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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 11

 

 

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Verse 1

‘And it came about, as he was praying in a certain place, that when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples.”

The disciples constantly saw Jesus at prayer. Possibly it would be a little unfair to judge their own prayer lives on the basis of silence (one must hope so), but we read little of such prayer. Here, however, we have the indication that they did pray. And indeed Luke does emphasise that all must pray. So Luke’s purpose in pointing constantly to Jesus as praying (Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18; Luke 9:28; Luke 11:1) is to bring out His close relationship with, and dependence on, His Father.

Now His disciples, through one of their number, express their concern that they might learn to pray better. They knew that John the Baptiser had taught his disciples to pray. They too wanted to learn how to do so.


Verses 1-4

The Giving of The Lord’s Prayer For Worldwide Evangelisation (11:1-4).

Learning to pray follows aptly on from Mary sitting at His feet, so this follows on the previous passage very satisfactorily. It was quite normal for disciples to seek a guide to prayer from their teachers, and here we find Jesus’ disciples doing the same. Jewish Rabbis regularly composed special prayers for their disciples. So Jesus is asked to do the same. His model prayer brings out what we should be emphasising when we pray. It was a pattern to follow, not a rhyme to recite, with its six headings giving a full pattern of prayer. Matthew 6:9-13 fills it out more fully when Jesus provides it at a different time in a different context.

Many pray from a list, but that list is not usually like this. It is usually full of our own near concerns. To us it is our little world that is important. The prayer that Jesus taught, however, emphasised rather the wider concerns of God. Indeed in Matthew, in the context of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6), He points out that we should leave our detailed anxieties in our Father’s hand and rather be assisting in establishing the Kingly Rule of God and His righteousness. We should be like Mary rather than Martha, concentrating on things above.

As we have seen this prayer is central to this section. It reveals all that Jesus has come to do and achieve. All His effort is expended towards these ends. He has come to hallow God’s name, to bring in His Kingly rule, to feed His people, to bring them forgiveness, and to deliver them from all testing. And His disciples can participate in it with Him, both through their activities and through their prayers. It is Jesus’ timetable of events, God’s blueprint of what our lives should be.

Analysis.

The analysis is simple consisting of two parts:

· As He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples.”

· ‘And he said to them, “When you pray, say,

Father,Hallowed be your name.Your Kingly Rule come.Give us today Tomorrow’s bread.And forgive us our sins,For we ourselves also forgive every one who is indebted to us.And bring us not into testing.”


Verses 2-4

‘And he said to them, “When you pray, say,

Father,Hallowed be your name.Your Kingly Rule come.Give us today Tomorrow’s bread.And forgive us our sins,For we ourselves also forgive every one who is indebted to us.And bring us not into testing.”

This prayer is a little different from the one in Matthew. It is more basic and direct. It is meant for His innermost disciples. Here they can address God directly as ‘Father’. The version in Matthew is for wider use by those not quite so intimately involved with Jesus. It therefore slightly mellows down the directness to ‘our Father Who is in Heaven’, which is more in line with Jewish prayers. It is open for use by more people right from the beginning.

So Jesus gives them a form of words on which to pattern their praying, and even for use as a prayer. But they were not, of course, just to repeat these words over and over again, for other examples of praying are also given (Luke 10:2; Luke 11:5-13; Luke 18:6). However, even then the emphasis on their prayers was to be on the expansion of the Kingly Rule of God. But here that is very explicit. It is a balanced prayer, listed three and three, and very simple, being devoid of all flowery elements. Most men loved, when they prayed, to be verbose. They ‘for a pretence make long prayers’ (Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40). Jesus kept it simple, as He regularly kept things simple. But every sentence was powerful. And it is probable that He sought by this means to prevent it becoming simply a recitation. Luke expounds it in the surrounding passages.

‘Do not lead us into testing.’ This is the only negative aspect of the prayer, and it seems to ask something that is very unlikely, our Father leading us into testing and temptation. That should warn us to consider it carefully. Its significance is really found in taking it in terms of its opposite. Its opposite is expressed in Matthew’s version by the next line, ‘but deliver us from evil’. What is the position of the one who is not led into testing? He is led into protection, and safety, and care and nurturing. He is watched over and looked after. He is like the sheep in Psalms 23. His life is greatly blessed. That is what we are praying for, to be one of those who are not led into testing, but are nurtured and sheltered by God.

Testing by other means will inevitably come. All good men face testing. This is a principle of Scripture. But we do not want God to be leading us into it. We want Him to be leading us in the right way and to watch over us as our Shepherd (Isaiah 40:10-11). We want Him especially to keep us out of the power of the Evil One

It will be noted that the emphasis in the first half of the prayer is all on the glory of God and the bringing about of His will. This demonstrates that that should be the focus of our praying. In the second half there is the provision for our spiritual need, which will enable the fulfilling of the first half. But none is devoted to pure self-interest. Self-interest and prayer do not go together (Matthew 6). Self-interest is for ‘Gentiles’ (Matthew 6:7; Matthew 6:32), not for God’s people.

We have already noted above how the contents of this prayer are reflected in the surrounding passages.

· Firstly how the Father’s special concern for us and something of His nature is revealed, in Luke 10:21-22; Luke 11:11-13.

· Secondly how the dedicated disciples are called and the seventy are appointed in order to hallow God’s name and establish the Kingly Rule of God, (see Luke 9:57 to Luke 10:20), so that as a result of that Kingly Rule the power of Satan will be broken (Luke 11:14-26).

· Thirdly how they rejoice over deliverance from the Enemy through being under His Kingly Rule (Luke 10:18-20), and instead enjoy the positive power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

· Fourthly how the provision of ‘daily bread’ is described in different ways, from Luke 10:25 to Luke 11:13, finally being revealed as related to the giving of the Holy Spirit.

· Fifthly how the Good Samaritan exemplifies the willingness to forgive others, (as well as the coming of the Kingly Rule of God and the provision of daily bread).

· Sixthly how Jesus is regularly ‘tested’ (specifically stressed in Luke 10:25; Luke 11:16) so that we can be sure we will be too, although we must pray not to be led into it

· Seventhly how we are kept in the right road of not being brought by God into testing, by being protected from Satan (Luke 11:14-26; James 1:13), and by the light shining on us (Luke 11:33-35). The believer is not tested by God. He may be tested by life but he walks beneath the shelter of His shield. Rather than testing us He delivers us from the one who is behind the testing we may have to face, so that we are not overcome (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

Now we must all too briefly consider the contents of the prayer in more detail. We will note that there are two aspects to each statement, the present and the eschatological.

‘Father.’ It is true that the Jews looked to God as their Father, but more as the Father of His whole people, the Father of Israel. Jesus, on the other hand, emphasised to His disciples that they could see Him as their personal Father (Luke 11:10-13). Indeed through Him they could come to know the Father (Luke 10:22). They could thus pray ‘abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6-7). The very simplicity of His words speaks volumes. It was not flowery or verbose, (in contrast with men’s prayers), it was simple and childlike, as is fitting for disciples. ‘Abba’ was the intimate way in which a Jewish child addressed his father. Here it is in the Greek simply ‘Father.’

Do we think sufficiently about this word when we say it? We should remember that we are thereby addressing the Creator of the world, Who made us ‘in His image’ to have communion with Him. We are speaking to the One Who dwells in light that no man can possibly approach, a light which is unbearable, a trillion times brighter than the largest and most brilliant atomic fireball (1 Timothy 6:16). And yet a light to which we can come (1 John 1:7). We are talking to the One Who holds the whole world in His hand. And we are calling Him ‘Father’.

And it goes further than that, for the expression that Jesus used when speaking to God as Father was ‘abba’. Among the Jews it was the word that even the smallest child used when he was addressing a loving father. And we can thus address Him as ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) because we have received the Holy Spirit through Whom we have been adopted by the Father as His sons and daughters.

There could be no more powerful word than ‘Father’. For where the child has a good father the word ‘father’ indicates to a child the figure of supreme authority, the figure of the great provider, and a figure also of great love and compassion. Today, sadly, in many families that role has had to be taken on by the mother. And elsewhere God is likened to the perfect mother (Isaiah 49:15). But even then the picture might fail because of the inadequacy of the mother. But what our Father is to us is far better than any fatherhood or motherhood that we can imagine. He is the sum of all fatherhood, of all motherhood. For here the word is being used in the best sense.

But it is not a word to be used by the selfish. When we use it we should be concerned for the things of our Father, not for our own petty affairs. As we approach God as Father we should do so with the recognition that He is the Supreme authority, that He calls us to participate in and be concerned about His affairs, and yet that He is at the same time filled with the greatest love for us that the world has ever known. To use it for self-seeking is to degrade Him.

‘Hallowed be your Name.’ Never were words less understood than the words, ‘Hallowed by Your name’. Usually people who pray them and who think about them see them as meaning, ‘Let people have a high opinion of Your Name. Let them worship You. Let Your Name be held in the highest honour.’ And that is all good and right. And we should certainly desire it and we should certainly pray it. And it is certainly included in the prayer. This is true in the present.

But in fact the words go far beyond that. They are more positive. They are a prayer for God to reveal His special and unique nature by a powerful eschatological and continuing action. His name reveals what He is, and they thus asking Him to demonstrate what He is, to demonstrate His name. They have in mind the words of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 36:23. ‘And I will hallow My great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations will know that I am the Lord, says the Lord GOD, when I shall be hallowed in you before their eyes.’ And how will this happen? “I will take you from among the nations --- and I will sprinkle cleansed water (water cleansed by sacrifice) on you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses --- a new heart I will give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you, I will take out of your flesh the stony heart, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in accordance with My commands and to be careful to walk in My ordinances ---” (Ezekiel 36:24-27). That is what we should have in mind when we pray, ‘Hallowed be your Name’. The eschatological work of the Holy Spirit as in the Upper Room, and at Pentecost and beyond (see also Luke 11:13).

