Instructions on Prayer, 1-12

11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

“…just as John taught his disciples” – It was usual for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple”] prayer that they could use regularly. John had done so with his followers, and now Jesus’ disciples ask him to do the same.

‘Scarcely any thing can more strongly mark our defection from God, than our inability to pray. It might well be supposed, that, considering how many sins we have to be forgiven, how many wants to be supplied, and how many blessings to be acknowledged, that we should never be at a loss for matter in our addresses at the throne of grace, or for a suitable frame in drawing nigh to God. But the truth is, that there is no duty more difficult than that of prayer: for as, on the one hand, “we know not what to pray for as we ought;” so neither, on the other hand, are we able to plead with God as we ought, unless “the Holy Spirit help our infirmities, and assist us in relation to every part of this duty (Rom 8:26).” The Apostles themselves felt their need of instruction upon this head, and received from their Divine Master a form of prayer fitted for the use of the Church in all ages.’ (Charles Simeon)

11:2 So he said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, may your name be honored;
may your kingdom come.
11:3 Give us each day our daily bread,
11:4 and forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And do not lead us into temptation.”
Lk 11:2–4 = Mt 6:9–13

“Hallowed by your name” – Garland discusses whether the sense here is that God would hallow his own know, and that we would hallow it.  The first is supported by texts such as Ez 36:22f and Jn Jn 13:31.  Others, however speak of humans glorifying God’s name (e.g. Psa 34:3).  Gerhardsson explains that ‘the third person passive imperative is a reverential circumlocution that forestalls the impression that humans can dictate to God. But, more significantly, he concludes that had the requests regarding God’s name, reign, and will (in Matthew’s version) been expressed with active imperatives, it might have appeared “that God alone is to act.” The circumlocutions make it easier to draw a connection between God’s action and human reaction: “God’s mighty works in sanctifying his name, establishing his reign, and realizing his final redemptive purpose demand a suitable human response.”’

In making this petition, ‘we declare our hearty desire that God’s character, and attributes, and perfection, may be more known, and honored, and glorified by all His intelligent creatures.’ (Ryle)

“Give us each day our daily bread” ‘may be a petition not just for ordinary food but also for the bread of life, the gift of God without which we cannot live. Daily (Gk. epiousios) is a word of uncertain meaning: ‘for tomorrow’ or ‘necessary’ are possible renderings. The former brings out the way in which the prayer asks for a foretaste of the blessings of the kingdom now.’ (Marshall)

Epiousion is best translated “what is sufficient”- “Give us food sufficient for the day,”remembering that the setting of the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord’s Prayer (in Luke as well) is one of eschatological urgency and preparation for mission in the new exodus inaugurated by Jesus, and of traveling light; it is not a general prayer for common grace. There was no ordinariness for Israel in the wilderness, nor is there for God’s people in the new mission. As with Israel, Jesus’ disciples are to acknowledge the honor of being called to represent God’s image in the world, to conquer enemy-held territory in his name, and to exhibit faith in the Lord that he will provide daily sustenance for their extraordinary eschatological journey.’ (EDBT)

A political prayer.  Belham points out that when Hugh Latimer and the other reformers preached on ‘daily bread’, they said, ‘When you pray for daily bread, pray first for the government’. This is sound teaching, ‘for upon our government, their policies, and God’s good hand upon them, will depend whether we have wealth or poverty, enough or too little bread.’ So,

(a) Pray for protection from subjection, for subject people are often hungry people.

(b) Pray for justice in our land, for if our goods are constantly being stolen or if we are defrauded then we shall soon become anxious about our daily bread.

(c) Pray for the fair distribution of wealth within our society, for a society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a society with increasing resentment and lawlessness.

(d) Pray for those voluntary organisations who seek to alert governments to the plight of the needy and who bring help to those whose basic needs are not being met.

