Luke 11 – Jesus Teaches and Warns
A. Teaching on prayer.
1. (1) A request from the disciples: Lord, teach us to pray.
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
a. As He was praying in a certain place: Jesus prayed as was His custom, but a request came when He ceased – the disciples allowed Jesus to finish praying. They stood there and watched Him, drinking in the power of His prayer, until He was finished.
b. Lord, teach us to pray: There was something about watching Jesus pray that made them want to learn how to pray as Jesus prayed. There was something magnetic about the prayer life of Jesus, and the way He prayed showed something of His relationship with God the Father.
i. Even as the disciples, we need Jesus to teach us to pray. Prayer is so simple that the smallest child can pray, but it is so great that the mightiest man of God cannot be said to truly have mastered prayer.
ii. “It is on prayer that the promises wait for their fulfillment, the kingdom for its coming, the glory of God for its full revelation… Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray. He did not speak much of what was needed to preach well, but much of praying well. To know how to speak to God is more than knowing how to speak to man. Not power with men, but power with God is the first thing.” (Murray)
c. Lord, teach us to pray: Most directly, their request was not to learn how to pray, but to pray. Our greatest difficulty is not with mastering a specific technique or approach in prayer (though that may be good and helpful); our greatest need is simply to pray and to pray more and more.
i. As the Apostle Paul would later write in Ephesians 6:18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
ii. Apparently John the Baptist had taught his disciples something of how to pray; the disciples wanted to learn more from their teacher.
2. (2-4) Pray after this pattern.
So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
a. When you pray, say: On a previous occasion Jesus taught this same basic prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The fact that He repeated it here showed how important it is. The fact that He did not repeat it the exact same way as in Matthew shows that it was not to be used as a precise ritual or magic formula for prayer.
i. This prayer is notable for its simplicity and brevity; it is a marvel of powerful prayer put in simple terms. The Rabbis had sayings like: “Whoever is long in prayer is heard” and “Whenever the righteous make their prayer long, their prayer is heard.” One famous Jewish prayer began: “Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, and honored, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One.”
ii. When we try to impress God with our many words, we deny that God is a loving, yet holy Father. Instead, we should follow the counsel of Ecclesiastes 5:2: God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.
b. Our Father in heaven: The model prayer shows us to come to God as a Father in heaven. It rightly recognizes whom we pray to, coming with a privileged title that demonstrates a privileged relationship. It was very unusual for the Jews of that day to call God “Father” because it was considered too intimate.
i. “There is no evidence of anyone before Jesus using this term to address God.” (Carson)
ii. It is true that God is the mighty sovereign of the universe, who created, governs, and will judge all things – but He is also to us a Father.
iii. He is our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. When we say “in heaven” we remember God’s holiness and glory. He is our Father, but our Father in heaven. To say that God is in heaven says:
· He is a God of majesty and dominion: O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? (2 Chronicles 20:6)
· He is a God of power and might: But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
· He sees everything: The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. (Psalm 11:4)
iv. This is a prayer focused on community; Jesus said, “Our Father” and not “My Father.” “The whole prayer is social. The singular pronoun is absent. Man enters the presence of the Father, and then prays as one of the great family.” (Morgan)
c. Hallowed be Your name: Hallowed means set apart. It is to say that there is no one like God, He is completely unique – not just a super person or a better person. Name means that God’s whole character, His whole person, is set apart.
i. “The name in antiquity stood for far more than it does with us. It summed up a person’s whole character, all that was known or revealed about him.” (Morris)
d. Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: The model prayer shows us passion for God’s glory and agenda. His name, kingdom and will have the top priority.
i. Everyone wants to guard their own name and reputation. But we must resist the tendency to protect and promote ourselves first and instead put God’s name, kingdom and will first. This shows that prayer isn’t a tool to get what we want from God. It is a way to get God’s will accomplished in us and all around us.
ii. Jesus wanted us to pray with the desire that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven there is no disobedience and there are no obstacles to God’s will; on earth there is disobedience and there are at least apparent obstacles to His will. The citizens of Jesus’ kingdom will want to see His will done as freely on earth as it is in heaven.
iii. A man can say, “Your will be done” in different ways and moods. He may say it with fatalism and resentment. “You will do your will and there is nothing I can do about it anyway. Your will wins, but I don’t like it.” Or, he may say it with a heart of perfect love and trust: “Do Your will, because I know it is the best. Change me where I don’t understand or accept Your will.”