So when we pray, ‘Hallowed be Your name’, (‘sanctify Your Name’), we are praying, ‘let Your purposes be fulfilled that will bring about the hallowing of Your name, as what You are is revealed to men. Use your people so that great glory might be yours. Let the nations know the greatness of your name and of what You are. Let them know how holy You are, andlet it come about because of what You do in us Your people.’ We are praying that God will so revive us, His people, by His Holy Spirit, that we may have such an impact on the world that all the nations will see it. We are praying that what Jesus came to do will be accomplished through us. We are asking God to change us so much that through us the world will come to know Him. Do you really want this to happen? If you do not, do not pray the Lord’s prayer.

‘Your Kingly Rule come.’ This does not mean, ‘Father I am looking forward to all the good things I am going to receive, hurry it along,’ (although sometimes that thought not quite expressed so selfishly might help us in times when we are depressed). Its concern, as with ‘hallowed be your Name’, is rather for the glory of God and the continual extending of His Kingly Rule over the hearts of men. That is why the twelve were chosen. That is why the seventy were appointed. That is why individual disciples were called to follow Him. It was so that they could take part in this great work of extending His Kingly Rule. And it is what Luke and Acts is all about. It is reminding us that our greatest concern should be the spreading of His Kingly Rule over the hearts of men.

This is an expansion on the previous prayer. It is praying that God’s rule over men’s lives might become a reality, and that the world might see that He rules because of the obedience of His people. In Heaven He is undisputed King. Every knee bows to Him. Every tongue acknowledges the supremacy of God, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even the highest angel races to do His bidding. There the Kingly Rule of God is constantly displayed. (What an incentive it would be to us if we appreciated that each day). And that is what we are praying for earth in the Lord’s prayer. We are praying that what is true in Heaven might become true on earth. That men and women may be reached by the preaching of the word and might come under His Kingly Rule here and now. It is praying that God will so work that those whom He has chosen may surrender themselves to Him and own His sovereignty over their lives. It is praying that we, like the angels, may race around to do His bidding thinking of nothing else but how we can please Him. And on the other hand it is also praying that all that offends against His Kingly Rule will be removed, will be disposed of, so that His Kingly Rule might be universally established, and God might be all in all.

And yet it also has one eye on the eschatological future. For it is also praying for the final triumph of His Kingly Rule in glory when all things are put under His feet. That is the ultimate goal, and our hearts should be longing for that too.

‘Give us today Tomorrow’s bread.’ At this point in the prayer some people sigh with relief. Here at last, they think, is something practical. At last we can have something for ourselves. And then we can expand on it and make a list of all the things we would like for ourselves, and call them ‘our daily bread’ and hope that we will get them too.

But does it not strike you that on the face of it this prayer is out of place here? It is like Martha, who was concerned about physical food, rather than like Mary, concerned about the food of the word of God. It is like the importunate friend asking for bread, when what He should be asking for is the food of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:5-13). It actually seems to be praying for what Jesus told us in another context that we do not need to pray for (Luke 12:29-30). Consider for this Matthew 6:32. There He said in the very context of the giving of the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), ‘do not be anxious about what you shall eat’, and then criticises the Gentiles for being anxious about ‘these things’, which refers to what they eat and drink. He tells us that our Father will provide them without our need to ask for them (Matthew 6:8; Matthew 6:31-32). Would He then in this prayer tell us to ask for food, contrary to all that He said there? Rather here in Luke 11:9-13 he will tell us that the food that we should be seeking is the Holy Spirit. Surely that then is what we are seeking here. Compare Luke 12:29-30 where He says, “And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind, for all these things do the nations of the world seek after, but your Father knows that you have need of these things. Yet you seek you his Kingly Rule, and these things will be added to you ” His instructions are quite clear.

Of course we can counter this by suggesting that what He allows is that we ask for our basic needs to be met. That we are saying that we can live without most things but we cannot live without food. Is Jesus not therefore saying, we may suggest, ‘This at least you may ask from your Father.’ But it is strange then that later in Matthew 6 He says, ‘your Father knows that you need these things before you ask Him’, and criticises the Gentiles for seeking ‘all these things’ because it demonstrates that they do not trust God fully (Matthew 6:32), for ‘all these things’ clearly refers back to the eating and drinking in Luke 11:31. And the fact is that in the whole of Matthew 6 He is taking our thoughts away from such earthly things. He is stressing heavenly provision, and warning against seeking earthly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21; Matthew 6:24). For the whole passage gives the impression that we do not need to pray for earthly things because (like any father would) our Father will provide them without our asking, and all we have to do is say ‘thank You’.

And some would then say, ‘Yes, that is what it is. In the Lord’s Prayer we are saying, ‘Thank you’ and expressing our dependence. And that is why they like to translate the Greek word ‘daily’. But that is not the impression gained from Matthew 6. The impression gained from the whole chapter is that it is concentrating on seeking ‘heavenly’ things, such as heavenly treasure (Luke 6:20), God not mammon (Luke 6:24), and accepting our food and clothing as and when supplied by God (Luke 6:25-31). And while the matter is not fully settled a good amount of opinion favours the translation as ‘tomorrow’, an opinion backed up by the only ancient version of the prayer that we have in Aramaic. That being so it would seem probable that we are to seek in this another meaning connected with heavenly things, just as Mary was commended for seeking heavenly things when Martha’s mind was on food (Luke 10:38-42).

Much depends on the meaning of epiousios (‘tomorrow’). It occurs only here but would appear to be related to epiousa, ‘the next day’. Thus the translation ‘tomorrow’. The idea of ‘Tomorrow’ unquestionably came to be connected with the great Tomorrow, the last days as connected with the Messiah. The Jews were constantly looking forward to the great ‘Tomorrow’. And it seems quite likely then that Jesus was teaching them to pray for the bread of the last days, for the bread of that time when the chosen of God would eat at Messiah’s table, for He wanted them to know that it was imminent, and indeed some had already participated in it. He wanted them to think in terms of soon partaking in the great Tomorrow. But even more, that they could eat of that bread now. That is why He had come, in order to feed men with the Bread of the great Tomorrow, in order to give them His Holy Spirit now (Luke 11:13).

Bread is in fact very much connected with ‘the last days’, a phrase which in the New Testament includes the life and ministry of Jesus, and this was what the feeding of the crowd had symbolised. And we must remember that to the disciples He had ‘brought in’ these last days. And in the last days the belief was that the Messiah would give bread from Heaven, as Moses had (compare John 6:31-32 in the context of the feeding of the crowds with bread). And that is why Jesus referred to Himself as ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35). He said that He had come to bring God’s bread to His people. He had come as God’s Bread from Heaven, that men might eat of Him and not die.

Thus we may see here that Jesus’ prayer, given for us to pray, should be seen as pointing to a prayer for the final fulfilment of God’s purposes, a fulfilment to be achieved ‘each day’ as we partake of His Holy Spirit. He is saying to His disciple, pray that the imminent approach of the Kingly Rule of God under the Christ, where you will eat of the bread of God, (which He later makes clear then refers to Himself), may not be delayed, but may be enjoyed now through the coming of His Holy Spirit. Pray that it will come ‘today’. It is essentially a prayer that they might almost immediately partake of the fullness of Christ and enjoy life with Him. It was an indication that the Kingly Rule of God was here in which they could daily partake. And they were to pray that they might have their share in it along with all His people. That they should not miss out on what God has given.

So we have ‘Tomorrow’s bread’ available to us today, while at the same time looking forward to the time when we will eat and drink with Him in His heavenly rule.

However, whichever way we take it the prayer is for daily sustenance, whether physical or spiritual, so that we can properly serve God. It is not a suggestion that we can ask for whatever we like.

‘And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive every one who is indebted to us.’ Central to participation in the Kingly Rule of God is forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3; Luke 5:20; Luke 7:41-50). Without forgiveness we can have no place there. We are thus called on daily to walk in His light and seek the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7-10). And He points out that in doing so we must also be those who forgive others. ‘Debtors’ is a very Jewish way of looking at sin. We must forgive those who are indebted to us because they have sinned against us. Then God will forgive us our debts in that we have sinned against Him (Luke 7:41-43). In both cases there is the assumption of repentance. God will forgive us when we repent. We are to forgive others when they repent (Luke 17:3-4). And just as God is willing to forgive many times, we must do the same.

The thought is not that we will be forgiven because we forgive. The thought rather is that as already His believing people, and having because of that forgiven others, we are coming as those who have done all the preparatory work necessary for our own daily forgiveness. We have repented and set our lives right, and this is especially revealed in our forgiveness of others. We are therefore ripe for God’s mercy to be revealed in forgiveness to us. This is not the initial forgiveness at our first repentance. As God’s men we are coming to Him as those who are obedient to His ways. We are praying like this because having once for all been forgiven in the past, we have learned to freely forgive, so that now we have the confidence to come for the daily forgiveness that we need as well. Our forgiving others is an evidence of the fact that we are already His and that our lives have been transformed and that our approach is genuine.

But this forgiveness of sins is itself an evidence of the last days. The last days will introduce a forgiveness of sins that will spread throughout the world (Luke 24:47; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Jeremiah 31:34). And it is noteworthy that in this prayer of Jesus there is no mention anywhere of God as in any way being restricted to Judaism. It is not a Jewish prayer, it is not a Greek prayer. It is a world prayer, for it is for His disciples who must have a world vision, and it is for all mankind.

‘And bring us not into testing.’ We should notice immediately the implication of these words. It is that we are being ‘brought’, we are being ‘led’, in the way in which we go. They are words of personal care. The Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. And what we are praying is that we will not have to face the tests that the world has to face, and especially the Scribes and Pharisees have to face, under the wrath of God (Luke 11:42-51) and away from the flock outside His protection.

