For the text of Luke 11, click here.
There is a shortened version of the Lord’s prayer in this chapter. It is requested that Jesus teach them to pray and His response is for them to pray:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
4and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
There are several differences, but the most notable is the way that the Matthew 6 version uses “as” between the way we ask to be forgiven and the way we forgive. Here is “for”, which changes the relationship of our forgiveness and that which we extend to others. It may seem trivial to some, but this is a big difference. In the Matthew version, we ask to be forgiven in the way that we forgive others. We are asking for God to at least be as good to us as we flawed people can find it in ourselves to be to others. Here, we are asking God to forgive because we forgive others. We asking Him to extend a courtesy that we have already extended to others. We are asking Him to be at least as good as we are.
From there, Jesus goes into an explanation of the benevolence of God that is often debated to this day. There are plenty of believers out there with unanswered prayers on things that they would do for their children if they had the power. I understand the argument that God takes care of us as we would our children, but history tells us that this is an oversimplification at best.
But then the last line does give me pause. It makes me think that we maybe aren’t talking about solving our problems or healing our illnesses or bringing about an end to violence. The line is:
13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”Luke 11:13 ESV
The rest of the paragraph had been about asking for things and finding things that we are looking for, but is that whole paragraph referring to asking for and seeking the Holy Spirit specifically?
Then we return to some people accusing Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beezelbub, or Satan, which are used interchangeably in this paragraph. He brings up a decent point, which has also been quoted plenty about houses divided. The overall point that it wouldn’t make sense to be casting out demons in the name of Satan if Satan is the one that wanted them there in the first place. It would be counterproductive to the overall goal. It ends with another often quoted sentiment: whoever isn’t with me is against me.
It’s interesting to me that both of these things are said by Jesus in the same encounter given the way they are used and quoted now. The whole house divided thing is used to both elaborate on the way arguments among a group (or country) can lead to the end of a nation and coerce groups into staying together. Likewise, being with or against someone has been described as too absolute and divisive in itself. This story also appeared in Matthew 12 and Mark 3.
Afterward, Jesus says something that makes absolutely no sense to me at all.
24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”Luke 11:24-26 ESV
So why would He be going around healing people if it only makes things worse? I know there’s a piece of context that I’m missing there. First of all, waterless places are supposed to be cursed or forsaken or something. That makes sense when we weren’t transporting food all over the place the way we do now. I’m not sure why a demon can’t reside their either, but that’s not the point. Then it decides to go back and everything is in order, so it brings in back up. There just has to be something amiss about the “house” needing extra protection or God’s protection or something in order for the last state of the person to not be worse. Like is this the build up to a guideline on what to do after being healed of a demon? It does come in immediately after some demons left the blind man and the whole thing about Jesus working for Satan.
Looking at the Matthew 12 version, there is one more line that gives a little better context as to the message here. That line says that this illustrates the situation with the generation of people as a whole. There are being healed now and set into order but when evil comes back around, it will come with reinforcement and be worse for them than they were before. This also includes the implication that it is because they did not listen and take the message of Jesus to heart. It makes sense with one of the stories coming up.
When a woman shouts a blessing on His mother for having said such things, He refutes it with the idea that the blessing should be on those who hear God’s word and let’s it in or keeps it. Both make sense as people worthy of blessing. I get that He was redirecting the point back around to the message rather than it being all on Him and the things of the past associated with Him. He’s there so that the people can see the way of God, not so that they can put off the responsibility or just praise those who already have it.
Though these are in a different order in Matthew 12, using the sign of Jonah goes along with the idea that the people will be worse off than before for not listening to Jesus. He gives two examples of people paying attention to the word and being better off for it, while acknowledging that these people aren’t doing that and probably won’t and will therefore be worse off than before.
The first example is of Sheba coming to see Solomon and hear about God from him when she had heard about him way back when. The second example is of Jonah and Nineveh. He also says that Jonah will be the sign, which we understand well in hindsight about the three days in a whale versus three days of death. Of course, Jonah only showed up after the three days and this Jesus before the three days, but He knows that things don’t exactly get better after those three days either.
The message of the light under a lamp follows in Luke, but this is in Matthew 5 as part of the Sermon on the Mount and Mark 4 following some of the first parables. The sentiment for each is slightly different. This version of the story is a warning to be careful of the darkness you let in and to let the light shine brightly in you.
The last story jumps to Matthew 15 and Mark 7. It’s a little different here in that Jesus is actually eating with the Pharisees when they start getting onto Him about washing His hands. In the other versions they simply inquire as to why His disciples don’t hold up the traditions by washing before they eat. Here He gives it right back to them about internal cleanliness being more important than external. It does no good to wash the outside if you don’t also wash the inside. Much of it is about pretending to be good in public rather than actually being good. This is a problem that persists all over the place.
When the lawyers attempt to stick up for them, He let’s them have it too. He scorns them for loading down other people with burdens and for not helping in any way. He tells the group that the deaths of all the prophets will be held against them because they are complicit with the way their fathers killed them because of what they do.
It’s an interesting sentiment on the whole and something I see in feminist circles too. Those of us who aren’t actively seeking to do the right thing and to stop the bad from happening around us are complicit in the suffering of others. The people at this dinner are complicit in the sins of those who came before them by not trying to make the cycle of suffering end, as are people today. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are trying to break the cycle, but those who know how it all works and who don’t even try to speak up or do something different are complicit. Further, this group is not only trying to do better, but actively blocking those who they encounter from learning the way as well.
Of course, all this further irritates them and fuels their need to mess Him up somehow.