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Christ teacheth his disciples to pray, and that instantly; assuring them that God will readily give good things to those who ask him: he casteth out a dumb devil, rebuketh the blasphemous Pharisees; and sheweth who are blessed: preacheth to the people, and reprehendeth the outward show of holiness in the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers.
Anno Domini 30.
Luke 11:1. As he was praying— While Jesus was in the country beyond Jordan, he happened to pray publicly with such fervency, that one of his disciples, exceedingly affected both with the matter and manner of his address, begged that he would teach them to pray. This disciple probably had not been present, when our Lord, in the beginning of his ministry, gave his hearers directions concerning their devotions. Wherefore Jesus, who always rejoiced to find his hearers desirous of instruction, willinglyembraced this opportunity, and repeated the discourse on prayer, which he had formerly delivered in his sermon on the mount; but with this difference, that he now handled the arguments which he had offered as motives to the duty, a little more fully than before. Many learned men suppose, that the Jewish masters used to give their followers some short form of prayer, as a peculiar badge of their relation to them. John the Baptist had probably done this; in which view only we can suppose the disciples could now ask Jesus to teach them to pray; for it is not to be thought, that, in the three preceding years of his ministry, he had not often given them instructions both as to the matter and manner of prayer.
Luke 11:5-8. And he said unto them, which, &c.— Having taught his disciples, by the preceding short form, that they were not, in prayer, to use a multiplicity of words, with vain repetitions; he proceeded to caution them on the other hand against coldness, indifferency, and slackness in their supplications. The evil of this, and the necessity of askingaffectionately,with importunity and perseverance, he taught them by a parable, in which he shewed them that importunity, that is to say, earnestness and frequency in asking, were the proper and natural expressions of strong desires; and by consequence, that God very properly requires these things in men, before he bestows on them such favours as they stand in need of; just as he requires them to be earnestly desirous of these favours, before he blesseth them therewith. The passage, My children are with me in bed, Luk 11:7 might be rendered, My servants, together with me, or as well as myself are in bed. "My servants are in bed, as well as myself, and very probably they are fast asleep; so that there is nobody at hand to give you what you want."
Luke 11:12. If he shall ask an egg,— Naturalists tell us, that the body of a scorpion is very like an egg, especially if the scorpion be of the white kind, which is the first species mentioned by AElian and others. Bochart has produced testimonies to prove, that the scorpions were about the bigness of an egg; and therefore, in Judea a white scorpion, nearly resembling an egg, might, to children, who were not capable of distinguishing the one from the other, be offered in the place thereof, if the person so doing meant that it should sting them to death. The author of the Observations informs us, that St. Jerome reckons wine, fish, and eggs, together with honey, in his catalogue of delicacies: so that possibly, on being told that the disciples gave our Lord a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honey-comb, Ch. Luk 24:42 we, who have been ready to look upon it as a strange association of dishes, (if understood of a proper honeycomb, and not of a sort of bread,) have suffered this surprize from not entering into the views of the disciples; they probably not attending to Milton's order,
——— So contrived, as not to mix Tastes not well joined, inelegant, and bring Taste after taste, upheld by kindliest change; but only designing to express their great veneration for their Master, by setting before him the most grateful things in their power, and leaving it to him to eat of which he pleased. I am not sure that there was no view, in like manner, to the delicacy of eggs in the passage before us, where our Lord is speaking of fish and eggs. On the contrary, perhaps it may add to the beauty of the passage, if we understand it as signifying, that, if a child should ask an earthly parent for bread, a necessary of life, he will not deny him what is requisite for his support, putting him off with a stone; and if he should ask him for a sort of food of a more delicious kind, a fish, or an egg, he will not, we may assure ourselves, give his child what is hurtful, a serpent or a scorpion. If sinful men then will give good gifts to their children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the necessary gifts of his Spirit to them that supplicate for them?—not giving up to hurtful illusions, those who affectionately pray for the hallowing of his name, and the coming of his kingdom, Luke 11:2. But, whatever might be the view of our Lord, it is certain that St. Jerome was right in putting eggs into his list of Eastern delicacies; for nothing is more common than to meet with eggs in modern entertainments there, when they would treat persons in the most respectful manner. So Dr. Pocock describes a very grand morning collation, given in Egypt to a person of distinction, as consisting of the best sort of bread, with butter, fried eggs, honey, green salted cheese, olives, and several other small things. He mentions also eggs very often in the accounts that he gives of the entertainments made for him by the Sheiks in the Holy Land: agreeably to which, M. D'Arvieux tells us, that a supper prepared by the peasants of a village near Mount Carmel for him and for their governor, and attended with all the marks of respect which they were capable of expressing, consisted of wine, fried fish, eggs, and some other things. It must be the reputed delicacy of eggs also, one would imagine, that occasions them so frequently to be sent to persons of figure for presents in those countries; fifty eggs being sent at one time to the English consul, whom Bishop Pocock attended to Cairo, and a hundred at another. See Observations, p. 168.
