What does Luke 11:54 mean?
ESV: lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
NIV: waiting to catch him in something he might say.
NASB: plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.
CSB: they were lying in wait for him to trap him in something he said.
NLT: They wanted to trap him into saying something they could use against him.
KJV: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.
NKJV: lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.
Verse Commentary:
The Pharisees and the scribes—lawyers from the sect of the Pharisees—are trying to push Jesus to commit a capital offense so they can destroy Him. He has done plenty to offend them: "break" the Sabbath (Luke 6:6–11), break their extra-biblical rules (Luke 11:37–38), reveal their logic to be foolishness (Luke 11:14–23), and tell them they are unmarked graves filled with greed and wickedness (Luke 11:37–41).

Jesus also warned them that they are no better than the religious leaders of the past who murdered God's prophets. The legacies of Abel and Zechariah witness to God's truth with faithful words given by God. In response, those who did not want to know God's message killed the messengers (Luke 11:47–51).

That makes the Pharisees' and lawyers' plan ironic. Jesus came to speak the words that God the Father gave Him to say (John 12:49). The religious leaders want to force Jesus to blaspheme against the Father. No attack or verbal maneuvering is going to do that (Luke 20). Jesus doesn't speak blasphemous words that threaten the religious leaders, but He does pronounce God's words. Their conspiracy against Jesus proves His accusation that they are guilty of killing God's prophets.

Later, Jesus will tell a parable about this very fact. A man owns a vineyard which he rents out to tenants. The man sends several servants to collect rent, but the tenants either beat or kill each one. Finally, the owner sends his son; the tenants kill him, too, thinking they will inherit the vineyard (Luke 20:9–18).

God gave the Jewish religious leaders responsibility to guard and share His truth. They twisted that truth to justify their own purposes, then killed God's messengers who attempted to return them to the right track. Finally, God sends His Son. Instead of repenting and admitting their error, they kill Him, too.

The rest of Jesus' travelogue (Luke 9:51—19:27) has a notable pattern: When the last parable is told, Jesus enters Jerusalem to face the cross.
Verse Context:
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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