Today we read one of the most thorough passages in all of Scripture dealing with the subject of prayer. Thirteen verses explain how to pray. Then Jesus answers accusations from religious leaders, warns against unbelief, teaches about the light within and gives his “woes” to those same religious leaders – ouch!
Jesus Teaches His Disciples about Prayer / 11:1-13
This passage highlights one of Luke’s most prominent themes: prayer (see 1:9-10; 3:21; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29). Here the disciples asked Jesus about prayer—interestingly enough, it was after Jesus had been praying. Jesus gave them an example of a prayer and two stories that emphasize the importance of seeking God in prayer.
11:1 Once again, Jesus had been out praying. Luke has presented several instances where Jesus was praying, making it clear that prayer was a regular part of his life (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 18:1; 22:41, 44). Something about Jesus’ prayer life prompted one of his disciples to approach him as he finished. He wanted Jesus to teach them to pray, just as John taught his disciples. It was common for religious leaders to teach their followers how to pray. To be able to pray as their Master prayed would give them assurance of expressing themselves correctly to God.
- LIFE APPLICATION – LEARN TO PRAY
- Prayer life seems easy enough. Find a quiet place and talk to God. It’s like breathing; you just do it. But even Jesus’ disciples asked to be taught—suggesting a knowledge level they did not have, but wanted. When was your last lesson in prayer? Several organizations help churches organize and understand prayer. Locate, contact, and begin a movement in your church or small group to pray with greater effectiveness.
11:2 The prayer Jesus taught his disciples was not a formulaic prayer; rather, it was a “how to” prayer. These were not meant to be magical words prayed like an incantation over and over. Instead, he was giving the disciples a pattern. Luke’s form of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter than Matthew’s (Matthew 6:9-13). Most likely they were two distinct prayers on two different occasions. The differences in the prayers show that Jesus did not utter a rote prayer every time he prayed. Different occasions call for different utterances.
Notice the order in this prayer. First Jesus praised God; then he made his requests. The first person plural pronouns indicate that the believers could pray this prayer corporately. The pattern of praise, intercession, and request helps believers understand the nature and purpose of their personal prayers in their relationship with their Father. Because Jesus taught it to his followers, it is a prayer pattern for believers today as well.
The phrase, Father, may your name be honored, focuses on God as majestic and transcendent and says that the person praying is committed to honoring God’s holy name. Christians, God’s children who bear his name, must be responsible to “honor” God in every aspect of their lives. When believers pray for God’s name to be “honored,” they pray that the world will honor his name and look forward to the day when that will be a reality.
May your Kingdom come soon refers to God’s spiritual reign. To say this is to pray that more and more people will enter the Kingdom; it is also a petition for all evil to be destroyed and for God to establish a new heaven and earth, thereby revealing his glory to all nations.
11:3 This request, give us our food day by day, is for a personal need to be met. “Food” could refer to spiritual “food.” The words “day by day” reveals that God’s provision is daily, and that believers do not need to worry from one day to the next. Christians dare not be self-satisfied. Instead, believers should live in a state of continual dependence on God.
11:4 As God’s people need daily provision, they also need daily forgiveness. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven believers’ sins; they must now forgive those who have sinned against them. To remain unforgiving shows that the person has not understood that he or she deeply needs to be forgiven. The meaning of this sentence focuses on the true repentance of a believer who understands the greatness of the forgiveness that he or she has received. This believer willingly extends such forgiveness to others for their wrongs. To refuse to forgive others can impede the forgiveness needed daily from God (see 6:37; Matthew 6:14-15; 18:23-35; Mark 11:25).
Finally, there is the request that God would help believers refuse to yield to temptation. The Greek word translated “temptation” means “enticement” or “test” or “trial.” This is a request for spiritual protection from trials and temptations.
- LIFE APPLICATION – SHEDDING GRUDGES
- Forgiving those who sin against you is very tough to do. Frank has framed you, Sue has sacked you, and Chad has cheated you. OK, Lou has lied to you too. Forgiving these people is difficult. Yet Christ calls you to do it. Here’s how you can start to be more forgiving:
- Imagine how poorly you rate in view of God’s holy standards. To forgive you, God must genuinely love you.