Luke 11:14. And he was casting out a devil,— Δαιμονιον, a demon. By this word the ancient heathens understood inferior deities or spirits both good and bad; but the ancientJewsdistinguished good and evil spirits by several different names; the former of which are, in the version of the LXX, generally called αγγελοι, angels, and the latter δαιμονια, demons. As for the good spirits or angels, they are frequently mentioned as appearing to the patriarchs, and other pious men; but in Deu 32:17 the Israelites are charged with having sacrificed unto demons, [δαιμονιοις, ] and not to God; by which it appears, that they worshipped evil spirits so early: See also Psalms 106:37. In both which passages, as well as many others both of the Old and New Testament, the word δαιμονιον is translated devil in our version; whereas the Greek word διαβολος, whence comes the English name devil, signifies, as we have before observed, an adversary, or one who brings a charge against another; and is never applied in the sacred writings to evil spirits, in the plural number, but always attributed to Satan only, in the singular; agreeably to which he is also called the accuser of the brethren. Revelation 12:10. See on Matthew 4:1. And it seems highly probable, that the notion of Satan, as an enemy to mankind in general, was in some measure retained from the fall of our first parents, and the promise made consequent upon it. Compare Gen 3:15 and Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2. In our Saviour's time, the name given to the prince of demons by the Jews, was Beelzebub, with whom they charged him as being a confederate (see the next verse); and by their allowing that he cast out demons by his assistance, it is plain that they retained the belief of the existence of evil spirits in general. The like also appears from the several instances of demoniacs who were cured by our Saviour. In Acts 23:8., we are told, the Sadducees say, that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. From the different sentiments therefore of these two sects of the Jews, it is plain, that the latter of them believed the existence of good spirits, here called angels: and that they believed the same of evil ones, (whatever may be meant by the following word πνευμα, ) appears from their charge above mentioned against our Saviour.
Luke 11:31. The utmost parts— The remote parts.
Luke 11:34-36. When thine eye is single, &c.— That they might understand his parable, and be excited to make a proper improvement of the noble faculty, or power, whose use he had been describing, our Lord puts them in mind that the intention or will performs for the soul of man the office which the eye does for the body. See on Matthew 6:22. Take heed, says he, therefore, that the light which is in thee be not darkness. "Keep thy intention, through divine grace, as free as possible from the influence of prejudice, pride, revenge, lust, covetousness, and other evil passions; for they will hatch swarms of vain and foolish thoughts, by which thy will would be perverted, and the light which is in thee be turned into darkness. But if thy whole body be full of light, Luke 11:36. If thy mind be so completely enlightened by the Spirit of God, that no evil passion or affection interrupts the emanations of its light in any degree, all the faculties of thy soul shall be as much enlightened, enlivened, and assisted, as the members of the body are, when the bright shining of a candle gives thee light, and puts thee in a capacity of using them." Thus, comparing the direction of our will or intention to the shining of a candle, Jesus shewed, that by the parable of a lighted candle, he had intended to explain wherein the proper use of all the light bestowed upon us, consists.
Luke 11:40. Ye fools, &c.— "What a silly as well as hypocritical part do you herein act, as if you could impose upon the all-seeing and heart-searching God, who desires truth in the inward parts? Did not he create the soul as well as the body? and can you suppose, that he is pleased with your ceremonious washings of the flesh, and takes no notice of the impurity of your spirits?"
