusion to Exodus 8:19. St. Matthew has “the Spirit of God” (Luke 12:28), which is practically the same thing.
Luke 11:21. A strong man.—An illustration possibly taken from Isaiah 49:24. The strong man is Satan; He that overcomes him is Christ.
Luke 11:23. He that is not with Me.—There is no middle course between Christ and Satan.
Luke 11:24. Dry places.—Desert regions. According to Jewish ideas the special abode of demons. Seeking rest.—In misery when he is not tormenting a man.
Luke 11:25. Swept and garnished.—But empty, and inviting the re-occupation of the evil spirit.
Luke 11:26. Seven other.—The number suggests completeness—every form and variety of evil. Worse than the first.—Cf. Hebrews 6:4-58.6.6; Hebrews 10:26-58.10.29; 2 Peter 2:20-61.2.21. “The parable was an allegory, not only of the awful peril of relapse after partial conversion, but also of the history of the Jews. The demon of idolatry had been expelled by the Exile, but had returned with the sevenfold virulence of letter-worship, formalism, exclusiveness, ambition, greed, hypocrisy, and hate; and on the testimony of Josephus himself, the Jews of that age were so bad that their destruction seemed an inevitable retribution” (Farrar).
Luke 11:27. A certain woman.—This incident is peculiar to St. Luke. The arousal of ignorant enthusiasm in the mind of a hearer, on these stern and authoritative words being spoken, is a very natural circumstance. Probably the woman caught sight of “His mother and His brethren” on the outskirts of the crowd, as St. Matthew speaks of their presence in connection with this discourse (see Matthew 12:46-40.12.50). Of the company.—Rather, “out of the multitude” (R.V.)
Luke 11:29. Were gathered thick.—Rather, “were gathering together unto Him” (R.V.). Jonas the prophet.—Omit “the prophet,” taken probably from the parallel passage in St. Matthew.
Luke 11:30. A sign.—I.e., by his three days’ and three nights’ entombment in the fish (Jonah 1:17).
Luke 11:31. The queen of the south.—1 Kings 10:1-11.10.13. The Queen of Sheba; supposed from this passage in St. Luke to be Yemen in Arabia. A greater than Solomon.—Lit., “more than,’ “somewhat greater.” So, too, in the next verse.
Luke 11:32. They repented.—See Jonah 3:5.
Luke 11:33. No man, etc.—The connection of Luke 11:33-42.11.36 with what precedes them is somewhat obscure. Jesus had been assailed by His enemies, both with the charge of performing mighty works by the aid of the powers of evil and with a clamour for a sign from heaven to prove the celestial source of His mission, and of the miraculous powers which seemed to authenticate it. Jesus answers in effect, “The sign for which you ask will be given. Jonas was a sign to the Ninevites, and so shall the Son of man be a sign to this generation.” The sign shall be open, public, capable of being read by all men. This is part of the very nature of a sign: no man, when he has lighted a candle, conceals it; that is no sign which is not seen. But in order that a sign may convince, the minds of those to whom it is given must be healthy and unbiassed. The light which is given to all can only profit those whose vision is healthy and natural; and so only those who are free from prejudice can appreciate the spiritual light” (Speaker’s Commentary). Lighted a candle.—The figure is one several times used by Christ in different connections. Cf. Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16; Mark 4:21. A secret place.—Rather, “a covered place,” “a cellar” (R.V.). A bushel.—Rather, “the bushel” (R.V.); so also “the stand” (R.V.), reference being made to the well-known utensils to be found in an ordinary Eastern house.
Luke 11:34. The light of the body.—Rather, “the lamp of the body” (R.V.). The eye here means the conscience. Single.—Not distorted by prejudice.
Luke 11:36. If thy whole body, etc.—“Only when thy body is wholly illumined, without having even an obscure corner left therein, will it become so bright and clear as if the full brilliancy of a bright lamp illumined thee; in other words, thou wilt be placed in a normal condition of light” (Van Oosterzee). A gradual growth in purity and holiness is depicted, which results in the removal of everything that hinders the reception of Divine truth, and in the subjection of every part of the being to that truth.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 11:14-42.11.36
Neutrality Impossible in Religion.—This miracle of casting out the devil from the dumb man served to bring the claims of Christ before those who witnessed it. They were, as it were, compelled to make up their mind to accept Him or to reject Him as their Saviour and Lord. He was evidently armed with supernatural power, and admission of this fact should naturally have led to an acceptance of His teaching. The kingdom of God had come, and men were called to choose what attitude towards it they would take up. Yet the minds of the people were undecided; some were merely astonished at the prodigy they had witnessed, others demanded a further sign of His Divine authority, while a third class boldly accused Him of collusion with Satan—of being aided by Satanic power in order to deceive the people more completely. Our Lord refuted this calumny by appealing to the teaching of common-sense, and by pointing out that all successful exorcism was performed in the. Divine name and by the power of God—the strong being overcome by One yet stronger. He then declared that those that were not with Him were against Him, or, in other words, that there is no neutrality possible in matters of religion.
I. Absence of positive attachment to Christ involves hostility to Him.—As head of the kingdom of God and in conflict with the powers of evil He represents a cause which concerns every living man. There is no alternative between accepting Him and rejecting Him—between being on the side of holiness and being opposed to it. Men may stand outside of other movements—political, social, artistic, literary, or philosophical—and assert that they are incapable of judging between the merits of contending parties, or that they are not interested in the questions debated. But in the strife between good and evil none can be neutral: to do evil and to acquiesce in evil done are treason against God. There is but a difference in degree of culpability between those who openly range themselves on the side of evil and those who refuse to take a place on the side of righteousness. Distaste for holiness is akin to positive love of sin. Christ here brings this home to the consciences of men. Love for God is inextricably involved with allegiance to the Son of God manifest in the flesh, and those who reject Him who was sent, reject Him by whom He was sent. The rejection may be accompanied with malignant feelings and with open outrage, but it is none the less rejection if the summons to follow Him is declined in the most courteous terms.