iv. “He that taught us this prayer used it himself in the most unrestricted sense. When the bloody sweat stood on his face, and all the fear and trembling of a man in anguish were upon him, he did not dispute the decree of the Father, but bowed his head and cried. ‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” (Spurgeon)
v. One might rightly wonder why God wants us to pray that His will would be done, as if He were not able to accomplish it Himself. God is more than able to do His will without our prayer or cooperation; yet He invites the participation of our prayers, our heart, and our actions in seeing His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
vi. “In heaven God’s will is obeyed by all, spontaneously, with the deepest joy and in a perfect manner without a shadow of unfaithfulness. And the believer must pray that such a condition should also prevail on earth.” (Geldenhuys)
vii. Some see the Trinity in these requests. The Father is the source of all holiness; Jesus brings the kingdom of God to us; and the Holy Spirit accomplishes God’s will in us and among us.
viii. Some see the three greatest things in these three requests. To pray Our Father requires faith, because he who comes to God must believe that He is. To pray Your kingdom come requires hope, because we trust it is to come in fullness. To pray Your will be done requires love, because love is the incentive to obey all of God’s will.
e. Give us day by day our daily bread: The model prayer shows us to freely bring our needs to God. This will include needs for daily provision, forgiveness, and strength in the face of temptation.
i. When Jesus spoke of bread, He meant real bread, as in the sense of daily provisions. Early theologians allegorized this, because they couldn’t imagine Jesus speaking about an everyday thing like bread in such a majestic prayer like this. So, they thought bread referred to communion, the Lord’s Supper. Some have thought it referred to Jesus Himself as the bread of life. Others have thought it speaks of the word of God as our daily bread. Calvin rightly said of such interpretations, which fail to see God’s interest in everyday things: “This is exceedingly absurd.” God does care about everyday things, and we should pray about them.
ii. Yet it is a prayer for daily bread, not a warehouse of bread. “The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time, reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few day’s illness could spell tragedy.” (Carson)
f. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us: Just as real as the need for daily bread is the need for daily forgiveness. We often feel the need for food more; but the need for forgiveness is real whether it is felt or not.
i. “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul.” (Murray)
ii. Jesus represented sins with the idea of being indebted. The sinner owes a debt to God.“Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called here debts. God made man that he might live to his glory, and gave him a law to walk by; and if, when he does any thing that tends not to glorify God, he contracts a debt with Divine Justice.” (Clarke)
iii. For we also forgive assumes that the forgiven one will show forgiveness to others.
g. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: Temptation literally means a test, not always a solicitation to do evil. God has promised to keep us from any testing that is greater than what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).
i. “God, while he does not ‘tempt’ men to do evil (James 1:13), does allow his children to pass through periods of testing. But disciples, aware of their weakness, should not desire such testing, and should pray to be spared exposure to such situations in which they are vulnerable.” (France)
ii. “The man who prays ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ and then goes into it is a liar before God…‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is shameful profanity when it comes from the lips of men who resort to places of amusement whose moral tone is bad.” (Spurgeon)
iii. If we truly pray, lead us not into temptation, it will be lived out in several ways. It will mean:
· Never boast in your own strength.
· Never desire trials.
· Never go into temptation.
· Never lead others into temptation.
h. Andrew Murray thought of this prayer as a “school of prayer,” and wrote along that theme in his book With Christ in the School of Prayer. In that book he has a wonderful prayer for new students in Jesus’ school of prayer:
Blessed Lord! Who ever lives to pray, You can teach me to pray, me to ever live to pray. In this You love to make me share Your glory in heaven, that I should pray without ceasing, and ever stand as a priest in the presence of my God.
Lord Jesus! I ask You this day to enroll my name among those who confess that they do not know how to pray as they ought, and specially ask You for a course in teaching in prayer. Lord! Teach me to wait with You in the school and give You time to train me. May a deep sense of my ignorance, the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before You in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.
And fill me, Lord, with the confidence that with a teacher like You I shall learn to pray. In the assurance that I have as my teacher, Jesus, who is ever praying to the Father, and by His prayer rules the destinies of His Church and the world, I will not be afraid. As much as I need to know of the mysteries of the prayer-world, You will fold for me. And when I may not know, You will teach me to be strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Blessed Lord! You will not put to shame Your student who trusts You, nor, by Your grace, would he put You to shame either. Amen.
