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Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 11

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 Christ teacheth to pray, and that instantly:

11 assuring that God so will give us good things.

14 He casting out a dumb devil, rebuketh the blasphemous Pharisees:

28 and showeth who are blessed:

29 preacheth to the people,

37 and reprehendeth the outward show of holiness in the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers.

Verses 1-4

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Our Father which art in heaven. — See the notes on Matthew 6:9-13. The doxology, “For thine is the kingdom,” &c., is wanting in St. Luke. It is evident, however, that the prayer as it here stands is a shortened form of that prescribed in the sermon on the mount, and taught on a different occasion. The full form is therefore to be sought in the longer discourse; and we act right in always using this divinely composed prayer with the doxology, which leaves the heart fixed upon God, as its first petition elevates it to him. The Jewish doctors taught their disciples short forms of prayer. This was a well-known practice; and it is to be gathered from the text that John the Baptist gave to his disciples also a form suited to his peculiar and transitive dispensation. Perhaps the disciple who made this request, did not know that he had already given a form of prayer in his sermon on the mount; or, as that was given in the presence of the multitude, he might think that the disciples had not been sufficiently distinguished, and that they ought to have a prayer peculiar to themselves like those of the Baptist. If the latter was the reason of the request, our Lord, by repeating the same prayer he had before taught, intimated that it was sufficiently adapted to their case; and this affords a reason why he does not repeat it at full, since he intended only to bring it to the remembrance of the disciple who made the request.

Verses 5-6

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Which of you shall have a friend, &c. — This is one of several parables which our blessed Lord at different times uttered to encourage importunity, and repeated application in prayer. His form of prayer contains not many petitions, but they are most comprehensive and important: and he teaches not so much to vary and multiply our petitions, as though prayer were an exercise of intellectual or imaginative ingenuity; but to plead them before our heavenly Father with an earnestness and importunity suitable to the greatness of the blessing asked. For, although he knows what we want; and needs not exciting to bestow his gifts upon us, yet it is necessary that we also should know our wants, should enter by deep and serious consideration into their nature, and that we should seek them with fitting desires, which we must stir up vigorously within our hearts. The great point to be remembered is, that we MUST attain the blessings we ask, or perish; and if, therefore, God should sometimes hear us instantly and with no delay, and at others should seem to disregard, we are to “continue in prayer,” and knock till the door is opened to us.

At midnight. — Journeys in the east are often performed in the night, on account of the heats of the day. The arrival of a friend at midnight was therefore no unusual occurrence. Three loaves were not a large supply of bread, as they were but three cakes.

Verse 7

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

My children are with me in bed. — That is, asleep on mattresses in the same room, according to the custom of those countries. He urges it as a reason why he should not rise, lest he should awake the young children.

Verses 8-9

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Because of his importunity. — It is supposed that the applicant, disregarding all the excuses of his neighbour, continues knocking and urging his request, until, from no other motive than merely to escape his importunity, which would take no denial, he grants the request. The argument to encourage earnest perseverance in prayer derives its force from contrast: if a churlish man will yield to importunity, how much more shall the blessed God himself, who is perfect benevolence, and delights in bestowing his benefits upon the needy, answer the reiterated requests of those that call upon him! The whole tends to impress us with the necessity of obtaining the fulfilment of our petitions, and thus to guard against a common and fatal evil, that of resting in prayer as an END, without regarding it but as a MEANS of obtaining the petitions we present. How many rest here! They have done a duty, that is enough! which is a fatal infatuation. If we have not received what we ask, hitherto we have prayed in vain; and we are at once reminded that the end of praying is receiving, and encouraged to repeat our requests by the assurance that they must be ultimately successful. Hence our Lord adds, Ask, and it shall be given you &c. See the notes on Matthew 7:7-11. This is an instance of another portion of the sermon on the mount being spoken on quite a distinct occasion.

Verse 13

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Give the Holy Spirit. — In St. Matthew it is “give good things;” and the variation here is important, as we are taught that among those good things is included that sum of all moral and spiritual good to man, the Holy Spirit. Nor is it to be confined to the first disciples, since it is as extensive as the duty of importunate prayer, which our Lord had been urging. If the duty be therefore universal, then is the promise universal, and every one who importunately prays shall receive the Holy Spirit. It follows therefore that the miraculous endowments of the Holy Spirit, such as some, but by no means a large proportion, of the primitive Christians were endowed with, could not be intended. These were always partial in extent, and we know, in fact, that they were temporary in duration; and yet the duty of prayer is binding upon all, in all ages, and the promise of the Holy Spirit still stands as our encouragement to that exercise. His gracious influence upon the mind must therefore be intended to enlighten, to invigorate, to quicken, to purify, and to comfort us. This is the introduction of a new power into the heart of man, even the restoring and sanctifying influence of God, which, all who seek shall find, while all who find it are raised above their former selves, and become new creatures. “This promise,” says Archbishop Tillotson, “assures to us the continual presence and influence of the Holy Ghost, for all the purposes of guidance and direction, of grace and assistance, of comfort and support, in our Christian course.” Without this great endowment we are not true Christians. It is the source of all spiritual life here, and the earnest of eternal life hereafter. We are therefore not only encouraged, but bound to ask it seriously and importunately, as we value our salvation. For, “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

Verses 14-15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

It was dumb. — That is, the devil had rendered the unhappy subject of his malice dumb.

And the people wondered. — It was the astonishment of the people at the casting out of devils by our Lord which rendered them so favourably disposed to his doctrine. They were miracles of the most impressive kind. The affliction relieved was the greatest conceivable one to which human beings could be subject; the torments inflicted were of the most frightful kind, the evil was apparently farther than any out of the reach of human relief, while the frequency of the occurrence of these possessions, in those times, served to indicate that the kingdom of darkness was making constant aggression upon them, so as to bring both the souls and bodies of men into captivity. Great therefore was the wonder and great the joy of the unsophisticated people, when they saw the armed strong man bound and cast out by one stronger than himself; and they were ready to hail our Lord universally as the Messiah, when the scribes and Pharisees, with malignant subtlety, invented and spread abroad the aspersion, and enforced it by all the weight that their reputed wisdom and sanctity gave them among the people, that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the chief of the devils, and that these very miracles were therefore “lying wonders,” to lead them astray from the law of God, which they represented Jesus as aiming to destroy. It was this that ensnared and perverted a people who were at one time “prepared for the Lord,” and blasted all the blooming prospects of usefulness which opened to our Lord throughout the whole region of Galilee. They neither entered the kingdom of heaven themselves, nor suffered them that were at one time well disposed to do so. See notes on Matthew 12:22-32.

Verses 21-22

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

When a strong man armed, &c. — These words were designed to show both that Christ was stronger than Satan, and that he was hostile to him, instead of being in league with him, as the Pharisees insinuated. Had there been such a league, in fact, then the goods of Satan would have been in peace, his possessions would have been undisturbed; but the very fact that they were not at peace, that the strong castle had been assailed and taken, the spoil seized, and the captives liberated, was sufficient to prove that a state of most vigorous warfare had been commenced, and that there could be no “concord between Christ and Belial.” The language is military: to come upon, is to attack; and the stripping of the armour, and the division of the spoils, are according to the ancient treatment of conquered enemies.

Verse 23

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He that is not with me, &c. — See the notes on Matthew 12:28-30.

Verse 24

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

When the unclean spirit, &c. — See the notes on Matthew 12:43-45.

Verse 27

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Blessed is the womb, &c. — A form of expression which occurs in Greek writers, and was very common among the Jews when great admiration was felt. “Blessed is she that bore him,” is the complimentary phrase used of celebrated rabbins.

Verse 28

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Yea, rather, blessed. — Our Lord allows the blessedness of his mother. She had been declared blessed by the spirit of prophecy, and he confirms that sentence; but he speaks of a superior blessedness to hers, considered merely as flowing from her having been his mother, — the blessedness of hearing and keeping the word of God. — This stands in direct opposition to the extravagant notions of the blessedness which in subsequent ages was superstitiously and idolatrously ascribed to the Virgin Mary. For if, in consequence of her having been the mother of Christ, she has been exalted to the nearest place to God in heaven, if she has been invested, in fact, with the very attributes of Deity, so as to be able to distribute blessings of every kind upon her worshippers, she has attained more than any one can attain by merely hearing and keeping the word of God. But superior blessedness is attached to this by our Lord; from which we may conclude that the blessedness of Mary consisted in that satisfaction of her mind which arose from the reflection that she was the mother of Messiah, and in the distinction which was thus conferred upon her above all women. From this alone, however, she derived none of those spiritual advantages which come from hearing and keeping the word of God; the pardon of sin, the assistance of grace, spiritual fellowship with God, and eternal life. These are inseparably connected with those, — hearing, faith, and obedience; and the blessedness which they impart is not only given to all who perform the condition, but is infinitely higher and more valuable than that which Mary derived from having brought forth the promised seed. What importance is thus stamped upon hearing the word of God that is, paying all due attention to understand it, and then receiving it in the simplicity of an entire faith; and keeping, that is, carefully observing it as the rule of our whole conduct, — that by which we are to order our inward frame and temper of mind, the words of our lips, and the actions of our life!

Verse 30

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

As Jonas was a sign, &c. — See the notes on Matthew 12:40.

Verse 31

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The queen of the south. — See the note on Matthew 12:42.

Verse 33

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

No man, when he hath lighted a candle, &c. — This and the following three verses are also portions of the sermon on the mount. See the notes on Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22-23. But the occasion was different, and they are here used, not so much as general truths, as adapted to the occasion and the previous discourse. Our Lord had been reproving those who demanded some greater sign than they had received, and he reminds them, that he had already placed clear and decisive evidence of the truth of his mission before them; and as no man lights a lamp to put it in a secret place, or under a bushel; but on a lampstand, that they which come in may see the light; so he had performed his illustrious works publicly before the whole nation. But then, as only a sound eye transmits the outward light within; and as a diseased or evil eye intercepts it, and leaves the body full of darkness; so he teaches them that if the truth of his mission had not been received by any, its demonstrative evidence had been intercepted by an ill-disposed and prejudiced mind, which, like a diseased eye shutting out the light of a lamp, would leave them in total moral darkness, and total error. Hence the solemn caution which follows, Take heed therefore that the light which is within thee be not darkness. As to the scribes and Pharisees, indeed, for the most part, and especially those who had wickedly invented the scandal that “he cast out devils by the prince of devils,” their eye had always been evil and had excluded all light on the subject of the Divine mission of our Lord; but great numbers of the people had admitted the light, and for a time rejoiced to walk in it. They were, however, in great danger lest the artifices of the Pharisees, and their wicked sophisms, operating upon Jewish and worldly prejudices, should lead them back to unbelief; and as to many this occurred.

Thus their mental eye, at first single or sound, became evil or diseased, and the light within them faded into total, remediless darkness. — This appears to be the connection of these passages, first delivered in the sermon on the mount, but now applied to a particular occasion; and the lesson they teach as to the inevitable and necessary connection between religious error and a bad state of heart is admonitory to all, and assuredly in direct opposition to modern opinion as to the innocence of error in matters of religion, and the passiveness of the mind under evidence. — Evidence no more produces conviction in matters where the affections have their strong aversions or desires, than light falling upon the eye produces vision. If vision is produced there must be not only light, but a fit condition of the organ of seeing to receive it; and so as to religious truth, if bad passions and carnal affections, and other evils, sensual or mental, be suffered to predominate, conviction will be arrested or weakened, and the strongest light still leave us grovelling in darkness. A beautiful passage follows, in which, however, the critics can see only a tautology, which they have endeavoured by various means to remedy, but without satisfying themselves.

This is the confession of Koinoel and others; some of whom, rather than suspect themselves, have suspected the passage to be a marginal gloss, although against all evidence. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle, or lamp, doth give thee light. Nothing can be more obvious or more striking than the meaning The comparison is of the understanding, under the emblem of the chamber of vision behind the eye, to a room lighted by a bright lamp; if then, says our Lord, thy whole body be φωτεινον , illuminated, by the transmission of the rays of light through a sound eye; having no part σκοτεινον , dark; then the whole shall be fully and effectually enlightened, to all purposes of comfort, and usefulness, and safety, as when a lamp enlightens the τη αστραπη , by its bright or sparkling flame. Here surely is no tautology. The promise simply is, that if we keep our minds honestly open to conviction, we shall be as fully illuminated with truth, as a room is filled with the light of a brilliant and well-trimmed lamp.

Verse 37

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A certain Pharisee. — This man was probably impressed with what he heard, and might invite our Lord to dine out of a friendly feeling. Many Pharisees, however, appear to have been present with malicious design, which gave occasion to our Lord to address to them, in the hearing and for the benefit of his host, and probably many others not of this deceitful sect, the reproofs which follow.

Verse 38

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

That he had not first washed. — See the note on Mark 7:4. They wondered that he had not first washed or baptized. This means the washing or baptizing the hands up to the elbow, which might be either by immersing them, or having water poured over them by the attendants. As this was not done with reference to cleanliness, but superstition, our Lord did not sanction the practice by his example. At this the Pharisee wondered, having been accustomed to associate this act with his idea of superior sanctity.

Verse 39

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Now do ye Pharisees make clean, &c. — The νυν , now, here signifies at the present time, at your meals; as, Now you are particular as to cleansing the body from supposed defilement, which is but as the outside of the cup or dish, and you rest there. Your purifications go not beyond the exterior, but your inward part is full of ravening, plunder; that is, the desire of plunder, extortion, oppression, and covetousness, the great vices of the sect, and wickedness, of various kinds.

Verse 40

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Ye fools. — A term not of angry reproach, but of a reproving description; αφρονες , men without discernment and understanding, although professed doctors of the law.

Did not he that made that which is without, &c. — Some take ποιησας in the sense of purifies; and so the sense will be, “Whoever washes a cup or platter, but washes the inside as well as the outside?” And, indeed, ποιεω may answer to the Hebrew, עשׁ?ה , to beautify and cleanse; but the interpretation is frigid, and is scarcely allowed by the tense of the verb. The το εξωθεν is better understood of the body, and το εσωθεν of the mind. Indeed, in any other view, the force of the charge of want of discernment in these pretended wise men, is not apparent. There must be implied in it the want of attention to some obvious truth which ought to have been kept before them; and that truth the words of our Lord, rightly interpreted, express: Did not he that made the outward man, the body, also make the inward man, the soul? And thus the reproof comes home to them in all its force. They were scrupulously careful to purify the body, as a RELIGIOUS ACT, out of respect to God, its maker, and their relation to him as creatures; and they therefore stood condemned by that very act, for neglecting the purification of the soul, which was equally God’s workmanship, and the higher and nobler part of man’s nature. Every true religious act of purification must therefore begin at the heart.

Verse 41

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But rather give alms of such things as ye have. — The phrase τα ενοντα , rendered by us of such things as ye have, has occasioned a good deal of discussion from its ambiguity. It has been rendered the things which are in them; give that which the dishes contain in alms, rather than be solicitous about cleansing the outside of them: but not to urge that our Lord is only speaking figuratively in the preceding verse, of the cleansing of cups and platters, the sense thus given to the passage is directly contrary to Christ’s whole doctrine; for it makes him say that giving alms of that luxury which is obtained by extortion and rapine would cleanse the remainder. Our Lord never thus sanctifies robbery and hypocrisy; nor does he ever teach that almsgiving alone can make us stand clear and accepted with God, however righteously we may have become possessed of what we give. Dr. Owen’s interpretation is ingenious: “As το εξωθεν plainly relates to the body, and το εσωθεν to the mind; so I am apt to think that τα ενοντα must here mean right inward principles, and that the sense of the whole is to this purpose: πλην , contrary to what you now do, purify your hearts, rectify your dispositions, make clean all within, give alms from right motives, and, behold all things are clean to you.” This would be paralleled by the sentiment of St. Paul, “To the pure all things are pure.” But the sense of the ancient commentators, adopted by Grotius Rosenmuller, and Schleusner, is to be preferred, but give alms according to your ability, or substance, κατα being understood before τα ενοντα . This agrees with the Syriac version, and is confirmed by the reason of the case; for he who gives acceptable alms must not only give what is his own, not spoil and robbery, but he must give in proportion as God hath prospered him.

And, behold, all things are clean unto you. — The Jews use the word זכה , which signifies to be clean, for giving alms. The Arabic and Syriac word for alms has this sense also; and it is upon this double meaning that our Lord’s remark is founded. Not that he confines himself to almsgiving merely, for we know that he attached no greater importance to that than to any other moral duty. It is also to be well remembered, that he never separates one duty from another, as if any single duty would be rightly performed unless all others were performed also. The contrary is his doctrine; for he regards no outward act but as it expresses a right state of the heart, both to God and our neighbour; and when the heart is thus right, it must bring forth “good things out of its good treasure,” or, in other words, it must practise universal holiness. Almsgiving is therefore adduced by our Lord as one branch of practical piety; not exclusive of, but a specimen of all other duties; and he teaches that those who lead a godly and charitable life need be under no anxiety as to bodily purifications and baptisms, but that to them all things are clean, so that by nothing but by sin can they be defiled before God. The giving of alms was probably selected as an instance of practical piety, because the discourse concerned the washing of hands before meat; and the hands being the members employed in the distribution of alms, Christ shows them a more excellent way of purifying their hands, than by unnecessarily and superstitiously laving them with water.

Verse 42

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Ye tithe mint and rue. — Matthew says, “Mint, anise, and cummin;” which variation, and others in these woes pronounced against the Pharisees, though in substance the same as those recorded by St. Matthew, were uttered on a different occasion, and at a different place. See the note on Matthew 23:23.

Verse 43

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Ye love the uppermost seats, &c. — See notes on Matthew 23:6-7.

Verse 44

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

As graves that appear not. — The metaphor in Matthew 23:27 is different. It is there taken from the painted and ornamented sepulchres, which are contrasted with the corruption within. Both similitudes are striking, but they are distinct, and convey a different sense. The former contrasts the rottenness within with the beautiful appearance without: the other refers to the manner in which the Pharisees succeeded in hiding their real character; so that, as men coming unawares upon an unapparent grave were, according to Jewish notions, defiled; those who not being acquainted with the real wickedness of the Pharisees, were drawn into an acquaintance with them, which speedily seduced and corrupted them also.

Verse 45

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

One of the lawyers. — Some have argued from this apparent distinction between the scribes and Pharisees and the lawyers, νομικοι , that the latter were private teachers of the law, the scribes the public expounders; or that the scribes were of the sect of the Pharisees, the lawyers of the sect of the Sadducees; or that the scribes were interpreters of the law, the lawyers of the traditions. But the comparison of this with the former verse will show that the scribes and lawyers are the same class. Previously, our Lord had only pronounced his woes against the Pharisees, but in verse 44 he joins the scribes with them; which led the lawyer to say, Master, thus saying, thou reproachest us also.

Verse 46

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Lade men with burdens. — See note on Matthew xxiii, 4.

Verse 47

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Sepulchres of the prophets, &c. — See notes on Matthew xxiii 29-31.

Verse 49

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Said the wisdom of God, &c. — In the parallel place in St. Matthew, our Lord speaks in his own person, “Behold, I sent unto you,” &c. He must here therefore style himself the wisdom of God; or, if this phrase is a periphrasis for the wise God, we have a direct assumption of divinity. See the note on Matthew 23:34.

Verses 50-51

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

That the blood, &c. — See the notes on Matthew 23:35-36.

Verse 52

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The key of knowledge. — Those who were made doctors of the law had a key given to them at their ordination or appointment, which they always afterward wore as a badge of their office. Thus emblematically did they profess to open the true meaning of the law and the prophets. Had they done that faithfully, they would have prepared men to receive Christ and his doctrine; but by their corrupt and carnal interpretation they wholly took away the key of knowledge, kept shut, instead of opening, the sacred volume, of which they professed to be the expounders, and thus entered not into the kingdom of heaven themselves, and hindered those that were entering, by their false expositions of those scriptures especially which related to the Messiah. This is the crime of the Jewish rabbins, or expositors of the law, to this day.

Verse 53

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

To provoke him to speak. — By captious questions, by vehement objections, by perverting what he had said already, and, no doubt, by railing language. Their object was to throw him off his guard, to incite him αποστοματιζειν , to speak without premeditation or caution; lying in wait like beasts of prey, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, being ready to spring upon any unguarded word, and seize it, that they might have to accuse him, and put him to death. But our Lord had a perfect self- command; and as his wisdom confounded, so his prudences baffled, all his enemies, and that without any sacrifice of ministerial fidelity. The style of St. Luke, in these last verses, is greatly to be admired. Vigour, fitness of metaphor, and graphic power, are here all united. The scene is brought before us in the most lively manner, and a painter might find a noble subject in the calm reproving attitude of our Lord, and in the cunning malignity of the group of Pharisees, who vehemently urged him, to provoke him to speak unadvisedly, lying in wait, eagerly watching the success of every manœuvre.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 11". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/luke-11.html.
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