Luke 11:41. But, &c.— But rather give alms of such things as you are able. Or, in proportion to your substance. Doddridge. We are not to imagine, that alms-giving was particularly mentioned by Christ in his exhortation to the Pharisees, because it is of greater value and necessity than the other virtues and graces. He recommended it to that sect, because they were generally remarkable for their covetousness and extortion; vices which must be repented of, by making restitution to those who have been injured by them; and when these cannot be known or found, the compensation must be made to the poor, as having the next right, because what is given to them is lent tothe Lord. But the Pharisees were of an incorrigibly stubborn disposition, which no instruction, whether mild or persuasive, could influence; wherefore our Lord, on this occasion, wisely treated them with a kind of wholesome severity; denouncing most dreadful woes against them, for being so zealous in the ceremonial institutions of religion, while they utterly neglected the precepts of morality. see on Matth
Luke 11:44. Woe unto you, scribes, &c.— The scribes were called, in the Hebrew language, sopherim,—writers, and are often mentioned in the sacred history as persons of great authority in the Jewish commonwealth. They were generally secretaries in the church, thestate, the army, revenue, &c. to which offices those were intitled who could write, because anciently that art was practised but by few. When Ezra made the reformation, which has rendered him so famous among the Jewish doctors, he was assisted by the scribes in revising the canon of Scripture, and ordering matters so, that thenceforth a sufficient number of them should always be employed in multiplying the copies of it. This class of men, therefore, being much conversant in the sacred writings, acquired a singular knowledge of them, and in process of time expounded them to the common people with such reputation, that at length they obtained the title of doctors or teachers, and were consulted upon all difficult points of faith. See Matthew 7:29. Luke 2:46. Matthew 2:4. Hence they are said by our Lord to sit in Moses's chair, and to determine what doctrines are contained in Scripture; and hence an able minister of the New Testament is called a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. See Matthew 23:2-3.Mark 12:35; Mark 12:35. But as the Jews were divided into several religious sects, it is natural to imagine, that each sect gave such interpretations of Scripture as best agreed with their peculiar tenets. Wherefore it cannot be doubted, that the doctors studied and expounded the sacred writings with a view to authorize the several opinions of the party they espoused. Accordingly, in Act 23:9 mention is made of the scribes that were of the sect of the Pharisees:— οι γραμματεις του μερους των φαρισαιων, which plainly implies that some of the scribes were of the other sects. It is true, the scribes are distinguished from the Pharisees in the woes which our Lord now pronounced, and in several other passages, particularly Matthew 5:20; Mat 23:2 but from the latter of these passages it seems evident, that by the scribes and Pharisees, are commonly meant the Pharisaic scribes, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language: for as the name Pharisees denoted a sect, and not an office, it could by no means be said of the whole sect that they sat in Moses's chair. A character of this sort was applicable only to the doctors, or scribes of the sect. In other instances, where the scribes are distinguished from the Pharisees, the Sadducean doctors may be intended. The badge of a Pharisee was his placing the tradition of the elders on an equality with Scripture; whereas the Sadducees rejected all the pretended oral traditions, and adhered so closely to the text, that they acknowledged nothing as a matter of faith, which was not expressly contained in the sacred books. And in this they were followed by the Karaites, or Scripturists, a sect which subsists among the Jews to this day. It is generally supposed indeed, that the Sadducees acknowledged the authority of none of the sacred books, except the writings of Moses; nevertheless, there is reason to believe that they received all these books: for had they denied the authority of any of them, it is not probable that our Lord, who so sharply reproved their other corruptions, would have let this pass uncensured. Nay, Josephus himself, who was no friend to the Sadducees, does not, in the whole compass of his writings, charge them with rejecting any of the sacred books. He says, they rejected the traditions of the elders, so much cried up by the Pharisees; affirming, that nothing ought to be held as an institution or rule, but what was written. Perhaps of all the sacred writings, the Sadducees preferred the books of Moses; all the Jews did so, and do still; but whether in this point the Sadducees outstripped the rest of the sects, is hard to say. In the mean time, considering the veneration which the Jews had for the books of the law, it is reasonable to suppose, that some of the doctors of each sect would apply themselves more especially to the study of these books in private, and to the explication of them in public; and that such as did, might obtain the appellation of lawyers. Accordingly, the same person is called a Pharisee and a lawyer, Mat 22:35 whom St. Mark calls a scribe. Farther, it is not improbable that the Pharisean lawyers, fond of their own particular study, might exalt the law, not only above the rest of the sacred writings, but above the traditions of the elders; in which respect, they were distinguished from the rest of their sect, paying only a secondary sort of regard to these traditions. It was on this account, that one of them was now so displeased, when he heard Jesus join the whole body of the scribes indiscriminately, and consequently the lawyers with the Pharisees, in the woes which he now denounced against them, for the hypocritical shew of piety by their zeal in giving tithes of mint, anise and cummin, according to the precepts of the divine law, while they omitted judgment and the love of God, expressly enjoined by that law. It seems he thought the rebuke undeserved on the part of the lawyers, even of the Pharisean sect; because they did not pay that superlative regard to tradition, for which the rest were so remarkable.
