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Bible Commentaries
Luke 11

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verses 1-13


1. Came pass… in a certain place Probably a few days after the last narrative, and within the vicinity, east of Jerusalem. See Harmony, p. 101.

He was praying Praying, perhaps, such a powerful prayer as to arouse the feeling that they knew not how to pray, and needed to be taught.

Teach us to pray Teach us the body of blessings we may hope to receive, and therefore what object is right, and not presumptuous to ask; teach us, even by an outline pattern if thou wilt, a skeleton prayer, of which all other prayers are but the amplification.

John also taught his disciples Each new dispensation may not only have its new unfolding of truths; but its new revelations may open new modes of access, and new topics of prayer, and motives and tempers of worship. A different prayer was offered in the Mosaic ritual from the patriarchal form. John opened up a new scope of prayer; and this new dispensation requires of Jesus to set the range of prayer in accordance with the new range of truth, and the new position of men with God.

Verses 2-13

2-13. Our Lord in Luke 11:2-5 teaches them the form, and in 6-13 instructs them in the spirit of prayer. Brief are the forms of the Saviour’s ritual; and then follows a memorable caution that the form must be without formality.

This repetition of the same prayer, as was given by the Saviour in the Sermon on the Mount, informs his disciples that he intends it for a model to his Church. Ask you for a method of prayer? That same prayer, a year ago dispensed to you, must be now held as inaugurated for future ages. As the decalogue, so this prayer, is twice given.

Parable of the importunate borrower, 5-8.

Verse 5

5. He said unto them Intimating that much was said in the same current which is not reported; but the following parable was clearly recollected.

Which of you In teaching how God will do, Jesus, at the same time, teaches how we should behave.

At midnight The very best time for travel in the heat of a tropical climate is during the night. The trumpet of the caravan sounds at that hour to call the slumbering travellers to awake and march.

Lend me three loaves The loaf of the Orientals is a thin cake of barleycorn. The three would doubtless be one for his friend; one perhaps for himself, at least to break, as if participating for company’s sake; and the third for courtesy, or for his friend if very hungry.

Verse 6

6. Friend… set before him This is intercessory prayer. A friend, perhaps a sinner from his wanderings, has come, and needs that bread of life without which he perishes. The Christian has nothing of his own to set before him, no power to pardon or to save. But he has a wealthy neighbour.

Verse 7

7. He from within To the soul that has hitherto neglected prayer, God is behind a vail; is shut up; is gone to sleep. But, in that case, woe when he awaketh!

Trouble me not He is short and sharp. He echoes not the honeyed word friend. Thus, in this parable, as in that of the unjust judge, the little obstinacy of man is made to illustrate the wise severity of God. The finite is the faint emblem of the Infinite; the defective of the perfect.

See note on Luke 18:2.

Door is now shut And doubtless bolted with a huge Oriental wooden lock. See on Matthew 16:0.

My children are with me in bed Says Dr. Thomson, “the whole family, parents, children, and servants, sleep in the same room, with slight change of garments or none at

all.” I cannot rise and give thee These are wayward human reasons; yet symbols of the divine sternness. For with the froward God will shew himself froward. Psalms 18:26.

Verse 8

8. Because of his importunity The word rendered importunity here means shamelessness. Whether shame be wrong or right depends very much upon what we are ashamed of. Some men are proud of what they ought to be ashamed of, and ashamed of what would be a true dignity. Very many are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to pray for pardon; much more to have others pray for their pardon. Others are not ashamed to pray, but are ashamed to be seen praying for others, who seek Christian intercession.

But the shamelessness of the man in the parable consisted in a persistence in his prayer which no shame could check or stop. He feels that it is no time for delicacy. So God may wait until he sees that we have, by our long perseverance, fully committed ourselves to a position which we may by his grace permanently retain. Thus a wise delay in him begets stability in us.

Note, then, that it is not true, in the sense that many affirm it, that our prayers have an effect on us only, and not on God. God’s immutability does not require that he should treat the same man who is first impenitent, and afterwards penitent, alike. God does immutably deal with men according to their works. As the same unchangable sun softens the wax and hardens the clay, so does God sustain and save us in our penitence, and harden and condemn us in our obduracy. Those, who say that prayer affects only ourselves and not God, can never consistently pray at all. It is impossible to frame a real prayer to God which does not imply that God may comply with our request.