- Remember how disagreeable the people are who hate and hold grudges forever. You shun people like that. Don’t become one.
- Recall that God, in charge of your life, can and will provide for your needs. To be cheated hurts; God will repair. To be lied to hurts; God will clean the wound with truth.
- Now are you ready to forgive?
11:5-6 This parable points out, with a touch of humor, that God’s people must persist in their prayers, and that God is always ready to give. The setting is midnight. A journeying friend has arrived, presumably unexpected. Social custom dictates providing food, but the bread is gone and the person has nothing for him to eat. The person knows that another friend has some bread, so he goes to him and asks to borrow three loaves of bread.
11:7-8 The friend would not be happy to be interrupted at this late hour, having already gone to bed. Jesus explained that although the friend might not get up for the sake of the friendship, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up. Because of the persistence of the person knocking, the request will be answered.
Boldness in prayer overcomes the praying person’s apathy, not God’s perceived insensitivity. To practice persistence changes the hearts and minds of those praying, and it helps them understand and express the intensity of their need. Persistence in prayer helps them recognize God’s work. By praying persistently, believers are not trying to get a reluctant God to answer their prayers; instead, they are showing that they are very serious about their request.
11:9-10 Highlighting the importance of persistent and consistent prayer, Jesus encouraged his disciples, who wanted to be taught to pray (11:1), to keep on asking, keep on looking, and keep on knocking. Only through prayer can believers stay in contact with God, know what he wants them to do, and then have the strength to do God’s will in all areas of life. God will answer believers who persistently ask, look, and knock. In all these cases, God is accessible and willing to respond. Jesus promised, “For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.” (See also Jeremiah 29:13). Believers must not take Jesus’ words as a blank check however; prayer is not a magical way to obtain whatever we want. Requests must be in harmony with God’s will, accepting his will above our desires.
- LIFE APPLICATION – SEIZE THE DAY
- Jesus encouraged us to be persistent in prayer. Prayer promotes a dynamic that separates passive sideliners from active participants. Prayer never makes the believer lethargic, unable to act, dull, unable to feel, indifferent, unable to dream, cold, unable to love,
- Instead, prayer always makes the believer, eager to grasp life, to seize the day, ready to face the challenges, courageous to expand his or her dreams, passionate to share God’s love
- God does not ask you to pray so that you can blame him when life fails, but so that you will praise him when life opens to your knock.
11:11-13 Jesus explained that his followers can depend on God to answer their prayers. If human beings who are sinful would not think of giving a child a snake instead of a fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg, then how much more will a holy God acknowledge and answer Christians’ requests? In these words, Jesus revealed the heart of God the Father. God is not selfish, begrudging, or stingy; his followers don’t have to beg or grovel when they come with their requests. He is a loving Father who understands, cares, comforts, and willingly gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. Because the Holy Spirit is God’s highest gift and he will not refuse giving him to those who ask, believers can trust in God’s provision for all their lesser needs as well. How much better the perfect heavenly Father treats his children! The most important gift he could ever give is the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), whom he promised to give all believers after his death, resurrection, and return to heaven (John 15:26).
Jesus Answers Hostile Accusations / 11:14-28
In this passage, Luke underscores two different negative reactions: (1) those who reject Jesus, accusing him of being associated with the Devil, and (2) those who sit on the fence, waiting for yet another sign. Jesus confronted those who rejected him, by clearly asserting that his miracles were evidence of his connection to God. There is no middle ground, no room to withhold judgment. A person is either against him or for him.
11:14-15 On another occasion, Jesus cast a demon out of a man who couldn’t speak, thus enabling the man to speak. But some in the crowd said that Jesus was casting out demons because he got his power from Satan, the prince of demons. Jesus exposed the absurdity of this accusation.
11:16 Some wanted to make accusations, but others wanted to test Jesus. As if all the healings and miracles and sending demons from people were not enough, they asked for a miraculous sign from heaven to see if he was from God. If they thought that the exorcism just witnessed might be by the power of Satan, then they felt that they needed something “from heaven” as proof of Jesus’ identity. The irony, of course, is that no matter what kind of sign Jesus might have given, they would have stubbornly refused to believe (see Matthew 12:38-42).
11:17-18 Jesus’ first response was to the accusation recorded in 11:15. He explained that any kingdom at war with itself is doomed, and likewise with a divided home. If Jesus were driving out demons by Satan, then the conclusion would be that Satan is fighting against himself. If that were true, it would mean civil war in the kingdom of evil. No king would throw his own soldiers out of his kingdom; neither would Satan throw his soldiers out of a person they had possessed. Such a kingdom could not stand.
11:19-20 Jesus was not the first person to exorcise demons. In the first century, exorcism was thriving in both Jewish and pagan societies (Mark 9:38; Acts 19:13-14). Many Jewish exorcists were Pharisees. Jesus asked, “If I am empowered by the prince of demons, what about your own followers” who were also casting out demons? If it took Satan’s power to drive out demons, then those Pharisees who drove out demons were also working under Satan’s power.
But if it isn’t by Satan’s power that demons were fleeing, then it had to be by the power of God. Jesus’ exorcisms were specific evidence of the presence of Kingdom power. They showed that the hoped for time of God’s Kingdom had come in the power of Jesus’ authority. That Jesus was powerfully casting out demons and plundering Satan’s kingdom revealed that the Kingdom of God had arrived.
11:21-22 Jesus explained his words in 11:19-20 with a parable. Here Satan is fully armed with all kinds of demons guarding his palace. This whole scene changes, however, when someone who is stronger attacks and overpowers him, as Jesus had just done in sending the demon out of the man (11:14, and had done many times previously). Satan cannot stand against God or against Christ. Jesus overpowers Satan.
11:23 The line has been drawn. There are two kingdoms—God’s and Satan’s. Satan is active and powerful in the world, but God’s Kingdom is far stronger and will eventually triumph. People cannot be neutral in this matter. Either they choose to side with God, or they do not. That is the meaning of Jesus’ ominous words, “Anyone who isn’t helping me opposes me.” In this battle, if a person is not on God’s side, he or she is on Satan’s.
- LIFE APPLICATION – CROSSING THE LINE
- In the movie Hook, a revived Peter Pan draws a line in the sand. Everyone who believes must cross. In the story of the Texas Alamo, Colonel Bowie does the same, asking defenders to commit to dawn’s battle.
- In neither case is it possible to stand on the line. If you’re considering Jesus, weighing the options, exploring the possibilities—take the step, cross the line, trust God today. Your unanswered questions are still important. Seek and you shall find. Your doubts are still to be settled. Knock and the door of knowledge will open. Your unmet needs are vital. Ask and it will be given.
11:24 To further illustrate the danger of attempting to be neutral about him, Jesus explained what can happen to such people. Unfilled and complacent people are easy targets for Satan. The evil spirit was not “cast out,” but for some reason had left a person. The desert was believed to be the habitation of demons. Because demons need a resting place (that is, someone or something living that they can enter and torment), this demon returned to the person it came from. Jesus was making a serious point about people’s spiritual destiny—they must make a decision about him.
11:25-26 In the demon’s absence, the home (the person’s life) had been swept and made clean, but it is still empty. In fact, the accommodations are now so inviting that the demon finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. The “owner” of the “house” is now filled with eight demons instead of one; definitely, that person is worse off than before.
Jesus was illustrating an unfortunate human tendency—personal desire to reform often does not last long, and attempts to take care of life end in disaster. It is not enough to be emptied of evil; the person must then be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s new purpose in his or her life (see also Matthew 12:43-45; Galatians 5:22).
11:27-28 Jesus was speaking to people who highly valued family ties. Their genealogies guaranteed that they were part of God’s chosen people. A man’s value came from his ancestors, and a woman’s value came from the sons she bore. Jesus’ response to the woman meant that a person’s obedience to God is more important than his or her place on the family tree (see 8:21).
Jesus Warns against Unbelief / 11:29-32
After admonishing his listeners to follow him (11:23), Jesus clearly described the consequences of not believing him. The request for a sign revealed wicked unbelief.
11:29-30 Here Jesus was responding to the request made in 11:16. The people had asked Jesus for a sign from heaven to prove that he was from God. Instead of giving a sign (beyond the miracles and healings he had performed), Jesus explained that no miraculous sign would be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. God had asked Jonah to preach repentance to the Gentiles (non-Jews)—he had been sent by God to the Assyrian city of Nineveh (see the book of Jonah). Jonah preached to the city and saw it repent. With the words, “what happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him,” Jesus was affirming Jonah’s message. Salvation is not only for Jews, but for all people. The “sign” granted to them may refer to the Resurrection, for Jesus said, “What happens to me will be a sign that God has sent me, the Son of Man, to these people.” Jesus’ resurrection would prove that he was the Messiah. Three days after his death Jesus would come back to life, just as Jonah had been “brought back” to life after spending three days in the fish. Jonah’s presence was a sign to the people of Nineveh; they repented at his teaching. Jesus’ return to his people after his death would also be a sign to the people of his generation. Some would repent; many would not.
- LIFE APPLICATION- THEY SEARCHED AND FOUND
- The Ninevites and the Queen of the South had turned to God with far less evidence than Jesus was giving his listeners—and far less than people have today, with eyewitness reports of the risen Jesus, the continuing power of the Holy Spirit unleashed at Pentecost, easy access to the Bible, and knowledge of two thousand years of Christ’s acts through his church. With all this available knowledge and insight, people today ought to respond completely and wholeheartedly to Christ. Jesus stands alone in his ultimate authority. Give him his proper place. Listen and respond to him.
11:31 The queen of Sheba had traveled from southern Arabia to hear the wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10). Someone greater than Solomon was there with the people—the Messiah himself—but they refused to believe. As a result, this queen will rise up at the judgment and condemn the people of Jesus’ generation. She, an unbelieving Gentile, had recognized true wisdom when it was presented to her, unlike Jesus’ audience who refused the truth and wanted signs instead.
11:32 The cruel, warlike men of Nineveh, capital of Assyria, repented at the preaching of Jonah—even though Jonah did not care about them. By contrast, Jesus, the perfect Son of God, had come to people that he loved dearly—but they were rejecting him. Thus God’s chosen people were making themselves more liable to judgment than a notoriously wicked nation. The people of that nation will rise up at the judgment and condemn Jesus’ generation.
Jesus Teaches about the Light Within / 11:33-36
Jesus next exhorted each person to focus his or her eyes on the light: Jesus himself. The people had requested a sign (11:16, 29), but Jesus explained that the light of his perfect life should be enough of a sign.
11:33 These words are very close to 8:16; however, in 8:16 the “lamp” that had been lit refers to the person who hears Jesus’ message, responds to it, and spreads it to others. In this teaching situation, it seems that Jesus was describing his own ministry and message as lighting a lamp that was not hidden or put under a basket, but was done in public with a message available for all to accept. All refers to Jesus’ mission to reach all the world, not just the Jews.
11:34 The lamp is Christ’s message, and “light” is the truth of his revelation and guidance (11:33); the eye represents spiritual understanding and insight that is filtered through the “good” or the “bad” in a person. When eyes are pure, that is, when they are operating properly, the illumination makes it easy for the body to function. Those with “pure eyes” are those true disciples who listen and respond to Jesus’ guidance. By contrast, when eyes are evil, that is, when they are not operating properly, the result is impaired functioning for the rest of the body. Those with “evil eyes” are those who reject Jesus’ words; all they have is the darkness and futility of their own evil ways.
11:35-36 To have the light within actually be darkness would be a dismal condition. That would mean that no goodness would be left, for even what might have been light would actually be dark—what good should have been there would actually be evil. But with Jesus, and with the filling of the Holy Spirit, a person can be filled with light, with no dark corners. This cannot happen from within—for the light does not originate there. It has an outside source, as though a floodlight is shining on you.
- LIFE APPLICATION- SWITCHING ON THE LIGHT
- Jesus is the light and we need his guidance. If your life seems pointless and without direction, empty and without love, boring and without purpose, common and without creativity, dull and without challenge, or transient and without hope . . .
- Then switch on the light, God’s Word. It will direct you toward a wonderful goal, it is full of love for you, it suggests lots of important work to challenge your gifts and talents, and it points to eternal life—God’s generous promise to you.
Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders / 11:37-54
Placed after Jesus’ teaching about the inner light is an example of those caught in darkness: the Pharisees and the experts in religious law. These religious leaders had meticulously cleaned the outside of the “cup,” but had not bothered to look at the filthiness of their souls.
11:37-38 Again Jesus was invited to a meal with a Pharisee (see also 7:36). Jesus offended his host, however, because he did not first perform the ceremonial washing. This washing was done not for health reasons but as a symbol of washing away any contamination from touching anything unclean. Not only did the Pharisees make a public show of their washing, but they also commanded everyone else to follow a practice originally intended only for the priests.
11:39-40 Obsessed about ceremonial “purity,” the Pharisees neglected their own internal defilement. They washed on the outside, like one would wash a cup or a dish, but they left the inside full of greed and wickedness, never bothering to deal with those sins. They were no more pure than a dirty cup. Jesus condemned the Pharisees and religious leaders for outwardly appearing saintly and holy but inwardly remaining full of corruption. Jesus accordingly castigated these Pharisees as fools. God who made the outside of each person also made the inside. In other words, God is just as concerned with the inside as with the outside. He is not only concerned about what you do, but also about who you are.
- LIFE APPLICATION – MASKS
- Of the many masks used to hide hurt feelings, the mask of religion may be the most insidious. It projects an image of squeaky clean but hides an interior as rotten as maggots in a garbage can. Here Jesus invited a masked person to drop the pretense and confront the issue. The same invitation is for you. Admit your need and ask God to build you from the inside out. Masks are unnecessary. The real you, shaped and fashioned by God, is all the face you need.
11:41 The Pharisees loved to think of themselves as “clean,” but their stinginess toward God and the poor proved that they were not as clean as they thought. Jesus wanted to stress the importance of the inward over the outward, here focusing on the importance of a right attitude when giving to the poor. The inner attitude must match the outward act in order for them to be clean all over.
11:42 Jesus pronounced how terrible it would be for the Pharisees because although they were keeping the tiniest details of law, ceremony, custom, and tradition, they were forgetting justice and the love of God. Jesus did not condemn the practice of tithing, even of small amounts if one chose to do so. The Pharisees tithed, which is more than can be said for most of the professing church today. The Pharisees had calculated their tithing down to the decimal point, and they never missed a leaf. But when someone came to them with a personal material need, they responded like stingy characters from a Dickens novel. And Jesus could not tolerate this. Why? Because when you do not personally care and give aid to others, you do not really love God.
11:43 Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their love of public importance and honor. The elders sat on the seats of honor in the synagogues, at the front, near the place where the scrolls of the Torah were kept. Those seats faced the congregation. To receive respectful greetings was a highly treasured honor. Jesus condemned the attitude that focused on the “perks” of position, while they forgot their responsibility to be teachers. The Pharisees loved to receive honor and deference from ordinary people; yet they did not love or desire to serve those people. Instead, they often showed contempt for them as “lower” than themselves.
11:44 This third condemnation pictures the Pharisees, for all their ceremonial cleanliness, as actually typifying the worst sort of uncleanness. The Old Testament laws said a person who touched a grave was unclean (Numbers 19:16). Sometimes a body might be buried in an unmarked grave, causing an unwary traveler to become ceremonially unclean by walking over it. Jesus accused the Pharisees of actually being hidden graves who made others unclean by their spiritual rottenness. Like graves hidden in a field, the Pharisees corrupted everyone who came in contact with them.
11:45-46 Jesus did not back down from what was being taken as insults, nor did he leave these legal experts without condemnation. Jesus condemned them for crushing people beneath impossible religious demands. These “demands” were the details the Pharisees had added to God’s law. To the commandment, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8), for example, they had added instructions regarding how far a person could walk on the Sabbath, which kinds of knots could be tied, and how much weight could be carried. Instead of teaching God’s law so that people could love, understand, and obey the God who gave it, they turned the law into such a confused maze of do’s and don’ts that it had become a burden to the people. The legal experts refused to lift a finger to help the people.
- LIFE APPLICATION – EXPERT?
- If you memorize every verse of every Bible version in your church library, but do not live by faith . . .
- If you trace all the cross-references in every center column of Bible text, but do not share with the poor . . .
- If you know the citations of every name of God in the Old and New Testament, but never tell a neighbor about Jesus . . .
- What are you? A religious expert. But what good is that?
11:47-48 The tombs of the prophets were revered. People even decorated the graves of those long dead who seemed worthy of such honor. Building tombs over the graves of the martyrs was ironic because most of these prophets had been killed by the ancestors of this present religious establishment. In essence, these religious leaders were agreeing with the deeds of their ancestors in killing these prophets. Jesus was saying that these leaders were no different from their ancestors who had killed God’s messengers because, in a sense, they were simply completing their work. The attitude of hatred for God’s messengers would carry through, and Jesus himself would face it as well.
- LIFE APPLICATION – LEARN . . . TO SERVE
- With much knowledge comes great responsibility. Too casually do we
- buy Bible aids and commentaries.
- listen to great messages.
- go to big conferences.
- Despite impressive educational credentials, the Bible experts in these verses were failures in Jesus’ eyes. As you seek knowledge, also explore ways to share it, use it, and apply it—helping many others to find a closer relationship with God.
11:49-51 God’s prophets have been persecuted and murdered throughout history. But this generation was rejecting more than a human prophet—they were rejecting God himself. This quotation is not from the Old Testament. Jesus, the greatest Prophet of all, was directly giving them God’s message.
Jesus gave two examples of martyrs in the Old Testament. Abel’s death is recorded in Genesis 4:8—he was the first martyr, the first to die because of his faithfulness to God. Zechariah’s death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 (the last book in the Hebrew canon). Zechariah is a classic example of a man of God who was killed by those who claimed to be God’s people. The current religious establishment would be guilty of all of their deaths, for they would be guilty of murdering the Messiah and would face judgment for that act. The destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 was a partial fulfillment of Jesus’ words.
11:52 The experts in religious law were effectively locking people out of God’s Kingdom. Their rejection of Jesus and emphasis on their petty demands had the effect of making them unable to enter the Kingdom and then preventing those who might otherwise want to enter. Anyone who might have gotten in through a saving relationship with God was stopped short by their erroneous interpretations of Scripture and their added man-made rules. Then, as they prided themselves in their “understanding,” they themselves missed God’s message. Caught up in a religion of their own making, they could no longer lead the people to God. They had closed the door of God’s love to the people and had thrown away the keys.
- LIFE APPLICATION – INSIDE OUT
- Jesus criticized the Pharisees and the experts in the law harshly because they (1) washed their outsides but not their insides, (2) remembered to give a tenth of even their garden herbs but were neglecting justice, (3) loved praise and attention, (4) loaded people down with burdensome religious demands, (5) would not accept the truth about Jesus, and (6) prevented others from believing the truth as well. They went wrong by focusing on outward appearances and ignoring the inner condition of their hearts. People do the same today when their service comes from a desire to be seen rather than from a pure heart and out of a love for others. People may sometimes be fooled, but God isn’t. Don’t be a Christian on the outside only. Bring your inner life under God’s control, and your outer life will naturally reflect him.
11:53-54 It may come as no surprise that these leaders were furious at Jesus. He had challenged these professed experts, so they hoped to trip him up and arrest him for blasphemy, heresy, or lawbreaking. They had to find a legal way to get rid of Jesus, so they grilled him with many hostile questions, trying to trap him. Jesus had pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of so much of Israel’s leadership, and there would be no turning back. The opposition was mounting; Jesus had become a threat to the establishment.
Until tomorrow, Darrell
Sources: Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary, Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary, Preaching the Word
For more about the Ridge Fellowship or Darrell Koop go to www.ridgefellowship.com