For ye are as graves, &c.— In the repetition of the woes, Mat 23:27 this is differently expressed: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness. Persons of fortune among the Jews, often raised fine stone structures over their deceased relations, especially when they buried them in the fields; and these they whitened from time to time, to make them look beautiful. Dr. Shaw (Travels, p. 219.) gives us the following account of those sepulchres: "If we except a few persons, who are buried within the precincts of the sanctuaries of the Marabutts,—or tutelar saints of the country,—the rest are carried out at a small distance from their cities and villages, where a great extent of ground is allotted for the purpose. Each family has a particular part of it walled in, like a garden, where the bones of their ancestors have remained for many generations; for in these inclosures the graves are all distinct and separated, each of them having a stone placed upright at the head and feet, inscribed with the name or title of the deceased, (2 Kings 23:17.) while the intermediate space is either planted with flowers, bordered round with stones, or paved with tiles. The graves of the principal citizensarefarther distinguished by having cupolas or vaulted clambers, of three, four, or more square yards, built over them; and as these very frequently lie open, and occasionally shelter us from the inclemency of the weather, the demoniac, Mar 5:5 might with propriety enough have had his dwelling among the tombs; as others are said, Isa 65:4 to remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments (mountains). And as all these different sorts of tombs and sepulchres, with the very walls likewise of their respective cupolas and inclosures, are constantly kept clean, white-washed, and beautified, they continue to illustrate those expressions of our Saviour, where he mentions the garnishing of sepulchres, and compares the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites to whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness."—But though the sepulchres of the rich were thus beautified, the graves of the poor were oftentimes so neglected, that if the stones by which they were marked, happened to fall, they were not set up again: by which means the graves themselves did not appear; they were αδηλα, as they are called in the text, so that men might tread upon them inadvertently. By the law, Num 19:16 graves of all sorts polluted the persons who touched them, as well those sepulchres which were kept perfectly neat and beautiful, as those which were neglected. Hence, to shew the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, our Lord, in the one woe, likened them to graves which did not appear,—had no mark to know them by,—and which being covered with grass, men were polluted by going over them ere they were aware: in the other woe, he likened them to whited sepulchres, which, though they looked fair and beautiful outward, were full of uncleanness. The scribes and Pharisees, however holy they might appear by their exactness in the externals of religion, were polluted with the grossest vices; insomuch, that by the contagion of their example they defiled all who were much in their company.
Luke 11:46. Ye lade men with burdens— See on Matthew 23:4. Perhaps the consciences of these lawyers might charge them with some private contempt of the injunctions which they most rigorously imposed upon others, in ceremonial precepts as well as moral; or it may refer to a want of due tenderness for the comfort of men's lives, which they embittered by such rigour.
Luke 11:48. That ye allow— That ye approve.
Luke 11:49. Therefore also said the wisdom of God,— If, as some suppose, Christ himself here spoke of that divine perfection which we call the wisdom of God, it is difficult to make any tolerable sense of this verse, unless the things here mentioned, as said by the wisdom of God, were to be found in the Old Testament, which, I think, is silent about them: and therefore I take this phrase to be the evangelist's appellation of Christ, who is expressly said to have spoken these things, Mat 23:34-35 and who was represented under the character of Wisdom, in Proverbs 8:0 and so is called the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24.
Luke 11:50-51. That the blood of all the prophets, &c.— "Hereby you will far exceed your fathers in extensive and outrageous instances of wickedness, which God will suffer you to commit, in defiance of greater mercies, and more evident means of conviction, than they ever enjoyed; that you may bring upon the present generation of the Jews, all the terrible wrath threatened and due for national guilt, inshedding the blood of the servants of God in former ages, from the beginning of the world, (Luke 11:51.) even from the blood of righteous Abel, which was shed by Cain on account of religion, and which cried aloud to heaven for vengeance, before the giving of the law, unto the blood of that well known Zacharias, under the law, whom your predecessors stoned to death in the court between the altar of burnt-offering and the temple, for reproving their idolatry, and who, when he died, said, The Lord look upon it, and require it: 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. I assuredly tell you, that God, in his righteous judgment, will revenge all this blood upon the men of this generation, for their still more flagrant iniquity of the same kind, in the utter destruction of their city, temple, and nation."
Luke 11:52. For ye have taken away the key, &c.— Vitringa understands this of one fundamental truth, which would have led them into the knowledge of the rest: but all their endeavours to embarrass and bias the minds of men in their inquiries after truth, might be intended here, as well as more especially their disguising the prophesies which relate to the Messiah. If a key was delivered to the Rabbies, when they were admitted into their office, in token of the power given them to open and expound the Scripture, as the writers of antiquities inform us was the custom, here may be a beautiful allusion to that circumstance; as if he had said, "You take that key, not to use, but to secrete it." It is certain, that the heathen priests were called χλειδουχοι, key-bearers. Instead of ye entered not,—ye hindered, some read, ye have not entered,—ye have hindered.
Luke 11:53-54. Began to urge him vehemently, &c.— Δεινως ενεχειν, which properly signifies to fasten fiercely upon him. Several more of the words here used are metaphors taken from hunting: the word αποστοματιζειν, which we render to provoke, to speak, might be rendered to mouth, or "bear down with the violence of their words," as Theophylact excellently explains it: and the word θηρευσαι, rendered to catch, has in this connection a most beautiful propriety; for it expresses the eagerness with which sportsmen beat about for their game, to start it from its covert. It is very probable, that the Pharisee who was master of the house had invited a great many of his brethren and learned friends, on purpose to make a more formidable attack upon Christ, and by their concurrent testimony to charge upon him any thing which might render him obnoxious; and the presence of so many of them made the discourse delivered at this time more proper, and the courage and zeal which it expressed more remarkable.
Inferences.—Well does that petition become every disciple of Christ, Lord, teach us to pray! Thou hast taught us by thy example, and by the precepts of thy word, teach us also by thy holy spirit! excellent is the form of sound and divine words, which our gracious Master here recommends: it is our duty to study it attentively, that, concise and expressive as it is, our thoughts may go along with its several petitions.