3. (5-8) Pray with boldness and persistence.
And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
a. Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight: In the custom of that day, a whole family lived together in a one-room house. On one side of the house was a raised platform where they all slept; down on the ground were all their animals – a cow, perhaps some sheep and goats and so forth. There was no way the man could come to the door without disturbing the whole household.
b. Yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs: It took a lot of boldness for the man in the story to so shamelessly ask his friend in the middle of the night; he really wanted and needed the bread.
i. God often waits for our passionate persistence in prayer. It isn’t that God is reluctant and needs to be persuaded. Our persistence doesn’t change God; it changes us, developing in us a heart and passion for what God wants.
4. (9-13) Pray with a childlike confidence.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 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 those who ask Him!”
a. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you: We are told to keep on asking, seeking and knocking. “All three verbs are continuous: Jesus is not speaking of single activities, but of those that persist.” (Morris)
i. These descriptions speak of an earnestness and intensity; all too often, our prayers are merely wishes cast up to heaven, and this is not real prayer.
b. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Any human father loves to bless his children, and would never answer a simple request for something good with something evil. If that is case with us, how much more will God answer us, though sometimes it doesn’t seem so!
c. How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! God especially loves to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. We never need doubt God’s desire to pour out His Spirit. The problem is in our receiving, not in God’s desire to give.
B. Jesus answers controversy about demons and signs.
1. (14-16) Some accuse Jesus of being in partnership with Satan; others request a sign from Him.
And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.
a. He was casting out a demon, and it was mute: The Jews in Jesus’ day had their own exorcists, who sought to cast demons out of people. But they believed that they had to make the demon reveal his name, or they had no authority over the demon to cast it out.
b. When the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled: This is why the multitudes marveled when Jesus cast out a demon that caused muteness. According to the Jewish thinking of that day, the demon was impossible to cast out because he made the man unable to speak, and unable to reveal the name of the demon.
c. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons”: When people saw this great work, there were two reactions. Some attributed the working of Jesus to Satan (Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons), and some wanted to see more miracles before they would believe (testing Him, sought a sign from heaven).
i. Beelzebub is a difficult name to analyze. It may come from a similar sounding word that means, “Lord of the Flies.” It was a harsh accusation. “It is by no mean uncommon for people to resort to slander when honest opposition is helpless.” (Barclay)
2. (17-19) Jesus answers those who attribute His working to Satan.
But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.”
a. But He, knowing their thoughts: It is possible that Jesus here displayed the gift of the Holy Spirit Paul would later describe as a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). It is likewise possible that Jesus knew this through experience and intuition. The point is that Jesus did not have to access His divine privilege to know their thoughts.
b. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation: Jesus logically answered that if He were an agent of Satan, and worked against Satan, then civil war had come to Satan’s kingdom, and Satan’s kingdom would therefore not stand. The point was that Satan would not work against himself and His accusers had to answer how Satan benefited from the work Jesus had just done.
i. “Satan may be wicked, He says in effect, but he is not a fool.” (Bruce) “Whatever fault the devils have, they are not at strife with each other; that fault is reserved for the servants of a better Master.” (Spurgeon)
c. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? At the same time, Jesus observed that the Jewish leaders themselves also had exorcists. Did His accusers accuse them also?
3. (20-23) Jesus proclaims His strength over all demonic forces.
“But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”
a. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you: With this Jesus answered the charge that He was in partnership with the Devil. He said, “I’m not under Satan, instead, I’m proving that I am stronger than he is.”
i. Jesus did not suggest the slightest doubt when He said, “If I cast out demons.” As Pate suggests, the idea is more since than if. “Thus, ‘since by the finger of God I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’” (Pate)
b. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him: In the picture Jesus used, Satan is the strong man, who guards what belongs to him. Jesus’ ministry, both in the case of casting the demon out of the man who was mute and in the broader sense, did the work of defeating this strong man.
c. But when a stronger than he comes: Jesus is the One who is stronger than he (Satan, the strong man of Luke 11:21). Jesus spoke about His work in overcoming Satan on several different stages:
i. He comes upon him: Jesus engaged Satan in battle, even on the ground of what seemed to belong to Satan (such as demon possessed people).
