Bible Commentaries
Luke 11

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Luke 11:1. In a certain place. Our Lord was wont to pray in mountains, hence the conjecture as to the Mount of Olives.

Even at John also taught (was wont to teach) his disciples. We learn of this habit, in itself a very probable one, from this remark alone.

Verses 1-13

THE TIME and place of the following incident are indefinite, but it cannot be a part of the Sermon on the Mount, put out of its place. A definite occasion is stated in Luke 11:1, and Luke 11:5-8 are not found anywhere else. The allusion to John the Baptist (implying his death) points to a later date than that of the Sermon on the Mount. The place may have been in the neighborhood of Bethany, possibly on the Mount of Olives.

Verses 1-54

THIS division of the Gospel of Luke, embracing nearly one third of the whole, contains for the most part matter peculiar to this Evangelist. A number of the incidents probably belong to an earlier period of the history. A few of these are mentioned by Matthew and Mark, though the greater number even of these are peculiar to this account. But the larger portion of this division belongs to that part of our Lord’s life passed aver in silence by Matthew and Mark. John indeed tells us of much that occurred during this period, but he does not give a parallel account. Many theories have been suggested; our view is as follows: This division treats in the main of that part of the life of our Lord on earth, between the close of His ministry in Galilee and the last journey from Perea (beyond Jordan) to Jerusalem; covering a period of nearly six months. The reasons for this opinion are: that chap. Luke 9:51 can only refer to the final departure from Galilee (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1), and this departure seems to have been shortly before the sudden appearance of our Lord in Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14); it is indeed possible that our Lord returned to Galilee after this visit, but of this there is no positive evidence. On the other hand, the blessing of the little children (chap. Luke 18:15), where the parallel with Matthew and Mark is renewed, undoubtedly took place just before the last solemn journey from Perea to Jerusalem and to death. From John’s account we learn that during this period our Lord appeared again in Jerusalem. In fact, that Gospel alone tells us of His journeyings to avoid the hostility of the Jews. Neither Matthew nor Mark implies that the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, alluded to in chap. Luke 9:51, was a direct one, while both state that such a journey was undertaken about this time.

All who love the lessons of our Lord should rejoice that we have in this Gospel so much that is not only peculiar but important. The parables of this division are especially interesting, because uttered at a time when both the hostility of the Jews and the training of the disciples called for Truth more distinctively Christian. As in one sense the journey to death begins with this division, so do we here approach more closely the central truths of the gospel which centres in that death. The special questions of chronology will be discussed under the separate sections; but certainty on these points is impossible.

THE journey to Jerusalem spoken of in Luke 9:51 was probably that to the feast of Tabernacles; but in a wider sense, it was the final departure from Galilee to death at Jerusalem, since from this time on our Lord was rejected and persecuted openly by the Jews. The direct route was through Samaria, and on the way the incident of Luke 9:52-56 occurred. Some indeed suppose that our Lord, after this rebuff, did not pass through Samaria but skirted the borders between it and Perea (see Matthew 19:1-12); of this, however, there is no positive evidence. The main question is regarding the exact chronological position of the incident of Luke 9:57-62; which Matthew (Matthew 8:18-22) places just before the departure to Gadara. In favor of the order of Luke is the greater fulness of his account; in favor of that of Matthew, his mention of one who was a ‘scribe.’ Such language from a ‘scribe’ was more probable at the earlier point. The theory that such an incident occurred twice is highly improbable. There was no reason why Matthew should insert it out of its place; but it is so appropriate here, where our Lord’s final departure from Galilee is spoken of, that Luke probably placed it here for that reason. The whole section brings before us the four leading human temperaments: the choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Our Lord Himself had no temperament, but was the perfect man. On the question whether the sending out of the Seventy preceded this departure from Galilee, see next section.