Let us learn to reverence and love God, and to consider ourselves as brethren in his family. Let the glory of his name, and the prosperity of his kingdom, be much dearer to us than any separate interest of our own. Let it be our cordial desire, that his will may be universally obeyed, and with the most entire consent of soul acquiesced in by all his creatures, both in heaven and on earth. Let our appetites and passions be so moderated, that having even the plainest food and raiment, we may be therewith content; and, on the other hand, how plentiful soever our circumstances may be, let us remember, that day by day we depend on God for our daily bread. Nor do we need even the most necessary supplies of life, more than we need daily pardon: for which therefore we should be putting in our constant prayer; heartily forgiving all our fellow-creatures, as we desire to be forgiven of God. Conscious of our own weakness, let us, as far as we can, endeavour to avoid circumstances of temptation; and, when necessarily led into them, let us look up to God for support, labouring, above all things, to preserve our integrity, and to maintain a conscience void of offence.
Depending on the certainty of the gracious promises given, (Luke 11:9-10.) and encouraged by the experience of so many thousands, who have on asking received, and on seeking found; let us renew our importunate addresses to the throne of divine grace; and, remembering the compassion of our heavenly Father, let us be emboldened in the full assurance of faith, to ask every necessary blessing; especially the communication of that enlightening and sanctifying spirit, without which our corrupt hearts will find out a ready way to abuse the choicest of his providential favours, to the dishonour of his holy name, and the deeper wounding of our own miserable souls.
As an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear: Christ was indeed a wise and faithful reprover; but the ears of these Pharisees were disobedient and uncircumcised. How well had all the entertainments of the Pharisee's table been repaid, had he and his brethren heard our Lord's reproof with candour, humility and obedience! these men despised them to their ruin: let us often review them for our instruction, that none of these dreadful woes may come upon us.
Our Lord's discourse to the Pharisees and lawyers, is a most just and severe rebuke to every hypocritical professor; who is scrupulous and exact in matters of ceremony, while he neglects morality and experimental religion; and is studious to shine in the sight of men, while he forgets the all-penetrating eye of God. It exposes the ostentation of those, who pride themselves in empty titles of honour, and eagerly affect precedence and superiority; and it evidently chastises those who press upon others the duties which they neglect themselves, and so are most righteously judged out of their own mouths.
How melancholy is it to observe, in instances like those recorded here, the hypocrisy and deceitfulness of the human heart; and to see men impose on themselves with empty appearances!—like these Pharisees, who built the sepulchres of the former prophets, while they were persecuting those of their own day; and, in contempt of all that was said by the messengers of God, were filling up the measure of their iniquities, till the cloud which had been so long gathering burst on their heads, and poured forth a storm of aggravated wrath and ruin.
May that God, who has immediate access to the hearts of men, deliver all Christian countries from such teachers as are here described, who take away and secrete the key of knowledge, instead of using it; and obstruct, rather than promote men's entrance into the kingdom of heaven! how loudly will the blood of those whom they have destroyed, cry against them in the aweful day of account; and how little will the wages of unrighteousness, and the rewards of worldly policy, be able to arm them against destruction, or to support them under it!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Prayer is the great instituted means of maintaining communion with God: it is as the breath of every spiritually living soul. There can be no surer proof of our being dead in trespasses and sins than the habitual neglect of it. The prayerless live without God, and must die without hope. Our Lord himself was much in prayer, to set us an example; and his disciples, desirous to follow him, are represented in this chapter as preferring their request to him, that he would instruct them both concerning the matter and manner of their prayers, and give them a form or directory, as John had done for his disciples.