ii. And overcomes him: Jesus simply defeated this strong man, showing to everyone that He is stronger than he. Jesus made it clear that He was the stronger man who was not captive under the strong man. His message was, “I’m not under Satan’s power. Instead, I’m proving that I am stronger than he is by casting him out of those he has possessed.”
iii. He takes from him all his armor in which he trusted: Jesus not only defeated Satan on our behalf, He also disarmed him. As Colossians 2:15 says, having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross].
iv. And divides his spoils: Satan will never get to keep or enjoy the battle-spoil from his momentary victory. Jesus’ victory over the strong man is complete. Jesus looks at every life delivered from Satan’s domination and says, “I’m plundering the kingdom of Satan one life at a time.” There is nothing in our life that must stay under Satan’s domination. The One who binds the strong man and divides his spoils is our risen Lord.
d. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters: If Jesus is stronger than Satan, then each person is confronted by a decision: with whom will they partner? Will we be with Jesus or will we be against Him? Will we work for Jesus or will we work against Him?
i. “In the conflict against the powers of darkness there is no room for neutrality.” (Geldenhuys)
ii. In this sense, to be undecided is to be decided. There is no neutral ground; we are either with Jesus or against Him. There is no luxury of guarded neutrality.
iii. If Satan is the strong man, and Jesus is stronger than Satan is, there are two strong forces at work, trying to win our allegiance. We will embrace one or the other, intentionally or unintentionally.
4. (24-26) Jesus tells more about the dynamics of demonic possession.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
a. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man: This is the picture of a person delivered from a demon, but not yet filled with Jesus. It is a picture of a person who tries to be neutral. They say they are not for Satan, but they are also not for Jesus. Jesus shows us that this is impossible.
b. I will return to my house from which I came: Apparently, demons regard vacant places as opportunities. For some reason they want to inhabit bodies. We can suppose that this is for the same reason why the vandal wants a spray can, or a violent man wants a gun – a body is a weapon a demon can use in their attack against God.
i. “It is probably implied that the house was unoccupied…the context of Luke 11:25 seems to assume that the reason the demon could return to the house was because it was vacant.” (Pate)
c. The last state of that man is worse than the first: Jesus revealed the danger of delivering a person from demonic possession without filling their life with Jesus. They can end up worse than before.
i. The heart of man has a vacuum-like nature to it. It has to be filled. If we empty our heart from evil without filling it with Jesus and His good, evil will rush in again to fill it – and sometimes worse evil than before.
ii. Therefore, in answering those who accused Him of working by the power of Satan, Jesus told them that He had not merely come to fight against evil, but to bring God’s good into our hearts. He did not come to merely empty the house, but to fill it with Himself.
5. (27-28) Jesus reveals the truly blessed.
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
a. Blessed is the womb that bore You: This was a seemingly spontaneous cry from a certain woman in the crowd who wanted to honor Jesus and His family. The sense seems to be, “Jesus, You are so wonderful that Your mother must be a very blessed woman.”
b. More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it: While not dishonoring His mother, Jesus pointed out the greater and more important connection between Himself and those who hear the word of God and keep it. This is a more blessed and important relationship to Jesus than even being the mother who bore Him.
i. This does not demean Mary; but it does honor and bless the one who hears and keeps God’s word. This is the blessed place. “His disciples were more blessed in hearing Christ than his mother in bearing him.” (Trapp)
6. (29-32) Jesus answers those who seek for a sign.
And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”
a. This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign: Jesus said this to the thick crowd, rebuking their inclination to seek and value signs. Jesus just mentioned the blessedness of being one who heard and did God’s word; the contrast is the one who seeks a sign.
i. According to William Barclay, about fifteen years after Jesus’ time on earth, a man named Theudas arose among the Jews and claimed to be the Messiah. He persuaded people to follow him with the promise that he would part the Jordan River in two. He tried, he failed, and the Romans dealt severely with him. But he knew what kind of sign the people wanted to see. Jesus told us that hearing and keeping the word are more important than signs.
ii. Ironically, Jesus had given many remarkable signs, just not the kind they wanted to see. They wanted to see signs leading to military resistance and the political independence of the Jesus people from the occupying Romans.
iii. Jesus condemned their seeking after a sign, especially when countless signs had already happened before their eyes. It is easy to overestimate the power of miraculous signs to change the heart of doubters and skeptics.