II. A pretended neutrality is only a prelude to a worse state.—The heart of man is like a house prepared for habitation; if it is not occupied by a spirit of holiness it will be seized upon by an evil spirit. That which is strongest will hold it. The appearance of neutrality between good and evil may for a time be kept up; there may be an absence of openly vicious tendencies in the life, as well as of faith in the Saviour and loyalty to His person. But this mere varnish of decency and respectability will not strengthen the character and enable it to stand against a renewed and more determined assault of evil. Forces are at work that will inevitably degrade the nature that is not consciously in communion with God and Christ, or that deliberately refuses the better part. “The last state of that man is worse than the first.”
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 11:14-42.11.36
Luke 11:14. The Dumb Spirit.—It is thus still. While the devil has possession, the man is dumb. Only when the devil is cast out by the word of Jesus can the dumb speak. The indication of possession in this instance was the silence. There is a very true sense in which every man naturally, and without God, has in him a dumb spirit, and can only lose that spirit under the healing touch of Christ.
I. The curse of a bad temper.—The sullen silence, the overcast brow, the morose reserve, the speechless displeasure, priding itself on its tenacity and perseverance—is not this indeed an example of possession by a dumb spirit? At such times you are under Satanic influence.
II. The pre-occupied, self-engrossed life.—Excluding others from all confidence, having in reality no partner and no associate, giving out in social converse the merest superficialities of thought, and in domestic intercourse the veriest dregs and refuse of one’s being. Does the description sound unamiable? It is so. This is not the man for love, for love is not in him. But is the description exaggerated? Has it no counterpart! Alas! too often is it to be found. The lips may speak, but the soul speaks not: the devil that possesses is not only debasing, but dumb.
III. A more nearly universal experience.—The absence of spiritually helpful speech. The silence of most on the highest themes. A true Christian will use his gift of speech in the service of his Master. What name can we give to that use of speech which leaves out or refuses this high object? With most, alas! as to any value or blessing bestowed on others by our gift of speech, we might as well have been bereft of it. The spirit possessing us has been no better than a dumb spirit.
IV. It has been so towards men.—We have done no good with our speech. And how has it been towards God? Our text stands in immediate connection with a passage on prayer. Possession by the evil one makes us dumb Godward. We all, naturally, hang back from prayer. Is prayer a command? We disobey it. Is it a privilege? We scorn it. Any excuse is enough to put it aside. Books, amusements, are welcome to us if they come instead of, and form an excuse for, neglecting prayer. How can you doubt being under some malign influence if you are prevented from holding communion with your heavenly Father?
V. But the gospel of Jesus Christ comes to our help.—It humbles, that it may raise. The text which condemns, also promises. “When the devil was gone out, the dumb spake.” Has it not been found true a thousand times! The profane, the deceitful, the blasphemous, the frivolous, the impure, have learned to pray, and to praise. There is magic in the contact of Christ’s power. It transforms souls, and fulfils the words “When the devil was gone out, the dumb spake. And all the people gave praise to God.”—Vaughan.
“It was dumb.”—As if the miracle were done as a sign illustrative of this teaching to pray. For this is the real difficulty that many have as to prayer. They are dumb, at least to God, because an evil spirit has got possession of them, and another spirit is needed, that they may begin thus to speak. The very readiness to pray, although long dumb, may be the first sign of such a wonder, as the gift of the Holy Spirit, silently wrought. It is the very finger of God that casts out of men this dumb, prayerless spirit, and all others of the same evil class.—Maccoll.
“Dumb.”—This man, possessed by a devil, was both dumb and blind (Matthew 12:22). Some of Christ’s cures were wrought
(1) on persons who appealed for help;
(2) on some, as the paralytic, who, with their own consent, were brought to Him;
(3) on some whom He chanced to meet (chap. Luke 7:12; John 5:5); and
(4), in this instance, on one brought to Him without his own consent.
Three Classes of Spectators.—Three classes of people behold this miracle:
1. Those who are for Christ, and marvel as they recognise the Divine power manifested by Him.
2. Those who are against Him, and ascribe the work to the powers of evil.
3. Those who are neutral, and ask a fresh sign, to convince their wavering minds.
Luke 11:14-42.11.16. A Terrible Accusation.—The cure having been immediately and completely successful, those present expressed their feelings. From the midst of this multitude, plunged in astonishment, some are heard to state a most terrible accusation. There was, they said, collusion between Jesus and Satan: Satan, in order to secure credit for Him, has given Him this power over the possessed. Others, more moderate in appearance, demand that Jesus, to free Himself from such a suspicion, should work a miracle of a kind different from these cures—a sign proceeding undeniably from heaven, the seat of Divine power; then it will be evident that His power is derived from a holy source.—Godet.
Luke 11:15. “But some of them said.”—It is as if the cast-out devil had just entered into these, to make them blind with a more wicked blindness, and, from being a dumb devil, had, for a change, become one speaking blasphemously.—Stier.
“He casteth out.”—It is well worthy of notice that the enemies of Christ do not deny the fact of the miracle having been wrought, though their hatred of Him led them to draw this injurious inference from the fact.
“Through Beelzebub.”—The imputation was that Satan had, as principal, entered into a compact with Jesus, as subordinate. He had entered into this compact, it was insinuated, for the purpose of putting down the inestimably beneficent influence of the Pharisees. Hence, it was alleged, all the strictures and criticisms of Jesus on the godly ways of the godly people! Power was given from beneath, power even to cast out demons, so that the people might be thoroughly deceived.—Morison.
Luke 11:16. “From heaven.”—Such as the manna from heaven given by Moses: the fire called down by Elijah. A sign was offered by Isaiah to Ahaz “either in the depth or in the height above” (Isaiah 7:11). The demand was akin to the third temptation in the wilderness.
Luke 11:17-42.11.26. The Accusation Refuted; the True Explanation Given.
I. Jesus refutes the blasphemous explanation of His cures (Luke 11:17-42.11.19).
II. He gives the true explanation of them (Luke 11:20-42.11.26).
Luke 11:18. “Divided against himself.”—The assertion of the Pharisees assumed that there was an organised kingdom of evil with a personal ruler. Our Lord uses this assumption as a terrible fact, which, however, proves the absurdity of the charge made against Himself. This organised kingdom of darkness, because it is only evil, is racked with discords and hatred, but against the kingdom of God it is a unit. The point of the argument here is, not that discords are fatal, which is not always the case, but that an organisation which acts against itself, its own distinctive aims, must destroy itself.—Popular Commentary.