1. Christ condescends to grant their request, and gives them the following short but most comprehensive form of prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven; thou great Creator and Universal Lord, whose throne is in the heavens, and to whom ten thousand times ten thousand angels and archangels pay their ceaseless adorations; to thee do we sinful worms and dust of the earth address our prayer, regarding thee not only as our common parent and the Maker of all things, but in the more endeared relation of our reconciled God and Father in Jesus Christ. Hallowed be thy name: may I and every other creature exalt thy glory; and, according to the displays of thy glorious perfections made in thy works and word, may we ever admire, adore, honour, love, and serve thee. Thy kingdom come: erect the throne of thy grace in our hearts; O visit us with thy salvation; give us the light of thy truth, and the gracious influences of thy Spirit, that we may become thy faithful subjects and servants. Send forth thy gospel into the world; accompany it with thy mighty power, and make it effectual to the conversion of sinners' souls; build us up together in thy faith, fear, and love, and prepare us daily in the exercise of all holy conversation and godliness, for thy eternal presence; then come and take us to thy throne above, where, day and night for ever, we may serve thee in thy temple, and go out no more. Thy will be done, as in heaven so in earth; may we emulate the lively, constant, universal obedience paid by thy celestial hosts. Let thy revealed word be our invariable rule; and may we, without partiality and without hypocrisy, desire to know and with delight fulfil what thou dost command: and in every dispensation of thy providence may our spirits be resigned, submissive, satisfied, content to wait thy leisure, meekly casting our care upon thee. Give us day by day our daily bread: on thee, O Lord, we depend for the needful provision for our bodies during the days of our pilgrimage; let us, as thy children, be supplied by thy bounty; enable us to live in a constant dependance upon thee, content with the portion thou art pleased to assign us, and confident that thou wilt not leave us to want any manner of thing which is good for us: and, whilst our bodies are fed by thy providence, let our souls be nourished with the better bread of life which cometh down from heaven. And forgive us our sins, many, great, and aggravated as they have been: blot them out through the Redeemer's blood, speak peace and pardon to our guilty souls, and glorify thyself in mercy. And we are emboldened, Lord, to hope for an answer of peace; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us, readily passing by their offences and trespasses against us, as we hope to be forgiven ourselves, and pleading thy promise, that, when we are enabled thus to do, we shall assuredly find mercy with thee our most highly and justly offended God. Remember therefore the word wherein thou hast caused us to put our trust. And lead us not into temptation; keep us from every snare laid for our souls, and suffer us not to fall under the trials that we may be called to endure: but deliver us from evil, from the evil one, and from the evil world. Save us with thine uttermost salvation, and bring us at last to that eternal kingdom where no temptation nor evil can ever enter.
2. Christ directs them as to the manner of their prayers; to be fervent, persevering, and importunate; the effects of which he instances in the case of a man, who, having a sudden visit from a friend on his journey, and nothing for him to eat, should run to his neighbour's house at midnight, and desire to borrow three loaves. At that unseasonable hour his neighbour would be apt to make many excuses, and endeavour to put him off, rather than disturb his family: yet, if he is very importunate, that will usually prevail; and, if but to be rid of his importunity, he will lend him what he asks. Now if one, who shews so much reluctance to yield, is overcome by entreaty, much more will our gracious God, who is ever more willing to hear than we to pray, and wont to give more than we desire or deserve, answer the supplications of his people, if they faint not. Let them ask in faith, nothing doubting; let them seek with diligence unwearied; let them knock aloud, with cries fervent and reiterated; and then they will surely find an answer of peace; their prayers shall be heard, their requests granted, and the door of mercy be opened.
3. Our Lord suggests yet farther encouragement to prayer from the consideration of our relation to God as our Father. If the bowels of earthly parents yearn over their children's wants, and none are found so inhuman as, instead of the bread and meat which they ask for, to give them things noxious and poisonous—If men, by nature sinful, feel such tenderness towards their offspring, how infinitely surpassing must be the compassions of our Father in heaven; and, as his power is equal to his love, much more will he supply all the spiritual necessities of our souls, and give his Holy Spirit, which comprizes all blessedness, to them that ask him.
2nd, The most amazing manifestations of Christ's power and glory, and his noble acts of beneficence towards men's bodies and souls, could not prevent the invenomed tongue of malice from casting upon him the most malignant aspersions. We have,
1. The wicked inference drawn by the Pharisees, on seeing a most astonishing instance of Christ's power in the dispossessing a devil from a man that was dumb, who immediately recovered his speech to the amazement of the spectators. To counteract the effects of this miraculous cure among the people, some of them, who could not deny the fact, suggested that it was performed by a confederacy between Jesus and the prince of the devils: whilst others challenged him to give a sign from heaven of his divine mission, as if all besides was unsatisfactory. So perverse and absurd are usually the objections of obstinate infidelity.
2. Christ knew their thoughts, and what suggestions they were labouring to instil into the minds of the people, and confutes them with the most unanswerable arguments. It was as absurd to suppose so subtle an enemy as Satan, would ever concur in establishing that doctrine which radically overthrows his empire over the souls of men, as that any community or family should propose their establishment by the means of division between the members that compose it, which must evidently tend to their mutual destruction. Besides, they condemned themselves herein, when they admitted that many of their own kindred and followers, by exorcisms, were in the name of God enabled to cast out devils; and never supposed any diabolical combination in their case. This malignant opposition to him therefore tended most effectually to their own ruin and destruction; for, since the finger of God was evident in these miraculous works, and proved the kingdom of God was come, which the Messiah should erect in the world—in rejecting the evidence of his mission, they excluded themselves from all the blessings and privileges of his kingdom. And to shew farther the real destruction of Satan's power by his miracles and doctrine, he illustrates the matter by a similitude, Luke 11:21-22. As a strong man will not quit his palace, which he holds with an armed force, unless he be vanquished by a superior foe, no more will Satan quit his hold of men's bodies and souls, till compelled by the power of the almighty Saviour. When the prey therefore is taken from this mighty one, it is a sure proof that his power is broken, and his interests ruined. Nor can there be any neutrality between Christ and Belial. They who halt between two opinions, who do not join Christ's cause, admit the evidence of his mission, and profess discipleship, must expect to be treated by him as enemies, and to be scattered in his wrath.