See Mt 6:11n

11:5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 11:6 because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 11:7 Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 11:8 I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

‘Travellers often journeyed late in the evening to avoid the heat of the midday sun. In Jesus’ story just such a traveller had arrived towards midnight at this friend’s house. In the east hospitality is a sacred duty; it was not enough to set before a man a bare sufficiency; the guest had to be confronted with an ample abundance. In the villages bread was baked at home. Only enough for the day’s needs was baked because, if it was kept and became stale, no one would wish to eat it.’ (DSB)

‘The poorer Palestinian house consisted of one room with only one little window. The floor was simply of beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes. The room was divided into two parts, not by a partition but by a low platform. Two-thirds of it were on ground level. The other third was slightly raised. On the raised part the charcoal stove burned all night, and round it the whole family slept, not on raised beds but on sleeping mats. Families were large and they slept close together for warmth. For one to rise was inevitably to disturb the whole family. Further, in the villages it was the custom to bring the livestock, the hens and the cocks and the goats, into the house at night. Is there any wonder that the man who was in bed did not want to rise?’ (DSB)

11:9 “So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Lk 11:9–13 = Mt 7:7–11

“Ask, and it will be given to you” – See Mt 7:7; 21:22; Jn 15:7; Jas 1:5; Jn 3:22.

As with the teaching of Jesus on prayer in Lk 18, the point of the parable is not so much one of similarity, but of contrast. It is as if Jesus is saying, ‘If such a man, under such circumstances will drag himself out of bed and fetch his friend what he needs, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those he loves.’ See, esp. v13.

11:11 What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 11:12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 11:13 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

“Give the Holy Spirit” – See Mt 7:11; Jn 4:10; 7:37-39.  Noting the absence of the definite article (although many English translations supply it), F.F. Bruce suggests that what is in view here is not the Holy Spirit in person, but his gifts.  This would be supported by the parallel in Mt 7:11, “good things”.  ‘The good things are the gifts of the Spirit, and the command to ask for them applies today as much as when the words were spoken (cf. 1 Cor 12:31; 14:1; James 1:5f).  (Answers to Questions, p53)

However, ‘there seems no reason for understanding this in terms of the “charismatic” gifts. The reference is rather to the Spirit’s work in the Christian’s life generally, as in Rom 8′ (Morris).  Marshall (NBC) concurs, saying, ‘Jesus is speaking in broad terms of the spiritual blessings which the Father gives his children; he is not saying that people who ask, say, for specific charismatic gifts will necessarily receive them.’

Comparing this verse with Mt 7:11, Geldenhuys says: ‘In this Luke and Matthew by no means contradict each other, for the Holy Ghost is the good Gift par excellence – the Gift which is indispensable and which brings about all true life and true happiness to the believer and is the Source of all good things.’

The fullness of the Holy Spirit is both a free gift, 1 Thess 4:8, and a solemn responsibility. There are certain attitudes which open the way to the blessing of the Spirit. We are to ask, Lk 11:13, to thirst and drink, Jn 7:37, to repent, Acts 2:38, to obey, Acts 5:32, to have faith, Jn 7:39; Gal 3:1-5,14. On the other hand, certain negative attitudes can oppose the work of the Spirit. He can be lied to, Acts 5:3, resisted, Acts 7:51, grieved, Eph 4:30, and quenched, 1 Thess 5:19.

‘If God be our Father, we may go with cheerfulness to the throne of grace. Were a man to petition his enemy, there were little hope; but when a child petitions his father, he may hope with confidence to succeed. The word ‘Father’ works upon God; it toucheth his very bowels. What can a father deny his child? ‘If his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?’ Mt 7:9. This may embolden us to go to God for pardon of sin, and further degrees of sanctity. We pray to a Father of mercy sitting upon a throne of grace. ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’ Lk 11:13. This quickens the church, and adds wing to prayer. ‘Look down from heaven.’ Isa 63:15. ‘Doubtless thou art our Father’; ver 16. For whom does God keep his mercies but for his children? Three things may give boldness in prayer. We have a Father to pray to, and the Spirit to help us to pray, and an Advocate to present our prayers…Surely God, who hears the cry of ravens, will hear the cry of his children!’ (Watson)

Jesus and Beelzebul, 14-23

11:14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute began to speak, and the crowds were amazed. 11:15 But some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons, he casts out demons.” 11:16 Others, to test him, began asking for a sign from heaven.
Lk 11:14,15,17–22,24–26 = Mt 12:22,24–29,43–45
11:17 But Jesus, realizing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and a divided household falls. 11:18 So if Satan too is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? I ask you this because you claim that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.

Lk 11:17–22 = Mk 3:23–27

When the Evangelist says that Jesus knew their thoughts, ‘he may be ascribing supernatural knowledge to the Lord or he may mean that Jesus had the normal human capacity for penetrating to some extent into what others have in mind (people sometimes say, “I know what you’re thinking!”).’ (Morris on Matthew, Pillar)

11:19 Now if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 11:20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.

Not surprisingly, Christ did not permit demons to witness to him, partly because he did not wish to give any credence to the notion that he ever co-operated with them in any way, Mt 12:27; Lk 11:19.

According to N.T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God), the exorcisms of Jesus (Mk. 1:23–7/Lk. 4:33–5; Mt. 4:24/Mk. 1:39; Mt. 8:28–33/Mk. 5:1–14/Lk. 8:26–34; Mt. 9:32–4; Lk. 8:1–3; Lk. 11:14–15; Mt. 12:22–32/Mk. 3:20–30/Lk. 11:14–23, cf. Mt. 10:25; Mt. 15:21–8/Mk. 7:24–30; Mt. 17:14–18/Mk. 9:14–27/Lk. 9:37–43; Lk. 13:10–17 (cf. v. 16) ‘signalled something far deeper that was going on, namely, the real battle of the ministry, which was not a round of fierce debates with the keepers of orthodoxy, but head-on war with the satan…The exorcisms are especially interesting, in that they formed a part neither of the regular Old Testament predictions, nor of first-century Jewish expectations, concerning healing and deliverance associated with the coming of the kingdom; nor were they a major focus of the life and work of the early church. They therefore stand out, by the criterion of dissimilarity, as being part of a battle in which Jesus alone was engaged. He seems to have seen himself as fighting a battle with the real enemy, and to have regarded the exorcisms—or healings of those whose condition was attributed to the work of the satan—as a sign that he was winning the battle, though it had not yet reached its height. ‘If I by the finger of god cast out demons, then the kingdom of god has come upon you.’

This verse (and its parallel in Lk 11:20) has featured prominently in scholarly discussion about the kingdom of God.  If ephthasen is correctly translated as ‘has come’, as most scholars think, then the kingdom was to be regarded, in at least some important senses, as present.  The miracles of Jesus, and especially his power over demons, speaks of the arrival of God’s kingdom, even if its consummation is yet future.

Mounce says that ‘it is best to take it to mean that the kingdom has arrived but not necessarily in its fullness.’

C.C. Caragouinis (DJG), however, observes that this (and its parallel) is the only text in the Gospels where the kingdom is said to have already come.  It is more usual for the kingdom to be said to be ‘at hand’ (e.g. Mt 3:2).  There is a well-attested usage of the aorist tense to emphasise the certainty of an event that had not yet occurred (something similar crops up in modern colloquial English).  If this applies here, then the sense is that the kingdom of God, already close, has been brought even closer by Jesus’ miracles.  The expression eph˒ hymas (‘upon you’) then takes on the force of a warning: the miracles of Jesus show that the forces of the kingdom of God are at this very moment beginning to be arrayed against those of the kingdom of Satan.

11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe. 11:22 But when a stronger man attacks and conquers him, he takes away the first man’s armor on which the man relied and divides up his plunder.

‘The “strong man” is Satan, and Jesus had bound him, probably at the time of his triumph over him in the temptation in the wilderness, Mt 4:1-11. During his earthly ministry, Jesus had entered the strong man’s “house” (the world of unbelievers who are under the bondage of Satan), and he was plundering his house, that is, freeing people from satanic bondage and bringing them into the joy of the kingdom of God. It was “by the Spirit of God” that Jesus did this; the new power of the Holy Spirit working to triumph over demons was evidence that in the ministry of Jesus “the kingdom of God has come upon you.”’ (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 418)

11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Cf. Mk 9:40 – ‘Whoever is not against us is for us.’

Finding contradictions where there are none

Matthew 12:30 – “Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Also Luke 11:23)

Mark 9:40 – “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Bart Ehrman (Jesus, Interrupted) asks: ‘Did [Jesus] say both things? Could he mean both things? How can both be true at once? Or is it possible that one of the Gospel writers got things switched around?’

Ehrman has failed to notice that these are not two versions of the same saying, but rather two distinct sayings uttered in different circumstances and for different purposes.  As Mounce comments: ‘The saying does not contradict Mark 9:40 (“For whoever is not against us is for us”), which was Jesus’ response to his disciples concerning a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name. In that case, it can be properly said that those who do mighty works in Jesus’ name are not able afterwards to speak evil against him (Mark 9:39). In the situation referred to in Matthew the religious opponents of Jesus are guilty of blasphemy (Mt 12:30–32).’

France notes that the two sayings are ‘superficially similar’.  He adds that ‘in Mark 9:40 the subject is an exorcist who honored Jesus by using his name, even though not a recognized disciple, but here it is his most bitter opponents, who have questioned his God-given authority. The two sayings are not incompatible (Luke includes both); it is their different contexts which demand the sharply different tone.’

According to Edwards, ‘one possible resolution rests on the difference between the plural pronoun in Mark (i.e., Jesus and the disciples) and the singular pronoun in Matthew and Luke (i.e., Jesus alone). Thus, whereas there can be no neutrality with regard to the person of Jesus, the disciples must be tolerant of those who differ from them.’

Jonathan McLatchie writes: ‘An examination of the contexts of these two texts (Matthew 12:30 and Mark 9:40), however, reveals that these refer to two completely different episodes. In Matthew, the preceding context is that Jesus has just been accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan. This is paralleled in Mark 3:22-30, so Mark 9:40 cannot possibly be describing the same circumstance. In Mark 9:40, the context of the saying is that John the son of Zebedee has said to Jesus, Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us,” (Mark 9:38). Given that two statements appear in completely different episodes, it is not at all apparent that the two accounts contradict one another. Furthermore, the two statements (that “whoever is not with me is against me” and “whoever is not against us is for us”) are perfectly compatible. Where, then, is the problem?’

Response to Jesus’ Work, 24-28

11:24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places looking for rest but not finding any. Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’ 11:25 When it returns, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
11:27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd spoke out to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” 11:28 But he replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

“Blessed rather…” – Stein explains that the Gk term translated ‘rather’ here is unclear in meaning.  It could mean, (a) ‘on the contrary’; (b) ‘indeed’; or (c) ‘Yes, but’.  Stein favours the third meaning.

‘Jesus admits that she was happy—that it was an honour to be his mother, but he says that the chief happiness, the highest honour, was to obey the word of God. Compared with this, all earthly distinctions and honours are as nothing. Man’s greatest dignity is in keeping the holy commandments of God, and in being prepared for heaven.’ (Barnes)

Aída Besançon Spencer (Discovering Biblical Equality) cites v27f in support of her view that ‘Jesus…does not treat women primarily as homemakers.’   She adds: ‘What Jesus states here explicitly, he models earlier in his actions. Thus when Mary sits as a pupil in rabbinic fashion before Jesus (Lk 10:38–42) while Martha follows the cultural mandate to serve as homemaker, Jesus declares that Mary is the one who has selected the good share—to sit at a rabbi’s feet in learning. She has made the right choice, and he will not allow anyone to take learning away from those who sit at his feet.’  Spencer’s logic seems rather forced.

The Sign of Jonah, 29-32

11:29 As the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it looks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 11:30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation.  11:31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon—and now, something greater than Solomon is here! 11:32 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them—and now, something greater than Jonah is here!
Lk 11:29–32 = Mt 12:39–42

Muslim apologists often appeal to ‘the sign of Jonah’ as proof that Jesus did not die on the cross.

Mike Licona’s response

Internal Light, 33-36

11:33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. 11:34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness. 11:35 Therefore see to it that the light in you is not darkness. 11:36 If then your whole body is full of light, with no part in the dark, it will be as full of light as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”

Lk 11:34,35 = Mt 6:22,23

‘Gurus from the East often urge their devotees to look within themselves for the divine spark that pervades the universe. This goal is accomplished through such disciplines as yoga, meditation, and the chanting of mantras. Jesus warned, however, that evil or non-Christian people who see an inward light are actually encountering darkness. Paul added that Satan appears as “an angel of light” (2 Co 11:14). We experience the true light through the preaching of the gospel (2 Co 4:4).’ (Apologetics Study Bible)

Rebuking the Pharisees and Experts in the Law, 37-54

11:37 As he spoke, a Pharisee invited Jesus to have a meal with him, so he went in and took his place at the table. 11:38 The Pharisee was astonished when he saw that Jesus did not first wash his hands before the meal. 11:39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 11:40 You fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside as well? 11:41 But give from your heart to those in need, and then everything will be clean for you.

The Pharisees washed before meals, not for reasons of personal hygiene, but to cleanse themselves of any defilement through contact with Gentiles and other ‘unclean’ persons.  Jesus opposes this idea of ritual defilement.

In fact, Jesus focuses on some of the key sins associated with religiosity: hypocrisy (vv.39–41), imbalance (v.42), ostentation (v.43), impossible demands (v.46), intolerance (vv.47–51), and exclusiveness (v.52). (EBC)

“You Pharisees” – Stein remarks that ‘condemnation of hypocritical Pharisees can be found even within the Talmudic literature. In Ṣota 22b seven types of Pharisees are described. The first five are hypocritical: (1) the “shoulder” Pharisee, who wears his good actions on his shoulder for all to see; (2) the “wait-a-little” Pharisee, who finds excuses for putting off a good deed; (3) the “bruised” Pharisee, who to avoid looking at a woman runs into walls; (4) the “pestle” or hunched-over Pharisee, who walks bent over in pretended humility; and (5) the “ever-reckoning” Pharisee, who is always weighing his good deeds against his bad. But also mentioned are (6) the   p 341  “God-fearing” Pharisee, who lives in holy awe and the fear of God, and (7) the “God-loving” Pharisee, who loves God from his heart. The kind of commitment that leads to the finest piety is also frequently accompanied by hypocrisy. Neither Pharisaism nor Christianity is exempt from this unfortunate tendency.’ (NAC)

11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of your mint, rue, and every herb, yet you neglect justice and love for God! But you should have done these things without neglecting the others. 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces! 11:44 Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it!”
11:45 One of the experts in religious law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things you insult us too.” 11:46 But Jesus replied, “Woe to you experts in religious law as well! You load people down with burdens difficult to bear, yet you yourselves refuse to touch the burdens with even one of your fingers!
11:47 Woe to you! You build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 11:48 So you testify that you approve of the deeds of your ancestors, because they killed the prophets and you build their tombs! 11:49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 11:50 so that this generation may be held accountable for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 11:51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation..

Elaborate tombs had been built for the prophets; but their builders had been of the same heart and mind as those who killed the prophets.

“God in his wisdom” – lit. ‘The wisdom of God’.  The origin of this quotation is unclear.  Stein suggests that since an apostle was a Christian ministry, Jesus is also referring to Christian prophets (rather than OT prophets).

“From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah” – The ‘A to Z’ does not work in either Hebrew or Greek.

11:52 Woe to you experts in religious law! You have taken away the key to knowledge! You did not go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.”

“You have taken away the key to knowledge” – A particularly wounding accusation, since it was precisely knowledge that the scribes claimed to possess and impart.

11:53 When he went out from there, the experts in the law and the Pharisees began to oppose him bitterly, and to ask him hostile questions about many things, 11:54 plotting against him, to catch him in something he might say.

Concluding reflections

Do we prefer the ‘outside’ to the ‘inside’ of our faith?

What are the chances that we have got our interpretation of God’s word quite wrong, in some practically important ways?

Do we put our reputation before our responsibility to help and guide others?