“How shall his kingdom stand?”—Satan would, according to their supposition, have been exerting his power, not only to set this particular person free from his dominion, but to confirm the whole doctrines and precepts of Christ, which were all directly opposed to the kingdom of Satan, and calculated and destined to overthrow it. Such a supposition, therefore, was quite inconsistent with the craft and sagacity of the devil, and was altogether untenable.
Luke 11:20. “With the finger of God.”—An allusion to the ease and despatch with which His mighty works were done.
Luke 11:21-42.11.23. Entire Moral Independence is Impossible.—The palace is freed from the usurped dominion of the strong man, only to become the willing recipient of the Stronger than he. But subjection to Christ is no bondage; it is the very law of liberty.—Brown.
Luke 11:21-42.11.22. The Two Warriors.—This figure of the two warriors, one of whom takes up his stand fully armed on the threshold of his castle, ready to defend it, and the other comes suddenly and beats him down and divides the spoil among his followers, is taken from Isaiah 49:24-23.49.25; the prophet applies it to Jehovah delivering His people from the hands of the heathen oppressor. There is a truly epic majesty in the picture of the two adversaries, and there is no other saying of Jesus which gives such a striking impression of His consciousness of the sublimity of His position and the greatness of His work.—Godet.
Christ the Conqueror of Satan.—One of the most comprehensive of the Saviour’s titles. There are five steps by which our Lord advances to this victory over Satan.
I. When He vanquished him in Himself.—Through the body, through the mind, through the spirit—in the wilderness.
II. By His works.—Not only by His bodily healings, where He dispossessed Satan, but in those cases where the devil himself was present in the struggle. Those who were possessed by demons, and delivered from them, were the most outstanding monuments of Christ’s power and mercy.
III. By His death.—By submitting to death He redeemed us. His death availed as an atonement for the sins of men; it removed the obstacle of unforgiven and uncancelled guilt which was the very strength of Satan’s kingdom. Since then the kingdom of the devil has become contracted in its limits, and weakened in its dominion.
IV. By His life.—His heavenly life, into which His resurrection introduced Him, and to which the ascension sealed Him. As the living, enthroned Saviour, He imparts the life-giving Spirit. The Spirit alone can extirpate evil, and break the power of Satan in the individual life. This is the individual victory in the case of each separate redeemed soul.
V. By His future judgment.—In the consummation of all things, Satan and his angels will be adjudged to their final doom by the enthroned Saviour.—Vaughan.
Luke 11:22. The Strong Man.—The strong man has indeed been overcome, and his power to harm diminished. Yet ought we not therefore to be careless, for here the Conqueror Himself pronounces him to be strong.
Luke 11:23. Decision.—Our Lord has been exposing the folly and perverseness of those who would ascribe His power over evil to a compact with evil. He shows that there is a natural and an irreconcileable antagonism between evil and good, between the Saviour and the enemy of man. And He says that each particular person must take a side in that conflict. Whoever does not take the one side, as a matter of course takes the other. By not siding with Christ he sufficiently indicates that he sides against Him. It is a lesson of judgment, to guide us in our estimate of ourselves. It says: “Remember the necessity of decision between Christ and evil. Do not suppose that a merely negative state will suffice for salvation. If you are not with Christ He must look upon you as against Him; practically you are so, and in the final judgment such will be your doom.” Do the words sound harsh and overstrained? Severe though they may sound in connection with religion, I am sure that we feel the force of our Lord’s words in connection with human life.
I. With its business.—How worthless is half-hearted co-operation! We reject vague, vacillating support. It is almost more provoking than direct opposition. A man ought to know his own mind. To be destitute of the quality of decision and determination is to be useless.
II. With life’s friendships.—What is a friend worth who is distrustful and doubting? You expect loyalty towards yourself, even against appearances.
III. So must it be with Christ.—He looks for decision in aim and affection. He is worthy of it. And, having made up our minds about Him, we ought to be bold, resolute, unflinching in our avowal of love and loyalty. “He that is not with Me” is His own description of a half-Christian. Such an one never seeks His company, is never truly “with Him.”
V. But to be with Christ means more—it means to be on His side.—In the daily strife we have chosen to be on Christ’s side. We are in the struggle, and Christ is concerned in that struggle, interested in its progress and in its end. We cannot be neutrals. If we try to be so He speaks of us in this sad fashion: “He that is not with Me.”
VI. This does not necessarily imply active opposition to Christ.—The expression is negative. It implies the absence of interest, of cherishing faith and love, of claiming your position as a son, and living up to it. It implies that it has not been a great and constant object with you to gain heaven, and here to live as an expectant heir of heaven. And for practical purposes, and so far as the final personal issue is concerned, the faint-hearted, cowardly, treacherous soldier of Christ is rather an enemy to Him than a friend.—Vaughan.
None can be Neutral.—Every one must take part in the contest. Neutrality is impossible. To attempt to stand by and merely watch the work of Christ is at once to join the other side. There are two scales of the balance, and there is nothing but these two. Any weight withdrawn from the one scale, of necessity goes into the other. The declaration is one of the most solemn and far-reaching statements in the whole of the Bible.—Plummer.
“He that is not with Me.”—Our Lord has proved that He is the stronger, that He is the Messiah, working miracles by the spirit of God; the alternative is therefore presented in a new form: Christ or Satan. The Pharisees decided for Satan, and were consistent in their opposition. Sentimental admirers of Christ are simply inconsistent enemies.—Popular Commentary.
False Prudence.—A false Gamaliel-prudence thinks to save itself by saying, “If only we are not fighting against God,” and leaves the kingdom and work of God to take its course, without helping it by confession or by action, and thereby coming to the knowledge that it is from God. Let the indolent and undecided only not mock, not persecute, that is thought to count for something in their favour. But this is the middle party of whom Christ knows nothing, and of whom He makes no account; them He condemns and hands over to His enemies.—Stier.
Two Classes of Men.—There are three classes in every community: the friends of Christ, the foes of Christ, and the neutrals. The Bible, however, recognises but two classes: good and bad, sheep and goats, children and rebels.
I. What is it to be with Christ?—It is
(1) to have sympathy with the principles for which His kingdom exists, and
(2) to be identified with Him in carrrying out those principles. Many are for Him in proportion to those who are with Him.