The Redeemer's victories over Satan are still daily seen; and we are bound to experience them in our own souls, or it had been good for us we had never been born. For by nature we are children of wrath, born slaves of corruption, and under the power of this wicked one. Our desperately wicked hearts are the palace where he sits enthroned, and there his despotic orders are obeyed; by every prejudice, every allurement, every temptation, he strengthens his interest against Christ and his truth; and flatters with visions of peace the sinner's soul, filling him with false confidence, keeping him in darkness with respect to his danger, lulling him asleep in security, suffering him to entertain no doubt of the goodness of his heart and the safety of his state, and turning him away from whatever tends to disturb this deceitful repose. But, when Christ comes by his word and Spirit, the conflict begins, unusual distress seizes the soul, the enemy struggles hard to keep his hold; but if the sinner do not use irregular methods to quench his convictions, the stronger grace and power of the Saviour prevail, the strong-holds of Satan are laid low, the sinner's proud imaginations humbled, his false confidences, his own fancied righteousness and self-sufficiency levelled with the dust. Christ then comes and takes possession of the believing heart, by his enlightening, sanctifying grace dispels the darkness of ignorance and error, and looses the bonds of sin and corruption, taking the prey from the mighty, and employing to his own glory the body, soul, spirit, and all the faculties of the sincere believer.
3. Christ intimates to them their truly deplorable condition, under another similitude. They were like a man, out of whom the evil spirit departed for a while, seeking a settlement elsewhere; but, finding none to his mind, he returned to his former house, and found it ready prepared for his reception; where, entering with seven worse spirits, he took up his abode; and the case of that man was more desperate than ever. Thus now that Satan's kingdom was shaken in Judea, he had retired for a while into the Gentile world; but when, after the resurrection of Jesus, and the preaching of his gospel among the heathen, he could find no rest there, his idols being demolished and his votaries converted, then would he return again to the Jewish people, who had rejected their Messiah, and find them ready to welcome him into their hearts: with sevenfold greater influence over them, he will take possession of them for his own, and, by hurrying them on (thus ready to coincide with all his devices) to fill up the measure of their iniquities, will hasten the destruction of their country, and effectually ruin both body and soul in hell.
This also represents the state of every hypocrite. An outward reformation may be wrought, and Satan's power for a time in some degree suspended; the house may be swept from grosser immoralities, and garnished with the form of godliness, with speculative knowledge, or a fair shew of profession, while the heart remains unchanged, unhumbled, and unholy: for a while they thus endure; but, when the hour of temptation comes, Satan finds a ready access, and enters with greater power than ever into the heart; the sins which were before hid under the veil of hypocrisy, break forth; and these usually prove the vilest and most abandoned of all sinners, and will receive the greater damnation.
3rdly, A gracious woman of the company, struck with the miracle that she had seen, and deeply affected with the convincing force of evidence which appeared in our Lord's discourse, could not restrain the glowing rapture of her heart, and burst forth into expressions of wonder and admiration at what she heard and saw, counting her inexpressibly blessed and happy who was the mother of such a son. But Christ took occasion to point her to an unspeakably greater honour and happiness, of which she herself might become possessed: to hear the word of God and keep it, so to receive the love of the truth as to be saved thereby, was a far greater blessedness than, after the flesh, to have been found among his nearest relatives.
4thly, As they were so obstinate in rejecting the signs that he had given them, and still demand one from heaven, as a subterfuge for their unbelief, Christ rejects their petition, and, before the people, who were gathered thick around him, assures them,
1. That no sign shall be given them from heaven but that of which Jonas was the type and figure, even the resurrection of the Son of man from the dead; and their rejection of that would seal them up under final impenitence.
2. He warns them of the dreadfulness of their guilt, and the aggravated ruin which must be the consequence of rejecting him and his gospel. As he was far greater than Solomon or Jonah, the queen of Sheba who came so far to hear the wisdom of the one, and the Ninevites who repented at the preaching of the other, would rise up in the judgment day, to upbraid and condemn their perverseness and unbelief.
3. They had yet the light of truth among them; they were therefore inexcusable if they abode in darkness, and wilfully shut their eyes against conviction. They who embraced the gospel, receiving it in the light and love of it, would be infinitely blessed and benefited thereby; but those who rejected it, would be given up justly to the blindness of their heart, and left to fall into eternal darkness. Note; (1.) The gospel is the lighted candle, set up on the candlestick of the public ministry, to guide benighted souls into the paths of everlasting peace. (2.) What the eye is to the body, that faith is to the soul, enabling us to see the great things which pertain unto our eternal life, and to embrace them; and, as the blessed effect thereof, we are enabled to walk in comfort and holiness, growing in grace, till, if we be fruitful, the blessed day comes, when no cloud of ignorance, or spot of sin, shall ever hide the full lustre of the beatific vision. (3.) While the heart remains under the power of native corruption, the understanding is darkened, the judgment corrupted by depraved affections, and all the glories of the gospel-day shine around such in vain; as the sun's brightest beams convey no light to the person whose organs of vision are obstructed by vicious humours. (4.) We have great need to beware how we trifle with the gospel, lest we provoke the Lord to withdraw the light of truth from us, and seal us up under judicial blindness and hardness of heart; and then, how great is that darkness!
