In Summary: First, we have Luke’s recollection of Jesus teaching the disciples to pray. This parallels the teaching in Matthew 6, and that has caused some to think this records the same event. That is an unnecessary leap: surely Jesus taught similar lessons to differing crowds—and sometimes to the same crowd! The term used here is “disciple” rather than “Twelve,” so it could have been one of many.
Second, Jesus follows this with an extended explanation of the need for persistence in prayer. He notes that his followers should keep on praying, keep on seeking, if they wish to see answers. He reins in any foolishness, though, by noting that even people know not respond to unsafe or foolish requests! If a human father knows that an undesired fish is better than a requested snake, how much more does our Heavenly Father? Even if we persist in asking, God will not give us that which is foolish. In fact, His answer, according to 11:13, is the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Third, we see the source for Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech. It was Jesus. Sidebar: I wonder when we’ll see Lincoln condemned for using religion in his politics? Luke 11:17 is the verse in question. Jesus points out that even if what he does is from Satan, then it’s great! Because Satan is going to fall apart.
There is also an extended question to answer: how many times do we Christians turn the body of Christ into that divided house that cannot stand? The Kingdom of God should be united, but the greatest risk is the damage we bring within.
In Focus: Focusing our attention on Luke 11:29-32, we see judgment. The judgment? It is on the current generation, the ones Jesus is speaking to. Take note, though, of who is doing the judging: The men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South (the Queen of Sheba). Who are these? Read the book of Jonah and 1 Kings 10. These are non-Israelites who still listened to the Word of the Lord and followed him.
Jesus highlights that someone greater than Jonah is here. Who? Him. The one who sent Jonah, the one who gave Solomon wisdom and drew the Queen of Sheba up north. And yet they still are not listening. They would praise Jonah and Solomon, remembering Nineveh and Sheba, but then they attacked Jesus.
In Practice: I’m sure glad that none of us are like that, aren’t you? We don’t sit around and praise the righteousness of our forebears while ignoring exactly what they taught us, right?
After all, we are committed to the kingdom of God like Lottie Moon or Nicholas von Zinzendorf. We are in the Word like John Wesley. We search the sciences like Galileo and Newton, marveling to understand God’s ways.
Or are we much more like the Pharisees and bystanders of Jesus’ time? Sitting here and not doing, all the while praising the preaching of Spurgeon, the commitment of Carmichael, the passion of Bonhoeffer, the compassion of King? Let us not see our heroes or the ones who followed them sit in judgment on us.
In Nerdiness: This is one that you’re likely familiar with, but it’s still important: Luke 11:51. From “Abel to Zechariah,” while looking like “from A-to-Z” like we use in modern English, is not an alphabet reference. If it were, you’d need someone whose name started with an omega in Greek, or a tav in Hebrew. Instead, we see a reflection of the order of the Old Testament. The order used in Jesus’ time began with Genesis but then ended with 2 Chronicles. Everything else fit between them. Zechariah is murdered in 2 Chronicles 24, the last recording of a faithful prophet of God being killed in the Old Testament. So, it’s a reference to the whole of the Old Testament.
Also available for your nerd consideration: 11:42. Does Jesus here declare the end of the tithe? Or that tithing is appropriate but should follow after justice. It reads like the Pharisees should have been doing both: justice for the many and tithing on their herbs. Why the herbs? Typically, one grew little herb gardens, something still not uncommon. In their zeal for the Law, the Pharisees would make sure to tithe even the results of these gardens, something that hardly accomplished the concept of the tithe as providing for the priests, Levites, and poor. The point here is that one can be exact about their own holiness and miss the point by ignoring their fellow man. Let’s not do that.