II. The evils of neutrality.—
1. The neutral man hangs as a dead weight upon the Church. 2. He paralyses those who are in active service.
3. Indecision leads not unfrequently to an utter betrayal of Christ to the enemy.
Luke 11:24-42.11.26. The Perils of a Vacant Heart.—It will never do to wish for the absence of evil, and yet not to desire the presence of God.
I. We must never, in any work we try to do in God’s name, set before ourselves, or others, a negative aim.
II. We should realise the spiritual capacities of the human heart, that it may become the throne of God.
III. There is great need of patience to bring the life more and more perfectly in subjection to the love of God.—Paget.
The Parable of the Demon’s Return.—The parable grows out of the previous declaration, “He that is not with Me, is against Me.” It illustrates, in a very vivid way, the impossibility of deserting Satan without joining Christ, the impossibility of keeping aloof from Christ without falling into the power of Satan.
I. Christ is not contrasting the imperfect and uncertain methods of Jewish exorcists with His own.—This interpretation is read into the narrative. It is not found there. We do not need to concern ourselves with the literal truth of a parable such as this.
II. The expelled spirit is restless and ill at ease.—He can only be at rest where he can inflict harm. He still calls the man’s soul “my house.” He knows in what condition the house is likely to be. He speaks of it as a sure possession, and a return to the former abode shows that this expectation is correct.
III. The house of the soul is empty.—This is placed first as the main evil, and the chief cause of the ruinous end. There is a grievous defect in this condition. The man is well satisfied with himself. There is no humility, no fear of being enslaved a second time, and so, no earnest seeking for Divine support, no imploring of the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in the heart from which Satan for the moment has departed. The aversion to sin is merely temporary; there is no yearning after holiness. An attempt is made to occupy an untenable position, to renounce the devil without becoming the bond-servant of Jesus Christ.
IV. The return of the foul spirit.—As there is no protection against unworthy tenants, the evil spirit seeks some choice companions to come and share in the work of destruction, and they quickly make the ruin complete. Is there not written here very plainly the history of many a human soul? Though we renounce the devil, he will not renounce us. He watches his opportunity, and comes back with sevenfold subtlety and violence, and quickly has us more completely in his power than before. He comes this time to stay. It is, perhaps, not our old sin that at once begins again; but new forms of sin, less conspicuous, perhaps, but just as fatal, beset us—as the Jews, cured of the worship of idols, took to the worship of the letter of the law, and to covetousness, which is idolatry; or as a man, who has conquered intemperance in drink, falls a victim to pride and intemperance in language and conduct. The experience of thousands has proved that forces which are quite sufficient, even singly, to induce a man to abandon some sinful course, are unable, even when combined, to keep him in the right way. It is only when Christ, through His Holy Spirit, is made a welcome tenant that the liberated soul is secure. Safety from Satan’s bondage can be made sure in no other way than by abiding under the sway of Him whose service is perfect freedom.—Plummer.
Three Stages in the History of a Soul.
I. A change for the better.—A partial, temporary reformation.
II. It becomes again a prepared and inviting habitation for the unclean spirit.—Since it is empty, swept, and garnished.
III. The last and worst state.—Evil habits resumed having sevenfold power, and deliverance from them hopeless.
I. A dilapidated dwelling-house.
II. The return of the tenant.
III. The last plight of the tenant worse than the first.
1. Men can make new circumstances, but circumstances cannot make new men.
2. An increase of material and intellectual resource adds to the perils of humanity unless accompanied by a restoration of the soul which inherits and dominates the larger possession.
3. In proportion as life’s environment is enlarged and enriched, the urgency of spiritual regeneration is intensified and increased.—Berry.
Two Things Needed.—Two things are wanting to make the state of improvement or reformation permanent.
1. The unclean spirit has not been conquered and bound; he has only gone out, and can return when he will.
2. The house is not inhabited by a new and stronger power; the Spirit of God has not taken the place of the evil spirit now for a time away from his habitation.
Luke 11:24. “Dry places, seeking rest.”—He has a certain pleasure in all that is waste and desolate, in ruined paradises, and overthrown glory. How can a devil find rest, which the creature can find only in God? He has lost it for ever; he seeks it in vain, in all waste places, which otherwise please him; he seeks it especially in vain, there, where God the Lord of creation will have His rest, and where, therefore, the devil also, if he can force an entrance, finds himself relatively best—namely, in man.—Stier.
“Seeking rest.”—“Rest” and “quietness,” “sitting still,” “patient abiding,” is the portion of the good; but “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest.” “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” The unclean spirit “goes to and fro in the earth, walks up and down in it,” restless and miserable. He seeketh rest, but findeth none.
Luke 11:26. “More wicked.”—Not more depraved, for they are all equally depraved, but worse in their power to destroy and in their consequent obstinacy (cf. Mark 9:29).
“Enter in and dwell there.”—Had that house been guarded by watchfulness and prayer, this sad result had been impossible. The goodman watching against the thief’s approach would not have suffered his house to be broken through; and the devil, resisted by the prayer of faith, would have fled away. The soul, aware of its weak points and those parts of its nature against which old sins might most easily direct their attacks, should have kept vigilant guard.—Burgon.
“Last state is worse.”
I. The specific application to the Jews.—The first possession, the early idolatrous tendency of the Jews; the going out, the result of the captivity in Babylon; the emptying, sweeping, and garnishing at their return (Pharisaism, a seeming reformation, but really an invitation to evil influences); the last state, the terrible and infatuated condition of the Jews after they had rejected Christ.
II. Application to the history of Christianity.—The reformation, the casting out of the evil spirit of idolatry, permitted by Rome—the house empty, swept, and garnished; swept and garnished by the decencies of civilisation and discoveries of secular knowledge, but empty of living and earnest faith. The re-possession, the final development of the man of sin.