Verse 9

9. Ask… seek… knock This man did ask, seek, and knock. It was opened, granted, and obtained by him according to the promise.

Verses 9-13

9-13. This passage occurs in the Sermon on the Mount. Its connection is so intimate in both cases as to show that it was used on both occasions.

Verse 12

12. A scorpion Most scorpions in Palestine are black and long, looking like a lobster and not like an egg. But Burckhardt and other old writers say that there was a white scorpion which when folded up had the latter resemblance.

Verse 13

13. Being evil The whole argument of the parable to which these remarks are appended, assumes that the good which man in his evil nature will do from his small human motives, will be munificently paralleled and surpassed by God, from holy and divine motives.

Verses 14-23

§ 42. HEALING THE DEMONIAC AND THE BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, Luke 11:14-23 ; Matthew 12:24-30; Mark 3:22-30.

Verses 24-26

§ 43. PARABLE OF THE UNCLEAN SPIRIT, Luke 11:24-26 ; Matthew 12:43-45.

The entire passages, 14-26; 29-36, find their parallel in Matthew 12:0, but the order is evidently most perfectly observed in Matthew.

Verse 27

27. Lifted up her voice Her feminine tones overtopping all other sounds in the crowd.

Verses 27-28


Luke alone preserves a remarkable interruption of the discourse of Jesus by a hearty but intelligent ejaculation of a mother present. She sympathizes with Jesus as a great Rabbi, but especially, we suppose, in his eloquent denunciations of that class who not only blasphemed him, but devoured widow’s houses!

Verse 28

28. Yea Jesus accepts the mother’s blessing upon his mother. His mother is blessed in being his mother, as she herself had predicted. Luke 1:48. Yea, she was blessed with the maternity of the Messiah because she heard the word of God and kept it. The blessedness of such a doing is thus superior to the bodily blessing of being mother to even such a son. And how repeatedly does Jesus pronounce the securement of our own salvation to be superior to every other interest. It is superior to gaming the whole world, superior to subjecting devils unto us, superior even to being the parent of the Saviour! Truly, whatever man may think, in God’s esteem the salvation of the soul is precious.

Verses 29-32

§ 43. THE SEEKING FOR A SIGN, Luke 11:29-32 .

Matthew 12:38-45.

Verses 33-36

33-36. See notes on Matthew 5:15-16; Matthew 6:22-23.

Our Lord here repeats the images and illustrations used in the parallel passages of the Sermon on the Mount. The connection here is clear. If his hearers’ light had not been darkened, they would have seen that he was a greater than Jonah.

Verse 37

37. Besought him Doubtless in full concert with the set mentioned in Luke 11:53.

Sat down In the Greek lay down or reclined, as was the custom of the ancients at their meals.

The narrative that follows suggests the following queries and answers: What were the grounds of opposition on the part of the Jews, and the reasons of their rejection of Jesus of Nazareth? We may answer: First, While Jesus accepted Moses, and made the Old Testament the basis of his system, he assailed and aimed to abolish, as false and corrupt, the pretended oral tradition, with its infinite mass of petty distinctions and ritual observances, in which the Jewish doctors so much delighted, and which, was the source of all their influence and power with the people. Second, Whereas they desired a Messiah of a political and warlike character, Jesus was a moral type, and only a Saviour from sin; and this was an unpardonable disappointment of all their hopes. Third, Even the ceremonial law of Moses, with all its sacrifices and passovers, and its great body of priesthood, Jesus proposed to abolish, as being all fulfilled and centered in HIMSELF; thus making the powerful and ruling class his unanimous enemies. Even the pride of the Jewish state, with its temple and favour with God, he proposed to abolish by bringing the hated Gentiles into the Church of God, and to reduce Israel to the level of the rest of the world. Thus it was that rabbies, priests, and rulers held him as a subverter, who aimed at the destruction of their interests and power.

What were the reasons that the common people heard him gladly? First, They had no power or position which they feared he would overthrow, so that they could hear him without previous prejudice or jealousy. Second, His miracles, through all their regions, aroused the whole mass of their community; and as they were entirely miracles of love, a gratitude and tenderness towards him arose in their hearts. His miracles of mercy prepared the way for his lessons of mercy. And as he descended to the lowly, and spoke in popular parables and beautiful analogies, drawn from nature, he won their hearts. Third, He spoke to the hearts of men; to their consciences; to their intuitive feelings; to their wants, and to their sorrows. He showed them their misery; and when he spoke of forgiving their sins, they were taught by his miracles to see that he had such power on earth.

