What does Luke 11 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Luke 11 finishes the first section of what some biblical scholars call "The Travelogue to Jerusalem" and encompasses the second. In Luke 11:1–13, Jesus teaches the disciples about prayer, rounding out a series of stories on how those who follow Him are blessed (Luke 9:51—11:13). Luke 11:14–54 describes how the Jewish religious leaders willfully reject Jesus, ending with an intense description of their sins.

The section on prayer can be divided into three short teachings. In Luke 11:1–4, Jesus acquiesces to the disciples' request to teach them how to pray by presenting what is often called call "The Lord's Prayer." The words reveal that we are dependent on God for the smallest things, both physical and spiritual. Luke 11:5–8 is the parable of the persistent neighbor which sets the stage for a description of God's love. In Luke 11:9–13, Jesus shows us that if human fathers will give us what is good, we can be sure God will even more so.

The larger section begins with the Jewish religious leaders' rejection of Jesus (Luke 11:14–23). Experts in the Mosaic law from Jerusalem watch Jesus heal a demon-possessed mute man (Matthew 12:22–30; Mark 3:22–27). They declare He does so through the power of a demon. Others demand more signs. Jesus responds to the leaders' illogical conclusion by pointing out that if He casts out demons, He is working against Satan, so how could Satan empower Him? Jesus then illustrates that if He can defeat Satan's minions, He can destroy Satan's kingdom, an explanation that includes a veiled warning for these lawyers.

In Luke 11:24–26, Jesus gives a puzzling explanation of the workings of demons. Readers on this side of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4) can apply it to mean that freedom from demons is precarious if we do not fill the void of our hearts with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:27–28 seems to be an aside. It builds Jesus' argument about true spiritual understanding as opposed to cultural honor. A woman blesses Mary for bearing Jesus; Jesus responds that the blessed are those who know God's Word and obey it.

In Luke 11:29–32, Luke returns to the crowd members who wanted to see more signs (Luke 11:16). Jesus explains they will see a sign: the people of Nineveh and the queen of the South standing in judgment in the end times. The Ninevites heard a short warning from Jonah and immediately fell into mourning for their sin (Jonah 3). The Queen of Sheba heard Solomon and knew he spoke God's wisdom (1 Kings 10:1–13). If the Jewish spiritual leaders do not open their eyes, former pagans will shame them.

Jesus warns them to interpret what they experience carefully in Luke 11:33–36. If someone's "eye," or way of interpreting what they see, is bad, they will be filled with darkness: they will misunderstand what Jesus is doing. If someone is faithful to God, however, the light in them will reveal the truth.

Finishing out the chapter, Luke records Jesus' pronouncement of "woes" on the religious leaders. In Luke 11:37–44, a Pharisee challenges Jesus because He does not ceremonially wash His hands before eating. Jesus replies that no exterior washing will cleanse a person of the greed and wickedness the Pharisees are known for. He lists ways Pharisees refuse to act out of love for God. Instead, they follow manmade rules that make them look good but lead others astray.

In Luke 11:45–52, a lawyer recognizes Jesus' words apply to them, as well, and Jesus presses harder. Pharisees did not exist in the Old Testament, but scribes did; they had a hand in killing God's prophets when the prophets came with convicting messages. Lawyers were supposed to be teachers, wise in the Law, using that wisdom to validate God's prophets. Instead, the lawyers killed the prophets who proclaimed what they didn't want to hear.

Luke 11:53–54 provides a summary of the fallout of Jesus' altercation with the Pharisees and lawyers. They doubled down on their attempts to provoke Jesus into saying something that would blaspheme God or disrespect Moses. Their attack continued right up through His arrest.