III. An application to individuals.—External reformation, without permanent spiritual results, leading to a “worse state.”—Popular Commentary.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 11:27-42.11.36
The Secret Cause of Unbelief.—It is evident that the incident recorded in Luke 11:27-42.11.28, interrupted the discourse of Jesus, for after gently checking the unwise enthusiasm manifested by this hearer He resumed His teaching, and replied to those who had asked for a sign from heaven (Luke 11:16). We may take those who proffered this request as typical of persons who profess to be hindered by intellectual difficulties from accepting Christ, and who require these difficulties to be solved before they will take any further step. It is quite reasonable to regard them in this light, for they profess to be unconvinced by what they know of Him, and speak of attaining conviction if a sign which they can weigh and estimate is granted to them. Their minds are, they imply, undecided; further evidence of a kind fixed by them would turn the scale—produce and strengthen faith. In Christ’s reply He reveals to them that their unbelief springs from an evil condition of heart.
I. The revelation given in Christ is sufficient of itself to kindle and confirm faith.—To the candid and unprejudiced mind it brings abundant proof of its authenticity and authority. Christ Himself is God manifested in the flesh and is His own best evidence; His holy life, His teaching, His death of self-sacrifice, and His glorious resurrection, are the central facts of Christianity. And to those who are unaffected, by them, no more convincing revelation could be given. They display a Divine purpose to redeem mankind and exhibit Christ as the conqueror of sin and death. They do not, indeed, solve all the intellectual questions that the mind of man can raise, but are amply sufficient to satisfy the longings and aspirations of the human heart. To those who turn aside from this revelation of God in Christ nothing further will be given.
II. The necessary preparation for receiving Christ is a sense of need and a consciousness of sin.—To those who are self-satisfied and self-righteous the gospel is unmeaning. Christ here contrasts the conduct of the queen of the south, who was attracted by the wisdom of Solomon, and that of the Ninevites, who repented at the preaching of Jonah, with that of those to whom He now spoke. The latter were lacking in the sense of ignorance and sin which the former displayed, and were therefore indifferent to the presence of one greater than Solomon and than Jonah. Consciousness of need would draw them to seek the heavenly wisdom that was in Him; conviction of sinfulness would dispose them to obey His summons to repentance.
III. A darkened heart the secret of unbelief.—It was not that light had been withheld from those to whom He spoke, and that thus they were still in darkness of error and unbelief. The light was shining and being displayed in the most conspicuous manner. But for the apprehension of the light a healthy eye was needed. Those, therefore, of prejudiced and wicked hearts were wanting in the very organ that would enable them to see the truth as it is in Jesus. On the other hand, a mind and heart enlightened and free from those prejudices which darken and make blind the soul will direct all our faculties and inclinations, and all the actions of the life, aright, as a light does the man who is travelling at night.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 11:27-42.11.36
I. The woman’s exclamation.—The blessedness of the Lord reflected on His mother.
II. Our Lord’s amendment on it.—It teaches us:
1. That the happiness of Mary herself consisted rather in her being a believer in Christ than in her being the mother of Christ.
2. That all true believers, as such, are more blessed than Christ’s mother, as such. 3. That those who are believers are more blessed on that account than on any other.—Foote.
Luke 11:27. “A certain woman.”—This woman truly represents devout Roman Catholics in their adoration of the virgin. The Ave Maria, as they use it, is but a repetition of her words, and their religious enthusiasm too often manifests the same unintelligent wonder which is here kindly reproved by our Lord.—Popular Commentary.
The Way of Obedience.—How many women have blessed the Holy Virgin and desired to be such a mother as she was? What hinders them? Christ has made for us a wide way to this happiness, and not only women, but men, may tread it—the way of obedience. This it is which makes such a mother, and not the throes of parturition.—Chrysostom.
Luke 11:28. Our Lord’s Reply.—Our Lord’s reply is indeed wonderful.
I. In reproof.—He corrects in her the unapprehensiveness of His word, which had caused her to go no further into the meaning of it than this ordinary eulogy imparted, and gives her an admonition how to profit better by it in future.
II. In humility.—He disclaims all this kind of admiration for His humanity, and says, not “My word,” but “the word of God,” which is, in fact, the same, but takes the view off from Him, in His abasement, unto the Father who sent Him.
III. In truth.—He does not deny the honour thereby pronounced on His mother, but beautifully turns it to its true side—viz., that which was given her long since (chap. Luke 1:45). Her blessedness consisted not so much in being His mother as in her lowly and faithful observance of the word of the Lord spoken to her (cf. chap. Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51). Nor, again, does He deny that to have borne Him was an honour—“yes, indeed, but.”
IV. In prophetic discernment.—It will be seen that this answer cuts at the root of all Mariolatry, and shows us in what the true honour of that holy woman consisted—in faith and obedience.—Alford.
Luke 11:29-42.11.32. “They seek a sign.”—The only sign from heaven that would be given would be no mere empty display of supernatural power; but in the course of the ministry of Christ an event would happen which would recall the history of Jonah. As the Hebrew prophet, after his deliverance from death, preached repentance to the Ninevites, so Christ, after resurrection, would proclaim salvation to the world. That it is the resurrection and not the preaching of Jonah that is the point of comparison is evident from the use of the future tense.
The mere presence of Christ should have secured credence for His teaching. Solomon did no miracles, neither was any prodigy wrought by Jonah at Nineveh. The wisdom of the one and the earnest preaching of the other were sufficient to attract and to persuade their contemporaries.
Luke 11:29. “Sign of Jonas.”—The history of the Old Testament presents no more striking example of a wonderful preservation from certain death than that of the prophet Jonah; nay, it is singular in its kind, inasmuch as the prophet, although, as it were, shut up in death, and buried, yet came forth again to life. Therefore is this history recorded as a similitude and type of the resurrection of Christ, as, in the sphere of the type, a resurrection of one really dead was not yet possible.—Stier.
Luke 11:31-42.11.32. “The queen of the south … the men of Nineveh.”—
1. Love of truth—manifested by the Queen of Sheba.
2. Repentance of sin and fear of the Divine judgment—manifested by the men of Nineveh. These contrast forcibly with the indifference and insensibility of those whom Christ now addressed.
“A greater than Solomon … than Jonas.”—
1. A greater person.
2. A more important message.
3. A profounder wisdom.
Luke 11:31. The Contrast.—
1. A heathen woman and the Jewish people.
2. “The utmost parts of the earth” and “here.”
3. Solomon and the Son of man.—Godet.
“The queen of the south.”—This incident is contrasted with the journey of Jonah. She came from the utmost parts of the earth—from the country that bounded the known world—to seek out the anointed of the Lord who was so much renowned, while Jonah went to the Ninevites to their own country.
