Sermon notes for October 26:
The Father's Gifts to His Children, Luke 11:1-54
On His journey toward Jerusalem, Jesus meets the same range of responses that He met in Galilee. He is accused of being in league with the devil (v. 15) and criticized by the Pharisees (vv. 37-41), but He is also praised by the crowd (vv. 27-28). As in Galilee, so on the road, the main response is rejection. Since "this generation" rejects Jesus (vv. 29-30), the blood of all the prophets will be charged to it (vv. 50-51).
"Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of his disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.'. . ." (Luke 11:1-54).
TEACH US TO PRAY
Luke has emphasized the importance of Jesus' prayers throughout His gospel (3:21; 6:12; 9:18, 29), and the disciples are called to perpetuate Jesus' work in this respect as well. When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, He gives them a model prayer. Several things are noteworthy about this prayer: First, Jesus intends His disciples to learn to pray by imitation. Second, the prayer is brief not wordy. Third, the prayer is addressed to the "Father" (v 2); Jesus teaches His disciples to address His Father by the same name that He addresses His Father. Prayer is possible because Jesus shares His Sonship with us (cf. 10:21-22).
Jesus also gives assurance that our prayers will be heard. The sleepy neighbor in the parable does not respond because he is friendly toward his neighbor, but because he would be shamed if he refused. Likewise, the Father is honorable and will respond to our prayers (vv. 5-8). This parable also clarifies the point of our prayer for "daily bread." Like the neighbor, we ask for goods so that we can use them to show hospitality and charity to others.
The specific gift that Jesus promises to us is the gift of the Spirit (v. 13). The Spirit is, as the Nicene Creed says, the Lord and Giver of Life, and all life and health and good come to us from the Father through the Spirit. In and with the Spirit we are given all things. Jesus' ministry is empowered by the Spirit that He received from the Father through prayer (Luke 3:21), and the church's ministry will be empowered in the same way.
FINGER OF GOD
As Jesus casts out a demon, some in the crowd accuse Jesus of being in league with the devil (vv. 14-16). Jesus first accepts their premise for the sake of argument, and points out that, were that true, He would still be undermining the kingdom and authority of Satan. If Jesus is in league with Satan, it means Satan is turning against his own underlings.
But Jesus offers a different explanation of His exorcisms: He acts not by the power of Satan but by the finger of God (v. 20). This phrase was used by the magicians of Pharaoh (Exodus 8:19) to describe the power of God manifest in the plagues. By alluding to the exodus, Jesus is giving new roles to everyone in the scene: He is not in league with the devil, but is a new Moses or, better, He is Yahweh, who shows the power of His finger; Satan is like Pharaoh, who holds Israel in bondage; and the Pharisees are like the magicians of Egypt who opposed Moses but could not duplicate His miracles.
The exodus imagery continues in the following brief parable. Satan is the "strong man" who guards His house and can only be overcome by a stronger Man, Jesus. Once Jesus has overcome Satan, He can plunder Satan's house, just as Israel once plundered the Egyptians. Within this scheme, Israel is "Egypt" and "the strong man's house," and Jesus is liberating a people from bondage. Israel is the possessed man that must be exorcised (vv. 24-26).
Many in the crowd marvel at Jesus, and one woman praises His mother (v. 27). As in Nazareth, Jesus responds to the praise in an unusual way: Instead of joining in the praise of His mother, He again says that His true family members are those who do His word. Also like Nazareth, He points to examples of Gentiles responding more favorably to God than Israel does. The "sign of Jonah" refers not only to Jesus' death and resurrection, but to the fact that the Gentile Assyrians repented at the preaching of Jonah more readily than Israel had done to her prophets. Jesus is greater than Solomon and Jonah, but the people on the road to Jerusalem do not respond as the Queen of Sheba and the Ninevites.
The parable about eyes and lamps fits in here. Eyes in Scripture are organs of judgment and discernment (Psalm 11:4). Clear eyes are necessary to determine what is going on in Jesus' work, to discern that "something greater" is here. Clouded eyes can only see dazzling signs, and therefore misjudge constantly. Those who have clear eyes not only form right judgments about what is going on outside, but by doing so let light in, so the whole body is illumined.
WOE TO THE PHARISEES
The last section of this chapter again finds Jesus at the table, being criticized by the Pharisees. Here, they condemn Him for not "baptizing" his hands before eating (v 38). Pharisees made a habit of washing themselves before every meal, to prevent defiling their food unwittingly. Jesus admits that people should clean up before eating a meal, but he says the more important cleansing is a cleansing of the heart (v. 39-40). If the heart is full of charity, then the outside will be clean as well (v. 41). Men are like cups and other vessels (2 Timothy 2:20-21; cf. Leviticus 11:29-38), and God, the Potter, wants both inside and outside to be clean.
Jesus then launches into a series of condemnations of the Pharisees (3 times, vv. 42-44) and lawyers (3 times, vv. 45-52). He condemns the Pharisees for being scrupulous about minor issues while neglecting the weightier matters of the law and for their love of attention and honor. The final woe is the most damning. Touching a dead body made a Jew unclean (Numbers 19), so it was important for tombs to be clearly marked. The Pharisees are full of death, but are not well marked, and thus they make people unclean. Instead of being sources of purity for Israel, they are like hidden tombs that defile people without their knowing it. What defiles people is their lack of charity, which they pass on to others.
The experts in the law are condemned for their oppressive rule over the people of God. They are like the Egyptians, weighing the people down with heavy burdens and refusing to offer relief (v. 46). The lawyers cooperate in the persecution of the prophets of old and therefore the blood of all the prophets is being charged to this generation (vv. 49-51).
Not surprisingly, the lawyers and Pharisees respond by plotting to trap Jesus.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 at 12:22 PM
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