Luke begins the account of Jesus' intentional travel to Jerusalem by describing what it looks like to follow (Luke 9:51—11:13) and reject (Luke 11:14–54) Him. Having set the stage, Luke will continue with two sets of teachings comprised of three sections each. Each contains a teaching about the kingdom of God (Luke 12:1—13:9; 16:1—17:10), followed by two repetitions of a pattern of a miracle, a teaching on the kingdom, and a teaching on salvation (Luke 13:10–35; 14:1—15:32; 17:11—18:34; 18:35—19:27). Luke then records Jesus entering Jerusalem and preparing for the crucifixion.
Verse Context:
Luke 11:1–4 is the last in a series of stories about the blessings people receive when they follow Jesus. In three sub-sections, Jesus teaches the disciples about prayer (Luke 11:1–13). First, He provides "The Lord's Prayer" which illustrates how completely dependent we are on God (Luke 11:1–4). Next, Jesus will challenge the disciples to trust that God works for their good, better than a friend or even a father. The Lord's prayer is also recorded in Matthew 6:9–13, although possibly at a different time and event.
Luke 11:5–8 is often called "the parable of the persistent neighbor." This is the second of three parts of Jesus' teaching on prayer (Luke 11:1–13). Having given the Lord's Prayer, Jesus tells the story of a neighbor who reluctantly answers the request of a man because the man is persistent. Jesus finishes by comparing the neighbor to God the Father who answers prayers well because He loves His children. Luke is the only gospel author to include this parable.
Luke 11:9–13 is the last bit of the last story (Luke 11:1–13) of the first section (Luke 9:51—11:13) of what some refer to as "The Travelogue to Jerusalem." The larger section is on the blessings and responsibilities of following Jesus. This last story is on prayer: here, on how God is good and will answer our prayers because He loves us. This is also found in Matthew 7:7–11, although Luke's account may be a later event.
Luke 11:14–20 is the first of several stories that describe the Pharisees' rejection of their Messiah and their coming judgment, in contrast to the disciples' acceptance and blessing (Luke 11:14–54). The scribes, or lawyers, of the Pharisees have come from Jerusalem (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22) and determine that Jesus expels demons through the power of Beelzebul—Satan. Jesus responds by explaining the true nature of demons and their relationship with humans. Matthew 12:22–30 and Mark 3:22–27 cover the same accusation, but they also go on to address blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31–32; Mark 3:28–30).
Luke 11:21–23 contains Jesus' parable of the strong man to show that just as Jesus can cast out one demon, He can destroy Satan's kingdom. The Jewish religious leaders accused Jesus of casting out a demon under the authority of Satan. Jesus counters that not only does He control demons, He also can and will destroy Satan (Luke 11:15–20). In the next section, Jesus explains that if people do not choose Him, they by default choose Satan (Luke 11:24–26). This parable is also in Matthew 12:29–30 and Mark 3:27, right before their accounts of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which Luke skips.
Luke 11:24–26 continues the extended section (Luke 11:14–54) about the conflict between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus. Jesus has decisively shown that He and Satan are on two vastly different sides (Luke 11:14–23). Here, He reveals that there is no middle ground between them. Either people choose Jesus or they stay under Satan's authority. Next, Jesus explains that not even His closest family members are exempt from this dichotomy (Luke 11:27–28). Matthew 12:43–45 also records this parable.
Luke 11:27–28 displays the people's continued misunderstanding of what it means to accept their Messiah. A woman cries out that Mary must be blessed for having Jesus as her son. Jesus responds that true blessings belong to His followers who are known by their obedience. Only Luke records this interaction but Jesus' comments about family in Matthew 12:46–50 and Mark 3:31–35 express the same message.
Luke 11:29–32 returns to Jewish religious leaders' continued failure to accept the evidence that Jesus is working with God, not Satan. Some had claimed Jesus cast out demons through Satan's power, a claim Jesus proved ridiculous (Luke 11:14–20). Now some demand more miraculous proofs. Less obvious signs and less powerful prophets brought Gentiles to worship God in the Old Testament. Jews who claim to know Scripture should be more observant and believing. Matthew 12:38–42 records the same event.
Luke 11:33–36 stands between the Pharisees' and scribes' rejection of Jesus (Luke 11:14–32) and Jesus' passionate condemnation of their works (Luke 11:37–54). Their eyes should see that He is their Messiah, and they should spread the message as a lamp spreads light. Instead, their refusal to see that He the Messiah reveals that they are dark in their hearts and their understanding. Jesus covers similar themes in Matthew 5:14–16 and 6:22–23.
Luke 11:37–44 is a shocking indictment which completes the Pharisees' rejection of Jesus. They appear to be holy, but they are filled with spiritual death. Next, Jesus will turn to the lawyers who claim to follow the Mosaic law but are more faithful to the long tradition of persecuting God's prophets (Luke 11:45–52). While the lawyers and Pharisees attempt to destroy Jesus (Luke 11:53–54), He warns His disciples to stay strong in persecution, knowing the kingdom of God is near (Luke 12:1—13:9). Jesus will speak further about the scribes and Pharisees right before His crucifixion (Matthew 23).
Luke 11:45–52 comes after descriptions of the cruelty and pride of the Pharisees (Luke 11:39–44). Now, Jesus turns to the lawyers—the experts in the Mosaic law. Greed and wickedness revealed the Pharisees to be like tombs: clean on the outside and filled with death on the inside. The lawyers are said to fill tombs by rejecting God's prophets. In response, the scribes and Pharisees conspire to destroy Jesus (Luke 11:53–54). In the next section, Jesus gives His disciples instructions on how to reject the world and persevere for the sake of the kingdom of God (Luke 12:1—13:9). Jesus will cover this judgment again in Matthew 23.
Luke 11:53–54 is the last of several sections demonstrating how the Pharisees and lawyers reject Jesus. They accuse Him of following Satan; He proves them wrong. They are shocked He doesn't follow manmade rules; He charges them with murdering prophets. They warn Him of their authority; He shows they keep people from worshiping God (Luke 11:14–52). At this point, the lawyers and Pharisees have heard enough and seek to destroy Him. After the close of this section come groups of stories about the kingdom of God and salvation with carefully placed miraculous signs to validate Jesus' message (Luke 12:1—19:27). Then: Jerusalem and the crucifixion.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray and explains God's intent to give "good" to those who ask. He then exorcizes a demon and refutes the claim that His power is satanic. Jesus explains that unreasonable skeptics will only see the "sign of Jonah." He then criticizes the superficial legalism of the Pharisees. In response, they plot against Him.
Chapter Context:
In what some scholars refer to as "The Travelogue to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51—19:27), Jesus prepares His disciples for His crucifixion and resurrection and the establishment of the church. The description begins with Christ teaching the disciples how to spread the news of the kingdom of God and reaffirming how they will be blessed, culminating in the Lord's Prayer (Luke 9:51—11:13). Luke 11 finishes with accounts of leaders who reject Jesus. The remainder of the travelogue gives a pattern of teaching on the kingdom of God, miracles, and explanations of salvation. Then Jesus enters Jerusalem to face the cross.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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