b. No sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet: Jesus told us that Jonah became a sign, and Jesus would be a similar sign to His generation. Jonah gave his life to appease the wrath of God coming upon others. But death did not hold him; after three days and nights of imprisonment, he was alive and free (Jonah 1-2).
i. This is the sign that Jesus promised. Jesus is that sign, both to His present generation and to ours. Jesus Himself is the sign; we are to believe in Him, not a sign.
c. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them: The queen of the South came to Solomon in 1 Kings 10. When she saw the great works that God did for and through Solomon, she praised the God of Israel. She didn’t say, “Show me more and maybe I’ll believe.”
i. The queen of the South came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. She sought after God’s word with a tenacity that shames us. The people who asked Jesus for a sign saw His work right there in their own neighborhood, and didn’t believe.
ii. The point is clear: the queen of the South and the men of Nineveh were both Gentiles, but they had a more open heart to the things of God than the religious people of Jesus’ day, who would not believe and receive the work of God right before their eyes.
iii. “The irony is biting: the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba accepted the messengers of God. But Jesus’ audience rejected God Himself.” (Pate)
d. A greater than Solomon is here: Solomon was the son of David, and one of the great messianic titles of Jesus is “Son of David.” Jesus was a much greater Son of David than Solomon was.
i. We again are impressed by the greatness of Jesus’ self-claim. To stand in front of these religious leaders and claim to be greater than Israel’s richest and wisest king was audacious. Yet the seeming audacity of Jesus was well justified.
e. Indeed a greater than Jonah is here: Jesus repeatedly brought the focus back upon Himself. He was and is greater than all previous prophets; He should become the focus of faith and trust from His people. His greater light brought a greater accountability to His hearers.
i. Adam Clarke described several ways that the witness of Jesus was greater than Jonah.
· “Christ, who preached to the Jews, was infinitely greater than Jonah, in his nature, person, and mission.”
· “Jonah preached repentance in Nineveh only forty days, and Christ preached among the Jews for several years.”
· “Jonah wrought no miracles to authorize his preaching; but Christ wrought miracles every day, in every place where he went, and of every kind.”
· “Notwithstanding all this, the people of Judea did not repent, though the people of Nineveh did.”
C. Jesus’ warnings to hypocrites.
1. (33-36) Jesus warns about inner darkness.
“No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”
a. No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand: Just as a lamp should be displayed out in the open so that all can benefit from its light, so the word and work of God should be displayed. Yet when Jesus displayed His word and works, the religious people of His day would not accept them.
i. This section has application to both what went before it (Jesus answers those who thought His miracles were the work of Satan and those who wanted to see more) and what comes after it (Jesus deals with hypocrisy).
ii. Some saw His brightness, some did not, and others thought the light wasn’t bright enough and demanded to see more. “Our Lord’s constant answer was, to go shining on. He was meant to be observed; even as a lamp is intended to be seen.” (Spurgeon)
b. The lamp of the body is the eye: Even as a bad eye will make a person blind, so bad hearts will make one spiritually blind. One must be spiritually blind to attribute Jesus’ miracles to Satan and to ignore the work of Jesus right before the eyes or to live as a hypocrite.
i. When one lives in darkness, there are two possible reasons why. There may be no light source, or the darkness may be within – the inability to perceive light. When Jesus warned, take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness, He warned against the darkness within.
ii. “We see by life and character, by all that we have made ourselves, by every secret sin that we have cherished, by every battle we have fought and won.” (Morrison)
iii. “If you do not see Jesus, it is not because he has hidden himself in darkness, but because your eyes are blinded.” (Spurgeon
iv. “If any of my readers are like that – if they see the Carpenter but cannot see the Lord – let me ask them, tenderly and quietly, What kind of life have you been living?” (Morrison)
v. If the darkness comes from within a man and prevents him from seeing the light of Jesus, it doesn’t matter how bright and glorious Jesus is – he can’t see it. “A man without an eye might as well be without the sun, so far as light is concerned.” (Spurgeon)
vi. “Do you wonder that our Lord seemed to hold up his hands in astonishment as he said, ‘If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!’ If that which should lead misleads, how misled you will be! If your better part turns out to be evil, how evil must you be!” (Spurgeon)
c. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light: When the light of God’s word shines; when the word and work of Jesus is understood, then one does not walk in the darkness of spiritual blindness.
i. “He saw the Kingdom in a mustard-seed, and the adoring woman in a harlot. He saw the solid rock in Simon, and the lover in the son of thunder. He saw in a child the citizen of heaven, in a bit of bread His broken body, in a cup of common wine His sacred blood…. Never was a vision such as this, because never was there a nature such as this.” (Morrison)
2. (37-41) Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their concern for only external matters.
And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.”
a. So He went in and sat down to eat: Though Jesus experienced increasing conflict and opposition from the religious leaders, He didn’t hate them in return. Jesus accepted this invitation to eat with a certain Pharisee.
i. Based on the words Jesus said in his home, it is possible that the Pharisee regretted his invitation to Jesus.
b. He marveled that He had not first washed before dinner: Jesus was not unhygienic when He had not first washed before dinner. He did not follow the extremely technical and rigid requirements of ceremonial washing practiced by many pious Jews.
i. “This the Pharisees deemed as great a sin as to commit fornication.” (Trapp)
ii. For these ceremonial washings, Barclay described how special stone vessels of water were kept because ordinary water might be ceremonially unclean. In performing the ceremonial washing, one started with at least enough of this water to fill one and one-half eggshells. One began by pouring the water over the hands starting at the fingers and running down towards the wrist. Then each palm was cleansed by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it. Water was poured over the hands again, this time from the wrist towards the fingers.
iii. A really strict Jew would do this not only before the meal, but also between each course through the meal. The rabbis were deadly serious about this, saying that bread eaten with unwashed hands was no better than excrement. A rabbi who once failed to do this was considered excommunicated. Another rabbi was imprisoned by the Romans and used his ration of water for ceremonial cleansing instead of drinking, nearly dying of thirst – but being regarded as a great hero.
iv. If these religious leaders were as concerned about cleansing their hearts as they were about their hands, they would be more godly men. We often want to look to a ceremony or a ritual to cleanse us, instead of the sacrificial work of God on our behalf.
c. Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness: These Pharisees were careful to maintain the appearance of righteousness, but not the inner reality of it. They were foolish ones because they could be outwardly clean while actually being dirty on the inside.
3. (42-44) Woes to the scribes and Pharisees.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”
a. But woe to you… Woe to you… Woe to you: Jesus spoke harshly here, yet this was not the language of personal irritation but of divine warning and condemnation. He seems to speak in the tone and rhythm of the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 5:8-23, Habakkuk 2:6-19).
b. For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God: Their tithing was meticulous and noteworthy; but hypocritical because it served to sooth the guilt of their neglect of the justice and love of God. It is both possible and common to be distracted with relatively trivial matters while a lost world perishes.
i. The Pharisees were so careful in their outward obedience that they would literally tithe from their herb gardens, counting out seeds and leaves, and giving a tenth of each to God.
ii. Legalism of this sort assumes that people will only know we follow God if we do all these things associated with rules and regulations. Instead, Jesus said that the real mark of a believer is the love they have for others in God’s family.
iii. But the Jewish leaders saw it differently. “The Mishna lays it down that it is more important to observe the scribal interpretations than the Law itself (Sanhedrin 11:13).” (Morris)
iv. It was as if a solider did great in marching drills and put all their emphasis there, but wasn’t any good in battle. This would not be a good soldier. Being good at all the outward things of Christianity doesn’t mean you are a necessarily a good Christian.
c. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone: Jesus did not say that their tithing was wrong. Instead, What was wrong was what they did not do – leaving the others undone.
d. You love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces: The best seats in the synagogues were the seats up front facing the congregation. This is where the leaders and prominent people sat. These people thought it was no good to walk right with God if others didn’t know they walked right with God.
i. The best seats and honored greetings in the marketplaces were wonderful to religious leaders who wanted to be celebrities, who thought that being spiritual was a great way to become famous. Jesus severely rebuked this attitude and proclaimed a woe to any who held it.
e. Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: Literally, the word “hypocrites” refers to an actor, someone playing a part. Jesus exposed the corruption that was covered by the spiritual image of the scribes and Pharisees.
f. For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them: These religious leaders loved giving the impression that they were ever so spiritual, but they actually defiled everyone they came in contact with. Walking over a grave ceremonially defiled a Jewish person, even if they didn’t know it was there.
i. According to Numbers 19:16, everyone who touched a grave was ceremonially unclean for seven days. For this reason, the Jews sought to mark graves clearly, usually using whitewash, so everyone would know where they were and would avoid them.
4. (45-46) Jesus rebukes the lawyers for their oppressive religious system.
Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”
a. Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also: The lawyer would have done better to keep quiet, but since he drew attention to himself, Jesus addressed him also.
i. One of the lawyers meant the man was an expert in the interpretation and application of the Law of Moses.
b. For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers: Because of the way that they interpreted the law, these experts in the Mosaic law laid heavy burdens on people – yet with elaborate evasions and loopholes.
i. For example, they taught that on the Sabbath, a man could not carry something in his right hand or in his left hand, across his chest or on his shoulder. But you could carry something with the back of your hand, with your foot, with your elbow, or in your ear, your hair, or in the hem of your shirt, or in your shoe or sandal.
ii. On the Sabbath it was forbidden to tie a knot – except, a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well, you could not tie a rope to the bucket, but a woman could tie her girdle to the bucket – and raise it from the well.
iii. Another example is how ancient Rabbis took the command to respect proper sanitation in the army camp of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:12-14) and applied it to Jerusalem, considering it the “camp of the Lord.” When this interpretation was combined with Sabbath travel restrictions, it resulted in a prohibition against going to the bathroom on the Sabbath.
iv. It is possible to wrongly use the Scriptures as a tool of control and oppression, all while evading one’s true responsibility before God. To do so puts one under this same woe and condemnation of Jesus.
5. (47-51) The religious leaders only admired dead prophets.
“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send 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 temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.”
a. For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them: They professed to venerate dead prophets but they rejected living prophets. In doing so they showed that they really were the children of those who murdered the prophets in the days of old (you approve of the deeds of your fathers).
i. We express the same thought when we think that we would have trusted Jesus more than His disciples did, or been more faithful to Him.
b. I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute: Jesus prophesied that these leaders would complete the rejection of the prophets their fathers began by persecuting His disciples, whom He would send to them.
c. That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation: This was a remarkable condemnation from Jesus, saying that those who rejected Him and His apostles and prophets would face a greater and unique accountability.
i. “No amount of argument can rob these words of their terrible import. They stand upon the page for evermore speaking to us of ‘the wrath of the Lamb.’” (Morgan)
d. From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah: Jesus here spoke of all the righteous martyrs of the Old Testament. Abel was clearly the first, and in the way that the Hebrew Bible was arranged, Zechariah was the last. 2 Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Bible, and Zechariah’s story is found in 2 Chronicles 24.
i. Abel’s blood cried out (Genesis 4:10), and Zechariah asked that his blood be remembered (2 Chronicles 24:22).
ii. “One can almost feel the withering force of His strong and mighty indignation – indignation directed, not against the people, but against their false guides. And yet behind it all is His heart, and the ‘woes’ merge into a wail of agony, the cry of a mother over her lost child.” (Morgan)
6. (52) Their most terrible crime – keeping others from God.
“Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
a. For you have taken away the key of knowledge: Their legalistic approach had taken away understanding and knowledge. By giving the people a list of rules by which they could supposedly save themselves, they didn’t help them at all.
b. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered: It is bad for someone to not enter into heaven themselves; but it is far worse to hinder another person from entering in.
i. “The idea is that the scribes’ encrustation of the Word of God with the traditions of men keeps people from encountering the revelation of God.” (Pate)
7. (53-54) The reaction of Jesus’ enemies.
And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.
a. The scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently: They did not receive Jesus’ correction. They preferred to stay in their own sinful thinking and habits rather than to repent and learn from Jesus’ rebuke. Their reaction was strong and violent in words if not action (assail Him vehemently).
b. That they might accuse Him: The religious leaders responded the way many do when they are faced with the correction and the truth of God. Instead of humbly receiving the correction, they responded with outraged accusations.
i. Proverbs tells us what those who refuse correction do. First, they hate those who correct them (Proverbs 9:8, Proverbs 15:12). Second, they do not listen to the one correcting them (Proverbs 13:1). Third, they despise their own soul (Proverbs 15:32).
ii. Proverbs also tells us the character of those who refuse correction. They are stupid (Proverbs 12:1) and they are foolish (Proverbs 15:5).
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission