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Luke 11


Teaching About Prayer The Model Prayer Sayings on Prayer Jesus' Teaching on Prayer The Lord's Prayer
11:1-4 11:1-4 11:1-4 11:1-4 11:1-4
  A Friend Comes at Midnight     The Importunate Friend
11:5-13 11:5-8 11:5-8 11:5-13 11:5-8
  Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking     Effective Prayer
  11:9-13 11:9-13   11:9-13
Jesus and Beelzebul A House Divided Cannot Stand Sources of Jesus' Power Jesus and Beelzebul Jesus and Beelzebul
11:14-23 11:14-23 11:14-23 11:14-15 11:14-22
      11:21-22 No Compromise
      11:23 11:23
The Return of the Unclean Spirit An Unclean Spirit Returns   The Return of the Evil Spirit Return of the Unclean Spirit
11:24-26 11:24-26 11:24-26 11:24-26 11:24-26
True Blessedness Keeping the Word   True Happiness The Truly Blessed
11:27-28 11:27-28 11:27-28 11:27 11:27-28
The Demand for a Sign Seeking a Sign Request for a Sign The Demand for a Miracle The Sign of Jonah
11:29-32 11:29-32 11:29-32 11:29-32 11:29-32
The Light of the Body The Lamp of the Body Concerning Light The Light of the Body The Parable of the Lamp Repeated
11:33-36 11:33-36 11:33-36 11:33-36 11:33-36
The Denouncing of the Pharisees and Lawyers Woe to the Pharisees and Lawyers Against Pharisees and Lawyers Jesus Accuses the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law The Pharisees and the Lawyers Attacked
11:37-44 11:37-54 11:37-41 11:37-41 11:37-44
    11:42-44 11:42  
11:45-54   11:45-52 11:45 11:45-46
      11:52 11:52
    11:53-54 11:53-54 11:53-54

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. There are many textual variants of Luke 11:1-4 (and, for that matter, the whole chapter) which are attempts to harmonize Jesus' prayer in this context with Matt. 6:9-13, which was used liturgically in the church very early.


B. It is still surprising to modern readers and interpreters how differently the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus' life and teachings. These eyewitness accounts (i.e., Mark from Peter, Luke from interviews or written documents from eyewitnesses) are verified by their very differentness. We have essentially what Jesus said, but not the exact wording.


C. The doctrine of inspiration must cover the variety found within the four Gospels. Remember they are salvation tracts, not modern western biographies nor histories. We must be content with the trustworthiness of the differing accounts.


D. From 5:33 it seems that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray in a patterned way. Here, too, Jesus is setting a pattern (present middle [deponent] subjunctive). The different elements of this prayer were to be repeated emphases in regular prayer, not necessarily the exact words.

1. God's character magnified

2. God's reign increase

3. God's provision sure

4. God's forgiveness certain

5. God's presence effective



 1It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." 2And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

11:1 "while Jesus was praying in a certain place" Luke often records Jesus praying before significant events or teachings. This prayer emphasis is unique to Luke (although Mark mentions it twice, cf. Mark 1:35; 6:46). Matthew records Jesus telling His disciples to pray, but does not mention Jesus praying as much as Luke.

▣ "after He had finished" Jesus' regular prayer life impressed and interested the Apostles. It was the source of His fellowship and intimacy with the Father. Jesus' power, authority, and message came from this intimacy. The disciples were delegated the power, authority, and message, but to fulfill their assignment, they also needed Jesus' fellowship with the Father. This only occurs by faith through prayer.

"teach us to pray" This is an aorist active imperative. These disciples felt an urgency about this request. They needed Jesus' peace and composure.

"as John also taught his disciples" We know from John 1:29-41 that some of Jesus' disciples were first John the Baptist's disciples.

It was the task of the teacher (rabbi) to train his followers in all the ways and truths necessary to function independently at some point in the future (cf. Luke 5:33). Prayer establishes a life-long dependence on the Father. This was the key to Jesus' earthly mission (cf. Luke 10:21-24).

11:2 "And He said to them, 'When you pray, say’" It seems that one's attitude is more significant than one's words, however, this particular phraseology implies that the form may be repeated (cf. Matt. 6:9). Luke's version is much shorter than Matthew's (cf. Matt. 6:9-13). Jesus probably repeated His teachings on this subject several times and to different groups.

▣ "'Father’" The OT introduces the intimate familial metaphor of God as Father.

1. in Deuteronomy the analogy of God as Father is used (Deut. 1:31; 32:6)

2. this analogy is stated in Ps. 103:13 and developed in Ps. 68:5 (the father of orphans)

3. the nation of Israel is often described as YHWH's "son" (cf. Hos. 11:1; Mal. 3:17)

4. it was common in the prophets (cf. Isa. 1:2; 63:8; Israel as son, God as Father, 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4,19; 31:9)

Jesus spoke Aramaic, which means that many of the places where "Father" appears as the Greek Pater it may reflect the Aramaic Abba (cf. Luke 14:36). This familial term "Daddy" or "papa" reflects Jesus' intimacy with the Father; His revealing this to His followers also encourages our own intimacy with the Father. The term "Father" was used sparingly in the OT (and not often in rabbinical literature) for YHWH, but Jesus uses it often and pervasively. It is a major revelation of our new relationship with God through Christ. Heaven is a family experience.

There are several ancient Greek uncial manuscripts that change "Father" (MSS P75, א, B, L) into the phrase found in Matt. 6:9, "Our Fahter who are in heaven" (MSS A, C, D, W). The UBS4 gives the short reading an "A" rating (certain). Luke's version of "the Lord's Prayer" is much more condensed.

▣ "hallowed be Your name" This is an aorist passive imperative. "Hallowed" comes from the root "be holy" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY at Luke 1:35) and refers to the character of God (cf. 2 Kgs. 19:22; Ps. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa. 1:4; 29:23 [used 28 times in Isaiah]). He is separated from evil. This term was used often in the Septuagint

1. of things, Gen. 2:3; Amos 2:12

2. of people

a. a firstborn, Exod. 13:2,12

b. Israel, Exod. 19:14

c. Priests, Exod. 19:22; 29:21; 2 Chr. 26:18

d. Levites, Neh. 12:47


▣ "Your kingdom come" This aorist active imperative refers to the reign of God in human's hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth. This is an eschatological emphasis (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Luke 4:21). The kingdom of God is spoken of in the Synoptic Gospels as

1. past (Luke 13:28)

2. present (Luke 17:21; Matt. 4:17; 12:28)

3. future (Luke 11:2; Matt. 6:10)


11:3 "Give us each day" This is another present active imperative. The Matthew parallel has an aorist active imperative. Verse 3 emphasizes our continual daily dependence on God.

This is one example of modern theologians asserting that Luke has a modified eschatology that envisions a delayed Second Coming. The argument runs like this: Matthew has the aorist, implying a once-for-all giving (i.e., eschatological fulfillment), but Luke has the present, implying a regular (daily) giving through time. This may be true. Paul, Luke's friend and missionary companion, also emphasizes a delayed Second Coming in 2 Thessalonians (one of Paul's early books).

▣ "each day" Luke uses the phrase kath' hēmeran often (cf. Luke 9:23; 11:3; 16:19; 19:47; 22:53; Acts 2:46,47; 3:2; 16:11; 17:11). It denotes repeated action.

▣ "daily" The Greek word translated "daily" (epiousios) is found only here and in Matt. 6:11. It is used of a master giving a slave enough food to accomplish the task he was assigned for that day (Koine papyri found in Egypt, cf. TEV). The emphasis here seems to be that

1. believers' need to trust God constantly

2. God provides for us on a daily basis (Greek idiomatic usage), not a once-for-all provision

This word may also carry the eschatological emphasis of "bread of the future or new age." This would imply that the kingdom is present now in believers (analogous to "eternal life" now). This is the "already-yet-future" tension of Jesus' preaching.

▣ "bread" There have been many theories as to the meaning of this word in this context:

1. physical bread

2. the bread of the Eucharist (cf. Acts 2:46)

3. bread as referring to the word of God (cf. Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4)

4. Jesus Himself (cf. John 6:41,48,51,58)

5. the Messianic bread (cf. Luke 14:15)

It seems to me the literal is best here, but it is used for God's provision of all believers' daily needs.

11:4 "And forgive us our sins" This is an aorist active imperative. This seems to refer to the finished work of God in Christ in the lives of believers (initial justification and sanctification) as well as the ongoing need for forgiveness (progressive sanctification, cf. 1 John 1:9).

The Greek term "sin" means "to miss the mark." The Matthew parallel has Jesus' Aramaic "debts," which is a Jewish idiom that Luke's Gentile readers would not understand.


▣ "For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" Forgiving is a sign that we have been forgiven (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2; 10:8; 18:35; Luke 6:36; Col. 3:13; James 2:13; 5:9). Our forgiveness of others is not the grounds of our being forgiven, but the result and evidence of a new heart and a new mind (i.e., the new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-35). This phrase is the only one relating to human actions.

▣ "lead us not into temptation" This is a negated aorist active subjunctive ("don't ever"). The term "temptation" (peirazō) is a term that has the connotation in the NT of "to tempt with the view toward destruction." See Special Topis at Luke 10:25. Jesus told his disciples to pray for this very same thing in Luke 22:40,46. James 1:13 uses a different word (dokimazō) for test, which has the connotation of "to test with a view toward approval." God does not test us for destruction, but He does test us to strengthen us (cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2,16; 13:3; Jdgs. 2:22; 2 Chr. 32:31; Matt. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12-16).

Several ancient Greek uncial manuscripts add a phrase from Matt. 6:13 (MSS A, C, D, W). The short text of Luke is found in MSS P75, אi*,1, C, L. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading an "A" rating (certain).

 5Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9So 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. 10For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13If 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?"

11:5-13 This is a story not to illustrate God's reluctance to answer our prayers, but His willingness. This is called a contrasting parable. It is a fictitious account to highlight mankind's reluctance but God's willingness.


TEV, NJB"suppose one of you"
NKJV"which of you"

This is literally "who of you." Luke uses this often to introduce Jesus' teachings (cf. Luke 11:5,11; 12:25; 14:5,28; 15:4; 17:7). This literary introduction can be seen in the OT in Isa. 42:23 and 50:10.

This verse culturally expects an emphatic "no" answer (see Kenneth Bailey, Poet and Peasant, pp. 119-141).

11:6 "for a friend of mine has come to me" Travelers might travel at night to avoid the heat in some Middle Eastern countries, but in others travel at night was dangerous and unusual.

▣ "I have nothing to set before him" It was a host's cultural duty to provide a meal.

11:7 "Do not bother me" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. Then the homeowner lists two reasons why he cannot get up.

11:8 This verse explains the point of the parable. Persistence is an important aspect of prayer (cf. Luke 11:9-10). This is not because God is reluctant, but because prayer develops intimacy with God. Our greatest need is God, not the answer to all our prayers (cf. Luke 18:1-6).

God invites His children to come to Him even in times and circumstances that may seem inappropriate. God is more available than any ancient host (cf. Ps. 23:5-6).

11:9 "ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened" These are all present active imperatives which speak of habitual, lifestyle commands (cf. Deut. 4:29; Jer. 29:13). It is important that one balance human persistence with God's responsive character. Believers cannot force God to do that which is not good for them. However, at the same time, they can bring any perceived need to their heavenly Father at any time and as often as desired. Jesus prayed the same prayer in Gethsemane three times (cf. Mark 15:36,39,41; Matt. 26:39,42,44). Paul also prayed three times about his thorn in the flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8). But the great thing about prayer is not that one receives a specific answer to his request, but that he has spent time with the Father!

Persistence (literally "shamelessness") is important (cf. Luke 18:2-8). However, it does not coerce a reluctant God, but reveals the level of interest and concern of the person praying. Neither one's many words nor his repeated prayers will motivate the Father to give that which is not in one's best interest. The best thing believers get in prayer is a growing relationship and dependence on God.

11:11-12 Both questions expect a "no" answer. Jesus used the analogy of a father and son to describe the mystery of prayer. Matthew gives two examples, while Luke gives three (cf. Luke 11:12, although there is some confusion in the manuscript tradition). The whole point of the illustrations was that God will give believers the "good things." Luke defines this "good" as "the Holy Spirit" (cf. Luke 11:13). Often the worst thing our Father could do for us is answer our inappropriate, selfish prayers! All three examples are a play on things that look alike: stone as bread, fish as eel, and egg as a coiled, pale scorpion.

11:11 "instead of a fish" The Semitic form of this would use "and instead" (cf. MSS P45,75, B), while the normal Greek idiom would require "not instead" (cf. MSS א, A, D, L, W). This clearly shows how later Greek scribes did not fully understand the Aramaic influence on the writers of the NT (even Luke) and changed the unusual Semitic forms to their common Koine Greek forms.

We do not have the exact words of Jesus. The Gospels are not video tapes, but Holy Spirit-inspired memories. Their differences do not affect inspiration or trustworthiness.

11:13 This is a First class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. In a rather oblique way this is an affirmation of the sinfulness of all men (cf. Rom. 3:9,23). The contrast is between evil human beings and a loving God. God shows His character by the analogy of the human family.

▣ "how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him" There is some question about the wording of this verse. It is important to look up the parallel in Matt. 7:11, which replaces "the Holy Spirit" with "good things." Manuscripts P45 and D of Luke 11:13 have "good gift" (as does the Greek text used by Ambrose). This seems to imply that this reference is more to spiritual gifts (cf. F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 53) than to the Holy Spirit Himself (there is no article). I do not know of one place in the Scriptures that we are to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit since we are given the Holy Spirit at salvation. The indwelling Spirit comes when Jesus is received. However, the manuscript attestation of "Holy Spirit" is overwhelming (cf. MSS P75, א, A, B, C, W).

There is another variant in this text. The designation for God can be (1) "the Father from heaven" (cf. MSS P75, א, L) or (2) "the Father will give from heaven" (cf. MS P45 and the parallel in Matt. 7:11). As with most variants, the meaning of the text is not affected.

 14And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 15But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." 16Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. 17But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18"If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. 20But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. 22But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. 23He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters."

11:14 "a demon, and it was mute" Matthew 12:22 says the demon caused blindness as well as dumbness. Both Matt. 12:22-32 and Mark 3:2-30 record this same discussion in a different settings and locations.

There is a Greek manuscript variant here in the phrase "and it was mute." Most manuscripts omit "and it was" (cf. MSS P45,75, א, A*, B, L).

Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 158, says the full form reflects a Semitism used by Luke, but the shorter reading has overwhelming Greek manuscript attestation. The translation committee of the UBS3 put the phrase in brackets and gave it a "D" rating (with great difficulty). However, the UBS4 has it as a "C" Rating (difficulty in deciding). Scholars change their minds!

As with most of these variants, this does not affect the thrust of the verse or affect the meaning of the paragraph as a whole.

11:15 "But some of them said" Matthew 12:24 has "Pharisee," while Mark 3:22 has "scribes from Jerusalem."

▣ "Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons" Beelzebul is an OT fertility god (Ba’al BDB 127) of Ekron (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:2,3,6,16). The manuscripts of the NT differ between the spelling of Beelzebub and Beelzebul (cf. Mark 3:22 and Matt. 10:25). This is probably due to the Jews' attempt to make fun of idols by slightly changing their names. The term Zebub means "lord of dung." Zebul means "is exalted" and later became a title in Judaism for the chief of demons. It is found in the Vulgate and Peshitta translations.

The phrase "the ruler of the demons" identifies "Beelzebul" as Satan (cf. Luke 11:18). Although the OT is silent on the relationship between Satan and the demonic (see Special Topic: The Demonic in the To at Luke 4:1), interbiblical literature (affected by Zoroastrianism) identifies Satan as the head of demons.

Also the relationship between the OT fallen angels and the demonic is uncertain (cf. Rev. 12:9). I Enoch says the Nephilim of Genesis 6, who died in the flood, became the demonic seeking a physical body.

11:16 "to test Him" This term (peirazō, see note at Luke 11:4 and Special Topic at Luke 10:25) is used in the NT with the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction."

This paragraph seems to mix two separate issues:

1. exorcisms of Jesus

2. testing by those wanting a sign

The exorcisms themselves were the most relevant sign that could be given of Jesus' origin, authority, and power.

▣ "demanding of Him a sign from heaven" They had a sign, the exorcism, but they would not accept it (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22). The demand for signs became a major stumbling block to the Jews (cf. Luke 11:29-30; Matt. 12:38; John 2:18; 6:30).

This repeated insistence for a sign reminds us of Jesus' temptation (cf. Matthew 4; Luke 4), where Satan tempts Him to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, apparently on a crowded feast day to impress the Jewish crowd (cf. Luke 4:9).

"He knew their thoughts" See notes at Luke 5:22; 6:8; 9:47; 24:38.

11:17-18 Jesus asserts the logical absurdity of His opponents. Why would Satan defeat his own servants (cf. Luke 11:18)?

11:18 "if" This is the first of three first class conditional sentences (cf. Luke 11:18, 19, 20) which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary/logical purposes.

The one in Luke 11:19 is an example of how the first class conditional is not true to reality, but to help the author make a strong, logical point. In reality, this statement is not true!

"his kingdom" Satan has a kingdom and wants to keep it and expand it. There is a spiritual conflict (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 4:14,27; 6:11-12,16; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).

11:19 "by whom do your sons cast them out" The Jews were quite active in exorcisms (cf. Acts 19:13-16; see Josephus, Antiq.8.2,5). If they denied Jesus' power to exorcize demons, how did they explain Jewish exorcisms (esp. those using Jesus' name, cf. Luke 9:49-50; Mark 9:38-40)?

"So they will be your judges" At least these Jewish exorcists who were using Jesus' name recognized His power. This crowd (Matthew says Pharisees) had committed the unpardonable sin by calling light dark. They clearly saw and heard, but deemed it evil!

SPECIAL TOPIC: Exegetical Procedures for Interpreting "The Unpardonable Sin"

11:20 "by the finger of God" This phrase is used several times in the OT:

1. God as creator, Ps. 8:3

2. God as giver of revelation, Exod. 31:18; Deut. 9:10

3. God as redeemer, the plague which brought deliverance from Egypt, Exod. 8:19

This is an anthropomorphic phrase (see Special Topic at Luke 1:51). Humans have only earthly vocabulary to describe spiritual persons, events, and things. All our language about God is analogical and metaphorical. God is personal and, therefore, the Bible describes Him in human terms (physical, emotional, relational). God is an eternal Spirit, present throughout creation. He does not have a human body, though He can take that form (e.g., Gen. 3:8; 18:33; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14).

"then the kingdom of God has come upon you" The logic is overwhelming. If Jesus cast out demons by God's power, then He was the Messiah. The crowd's rejection of Him and His power and authority was a rejection of YHWH (cf. 1 John 5:10-12).

The casting out of demons showed the defeat of Satan and his kingdom. The eschatological event (cf. Isa. 24:21-23; Rev. 20:1-3) has come in the ministry of Jesus. The kingdom is present (cf. Matt. 12:28), yet future! This is the NT tension of the "already" and "not yet." Satan is defeated and is being defeated!

11:21-22 Jesus' power over the kingdom of Satan and his followers shows Jesus' God-given authority. The exorcism of Jesus and those He delegates clearly shows God's power over the evil one (even "a strong, fully armed" – perfect passive participle). Satan is helpless against Jesus, cf. Luke 11:22; 10:18).

11:22 "plunder" This may be an allusion to Isa. 53:12b ("He will divide the booty with the strong"). It (skulon) is a metaphor of military victory, the dividing of spoils (cf. Septuagint of Exod. 15:9; Num. 31:11,12,26,27; 1 Sam. 23:3).

11:23 This seems to contradict 9:50, but remember the ones to whom Jesus is speaking. In Luke 9:50 He is addressing His disciples about tolerance. Jewish exorcists or other disciples recognized Jesus' power and were using it to help people. However, here it is those who are trying to test Jesus (cf. Luke 11:16) who were rejecting His power and authority from God by asserting that He was using Satan's power. There are two totally different contexts and recipients!

 24"When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' 25And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."

11:24-26 This passage has three possible meanings.

1. The Jewish exorcists performed exorcisms without personal faith, and the demonic spirit returned.

2. It is an allusion to national Israel in the sense of their rejection of idol worship without replacing it with a faith relationship to YHWH.

3. it referred to the preaching of John the Baptist, whom they accepted as being from God, while rejecting Jesus.

The last condition was far worse than the existential problem.

11:24 "the unclean spirit" See Special Topic: The Demonic at Luke 4:33 and the note on Exorcism at Luke 4:35.

"it passes through waterless places seeking rest" In the OT the demonic lived in uninhabited places (cf. Lev. 16:10; Isa. 13:21; 34:11).

The term "rest" (anapausis) is used in the Septuagint of Isa. 34:14 (according to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, vol. 2, p. 925), which describes the resting place of the Lilith (female night demon). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 4:1.

11:26 "seven other spirits" This is metaphorical for a more severe possession.

"the last state of that man becomes worse than the first" Evil, if not dealt with decisively by faith in Christ, can develop and progress. Evil can and will intensify because its ultimate goal is the destruction of the person.

 27While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." 28But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

11:27 The parallel in Matt. 12:46-50 records the account of Jesus' mother and brothers seeking an audience with Him. Luke has recorded this earlier in Luke 8:19-21.

This shows us that the Gospels are not structured chronologically. This does not depreciate their historicity, but helps us remember that the Gospels are not modern, western cause-and-effect, sequential histories, nor are they biographies. They are gospel tracts for the purpose of salvation and Christian maturity. The main issue is the person and work of Christ.

11:28 "But He said" Jesus was appreciative of the woman's affirmation of approval, but He affirmed that an even closer relationship (even a blessing) exists between those who hear and follow (cf. Luke 6:46-49) His message more than those who simply have family ties (i.e., blood kin).

NASB"On the contrary"
NKJV"more than"
NRSV, TEV"rather"

The Greek compound (men + oun) has several connotations. It addresses what has just been said and adds to it. It can (1) affirm it, (2) negate it, or (3) go beyond it (cf. Rom. 9:20; 10:18; Phil. 3:8). Option three fits this context best.

▣ "blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it" This is parallel to Luke 8:21. These are both present active participles. Together they reflect the Hebrew word shema, Deut. 6:4-6. Jesus' true family are those who hear and do God's will expressed in God's word! God wants a people who reveal and demonstrate His characteristics to the world.

Jesus is the one who is giving the word (Logos) and is the Word (cf. John 1:1). Believers are blessed when they hear and do the gospel.

 29As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."

11:29 "this generation is a wicked generation" The Matthew parallel (cf. Luke 12:38-42) calls them "an evil and adulterous generation," which Luke's Gentile readers would not have understood in its OT connotation (i.e., faithless, idolatrous, e.g., Exod. 34:15-16; Deut. 31:16; Jdgs. 2:17; 8:27; Ezek. 6:9; 23:30; Hos. 3:1; 4:12; 9:1). This verse may refer to Luke 11:16.

"it seeks a sign"In Mark 8:11-12 Jesus refuses to give a sign! Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus as alluding to the sign of the prophet Jonah.

1. Matthew to his being in the great fish three days (i.e., Jesus' resurrection)

2. Luke to his preaching on Nineveh repenting (i.e., what the crowd should do)

They had heard Jesus' teachings and had seen the healings and the exorcisms performed by Him, but they wanted some ultimate sign to convince them to believe on Him. This is exactly the temptation of Matt. 4:5-7, to which Jesus would not succumb. However, in reality, He had given them sign after sign, but they would not or could not see!

▣ "yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah" The Matthew parallel (Matt. 12:38-42) emphasizes Jonah in the great fish three days as Jesus was three days in the grave (Hades). We must remember that this is three days by Jewish reckoning, not three twenty-four hour periods. Any part of a day, which for them was evening to evening (cf. Genesis 1), was reckoned as a full day.  Jesus' allusion to Jonah confirms the historicity of the prophet Jonah (as does 2 Kgs. 14:25). It is precisely the experience in the great fish that was used as the analogy. Also, Jonah's preaching resulted in the salvation of Gentiles (Luke's target audience was Gentiles).

Luke emphasizes the repentance of Nineveh at Jonah's preaching. In Luke Jesus is calling for the crowds' repentance in light of His teachings and miracles as the OT sign they sought (cf. Luke 11:32).

11:30 It was Jonah's preaching which God used to cause ancient Nineveh, the capital of the evil and cruel Assyria (Israel's enemy), to repent. The Matthew parallel uses Jonah in the great fish for three days and Jesus in the earth three days as the sign.

11:31 "The Queen of the South" This refers to the visit of the Queen of Sheba (a Gentile) to hear Solomon's wisdom recorded in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9.

▣ "something greater than Solomon is here" What a tremendous self-affirmation and the self-understanding of this carpenter of Nazareth. He saw himself as having greater wisdom (i.e., "something") than Solomon (cf. Luke 11:49,52).

Jesus, in His dialogs with different groups, clearly asserts that He is "greater than"

1. the temple, Matt. 12:6,8

2. Jonah, Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:31

3. greater than Solomon, Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:32

4. greater than Jacob, John 4:12

5. greater than John the Baptist, John 5:36

6. greater than Abraham, John 8:53

This is either the rambling of a mad man or the witness of incarnate deity! Each hearer/reader must decide.

11:32 "men of Nineveh" This is obviously the generic use of "men" as people.

▣ "something greater than Jonah is here" Notice again "something." Jesus' wisdom and message are greater than any OT wisdom and message. Jonah's message caused a pagan nation to repent. Jesus' message is greater than Jonah's, but these religious leaders will not repent and believe. Their condemnation is far worse because the message they heard was so superior!

 33"No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays."

11:33-36 These same metaphors are used in Matt. 5:15; Mark 4:21; and Luke 8:16, but with different applications. Apparently Jesus used the same illustrations in different settings. Here they refer to mankind's attitudes and openness to God in Christ.

This is commonly called the unpardonable sin (see Special Topic at Luke 11:19). See notes below from my commentaries on the parallel contexts in Mark 3:29 and Matt. 12:31-32.

"Mark 3:29 "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit" This must be understood in its pre-Pentecostal historical setting. It was used in the sense of God's truth being rejected. The teaching of this verse has commonly been called "the unpardonable sin." It must be interpreted in light of the following criteria:

1. the distinction in the OT between "intentional" and "unintentional sins," (cf. Num. 15:27-31)

2. the unbelief of Jesus' own family contrasted with the unbelief of the Pharisees in this context

3. the statements of forgiveness in Mark 3:28

4. the differences between the Gospel parallels, particularly the change of "son of man," (cf. Matt. 12:32; Luke 12:10) to "sons of men," (cf. Matt. 12:31; Mark 3:28)

In light of the above, this sin is committed by those who, in the presence of great light and understanding, still reject Jesus as God's means of revelation and salvation. They turn the light of the gospel into the darkness of Satan (cf. Mark 3:30). They reject the Spirit's drawing and conviction (cf. John 6:44,65). The unpardonable sin is not a rejection by God because of some single act or word, but the continual, ongoing rejection of God in Christ by willful unbelievers (i.e., the scribes and Pharisees).

This sin can only be committed by those who have been exposed to the gospel. Those who have heard the message about Jesus clearly are the most responsible for its rejection. This is especially true of modern cultures that have continual access to the gospel, but reject Jesus (i.e., America, western culture).

▣ "never has forgiveness" This statement must balance with Mark 3:28.

▣ "but is guilty of an eternal sin" This was a willful rejection of the gospel (i.e., the person and works of Jesus) in the presence of great light!

There are many variants related to the phrase "an eternal sin." Some ancient Greek manuscripts (1) changed it to a GENITIVE phrase (i.e., hamartias) - C*, D, W; (2) added "judgment" (i.e., kriseōs) - A and C2 (cf. KJV); or (3) added "torment" (i.e., kolaseōs), minuscule 1234.

It was shocking to the early scribes to talk about an "eternal sin." Robert B. Girdlestone, in his book Synonyms of the Old Testament, has an interesting comment on the word "eternal":

"The adjective aiōnios is used more than forty times in the N.T. with respect to eternal life, which is regarded partly as a present gift, partly as a promise for the future. It is also applied to God's endless existence in Rom. 16.26; to the endless efficacy of Christ's atonement in Heb. 9.12, 13.20; and to past ages in Rom. 16.25, 2 Tim. 1,9, Titus 1.2.

This word is used with reference to eternal fire, Matt. 18.8,25. 41, Jude 7; eternal punishment, Matt. 25.46; eternal judgment or condemnation, Mark 3:29, Heb. 6.2; eternal destruction, 2 Thess. 1.9. The word in these passages implies finality, and apparently signifies that when these judgments shall be inflicted, the time of probation, change, or the chance of retrieving one's fortune, will have gone by absolutely and for ever. We understand very little about the future, about the relation of human life to the rest of existence, and about the moral weight of unbelief, as viewed in the light of eternity. If, on the one hand, it is wrong to add to God's word, on the other we must not take away from it; and if we stagger under the doctrine of eternal punishment as it is set forth in Scripture, we must be content to wait, cleaving to the Gospel of God's love in Christ, while acknowledging that there is a dark background which we are unable to comprehend" (pp. 318-319).

Matt. 12:31-32 This reference to blasphemy against the Spirit is often called "the unpardonable sin." From the parallel in Mark 3:28 it is obvious that "Son of Man" was not a title for Jesus in this context but a generic use of the Hebrew idiom "sons of men" or "mankind." This is supported by the parallelism of Matt. 3:31 and 3:32. The sin discussed was not the sin of ignorance, but of willful rejection of God and His truth in the presence of great light. Many people worry about whether they have committed this sin. People who desire to know God or are afraid that they have committed this sin have not! This sin is the continuing rejection of Jesus in the presence of great light, to the point of spiritual callousness. This is similar to Heb. 6 and 10."


NASB, NJB"clear"
NKJV, NIV"good"
TEV, REB"sound"

See note at Matt. 6:22-23 at



NKJV"bright shining"
TEV"its brightness"
REB, NIV"shines"

This word normally means "lightning" (cf. Luke 17:24; 24:4), but here it denotes "a bright shining" (see Harold Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised (p. 57).

 37Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. 38When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. 39But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you."

11:37 "a Pharisee asked" Remember this context deals with the Pharisees' rejection of Jesus. This account (cf. Luke 11:37-41) illustrates their spiritual blindness to the major truths and nit-picking legalism based on Talmudic regulations (human traditions, cf. Isa. 29:13). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES at Luke 5:17.

▣ "lunch" The terms ariston and deipnon distinguish between a meal about noon (or earlier, cf. Matt. 22:4; John 21:12,15) and a larger meal about 4 p.m. (cf. Luke 14:12). This first term is used here for an early meal in the mid-morning.

11:38 "When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal" Apparently Jesus, on purpose, left out this expected rabbinical ceremonial procedure in order to bring the Pharisee into dialogue (this parallels Jesus' actions on the Sabbath).

The word wash is baptizō, where it means to ceremonially purify by washing. Modern interpreters must be careful of using etymology to dogmatically define Greek words and then insert their technical definition (dying by means of immersion) into every place that word is used. This context is not referring to immersion, but the Jewish ritual of pouring a certain amount (two hen eggs) of water over the elbow until it drips off the fingers and then again over the fingers until it drips off the elbow.

There is a good article in Robert B. Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 152-157 on the Hebrew thaval and the Greek baptizō.

11:39 "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter" Jesus wanted to discuss the Pharisees' orientation of minute details (Talmud) as a sign of being spiritual. The heart is the key to all religious acts. God knows the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 2:7; 16:7; 1 Kgs. 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Chr. 6:30; Ps. 7:9; 44:21; Pro. 15:11; 21:2; Jer. 11:20; 17:9-10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Rom. 8:27).

11:40 This question expects a "yes" answer.

▣ "You foolish ones" See Special Topic following.




This verse seems to imply that if the inside of the cup is loving and obedient, then it will show in outward manifestations of love to the poor and needy, not legalisms and elitisms (cf. Luke 11:42; Micah 6:8). See Special Topic below.


"then all things are clean for you" This was a radical statement for those brought up under kosher rules (cf. Leviticus 11). However, Jesus modified the OT requirement (cf. Mark 7:1-23), thereby showing He is Lord of Scripture (i.e., its only true interpreter, cf. Matt. 5:17-48). This truth is used as an illustration for Peter in Acts 10:9-16. Paul followed this understanding of ceremonial defilement (cf. Rom. 14:14,20; 1 Cor. 10:25-26; 1 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:15).

 42"But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it."

11:42 "'woe to you’" This reflects an OT prophetic curse formula using a funeral dirge (cf. Luke 11:42,43,44,46,52; Matt. 23:13-36).

▣ "pay tithe on" See Special Topic following.


▣ "yet disregard justice and the love of God" It is extremely important that we do not let rituals or liturgical acts blind us to God's will for His people, which is

1. love for God (cf. Deut. 6:4-6; Luke 10:27)

2. justice towards humans (cf. Lev. 19:18; Luke 10:27)


▣ "but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others" They strained at a gnat and swallowed the camel (cf. Matt. 23:24). Is tithing the spices of the kitchen more important, more spiritual, than how we live and love?

An early church heretic, Marcion (early second century in Rome), rejected the OT and only accepted a modified Gospel of Luke and certain letters of Paul as inspired. Since he rejected the OT, the phrase, "but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others" is omitted in codex Bezea (D), but included in most earlier Greek manuscripts and versions, so probably its omission in MS D was due to his influence.

11:43 "For you love the chief seats in the synagogues" These were places of prominence. The chief seats were on a semi-circular bench around a place where the Torah was kept, facing the congregation (cf. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 167). See parallel in Matt. 23:1-12.

▣ "and the respectful greetings in the market place" Apparently there were standard phrases and titles used by religious leaders for one another, spoken in public. This phrase, therefore, rebukes their pride in their positions in the synagogue and society. They loved being recognized and praised!

11:44 "'For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it’" Physical contact with the tomb made one ceremonially unclean (cf. Lev. 21:1-4; Num. 19:11-22) for one week (rabbinical interpretation), however, in this case the people would not realize it, therefore, the Jews white-washed the tombs in order to avoid this type of inadvertent ceremonial defilement (cf. Matt. 23:27). Jesus accuses these self-righteous, legalistic leaders of being the real cause of spiritual defilement!

 45One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." 46But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.' 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering."

11:45 "One of the lawyers" This refers to a scribe (see Special Topic at Luke 5:21) whose major task was to interpret the oral (Talmud) and written (OT) law. They took the place of the local Levites as instructors and interpreters of the Law and became the religious experts for people to consult about daily matters (binding and loosing). Most scribes in Jesus' day were also Pharisees.

▣ "you insult us too" The Greek term hubrizō means "violent mistreatment" (cf. Matt. 22:6; Luke 18:32; Acts 14:5; 1 Thess. 2:2). It is common in the Septuagint ("to insult," cf 2 Sam. 19:44; II Macc. 14:42 and "to be haughty," Jer. 31:29). These Jewish religious leaders felt the sting of Jesus' comments (cf. Matthew 23).

11:46 "For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear" There is a word play (cognate accusative) in this verse. The verb and noun (twice) of "burden" are used. This refers to rabbinical nit-picking interpretations of the Torah developed in the Oral Traditions (later codified in the Talmud). These religious rules and procedures were so complicated and contradictory that normal working people could not do them (cf. Matt. 23:4; Acts 15:10).

NASB"while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers"
NKJV"you yourselves do not touch the burden with one of your fingers"
NRSV"you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them"
TEV"you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads"
NJB"burdens that you yourselves do not touch with your fingertips"

They did meticulously perform their rabbinical interpretations, yet would not make any exceptions for others or even take time to help others.

The word "touch" is found only here in the NT (not in the Septuagint or the Egyptian Papyri). M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 1, p. 187, says it is a medical term used of lightly touching a sore. If this was the general connotation, then these religious leaders would not even sympathize with the plight of the common person ("people of the land") as they tried to keep the meticulous rules of the Pharisees.

11:47 "you build the tombs of the prophets" The parallel in Matt. 23:29-33 is striking! In the OT God's people would kill God's prophets (i.e., reject their message) and then build large tombs for them to honor their memory. The building of monuments to God's spokesmen is not what God wanted. He desires obedience to His message. As the leaders of the OT killed the prophets, these leaders will kill Jesus and His followers (cf. Matt. 23:34).

11:49 "For this reason also the wisdom of God said" There is no place in the OT where this is quoted. Therefore, many believed that Jesus was referring to Himself as "the Wisdom of God" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24,30; Col. 2:3), which would be an allusion to Pro. 8:22-31. This OT text is the background to John 1:1-14.

▣ "prophets and apostles" This seems to refer to OT and NT speakers for God. This is a panorama of how the Jews received God's spokespersons (death and persecution).

11:50 "may be charged against this generation" This is a shocking verse. Jesus was the culmination of Jewish theology, history, and hope. To miss Him was to miss everything! Ultimate truth had come and now they were rejecting Him (cf. Luke 11:14-26,29-36)! See full note at Luke 11:31.

This may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by Titus.

11:51 "from the blood of Abel" This refers to the first premeditated murder in the Bible, recorded in Gen. 4:8.

▣ "to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God" This refers to the incident recorded in 2 Chr. 24:20-22.

It is possible that Jesus chose one example (i.e., Abel) from Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew canon, and one (Zechariah) from 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Hebrew canon, to illustrate the ongoing problem of the Jews (cf. Deut. 9:6,7,13,24,27; 31:27).

The altar referred to is the sacrificial altar at the entrance to the temple, while the "House of God" refers to the building itself, which had two major chambers, the outer one called "the Holy Place" and the inner one called "the Holy of Holies."

Abel's death was an evidence of the fall (cf. Genesis 3), while Zechariah's death showed a willful disregard for God's special dwelling place (the temple). The Jews now were plotting (cf. Luke 11:53-54) to murder Jesus also.

11:52 "For you have taken away the key of knowledge" The Jewish leaders who should have recognized Jesus ("the key of knowledge") not only missed Him, but led others into their willful blindness in God's name (cf. Matt. 23:13). This is shocking condemnation of the religious elite of Jesus' day.

When we share Christ we use the "keys of the kingdom" (cf. Matt. 16:19). When believers live godless or arrogant lives, they become like the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 23:13-15) who hinder people seeking God.

Jesus, not human knowledge, is the key of wisdom (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31). Jesus has the keys of death and hades (cf. Rev. 1:18). Jesus is the true descendant and promise of David (cf. 2 Samuel 7 and Rev. 3:7).

 53When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.


NASB, NRSV"began to be very hostile"
NKJV"began to assail Him vehemently"
TEV"began to criticize him bitterly"
NJB"began a furious attack on him"

The first term, deinōs, means "terrible," "vehement," or "dreadfully" (cf. Matt. 8:6). It was used in the Septuagint in Job 10:16 and 19:11 in the same sense.

The second term, enechō, means to fix upon in the sense of to hold a grudge (cf. Mark 6:19). The anger and hatred of the religious leaders, both Sadducees and Pharisees, which is so evident the last week of Jesus' life in Jerusalem, started much earlier (cf. Mark 6:19; Luke 11:53). This settled opposition was instigated by Jesus' pointed condemnation of their hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and arrogance.

NASB"to question Him closely on many subjects"
NKJV, NRSV"to cross-examine Him about many things"
TEV"ask him questions about many things"
NJB"tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions"

The verb apostomatizō is used only here in the NT. It is not used in the Septuagint, but is used in classical and late Greek literature in the sense of rote memory or repeating what someone else has said. It seems to imply a rapid series of questions so as not to give Jesus a chance to think through His answers. The whole purpose was to catch Him in a misspoken response, so they could condemn Him (cf. Luke 11:54) as He so powerfully condemned them! But they could not (cf. Luke 20:26).

11:54 "to catch Him in something He might say" This word literally means "to hunt wild animals." Jesus had become a serious theological problem. They must eliminate Him (cf. Luke 20:20) to maintain their leadership.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the Lord's Prayer, as recorded in Matthew and Luke, different?

2. How do we reconcile Luke 11:4 and James. 1:13?

3. Is God reluctant to hear our prayers and we must continue asking over and over?

4. Why is it so significant that they were calling Jesus Beelzebul?

5. Why was Jesus so angry with the religious leaders of first century Judaism?


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