5thly, We have,
1. The invitation which one of the Pharisees gave our Lord to dine with him, which he accepted, and went to the house, and sat down to meat.
2. The Pharisee observed, and was much offended, that Christ did not wash before he sat down at the table, according to the tradition of the elders, which he and his brethren so scrupulously observed.
3. Christ, who knew this proud Pharisee's thoughts, took occasion freely to reprove the folly and hypocrisy of those who had placed the substance of their religion in these useless and superstitious observances, while they neglected the great and most important commands of God. He denounces therefore his woes against them,
[1.] For their hypocrisy, in shewing such solicitude to observe the various washings of their cups and platters, in conformity with the traditions of the elders; while they took no pains to cleanse their souls from the deep pollutions of sin, from the inward extortion and covetousness, which rendered them abominable in the sight of God. What egregious folly! If God required outward cleanness, must he not much more expect internal purity? The way to have a sanctified use of their creature-comforts, was by charitable distribution to the poor, (Deuteronomy 26:12-15.) and when this proceeded out of a pure heart, and faith unfeigned, all things would then be clean unto them: (Titus 1:15.) but without this, all the water in Jordan would never cleanse them from their filthiness. [2.] For their injustice and irreligion: while they pretended the most scrupulous regard to God's service, tithing even the herbs in their garden, they lived in the gross violation of the most weighty precepts of the moral law; passing over judgment, partial as magistrates, extortioners in their dealings, and as void of the love of God as of charity to their neighbour: duties, which, being of the first importance, demanded their chief attention. [3.] For their pride. They were fond of pre-eminence; expected the most honourable seat in places of worship, where humility was especially required; and expected sounding titles of homage to be paid them in public, as if they were beings of a superior rank. [4.] For their inward filthiness. Notwithstanding all the specious appearances of devotion and piety which they wore, their hearts were a sink of uncleanness; and as graves concealed, which men, ere they were aware, walked over, and were defiled by them; so did their principles, practice, and conversation, corrupt those who followed their destructive ways.
4. One of the lawyers, or scribes, whose office it was in general to expound the law to the people, conceived that these reproofs on the Pharisees included reproaches on them also; and our Lord, without respect of persons, does not spare them. They were alike culpable, and the same words and wrath hung over them. [1.] Because they added to the divine precepts an insupportable load of human traditions; and while to themselves they were abundantly indulgent, and made the path of self-denial sufficiently easy, they exacted with rigour a scrupulous conformity from others to their human impositions. [2.] Because they pretended reverence for the memory of the prophets, and erected noble monuments over the graves of those whom their fathers had murdered; but even the care of the prophets' tombs perpetuated the memory of the crimes of their ancestors, which they were ready to repeat, being actuated by the same malignant spirit; therefore also said the wisdom of God, Jesus the divine Logos, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute, exceeding all the outrages of their forefathers; more bloody-minded and inveterate against the ministers of the gospel; filling up hereby the measure of their iniquities, and bringing upon themselves the vengeance due for all the righteous blood shed from Abel to Zacharias, who for his fidelity was stoned in the very courts of the temple, (2 Chronicles 24:20-22.) At the hands of this generation, says he, shall it be required; and the prediction was fearfully verified in the dreadful and utter destruction shortly after poured out upon their city, temple, and nation. [3.] Because they had taken away the key of knowledge; arrogating to themselves the right of expounding the Scriptures, they misled the people by corrupt glosses. They perverted the texts which had the plainest reference to the Messiah, and the clearest accomplishment in Jesus: instilling wrong notions of his temporal kingdom, they prejudiced the people against Christ and his gospel; and refusing to enter themselves into the number of his disciples, they used all their art and influence to prevent others from joining them who were disposed to acknowledge his mission and character.
5. Pierced with these sharp rebukes, which unhumbled sinners regard as affronts and reproaches, they began to urge him vehemently, with captious questions, and to provoke him to speak of many things; trying to ruffle his temper, or draw from him some unguarded expression, whereon to ground some accusation against him; either to render him odious to the people, or obnoxious to the government; but his patience and prudence disappointed their malice. Note; Fidelity in reproving men's sins will often procure us inveterate enemies; and we have need to watch over the temper of our hearts, and the door of our lips, when in the midst of those who we know lie in wait for our halting.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany