Luke 11

Jesus teaches the Lord’s Model Prayer. He is accused of his power coming from Beelzebul. Return of unclean spirits; true blessedness is for those who hear the word of God and keep it. The sign of Jonah; the light is in you because Jesus’s message has entered. Woe pronounced on Pharisees and legal experts.

As I write in every chapter:

This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.

The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.

If you would like to see other translations, please go to The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

The Lord’s Model Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)

1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενον, ὡς ἐπαύσατο, εἶπέν τις τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν· κύριε, δίδαξον ἡμᾶς προσεύχεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ Ἰωάννης ἐδίδαξεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ. 2 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς· ὅταν προσεύχησθε λέγετε·

ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
3 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν·
4 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν,
καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν·
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.

1 And so it happened that while he was in a certain place praying, when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

‘Father, may your name be treated as holy;
May your kingdom come;
3 Give us our daily bread for living;
4 And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who sins against us.
Do not lead us into a time of temptation.’”



This is a model prayer. It is not designed to be repeated by rote or routine. In your own prayer life, include these elements with no need to repeat the verbiage word by word. However, what is wrong with repeating it word by word? Is it a sin? Of course not. But you must have an understanding of what the words and lines mean. See v. 2 for why the prayer is not a formula.

It is also a communal prayer, though I don’t wish to be churlish and claim it can be prayed only in a community and not alone.


“certain place”: you have to find your place of prayer, alone with God. Take a walk and pray. Get in your prayer closet, literally a closet, if you have to. Wherever your place of prayer may be, find a private place of prayer.

“praying”: Now let’s take an expansive look at the verb (and noun). As noted in Luke 1:10, and elsewhere throughout this commentary series, it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.

Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

“finished”: His disciples did not interrupt him. They waited until he stopped praying.

“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.” Here they are the twelve, the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-24) and the women followers (Luke 8:1-3).

Word Study on Disciple

“teach”: It is the verb didaskō (pronounced dee-dahs-koh, and our word didactic is related to it). The verb means to instruct or tell or teach (BDAG), some times in a formal setting like a classroom or another confined setting, other times in a casual setting. Here it is casual, but no doubt he gathered his disciples around him, including the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-24) and the women followers (Luke 8:1-3). He spoke with authority, unlike the teachers of the law and Pharisees (Luke 4:32; Matt. 7:28-29). It was his habit and custom to enter their synagogues and teach the people (see 4:15, 31). His insight into Scripture was profound. This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. Some Renewalists of the fiery variety don’t teach, but evangelize and shriek and freak, after they read one verse or two, and put on a show. How much time do they put in to study the Word? Jesus had a full ministry:  teaching, healing, miracles, and deliverances.

“John”: this is John the Baptist.


Luke’s version is briefer than Matthew’s (Matt. 6:9-13). Here is the expanded version:

9 Therefore, pray in this way:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Let your name be made holy.
10 Let your kingdom come,
Let your will be done,
As in heaven, also on earth.
11 Give us today our bread for living.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we have forgiven our debtors.
13 Do not bring us into temptation;
Instead, deliver us from evil. (Matt. 6:9-13)

I have nicknamed Matthew the Trimmer, but the above model prayer is an exception to the rule. He expands it.

“when”: this form of the Greek word and sentence structure indicates that it is not a routine or formulaic prayer. “Whenever you pray.”

“pray”: see v. 1 for more comments.

“Father”: “The term ‘Father’ for God appears twenty-one times in the Old Testament, while it appears 255 times in the New Testament” (Garland, p. 471). The New Testament is much shorter than the Old. This term is the most wonderful relational word that exists for God. Yes, he is our Savior and our Rock and our Deliverer (and so on), but he is deepest of all our Father. This means we are his children. We can approach our Father whenever we want. If you had a mean earthly father, don’t project your bad experience or feelings on to God your Father. That’s not fair. He is not like your earthly father. He is wholly different and loving.

The Names of God

“may your name be treated”: or “let your name be made holy” in the eyes of the people or “let your name be sanctified” in the eyes of the people. Or it could be translated as “let your name be reverenced” in the eyes of the people. Or it could be “made holy” or “sanctified” or “reverenced” in the human heart, but it is in community. You must treat God as holy or wholly other than any being, whether angel or the most holy man or sacred space (e.g. a temple). There is no one like him (“I am God; there is no one like me,” says Is. 46:9), so see him in that light.

It is written in the passive (“name be treated”). So it could be the divine passive, which is an understated way of saying that God does it behind the scenes. So God does what God alone can do—make his name holy. However, it could mean that people treat his name as holy (Lev. 22:32; Jer. 34:16; Amos 2:7). I say it is both a divine passive and God graciously allows us to make his name holy in his kingdom communities. “And you shall not profane my holy name that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Lev. 22:32). Mutual declaration of holiness. Wonderful!

“name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. The Father has the highest status in the universe, before and above the entire universe, which he created. His character is perfection itself. Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth through his Son, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you the power and authority of his Son Jesus. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.

“holy”: William Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says the Hebrew adjective for holy is qadosh and is used 117 times. “It describes that which is by nature sacred or that which has been admitted to the sphere of the sacred by divine rite. It describes, therefore, that which is distinct or separate from the common or profane” (p. 337).

Renewal theologian J. Rodman Williams teaches that the basic connotation of holy and holiness in the Old Testament is that of separation / apartness from the common, mundane, and profane things of everyday life. This true of God in His total otherness, also of persons and things set apart for Him and His service (vol. 1, p. 60, note 41).

God’s majesty speaks of God’s awesomeness and majesty. “At the heart of divine majesty is the white and brilliant light of His utter purity. There is in God utterly no taint of anything unclean and impure” (p. 61).

In simple English, it means God is completely different and separate from earthbound things. But this does not mean that he is so far up in heaven that he ignores us. As our holy Father, he is involved in our lives. So we have a perfect balance of God’s unique holiness and his fatherhood. Further, he likewise calls us to be holy or separate from the world’s pollution, but involved in the world. Be in the world, but not of it.

Word Study on Holiness and Sanctification

Bible Basics on Sanctification and Holiness

“kingdom of God”: What is the kingdom? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).

It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.

Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.

5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

“come”: it is a standard verb. Whatever is done in heaven should be done on earth. But some critics suggest that we have no death in heaven, so should we pray realistically that people on earth never die? There is no evangelism in heaven, so no evangelism on earth? There is marriage or sex or raising children properly or money on earth; however, since there is none of those things in heaven, should we pray for them to come down to earth? How can they, if heaven does not have them? And therefore, say the critics, this verse in the Lord’s Model Prayer is not carte blanche to ask for everything in heaven to come down to earth. But the critics miss the point. The kingdom, as we just learned, is not fully manifested, but it will be at the Second Coming.

Once again:

5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully

Commentator Morris:

Thy kingdom comes looks for the bringing in of the kingdom that was the constant subject of Jesus’ teaching. There is a sense in which it is realized here and now, in the hearts and lives of people who subject themselves to God and accept his way for them. But in another sense it will not come until God’s will is perfectly done throughout the world (cf. the addition in Matthew, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”). It is this for which we long. (comments on v. 2).

So it seems that Morris believes that we may call down the kingdom in a general sense, not to answer our specific prayers. But I’m not sure I agree. We can pray for God’s kingdom to come in more specific ways.

Until the kingdom comes in full power and manifestation, we need our daily bread and the forgiveness of sins, both ours and those who have sinned against us. And those two things are just representative samples. We need better marriages and child-rearing skills and wisdom, more evangelism. God has the resources in heaven for us to succeed in those things. As for death, it will end at the Second Coming. But God can empower our mortal bodies to live healthily in the here and now. We live on earth, and we can indeed pray down from heaven the things we need on earth in the current dispensation. We let other Scriptures guide us to pray heavenly things down to earth for us.

However, don’t be disappointed if the partial yet powerful manifestation of heaven and the kingdom does not happen right now, particularly healing. Yes, pray in faith for healing, but the polluted world and our weak bodies may not allow us to be healed at this time. Or God may use (not cause) our illness to take us home.

Why Doesn’t Divine Healing Happen One Hundred Percent of the Time in This Age?

Bottom line: Jesus is telling us to pray for the full manifestation of the kingdom, and it has not happened yet and will not happen until he returns. We see through a mirror dimly and know in part, and the perfect has not yet come (1 Cor. 13:9-12).

Garland: “This petition longs for the reign of the evil one to be overthrown. Jesus’ ministry reveals that the reign of God has drawn nearer, and his healing ministry (with his disciples) reveals Satan’s power over the world is on its last legs (9:11; 10:9)” (comment on 11:12d).

Bock quotes the Kaddish, an eschatological Jewish prayer that ended the ancient synagogue services:

Exalted and hallowed be his great name
In the world which he created according to his will.
May he let his kingdom rule
In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime
Of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon.

The Bock continues: “The picture is of the creator God, enthroned and manifesting his rule. His glory is made evident to all. The disciple opens the prayer with the recognition of the one being addressed, trusting and hoping that God in his greatness will manifest himself” (p. 1052).


These verses encourage people to ask for daily bread.

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov. 30:8-9, NIV)

Good message for the hyper-prosperity preachers.

“give”: The verb is in the imperative or command form, but it is only a grammatical point. We must not believe that we can command God, but we can ask with authority. We should have confidence when we ask God for our food and other supplies. The Greek verb tense is present imperative: “keep giving us” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 3)

“bread”: in Greek it is the first word in the sentence, for emphasis. It stands in for all of our need for supplies, like a job or groceries—whatever nourishes us and puts a roof over our head.

We can pray every day for our daily need. Or you can divide it up weekly—“Lord, give my family our weekly need. Promote myself and my husband at my and his job.” Or pray for your daily bread every day.

“for living”: it is the extremely rare adjective that means “necessary for existence”; “for the following day”; “for the future” (Culy, Parsons, and Stigall, p. 374). It is used only here and in the other version of the Lord’s Model Prayer (Matt. 6:11).

“To trust God for sufficient food day by day was important to people in Jesus’ time who were hired only a day at a time (cf. Matt. 20:1-5)” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 3). Let’s appropriate the word to teach us to pray for the necessities of life for the next day and the future. The Greek also has the word daily in it. You can pray for tomorrow’s bread or supplies that exist in the future. No, this does not allow heavy credit card debt, for that is presumptuous. But God’s supply exists in his time, which for us appears like the future because we have a limited perspective (we’re not omniscient). In any case, God sees what we need today, and he is preparing things tomorrow to give us. Today and tomorrow are one for God since he has an eternal perspective.


“Since the petitioner has called God ‘Father,’ he is a believer, already justified and without guilt through the death of Christ; therefore, the forgiveness he must extend to others is not the basis of his salvation but a prerequisite for daily fellowship with the Father in the sense of 1 John 1:5-10. Conversely, one who does not forgive others may actually be revealing that he has not really known God’s forgiveness (cf. Lk 7:47)” (Liefeld and Pao, comments on v. 4).

“forgive”: it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one and the Shorter Lexicon’s. It means to forgive.

Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)

And these great verses are from Micah:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

“A forgiven person is to be a forgiving person” (Bock, p. 1055).


This petition reflects a spiritual axiom that if one is not forgiving, one cannot receive forgiveness. A forgiving spirit is the outstretched hand by which we grasp God’s forgiveness. When that hand is close tightly into a fist, it can receive nothing. Being forgiving is “not the ground on which God bestows forgiveness but the ground on which man can receive it.” The petitions for bread and forgiveness open up disciples to the future. They are not to be weighed down by anxiety about bread for tomorrow or by the burden of the past. (comment on 14:ab, citing in part Manson, Luke, p. 135).

“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.

“everyone”: it means everyone, not just the likeable.

“sins”: it could be translated literally as “morally indebted” to us, because the word is not hamartia (the standard word for sin). Rather, it is the verb opheilō (pronounced oh-fay-loh). BDAG says it is (1) a “financial debt”; (2) “to be under obligation to meet certain social or moral expectations, owe.” The Shorter Lexicon adds: “commit a sin.” Here it is sin that put the person in a moral debt or obligation to you. So someone wrongs you, and you believe he owes you an apology, but what if he is unwilling to give it or is even unaware that he has wronged you? You still need to forgive his moral debt to you. Unforgiveness is poison in your soul, not his. Forgive the other person, and God will purge out the poison.

Bible Basics about Sin: Word Studies

Human Sin: Original and Our Committed Sin

“temptation”: it is the noun peirasmos (pronounced pay-rahss-moss), and it can be translated in one context as “test, trial” (to see what is in a person) and in another context as “temptation, enticement” (to sin) in another context. Since it does not seem possible that God would lead people into temptation, it may be better to translate the word as a “time of trial.” On the other hand, God does not do the tempting (Jas. 1:13-14), but he may allow the devil to attack our frail, sinful human nature, to see what is in us. Do we have the power to resist? I pray nearly every day something like this, “Lord, I pray over my heart and soul the inner strength and power and anointing to stand and not to fold or flag during satanic or broken-human attacks.” It works. I have become stronger.

Bock (p. 1056) cites a line from the Babylonian Talmud: “Bring me not into the power of sin, nor into the power of guilt, nor into the power of temptation” (b. Ber. 60b).

“do not bring us”: The phrase is a Hebraic way of praying the positive; that is, when a Hebrew prays against the negative, he prays for the positive. Maybe therefore we could say: “Lead us to victory over temptation.” Marshall: The sense is not “do not cause us to succumb to temptation”; rather it is: “cause us not to succumb to temptation.”

It could also translated as “do not carry us into” because of the verb eispherō behind eisenegkēs. But we better stick with what the lexicon says: “do not bring into” or “do not lead into.”

Jesus asks his followers to pray similarly.

GrowApp for Luke 11:1-4

A.. Study Phil. 4:19. How would describe the generosity of God?

B.. Study Matt. 6:14-15. How does God give you grace to forgive? What are the consequences if you do not forgive?

More Teaching about Prayer (Luke 11:5-13)

5 Καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἕξει φίλον καὶ πορεύσεται πρὸς αὐτὸν μεσονυκτίου καὶ εἴπῃ αὐτῷ· φίλε, χρῆσόν μοι τρεῖς ἄρτους, 6 ἐπειδὴ φίλος μου παρεγένετο ἐξ ὁδοῦ πρός με καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ὃ παραθήσω αὐτῷ· 7 κἀκεῖνος ἔσωθεν ἀποκριθεὶς εἴπῃ· μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε· ἤδη ἡ θύρα κέκλεισται καὶ τὰ παιδία μου μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἰς τὴν κοίτην εἰσίν· οὐ δύναμαι ἀναστὰς δοῦναί σοι. 8 λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰ καὶ οὐ δώσει αὐτῷ ἀναστὰς διὰ τὸ εἶναι φίλον αὐτοῦ, διά γε τὴν ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς δώσει αὐτῷ ὅσων χρῄζει.

9 Κἀγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, αἰτεῖτε καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν, ζητεῖτε καὶ εὑρήσετε, κρούετε καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν· 10 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγ[ήσ]εται. 11 τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν τὸν πατέρα αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς ἰχθύν, καὶ ἀντὶ ἰχθύος ὄφιν αὐτῷ ἐπιδώσει; 12 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν, ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον; 13 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὑπάρχοντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ [ὁ] ἐξ οὐρανοῦ δώσει πνεῦμα ἅγιον τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.

5 He also said to them: “Who of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 since my friend has traveled and arrived at my place, and I don’t have anything I can lay out for him!’ 7 And the other man answered from inside and told him, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already shut and my children are in bed! I’m unable to get up and give you anything!’” 8 I tell you that if he does not get up to give him anything because he is his friend, then at least he will get up and give him as much as he needs because of his shameless audacity!”

9 I also tell you, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who seeks receives; and the one who seeks will find, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 Your son asks for a fish, and which father among you will give him a snake instead of a fish 12 or asks for an egg, and give him a scorpion? 13 If then you, though you are bad, know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


So what is a parable?

Literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.

What Is a Parable?


This is an illustration of opposites or contrast. The churlish neighbor is unlike your generous, heavenly Father. The Greek construction says that we should conclude that the neighbor is unreasonable and should not act the way he is described in the illustration, like this:

Churlish Neighbor ≠ Generous Heavenly Father

Further, Jesus is making the point that boldness and persistence will win in prayer. Why do we need to keep praying? That requires a long, complicated answer. Here it is, too briefly laid out: (1) wait for circumstances to align, which takes time; (2) learn the differences between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm, to know how things work; you have to learn how the two realms work; (3) fight to bring down the heavenly kingdom on earth; (4) break Satanic interference; (5) develop our character to wait; (6) stop our desperation and whining and anxiety; (7) cultivate calm, confident faith and trust in our loving Father; (8) develop our intimacy with the Father by continuous prayer and fellowship with him; (9) have  persistent, persevering faith; (10) enjoy community involvement; (11) have the deepest joy and appreciation for the Father and his answer, when the answer at long last comes. Let’s not get spoiled with instant gratification. (12) Surrender our desires to God, to check them in at the door. Are really praying in his will or our own? Surrender yours to him.

“The hearer of the parable is not to imagine himself as the man in bed but as the visitor” (Liefeld and Pao, p. 207).

Now let’s look at Jesus’s illustration itself.

It feels like the subject in this illustration is you, but it is your friend who goes to his neighbor. But if we tweak things a little bit, you are the one who goes to the neighbor because you have an unexpected midnight visitor. You can see yourself in the illustration.

And the custom of the day demanded that your friend take care of the traveler, who was probably walking, not riding on a mount (but we don’t know for sure). But the visitor is unexpected, and your friend does not have enough food to lay out for him, so he has to go to his neighbor for help. Three loaves of bread could have easily fed one man, but apparently the unplanned visitor was going to stay a while. The verses are silent as to whether the traveler was with other friends, which happened more often than a lone traveler. But let’s not get distracted away from the main point of the story (v. 8), by details that are not provided for us.

“children are in bed”: it literally reads, “The children are in bed with me” “or my children are with me in bed.” The NET translator and commentator on Luke points out that when Jesus taught, the family slept in the same room, but in different beds. I add: in the pioneer days in America, they hung a blanket between the girls and the boys and the parents who owned a one room house.

Then your friend’s neighbor is churlish and irritated. The neighbor said that the door is locked and all the children is in bed. “So go away! I’m unable to get up to give you anything!” How would you respond if you were the seeker? You should be shameless in your asking. The implication is that you ask again. That’s why other translations in v. 8 say “persistence.”


This verse is the central point to the illustration. If your churlish neighbor does not immediately lend you three loaves of bread because he is your friend, then he will lend them because of your extra-boldness or shamelessness. The reasoning goes from the minor (churlish neighbor) to the major (Generous Father).

The Generous Father ∞> Churlish neighbor

The Father is infinitely greater than / better than the churlish neighbor.

The symbol ∞ means “infinity.”

“shameless audacity”: The NIV correctly and insightfully translates the term like that. It is the noun anaideia (pronounced ahn-eye-day-ah, and the an– suffix negates the stem aide- or “shame”). It appears only here in the NT. The Shorter Lexicon says “persistence,” but the Greek noun should literally be translated as shamelessness and audacity. This part of the world was shame-and-honor based. Sometimes you have to be shameless and extra-bold and audacious when you pray. So the theological point is that God is much more generous than the stingy neighbor who has three loaves, and God likes bold prayer. He will quickly “get up” and give you as much as you need. You must break down your accustomed way of approaching God in prayer and go bold (John 14:13-14). He is not contemptuous or churlish towards your prayers for your needs. He is generous and willing to give whatever you need—much more than three loaves of bread. However, you must pray according to his will and keep within his will by obeying his commands and living in the Spirit, as opposed to your own self-centered mind (1 John 3:22-24).

To repeat the main message so far, your generous heavenly Father will answer your prayers because he is your friend. The lesson is that he wants you to pray boldly and shamelessly, not with shyness and false humility. “Oh, I don’t want to bother God with my puny needs and requests. He’s too busy running the universe.” No. God, who is your friend, is never too busy to answer your smallest need and request. A woman, unknown to me, emailed me and said her friend was being drawn into Islam, so what should the emailer do? I told her to pray that God would open her eyes to the truth in Christ. She replied, “Can I do that?” Yes! Go bold or go home!

God, who is your friend, loves “shameless,” bold, audacious, “go-for-it” prayers.


The point of the parable moves from the lesser to the greater. If a friend grants your request in the middle of the night, even though he is asleep and tempted to put you off with the weakest of excuses, he will respond out of a desire to keep his name from shame if not from friendship. How much more readily, then, will a loving God respond to prayer? But the parable also ties into the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer for God to sanctify his name. God also has a name and reputation to preserve, who makes makes a name for himself by redeeming his people and doing great and awesome things for them (2 Sam 7:23). (comment on v. 8).

Bock adds a great insight: “The point of comparison is not between the neighbor and God but between the petitioner and the disciple. God’s response stands in contrast to the neighbor’s begrudging help as 11:9-13 will make clear in contrasting humans and God … Answer to prayer is not wrung out of the Father with much effort like water from a towel. He gives willingly (11:9-13). Disciples are to make their request boldly to God. They have access to God and are to make use of it” (p. 1060). (But I think it is also about the generous God contrasted with the reluctant neighbor.)

Liefeld and Pao offer two interpretations. First, the parable contrasts the way God answers prayer. If so, if the host in bed is pressed hard enough and will answer reluctantly, God will answer speedily and more graciously. The second one: If the man abed answers to avoid shame in an honor-and-shame culture, then God will be consistent and honorable in his character and answer our prayers graciously (comment on v. 8).


Now Jesus expands on how to persist in prayer. The commands or imperatives to ask, seek, knock are in the present tense in Greek, so we must keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. And then the answer will be given, the discovery will come, and the door will be opened. So now it is clear why most translations have “persistence” instead of shamelessness, and if that’s what you prefer, then go for it. But I prefer not to miss the clear intent of Jesus that we should pray boldly and shamelessly—and persistently!

“ask”: it is the verb aiteō (pronounced eye-teh-oh). And it means “ask, ask for, request,”; “make a request.” In the Greek language before (and during) the NT was written, the verb could even mean “demand.” But caution must be used. It is not a good idea to demand from God anything. Demanding that God jumps through your hoops to answer your request demonstrates lack of faith, not full faith. Prayers of faith should be calm and confident, not pushy and shrill. He loves you and is not reluctant to give good, God-approved gifts to those who ask (v. 13; Matt. 7:11). Finally, in the larger Greek world, the verb could mean “crave.” I like that. We need to crave the good things of God and God himself most of all.

“seek”: it comes from a very versatile verb zēteō (pronounced zay-teh-oh). It is used three times in vv. 29-31, so it is a key word here. It means, depending on the context: (1) “seek, look for, search for”; “investigate, examine, consider, deliberate”; (2) “try to obtain,” “desire to possess,” “strive for,” “aim at,” “desire,” “wish,” “ask for,” “request,” “demand.” Sometimes it can be translated as “try.” But I could have translated it as “pursue” “or “aim at” or “desire to obtain.” I chose the more traditional “seek.”

“knock”: and let’s finish with the clearest verb of the three. It comes from krouō (pronounced kroo-oh), and it simply means “knock.” It is used only in Matt. 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10; 12:36; 13:25; Acts 12:13, 16; Rev. 3:20. So it looks like Luke used it most often.

The two passive verb indicate the divine passive, which is an understated way of saying that God is the one who gives and opens.


Now Jesus stays on the same teaching device of deliberately absurd contrasts or opposites. Imagine this absurd scenario. Your son or daughter asks you for a fish or an egg, would you as his or her father give either one a snake or scorpion? Of course not, even though you are bad! To do so is unthinkable! Absurd!

So once again,

Your Wise Heavenly Father ≠ bad fathers (you).


Your Wise Heavenly Father ∞ > than bad fathers (you).

That means God is infinitely greater than you are. (The symbol ∞ means “infinity.”) Jesus uses startling images here. An earthly father does not get confused like this. Jesus often uses such startling images (e.g. chopping off hands or gouging out yes, or a beam in your eye).

Even bad fathers will not give their children a snake or scorpion. Therefore, how much more will your wise and good heavenly Father give you good things, particularly the Holy Spirit. So the reasoning again goes from the minor (earthly, bad fathers) to the major (good and wise heavenly Father).

Some teachers say that the snake and scorpion symbolize demon spirits. That may be true, so people who want more of the Spirit do not have to fear that a demon will interfere with the asking, seeking, and knocking to receive the Holy Spirit. Your Father, who is your friend, will gladly give him to you.


As for the asking, seeking, and knocking to receive the Spirit, some old-school Pentecostals teach that we must “tarry” (wait) to receive him, but this is exaggerated for most of us. I received the fullness of the Spirit instantly, the moment I was saved, both the baptism of the Spirit and salvation at the same time. It is true, however, that sometimes potential receivers allow their intellects get in their way. They suffer from the paralysis of analysis. For them, they have to keep on asking, seeking and knocking. They have to get desperate, desperately hungry, and even bypass their overactive intellect.

Before leaving this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-coh-pea) or section, it should be noted that in Matthew’s version, Jesus broadens the final answer to many good gifts the heavenly Father will give those who ask, seek, knock; he does not confine the gift to the Holy Spirit (Matt. 7:7-11), as Luke does here. The difference is that Luke-Acts is very charismatic and Spirit-filled in outlook, and Luke focusses on the one gift of the Spirit—the most important good gift of all, because through the Spirit flows all the other good gifts originating from the Father. But let’s not press this too far, because Luke says Jesus expelled demons by the finger of God (v. 20), while Matthew says by the Spirit of God (12:28). Nonetheless, the whole sweep of Luke-Acts is very charismatic.

A little systematic theology: The Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, proceeds from the Father and Son. His commission from the Father is to cause people to be born again, empower them for service and distribute the gifts as the Father will to his Son’s church.

Here are some of my posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit (systematic theology):

The Spirit’s Deity and Divine Attributes

The Personhood of the Spirit

Titles of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit in the Life of Christ

The Spirit in the Church and Believers

GrowApp for Luke 11:5-13

A.. These illustrations are about opposites. Your Generous and Wise Father ≠ the Churlish Neighbor or You or Your Unwise Fathers. Study Heb. 4:16. Why should you come to the throne of grace? How and how often?

B.. Which bold, audacious prayers have you prayed?

C.. How long have you been asking, knocking, seeking for your answer? How do overcome your discouragement if the answer has not yet come?

Jesus against Beelzebub (Luke 11:14-23)

14 Καὶ ἦν ἐκβάλλων δαιμόνιον [καὶ αὐτὸ ἦν] κωφόν· ἐγένετο δὲ τοῦ δαιμονίου ἐξελθόντος ἐλάλησεν ὁ κωφὸς καὶ ἐθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι.

15 τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶπον· ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια· 16 ἕτεροι δὲ πειράζοντες σημεῖον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἐζήτουν παρ’ αὐτοῦ. 17 αὐτὸς δὲ εἰδὼς αὐτῶν τὰ διανοήματα εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· πᾶσα βασιλεία ἐφ’ ἑαυτὴν διαμερισθεῖσα ἐρημοῦται καὶ οἶκος ἐπὶ οἶκον πίπτει. 18 εἰ δὲ καὶ ὁ σατανᾶς ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν διεμερίσθη, πῶς σταθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ; ὅτι λέγετε ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐκβάλλειν με τὰ δαιμόνια. 19 εἰ δὲ ἐγὼ ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν ἐν τίνι ἐκβάλλουσιν; διὰ τοῦτο αὐτοὶ ὑμῶν κριταὶ ἔσονται. 20 εἰ δὲ ἐν δακτύλῳ θεοῦ [ἐγὼ] ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

21 ὅταν ὁ ἰσχυρὸς καθωπλισμένος φυλάσσῃ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ αὐλήν, ἐν εἰρήνῃ ἐστὶν τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ· 22 ἐπὰν δὲ ἰσχυρότερος αὐτοῦ ἐπελθὼν νικήσῃ αὐτόν, τὴν πανοπλίαν αὐτοῦ αἴρει ἐφ’ ᾗ ἐπεποίθει καὶ τὰ σκῦλα αὐτοῦ διαδίδωσιν. 23 Ὁ μὴ ὢν μετ’ ἐμοῦ κατ’ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ ὁ μὴ συνάγων μετ’ ἐμοῦ σκορπίζει.

14 Now, he was in the process of expelling a mute spirit, and it happened that when the demon left, the mute man spoke, and the crowds marveled.

15 Some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the ruler of demons, he expels demons.” 16 Others, to test him, were seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself undergoes destruction, and a household against household falls. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? You say that I expel demons by Beelzebub. But if I expel demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers expel them? 19 For this reason, they shall be your judges. 20 But if I expel demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

21 Whenever a strong man who is armed guards his house, then his possessions are secure. 22 But whenever a man stronger than he comes and overtakes him, then he takes his armor in which the first man had been confident and distributes his plunder. 23 He who is not with me is against me. He who does not gather with me scatters.”


Don’t be afraid to stand toe to toe with deceived people who are falsely accusing you in public. Don’t slink away. See vv. 53-54 for more information.


“in the process”: the Greek is emphatically in the continuous tense, so this is a sound translation. Sometimes it takes a process to cast out a demon.

Once again, the crowds marvel or are amazed at the miracles Jesus did for the benefit of humanity.

“expel”: it is the verb ekballō (pronounced ehk-bahl-loh), and it literally means to “throw out.” It is the same verb throughout this pericope or section. Be sure to use your authority in Christ to throw out a demon from a person where the evil spirit does not belong.

Bible Basics about Deliverance

“The way to be armed against trial is to pray not to be led into trial. This petition prevents us from the danger of triumphalism (see 1 Cor 10:12)” (Garland, comment on 14c).


The false accusation reflects the meanness of soul, a shriveled mind. “Let me think about it! How could a man who was obviously not from God expel demons? I got it! By the ruler or prince of demons!” Wrong. And Jesus is about to show, by intelligent reasoning, why they are wrong.

“ruler of demons”: these are the words of his critics, so are the words reliable? Is Satan really the ruler of demons? Yes. He heads up the demonic kingdom that is invisible to our eyes, but which manifests itself in cases like the mute man.

“Beelzebub”: This is another name for Satan (v. 18). It probably comes from the Canaanite deity Baal-Zebub (2 Kings 1:2, 3, 6, 16), or it may refer to dwelling of Baal, the Hebrew word zebul, meaning “residence” or “palace.” So it means “lord of the high abode” or “prince Baal.” Matt. 9:34 calls him prince or ruler of demons. Jesus called him the prince of this world (John 14:30).

See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:

Bible Basics about Satan and Demons and Victory Over Them

Satan and Demons: Personal

Satan and Demons: Theology

Satan and Demons: Origins

Bible Basics about Deliverance

Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling


Who are the others? They are the legal experts and Pharisees (Matt. 12:24, 38-42)

“to test”: it is the peirazō (pronounced pay-rah-zoh), and it means, depending on the context, “to try” or “to tempt.” They wanted him to show them a sign in the sky or heaven. I struggled with either of those two words. They were tempting him to run out ahead of his calling. He did not want to broadcast his Messiahship with a magical super-sign. But in what OT context? Possibly in these ways, next.

Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven, which consumed the drenched sacrifices (1 Kings 18:20-40). He ordered the false prophets to be put to the sword. Would he call down fire on the Romans?

Then Elijah also called down fire to consume the soldiers from king Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:1-16), exactly in the passage where the god of Ekron, Baal-Zebub, is mentioned. Jesus’s critics must have taunted him to call down fire on the pagan Romans. Would he do it? Recall his response to James and John, when they asked permission to call down fire on the Samaritans who rejected them (Luke 9:51-55). He wheeled on them and told them no. He rebuked them. Or maybe they tested him to do some other sign, like God making the shadow go backwards, as a sign to king Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:9-11; Is. 17:14-20).

Moses commanded the sky to go dark (Exod. 10:21-29) and other nine plagues. Could Jesus do that to deliver Israel from Rome or prove he was the Messiah?

Whatever the demanded sign was, he rejected their games. He would not produce a sign in the heavens or skies to dazzle the crowds. He was going to be a different kind of sign (see vv. 29-32).

“Jesus rejected the ‘signs on demand’ approach to revealing himself” (4:9-12). The imperfect tense of the verb may reflect an ongoing demand (Bock, p. 1075).

Miracles of God, particularly the ones Jesus performed to usher in the kingdom of God, are purposed to help people, to set them free from natural deformities and diseases and spiritual, demonic afflictions and falsehoods with the truth—all the abnormalities of a world gone haywire, a fallen world. In Elijah’s case, the fire from heaven flashing down on the sacrifices helped the small nation of Israel to come out from under the false gods. But Jesus could foresee that the kingdom of God would not be restricted to Israel. The kingdom would go far outside its borders to all nations (Luke 24:47). So there is no need to call down fire to protect an old Sinai covenant, for such terrifying displays of instant judgment is not how God works to proclaim the good news of the kingdom in the New Covenant to the entire globe. Nowadays he works by (just) government authorities to express his judgment-wrath (Rom. 13:1-5). And during and in spite of this governmental wrath, the gospel goes forth.

See v. 31 for more comments on judgment.

Now let’s get back to this passage.


Jesus could read their thoughts or motives and perceive what they were seeking: a contest of honor and shame. His critics were setting up the rules. “Perform this wonder in the sky, Jesus, like Moses did, and do it now, because we said so!” Uh. No. He is not a trained seal at a waterpark.

Now he launches into an illustration, explaining how he emphatically does not expel demons by Beelzebub. He uses their own distorted logic to smack down his muddle-headed critics. Division is destructive, while unity and a common purpose is constructive.

He begins the first of three if-then hypotheticals, which would come true, if the “if” were to happen. First, if he were tell a demon to stop its work and purpose—making a man mute, of all things—then Satan and his kingdom would be divided against himself and itself. That’s too dysfunctional and self-destructive even for Satan. Even he himself can figure that out. But not Jesus’ critics, for they were too obtuse to make such calculations about the authority and purpose of Jesus. Once again, they had shriveled and even evil minds.

We learn from this passage that Satan has a kingdom that corresponds to countless numbers of worldly kingdoms run by humans (v. 17). So there are three kingdoms (1) God’s, (2) Satan’s, (3) and humanity’s (many of them). God wants to guide—as distinct from theocratically rule over—the many kingdoms of humankind towards righteousness and justice and light, so he gave them moral law, which is figured out by moral reasoning and conscience. The best path for worldly kingdoms is for moral reasoning and conscience to then implement moral law by legislation, so they will have no more injustice, like slavery or joblessness, because the economy booms with liberty and life. The problem is that Satan wants to rule over the third kingdoms and absolutely control them. He does this by blinding leaders with all sorts of human vices, like greed and oppression and extermination. Any society that practices extermination is on the side of Satan. Any nation that practices slavery—or used to practice slavery—was listening to Satan within that singular policy (but not entirely wrongheaded about other issues, like liberty and freedom of the press and freedom of religion and so on). However, the third, human-ruled kingdoms have enough evil people in them that Satan does not need to work very hard to implement his evil oppression. All he has to do is nudge people.

The best news is that eventually, when God sees that the time is right, he will send his Son a second time, and he will sweep aside all worldly kingdoms and set up his lasting kingdom. But right now, we his followers have to fight for truth and righteousness and most of all for the salvation of people’s souls and hearts.


Then Jesus uses the second if-then argument. If he, hypothetically, were to expel demons by Beelzebub, then by whom do the critics’ followers (literally “sons”) expel them? The honest answer is that the followers of the critics do not expel them by Beelzebub; therefore, Jesus does not expel them by Beelzebub, either. The critics’ followers will be the judges of his critics.

“The point is that what the opponents say about Jesus, they must accept for anyone else who does the same thing. If Jesus exorcises by Satan, then so do other exorcists. But if others—whether Jewish exorcists or the disciples—exorcise by God’s power, then so does Jesus. It is one or the other” (Bock. p. 1077).


Now here is the third of the if-then arguments. If Jesus expels demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon them. The “finger” stands in for the power of God in competition with other evil forces. Pharaoh’s magicians said the finger of God worked the miracle of the gnats (Exod. 8:19). Matthew’s version says “by the Spirit of God” Jesus casts out demons (12:28). So one must have the fulness of the Spirit to watch the finger of God expel demons.

“kingdom of God”: see v. 2 for more information.

Here the aorist tense (simple past) appears. The kingdom of God has come upon you. Therefore, some argue that the kingdom of God is realized or accomplished in its fullness at that time and now. This is called realized eschatology (eschatology is a fancy word for final or end-time issues). However, the professional grammarians teach us that the aorist tense, rather than the future tense, “underscores ‘the certainty and imminence’ of the future action (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 386). In plainer terms, the fulness of the kingdom has not yet come, but its arrival is certain and about to happen. So it is not fully realized eschatology right now. And this is true where the aorist tense appears in contexts like this one. We live in the “already” and “not yet.” The kingdom of God is in the process of invading the kingdoms of the world and Satan’s kingdom. Sooner than later, God’s kingdom will be fully realized.


The Spirit reflects God’s presence in people, as well as God’s work or power and his promise. Humans are now able to live as God would desire because they respond to his Spirit, so that his rule becomes evident in their lives. This group of disciples, which becomes the church, is not all there is to the kingdom nor is it all there is to God’s plan and promise, but it is a microcosm of what the kingdom will be when the OT promises are completely fulfilled in Jesus’ return. The Spirit is the down-payment of the redemption to come. (p. 1082)

See v. 13 for links to the doctrine of the Spirit.


The strong man is Satan, and the stronger man is Jesus. Jesus invades the domain of Satan and overpowers and conquers him. Now what does the conquering Lord do? What else but take the arms and armor—Satan’s weaponry—away from the evil strong man. Jesus then distributes his plunder or spoils of war. What are Satan’s spoils? One commentator says things like salvation and the Holy Spirit, but this is impossible, since they are not Satan’s possessions. So what is the plunder? You and me. Now, after he liberates us from the kingdom of Satan, Jesus distributes us where he wills in the new kingdom of God. Yes, Satan is strong, so never underestimate his power and authority to make people’s lives miserable. However, never underestimate Jesus’s victory over him and ultimately over his entire house or kingdom. Demon expulsion is the key sign in Jesus’s ministry that Satan was losing his grip and power.

“house”: the word could be translated as a courtyard, surrounding the house, the living spaces. The noun assumes a rich person’s house, so this illustrates that Satan’s kingdom is wealthy, and his kingdom influences and oversees wealthy, worldly kingdoms. There is a lot of plunder and spoils in his kingdom, so when God redistributes them, his kingdom is enriched by you and me, by his grace, not our personal efforts.

“armor”: it is the noun panoplia (pronounced pah-noh-plee-ah, and yes, we get our word panoply from it). It is the Roman’s soldiers full armor—sword, shield, shin guards, shoulder guards, helmet, belts, and so on. Eph. 6:10-18 describes the armor and weaponry more fully.

Satan had confidence in his own weaponry. That’s self-centered and arrogant. It is literally God-less. Let’s do the opposite of what Satan does. Let’s have confidence in God’s armor and gifting, not ours.

“first man”: this phrase has been added for clarity.

21 On that day the Lord will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
22 They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished. (Is. 24:21-22, ESV)

“That day” typically refers to the wrap-up of the entire age, the final day. The host of heaven may refer to elemental principles that have a life of their own, in a spiritual sense—evil invisible beings. The NT clarifies them as satanic (Eph. 6:12).

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Eph. 6:12, ESV)

Right now, before the last day, we have victory over them because of Christ’s work on the cross:

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Col. 2:13-15, ESV)

Verse 15 is the important one for us here. On the cross, he disarmed the invisible rulers and authorities. We now have victory over the strong man, by Jesus’s death, and in his name.


Luke has a similar saying in 9:50: “But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him, for whoever is not against you is for you.’”

Now is the time for choosing. Jesus has set his face like a flint to die in Jerusalem. Yes, he is taking his time to get there, because a lot of ministry and training still has to be done. But if you don’t follow him right now, you won’t do it later. If you are not with him, you oppose him. It’s cut and dry, right now. And if you don’t gather with him right now, you will scatter and run away when he gets to Jerusalem. And in your life now, when you don’t have a deep and rooted and personal relationship with him, then you will run away from him when times get tough.

GrowApp for Luke 11:14-23

A.. Do you have a unified household? How do you get or maintain one?

B.. Jesus has rescued you from Satan’s kingdom. How has God distributed you in his kingdom? What is your mission or purpose in life, big or seemingly small?

C.. How do you develop a relationship with Jesus, so you don’t scatter when times get tough?

Return of the Unclean Spirit with Seven More (Luke 11:24-26)

24 Ὅταν τὸ ἀκάθαρτον πνεῦμα ἐξέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, διέρχεται δι’ ἀνύδρων τόπων ζητοῦν ἀνάπαυσιν καὶ μὴ εὑρίσκον· [τότε] λέγει· ὑποστρέψω εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον· 25 καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον. 26 τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ· καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων. 24 Whenever the unclean spirit goes out from a person, it wanders through waterless places seeking a resting place, and not finding one, it then says, “I’ll go back into the house I left.” 25 It goes and finds it had been swept and ordered. 26 Then it goes and takes along seven other evil spirits and enters and squats there. And it happens that the ending of that person is worse than the beginning.


The more academic pastors say that this is just a common belief back in those days, so don’t learn any lesson about spiritual warfare from those verses. But I say these academics are wrong. We can learn about spiritual warfare and discipleship. And by the way, academic commentators say there are spiritual warfare lessons to be learned here, as well.


The point here is not waterless places, but regions where humans do not live. However, if a preacher wishes to spiritualize the water, as in baptism or the Holy Spirit, then he is free to do so. The point is that evil spirits consigned to the earthly realms and are disembodied from people do not find resting places outside of people. Demons need to occupy and harass humans.

Then we learn that demons have a certain measure of free will and self-interest and mental ability to spot their own needs, so that this one goes back to the house or soul it left (literally “from which I left”).

“person”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only “men.” However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context (in 2:25; 4:33; 6:6; 7:8, for example, the context says one man or male). So a “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say. So I chose “person.”


“ordered”: it comes from the verb kosmeō (pronounced kohss-meh-oh), and we get our word cosmos from it, and it means “put in order.”

So what does it mean to have a soul swept and ordered? It is clear or assumed that the person has been delivered by a Jesus follower. “Swept” and “ordered” mean his mind does not think an endless series of bad thoughts. They do not dominate him. His mind is being renewed. Also, his life is being ordered. He does not visit the old haunts where he did his drugs or drink his alcohol or visit unsavory places. He lives a clean life. The single demon cannot break through the cleaning and the ordering.


“seven”: you can either take it numerically (a literal platoon of seven demons, plus the original one) or symbolically (seven is the number of completion, so it is a complete and powerful counterattack or second attack). I take it literally and numerically. It is the one demon plus seven, totaling eight.

This passage teaches us that demons can communicate with each other and plan and strategize their attack. Next, they can spot your former weakness by which one demon had gained a foothold and go strong for the attack. Then they harass your soul with temptation to compel you to give in to your old weakness. Your mind reels. You lose your perspective. Your mind focusses back on your old sins that were disordered and piled up dust and debris in your mind. You can’t stop thinking about your old life. The demons attack and provoke your old desires. “I just gotta have that old drug! “I just gotta have that drink!” “I just gotta go back and fornicate with my old boyfriend!” And you give in. Then your end is worse than your beginning (literally “first”). Getting desire under the control of the Spirit is very important.

9 Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

But the good news is that you can be forgiven and restored, even after you give in to these eight demons. The rest of the Scriptures says so. So why didn’t Jesus talk about redemption here at the end of this true story? It is a stern warning. But you do not have to give in even to one demon or a legion of them.

We have to combine preaching or proclaiming and then have signs and wonders. If signs and wonders alone are done by street evangelists, then they miss the teaching element. Let’s hope that Matt. 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26 doesn’t take effect. After a demon is expelled from the homeless person or an average passerby, the demon goes out and looks for seven more demons to repossess the body, and the latter condition is worse than before. People need to be filled with the Word and fellowship, after their deliverance.

You can stand on these six foundation stones:

(1). Prayer and intimacy with Christ in your walk with him.

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

Bible Basics about Praise and Worship

(2). Get baptized in the Spirit. The single demon went to waterless places, which (as noted) speaks of the absence of the Spirit, since water symbolizes the Spirit (John 3:3-7; 7:37-39). But you don’t need to symbolize this passage to be filled with the Spirit.

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?

(3). Get water baptized.

Basics about Water Baptism

(4). Scripture: you need to get Scripture to saturate your mind. Recall that Jesus fought his big temptation with Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11). Study it strategically—who God is, who Christ is, who the Spirit is. Find Scriptures that talk about your personalized weakness. Memorize them, so you can think about the verses when the temptation comes.

The Power of Scripture and Doctrine in the Church

(5). You must fellowship with other believers at a Spirit-filled, Bible-teaching and Jesus-following church. Then the people of God can pray for you when you are being demonically attacked.

What Is Fellowship?

(6). You must live the surrendered life before God. James 3:7: “Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Word Study on Disciple

“squats”: it is a heavier verb than “lives,” but if you prefer the translation “lives” or “settles,” you can certainly pick that word. But “squats” makes it seems like an illegal breaking-and-reentry. The demons don’t belong there in the person’s house or soul, now that it had been swept clean and ordered.

GrowApp for Luke 11:24-26

A.. How do you get your life swept and ordered, so that you can resist satanic attacks?

B.. Study Luke 4:1-13. How did Jesus fight and defeat Satan?

The Ones Who Are Truly Blessed (Luke 11:27-28)

27 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ λέγειν αὐτὸν ταῦτα ἐπάρασά τις φωνὴν γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπεν αὐτῷ· μακαρία ἡ κοιλία ἡ βαστάσασά σε καὶ μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας. 28 αὐτὸς δὲ εἶπεν· μενοῦν μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες. 27 And it happened that while he was speaking these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts which nursed you!” 28 But he said, “On the contrary! Blessed are the ones who listen to the word of God and keep it!”



This verse is spoken from a mother’s perspective. A woman has the right to feel proud of her son, and this woman expressed herself by using something literal (womb and breasts) to stand in for the intimacy she feels for her child. It is the human point of view. However, Jesus wants to raise it to a higher vision.


This verse comes from the higher kingdom perspective. “on the contrary” is strong. It could also be translated as “not so!” “In contrast!” “Rather!”

Jesus already covered the two kinds of listeners (Luke 6:46-49). The wise one digs deep and builds his house on a firm foundation, and when the storms of life and testing come, it stands because it is well built. The unwise listener builds his house on the ground without a foundation. It collapses.

In this verse Jesus said you got to keep the word of God. It could be translated as “message” of God. It is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Since the Greek noun is so important, let’s explore it more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.

The noun is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level!) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Luke’s Gospel has logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.

Bottom line: Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life. And see the other elements for a healthy spiritual life, in v. 26.

“keep”: it is the verb phulassō (pronounced foo-lahs-soh). In this context it means “obey carefully, assiduously.” In other contexts it means “to guard.”

GrowApp for Luke 11:26-28

A.. Have you ever had an earthbound opinion that needed a heavenly perspective? Give an example and how you changed.

Demand for a Sign (Luke 11:29-32)

27 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ λέγειν αὐτὸν ταῦτα ἐπάρασά τις φωνὴν γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπεν αὐτῷ· μακαρία ἡ κοιλία ἡ βαστάσασά σε καὶ μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας. 28 αὐτὸς δὲ εἶπεν· μενοῦν μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες. 29 Τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων ἤρξατο λέγειν· ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν· σημεῖον ζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. 30 καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ. 31 βασίλισσα νότου ἐγερθήσεται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινεῖ αὐτούς, ὅτι ἦλθεν ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς ἀκοῦσαι τὴν σοφίαν Σολομῶνος, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Σολομῶνος ὧδε. 32 ἄνδρες Νινευῖται ἀναστήσονται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτήν· ὅτι μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ ὧδε. 29 While the crowds were increasing, he began to teach. “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and look, something greater than Solomon is here! 32 The men of Nineveh will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it because they repented at the message of Jonah, and look! Something greater than Jonah is here!”



In v. 16, the people were testing or tempting Jesus to perform a sign at their choosing and in their way. They wanted to turn him into a magician. See v. 16 for possible signs which they were demanding. One possible sign was the one that Moses performed: the sky was darkened. It was an unmistakable, clear sign. Would Jesus do it? Why not? No, the sign that shall be given to Jesus’s generation was his preaching with great power and wisdom and the people’s refusal to repent. Jonah and the Ninevites did not have the benefits or the light that Jesus brought. Yet the Ninevites repented. Now what about the Jews of Jesus’s generation?

So there will no sign in the heaven like Moses performed. No need. Jesus wanted to shield his identity as the Messiah so people would have to dig deep for it. Were they hungry? Would they connect the dots by faith? Would they understand Is. 53 and the Suffering Servant? Or did they want the Mighty Messiah (Dan. 7)? Would they miss the boat and reject their true, humble Messiah, so the larger world far outside Israel (even you and me) could welcome him as the Messiah?

Here are the signs that Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples to report back to John, as he languished in prison, doubting:

18 When his disciples reported to John all these things, he summoned two of his disciples 19 and sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the Coming One or should we wait for another?” 20 After the men approached him, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you saying. ‘Are you the Coming One, or should we wait for another?’” 21 At that period of time he healed many from their diseases and afflictions and evil spirits and granted many blind to see. 22 In reply, he said to them, “Go, and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, those with skin disease are cleansed, the deaf hear, dead are raised, the poor have the good news preached to them (Luke 7:18-22)

Jonah: Luke omits the three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, while Matthew has it (12:38-42). In this pericope, Luke does write that this sign is the resurrection on the third day. So what is the purpose of Jonah’s example? Luke writes in vv. 31-32 that the sign for his generation is judgment. It is a sad fact that Jesus’s generation was coming under judgment because the Jerusalem establishment and some of the smaller towns did not repent.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem:

41 Then as he was approaching and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you—yes, you!—recognized this day and the things leading to peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes! 43 Days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up barricades and surround you and hem you in from every direction! 44 Then they will destroy you and throw the children in you to the ground and not allow one stone on another stone in you because you did not recognize the day of your visitation! (Luke 19:41-44)

Jesus again prophesies judgment on Jerusalem:

20 When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you know that its desolation is near. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains and those inside it must get out and those in the countryside must not enter it, 22 because these are the days of judgment, fulfilling everything that has been written. (Luke 21:20-22)

These passages clearly refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, by the Romans. It must be noted, however, that after Pentecost thousands of individual Jews did convert (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7 [priests]; 21:20). So the judgment did not fall on everyone; “this generation” is a generalization.

Luke 21:5-33 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple

However, Morris takes the sign to be the resurrection, without mentioning Jonah’s proclamation of judgment. After all, the Ninevites repented, and it seems that the Jerusalem establishment would not repent.

“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.

4. Titles of Jesus: The Son of Man


The Queen of the South is Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chron. 9:1-12). She was truly impressed and overawed at Solomon’s wisdom. Now what about Jesus’s fellow Jews at his teaching with wisdom and great power? Would they receive it? Evidently some did, but others did not.

“will rise”: Every dead person will be reunited with their bodies, which lay buried in the ground or dissolved in the ocean. God can work this miracle.

It must be a humiliating thought to men for a woman to judge them (the Greek is unambiguously “men” and not the generic “persons”). She traveled a great distance to listen to Solomon in her generation, but to the first-century generation, God sent his very best. Jesus is the one who became an itinerant preacher, so they did not have to travel very far, just right outside their doors in the countryside. Or sometimes he went through their village.

“wisdom”: Let’s define it broadly and biblically. BDAG is considered the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it translates the noun sophia (pronounced soh-fee-ah and used 51 times) as “the capacity to understand and function accordingly—wisdom.”

So biblical wisdom is very practical. It is not like the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, which was very abstract. But let’s not make too much of the differences. In the classical Greek lexicon, sophia can also mean: “skill in handcraft and art … knowledge of, acquaintance with a thing … sound judgment, intelligence, practical wisdom.” In a bad sense it can mean “cunning, shrewdness, craft” (Liddell and Scott).

The adjective is sophos (pronounced soh-fohss and used 20 times) and according to BDAG it means (1) “pertaining to knowing how to do something in a skillful manner, clever, skillful, experienced”; (2) “pertaining to understanding that results in wise attitudes and conduct, wise.”

Word Study: Wisdom

“at judgment”: Every person who ever lived will be judged before the great white throne, and so it seems Sheba will stand in the middle of this generation and be a living witness to it. She does not have to pronounce judgment on them, for her appearance will be sufficient. But if we read the verse literally, then she will actually be permitted by God to condemn them.

God’s wrath is judicial.

It is not like this:


But like this:


That is a picture of God in judgment.

The Wrath of God in the New Testament

Do I Really Know God? He Shows Wrath

The Wrath of God in the Old Testament

Everyone Shall Be Judged by Their Works and Words

Word Study on Judgment

Bible Basics about the Final Judgment

Does God Cause Natural Disasters to Punish People Today?

But be careful! God is still a judge–the judge–and those living outside the New Covenant are susceptible to his negative judgment in the afterlife, if not in the here and now.

“something”: why didn’t Jesus say “someone”? Some commentators say that “something” refers to Jesus’s message. But professional grammarians have researched the term and conclude that it means the qualities and characteristics of the messenger—Jesus. It means the “entire package” of his life, teaching, and ministry. That makes sense to me.


This is a double warning. Now it is the turn of the Ninevites, who lived long before Jesus came, to condemn the evil generation when Jesus lived. The Ninevites will also rise up at the judgment, being reunited with their bodies, and judge the evil generation.

“something”: see v. 31 for more comments.

“repent”: it is the verb metanoeō (pronounced meh-tah-noh-eh-oh), and “to repent” literally means “changed mind.” And it goes deeper than mental assent or agreement. Another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life.

What Is Repentance?

The sign of Jonah includes all three elements: the preaching of repentance (5:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10); the preaching of judgment (13:1-9, 23-30, 34-35; 20:9-19; 22:20-28; 23:28-31) and divine rescue (24:5-7) (Garland, comment on 11::29-32). Garland’s fuller interpretation makes sense.

Before leaving this pericope or section, let’s talk about judgment in a little more detail as I did at Luke 10:13-15.

Yes, Jesus is employing firm rhetoric—even harsh rhetoric—but there are theological truths here that explain the strong rhetoric. First, this “generation” stands in for many individual persons, as a collective. It’s not clear (to me at least) how God through Christ will judge an entire generation as a collective, but he will. It may be based on the idea that generations seem to take on an ethos or character, probably because neighbors copy each other. It is easy to imagine, however, that a few people may have welcomed or would have welcomed the kingdom of God in each town or generation. If a few adults broke free from the unbelieving crowd, then God will judge them differently, like Lot and his family escaping from Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, God distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked. Abraham asked God, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25, ESV). The answer is yes.

Are There Degrees of Punishment, Rewards after Final Judgment?

Are All Sins Equal?

What Happens to Children after They Die?

Second, people are judged according to the light they have. The Ninevites had very little light other than moral law and Jonah’s message of repentance. Now imagine how the judgment will be on this entire generation in this pericope when they did not repent! They had a much brighter light than just moral law. They had the kingdom of God and the Messiah in their midst. If this generation could not accept them, then their judgment will be severe. With greater gifts and light come greater responsibility. If people reject God’s gifts and light, then their judgments will be severe.

See my posts on judgment, linked under v. 31.

Third, we don’t know how judgment and sentencing will be carried out. Please read a three-part series, each of which has plenty of Scriptural support:

1. Hell and Punishment: Eternal, Conscious Torment

2. Hell and Punishment: Terminal Punishment

3. Hell and Punishment: Universalism

Charismatic theologian and Presbyterian minister J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:

These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.

One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).

For the record, Williams did not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).

However, if you insist on taking the darkness and the fire literally, then you may certainly do so.

Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying:

“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”

GrowApp for Luke 11:29-32

A.. Would you travel as far as the Queen of the South (Sheba) to follow Jesus?

B.. Was your heart as ripe and tender as those of the Ninevites when you repented? Tell your story.

The Light of the Body (Luke 11:33-36)

33 Οὐδεὶς λύχνον ἅψας εἰς κρύπτην τίθησιν [οὐδὲ ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον] ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι τὸ φῶς βλέπωσιν. 34 Ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου. ὅταν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς ᾖ, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινόν ἐστιν· ἐπὰν δὲ πονηρὸς ᾖ, καὶ τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινόν. 35 σκόπει οὖν μὴ τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστίν. 36 εἰ οὖν τὸ σῶμά σου ὅλον φωτεινόν, μὴ ἔχον μέρος τι σκοτεινόν, ἔσται φωτεινὸν ὅλον ὡς ὅταν ὁ λύχνος τῇ ἀστραπῇ φωτίζῃ σε. 33 “No one lights a lamp and places it in a hidden place or under a basket, but upon a lampstand, so that everyone who comes in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is healthy, the whole body is also light. When it is evil, your body is dark. 35 Watch therefore that the ‘light’ which is in you is not dark. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is light, not having any part of darkness, it shall be completely light, as when a lamp shines brightly on you.”


This passage relates to this earlier one in Luke:

16 No one lighting a lamp hides it under of container or places it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so those who come in may see the light. 17 For these is no hidden thing which shall not be manifest, neither a secret thing which shall not be known and come into the open. 18 Pay attention therefore how you hear. For whoever has it shall be given him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken from him. (Luke 8:16-18)


Now let’s analyze vv. 33-36.

Some interpretations say that in a Jewish context, the sound eye = generosity, while the evil eye = stingy or parsimonious.

Another interpretation says that this is an illustration about truth (light) v. falsehood (darkness) and true perception (light) v. self-deception (darkness), impacting (or infecting) your inner being. Here, as usual, Jesus’s teaching does not emphasize philosophical thinking, but moral living and one’s relationship with God. In the context, vv. 14-23, in which Jesus’s critics believed he had expelled demons by the prince of demons, he here explains by metaphors how wrong and deceived they were. Their minds were so darkened that they actually believed that his authority came from Satan, so that Satan’s kingdom would be effective if it were divided against itself! Their “light” really was darkness. Further, in vv. 24-26 Jesus taught that a swept and ordered person can undergo further, stronger attacks. Here he expands on the idea with moral truths through the images of light and darkness.

In my view, this is how the images can be transposed:

Light = truth = Christ’s message

Darkness = falsehood = Satan’s message

Eye = gateway to or perception of the mind

Whole body = whole inner being

One could also add that Jesus himself is the light of the world (Luke 2:32; John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12).

Now what about your mind and total inner being? Do they receive light or darkness?

This pericope or section is a short parable. See v. 5 for more comments on what a parable is.


This verse is obvious. No one does absurd things. Now let’s see what lessons can be drawn from the opposite case.

“There is no automatic ‘inner light’ as far as Jesus is concerned” (Bock, p. 1101). It only exists in the teaching of Jesus (Luke 1:78-79; 2:32; John 1:4; 3:19-21; 9:39-41; Acts 26:18).


In this verse the eye takes in the light, just as the mind takes in truths or falsehoods. In your initial intake of truth or falsehood, the mind can become light or dark, which in turn impacts your entire inner being. When your perception and mind take in moral truths and relational knowledge of God, your whole being is light (an adjective, not in the nominative). When your perception and mind take in moral falsehoods and false beliefs about moral truths and relational knowledge of God, then your whole being will become dark.


Jesus now applies his obvious principle of taking in light or darkness. He tells the people to be careful and pay attention. They can be so self-deluded that the “light” in them is actually dark, but they do not perceive their self-deception. That is self-deception to the furthest degree. It is tough to break. To break self-deception, follow the basic foundations listed in. v. 26.

I put the word light in quotation marks because Jesus is stating an odd phenomenon. Literally, a light cannot be darkness, but morally one’s “light” can appear to the person to be bright, but it is really dark. Self-deception is powerful.


Now he ends on the positive. Fully following Jesus towards God is when your whole inner being is full of light, without one part of darkness in you. You listen to and obey his teaching (v. 28; cf. Luke 6:46-49). You follow him completely.

13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:13-16, NIV)

GrowApp for Luke 11:33-36

A.. What can you do to prevent self-deception and darkness from entering your whole being?

B.. What can you do to allow true perception and light to enter your whole being?

Woes upon Pharisees and Legal Experts (Luke 11:37-54)

37 Ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι ἐρωτᾷ αὐτὸν Φαρισαῖος ὅπως ἀριστήσῃ παρ’ αὐτῷ· εἰσελθὼν δὲ ἀνέπεσεν. 38 ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου. 39 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος πρὸς αὐτόν· νῦν ὑμεῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τοῦ πίνακος καθαρίζετε, τὸ δὲ ἔσωθεν ὑμῶν γέμει ἁρπαγῆς καὶ πονηρίας. 40 ἄφρονες, οὐχ ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔξωθεν καὶ τὸ ἔσωθεν ἐποίησεν; 41 πλὴν τὰ ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην, καὶ ἰδοὺ πάντα καθαρὰ ὑμῖν ἐστιν.

42 ἀλλ’ οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ πήγανον καὶ πᾶν λάχανον καὶ παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ· ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ παρεῖναι.

43 Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀγαπᾶτε τὴν πρωτοκαθεδρίαν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς.

44 Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι ἐστὲ ὡς τὰ μνημεῖα τὰ ἄδηλα, καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι [οἱ] περιπατοῦντες ἐπάνω οὐκ οἴδασιν.

45 Ἀποκριθεὶς δέ τις τῶν νομικῶν λέγει αὐτῷ· διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα λέγων καὶ ἡμᾶς ὑβρίζεις. 46 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς οὐαί, ὅτι φορτίζετε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φορτία δυσβάστακτα, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἑνὶ τῶν δακτύλων ὑμῶν οὐ προσψαύετε τοῖς φορτίοις.

47 Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν προφητῶν, οἱ δὲ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτούς. 48 ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτούς, ὑμεῖς δὲ οἰκοδομεῖτε. 49 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν· ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν, 50 ἵνα ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης, 51 ἀπὸ αἵματος Ἅβελ ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίου τοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου· ναὶ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης. 52 Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς, ὅτι ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως· αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε καὶ τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.

53 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι δεινῶς ἐνέχειν καὶ ἀποστοματίζειν αὐτὸν περὶ πλειόνων, 54 ἐνεδρεύοντες αὐτὸν θηρεῦσαί τι ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ.

37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him whether he would dine with him. He went into his house and reclined at the table. 38 The Pharisee observed and was surprised that he did not wash first before dinner. 39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees wash the outside of the cup and dish, but your inside is full of violent greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside also make the inside? 41 But make the inside things alms, and look! Everything is clean for you!

42 But woe to you Pharisees because you tithe mint and rue and every plant and pass over the justice and love of God. But do these things and don’t skip over the other things!

43 Woe to you Pharisees because you love the first seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplaces!

44 Woe to you because you are like unmarked tombs and people who walk over them do not know it!”

45 In reply, one of the legal experts said to him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you also insult us.” 46 He said, “Woe also to you legal experts because you load people with cargo that is too heavy, but you yourselves don’t budge one of your fingers to help them!

47 Woe to you because you build the tombs of the prophets, but your ancestors killed them! 48 So then you are witnesses and approve of the works of your ancestors because they killed them, but you build their tombs!

49 Because of this, the wisdom of God said, ‘I shall send them prophets, and apostles and some of them they will kill and persecute, 50 with the result that the blood of all the prophets spilled from the foundation of the world will be charged to this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple!’ Yes, I tell you it will be charged to this generation! 52 Woe to you legal experts because you take away the key of knowledge, but you yourselves don’t go in but you hinder those going in!”

53 When he left from there, the teachers of the law and Pharisees began to be really hostile and reprimand him about many things, 54 lying in wait to catch him with anything he said.

For the longer teachings on the woes against religious leaders:

Matthew 23


Here follows the four-part rebuke of the Pharisees, represented by this one. Then Jesus issues a threefold rebuke of the legal experts and teachers of the law.

Don’t use this harsh rhetoric against your family or your boss or teachers or clerks at a business establishment! Get the context first. He was speaking to religious oppressors, the powerful.

You can read about the three groups, Pharisees, legal experts, and teachers of the law (in many translations these teachers are called “scribes”), at this link:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

All three groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland, p. 243), like the puritans of the seventeenth century. In the case of these three Jewish groups of enforcers, it is a sad fact that religious people—even extra-spiritual ones—can miss God’s purpose or will for them. They are too smart for their own good. Further, the problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV). Overdoing righteousness damages one’s relationship with God and others.


Jesus accepted the invitation, while he had set his face like a flint to go towards Jerusalem and be arrested and tried by men much like this Pharisee here.

“reclined”: people back then did not sit at a table in a chair but reclined at a low-level table or maybe a mat on the floor.

“at the table” was added for clarity.


“wash”: it is the verb baptizō (pronounced bahp-tee-zoh), and it means to immerse or dip. Jesus was probably offered a bowl into which he was to dip his hands, or a bowl was sitting by the door. Whatever the case, he waved it off.

Washing before a meal was not required in the old law of Moses, but it was described in the Hebrew Bible. For the Pharisee the issue was purity before God, while for Jesus washing religiously was an added burden. The Pharisee was observing (the standard verb for seeing), which implies judgment. The Pharisees and teachers of the law had always been watching him maliciously (Luke 6:6-11).

Jesus read the Pharisee’s judgmental thoughts and responded. It was time for him to liberate people first, but also to be provocative, so that by the time he reaches Jerusalem he will have offended enough of the establishment so that ironically they could be put on trial; that is, would they recognize the Messiah? No. They failed at their own trial; and therefore, his mission and gospel would go around the whole world to the Gentiles.


It is rather foolish to wash the outside of the serving ware and not the inside. Outside appearances was more important to the class of Pharisees than inward righteousness.

“violent greed”: the grammarians Culy, Parsons, and Stigall suggest this translation (p. 401), because of the noun harpagē (pronounced hahr-pah-gay), which has to do with a violent or forcible snatching. The noun is related to the verb harpazō (pronounced hahr-pah-zoh), which can be translated “catch up” or “snatch up” (see 1 Thess. 4:17). Jesus will denounce the grammateis (plural for grammateus) for devouring widows houses (Luke 20:47). His pronouncements of woes on them goes way beyond just their requirement to wash.

“wickedness”: it is the noun ponēria (pronounced poh-nay-ree-ah), and unsurprisingly it means “wickedness, baseness, maliciousness, sinfulness.”

“Pharisees”: You can learn more about them at this post:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

This group was the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (Garland, p. 243). See above for more comments.

Religious leaders showed great care to keep cups and platters spotless and ritually clean.

Clean and Unclean Food in Leviticus 11 from a NT Perspective

Childbirth, Bodily Discharges in Leviticus 12, 15 from a NT Perspective


“fools!” it is the noun aphrōn (pronounced ah-frone). It combines the a-, which negates (un- or not) and phrōn, which means prudence or clear, sober thinking. So it could be literally translated as “unwise!” (See also Luke 12:20.)

Jesus states an obvious truth. The maker made the inside and outside of the cup and dish. Similarly, our Heavenly Maker made both our body (external appearance) and our soul (inner being). May the two match up, as he is about to explain, next.

“The OT fool is one who is blind to God, who fails to respond well to God’s will or his way” (Bock, p. 1113).


“make the inside things alms”: it could be translated as “make alms the inside things.” In other words, what appears on the outside must work its way to the inside. If your inside were charitable like your outward almsgiving (monetary donations), then your outside and inside would match up. You could go deeper than the outward show.

“look”: it can be translated as “behold!” but I like the updated translation. Many translations skip the verb at various times. It is easy to imagine that Jesus held up a cup just then and said, “look! everything is now clean, both the inside and outside of the cup!”

This verb has often been translated as the older “behold!” I like “behold!” but I updated it. It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follow. Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope. Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21). Here it is the object that takes priority, so it is now clear he was holding up a cup and turning it this way and that, to show that it is smart to wash the inside and outside.

“The story of Cornelius in Acts 10 illustrates this point. Though he disregarded Jewish purity laws as a Gentile, he was a devout man who feared God, prayed constantly, and gave alms (Acts 10:2). God declared him to be ‘clean’ (Acts 10:15; 11:9)” (Garland, comment on 11:39-41).


Woe ≠ Curse. Jesus was not pronouncing curses on people.

Instead, Woe = Pity.

Jesus was pronouncing pity on them who stand under divine judgment.

However, some commentators say he was speaking in righteous anger at religious leaders. I say it could be both anger and pity. Anger, because they were leaders who were abusing the people with overbearing laws, and pity because they were about to come under divine judgment. But one thing is certain: the woes were not curses.

In this verse we have another example of the requirement of matching up and being consistent. The Pharisees fuss over giving plants as their tithe, but they skip over or avoid the justice and love of God. The religious duty of tithing on the one side and justice and love of God on the other must match up.

I like how Jesus balances the justice and love of God. Too many teachers omit God’s justice and teach nothing but love and grace. (For a few months I used to be imbalanced like that, but I have come to my senses.)

At this point, pastors use this verse (and Matt. 23:23) to impose tithing on the New Covenant people of God. However, Jesus was merely illustrating the general principle of inner and outer consistency. Plus, Jesus spoke before the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Of course he would mention to this Pharisee the theocratic national tax of ten percent to support the (soon-to-be obsolete) temple. He made other such pronouncements to his fellow Jews, like paying the temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27). However, he was about to predict the temple’s destruction (Luke 21:20-24). Therefore the ten-percent national tithe-tax would never be brought forward to the new covenant church. For many Renewalists today, this is difficult to believe, since they have been taught (not to say browbeaten) for decades to pay this old national tax imposed on theocratic Israel. And no, the fact that patriarchs tithed before the law is not decisive, either. They were still supporting old rituals and religious systems. And no, Heb. 7 does not help, either.

Please see my long post on why the tithe teaching is wrongheaded, and why the New Covenant authors had a better plan, a God-inspired plan:

Why Tithing Does Not Apply to New Covenant Believers

“love of God”: This is God’s love for us. They don’t have God’s love for them in their hearts. So what is God’s love? It has a wide range of meanings. Let’s explore them.

The standard Greek lexicon (BDAG) is not very helpful. It simply says of the noun, “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, esteem, regard, love.” That does not go far enough.  It also says the noun is the agape-feast (not covered here), in which the first Christians shared a common meal together in connection with their gathering to worship, for the “purpose of fostering and expressing mutual affection and concern, fellowship meal, a love feast.”

The DNTT says that the LXX, (third-to-second century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent) translated the Greek verb agapaō in a variety of ways and can stand in even for eraō “strong desire.” Jonathan and David expressed friendship love that went deeper than a man’s love for a woman (2 Sam. 1:26; 18:1, 3, 20; 20:17).

The noun agapē is divine. It starts with God, flows from him, and is offered back to him with our lives. We cannot ginger it up with our own efforts.

The noun agapē is sacrificial. Out of his agapē, God sacrificed his Son for us, and now we sacrifice our lives to him.

It means a total commitment. God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to a dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?

Agapē is demonstrative. It is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.

It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.

Word Study on ‘Loves’


This fulfills the Divine Reversal predicted in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary says the poor and humble will be exalted and the rich and powerful brought low, and in Luke 2:43, which says Jesus will be appointed for the falling and rising in Israel. Here the Pharisees like the chief or first seats in the synagogues and special greetings in the marketplaces. No doubt the greetings entailed getting out of their path.


This is a striking image. Many people may pay the Pharisees respect, but others just walk on their status, like people walking on unmarked graves. Technically, they were made unclean by the “dead” Pharisees (Num. 19:11-14), but no one even noticed or cared.

“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only men. See v. 24 for more comments.


Here comes the three-part rebuke of the legal expert.

This expert in the law, this nomikos (pronounced noh-mee-koss) shouldn’t have spoken up. But the solidarity between these extra-pious religious leaders was too strong. Now he was about to undergo the pronouncement of woe or pity or righteous anger. This proves that many people were at the dinner.

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts


The whole expression boils down to the legal experts not lifting a finger to help out in carrying the burdens or load or cargo of the regular people, the commoners.

“people”: see v. 24 for comments.

Tithing “mint, dill, and every herb” is a good example of their characteristic practice of adding greater specificity to the law (Lev. 27:30; Deut. 14:22), of making a fence around the law, and of making obedience to it more exacting. They offer no leniency, no relief, and no forgiveness to the sinner and the nonobservant who collapse under the load or who simply give up trying to bear it (see Acts 15:10) (Garland, comment on 11:45-46).


The logic is powerful and decisive. The experts build—maintain and refurbish—the tombs of the prophets, but their ancestors are the ones who killed them. Then the experts testify against themselves and approve of the old prophets’ and apostles’ (unjust) deaths when they build up the murdered men’s tombs! It is as if the experts told their ancestors, “You kill ‘em, and we’ll welcome ‘em into our tombs! The whole process is like a conveyor belt at a factory! We like it!”

I get the feeling that Jesus is stacking up the OT prophets with the experts in the law and the Pharisees on the one side, and on the other the prophets were mighty men of God, who called down fire and spoke authoritatively to kings with “thus saith the Lord” and prayed for the rain to stop and return again. They saw miracle after miracle. In contrast, who were those two religious groups whom Jesus is now calling out, along with the teachers of the law and the Sadducees and the chief priests and humble priests? The legal experts and the Pharisees loved feasts and broadened their phylacteries and lengthened their tassels (Matt. 23:5); they were super-fastidious about the finer points of the law. But where were the miracles? Even John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, was better than these current, dry old religious leaders who committed all the sins that Jesus is now enumerating against them. Compared to the prophets of old, they were powerless and pathetic. This brand of Judaism had degraded to these legalists, so it was time for it to end and God to move on with a new community, the Jesus Movement, the kingdom community, blessed by the fulness of the Spirit.

“The only prophet you honor is a dead prophet” (Bock, p. 1120).


“The problem for ‘this generation’ is that righteous blood pollutes the land and cries out until it is avenged (Gen. 4:10-11; Job 16:18; Isa 26:21; Ezek 24:7-8; Joel 3:19; Lam 4:13 …). God is the avenger of blood (Deut 32:43; 1 Kgs 2:32, 37; 2 Kgs 9:7, 26; 24:4; Jer 26:15; Acts 5:28) (Garland).

What does it mean that the blood of the prophets will be charged to this generation? It is the principle of sin accumulation, and the later generation is held responsible for the historic sin: “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16, NIV). The principle of accumulating sins all the way to “this generation” is the same. When Jesus came on the scene, the stakes got higher and the consequences severer. He brought in new standards, and the time was up. All of it is about to come crashing down, after hundreds of years of rot infiltrating and weakening the entire edifice.

“the wisdom of God said”: here Jesus personifies wisdom, which Solomon did in his Proverbs (Prov. 1:20-33; 2; 3:13-34; 8:1-9:12). It could be the case that Jesus is referring to himself in his preincarnate state, but that is not certain, so let’s not push the idea too far.

2. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was the Preincarnate God

It is more likely that he was referring to the will of God: God in his wisdom.

“wisdom”: see v. 31 for more comments.

Word Study: Wisdom

God knew in advance that when he sent prophets and apostles (messengers, emissaries), they would be killed and persecuted, but then God would use them as instruments of judgment on injustice. Killing and persecuting prophets and apostles is unjust. Committing injustice deserves the judgment of God.

“from the foundation of the world”: it should not be translated as “before the foundation of the world.” The Greek preposition apo (“from”) simply does not mean pro (“before”).

Do NT Apostles Exist Today?

Israelite national solidarity is key here. Jesus is the Apex, the Highest Prophet and Messenger, and these classes of religious leaders are about to do to him what their ancestors did to the earlier prophets and emissaries. All the self-righteous religious leaders of all generations will be held accountable for the murder and persecution of the God-sent messengers. Jesus makes all the difference in giving life and in giving judgment. It is a sad fact that this (his) generation would be judged, bearing in mind that thousands of Jews did convert (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7 [large number of priests] and 21:20).

The blood of all of them will be charged or exacted from this generation, because the greatest Prophet and Emissary is here now, and he embodies all of the earlier ones.

Zechariah: he is a prophet in 2 Chron. 24:20-25 who was killed in the temple precincts. His position in in Chronicles makes him the last prophet to be murdered, according to the canonical order of the Hebrew Bible. For more discussion of any seeming discrepancy between v. 51 and Matt. 23:35, see my comments on Matt. 23:35.

Matthew 23

In Luke, if Jesus is not quoting an OT reference, he will refer to the OT conceptually and in a pattern. “Their response to God’s current representatives will be like that of their ancestors: murder and persecution” (Bock, p. 1121). But don’t let your faith be so brittle that is snaps in two when discrepancies emerge. Research it first, but if no answer is forthcoming, don’t walk away from the Gospel of Luke or the whole Bible. That is an overreaction. We know the main point of Jesus here: From the beginning of the OT to the end, the ancient Israelites persecuted prophets who called them out. Now certain Jews–the extra-religious–are doing the same thing with Jesus.

Let’s move on.

In Luke 13:33 Jesus ironically and truthfully said it was not possible that a prophet to die outside Jerusalem. He was about to be the most significant one of all.

Abel was regarded by the Jews of Jesus’s day—and by Jesus himself—as living at the very beginning, the foundation of the world. In my view, however, let’s not take this pronouncement as a scientific statement. He is simply interpreting an existing, authoritative story that his listeners could relate to and understand. He was speaking to his Jewish culture. He is not saying that Jews literally killed Abel. Why should Jesus say this, when he knew Abel lived long before Abraham, the founder of the faith and the Jewish people?

Let’s see how Jesus fulfilled his promise to send them prophets and apostles.


Agabus was a prophet who was headquartered in Jerusalem and Judea:

27 In those days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and indicated through the Spirit that there was about to be a severe famine in the whole world (which happened during the reign of Claudius). 29 In proportion to anyone of the disciples who prospered, each one of them determined to send aid to the brothers and sisters residing in Judea. 30 This they did and sent it by the hand of Barnabas and Saul to the elders. (Acts 12:27-30)

Here he is again in action:

10 While we stayed there several days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He approached us and took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “The Holy Spirit says this: ‘In this way the Jews in Jerusalem shall bind the man whose belt this is and turn him over to the hands of the Gentiles.’” (Acts 21:10-11)

Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied:

8 The next day we departed and came to Caesarea and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:8-9)

Stephen and six others were full of wisdom:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, select seven men who are well attested and full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will appoint for this office. 4 For we will devote ourselves persistently and continually to prayer and serving the Word.” 5 This reasonable proposal was satisfactory to the entire community. And they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, the proselyte from Antioch. 6 They stood in front of the apostles, who prayed and laid hands on them. (Acts 6:3-6)

Here is Stephen using such powerful wisdom that he was martyred:

8 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs in front of all the people. 9 Certain members of the Freedmen Synagogue (as it was called), comprising Cyrenians and Alexandrians and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen, 10 and they were unable to counter the wisdom and Spirit, by whom he was speaking. (Acts 7:8-10)


The NT was written by apostles or those connected to the apostles. No need to quote so many passages. Here is Paul, however, to quote just one passage:

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (Gal. 2:7-9, NIV)

Many such passages shows apostolic outreach to Jews.

The key is the knowledge of how God really orders your relationship with him. It is not about purity laws. So how do the legal experts take away the key of knowledge? By withholding deeper teaching of knowing God. The various classes of religious leaders had held the Torah in their sole possession that only they were privileged to interpret it authoritatively. It is similar to the Medieval Church. Only they could interpret Scripture. And when an innovator like John the Baptist or Jesus himself comes along, then the Watchdogs of Orthodoxy and Purity oppose them.

“perish”: it comes from the verb apollumi (pronounced ah-poh-loo-mee), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.” “Perish” seems to be the best translation here, and so does “die.”


Luke employs a pun with two words.

First, the religious leaders “reprimanded” or “lectured” Jesus, and the verb is apostomatizō (pronounced ah-poh-stoh-mah-tee-zoh). Note the stom– stem, which means “mouth.” Its basic meaning is “to teach by word of mouth,” “teach by dictation.” Other lexicons say the verb means “to question someone with hostile intent.” All that’s true, but grammarians Culy, Parsons and Stigall are right to translate the verb as “lecture” (p. 409). (I chose “reprimand.”)

Second, the next clause in Greek literally reads that they lay in wait or set ambushes “to capture something from his mouth.”

So the pun is this. The religious leaders are following Jesus and lecturing him from their mouths, placing ambushes to catch anything that comes from his mouth. So speaking is key here. Jesus is speaking the truth from his mouth, but the religious leaders are reprimanding and lecturing and teaching him about the old, soon-to-be obsolete system from their mouths.

Jesus must have had an amusing time knowing that he would always get the better of them and shame them in public.

As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the paralytic, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.

More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus!

Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to these oppressive religious leaders.

“teachers of the law” (many translations call them “scribes”): The noun is grammateus (pronounced grahm-mah-teh-us), and they carried on the same function as the Pharisees did, teaching the law. However, the grammateus had the added duty of writing up documents, as the people needed them. In an age when many people could barely read or write, they could do this with skill and great knowledge. So other translations call them “scribes.” It is easy to imagine that the regular folk respected them, and many others may have resented them when they imposed on them their rigorous interpretations of religious law.

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

“Jesus’ series of woes made inevitable the violent hostility against him described here. His opponents followed him out of the house and fired at him a barrage of difficult questions, such as those used to embarrass rabbinic scholars. He had challenged those who professed to be the expert biblical scholars. They were out to defend their reputation by discrediting his (v. 54)” (Liefeld and Pao, comments on 53-54).

GrowApp for Luke 11:37-54

A.. Jesus was speaking strongly against religious oppressors, not his family or local baristas! Don’t try it at home. But what have you done to make a firm break with those who try to convince you to leave your faith in Christ?

B.. Or did you cave in to social pressure and walk away from a vibrant relationship with Christ? How did you come back? (Yes, he will accept you back.)

Summary and Conclusion

In Luke 9:51, Jesus firmly resolved or set his face like flint to go to Jerusalem where he would be crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended. Then Luke 13:22 says that he journeyed through towns and villages, on his way to Jerusalem, so he is taking the “ministry route.” He is in no hurry because he must minister to people. Therefore, we should see this chapter in the context of his ultimate mission. He continues to lay out six main themes of his kingdom teaching and deftly handle opposition.

First, he answered one of his disciples’ request to teach them how to pray. He offered them the model prayer, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. The Greek—whenever—you pray, do so along these lines. Prayer is the foundation of our walk with God in his kingdom. We must stay in constant contact with our holy, heavenly Father.

Second, from that model prayer he told a short illustration about a man’s shameless audacity to knock on his churlish neighbor’s door, asking for food to give to an unexpected traveler. The main point is that our heavenly Father is unlike the mean neighbor, who eventually, reluctantly gave in and evidently provided him with the bread. Our Father is generous, and he likes audacious prayers.

Third, his opponents were so full of darkness that they actually believed that his success in expelling demons was Satan. Jesus’s authority and power source were from Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. Wow. Their “light” was actually darkness. Jesus would soon go into a teaching about light or darkness entering the soul and to take care that this would not happen (vv. 33-36).

Fourth, following this strange confrontation with deep darkness and deception, Jesus said that when a demon leaves a person, it returns and finds the soul swept and ordered. Then it seeks seven more demons and the person’s latter state is worse than the former one. This warning may be directed at Jewish exorcists of Jesus’s day who did not understand the reality of the kingdom. It is also a warning to us to follow the foundations of our faith, so we will not be possessed by demons. Spirit-filled believers cannot be demon possessed, because the Holy Spirit fills their hearts (Rom. 5:5).

Fifth, a woman shouted from the crowd from an earthbound perspective about motherhood. Jesus raised her vision to keep the word of God. Those who do are his mothers and brothers and sisters.

Sixth, the critics trailing Jesus—the legal experts and Pharisees (Matt. 12:38-42)—were tempting him to perform a sign. “Perform a sign for us, right now, when we say so! Moses made the sky go dark! Can you do that?” Can you destroy the Romans? But Jesus was not a magician. He kept his true identity as Messiah close to his heart. He would not come as a deliverer like Moses and part the Red Sea, but as the humble servant-king who was destined to suffer and die (Is. 53). He was to be a sign to this generation like Jonah was to the Ninevites. They repented, but not this generation, even though something greater than Jonah is right in front of them.

Finally, Jesus denounced the Pharisees and legal experts and teachers of the law because they were deceived about the importance of ritual purity observance and in fact how to interpret the spirit of the Torah. They went full-scale legalistic on the people. The religious leaders were hindering people from going to the heart of God. Jesus, on the other hand, was determined to reveal the Father’s heart.


Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).

—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).

Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).

—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).

Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014). The Greek text in the table comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here:

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).

Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).

Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).

Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).

Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).

Works Cited


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s