But one thing we can be sure of, and that is that this is not a prayer that we will never be tested. For the Scriptures makes clear that testing is one thing that every believer can be certain of (Matthew 7:14; Matthew 10:28; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Acts 20:19; James 1:12-15). To pray not to be tested would be to ask the impossible, because it would be to ask that the Scriptures are not fulfilled. We will be tested by our own desires (James 1:13-14), we will be tested in ways that are common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13), we will be tested by the activities of God’s enemies, sharing His reproach (1 Peter 4:12-13), we will be tested by the Evil One as Jesus was (Ephesians 10:13). And when we are we can be sure of this that God will provide a way of escape (if we are willing to take it) so that we will be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13), because He is leading us.

But what we are praying will not happen here is forGodto bring us into His testing. For when God brings a man into testing he is naked and unprotected. He has no way of escape. He is laid bare in his sin. He is undone. To be led into testing is to be a lost soul. We do not want God to lead us there.

In other words what we are asking is that we may walk continually under God’s protection, not having to face what His enemies have to face. This involves us therefore in walking where we know His protection is available. The sheep who deliberately goes out to face the wolf because he fancies a good scrap has lost his right to protection by the shepherd (and demonstrated that he is not a sheep).

So this is rather a prayer that we will be kept from the way of those who are tested by God, the way of the world, that God will walk with us and will never allow us to be tested in the way that cannot be overcome, that He will not bring us into a way in which we are without His protection. Note that the whole idea is that God is leading and bringing. God is here seen as a shepherd. It is spoken by those under His protection.

Of course the believer should certainly never seek for God to test him, for that would be to display arrogance. Those who sought martyrdom were often those who failed in the end. Rather, says Jesus, we should pray at all costs to avoid it. We should pray to be led safely in the ways where God does not test men, the protected way, safe from the trials and tests that God brings on the ungodly, and safe from His judgments.

We will be tested by sin (temptation), we will be tested by God’s enemies and we will be tested by the Evil One. In those cases God is not leading us into them, He is bringing us through them (Isaiah 43:2). All these God will keep us in. But we do not want to be laid bare, we do not want to be tested by God, for those whom God tests are without hope. Nothing can protect them from it. They may build what shelters they may, but they will simply be blown away (Isaiah 28:17). And the command that we pray this is the guarantee that God will fulfil it. It is a prayer that we might walk under His umbrella, in the narrow way that leads us safely through all temptations as His own.

Those who pray this are praying to be delivered from evil and the Evil One, as Matthew 6:13 makes clear. Many manuscripts include the words here as well, but as other good manuscripts exclude the words (including p45, aleph, B and f1) it is likely that they have been added by copyists from Matthew. They are, however, quite Scriptural (they are there in Matthew).

For the idea of not being led into testing by God contains within it the opposite notion of being led in the way that is free from God’s testing. Prayer for safety and deliverance is intrinsic within the desire not to be tested, for the only way in which we can be ‘not led into testing’ is by our being protected from it, by our being led in the right way, in the way free from God’s testing. Thus we are here asking to be led in the reverse of the God-tested way, in the God-protected way. We are asking God to drive us through the hail of His own missiles and bullets in a bullet-proof car. It goes without saying that we are also declaring by this that we ourselves will not walk into the way of testing. We will avoid all such ways. We will keep our eyes fixed on Him in the not-God-tested way. For the whole prayer is based on our being ‘led’ and ‘brought’.

As we are constantly told elsewhere, testing is inevitable for believers (Matthew 7:14; Matthew 10:28; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; James 1:12-15), and sometimes it may seem to overwhelm us. (The bullet-proof car may be surrounded and put under huge pressure). But the believer knows that he will never be overwhelmed (Isaiah 43:2), for the Lord is his protector (Hebrews 13:5-6). Nevertheless there is in this the opposite lesson that testing must never be sought. That would be folly. But as Jesus makes clear in Luke 10:19-20; Luke 11:21-23, when we are tested we need not fear, for He has delivered from the Evil One.


Verse 5-6

The Man Who Would Not Take No For An Answer (11:5-8).

‘And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.” ’

The story begins with a man who has been put in an awkward situation. A friend on a journey arrives late seeking hospitality. He had probably been travelling after sunset in order to avoid the heat of the day. But he was unexpected and the problem is that the household has eaten up all its supply of bread. It has been caught short. And yet not to provide the visitor with a full and satisfying meal would be a grave breach of hospitality. It was something that could not be allowed. So it leaves him with only one thing he can do. Go to his next-door neighbour and borrow some bread. It is awkward because it is late, but the awkwardness of not being truly hospitable is greater. In those days it was almost seen as a crime. So he knocks at the neighbour’s door and yells through the door, explaining the situation. He needs ‘three loaves’ (a completeness of provision) because he has a late-night visitor. We should note his confidence in his neighbour


Verses 5-13

A Man Seeking His Daily Bread Is Provided For. How Much More Should We Seek The Holy Spirit (11:5-13).

In the chiasmus of the whole Section the first part of this passage parallels Martha’s provision of daily bread to Jesus (Luke 10:38-42), the second part parallels the free unrestricted giving of the Good Samaritan, and the third the rejoicing in the Spirit and the revealing of Father and Son through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21-22).

Having given His prayer to His disciples Jesus now illustrates and explains how God provides for His people through prayer. Physical bread is used as an illustration (Luke 11:4-8), but it points forward towards receiving the Holy Spirit through prayer (Luke 11:9-13). We want to be given bread, that is, we want to receive the Holy Spirit. We have, however, already noted that in the Lord’s prayer there is only one thing that we ask to be ‘given, and that is ‘Tomorrow’s bread’. Thus what follows must surely have that in mind, so that in the end what is given as ‘Tomorrow’s bread’ is the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

The story that follows contrasts the unwillingness and reluctance of man to give when circumstances are against him, (even though he does in the end when pressed hard enough), with the bountiful willingness to give of our Father, Who delights to give, and especially to give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. It is stressing confidence in God. The idea is that while earthly bread is under the control of man on earth, and may be hard to come by, spiritual bread is abundantly and freely available because of the generosity and love of our heavenly Father. This is the one gift above all that we should desire. This is the food of God which will feed the soul continually, which we should long for above all else (as Mary did the words of the Lord). And it is a gift that God wants to give us in abundance.

The point here is not of God’s unwillingness to give, or the need to keep badgering God to get what we want. It is rather of not accepting present conditions as they are, but praying in confident faith until God’s provision is enjoyed in full with the sending of His Holy Spirit, and maintenance of His holy power continually within us.

Analysis.

a And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.” ’

b “And he from within shall answer and say, Do not disturb me. The door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot rise and give you what you want.”

c “I say to you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his unwillingness to take no for an answer he will arise and give him as many as he needs.”

d I say to you, “Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you.”

c “Every one who asks does receive, and he who seeks does find, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

b “And of which of you who is a father will his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion?”

a “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Note that in ‘a’ a man wishes to receive gifts and the request is made for three loaves, and in the parallel man knows how to give good gifts and the request is made for the Holy Spirit. In ‘b’ the neighbour refuses to give what is wanted because he is in bed with his children, and in the parallel we are asked whether a father will give the wrong things to his children. In ‘c’ he responds to the asking, seeking and knocking by giving what is asked and in the parallel the same is promised by God. Central is ‘d’ which lays out the basic principle of prayer.


Verse 7

“And he from within shall answer and say, Do not disturb me. The door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot rise and give you what you want.”

The neighbour is very unwilling. He tells him that he and his family have all settled down on their sleeping mat and are huddled together around the fire on the sleeping platform, and for him to get up will disturb the whole family. Thus he is unable to comply with his request. The picture is vivid and uncompromising.


Verse 8

“I say to you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his unwillingness to take no for an answer he will arise and give him as many as he needs.”

The man is, however, persistent. He will not take no for an answer and keeps on banging on the door. This is not recommended behaviour, it is illustrating a point. And because the neighbour recognises that he will not take no for an answer, he reluctantly gets up and gives him what he has asked for to the full extent of his needs. It is the only way that he and his family will get any sleep.

The lessons are simple:

· If you want ‘daily bread’ from God with which to feed yourself and others you must ask persistently.

· If you go on asking persistently you will receive it, for God is not unwilling like this man but wants to give it to you.

The story is then applied. It is God’s desire to give the Holy Spirit to all who ask Him, and on a continual basis. This equates ‘Tomorrow’s bread’ with the Holy Spirit. But those who would continue to enjoy the new age of the Spirit must be persistent. They must want more and more.


Verse 9

‘And I say to you, “Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you.”

They must be like the persistent householder. They must ask, yes, they must seek, yes, they must knock. Note the growth in urgency. The man in the parable had asked, then he had pleaded, then he had banged at the door unceasingly. They must be persistent and not take no for an answer. In context this does not apply to prayer for anything we want. It refers to prayer for the Holy Spirit (and in Matthew for the good things of God, the things which result in spiritual blessing). It is the urgency of a man who wants God’s best.


Verses 9-13

The Certainty of Provision To Those Who Seek Tomorrow’s Bread, the Holy Spirit (11:9-13).

The lesson here is that those who want to enjoy God’s full provision must be urgent and persistent. There must be no half-heartedness. (It is not God’s awkwardness that has to be overcome, it is our indifference). But if they are persistent they can be sure that they will receive it.


Verse 10

“For every one who asks does receive, and he who seeks does find, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

And the assurance is given to them that if they do ask it will be given to them, if they do seek they will find, if they do knock the door will be opened to them. God will supply His Holy Spirit. So must they go on praying, “Give us today Tomorrow’s bread.’ For then they can be sure that He will give it. We should note that this is a continual process. We will never have enough of spiritual blessing. It is something that we must continually seek. The more we have the more we should want.


Verse 11-12

“And of which of you who is a father will his son ask a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion?”

And the certainty that we will receive lies in the nature of fatherhood. When a son asks for a fish will his father give him a serpent, if he asks for an egg will he give him a scorpion? Both are inconceivable. The idea is of a mythical son (who does not exist) who thinks that he is receiving an edible eel from his father, and discovers it is a snake. He accepts what seems to be an egg, but it unwinds itself as a scorpion. He has been utterly deceived, and as a result subjected to great harm. Does anyone know of a father who would do such a thing to his son? Of course not!

Here then we have the certainty that they will receive the good things they ask for. They will receive a fish or an egg (the daily food they have asked for, and common foods in Palestine), which in Luke 11:13 turns out to be the Holy Spirit. What they will not be given is spirits of evil, for both serpent and scorpion represent the power of the Enemy (Luke 10:19), and the Father will protect them from that (Luke 11:14-26). So those who can call God Father, because He has been made known to them by the Son (Luke 10:22), can seek His Holy Spirit with the absolute guarantee of success. And they can go on receiving more and more of Him.

The continual cross references in this whole section are interesting and significant, as with the serpent and scorpion here as compared with Luke 10:19. The section has very much to be seen as a whole, interconnecting and arrayed around the Lord’s Prayer.


Verse 13

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

And all this is sure, because if we, who are evil give good gifts to our children, how much more certain can we be that our Father, God, will give us, as His children, His Holy Spirit when we ask Him. He wants us to have Him in abundance.

‘If we who are evil.’ Note that we receive these things even though we are ‘evil’, that is, coming short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). And that all of us are ‘evil’. (Jesus had no illusions about us). It is not of our deserving. Thus we do not have to hold back through a feeling of unworthiness.

This reference to the Holy Spirit gains especial significance in that in the body of Luke’s Gospel mention of the Holy Spirit is deliberately limited so that in Luke 11:20, where Matthew 12:28 has the Spirit of God, Luke has the finger of God. In fact this is the only reference in the ministry of Jesus in the Synoptics to the general giving of the Holy Spirit before the resurrection.

What then is it referring to? We have already seen above on Luke 11:2 that ‘hallowed be your name’ contains a reference to the giving of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel 36, thus here this is confirming the fulfilment of that promise. He will give us a new heart and a new spirit. And He will continually cleans and renew them. But as with so much in the Lord’s Prayer it has both a present and future reference. In one sense the present disciples can experience the Holy Spirit as their ‘daily bread’ in their daily lives now, as in John 3:1-6; John 4:10-14; John 7:37, but its major fulfilment will be in John 20:22 and Acts 2 (compare John 7:38), when the Holy Spirit comes in power (compare Luke 24:49). Then they will experience Him in abundance.

It should be noted that this has nothing to do with a desperate seeking after a special blessing of the Holy Spirit. It has to do with receiving His daily blessing. It is the receiving of our daily ‘bread’. For once the Holy Spirit has come to us in His transforming and saving power, which was the first thing that all should seek, we are to ‘go on being filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). He will be given in fuller and fuller measure. He will be a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).


Verse 14

‘And he was casting out a demon that was dumb. And it came about that, when the demon was gone out, the dumb man spoke, and the multitudes marvelled.’

The scene here opens with Jesus faced up with a dumb man, rendered dumb by an evil spirit within him. Perhaps the hope of the evil spirit was that by this means he would escape detection. But when the man had been brought to Jesus, Jesus recognised what was at the root of his dumbness and cast out the evil spirit, with the result that the man was able to speak. That Jesus did not see all dumbness as caused by evil spirits is quite apparent elsewhere (Luke 1:20; Matthew 15:30; Mark 7:37), but it was seemingly not rare (compare Matthew 9:32; Matthew 12:22; Mark 9:17). The crowd watched and marvelled.


Verses 14-23

Jesus Has Come As The Stronger Than He And Has Defeated Satan (11:14-23).

In the chiasmus of the whole section this passage is in parallel with Jesus’ description of Satan like lightning falling from Heaven, and of the deliverance of His people from the power of the Enemy (Luke 10:17-20). Here the idea is amplified and dealt with in more detail. It is no accident that it follows immediately on the idea of the giving of the Holy Spirit. It is the giving of the Holy Spirit that confirms man’s deliverance from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

In this passage we discover that far from being ‘brought into temptation’ the power of the Tempter is broken by ‘the finger of God’. He has indeed fallen from Heaven. Our accuser has been banished. He no longer holds sway among believers. He has been rendered powerless against them. Restriction has been put on him that prevents his exercising his full power (Revelation 20:2). He may roar on his chain and seek to spring at us, but he is restrained by his handler (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). And this has been accomplished by the Stronger than he Who has come. The One who is restoring bruised and battered Israel, who had been spoiled by robbers, has also dealt with the Chief Bandit.

The passage may be analysed as follows:

a He was casting out a demon that was dumb. And it came about that, when the demon was gone out, the dumb man spoke, and the crowds marvelled. But some of them said, “It is by Beelzebub the prince of the demons that He casts out demons, and others, trying Him, sought of Him a sign from heaven (Luke 11:15-16).

b But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingship divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingship stand? Because you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub” (Luke 11:17-18).

c “And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the Kingly Rule of God come upon you” (Luke 11:19-20).

b “When the strong man fully armed guards his own court, his goods are in peace, but when a stronger than he shall come on him, and overcome him, He takes from him his whole armour in which he trusted, and divides his spoils” (Luke 11:21-22).

a “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters” (Luke 11:23).

Note that in ‘a’ He has revealed His power and the crowds marvel while His opponents accuse Him and bait Him, and in the parallel He makes it clear that all have an opportunity to be ‘with Him’ but that those who oppose Him are against Him and scattering the flock (the very opposite of which they are claiming to do). In ‘b’ he points out that civil war in Satan’s camp is not feasible, for he would know that it would only destroy his kingship, while in the parallel he points out what has actually happened, he has been defeated by the Stronger than he. And ‘c’ is central and demonstrates that what has happened proves that the Kingly Rule of God has come upon them.


Verse 15

‘But some of them said, “It is by Beelzeboul the prince of the demons that he casts out demons.’

His opponents were perplexed, but rather than admit that God was working though Him they accused of being in league with ‘Beelzeboul, the prince of the demons’, in other words Satan.

‘It is by Beelzeboul.’ Their decision was that He Himself was possessed (always the easiest way to discredit someone), and not just by any evil spirit but by the great Beelzeboul, prince of demons, himself (compare John 7:20; John 8:48; John 8:52; John 10:20). The description demonstrates that Beelzeboul was seen as synonymous with Satan. ‘Beel’ probably represents ‘baal’ (‘lord’), and zeboul ‘house’, thus the name means ‘Lord of the house’.

Different manuscripts and versions present the full name differently It is given as ‘Beelzebub’ in the Syriac and Vulgate versions - probably as taken from the name of the oracular god in 2 Kings 1:2-3, and as ‘Beelzeboul’ in most manuscripts. It is given as ‘Beezeboul’ in only a few manuscripts, but these include weighty ones. The latter may, however, simply have dropped the ‘l’ because ‘lz’ was difficult to Greek speakers.

The correct name may well thus be Beelzeboul. ‘Zeboul’ may represent ‘zebel’ (dung) or ‘zebul’ (dwelling). Thus the name may mean ‘lord of the house (or dwelling)’ (see Matthew 10:25 b which seems to confirm this). Or it may be ‘lord of dung’ as an insulting name for Satan. The former would explain the stress on ‘house’ in Jesus’ repudiation. The name Zbl is also found in a Ugaritic text, linked with baal, where it may be a proper name or mean ‘prince’. Matthew 10:25 b suggests that Beelzeboul is seen as master over a household of demons (compare ‘Lord of the house’ above). As the narrative goes on we learn that this is a synonym for Satan, as we would gather from him being the prince of the demons.


Verse 16

‘And others, trying him, sought of him a sign from heaven.’

Others challenged Him to prove His authenticity by performing some great sign. While one party were accusing Him of consorting with the Evil One, the others were doing the work of the Evil One by being used to renew his tempting of Jesus and by calling on Him to produce a great sign for the people (Luke 4:1-13). Even while they were criticising Jesus they were demonstrating who was their master (compare John 8:44). The Jews were famed as being always on the look out for signs (see Luke 11:29-36; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:12; John 2:18; John 4:48; John 6:30; 1 Corinthians 1:22). This request for a sign connects with Luke 11:29-36 and supports the unity of the narrative.

So on the one hand were those who simply tried to dismiss Him as being in league with Satan, on the other were those who were more ready to believe if He did some great sign and were tempting Him to do something spectacular. Neither had regard for the miracles that He had done (which they admitted) or His casting out of evil spirits. But had He performed a sign it would not have resulted in any good. It would have been a seven day wonder, and then they would have wanted more. They really wanted continuous spectacular signs.


Verse 17

‘But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingship divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls (literally ‘house falls on house’).” ’

But Jesus knew what the majority of them were thinking and pointed out that if what they said was true it would mean that in that evil world which caused such harm there was division within the kingship, and civil war between the factions. They would be destroying each other, house against house. For they were claiming that He had authority over demons and was fighting against them with the connivance of the prince of demons. Such a situation would mean that the combatants could not survive. For division in a kingship always brought desolation, and a divided house always falls.


Verse 18

“And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingship stand? Because you say that I cast out demons by Beelzeboul.”

It would indeed mean that Satan was divided against himself, faction warring with faction. How then could his kingship hope to survive? And this was because they said that He cast out demons by Beelzeboul, and was thus demonstrating that he was on Beelzeboul’s side against other demons.


Verse 19

“And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges.”

And there was a further question. There were also Jewish exorcisers who cast out demons (‘your sons’ may signify disciples or younger Rabbis). If He did it by Beelzeboul, what about them? Were they also in league with Satan? Thus they would be judged as false by these whom they saw as respected and holy men.


Verse 20

“But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the Kingly Rule of God come upon you.”

On the other hand they should consider the fact that if He cast out evil spirits by the finger of God, then it proved that the Kingly Rule of God was present in Him. That it had come on them unexpectedly. This is not arguing that the fact that evil spirits were cast out proved that the Kingly Rule of God had come. Their ‘sons’ did similar things and no one suggested that that meant that the Kingly Rule of God had come. All that did was prove that they and He were of God.

What He is saying here is that it is becauseHe, as God’s Anointed One, was doing it by the finger of God that it proved that the Kingly Rule of God had come. For the admission that He did cast out demons by the power of God when combined with His claims (which His success against demons would confirm) would establish His claims. They could not agree that He cast out demons by the power of God and at the same time deny His claims to be the Son of man, for His success against demons would be evidence that God was pleased with Him and acknowledged His claims. That would then be sufficient proof that the Kingly Rule of God had come.

The phrase ‘finger of God’ is an Old Testament phrase denoting God’s direct action free from any occult methods. The Egyptian magicians used it when they at last had to recognise that Moses was not using conjuring tricks or demonic magic, but that God Himself was acting directly (Exodus 8:19). They recognised that now God had put His seal on things. It was also used of the writing of ‘the ten words on the tablet which were ‘written by the finger of God’ (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10). The finger of God was the guarantee that the words were His words. Thus here it is a seal of Who and What Jesus is. Matthew translates it as ‘if I by the Spirit of God’ (Matthew 12:28), which is saying the same thing, for the phrase ‘Spirit of God’ always indicates direct action.

As the chiasmus demonstrates, these words are central to the whole passage. Luke’s central point here is that the Kingly Rule of God has come with power in Jesus as He does battle with the forces of evil. This will then be further emphasised in order to demonstrate that Jesus is the ‘Stronger than he’.


Verse 21-22

“When the strong man fully armed guards his own court, his goods are in peace, but when a stronger than he shall come on him, and overcome him, he takes from him his whole armour in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.”

Jesus then likened Satan to a strong man fully armed who guarded his own possessions. No one touched what belonged to him. They could not. He held his goods, these poor possessed souls, in peace. There may have been a ripple caused by an occasional exorcism, but nothing that really disturbed him. But when a ‘Stronger than he’ comes and overcomes him, He not only defeats him, but strips him of his armour and takes all his spoils for dividing up among His followers. He humiliates him. The clear implication is that Jesus has come as the Stronger than he, not only to do battle with evil spirits, but to totally defeat and humiliate them and their prince. (Compare how shortly He is also greater than Solomon, and greater than Jonah). The battle will be fought and totally won so that Satan and all his forces will be emasculated, and Jesus will be the total victor. As He had said Himself, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven’ (Luke 10:18). That was the first evidence of Jesus’ victory, and commencement of His successful campaign, so that the enemy were on the run. ‘He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross’ (Colossians 2:15). That was when He finally sealed the victory.

No exorciser ever made a claim like this. It was a claim that could only be made by God’s champion, ‘the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). Let those who sought signs recognise this. What greater sign could there be than this? Thus does Jesus make plain to His adversaries the greatness of His claims, and the presence of the Kingly Rule of God, and to His people the greatness of the protection that He affords them as they pray, ‘do not bring us into temptation’.

Some are puzzled as to how Jesus can be depicted as having overcome Satan, while Satan appears to be on the march more and more. But think of France’s position in the second world war in the last century. It had been overrun by the Germans and was under German control, although there were still pockets of resistance, the Maquis. But then the allied forces came and invaded on D Day, and first they gained their foothold and then gradually Paris was freed. The Germans were on the retreat. The triumphal march into Paris took place. Victory belonged to the allies. But meanwhile the Germans had to be driven completely out of France. But then at last France was free. As far as France was concerned they now had complete victory. However, V2 rockets still continued to be sent up, (the fiery darts of Hitler), and the enemy was still across the frontier, and so the battle had to go on. For had there been any relaxation the Germans might have regrouped and retaliated. And so the fighting continued into Germany and now there were Germans who would not contemplate defeat and they fought all the more fiercely. And this continued until the capture of Berlin. At last war in Europe was over. But France had had its victory long before.

In the same way Jesus came to earth. It was J Day. He then commenced His battle against Satan who had overrun the world, although there were still pockets of resistance called ‘believers’ who still looked to God. And to them He could look for help. He beat back Satan and established the Kingly Rule of God. And within that Kingly Rule of God He gathered the redeemed. They were freed from Satan’s power and living in a free ‘Kingdom’. Victory had been obtained and was now assured. They had been translated from under the tyranny of darkness into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son (Colossians 1:11).

The war continued as men and women continued to be redeemed from Satan’s power (Acts 26:18). Evil spirits were cast out as men and women were delivered, until at the cross a huge victory was obtained. The enemy was finally put to flight, and his forces humiliated. The Kingly Rule of God had prevailed. Firm limits were put on the ability of Satan to act.

But outside that Kingdom the battle still went on. The fiery darts of the wicked one still rained down, and still do. While excluded from wherever the Kingly Rule of God held sway He was now ‘the prince of the power of the air’. And this will go on until the King returns to finally defeat Satan once and for all, so that the Kingly Rule of God becomes universal. But meanwhile all in the Kingly Rule of God are safe. Once men and women are in it he cannot greatly harm them there, although he can yell at them over the border, and seek to distress them by guerrilla attacks. He can even surround the camp of the saints. But he cannot enter it. The consequence is that we must choose. Are we with Him or against Him? Have we entered under the Kingly Rule of God, or are we still under Satan’s sway? To Whom do we belong? Do we gather with Him, or are we scatterers of the flock? The choice is ours.


Verse 23

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.”

He then summarises the situation that this produces. There are those who are with Him, and who with Him gather in the harvest of God’s chosen ones (Luke 3:17), and there are those who are against Him and who simply scatter those who would be God’s grain so that they are lost to the winds. Others see the sentence in terms of gathering and scattering sheep (Ezekiel 34:21 in context; Matthew 9:36; John 10:12; 1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 50:17; Ezekiel 34), but the idea is the same. And these Scribes and Pharisees have shown which they are. Who is it now who are showing themselves to be influenced by Satan?


Verse 24

‘The unclean spirit when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none, he says,’

In view of the context above in Luke 11:14-23 this wandering spirit must be seen as having been cast out. It would not disembody itself, and now it searches for someone else to possess. But wherever it goes it meets failure. It is as though it is in a desert and can find no place to call home. It ‘passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none.’ Palestine was not the best place for finding people who opened themselves to the occult and to idolatry.


Verse 24-25

“I will turn back to my house from where I came out.” And when he is come, he finds it swept and put in order.’

So it decides it will go back ‘home’. It looks on the body of the once possessed man as its own, although there is a note of uncertainty in the text. It is not sure what it will find. But as the Nuisance who cast it out will have gone, perhaps it will be able to find access. Perhaps the man still follows his own ways and will still be open to possession. And when it returns it finds him absolutely suitable for immediate occupation and the man still involved in idolatry or the occult. He is all ready for it once again to take possession. The man has been cleaned up but there is no other living there. The man has not been ‘given the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 11:13). He is empty. (He has not heard the word of God and done it - Luke 11:28).


Verses 24-26

Unclean Spirits Are Out Seeking Men To Possess (11:24-26).

This passage now comes as a warning to men of the danger of being outside the Kingly Rule of God, and especially of seeking to idols and the occult. And it compares such things with what it is like to be in the Kingly Rule of God where men are truly ‘blessed’. It is a reminder that while Satan is defeated and on the run, his forces are still active in retreat.

In the chiasmus of this whole Section this passage parallels the sending out of the seventy. While Jesus appointed servants are out seeking to bring men under the Kingly Rule of God, evil spirits are out seeking to possess men for Satan’s kingdom. The guerrilla warfare continues. The description is enough to cause a shudder in the heart. It is of eight evil spirits out to possess someone. But they can only do it to those who ‘open themselves’, either through idolatry or the occult.

a The unclean spirit when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none (Luke 11:24 a).

b He says, “I will turn back to my house from where I came out.” And when he is come, he finds it swept and put in order (Luke 11:24 b-25).

c Then he goes, and takes to him seven other spirits more evil than himself. And they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first (Luke 11:26).

b And it came about that, as he said these things, a certain woman out of the crowd lifted up her voice, and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which you sucked”. (The woman is turning Jesus thoughts back to His house, but His house is not swept and put in order. It is still rebellious) (Luke 11:27).

a But he said, “Yes rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it” (They are in the opposite of waterless places, and they do find a place of rest) (Luke 11:28).

We note here that in ‘a’ the unclean spirit finds only emptiness and waterlessness and barrenness. It seeks a satisfactory resting place and finds none. But in the parallel the one who hears the word of God finds fullness, and thirst-quenching and fruit-producing water, and a satisfactory resting-place, for he is ‘blessed’ by God. In ‘b’ the unclean spirit decides that his best solution is to return ‘to his house from which he came’ for he can find nowhere better, but in the parallel while the woman sees Jesus’ home as a supremely blessed place, Jesus does not. He knows there is something better, being in the Kingly Rule of God. In ‘c’ is the central message. Those whose lives are left empty of the Kingly Rule of God can only deteriorate, and sometimes very quickly. Unless when we are freed from the past we make a positive response to God in Jesus Christ we may finish far worse off than we were before. People only go up or down.


Verse 26

‘Then he goes, and takes to him seven other spirits more evil than himself. And they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.’

So it seeks out some companions (then if anyone tries to exorcise it again it will be able to put up a better fight) and finds seven spirits (a ‘divinely perfect’ number) even worse than itself, and together they enter and take possession of the foolish man. The lesson up to this point is clear. Once a man’s life has been cleansed and put in order, his only hope of continuing like that is to let his life be possessed by the Holy Spirit and to submit to the Kingly Rule of God. Otherwise he may finally turn out to be in a worse situation than he was before.


Verse 27

‘And it came about that, as he said these things, a certain woman out of the crowd lifted up her voice, and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bare you, and the breasts which you sucked.” ’

‘While he was saying these things’. When Luke puts in a connection like this it has a purpose. What follows is to be linked with what has gone before.

A woman in the crowd cries out, “Blessed is the womb that bare you, and the breasts which you sucked.” Her view was that Jesus’ home is blessed, and His mother is blessed. And in a sense she was right. But the point is being made that neither it or she are as blessed as they should be. (Like Martha she is distracted by much serving). The contrast is made clearly. She is not of those who hear the word of God as proclaimed by Jesus. She has not as yet entered under the Kingly Rule of God by response to the King. Were Jesus to return home He would not find it ‘cleansed and put in order’. He would find it still under the old regime. Jesus does not deny to her limited blessing. He simply points out that as yet she has not received the true blessing.


Verse 28

‘But he said, “Yes rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it.” ’

This all now leads on to the crunch saying. Those who are truly blessed are those who have responded to the word of God as He has proclaimed it, and who are now keeping it, meditating on it, holding it in their hearts, and living it out in their lives. They are under the Kingly Rule of God. They enjoy true blessing. There is no far of them being open to evil spirits. (The same lesson is in mind here as in Luke 8:19-21).


Verse 29

‘And when the crowds were gathering together to him, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks after a sign. And there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah.” ’

We are not told what initially prompted these words before the gathering crowds, probably a further request for a sign. But Luke does not mention it again for it has already been mentioned in Luke 11:16 (in a context where a comprehensive sign is given). Jesus was constantly being pressed to give signs by those who refused to believe the signs and wonders that they saw. But here He describes such requests as coming from an evil heart. If they cannot believe the signs that are revealed before them already then no sign will convince them, for these are the signs of the presence of the Kingly Rule of God. God will therefore at present give no further sign than He has already given them. For any further sign they must be content with ‘the sign of Jonah’. But what was ‘the sign of Jonah?’

When we hear the mention of Jonah’s name there immediately springs to our minds his experience of being swallowed by a great fish. The same applied to Jesus’ listeners. Otherwise why had He, from among all the prophets, selected Jonah?


Verses 29-32

Jesus Condemnation Of Those Who Seek Signs (11:29-32).

The passage now takes up the reference to those who sought a sign in Luke 11:16, and within the chiastic analysis of the whole Section parallels the woes on the evangelised cities that have rejected Jesus’ message in Luke 10:12-15. The basic lesson is that because a greater Wisdom Teacher and Prophet is here as contrasted with Solomon and Jonah, those who hear Jesus and seek signs because of unbelief will in the Judgment suffer under the condemnation of those who heard and responded to them.

Note how this connects back to what has gone before, and with what follows. He has brought the word of God for them to keep (Luke 11:28). He has come bringing the Kingly Rule of God and Tomorrow’s bread. He has come offering the Holy Spirit. He has come proclaiming the word of life (Luke 10:25-28). Along with the casting out of evil spirits He has come to minister God’s word as it has never been ministered before (Luke 11:31-32, compare how the word and the casting out of evil spirits regularly go together - Luke 4:18; Luke 9:1; Luke 9:6; Mark 1:27; Mark 6:12-13). And He has come to bring light into the world, separating light from darkness (Luke 11:33-36) and to confound the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees (Luke 11:37-52). He is the greatest teacher of them all.

We may analyse it as follows:

a When the crowds were gathering together to Him, He began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks after a sign. And there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29).

b For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will also the Son of man be to this generation” (Luke 11:30).

a “The queen of the south will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and will condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Luke 11:31-32).

It will be noted that ‘a’ speaks of the prophet Jonah and in the parallel we have a double example of those who responded, those who responded because of Jonah and the one who responded because of Solomon (this is the necessary dual witness before the Judgment throne). Central in ‘b’ is the fact that the Son of Man is a sign to this generation.


Verse 30

“For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will also the Son of man be to this generation.”

The crowds knew that Jonah had arrived in Nineveh having spent three days in the innards of a large fish like creature. He had been dead and had come alive. (He also probably looked inhumanly pale and somewhat strange as a result of the chemical action that would have affected his skin, and the account of his emergence from the fish after three days would have added to the effect). Given that he was also dressed as a Hebrew prophet he had come as ‘a sign’ from the dead to the Ninevites. The result was that they had attended to his words and had repented of their sin and idolatry.

In their eyes (and in the eyes of the crowds) here was a man who had come back from a watery grave. All would have heard the word that could hardly have failed to get around that this weird and unearthly looking man who had appeared before them had been ‘dead’ for three days in the body of a great fish. (The reasonable assumption is that Jonah would have told some of them of his experience. Indeed it can hardly be doubted). Thus they would see him as bringing them words from beyond the grave.

We can imagine what happened. Jonah takes up accommodation somewhere in Nineveh. They ask him why his skin is such a strange colour. He explains what had happened to him in his being swallowed by a huge fish and how he had prayed from the world of darkness. They go around telling their associates about this Hebrew prophet who has come back from the watery depths, even from the very dead. Thus soon crowds gather to see him, and awed by his pale and strange looking skin, and the even stranger tale that they have been told, they take careful heed to his words so that God moves their hearts and a great movement of the word of God takes place. He was indeed ‘a sign’ to them.

In the same way Jesus promises that the Son of Man ‘will be’ a sign to this generation. This would suggest that in some way He too would to come back from the dead after three days. This would not have seemed quite so impossible to them as we might think, for they knew that the Scriptures taught what had happened to the ‘son of man’. He had come from the midst of awful persecution and death (Luke 7:21-22; Luke 7:25), in order to make His way triumphantly to the throne of God, so that He might receive Kingly Rule (Luke 7:13-14), having necessarily been involved in the resurrection from the dead (Daniel 12:1-2). Like Jonah He too would then become a ‘sign’ (compare John 2:18-22).

Some consider that Luke is referring to Jonah’s preaching as the sign, and that he was suggesting that Jesus meant that His own preaching was similarly a sign, ‘the sign of the prophet Jonah’ signifying ‘the same kind of sign as the prophet Jonah’. Certainly Jonah’s preaching had been hugely successful, and equally certainly Jesus’ teaching was. But successful preaching is never called a sign, and it does not explain why Jesus chose Jonah as His illustration. Other prophets were seen as having been successful. Furthermore it is Jonah himself who is quite clearly called the sign, ‘the sign of Jonah’. For his preaching was successful because the Ninevites saw him as a sign, not the other way round. It also explains Jesus’ use of the future tense when speaking of Himself as a sign. For He had clearly indicated that He was not in the present willing to give any further sign than the ones they continually saw in His preaching and casting out of evil spirits (see Mark 8:12).

And there is no question but that the crowd listening to Jesus would, when thinking of Jonah, think in terms of his awesome experience, and see that as a sign. It was both vivid and memorable. So ‘the sign of Jonah’ gave them a clue as to what to look for. Jesus was promising that He too would at some stage arrive back from the dead. While it was a sign not yet given, it was a sign that He assured them would be given. He would thus become a sign to His generation. For such a future event as a sign we can compare Exodus 3:12.

The book of Acts undoubtedly reveals precisely that, that the resurrection became a sign spoke of and witnessed to by the Apostles, who saw it as a foundational part of their preaching and a sign of Who Jesus was.


Verse 31-32

“The queen of the south will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and will condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater thing than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, a greater thing than Jonah is here.”

Jesus then gives two examples of response to the earlier teaching of great men of the past which they should consider, and both stand as a witness to condemn them before God’s Judgment Seat. One is the example of the response to the wisdom of Solomon by the Queen of the south, the Queen of Sheba, the other is the example is of the response of the Ninevites to the preaching of Jonah. While these are not ‘signs’ they are evidence of the genuineness of some who heard and responded to their words, and examples of what His hearers should also be like on hearing the words of someone ‘greater’. They put them to shame because they responded to the lesser light while His hearers neglect the greater light.

The idea of the sign has now moved on to the pointing finger. He will not give them signs but He will give them examples, so that they might be without excuse. From these examples two fingers will be pointing at His hearers on the Day of Judgment, the two witnesses required by the Law, the finger of the Queen of Sheba, and the finger of the whole of Nineveh. For they all paid heed to the words of God’s servants in their day, while the present generation do not pay heed, even though the One present in their day is One Who is a greater thing (neuter) than Solomon, and a greater thing than Jonah. Thus will they be utterly condemned. They are on a par with Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum (Luke 10:12-15), for they have not responded to His wonders and signs, and they have not heard the word and kept it (Luke 11:28).

In Solomon Jesus produced the Wisdom teacher par excellence who taught a foreign queen and in Jonah a great prophet who preached to Gentiles after a miraculous deliverance, and He has stated His claim that He is greater than both. He is the sum of both Wisdom and prophecy. Combined with the fact that He is the ‘Stronger than he’ it is a powerful combination. Greater in status and power than the mighty and wise King Solomon whose wisdom all the world extolled, greater in status and power than the remarkable Jonah, Stronger than the powerful Satan. They could be in little doubt about how great He was.

Note how both the accusers of Israel in the judgment will be Gentiles. It seemed clear to Luke that Jesus had selected these examples in order to get over another important message. And that was that God’s message was also for the Gentiles. For in both these cases Gentile audiences had received the word of God, and both had responded to it, so that to Luke the citing of these two would therefore be evidence of the fact that Jesus saw His word as one that was also eventually going to Gentiles. It would support the argument that Jesus’ preaching was not only suitable for Gentiles, but would also specifically reach out to them. Indeed in the light of Acts we may see Luke as indicating by this that the Gentile believers would also one day point the finger at the Jews who rejected Him.


Verse 33

“No man, when he has lighted a lamp, puts it in a hiding place, nor under the corn measure, but on the stand, so that those who enter in may see the light.”

The first principle that has to be established is that every man must light his lamp by following Jesus Christ (John 8:12) and looking to His words, and that that light must then be allowed to shine. ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify you Father Who is in Heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). Every Christian should be putting the lamp of his life where it can be seen. Not in a hiding place where he hides away in embarrassment or indolence, not under a corn measure where he keeps it hidden because he is ashamed of it, but out on the stand where all who come near can clearly see the light. Compare Luke 7:16 where the warning is also given that in the end all will be brought to the light and judged.

For Jesus has come as the Light of the world. Those who follow Him receive the light of life (John 8:12). And that light must be allowed to shine forth to the world. We are to walk as children of light and of the day (Luke 7:16; Luke 16:8; Ephesians 5:8; John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5), revealing the splendour of His glory by life and lip.


Verse 34

“The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is single, your whole body also is full of light, but when it is evil, your body also is full of darkness.”

And how do we light that lamp? The light comes to us from God and from the Lord. And it comes through the window of the eye, which is itself thus like a lamp, for it enables light to shine into our lives. If our eye is single-minded and fixed on Him and His word then our whole body will be full of light. We will be filled with truth and goodness and righteousness and holiness and His light will continually shine into our hearts. We will walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), as indeed He is the light (1 John 1:5; John 8:12). But the eye of anyone turns away from Him and His word, and ceases to be single, then the light will be cut off and darkness will fill their lives. The evil of unbelief and disobedience will have possessed them. They will walk in darkness. And their whole lives will be filled with darkness.


Verse 35

“Look therefore whether the light that is in you is not darkness.”

Thus all must consider themselves carefully, for sadly some may still think that their darkness is light (they have never known any other). The world is full of people who think that they have light when all they have is darkness. They have the light of reason, the light of lesser religion, the light of knowledge, but they do not have the true light. What they have may be relatively good, but they do not have the all important light. They boast in their light but they are blind. Indeed the test is simple. Is their light from the Lord? Is it the light of His word shining in their hearts? Do they hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27-28)? Or is the light within them false light, the ‘light’ which is Satan’s imitation of true light (2 Corinthians 11:14)? Basically the question is do they hear and see His word and do it? If not the light is a false light, a pale reflection of light. It is darkness.


Verse 36

“As when the lamp with its bright shining gives you light.”

The whole life will then be bathed in light, just as when in a room the bright shining of the lamp gives you light. We will ever be in God’s room with Him, with his light shining on us, and we will be enveloped in the light of Him Who is the light of the world, and in the light of His word. We will walk in the light as He is in the light, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son will go on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7). And when the light reveals our lives to us for what they are, and we are made aware of imperfections that are there, we will then cry for all that is unfit to be removed, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son will do its work. And His cleansing, like the cleansing of the wick, is what will enable us to continue in the light with our eyes firmly fixed on Him and His word. And He will constantly shine on us like a shining light whose beam is ever fixed on us because our eyes are on Him.


Verse 37-38

‘Now when he had spoken a Pharisee asks him to dine with him, and he went in, and sat down to meat, and when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first drenched (baptizo) himself before dinner.’

It may well be that Jesus had deliberately refrained from ceremonially washing his hands here in order to introduce the subject matter of His speech, for Mark 7:2 suggests that He usually conformed to that requirement (unless Mark 7:2 was a polite way of indirectly hinting that He also had not done so). The point, however, that Luke is stressing is the emphasis of the Pharisee on outward observance. To them it mattered not what inward sins Jesus had brought with Him (like the inward sins of Luke 11:53-54) as long as He was following the correct rituals. (Luke is basically hinting that the attitude of some of the Pharisees was such that they could, as it were, happily connive in the killing of the prophets (Luke 11:47-51), as long as they did it with clean hands).

‘He marvelled.’ This may mean that he said something (but compare Luke 20:26), although not antagonistically (see Luke 4:22; Luke 7:9; Luke 8:25; Luke 9:43; Luke 11:14; Luke 20:26), for Luke does not add ‘within himself’ (contrast Luke 7:39).

The ceremonial ‘washing of the hands’ before eating was one of the tenets of the Pharisees on which they laid great stress. It was not enjoined in Scripture but was an additional element added by the Traditions of the Elders, the oral Law. It was not strictly a simple hand washing, but a ritual mini-ceremony. They believed that because of the possibility of unknown contamination by persons who were ritually unclean it was necessary to wash both before every meal and in between courses. And this involved a complicated process. The water for washing had to be taken from large stone jars which had been kept ‘clean’ so that the water itself was kept ritually clean. Such water could be used for no other purpose. First all dirt had to be removed. Then the hands might be held with the fingers pointed upwards and water was poured over them and had to run down to at least the wrist. After this, while the hands were wet, each had to be cleansed, seemingly with ‘the fist’ of the other, probably by the joint action of rubbing the palm over the fist. But the water on their hands was now unclean so the hands were then held downwards and water poured over them again so that it began at the wrists and ran off the end of the fingers. That was one way of doing it.

Alternately this might all be done by dipping the hands up to the wrist in a vessel containing clean water, again apparently rubbing on ‘the fist’. Then the hands would be clean.


Verses 37-52

The Woeful State of Those Whose Light Is Darkness, And Who Therefore Come Under His Woes (11:37-52).

But sadly there are those whose eyes turn away from the light. Instead of their eyes being fixed on His words they are turned to other words. And those words keep them in darkness, as the next incident reveals. This incident is said to take place in the house of a Pharisee to which Jesus was invited for a meal, but it is clear that there are a good number of Pharisees and Scribes there. This suggests that there were many of them who were still willing to eat with Him and to give His words consideration. But they clearly only did it on sufferance. They were giving Him the opportunity to conform to their ways. When He rather showed them the failings of their ways they were not pleased, and rather than admitting the truth and opening their eyes to His light, they sought to deal with Him. They could criticise each other (and did), but they would not accept criticism from Him. It was necessary for Him to conform Himself to them.

The ways of the Scribes and Pharisees described here were precisely the opposite of His teaching about the light. They illustrated walking in darkness. Instead of seeking for the divine light to shine into men’s innermost hearts they turned the searchlight on external practises, and in general ignored the inner heart. Their eye was not opened to the light so that it could enter within. They did not want the light in their inner heart. The Samaritans, with whom they are paralleled in the chiasmus (Luke 9:52-56), rejected Jesus because of the physical place to which He was going. They did not consider His inner heart. These reject Him because of the physical things He refuses to conform to. They too do not look at His inner heart. So neither looked at the heart. But in the case of the Scribes and Pharisees this will lead them into woe because of their privileged position. They will be ‘brought into testing’.

This is the final passage in the Section of Luke that relates to the Lord’s Prayer. In relationship to the Lord’s Prayer these are they are who will be ‘brought into testing’ because their eyes are not fixed on Him. For them there is no protection. All that awaits is judgment.

Analysis.

While in general the chiastic pattern is held here, the need not to alter Jesus’ word patterns and to introduce the two threefold woes, prevented a simple chiasmus. Compare the speech in Luke 6:20-46 where it was even more so.

a Now as he spoke, a Pharisee asks him to dine with him, and he went in, and sat down to meat, and when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first drenched himself before dinner (Luke 11:37-38).

b The Lord said to him, “Now you the Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but your inward part is full of extortion and wickedness” ’(Luke 11:39).

c “You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?” (Luke 11:40).

b “But give for alms those things which are within, and behold, all things are clean to you” (Luke 11:41).

d “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and pass over justice and the love of God, but these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42).

d “Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces” (Luke 11:43).

d “Woe to you! for you are as the tombs which are not visible, and the men who walk over them are not aware of it” (Luke 11:44).

e And one of the lawyers answering says to him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also” (Luke 11:45).

d And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens grievous to be borne, and you yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46).

d “Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. So are you witnesses and consent to the works of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs, therefore also said the wisdom of God, “I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute, that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:47-51).

d “Woe to you lawyers! for you took away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered” (Luke 11:52).

a And when he was come out from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press on him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things, laying wait for him, to catch something out of his mouth’ (Luke 11:53-54).

Note how in ‘a’ Jesus ‘comes in’ and the Pharisees concern is that He has not ceremonially washed His hands, while in the parallel He ‘goes out’ and the Pharisees and Scribes are out to metaphorically ‘throw dirt’ at Him. This is then followed by a small chiasmus contrasting outward and inward cleansing (b, c), and a larger chiasmus contrasting the two sets of ‘woes’, one on the Pharisees and the other on the Scribes (d, e).


Verse 39

‘And the Lord said to him, “Now you the Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but your inward part is full of extortion (‘greed’) and wickedness.” ’

Jesus is aware of what the Pharisee is thinking/saying and draws attention to their inconsistency. They cleanse the externals, such as the outsides of cups and dishes, and through their ritual by implication the outside of the body, but they ignore contamination of the inward parts, contamination of the heart of man (compare Mark 7:14-23). There is an outward show of cleanliness, while underneath is a turmoil of greed and wickedness. The light such as it is may shine on the cups and platters to see if they are clean, but not on the heart. Note here that He speaks as ‘the Lord’, which is fairly common in Luke whose aim is to maintain His distinctiveness from all others.


Verse 40

“You foolish ones, did not he who made the outside make the inside also?”

Then He gives a gentle rebuke. Such an attitude is foolish for God created all things. To be concerned about the outside and not the inside is to neglect half of creation, and God is equally concerned about both. Indeed He is more concerned about the inward than the outward. For if the inward is right, the outward will soon conform. (The purpose of the laws of cleanliness was in order to encourage an attitude of clean living from the heart).

“You foolish ones.” The idea of that those who do not respond to God and His word are ‘fools’ is mentioned in the book of Proverbs over seventy five times, and in the Psalms over a dozen times, and the behaviour of the fool is well illustrated there, and especially described in Psalms 14. It was a word that among the Jews pointed to one who took little regard of God and his requirements. To these men it should have been a wake-up call. They were behaving as if there were no God.


Verse 41

“But give for alms those things which are within, and behold, all things are clean to you.”

For the important lesson that they need to learn is that if they are clean on the inside everything will be clean to them. If they allow the light to shine within, all will be right. The outward giving of charitable gifts is good, but what is more important is the action of giving from a clean heart, of giving from oneself, then the externals will be clean as well. So it is not the outward actions and the outward giving that reveal cleanness (Luke 11:39), it is the thoughts of the heart and the true giving of themselves.

Some see it as meaning ‘give for alms those things which are within your dish’, in other words give to the poor, but Jesus was hardly likely to say that giving to charity would make all clean. More was required than that, the response of a true heart.

Three Woes On The Pharisees.

The three woes which now follow are an attack on outward forms, forms on which they laid great stress, and in which they even went beyond what was necessary, while at the same time ignoring compassion and mercy, and the real needs of men and women. He is saying that doing something which professes cleanliness and God-likeness is of no use unless it comes from the heart. These three failures are additional to the failure already mentioned. The threefoldness of the woes stresses the completeness of the woe.

The word translated ‘woe’ can also mean ‘alas’. But we must be careful about watering down Jesus’ words. While His heart was certainly grieved at their situation, there is no doubt that His words also carried within them an element of judgment. He was not just negatively concerned, He was positively concerned. If they were not careful they would indeed face the final Judgment under condemnation. They would be brought into testing.


Verse 42

“But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and pass over justice and the love of God, but these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

His first ‘woe’, but second criticism (His first was concerning ritual washing of both person and dishes), is that they are so concerned about the minutiae of tithing (setting aside one tenth of all they receive for the Temple and for the poor), even of items like mint which do not need to be tithed, that they ignore the need for behaving justly and revealing the love of God. It is right that they should tithe. But not that they should treat it as of such prime importance, in contrast with attitudes of the heart, that they see themselves as a result of it as being somehow superior to others. Far more important is it to be just and loving in their dealings with men and women. That is what will make them superior to others (although then they will not think so because they will be humble). They must give of themselves first. Then they may give of their goods.


Verse 43

“Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces.”

His next criticism is their attitude towards life. There too they reveal their superior attitude, and their contempt for the people of the land. They who are supposed to be exalting God are too busy exalting themselves. When they are given the chief seats in the synagogue they love every moment of it. It makes them feel important and superior. And they encourage it. And they love to be greeted with reverence in the marketplaces as people ‘appreciate their superior religious status’ and treat them with deferential respect. This is not something limited to Pharisees. It is one of the foundation attitudes of the kingdom of man. But it is in direct contrast with the Kingly Rule of God, where all race for the lower seats, and ask how they can serve others. For in the Kingly Rule of God it is he who humbles himself who will be exalted (Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14).


Verse 44

“Woe to you! for you are as the tombs which are not visible, and the men who walk over them are not aware of it.”

The third woe is that they cause others to stumble. To touch a tomb or grave rendered a person ‘unclean’ and meant a seven day period of cleansing. It was therefore important that tombs were clearly visible. Indeed some time before the Passover all graves in Palestine would be painted white so that Passover pilgrims might not be accidentally defiled and thus unable to eat the Passover. So for someone to be like an unmarked tomb was for him to be a catastrophe to people.

And the Pharisees were like unmarked graves, for they did not warn people away from what was truly defiling, the attitudes of the heart. Thus they encouraged people to think that all was well with them when in fact it was far from well.

We must not be unfair to the Pharisees. The purpose of their multitude of extra ‘laws’ was in order to help people to know what they should and should not do. Where they failed (and failure is inevitable with too many rules and regulations, for people will then begin to look for loopholes, and will ignore the more important attitude that should lie behind their observance) was in that, by doing so, they made people feel that they were satisfying God by what they did to such an extent that they could therefore do what they liked with the remainder of their lives. They bred hypocrites, people who played a part without really being what they should be.


Verse 45

‘And one of the lawyers answering says to him, “Teacher, in saying this you insult us also.” ’

The Rabbis who were sitting there were quite happy to listen to His criticism of the Pharisees. They would feel that it was certainly something that they needed, for they saw them as coming far too short of what they should be. But now that it had begun to impinge on their own teaching it became a different matter. Thus one of them took up His comments. He asked Him if He realised that by what He was saying He was on the verge of criticising the Rabbis. By criticising the Traditions of the Elders He was criticising them. But by doing so the ‘lawyer’ only succeeded in bringing Jesus’ fire on them.


Verse 46

‘And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens grievous to be borne, and you yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” ’

Jesus now turned His criticism on the Doctors of the Law. They were no better than the Pharisees, for by their wide list of requirements they put burdens on people which were too heavy to bear, and yet they themselves never even reached out with their fingers to relieve the weight of such burdens, while finding ways of dodging them themselves. This included the thought that they piled up the regulations but rarely retracted any, and that they did not take into account the circumstances that would make their demands far more difficult for ordinary people than they were for them. Their own lives were geared to them. The lives of ordinary people were not. Thus He accuses them of being inconsiderate and thoughtless and making unnecessary demands which were far too heavy. But it also probably includes the thought that while they inflict them on others, they found means of avoiding them themselves by casuistry.

Consider a few examples.

· The limit of a Sabbath day's journey was 2,000 cubits (roughly 1,000 yards or metres) from a man's residence. But if a rope was tied across the end of the street, the end of the street could become his residence and he could then go 1,000 yards beyond that, while if on the Friday evening he left enough food at any given point for two meals that point technically became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that!

· One of the forbidden works on the Sabbath was the tying of knots, whether sailors' or camel drivers' knots and knots in ropes. But a woman could tie the knot in her girdle. So if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well a rope could not be knotted to it, but all they had to do was use a woman's girdle, and it could legitimately be raised with that!

· To carry a burden was forbidden, for the codified written law laid down that, "he who carries anything, whether it be in his right hand, or in his left hand, or in his bosom, or on his shoulder is guilty”, but it then added, “but he who carries anything on the back of his hand, with his foot, or with his mouth, or with his elbow, or with his ear, or with his hair, or with his money bag turned upside down, or between his money bag and his shirt, or in the fold of his shirt or in his shoe, or in his sandal is guiltless, because he does not carry it in the usual way of carrying it out."

Of course we do not do things like that. But our excuses for our sins can be equally fatuous.


Verse 47-48

“Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. So are you witnesses and consent to the works of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.”

Furthermore they associated themselves with the slaughter of the prophets by building them great tombs without being overmuch concerned about what their fathers had done. They honoured the dead prophets, thereby acknowledging the truth of their words, but this did not make them follow the prophets’ teaching in their daily lives or grieve over what their fathers had done, although they did piously say, ‘if we had been alive then we would not have done it’ (Matthew 23:29-31). It was done in such a way that rather than being an act of repentance and mourning, it was almost an act of identification, as though it was something that could be expected. And by it they testified to the fact that they were sons of murderers. And they did it without turning a hair, while themselves being quite ready to do the same if the situation arose. (They would indeed do it with Jesus).


Verses 49-51

“Therefore also said the wisdom of God, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute’, that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.”

In view of what has been said no one should be surprised that that was what God’s wisdom had revealed would happen, and was indeed still revealing would happen in the present day. For God has prophesied (‘said’) through His Spirit (His Wisdom) speaking through Jesus (Matthew 23:34) that the current Apostles will along with the prophets be killed and persecuted. And by this the present generation would be bringing on themselves the blood of all the prophets through all generations, for by it they will be consenting to what had happened to them.

‘The Wisdom of God.’ Jesus is never called this anywhere else, nor is the phrase used. But note its connection back to Luke 11:31. Here is a greater wisdom than that of Solomon. It may therefore be Jesus saying, ‘I am the Wisdom of God’, in contrast with the wisdom of Solomon (compare 1 Corinthians 1:30). On the other hand it is quite possible that Luke uses it as a synonym for the Spirit (as he previously used ‘finger of God’) so as not to name the Spirit (the Spirit is connected to wisdom in Proverbs 1:23) in accordance with his policy of on the whole not doing so (see Introduction). Or it may signify ‘God in His wisdom said ---.’

Others connect it with the words of Wisdom in Proverbs ‘for they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would none of my counsel. They despised all my reproof’ (Proverbs 1:29-30), what is said here simply being Jesus’ free interpretation of that idea. The different way in which He cited it on another occasion (Matthew 23:34) might be seen as confirming this.

‘Said’ (eipen). This tends to exclude the idea of a written source, and there is no source that we know of in which these words are contained, although the idea is contained in Mark 12:4-5. Thus it was certainly in the mind of Jesus at that time.

Jesus then sums up the long line of prophets by citing Abel and a certain Zechariah who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. The place between the altar and the sanctuary was the holiest place in the courtyard of the Sanctuary, thereby accentuating the horror of the crime. Abel was not strictly a prophet but it was clearly here a loose use of the term signifying that his blood cried out prophetically on his behalf. Thus Jesus was citing the first martyrdom and the most heinous one.

We do not know anything about this martyrdom of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah (Matthew 23:35; compare Zechariah 1:1), apart from what we find here, but that is not surprising for our knowledge of the details of Jewish history is strictly limited. Some have suggested that he is the Zechariah the son of Jehoiada mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, on the grounds that Chronicles was the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures, as Genesis was the first, and thus that Jesus was saying ‘all the prophets from Genesis to Chronicles’. However, the Zechariah mentioned there is ‘the son of Jehoiada’, not Berechiah, and does not in any way fit in with this description. (Although ‘son of Jehoiada’ may well mean grandson, for Jehoiada would then have been of great age). It is best that we assume that Jesus knew more about Hebrew history than we do.


Verse 52

“Woe to you lawyers! for you took away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

The final charge against the Doctors of the Law is that they kept from the people the knowledge of how they could enter the Kingly Rule of God, or the knowledge of the Scriptures. They took away ‘the key of knowledge’ which opened the way to these things. By keeping people’s minds filled with trivialities and with various requirements, and making parts of the Scriptures into nothing better than riddles they effectively silenced the voice of God. They did not want to use the key to enter in themselves, and by their methods they put obstacles in the way of any who would enter in. Thus they were worthy of condemnation.


Verse 53-54

‘And when he was come out from there, the Scribes and the Pharisees began to press on him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things, laying wait for him, to catch something out of his mouth.’

When He came out from where He was the Scribes and Pharisees were not happy with what He had said, and they began to badger Him and to try to get Him to say things which would condemn Him. They were laying in wait in order to catch Him, and to get Him to say something that they could use against Him. Any friendliness had ceased. They were out to trap Him.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 11:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/luke-11.html. 2013.

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Friday, February 22nd, 2019
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
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