Fourth, They could then believe that a being so powerful, and so good, and so wise, was the son of God, the Messiah who would establish the kingdom of God; of which they had no clear idea, but believed it would be, like him, powerful, good, and glorious. Why should they not hear him gladly and love him freely?

What methods did the ruling class take to ruin Jesus? First, They charged him with blasphemy in making claim to be the Son of God; with being thereby an impostor and deceiver. Second, They solved the problem of his miracles by attributing them to diabolical agency. Third, They endeavoured by questions to draw out not only his opposition to traditional maxims and rites, but his purpose to supersede the ritual of Moses, the Temple, and the Jewish pre-eminence as a favoured nation. Fourth, They endeavoured to embroil him with government as a disturber and pretender to royalty, and finally procured his death as an enemy to Caesar.

Verses 37-54


We have here a part of the war waged by the hierarchy against Jesus in regard to ceremonial washing. Fully knowing the state of the controversy, a scribe, strenuous on that point, invites our Lord, personally, to a dinner, in a company like-minded with himself. Our Lord on his entrance accepts the issue, by omitting the much contested ablutions. The Pharisee is amazed, and our Lord, recognizing the drift of the company, unfolds the character and destiny of the hierarchy to their own view. The strain of indignant oratory contains some of the same strokes of rebuke which he addressed at still greater length, and with mightier exhibition of power, on a more public occasion at a later period. See Matthew 22:0.

Verse 38

38. Washed In the original, baptized. This is the same sort of washing as is mentioned Mark 7:3.

Verse 39

39. The Lord said unto him In this verse our Lord depicts, by a very impressive image, the contrast between the external ritual purity and the internal moral impurity of the pharisaical classes.

Verses 39-44

39-44. On words similar to these we have annotated in Matthew 23:0. That our Lord under similar circumstances should use similar thoughts and expressions, and even quote the same Scripture passage, is perfectly natural. The lawyer who has essentially the same cause to plead, though with different parties, would of course go through the same argument, quote the same authorities, and even make the same impassioned appeal to the same emotions. The popular orator in a political canvass repeats the same speech to rouse the passions of successive audiences. The physician a hundred times finds the same symptoms grouped in the same disease, and applies the same medicines. The author, even a Strauss, publishes thousands of copies of the same book. The singer, when encored, goes through the same notes and strains to excite the same feelings. Why then should not he who has once gone through with an impressive and unsurpassable train of thought, employ it a second and a third time, under precisely similar demands? Our Saviour was perpetually meeting the same sort of men, who were suffering the same diseases, and needing the same truths and dealings. The same sort of facts and teachings would therefore occur not only twice but thrice and four times.

Verse 40

40. Without… within also If the Creator require a clean body, will not he also require a clean soul?

Verse 41

41. Give alms This we hold with Stier, and against Alford, to be ironical. Give alms, forsooth, and that is to make compensation for your extortions a purification of all your guilt! Our Lord casts no slur upon alms-giving, but upon using our alms-giving as a cover for sin.

Verse 45

45. One of the lawyers There were several present, doubtless to take share in the contest. This lawyer was a professional man, as the inviting Pharisee was a layman.

Reproachest us also For the layman furnishes the practice, while we furnish the theory.

Verse 47

47. Build the sepulchres… killed them They build sepulchres to show how unlike they are to those who killed; whereas, in our Lord’s view, it would show that they are the moral as well as the bodily descendants of the murderers. Dr. Thomson remarks that, even now, were the apostles and Jesus himself alive, those who worship at the tombs would be ready to slay them or him.

Verse 49

49. The wisdom of God The wisdom of God, speaking in 2 Chronicles 24:19, of which Jesus here gives an amplification in the same spirit of divine or avenging wisdom.

Verse 53

53. Provoke The word here used in the Greek is applied to the practice among teachers of requiring the pupil to speak and answer accurately from memory. Hence, to put prepared questions and require immediate answers, in order to draw out expressions of hostility to Moses and the traditions, to the Temple, or to the Jewish nation, or to Caesar; so as to excite the hierarchy, the people, or the civil authorities against him.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/luke-11.html. 1874-1909.
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