Luke 11:32. Christ’s Power and Wisdom.—The Nineveh of this Jonah will be Rome, whose power will bow before the sign of the cross; and Greece will seek and find in this Solomon the true wisdom.—Stier.
Luke 11:33; Luke 11:36. “See the light.”—They wished a sign; a greater sign than Jonah is granted them, but to perceive it they must not (as they do) cover the light with a bushel, shut the eyes of their understanding.
On the one hand, by the resistance of the heart to Divine truth the soul gradually becomes darkened until it loses every trace of light. On the other hand, by receiving the truth into the heart the nature is gradually purified and enlightened, until it is transfigured and filled with a Divine glory, like that of Jesus on the Mount. The connection of this discourse with what precedes it is as follows: “I am not in collusion with Beelzebub; on the contrary, the kingdom of God has appeared among you. If you loved the truth, no startling miracle would be needed to convince you of this fact. Those whose vision is healthy see it at a glance; and their whole being will be enlightened and transformed by receiving the revelation I bring.”
The heavenly light fails of its purpose
(1) when it is set under a bushel;
(2) when it falls on blind or diseased eyes.
Luke 11:33. Lamps and Bushels.—The saying is a favourite and familiar one of our Lord’s, occurring four times in the Gospels.
I. A lesson as to the apparent obscurities of revelation, and our duty concerning them.—There are no gratuitously dark places in anything that God says to us. His revelation is absolutely clear. We may be sure of that if we consider the purpose for which He spoke at all. There are dark places, there are great gaps: but His own great word remains true, “I have never spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth.” If there be, as there are, obscurities, there are none there that would have been better away. For the intention of all God’s hiding—which hiding is an integral part of His revealing—is not to conceal, but to reveal. It is good that there should be difficulties. He is not a wise teacher who makes things too easy. Patient attention will ever be rewarded. The desire to learn will not be frustrated.
II. The saying gives us a lesson as to Himself and our attitude to Him.—In the figure thus applied we have the thought that the earthly life of Jesus Christ necessarily implies a subsequent elevation from which He shines down on all the world. God lit that lamp, and it is not going to be quenched in the darkness of the grave. He is not going to stultify Himself by sending the light of the world, and then letting the endless shades of death muffle and obscure it. But, just as the conclusion of the process which is begun in the kindling of the light is setting it on high on the stand, that it may shine over all the chamber, so the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, His exaltation to the supremacy from which He shall draw all men unto Him, is the necessary and, if I may so say, the logical result of the facts of His incarnation and death.
III. A lesson as to the duties of Christian men as lights in the world.—This metaphor frequently occurs in Scripture. The general teaching of such references is that Christian men, not so much by specific effort, nor by words, nor by definite proclamation, as by the raying out from them in life and conduct of a Christ-like spirit, are set for the illumination of the world. God’s act of lighting indicates His purpose of illumination. What are we Christians for? To go to heaven? To be ourselves forgiven? Certainly. But is that the only end? By no means. He gave you His Son that you may give the gospel of His Son to others, and you stultify His purpose in your salvation unless you become ministers of His grace, and manifesters of His light.—Maclaren.
Luke 11:34. “The light of the body is the eye.”—The eye gives light which it receives from without, and is not light itself. So the conscience lights the spirit by light from above.
It is plainly declared here that the truth revealed to man in the gospel is not something entirely foreign to his nature—something over against and outside of him—but akin to him, as the eye and the light are, as it were, made for one another. The same truth is taught in other parts of Scripture: the heavenly graft is akin to the tree in which it is inserted, or else it would not be assimilated to it (James 1:21); the leaven is not foreign to the meal in which it is hidden, or else it might as well be set in sand (Matthew 13:33).
Luke 11:37. Besought.—Simply, “asked” (R.V.). To dine.—Rather, “that He would breakfast with him.” The word used means a noon-day meal = our late breakfast or luncheon.
Luke 11:38. Washed.—The washing was a ceremonial act, and cleanliness was not the object of it. The ablutions, which had become most elaborate and frivolous, were not based even upon Levitical law, but upon Pharisaic tradition and the so-called Oral law.
Luke 11:39. Now.—I.e., “as things are.” Make clean, etc.—In Matthew 23:25 a similar figure is used. There is, however, this difference: there the inside of the cup and platter are said to be full of extortion and wickedness—i.e., got by wrongful means and used profligately; here it is to the inward part—the spiritual condition of the men themselves—that reference is made.
Luke 11:40. “Did not He who made the body (that which is without) make the mind and soul also (that which is within)?” What folly to attend to the cleanness of the one and to ignore the foulness of the other!
Luke 11:41. Give alms of such things as ye have.—Rather, “give for alms those things which are within” (R.V.). Christ returns to speak of the literal contents of cup and platter: “Be not anxious about the outward part, but rather attend to its contents, and do but give alms therefrom, and the food and everything else shall be pure to you” (Bloomfield). A deed of unselfishness and goodwill would make a change in the whole inward condition.
Luke 11:42. Tithe mint, etc.—As commanded in Deuteronomy 14:22. No proportion was observed between greater and less commandments—those based on eternal principles and those of a local or temporary character. Judgment and the love of God.—Hebraism for justice and equity (cf. Micah 6:8).
Luke 11:43. The sin of pride is rebuked; the desire to be prominent and to secure reverent salutations from their brethren. The places in the synagogue nearest to the reading-desk, where the elders sat, were specially coveted.
Luke 11:44. Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!—Omit these words; omitted in R.V. Taken probably from the parallel passage in Matthew 23:27. Graves.—Unsuspected pits of corruption. The figure in St. Matthew’s gospel is somewhat different—“whited sepulchres,” outwardly beautiful.
Luke 11:45. One of the lawyers.—This man felt that his official ecclesiastical position should shield him against such reproaches. As a class the lawyers, or scribes, were inclined to Pharisaism.
Luke 11:46. Burdens grievous.—The details of ceremonial obedience were multiplied and became an intolerable yoke (cf. Acts 15:10); and some of those who laid stress upon them were guilty of the inconsistency of neglecting them themselves.
Luke 11:47. Build sepulchres.—I.e., ostentatiously separate themselves from the sins of their ancestors in rejecting the prophets, and yet are guilty of the same wickedness in rejecting John the Baptist and Christ.
Luke 11:48. Ye allow.—I.e., “consent to” (R.V.). In a sense, respect for the dead prophets was in itself an offence against the living. Instead of hearkening to the voice of living representatives of the Divine will, they set up against them the reputation and authority and teaching of those who had long passed away.
Luke 11:49. The wisdom of God.—This is a very peculiar phrase, and has excited considerable controversy. There is no passage in the Old Testament which corresponds verbally with this apparent quotation. There can be no doubt, however, that Christ alludes to 2 Chronicles 24:20-14.24.22, and more especially to 2 Chronicles 36:14-14.36.21 of the same book. It may be that since there is not formal quotation this peculiar phrase is used: the method of Divine procedure is described rather than the historical examples of it cited. “The wisdom of God” is probably equivalent to “the wise God.” God, in His wisdom, sees fit to follow such and such a course.
Luke 11:51. Abel.—The first martyr in the strife between holiness and unrighteousness whose history is found in the first historical book of the Old Testament. Zacharias.—2 Chronicles 24:20-14.24.21 : the last historical book of the Old Testament.
Luke 11:52. The key of knowledge.—Cf. Matthew 13:52; Matthew 16:19. Knowledge, i.e., of God, of which the Scriptures were the key. “The scribes, by arrogating to themselves exclusive authority to interpret the Scriptures, while they did not interpret them truly, either for their own use, or for the good of those whom they instructed, kept the key of knowledge shut up and useless” (Speaker’s Commentary).
Luke 11:53. And as He said these things unto them.—Rather, “and when He was come out from thence” (R.V.). Began to urge Him.—Or, “to press upon Him” (R.V.). “They surrounded Him in a most threatening and irritating manner, in a scene of violence perhaps unique in the life of Jesus” (Farrar).
Luke 11:54. That they might accuse Him.—Omitted in R.V.; but evidently the words are a fair description of the motives of His adversaries, though not part of the text of the Gospel.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 11:37-42.11.54
Besetting Sins of Religious Leaders and Teachers.—The Pharisees aimed at setting before the people an example of holiness which it was their duty to imitate; the scribes assumed to themselves the task of instructing them in the law of God. The one showed them what they should do, the other taught them what they should believe. And then, as now, the position of those who were set apart, or who set themselves up as leaders and teachers, was attended with no little spiritual danger. They were apt to become arrogant and self-complacent, and to affect an outward austerity very much at variance with their inward condition of heart and character. All through His earthly ministry the kind of righteousness which Christ taught and exemplified was antagonistic to that of the Pharisees and scribes, and therefore we need not be surprised that on some occasions, as in the present, He came into direct collision with them.
I. The first fault with which He charged the Pharisees was hypocrisy (Luke 11:39-42.11.42).—They acted the part of righteous men, without being righteous at heart, and hence they laid stress upon all such practices as appealed to the outward eye, and were indifferent to the spiritual requirements of the law of God. Just as an actor assumes the dress of the character he wishes to portray, and adopts a tone of voice suitable to the part, and appropriate gestures, attitudes, and speeches, so did the Pharisees assume the outward guise of those who were intent upon honouring and serving God. They were zealous in practising all kinds of ceremonial purification, and in payment of tithes, and went, indeed, beyond the requirements of the law of Moses. Yet their fault did not consist in their extreme scrupulousness, but rather in neglect of moral and spiritual obligations. Beneath the pious exterior lay greed, and injustice, and hardness of heart, and self-indulgence. The sin they were guilty of is only too easily possible in Christian society—that of combining a sanctimonious profession of religion with a very lax moral practice.
II. The second fault with which Christ charged the Pharisees was that of vainglorious ambition (Luke 11:43).—They loved the praises of men, and sought to gain and wield power for the gratification of their own pride and vanity. Their motive was an evil one, and vitiated the influence for good which their profession of zeal for the honour of God might have exercised. For when the mask was taken away from their characters it became evident that they were seeking to promote their own self-advancement, and not the interests of true religion. The teaching of Christ, therefore, distinctly warns us that holiness does not consist merely in the performance of certain actions, but in the pure and righteous character of the motives that govern the life. His words on this occasion, too, describe the hurtful influence exercised by all spurious forms of religious life (Luke 11:44). Not only do they fail to promote righteousness, but they are like a poisonous contagion. The corruption is all the more deceptive because it is concealed, and it infects those who come into contact with it.
III. A characteristic fault of the scribes was their laying stress upon the letter of God’s Word rather than upon the spirit of it (Luke 11:45-42.11.46).—This is akin to the reproach addressed to the Pharisees, for literalism is closely allied to formalism. They rendered the Scriptures an oppressive burden’ by the minute rules which they deduced from them, and which they imposed upon all those whom they instructed. But for their own part they substituted knowledge for practice. Probably in all ages of the Church’s history those may be found who perpetuate this fault—who set up their own interpretations of Scripture and deductions from it as of co-ordinate authority with the Word of God. And those who are most peremptory in insisting upon acquiescence in their rigid interpretation of Scripture generally enjoy a freedom which they deny to others. Their work seems to be that of imposing burdens, and not of sharing burdens.
IV. Another characteristic fault of the scribes is their rancorous orthodoxy (Luke 11:47-42.11.51).—They are in antagonism to living piety, and persecute it. They set up over against those who are the present mouthpieces of God’s Spirit the authority of earlier teachers, whose opponents they would have been if they had lived in their times. And by their resistance to God’s messengers they approve themselves as children of those who in earlier ages killed the prophets. God leaves no generation of men without His witnesses, and those who resist them share the guilt of those who were persecutors in times long past, even though they may sincerely believe that they abhor their actions. Such orthodoxy, which manifests itself in the statement and defence of a creed which is more a matter of the intellect than an inspiring influence upon the life, is a positive hindrance to religion (Luke 11:52). It is like taking away the key of a door and hindering both ourselves and others from entering in.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 11:37-42.11.54
Luke 11:37-42.11.38. A Violation of Hospitality.—There can be little doubt that this Pharisee violated the laws of hospitality by inviting Jesus to his house for the purpose of watching Him, and of founding some accusation against Him. Others of the guests had the same hostility towards Him in their minds (Luke 11:45; Luke 11:53). This fact explains the severity of tone manifested by Jesus throughout the scene. Except for grave reasons, He would not have spoken as He did in the house of His entertainer. There are times when higher obligations than the rules of good society must be respected.
Luke 11:39-42.11.40. The Pharisees Rebuked.—The Pharisees are rebuked
(1) for being addicted to meaningless rites—for lustrations which had been instituted for the purpose of suggesting moral purity lost their significance when practised for their own sake;
(2) for attending merely to external appearances;
(3) for the folly of imagining that God was such an one as themselves, and would be satisfied with a mere pretence and show of righteousness; and
(4) for the covetousness and greed by which they had enriched themselves, and which made them indifferent to the claims of the poor and unfortunate.
Luke 11:41. “Give alms.”—There is no question here of the intrinsic merit of good works: Jesus is simply contrasting the positive value of a kindly deed with the worthlessness of mere outward observances.
“All things are clean unto you.”—Let them do one single loving, unselfish act—not for the sake of the action itself, nor for any merit inherent in it, but out of pure good-will towards others—and their whole inward condition would be different. Let those things, which had been the materials and instruments of sin and selfishness, become the instruments of love and kindness, and all things, both that which is without and that which is within, would be at once purified for them. In other words, as the cup and the platter, the outside of which they cleansed so scrupulously and sedulously, were defiled by the bad means by which their contents were procured, or the evil uses to which they were put, so they would be purified, not by any formal outward acts, but by that spirit of love which would dictate a right and charitable destination of their contents.—Speaker’s Commentary.
Luke 11:42. Two Marks of Hypocrisy.—
1. To be more exact in and zealous for the observance of ritual and the traditions of men, than in and for the observance of the moral law of God.
2. In matters of morality to be more exact and strict in and for little things, than for things more grave and weighty. There is no commandment of God that we are at liberty to despise: yet we should have more regard to greater than to lesser duties.
Judgment and the Love of God.—The reference is to Micah 6:6-33.6.8, where the prophet makes all acceptable religion to consist in “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.”
Not to Leave the Other Undone.—The moderation and wisdom of Jesus shine out in these words; He does not at all desire prematurely to break the legal mould in which Jewish righteousness was cast, provided that it was not maintained at the expense of the real contents of the law.—Godet.
The First and The Last.—By all means be most minutely conscientious. But then see to it that ye do not
(1) put the last first, and
(2) put off and put out the first altogether, contenting yourselves with the last and least. See to it, on the contrary, that
(1) ye put the first first, and that then
(2) ye do not put off and put out the last, but bring it in and yet keep it last.—Morison.
Luke 11:44. Whitewashed Tombs.—Jews had a custom of whitewashing sepulchral stones once a year. At the time when our Lord used this metaphor to characterise the scribes and Pharisees, the tombs about Jerusalem had been recently whitewashed, and so were beautified for a season. As He spoke in the open air, the white stones must have been conspicuous on every side. The object of this whitewashing was not to embellish, but to point out the gravestone to the passer-by, that he might not tread on it or touch it. Later casuists pronounced the man unclean who casually stepped on a grave or touched a tombstone. This explains the saying of our Lord in the text. It amounts to a charge against the Pharisees of concealing their true character from the people, and spreading contamination while no one suspected them of evil.—Fraser.
Luke 11:45. “Reproachest us also.”—In what a grievous state is that conscience which, hearing the Word of God, thinks it a reproach against itself; and, in the account of the punishment of the wicked, perceives its own condemnation!—Bede.
Luke 11:46-42.11.52. Besetting Sins of Theologians.—The besetting sins of theologians:
1. Harshness and insincerity (Luke 11:46).
2. A rancorous and persecuting spirit (Luke 11:47-42.11.51).
3. Arrogance and exclusiveness (Luke 11:52).
Luke 11:46. Knowledge Substituted for Practice.—Very rigid principles combined with very lax conduct. Undue attention to the intellectual side of religion is generally found accompanied by this moral deficiency.
“Touch with one of your fingers.”—This is opposed to taking up the burden upon the shoulders.
Luke 11:47-42.11.48. “Ye build the sepulchres.”—Ye build their tombs and adorn their monuments, but ye do not imitate their example; ye disobey their precepts, and slight their warnings, and rebel against their God. who has sent to you His Son, to whom all the prophets bear witness. And thus ye show yourselves the children of those who killed the prophets, and are even worse than your fathers, because ye add hypocrisy to impiety.
Resisting the Prophets.—Ask in Moses’ time, Who are the good people? They will be Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but not Moses—he should be stoned. Ask in Samuel’s time, Who are the good people? They will be Moses and Joshua; but not Samuel. Ask in the times of Christ, and they will be all the former prophets, with Samuel; but not Christ and His apostles.—Stier.
Luke 11:51. Abel … Zacharias.—The murder of Abel was the first in the strife between unrighteousness and holiness, and as these Jews represent, in their conduct, both in former times and now, the murderer of the first, they must bear the vengeance of the whole in God’s day of wrath. Our Lord mentions the murder of Zacharias, not as being the last, even before His own day, but because it was connected specially with the cry of the dying man: “The Lord look upon it, and require it” (2 Chronicles 24:22).—Alford.
“This generation.”—A great and rapid river, which should, for thirty or forty years together, have its current violently stopped—what a mass of water would it collect in so long a space; and if it should then be let loose, with what fury would it overrun and bear down all before it?—J. Taylor.
Accumulated Guilt.—It belongs to the fearful earnestness of the Divine retributive righteousness that when a generation concurs in heart with the wickedness of an earlier generation, it receives, in the final retribution of the accumulated guilt, as well the punishment for its own as also for the former sins which it had inwardly made its own.—Van Oosterzee.
Luke 11:52. “Key of knowledge.”—Jesus represents knowledge of God and of salvation under the figure of a sanctuary: it was the duty of the scribes to lead the people into it, but they had locked the door and kept possession of the key. This key is the Word of God, the interpretation of which the scribes planned exclusively for themselves.—Godet.
Keeping the Key.—The scribes, by arrogating to themselves exclusive authority to interpret the Scriptures, while they did not interpret them truly, either for their own use, or for the good of those whom they instructed, kept the key of knowledge shut up and useless.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent