The Discipler's Commentary
Luke Chapter 11

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Overview of Luke 11

Chapter 11 continues to follow Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem. We find in this chapter Luke’s summary of what is termed “The Lord’s Prayer.” He then follows this with a lesson about prayer itself, and what it takes to have prayers answered. The chapter then turns to an incident in which Jesus heals a demonized man who is mute, and the incredulous responses of the religious leaders to Jesus’ act of love. In this teaching, there is a lesson on spiritual warfare and the nature of demons themselves. This is followed by a teaching on the Jewish leaders’ need for a “sign” that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. Lastly, Luke records an event in which Jesus is invited to a Pharisee’s home for a meal. During the meal, Jesus has many uncomfortable things to say to the Pharisees and scribes who have attended the dinner. His words are not well received by His hosts.

What to look for in Luke 11

  1. As you read each paragraph ask, “How is God speaking to me personally through His word?”
  2. Find in “The Lord’s Prayer” the part that contains the most detail.
  3. Look for Jesus’ larger instruction on how to pray, and locate the overriding principle.
  4. Read about the mute who was healed of a demon. Observe the response of the witnesses.
  5. Look for the key word “sign.” Differentiate the sign that Jesus will give the Jewish leaders from the signs they are expecting to see.
  6. Carefully observe Jesus’ teaching on “light” inside the person, and compare that with the concept of “clean” and “unclean.”
  7. Determine why the scribes and Pharisees were so upset with Jesus’ condemnation of them and their religious system.

11:1-4 Prayer is an important theme in Luke’s gospel, as he refers to it many times. Just as loving relationships deepen by spending time together, so does the relationship deepen between the believer and God when time is spent in prayer.

The disciple’s request for Jesus to teach them to pray is a bit odd. They were devoted Jews…did they not already know how to pray, and did they not have at their fingertips a vast arsenal of Jewish prayers and psalms to draw from? This suggest that their request doesn’t appear to be on the order of how to pray as much as it focuses on what to pray for to ensure their prayers are as effective as Jesus’. What is so unique about “The Lord’s Prayer” is its simplicity. The prayer is not immersed in religious, flowery language, and certainly not erudite and lofty. Instead, it is given in simple language that covers just about everything important in heaven and on earth.

Many commentators prefer to call “The Lord’s Prayer” “The Disciples’ Prayer” (or “The Disciple’s Prayer”). All observations are correct.

A longer version of this prayer can be found in Matthew 6:9-13.

11:2b “Father….” The only way Jesus ever addressed God was as His father. The significance here is not only that Jesus is assuming the position of the Son of God, but He is clarifying the true nature of their relationship. The lesson here is that prayer with the Father is not just a matter of religious routine, but prayer is entering into an intimate relationship with God Himself. And, Jesus is teaching His disciples that they are to address the Holy God as their father as well, emphasizing that their prayers are not to be motivated by religious routine and liturgy, but are to be motivated by a desire to spend time with God in a personal relationship. The basis of this relationship is, of course, love.

The word “hallowed” is an old English word meaning to be considered holy and sacred. “Name” does not just mean “name” in the sense of title, but “name” includes God’s character, attributes, essence and being. Note that instead of addressing God as “O holy God…,” Jesus emphasizes God’s loving relationship by beginning with “Father.” He then includes, with the word “hallowed,” God’s essential holiness and transcendence. The importance of this address to God cannot be overemphasized; Jesus is teaching His disciples that they, too, can have an intimate, personal and loving relationship with the Almighty God who is holy and transcendent.

11:4a It is extremely important to note that the longest portion of this prayer involves relationships. And not just casual relationships; these relationships focus on those who have offended us, just as we often offend God. The Greek word for “forgive” means “to let go.” The plea is for God to “let go” of our indebtedness to Him. The assumption is that believers in turn are continually letting go of the offense others have committed against them. Matthew 18:21-35 will emphasize this point in an extremely graphic way.

Note, too, that there is no instruction to offer sacrifices at the temple in order to have sins forgiven, nor is there an instruction to go through a mediator or priest. We simply ask. However, just as God does not require a sacrifice from those asking for forgiveness, neither are we to ask for a sacrifice from those who have sinned against us. The lesson here is clear: if we are willing to “let go” of the sins of those who sin against us, we, then, become the sacrifice.

Lastly, note the word “forgive.” It is in the present tense meaning “are forgiving” and “are continually forgiving.” The lesson is clear: we are to be continually forgiving of all others who sin against us.

The main point in verse 11 is this: because God has forgiven us of our sins simply because we asked, we then must also engage in the ongoing process of forgiving those who sin against us.

11:5-8 The next teaching by Jesus is to help the disciples understand the nature of love, specifically in the arena of prayer. Here, God is presented as someone with an abundant supply of resources (in the parable, “Friend”). The friend in this mini-parable is not obligated to give anything to the one asking. There are plenty of good reasons for him to ignore the request made of him. So the lesson here is one of love expressed through fervor and persistence. Note, then, that the one asking is not asking for himself, but for the sake of another. This story, therefore, teaches about caring for others through prayer. Praying for others is often referred to as “intercessory prayer.”

For this reason, prayers of any kind—whether they be worship, thanksgiving, confession, or even intercession—should never be considered a “spiritual discipline.” The motive for all prayer should be love—love for God, love for His church, or love for the one for whom prayer is being given. The fervor behind all prayer should be based on love for others, not an obedience, duty, routine, and especially not a “discipline” to become more spiritual or holy!

There is another small detail in this teaching that is noteworthy. Not only is the man knocking at the door asking for his friend who is visiting, but he is asking for “loaves.” In the New Testament, bread is always a symbol of the word of God. So this story goes even deeper. The message here is that God will hear us and answer our persistent prayers especially when we ask that He give to others the word of God.

Can you see the love message behind this little parable? The one asking for his friend in need is willing to sacrifice himself by going out in the middle of the night and remaining at the provider’s door until the request is answered. That the one asking is engaging in such a sacrifice of time and effort is the true mark of love. This story is not only a comment on prayer; it is an illustration on the need for persevering love.

Therefore, the question might be asked, “What was Jesus praying about in verse one?” Most likely, Jesus was praying on behalf of His disciples, whom He loves.

11:9-10 These verses continue the teaching on prayer. The one who prays is encouraged to be persistent, if not tenacious, dogged, focused, determined and fervent. Such tireless intercession shows God how much we care for others.

11:11-13 Note that the verse reads “…you fathers…,” not “your fathers.” Therefore, many of Jesus’ disciples must have been fathers themselves. The point here is an exercise in reason and logic that helps the disciples understand the nature of the Father. He only wants good things for His children. If the disciples who, compared to a holy God, are evil, and yet know how to give good things to their children, how much more will the loving Father give to those that ask?

There are two caveats here that need to be addressed, however. First, do these verses teach that God will always give us everything we ask for, even if it’s persistent and on behalf of others, such as praying for those who are sick or dying? Certainly not, no matter how much faith we may have that the outcome will be in our favor. Does every father give to his child everything the child asks for, even if it’s for the sake of another? That the father may say no gives the child an opportunity to show love for the father by trusting the wisdom and decisions (will) of the father.

Second, the object of the prayer has changed. The object of the sentence has changed from bread (basic needs) to the Holy Spirit, and this is wonderful. Jesus is taking His disciples to a whole other level. The teaching is clear: the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. That is the will of the Father, that His children have the Holy Spirit.

That’s one prayer that will always be answered. Giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father.

11:14 Luke abruptly changes the subject from prayer to Jesus casting out a demon. However, there is a direct relationship between the previous verses and this section. Do you see it? In verses 11 and 12, Jesus uses the illustration of a “snake” and a “scorpion.” These two creatures are biblical types of demons. Thus the previous lesson leads right into the next. Also, Luke chooses this miracle because it involves enabling a mute man to speak. One must be able to speak in order to pray out loud.

11:15-23 There are two questions raised by the crowd, but Jesus chooses to address only one of them, the most important of the two. “Beelzebul” is the Greek form of a Philistine god named “Baalzebub” which literally means “lord of the flies.” The Jews were very keen to the existence of Satan, and exorcists were common among Jewish priests; they have already been referred to in 9:49, thus Jesus’ statement in verse 19 here. The name “Beelzebul” means “master of the house,” and the Jews considered Beelzebul the prince of demons who took direct orders from Satan.

Here again, Jesus resorts of simple logic. Why in the world would Beelzebul want to send his own demons out of the man? It makes no sense. The fact that it made no sense shows how resistant the Jewish leadership was to accept the fact that Jesus was who He said He was. The fact that He casts out demons is irrefutable to them. So, in their desperation to deny Jesus as the Messiah, they resort to pure illogical reasoning.

Verses 21 and 22 are demonstrating that Jesus is stronger than Satan. He, Jesus, takes Satan’s possessions away (the man who was exorcised). The power of Jesus is infinitely greater than Satan’s power, which will be well described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.

Verse 23 is interesting because it is the reverse of what Jesus taught earlier in 9:50: “…he who is not against you is for you.” Both are true. Whereas in 9:50 Jesus was referring to a Jewish priest casting out demons in His name, here He is referring to the Jewish priests who are refusing to accept Him as their Messiah. The word “scatters” in the Greek is skorpizo and is a form of the word skorpios, meaning “scorpion.” The point Jesus’ is making is clear: Satan is not in the business of gathering, but of dividing and scattering people.

There are two lessons on love here. First, Jesus did not cast the demon out of the man because He was trying to make a point about Satan. He cast the demon out of the man because of His love and compassion. That point must not be overlooked in understanding this event. Second, love brings people together, but Satan is bent on breaking down relationships, thus, scattering.

11:24-26 Jesus, now turning to His disciples, is going to teach them a lesson on discipleship as it relates to spiritual warfare, just as He gave them a lesson about spiritual warfare when He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. Just because the disciples can cast out a demon does not mean that the person from whom the spirit is cast will remain demon free. Those involved in spiritual warfare counseling know this all too well. Therefore, this section of teaching is a lesson on discipleship. The disciples must not just cast out a demon and be on their way. In order for the demon to remain cast out, the person must know how to equip himself to remain demon free. It is the responsibility of the disciples to equip the recipient to remain demon free. Here is where the previous teaching of the Holy Spirit comes in (v. 13). A person indwelt by the Holy Spirit is well equipped to keep the demons out. Therefore, in terms of the church, the believer must receive the Holy Spirit and walk in the Spirit to remain demon free.

There are many lessons here that those who are knowledgeable in spiritual warfare are well aware. First, this spirit is called “unclean,” but some spirits are “more evil” than others. Second, even though a spirit has been cast out, a passive or nominal Christian lifestyle may result in other spirits returning. Third, spirits wander, looking for victims. Therefore, Paul’s teaching on equipping oneself in Ephesians 6:10-20.

11:27-28 The true followers of Jesus Christ do not question Him, but praise Him. There is a beautiful contrast here. The incident with the mute wrought criticism and antagonism from some, and praise and worship from others. The lesson here is that Jesus Himself and His teachings will separate people into two groups: those who are for Him, and those who are against Him.

Note, too, that just hearing the word of God is not enough. To reap the benefits of Jesus’ teaching, the word of God must be “observed”; that is, kept.

11:29-32 Now Jesus will address the other issue that was raised in verse 16, the issue of a sign. Verse 16 states that the motive behind those seeking a sign was “to test Him.” Those who desired to test Jesus had no real intention of believing in Him. Their desire to test was to discredit Him, not follow Him. This is a pathetic scene: Jesus has been performing miracles in their midst for some period of time. So what “sign” were the religious leaders seeking? Jesus’ answer is ironic and one that few, including the disciples, would comprehend.

At the time of Jesus, rabbis taught that the Messiah would be recognized by performing four miracles. Only the Messiah could (1) heal a Jewish leper, (2) cast out a mute demon, (3) heal a man born blind, and (4) raise someone from the dead after four days. Up to this point in Luke, two of the four required miracles had been performed. Jesus, knowing their hearts (v. 17), refuses to be manipulated by His detractors. Instead, He will offer them a sign that is not one of the four miracles; He will offer them the sign of Jonah, who performed no miracles at all. Just as the prophet Jonah was in the belly of the great fish “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17), so Jesus will be in the belly of death, His tomb, three days and three nights. And just as Jonah preached to the Ninevites who were Gentiles, so the followers of Jesus will take the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

The “Queen of the South” refers to the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10) who came to see for herself if the stories of Solomon’s wisdom were true. She went to extreme efforts, and she was not disappointed. Her story will serve as a witness against those who see Jesus’ miracles and teachings, but still do not believe or accept Him as Messiah.

The “men of Nineveh” are those who repented at the preaching of Jonah. What is at issue here is not whether Jesus can prove that He is the Messiah. The greater issue is the hearts of men.

There is one other issue that needs to be addressed. If the hearts of those observing and testing Jesus were right and well-intentioned, then they would have greatly rejoiced for the man who was healed from a mute demon. After all, a demon had been cast out of the man and he could now speak! Instead, they completely ignored the man set free and focused rather on whether or not Jesus fit their theology concerning the Messiah. This is one way to determine whether or not a person’s heart is right: are they obsessed about theology, or are they concerned about their fellow man?

11:33-36 The teaching that follows the healing of the mute and the statement on signs, is a teaching on the heart. In this teaching, the eye represents the heart of a person. If a person’s heart is right, their life will be filled with light. If the person’s heart is not right, is perverted, selfish, deceived or evil, the “light” will not get in and that person will be filled with “darkness.”

In this teaching, the lamp is the presence of Jesus, the Messiah. The light is the love and compassion that was shown to the mute, and his subsequent healing. Those whose eyes are “clear” will clearly see the good that was done for the man, the love of God that was expressed through Jesus, and the new life that could be experienced by the man who was healed. That light fills those with clear eyes with revelation and the presence of God. However, for those whose eyes are “bad,” their lives are filled with spiritual darkness and they cannot “see” the presence of God in their midst.

Once again, there is a teaching on love. Those who love others have clear eyes. Those who love the law or things more than they love others have “bad” eyes and cannot see God’s love, the light.

11:37-41 This meal at the home of the Pharisee perfectly illustrates the teaching above. Jesus will make practical application by using ceremonial cleansing as an example of the “bad” eye.

The ceremonial washing referred to here fits into the category of the traditions of the elders; that is, it was not required by the Law of Moses, but something added on by Pharisaic tradition, going far beyond normal hand washing for hygiene purposes. The Pharisee is using a non-biblical standard to judge Jesus; he is using religious ceremony, rather than love and compassion, as the standard for his own righteousness. The Pharisees assumed that participating in external rites was synonymous with internal spiritual health. In this case, non-biblical ceremony is the equivalent of the “bad” eye, resulting in internal darkness. What makes for “light” on the inside is “charity,” not ceremony. The word “charity,” also translated as “alms” and “giving,” comes from the root word eleos meaning compassion, mercy. Alms were given for the poor out of a show of compassion. Therefore, the meaning here is clear: if you are “clean” on the inside, it will result in compassion and mercy which comes from love, and it is love that makes one clean. This is a direct rebuke for the Pharisees’ failing to respond with joy for the healing of the mute.

11:42-44 The three woes to the Pharisees take the above teaching a step further. There is no mandate in Scripture as to the nature of herbs to be presented for sacrifice. Yet the Pharisees see regard for these extrabiblical details as a form of righteousness and become obsessed with spurious details. At the same time, they disregard true love issues, such as social justice and how they treat their neighbors.

Verse 43 cites another form of loving themselves more than others, in that they reserve the best seats in the house for themselves, based on their own prideful system of spiritual hierarchy. If they truly loved God, they would, as the apostle Paul writes in Philippians, “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (2:3).

The third woe in verse 44 is the most stinging rebuke of all; it makes the position of the Pharisee the very opposite of what the religious elite believed. In Jewish tradition, if someone were to walk on an unmarked grave, that person would become unclean, even if it were an innocent error. Jesus is rebuking His host for teaching a system that makes others, not more righteous, but unclean. The reason? Their religious system overrules the true biblical command found in Leviticus 19:18: “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

11:45-52 A lawyer, or scribe, was a specialist in interpreting and copying Scripture. The Pharisees often sought their counsel in interpreting the Law of Moses. Whereas the Pharisee administered the law, the lawyers made and interpreted the law, as judges do in modern systems. As Jesus continues His condemnation, the scribes are no less guilty of leading the people astray.

There are three woes pronounced on the scribes as well. The first woe (v. 46) is directed toward them for misinterpreting the Scriptures and leading others to do the same. The trouble with making rules (there were over 2,000 non-biblical rules for keeping the Sabbath) is that the rule maker often makes rules that he can keep but others find difficult, and then bases that rule on God’s word. It is the worst kind of deception because it uses God’s word as its justification to keep people oppressed. Many of the Sabbath laws remain in effect in Judaism today.

The second woe (verses 47-51) is directed toward the hypocrisy of the scribes. They direct the building of monuments to prophets, while at the same time failing to condemn the Jewish spiritual leaders who murdered them. Abel is considered the first prophet because he brought the worthy sacrifice of shed blood as an offering to God, and Cain, his brother, killed him (Gen. 4). Abel is a type of prophet, and Cain is a type of “scribes and Pharisees.” Zechariah, the priest in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 (not the writer of the book Zechariah), was killed for teaching true righteousness. Whereas Genesis is the first book in the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles if the last book in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, from beginning to end, unrighteous spiritual leaders have persecuted righteous prophets who proclaimed God’s truth.

The third woe is the worst: those who were assigned to correctly interpret God’s word have failed miserably. God’s word was never intended to be a burden, but a blessing. They have, in fact, “taken away the key of knowledge”; that is, the knowledge of God and how to have a loving relationship with Him. They have turned God into a God of judgment who demands only obedience from His children. They have emphasized God’s justice at the expense of His love. Why have the scribes done this? Because defining and keeping rules is infinitely easier than offering sacrificial love to others, especially if you make up your own set of rules.

11:53-54 The “bad” eye, the “robbery and wickedness” of the inner person, the unmarked graves, and the judgments waiting for the religious hypocrites are validated by the response of the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus’ condemnations. Instead of recognizing their sin and repenting, they turn on Jesus in a hostile manner.

The lesson in this entire chapter is a lesson on love. From the Lord’s prayer, to healing the mute, to the encounter with the scribes and Pharisees, there is a stark contrast between the One who offers the love of God and those who offer only love for the law, their religious system, and themselves. The key section that illustrates this point? The healing of the mute. If the Pharisees were in touch with God’s love, they would have rejoiced for the man’s healing, grabbed him and hugged him and been exceedingly happy for him. Instead, they preoccupied themselves with the laws and traditions they had erected to excuse themselves from having to love their neighbors as themselves.

Unfortunately, it is a tragedy that continues in God’s church today.

Questions for Your Personal or Group Reflection

  1. In this chapter, how has God spoken to you through His word? Of the many principles presented in chapter 11, what principle stands out most to you? Once you identify the principle, what do you intend to do about it in the form of action, changed behavior, or the restoration of relationships?
  2. What lesson have you learned about forgiveness from the Lord’s Prayer? Is there anyone in your life whom you have failed to forgive, against whom you continue to carry resentment, someone for whom you continue to be angry at? What do you plan on doing about that, as instructed in the prayer Jesus tells us to pray?
  3. Define the principle about prayer that Jesus gives after the Lord’s Prayer (verses 5-13). How’s your prayer life? Is it as fervent and persevering as the parable recounts? If not, what do you plan on doing about it?
  4. Recall the controversy over the healing of the man made mute by a demon. What were the two issues raised by Jesus’ opponents? What was Jesus’ response to both those objections? Have you determined what is the “sign” that Jesus will give?
  5. Explain the teaching of the lamp placed on a lampstand. Who is the lamp? What is the difference between the “clear” eye and the “bad” eye, and what does each stand for? Ask yourself this question: “Do I have a clear eye or a bad eye?” Ask God to reveal to you what you need to discover about this.
  6. When Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s home for a meal, do you think He was being impolite to say such harsh words against His hosts? What was it that so upset the scribes and the Pharisees? Why did they assume that they were righteous?
  7. Explore the statement of the commentator that it is easier to keep a set of rules and laws than to offer sacrificial love to others. Do you agree with this statement? Now look inside yourself and see if there is any part of your life that relies more on a religious system than the act of sacrificially loving others and considering others more important than yourself.

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