Verses 2-4

Luke 11:2-4. When ye pray, say. That this is not a positive command to repeat the words of the Lord’s prayer whenever we pray, is evident from the briefer form here recorded. These were the words of our Lord on a second occasion, when the substance (not the exact form) of the prayer was repeated. For the form, see the foot-note to text. Luke wrote after Christianity had made considerable progress; the twofold form indicates that in his day the Lord’s Prayer was not yet in universal use as a form of prayer. It is impossible to say how early the liturgical use of it began. If our Lord gave but one form, the briefer one was probably enlarged into the longer one; but it is almost certain that both were given.

Verse 3

Luke 11:3. This verse may be thus more exactly translated: ‘our sufficient (or needful) bread give us for the day.’

Verse 4

Luke 11:4. For we ourselves also forgive, ‘this is our own practice.’ More strongly expressed than in Matthew.

Every one that is 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.’

Verse 5

Luke 11:5. Which of you shall have? The question is: what will happen in these supposed circumstances. The argument of this parable is: ‘If selfish man can be won by prayer and importunity to give,’ ‘much more certainly shall the bountiful Lord bestow’ (Trench). The purpose is, as in the similar parable of the unjust judge (chap. Luke 18:1-8), not only to enjoin and encourage persevering prayer, but to declare the certainty that prayer will be heard (Luke 11:9-13).

Three loaves. One for the traveller, one for himself, to eat with his guest, and one that there might be abundance. Allegorical interpretations abound, but must be accepted with caution. A reference to the Bread of Life is most probable.

Verse 6

Luke 11:6. From a journey. At night, when it was pleasanter to travel in a hot country. The request here is for another, hence the parable illustrates intercessory prayer; yet one of the loaves is for him who asks. The hungry traveller coming at night to one who cannot satisfy him may represent the awaking of spiritual hunger in the soul, but such an interpretation cannot be insisted upon.

Verse 7

Luke 11:7. Trouble me not. The half-vexed tone is true to nature. The one asked is selfish, and his reluctance is real. But God’s reluctance is apparent only, and even this appearance arises from reasons which work for our best good. This contrast is borne out by Luke 11:13.

The door is now shut. Barred too, as the original implies.

My children are with me in bed, having gone to bed and remaining there.

I cannot, i.e., ‘will not,’ because of the trouble of unbarring the door, and the danger of disturbing the children, whose repose is more to him than his friend’s request The father is naturally introduced, and represents, better than the mother, in such a parable, the heavenly Father we should importune.

Verse 8

Luke 11:8. Importunity, lit, ‘shamelessness.’ The persistent knocking and asking, unshamed by refusal, not ashamed to endure, is thus brought out.

Verses 9-10

Luke 11:9-10. See on Matthew 7:7-8. But the words are not taken from that discourse: they apply the lesson of the parable, namely, that God will, even when He seems to delay, hear and answer prayer. The law of His kingdom is here laid down in literal terms.

Verses 11-13

Luke 11:11-13. See on Matthew 7:9-11. The construction is simpler here, and Luke 11:12 is peculiar to Luke, but a repetition of the previous thought

Scorpion. Another hurtful gift.

Your heavenly Father (Luke 11:13), lit, ‘Father from heaven,’ implying His coming down to us with His blessings. Opposed to the useless and hurtful things which earthly parents will not give to their children asking for food, is the Holy Spirit. From the conduct of these parents our Lord deduces the certainty that our Heavenly Father will bestow this highest, best gift upon His asking children. As this is equivalent to ‘good things’ (Matthew 7:11), we may infer that all that is good for us is in a certain sense included in this one gift; for whatever we receive is only blessed as it is sanctified by the Holy Spirit’s influence in us.. This is better than to find here the lesson, that we may expect unconditional answers to prayers for spiritual gifts, only conditional answers to other petitions. It is difficult to discriminate in this way between what is spiritual and what is not; and petitions for the former might also be prompted by selfishness. In all cases we must submit to our Father’s wisdom the question of what is good. Else we may totally misunderstand His best gifts, deeming the loaf He gives a stone, the fish a serpent, and the egg a scorpion. Misused as well as misunderstood, His gifts may become what we have deemed them.

Verse 14

Luke 11:14. And he was casting out. Indefinite as to time.

A dumb demon. The man was dumb; the dumb man spake.

Verses 14-26

Luke 11:14-26. THE HEALING OF A DUMB DEMONIAC; the accusation and discourse which followed.

Verses 14-36

CHRONOLOGY. The miracle and discourses here recorded are probably identical with those narrated in Matthew 12:22-45; Mark 3:23-30. Some have supposed that Luke gives the exact position, and not the other two Evangelists. But it is more difficult to reconcile the accounts on this supposition. We accept the position assigned by Matthew and Mark: between the message from John the Baptist and the discourse in parables. The incidents mentioned in chaps, Luke 8:3; Luke 8:3, probably immediately preceded. The events next succeeding seem to have been those which follow in this Gospel, so that a large portion of the narrative, from chap. Luke 11:14 to chap. Luke 12:56 (according to others, to chap. Luke 13:9), is placed by Luke out of its position in the history as a whole; the events, however, being properly placed within the passage itself.

Verse 15

Luke 11:15. Some of them said. ‘The Pharisees.’ Luke omits the language of the people which called forth this expression of hostility; Matthew’s more definite statement on the latter point would require the mention of the hostile class. See on Matthew 12:24.

Verse 16

Luke 11:16. A sign from heaven. Matthew places this at a later point in the narrative, and with more exactness. But both the accusation and demand were made at the same interview.

Verses 18-23

Luke 11:18-23. See on Matthew 12:26-30. By (literally ‘in,’ i.e., in the use of) the finger of God (Luke 11:20). This is the same as: ‘in the spirit of God’ (Matthew), the one expression explaining the other. His use of the power (finger) of God was a proof that He worked in union with the Spirit of God, and vice versa.

A stronger than he (Luke 11:22). This term is not used by Matthew, but implied in his account. The stronger One is Christ, who had come into the world, and was spoiling Satan by means of these very miracles at which they blasphemed. There is also an intimation of final and complete victory.

Verses 24-26

Luke 11:24-26. See on Matthew 12:43-45, where the order seems to be more correct, after the remarks about Jonah. The arrangement of Luke was probably occasioned by the similarity of the subject spoken of, satanic influences.

Verse 27

Luke 11:27. A certain woman. Herself a mother, we infer from her language. Tradition calls her ‘Marcella, a maid-servant of Martha.’

Blessed is the womb. A natural expression of womanly enthusiasm at the sayings and doings of Christ. As Mary herself shortly after appeared (chap. Luke 8:19) on the edge of the crowd, it is possible that this woman may have perceived her and therefore spoken this blessing. The fact that Luke places it after a severe utterance does not prove it untrustworthy. The woman’s state of mind was the effect of the whole discourse, and her ignorant enthusiasm would only be increased by the severe tone of His words. Every observant public speaker will understand this.

Verse 28

Luke 11:28. Yea, rather. Our Lord does not deny that His mother was blessed, but He nevertheless rectifies the woman’s view. The ground of her blessedness, as in the case of all the human race, unto whom in the highest sense, ‘a child is born, a son is given,’ is that she too belonged to them that hear the word of God and keep it. Comp. chap. Luke 1:45; Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51. 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. His answer gives prominence not to His own word, but to ‘the word of God;’ for though they are the same, the woman was thinking solely of His human birth, and not of His heavenly Father; and this mistake He would correct. The blessing our Lord pronounces may be the portion of all believers, as of His mother. Comp. Matthew 12:50.

Verse 29

Luke 11:29. When the multitudes, etc. Possibly in expectation of the ‘sign;’ but the controversy with the Pharisees was a prolonged one, which would attract an increasing crowd.

Verses 29-32

Luke 11:29-32. ANSWER TO THOSE WHO SOUGHT A SIGN. See on Matthew 12:39-42.

Verse 30

Luke 11:30. For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites. Peculiar to the briefer account of Luke. The appearance of Jonah as a preacher after the three days and nights in the whale’s belly (after his resurrection), was a sign received by the Ninevites. Our Lord speaks of something yet to occur, foretelling His resurrection as a greater sign to that generation.

Verse 31

Luke 11:31. More. The sign to this generation is more than what attracted the queen of the south, etc.

Verse 32

Luke 11:32. The men of Nineveh. If these Ninevites had not heard of the miracle, the contrast is even stronger. For in that case their repentance was simply at the preaching of Jonah, while the Jews remained unbelieving in the face of Christ’s resurrection as well as His preaching. There is a climax in the order of Luke; the greater sin was the rejection of Christ’s preaching of repentance.

Verses 33-36

Luke 11:33-36. The thoughts of these verses occur in Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22-23. Here the connection is different. They wished a sign; a greater sign than Jonah is granted them, but to perceive it they must not (as they do) cover the fight with a bushel, shut the eyes of their understanding.

A cellar (Luke 11:33), or, covered passage.

Verse 36

Luke 11:36. If thy whole body, etc. Van Oosterzee thus explains: ‘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.’ The necessity of a state of soul corresponding to and affected by the light which God so fully gives is here emphasized. ‘It is glory as the result of holiness.’ (Godet)

Verse 37

Luke 11:37. How as he spake. While he had been speaking, i.e., the foregoing. A reference to some other time is barely possible, certainly not natural.

Asketh him. ‘Besought’ is too strong; it was an ordinary invitation.

To dine. The meal was not the principal repast of the day, but a morning one. Granting that this day began with the healing of the demoniac, and ended in the storm on the way to Gadara, we can see that the house must have been near at hand, and the invitation readily accepted.

Verses 37-54

THIS discourse closely resembles the great denunciation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:0); but the circumstances of the two are entirely different; the one was uttered just before our Lord departed solemnly and finally from the temple, but in this case Luke definitely fixes the place in the house of a Pharisee (probably in Galilee). A repetition of these fearful words is highly probable. The Pharisees had already become His constant and bitter enemies. Hence the rebuke at this earlier date is quite as natural as that in His final discourse He would sum up and repeat the woes already pronounced.

From Luke 11:37 we infer that this discourse followed closely the reply to the demand for a sign. Hence it was uttered in Galilee, before the great discourse in parables, and probably just after His mother and brethren sought Him.

Verse 38

Luke 11:38. Washed, lit, ‘baptized.’ The washing referred to was therefore a ceremonial one, not simply an act of cleanliness. In this ceremony the Pharisees washed their hands, not their whole body.

Verse 39

Luke 11:39. And the Lord said to him. The form of our Lord’s opening remark indicates that the Pharisees ‘marvelled’ orally, and that the others present of that sect had assented to the censure. This was rudeness to the guest, calling for rebuke. There is no proof that the invitation was given out of friendliness.

Now, not in contrast to some previous time, but rather in the sense: full well, here is a proof of the way in which, ye Pharisees, etc. Others of this party were doubtless present.

The outside of the cup and of the platter. Comp. Matthew 23:25. The reference is to their ceremonial observances, but the contrast differs from that in Matthew. There the outward legality and the inward immorality of their enjoyments are in strict contrast; here the outwardly purified cup is opposed to the inwardly corrupted heart of the drinker; external conduct to inner unseen motives. The comparison is less exact, since the figure and the reality are joined. Some explain: ‘the inside (of the cup and platter) is full of your plunder and wickedness;’ but this is grammatically objectionable.

Verse 40

Luke 11:40. Ye fools, etc. The folly of such a contradiction is shown. Such a partial cleansing is no cleansing: all such religious acts are supposed to have reference to God, to holiness before Him; since He made the inside as well as the outside, the ceremonial purification of the latter without the real sanctification of the former is folly as well as wickedness.

Verse 41

Luke 11:41. But rather, etc. Thus they should turn toward true purity. Not that this giving of alms constituted holiness, but to give those things which are within (the cup and platter) was a far better purification than their ceremonial washings of the outside. The precept receives point from the covetousness of the Pharisees. Some take the verse as ironical: But ye give alms, etc., and behold all things are clean to you (in your estimation). This is open to serious objections. The explanation: which ye can (E. V: ‘such things as ye have’) is possible, but not favored by the context.

Verse 42

Luke 11:42. For ye tithe, etc. Instead of really giving as our Lord enjoined, they had been in the habit of making trifling payments in over-exactness. See on Matthew 23:23.

Verse 44

Luke 11:44. As the tombs which appear not. See on Matthew 23:27. The ‘whited sepulchres’ were those of the rich, and the application is to external beauty covering inner corruption; here humbler tombs are spoken of, which in the course of time would be unnoticed by those passing over them, thus causing defilement. There the pretence of Pharisaism is brought out; here its insidiousness. This difference is an incidental evidence that the two discourses were uttered: one in the capital (where the splendid sepulchres were more common), the other in the humbler province of Galilee.

Verse 45

Luke 11:45. One of the lawyers (see on chap. Luke 10:25).

Thou reproachest us also, who are in official, ecclesiastical position. The man was not a Sadducee, but a Pharisee, and probably felt that the censure applied to him. He would shelter his character behind his office! Doubtless he would imply, as his successors have done: in touching us, the God-appointed officials, you are blaspheming.

Verses 46-48

Luke 11:46-48. See on Matthew 23:4; Matthew 23:29-31.

Their tombs (Luke 11:48), is necessarily supplied in English, though not found in the Greek, according to the best authorities.

Verse 49

Luke 11:49. Therefore also said the wisdom of God. Comp. Matthew 23:34, where ‘I’ is used; so that Christ represents Himself as ‘the wisdom of God.’ This seems to be a quotation, but there is no passage in the Old Testament which fully corresponds, and the form is an unusual one for such a quotation. Explanations: (1) An amplification of 2 Chronicles 24:19, made by Him who is ‘the wisdom of God.’ That passage speaks of the sending of prophets and their rejection, and is connected with the dying words of Zechariah: ‘The Lord look upon it and require it.’ This is on the whole preferable. (2) Our Lord refers to His own words, as spoken on some former occasion. This is possible, but leaves us in uncertainty. (3) A quotation from some unknown Jewish book. This is out of the question. (4) The notion that Luke is quotingMatthew 23:34; Matthew 23:34, etc., and inserts: ‘the wisdom of God,’ because in his day this passage was thus spoken of in the church, is a mere assumption.

Verses 50-51

Luke 11:50-51. See on Matthew 23:35-36.

Verse 52

Luke 11:52. This verse forms a fitting close to the part of the discourse occasioned by the lawyer’s remark. It expresses the same thought as Matthew 23:13, but carries out the figure further.

The key of knowledge. ‘Knowledge’ is the ‘key.’ This had been taken away by the teaching of the lawyers, which made the people incapable of understanding and accepting salvation in Christ. The verse refers to something which had already occurred. A right understanding of the law would lead to Christ (Galatians 3:24), but the lawyers had so interpreted it as to produce the opposite result. When the gospel is preached Pharisaically the effect is the same.

Verse 53

Luke 11:53. when he was come out thence. From the house of the Pharisee.

The scribes and Pharisees followed Him with malicious intent aroused by His discourse.

To press upon him vehemently, or, ‘to be very spiteful,’ intensely embittered against Him. The former sense is preferable, as including both their feeling towards Him and their actual following of Him with hostile purpose.

To provoke him to speak of many (or ‘more’) things. To catechize Him on a variety of subjects, so as to take Him off His guard.

Verse 54

Luke 11:54. Laying wait for him to catch something out of his month. This is the form of the verse. The figure is borrowed from hunting. It was not only that they waited for something to suit their purpose, but they hunted for it, since the expressions represent both the beating up of game and the lying in wait to capture it.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 11". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.