Luke 11 Commentary


From Jensen's Survey of the NT by permission
John MacArthur's Introduction 
Charles Swindoll's Introduction chart on right

Luke 11:1  It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." (NAS 1995)

KJV Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.


Luke's Gospel has more emphasis on prayer than any other Gospel. In fact Luke has been called the "Gospel of Prayer" because of his emphasis, not only on our need to pray, but also on Jesus’ prayer life. Nine times Luke tells of prayers that Jesus offered in the crises of His life, and seven of these are unique to Luke (Scroggie).

Gene Brooks helps set the context for Luke 11 - From the first chapters of his Gospel, Luke has pointed toward the importance of trusting Christ and warning against unbelief. After revealing Jesus as the “Christ of God” (Luke 9:20-note), Luke’s Gospel shifts (Luke 9:51-note) to calling for a response. Jesus turns his attention from ministry in Galilee to a resolute focus towards Jerusalem and his coming suffering (Luke 9:51-18:14-note). Despite opposition (Luke 9:51-56-note), Jesus calls for personal sacrifice, even of family responsibilities, in order to concentrate fully on serving the Lord (Luke 9:57-62-note). As Jesus moves toward Jerusalem, he sends 70 disciples ahead with a warning that God’s Kingdom is near (Luke 10:1-12-note). Despite his sadness over those who reject the Kingdom, (Luke 10:13-16-note), Jesus rejoices over those who have received salvation (Luke 10:17-24-note). Questioned by a Torah expert on eternal life, Jesus defines authentic spiritual life through the story of the Good Samaritan. Authentic spiritual life is defined by love for God and others (Luke 10:25-37-note), by the high priorities of God’s Presence (Luke 10:38-42-note) and of prayer (Luke 11:1-13). (Lk 11:1-13 The Priority of Prayer)

It happened (literally "and it happened") - The introductory phrase (egeneto, "it happened that") common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times). 

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place - This is the fifth time that Luke referred to Jesus praying (Lk 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; cf. 22:32, 40-44; 23:46). As an aside, if the Lord Jesus prayed often, what does that say about our desperate need for prayer! In so doing Jesus modeled for us a life of total dependence on the Father. The disciples must have seem Him praying before but now their heart is stir to ask Him to teach them to pray. It is surprising that this is the only time in the Gospels where someone asked Jesus for a specific teaching. It is fascinating that we don’t hear the Disciples asking the Lord to Teach them to Preach, Prophesy, Cast out demons, Worship, Witness, Find their ministry, Start up home fellowships, Grow a church, How to be a user friendly church, but How To Pray! Surely from watching Jesus' practice of prayer, they came to realize that this practice was absolutely vital to the "success" of their ministries. The same principle holds for every ministry of every age! Do you believe this? Does your prayer life back up your profession?

There is a lesson in Jesus' example of prayer for all us (because all of us are to be disciple makers) because when others see us actually doing what we have been talking about, and especially if we do it over and over and over again (like Jesus did), our example is more likely to get through to those we are teaching.

Just as John also taught his disciples - Apparently John had taught his disciples specific prayers, but there is no record of them in Scripture.

Spurgeon - We must all feel that if we are to pray aright, we must be taught of God, by his Holy Spirit. We are full of infirmities, and if there is any time when our infirmities are felt most, it is when we engage in prayer, but “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as are ought.” Let us, then, breathe this prayer to our great Teacher, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Constable - Two sets of petitions follow. Two petitions relate to God's cosmic purposes and three to the disciples' personal needs.

A T Robertson - Jesus had taught them by precept (Matthew 6:7-15) and example (Luke 9:29). Somehow the example of Jesus on this occasion stirred them to fresh interest in the subject and to revival of interest in John's teachings (Luke 5:33). So Jesus gave them the substance of the Model Prayer in Matthew, but in shorter form. Jesus warns us against repetitive prayers. In fact, in the verse immediately proceeding the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:7, the King James Version says this: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.”

Brian Bill explains why we are not required to recite it - This prayer is recorded twice in Scripture and the wording is different in each prayer. If Jesus was giving us a prayer to be memorized and recited, He would not have given us different words the two times He gave it. The disciples said, “teach us to pray” not “teach us a prayer.” It’s one thing to read or deliver a prayer; it’s something else to know how to pray. This prayer is repeated nowhere else in the New Testament. We have no record of believers using this prayer in any of the other prayer passages in the Bible. Clearly, Jesus was not intending to give the disciples some sort of prayer that they could memorize and then just deliver. It’s much deeper than that. Jesus wanted to give His followers a model to follow when addressing God so that we can learn how to pray like Jesus Himself prayed. (How To Pray The Lord's Way) Here is Brian Bill's Outline

  1. The paternity of prayer: “Father”
  2. The priority of prayer: “Hallowed be your name”
  3. The program of prayer: “Your kingdom come”
  4. The provision of prayer: “Give us each day our daily bread”
  5. The pardon of prayer: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”
  6. The protection of prayer: “And lead us not into temptation”

One of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray - Notice first that the disciple did not ask "teach us a prayer" (one that we can repeat), or  “teach us how to pray”, but “teach us to pray”. Jesus answers not with a rote ritual to follow but with a persistent pattern to practice! So Jesus does not give them a "how to" pray, but just says to pray, because the best way to learn how to pray is to pray (not attend a seminar on prayer, etc). And remember prayer in its basic form is not religious jargon but simply speaking to our best Friend. 

Some other things that Jesus did NOT say about prayer - the posture of prayer, the place of prayer, the times you pray. 

Disciples (3101)(mathetes from manthano = to learn which Vine says is "from a root math, indicating thought accompanied by endeavor". Gives us our English = "mathematics") describes a person who learns from another by instruction, whether formal or informal. Discipleship includes the idea of one who intentionally learns by inquiry and observation (cf inductive Bible study) and thus mathetes is more than a mere pupil. A mathetes describes an adherent of a teacher. 

Teach  (aorist imperative)(1321)(didasko from dáo= know or teach; English = didactic; see study of related noun didaskalia and the adjective didaktikos) means to provide instruction or information in a formal or informal setting. Didasko  carries with it the idea of systematic teaching or systematic training. In secular Greek didasko was used of a choir director who trained a choir over a long period of rehearsals until they are able to perform. Didasko refers to imparting positive truth. It is the responsibility of every believer (Col 3:16), and is part of the Great Commission (Mt 28:20). It is especially the responsibility of church leaders. “An overseer, then, must be… able to teach” (1Ti 3:2). Heresy flourishes where sound Christian teaching lags. The idea is to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them by word of mouth (tutor, direct, advise, put in mind). In the NT almost without exception didasko refers to the teaching of groups. Didasko means to teach a student in such a way that the will of the student becomes conformed to the teaching taught. So the teacher teaches in such a way that as the student is taught, he now changes his mind saying in essence ''I won't do it this way, but I will do it this way because I've learned this doctrine or this teaching.'' Doctrine determines direction of our behavior, conformed to world or to God? Teaching that Scripture finds significant is not that which provides information alone but also the teaching that creates disciples who live in responsive obedience to God's will.

Brian Bill - "The disciples were not known for their praying. I don’t know of anywhere in the Gospels where the disciples were characterized as men of prayer. They often watched Jesus pray but they didn’t enter into prayer themselves. In fact, in the hour of Jesus’ greatest need they dropped their eyelids instead of dropping to their knees. The question voiced by this one disciple shows that prayer is not only needed, but that it was a deficiency in his life and in the life of his friends. We’re the same way, aren’t we? We know prayer is important, we know Jesus modeled it, but most of us fall far short. If we want to pray like Jesus prayed, let’s learn along with his disciples." (How To Pray The Lord's Way)

Barclay - It was the regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use. John had done that for his disciples, and now Jesus' disciples came asking him to do the same for them. This is Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer (Ed: John 17 is more accurately called the Lord's prayer). It is shorter than Matthew's, but it will teach us all we need to know about how to pray and what to pray for....The prayer covers all life. (a) It covers present need. It tells us to pray for our daily bread; but it is bread for the day for which we pray. This goes back to the old story of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-21). Only enough for the needs of the day might be gathered. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time. "I do not ask to see/The distant scene--one step enough for me." (b) It covers past sin. When we pray we cannot do other than pray for forgiveness, for the best of us is a sinful man coming before the purity of God. (c) It covers future trials. Temptation means any testing situation. It includes far more than the mere seduction to sin; it covers every situation which is a challenge to and a test of a person's manhood and integrity and fidelity. We cannot escape it, but we can meet it with God.  (Daily Study Bible)

Are You Coming Up for Air?

Brian Bell entitles his sermon on prayer in Luke 11:1-4 Coming Up for Air explaining - Marine creatures, like whales, seals, dolphins from ocean depths must rise at intervals to breathe, so as to live. Breath holding isn’t the key, oxygen conservation & storage is. Seals have so much oxygen in their body, they actually exhale before they dive. It is also necessary for man to mount into a higher region if he is to obtain spiritual life and grace for living it. And this, the Christian does in prayer. "Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air." - W. H. Griffith Thomas...Relative to body size, whale lungs are proportionally somewhat smaller than human lungs. But whale lungs are far more efficient: While human lungs exchange about 15-20% of their contents with each breath, whale lungs exchange about 90% with each breath. This means that whales can take up oxygen and dispose of carbon dioxide much faster than humans, enabling them to hold their breath underwater for long periods. Man wasn’t designed to “stay down” as long as whales. So we must rise at more frequent intervals to breathe, so as to live. Oh Christian, we must rise at more frequent intervals to Come Up For Air, so as to live!....Prayer becomes a dance, a subtle interplay of human and divine that ultimately accomplishes Gods work on earth. (adapted Philip Yancey) I do not control the action - That’s a pagan concept of prayer (Putting the gods to work) I’m not controlled by the action - That’s a Hindu concept of prayer (where you slump passively into the impersonal & faded will of the gods) a) I neither do it nor have it done to me. - I will to participate in what is willed. Illustration - 5yr. old to friend, “me and my dad built a tree house.” (Did the 5 yr old participate? Yes. Did dad need his help? Not really. Would dad agree w/his statement? happily!) If you feel like a beginner at prayer that's okay, we’ll be beginners all our life. Jesus exemplified this prayer principle by His… 1. Practice (Lk 11:1); Precept (Lk 11:2-4); Parable (Lk 11:5-8 persistent knock); Promise (Lk 11:9-13 ask/seek/knock).  This prayer is only 61 words long and takes about 15 seconds to pray. Some people’s prayers need to be cut short on both sides and set on fire in the middle....Little kids have problems when coloring “staying in the lines”! - But what’s understandable as a child is unacceptable as an Adult! Let us move more toward Adulthood in our prayer life! “Let’s stay in the lines”! (God’s guidelines! Lk 11:1-4, Mt 6:9-14) This is the kind of prayer God honors & hears!...I think all of us have one “Routine Prayer” in our system: Once we get rid of it, then we can really start to pray! This week are you willing to break that habit? Q: Are you praying w/your mind on hold, & your mouth on automatic? Make sure your mind is engaged, & your heart sensitized!

Spurgeon said some pray as “a mere exercise of memory, simply using the organs of noise-making; and it is absurd to imagine that such a parrot exercise can be pleasing to the living God!”

ILLUSTRATION - Not everyone is familiar with this prayer (Lk 11:1-4 or Mt 6:9-14). Two men were out walking one day. One guy challenged his buddy by saying, “If you’re so religious, let me hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer. I’ll bet you $10 you can’t do it.” The second guy responded, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” The first guy pulled out his wallet, fished out a $10 bill and muttered, “I didn’t think you could do it!”

ILLUSTRATION - Joanne Shetler, a Wycliffe Bible Translator in the Philippines, noticed that the new believers in the tribe she was working with did not pray as they should. So she prayed, “Lord, do whatever it takes to teach these people to pray.” About a month later, she was in a helicopter crash there and almost died. That event prompted the people to pray fervently, “Lord, don’t let her die because our book isn’t done.” From then on, the people prayed. Having heard that story, do you dare to join this unnamed disciple in his request, “Lord, teach us to pray”? It could be dangerous!  Prayer is the acknowledgement that our need is not partial; it is total. So if we ask the Lord to teach us to pray, He may put us in situations where we are so overwhelmed that we recognize that we have no choice but to pray! So, if you dare, you can with fear and trembling say, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Steven Cole)

Sermon Outline from Gene Brooks -- Sermon Points:

1. Prioritize prayer (Luke 11:1-4)

2. Persist in prayer (Luke 11:5-10)

3. (for the) Promise of prayer (Luke 11:11-13)

Outline of Luke 11 - James Dine

A. Proficiency in prayer yields the Father’s provision. Luke 11:1-13

  1. The pattern of the prayer of a kingdom servant. Luke 11:1-4
  2. Persistence in prayer results in needs being met by the Father. Luke 11:5-13

B. Maintenance of Jesus’ victory over the threat of unclean spirits is necessary to the well-being of the kingdom. Luke 11:14-26

C. Care with the word of God promotes the kingdom. Luke 11:27-36

  1. Keeping the word brings true blessing. Luke 11:27-28
  2. The word neglected brings judgment. Luke 11:29-32
  3. The word is the only thing that enlightens. Luke 11:33-36

D. Justice and love promote the kingdom rather than self-serving wickedness and abuse. Luke 11:37-54

Here is another summary from Dine - . Instruction arising from specific responses (Lk 10:25–11:54 ). Luke groups a number of incidents in which Jesus responds to some question or situation to reveal a particular caution about pitfalls of discipleship. A lawyer displays spiritual myopia with respect the display of mercy (Lk 10:25-37). Martha is distracted with service itself (Lk 10:38-42). Prayer is crucial to effectual kingdom service (Lk 11:1-13) as is a steadfast stand in Jesus’ accomplished victory over the spiritual realm (Lk 11:14-26). Care must be taken to keep the word of God at the center of all ministry (Lk 11:27-36). Since justice and love are the qualities that will promote the kingdom, every effort must be made to avoid self-serving wickedness and spiritual abuse (Lk 11:37-54).

ILLUSTRATION - DO YOU BELIEVE IN PRAYER? A tale is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

Luke 11:2  And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.

KJV Luke 11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (only in KJV)

  • When you pray, say Eccl 5:2; Hosea 14:2; Mt 6:6-8
  • Father Isa 63:16; Mt 6:9-15; Ro 1:7; 8:15; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; 4:20; Col 1:2; 1 Th 1:1,3; 3:11-13; 2 Th 1:1,2; 2:16
  • which art in heaven (only KJV)  2 Chr 20:6; Ps 11:4; Eccl 5:2; Daniel 2:28; Mt 5:16; 10:32
  • hallowed be Your name Leviticus 10:3; 22:23; 1 Kings 8:43; 2 Kings 19:19; Ps 57:11; 72:18,19; 108:5; Ezekiel 36:23; Habakkuk 2:14; Rev 15:4
  • Your kingdom come  10:9-11; Isa 2:2-5; Daniel 2:44; 7:18,27; Rev 11:15; 19:6; 20:4
  • Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (only in KJV) Ps 103:20; Isa 6:2,3; Mt 6:10
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:1 Jesus' Pattern for Every Prayer - John MacArthur
  • Luke 11:2 When You Pray Say, "Father" - John MacArthur
  • Luke 11:2 Hallowed Be Thy Name - John MacArthur
  • Luke 11:2 Thy Kingdom Come - John MacArthur
  • Luke 11:2 Thy Will Be Done - John MacArthur


Matthew's longer Version of the "Lord's Prayer"

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.  11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.  12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]  (Mt 6:9-13-note)

John MacArthur explains that "Matthew 6 is the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus preached that sermon in Galilee.  There He gave the pattern for prayer without being asked.  There was no incident like the incident here. No one asked Him to teach us how to pray.  It was part of His own instruction against the background of the hypocritical praying that was going on in the nation Israel led by the scribes and Pharisees at the time, a very different occasion in Galilee at a much earlier time. This is many months later, the Galilean ministry is over, He is now in Judea.  He is in the last few months of His life headed for the cross and here again a question is asked of Him, the query is made about how to pray.  And Jesus goes back to the same instruction which He had given earlier in the Sermon on the Mount and perhaps on number of occasions other than that which are not recorded in the New Testament.  So you have two distinct events at two separate times in which the Lord gives essentially the same pattern for prayer."  (Jesus' Pattern for Every Prayer)

This prayer is most often referred to as the "Lord's Prayer" but Jesus never actually prayed it Himself (see Mt 6:12 - He had no need for example to pray "forgive us our debts"). Instead this prayer is presented as a model prayer for citizens of the Kingdom of heaven and so is better en titled "The Disciple's Prayer" or "The Pattern of Prayer." Jesus never intended for this prayer to be repeated ritualistically with regular, repetitious recital, but rather as a guide or model for our prayers.

Rod Mattoon - The Lord's Prayer is a prayer which only a disciple can pray. It is a prayer which only one who is committed to Jesus Christ can take upon his lips with any kind of sincerity and meaning at all. The Lord's Prayer is specifically and definitely stated to be the disciple's prayer, and only on the lips of a true disciple of Jesus Christ does this prayer have its full meaning. To put it in another way, the Lord's Prayer can only really be prayed when the man who prays it knows what he is saying. He cannot know that until he becomes a follower of the Lord by first of all trusting Jesus Christ as his Savior. (Treasures from Luke, Volume 3)

And He said to them, "When you pray - Notice that only one disciple ask the question but Jesus uses plural pronouns throughout His description of prayer. One implication of use of plural pronouns is that He was speaking not just of personal, private prayer but of corporate prayer (think of the old term "prayer meeting"). How's you church doing? Are you even having a weekly prayer meeting? If so, how well attended is it? Jesus' teaching can be very convicting! 

When you pray say - Not "if" you pray, but when implying this would be their practice and presumably it would be frequent. And Jesus gives the best way to pray in the two words "pray say." Just do it! Simply speak. Anytime. Anywhere. And don't be like the Pharisee who “prayed thus with himself” talking only to ourselves, or even worse trying to impress others. It’s especially hard when you are praying in a group to keep the focus of your prayer to be addressed to God. Sometimes we are more concerned about getting a message across to someone or trying to impress them with "how spiritual" we are.

ILLUSTRATION - Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary, Bill Moyers, was saying grace at a staff lunch, and the President shouted, “Speak up, Bill! I can’t hear a thing!” Moyers quietly replied, “I wasn’t addressing you, Mr. President.” It is important to speak up but to remember you are not addressing the group but your Father in Heaven.

The Lord Jesus gave many other commands to pray (Matthew 7:7-11; 9:38; 17:20; 18:19,20; 21:21,22; 26:41; Luke 18:1,7; John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23,24)--all of which give further instruction on the vital subject of how believers should pray.

Spurgeon on praying this prayer repetitively - I THINK there is room for very great doubt, whether our Savior intended the prayer, of which our text forms a part, to be used in the manner in which it is commonly employed among professing Christians. It is the custom of many persons to repeat it as their morning prayer, and they think that when they have repeated these sacred words they have done enough. I believe that this prayer was never intended for universal use....This prayer of Christ is a great chart, as it were: but I cannot cross the sea on a chart. It is a map; but a man is not a traveler because he puts his fingers across the map. And so a man may use this form of prayer, and yet be a total stranger to the great design of Christ in teaching it to His disciples.  (The Fatherhood of God)

Ironside writes that "There does not seem to be any valid reason for supposing that He meant it to be repeated frequently, or as part of a service of prayer or worship, as it is commonly used today. No mention is made of its use in the early Christian assemblies of the book of Acts, nor is it even referred to in the Epistles....Now that the Holy Spirit has come to guide us in our supplications, it would seem needlessly formal to be bound to use the exact words we have here when we come to God either in public or in private devotions." (Matthew 6 - Ironside's Notes on Matthew)

Pray (4336)(proseuchomai from pros = toward, facing, before [emphasizing the direct approach of the one who prays in seeking God’s face = consciousness that one is speaking to God face to face] + euchomai = originally to speak out, utter aloud, express a wish, then to pray or to vow. Greek technical term for invoking a deity) in the NT is always used of prayer addressed to God (to Him as the object of faith and the One who will answer one’s prayer) and means to speak consciously (with or without vocalization) to Him, with a definite aim (See study of noun proseuche).

D A Carson picks up on the present tense aspect of prayer Jesus is calling for in His disciples relating that "Someone commented to me that they thought Muslim people were far more devout than Christians. How many Christians in our country, said this friend, would pray with such regularity and fervor as they do with their set hours of prostrated prayer? I replied that Christians are often praying when those around them are wholly unaware of the communication that flows between them and God. The church is always at prayer—but only because of the unfailing grace of the Holy Spirit. (Carson, D. Teach us to pray : Prayer in the Bible and the world)

Note that proseuchomai encompasses all the aspects of prayer -- submission, confession, petition, supplication (may concern one's own need), intercession (concerned with the needs of others), praise, and thanksgiving.

Vine adds that proseuchomai carries with it a notion of worship (but see the Greek word for worship = proskuneo) which is not present in the other words for prayer (eg, aiteo, deomai, both of which involve spoken supplication)

Kent Hughes observes that in this great prayer the "initial focus is upward, with its first three requests (Luke 11 only has 2) having to do with God's glory. The remaining three requests are for our well-being. God first, man second - that is the ideal order of prayer. His glory before our wants. This is parallel to the Ten Commandments, the first four of which have to do with God's glory and the last six with man's well-being. This prayer is the perfect prayer. Of its perfection Bonhoeffer said, "The Lord's Prayer is not merely the pattern prayer, it is the way Christians must pray. . . . The Lord's Prayer is the quintessence of prayer." It is the perfect pattern for the followers of Christ, and its depth cannot be exhausted by exposition. No matter how one advances in the matter of prayer, it remains the model and the challenge. Sadly, it is more often mindlessly repeated than genuinely prayed. This is especially ironic because the context that introduces the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:7, 8 warns against meaningless repetition. The obvious problem for all of us is that "familiarity breeds contempt," in this case "surface familiarity." Some of us learned the Lord's Prayer at our mother's knees. We cannot count the times we have repeated it. We said it again and again as children. We repeat it today as adults. But there is a danger in our familiarity with its beauty - it can become just beautiful words, so that we "say" the Lord's Prayer without praying it. Some who live in the mountains of Colorado rarely see the incredible scenery that occupies their every glance, while flatlanders like me travel a thousand miles just to see the mountains' beauty for a few days - and we really see them! Those who have been dulled to beauty need to see things in a new way, and in respect to the Lord's Prayer we may need to see it anew - not necessarily discovering new truth, but seeing the old truth for what it is. An in-depth study of the Lord's Prayer can help us pray with greater singleness and greater power, just as it has done for thousands through the centuries. (Sermon on the Mount)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones - “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face to face with God” “Of all of the blessings of a Christian’s salvation, none is greater than this. We have access to God in prayer.”(Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Phil Newton - Our culture values doing over being. As long as we give ourselves to religious activities then we consider ourselves spiritual. Yet prayer provides more of a barometer of the soul than the most feverish activity. For in prayer we are encountering the living God, bearing our souls before Him, contemplating Him, and seeing Him alone as our Father and Lord. (Sermon)

Puritan Thomas Brooks - “The Lord’s prayer is given us as a directory for prayer, a pattern and an example, by which we are to regulate our petitions, and make other prayers

Luke records a similar, abbreviated version of this model prayer in Jesus' answer to His disciple's query "Lord, teach us to pray" (and thus the moniker "The Disciple's Prayer").

As discussed previously, so often the "Disciple's Prayer" has been turned into a ritualistic recital that we mouth but do not genuinely pray from our heart. Such dead formalism is the very practice Jesus is warning them to beware of practicing! That is not to say that one could or should never pray this prayer...the question one must always ask when praying this prayer is "Am I praying it from my heart or am I mouthing it from memory as a mechanical, rote exercise?" Certainly, from the heart, the "Disciple's Prayer" is a valid, efficacious prayer.


Pater is Greek for Father. This is an especially precious truth to all of us who have been rejected by our earthly fathers (as I was at birth and then later by my step-father) so that when we meet God as our Father for the first time (when we are born again), we know that we are finally "home" at last. And it follows that we should desire dialogue with Him. As an aside, there are only two spiritual families on earth, redeemed and unredeemed, the former in the family of God, the latter in the the family of their father, the devil (Jn 8:44). This may sound harsh, but it is the Biblical harsh reality. 

The first two requests are upward, God-ward, the latter three are man-ward. This is the ideal pattern for prayer, God first, man second. We show by this pattern our main concern is for God. His glory before our needs. 

Father - When you pray it is not into thin air but to a divine Being. Yes He is invisible but He is omnipresent and you have unlimited entree to His throne room through Jesus. We are never told by Christ or the Scriptures to pray to Mary, the patriarchs, angels, dead relatives, or any other being. When we pray, we are to pray to God and none other. Pray to the Creator not His creation!

Play these old Maranatha songs and worship Him in spirit and truth - Cry Out (and don't just sing it, do it!), My God and FatherAbba, Father, Everlasting Father, He Knows My Name.  Does the truth of God as your very own Father undergird your life with Father, as well as your prayer life?

Brian Bill - “Father” is probably the most common term we use in prayer, and rightly so, because that is how Jesus addressed His prayers, using the phrase more than 70 different times. The only prayer He ever prayed without using it was when He was on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Only in sin-bearing was He separated from the Father....God’s nature is like a daddy but His name is holy. Our open access to God that leads to a close relationship with Him should not destroy our esteem for Him. He is not the “big guy in the sky” or “our buddy.” He is the holy and awesome God of Israel, before whom we should tremble like Isaiah did in Isaiah 6.

Steven Cole - The term “Father” implies the intimacy and love of a personal relationship with the Sovereign Creator of the universe! It should encourage us to draw near to God and expect to find mercy and compassion. As John Calvin comments “For [God] is not only a father but by far the best and kindest of all fathers.” He always welcomes His children in His presence....The Jews of Jesus’ day tended to view God as so awesome and holy that they dared not be too intimate with Him. If someone got a glimpse of God, he thought that he would die. They dared not utter the name of God, because it was too sacred. They kept their proper distance in the temple, because if they touched any of the sacred objects, they would drop dead. They needed to learn that they could approach God as a kind and loving Father.In our day, it seems that the reverse is true. Most American Christians think of God as their Good Buddy in the Sky. We don’t worry about His consuming holiness and His blinding splendor. We don’t fear His chastening hand. We’re more like the children who call their permissive fathers by their first names. We’re too casual about the Holy One.But the term “Father” should not only encourage us to draw near to a kind and loving God. It should also cause us to respect His authority and to submit to Him in fear. As the author of Hebrews puts it, “we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9). Thus while we can draw near to the Father as His beloved children, we must always do so with reverence, respect, and submission to His sovereign authority.  (Luke 11:1-4 Lord, Teach Us to Pray!)

Related Resource:  

Say "Father" - Say is a command in the present imperative, which is a call to make prayer to our Father our priority and our lifestyle, something as necessary to our spiritual life as oxygen is to our physical life! You may not realize it but the Old Testament saints hardly ever addressed God as Father (cf Isa 63:16; Dt 32:6) In fact Philip Keller points out (A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer), in all of the Old Testament God is referred to as Father fewer than seven times, except indirectly and rather remotely. In fact consider the Tabernacle with the Holy of Holies separated from the people by the Holy Place and then the walls of the Tabernacle, giving a clear picture to the Jews that God was unapproachable. In fact only once per year would the high priest (alone) enter the presence of God in the Shekinah Glory over the Ark of the Covenant (Day of Atonement - Lev 16-note, cf "consuming fire" Ex 24:17, Heb 12:28-29-note, cf Moses' request Ex 33:18-23). We in the New Testament too often either forget or become complacent regarding the great privilege we now have to boldly approach the Throne of Grace because Jesus' sacrifice has flung  wide open the doors to the Throne Room and the presence of the Father (cf Heb 4:14-16-note, Heb 10:19-23-note). Through Christ's death and High Priesthood, the unapproachable God has now become approachable for all those who are in Christ by grace through faith! Pause and ponder this great truth for a moment and then offer up a sacrifice of praise, giving thanks to His Name (Heb 13:15-note) for giving us so great a salvation and such an incredible privilege of eternal entree into His Holy Presence (cf Ro 5:1-2-note, Jude 1:24-25-note). 

To say God was unapproachable in the OT needs to be qualified, for even in the OT, saints had access to God in prayer - Ps 50:15, Ps 91:15, Ps 145:18, Ps 18:6, Ps 65:2, Jonah 2:9, etc.

Barclay - The very first word tells us that in prayer we are not coming to someone out of whom gifts have to be unwillingly extracted, but to a Father who delights to supply his children's needs. (Daily Study Bible)

Father (3962) (pater) is the genitor (a begetter), by whom another is begotten. Stated more simply this is a man who has begotten a child. Father is the progenitor, the ancestor in the direct line (a forefather -- thus Adam was the "progenitor" of the Human Race).

Vine writes that pater is "from a root signifying “a nourisher, protector, upholder” (Lat., pater, Eng., “father,” are akin)." (Note: Not all lexicons agree with this origin)....Whereas the everlasting power and divinity of God are manifest in creation, His “Fatherhood” in spiritual relationship through faith is the subject of NT revelation, and waited for the presence on earth of the Son, Matt. 11:27; John 17:25. The spiritual relationship is not universal, John 8:42, 44 (cf. John 8:12 and Gal. 3:26).

The fatherhood of God forms the foundation for this model prayer, and we as children are called to seek His face using the six (or seven) topical sentences Jesus presents in Mt 6:9-13. “Father” as a title for God was rarely used in the Old Testament (only 14 times) and always used with reference to the nation, not to individuals. Thus where "father" does occur with respect to God, it is commonly by way of analogy, and not used to directly address Him (Deut 32:6; Ps 103:13; Isa 63:16; Mal 2:10). Thus Jesus' teaching that kingdom citizens were to address God as Father must have surprised most of His audience.

Mattoon adds - God is only referred to as "Father" fourteen times in the Old Testament's thirty-nine books, and even then, rather impersonally. In those fourteen occurrences of Father, the term was always used with reference to the nation of Israel, not to individuals. In the entire Old Testament, you will not find one individual speaking of God as Father.

Jesus Himself addressed God only as Father (some 60 times in the Gospels), never referring to Him by any other name! Virtually all of Jesus' prayers were addressed to God as Father (exception in Mt 27:46)

Father (title for God), (Jn 10:15; Lk 23:34.) God the Father (15x not once in OT): 1 Cor 8:6; Gal 1:1; Eph 6:23; Phil 2:11; Col 1:3; 3:17; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:2; 1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2; Titus 1:4; 1Pet 1:2; 2Pet 1:17; 2 John 1:3; Jude 1:1. 

And thus the New Testament believer knows God as his Father, with even greater clarity than anything his Old Testament counterpart could have enjoyed. Thus it follows that his praying proceeds from a childlike trust, as expressed in the addressing of God as "Our Father".

Joachim Jeremias, a respected German NT scholar wrote that the Aramaic word "Abba" was most likely the word Jesus used here when He spoke the words written in Greek in Mt 6:9. And from this premise, Jeremias argues that "in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus authorizes His disciples to repeat the word Abba after Him. He gives them a share in His sonship and empowers them, as His disciples, to speak with their heavenly Father in just such a familiar, trusting way as a child would with his father. (Joachim Jeremias, The Lord’s Prayer. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1980),

Phillip Keller on Father - What an intimate, personal, family-like approach to God. What a reassuring, comfortable way in which to address the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Can it be that He, who is from everlasting to everlasting, the infinite One, really regards me as His child? Does He care enough to consider me His own son? This is a startling concept. It is unique. It stands as a brand new revelation of God, given to us with repeated emphasis and clarity by Christ. Prior to the time of Jesus, God was regarded as someone remote and august in His demeanor. He sat in the high and holy place, a stern Judge behind the hard, harsh bar of the Law. Only with fear and foreboding did any man dare to address himself to such a powerful potentate. All through the Old Testament account of God’s dealing with His people He is referred to as YAHWEH, the name which dared not be spoken for fear of offense. Fewer than seven times is He even referred to as a father, except indirectly and rather remotely. Yet in the first four gospels, Jesus, the Christ, casting aside all restraint, speaks of God as Father more than seventy times. It is a radical, new, and very exciting disclosure that God is our Father. Suddenly it puts man’s relationship to Him into an entirely new light. He moves from behind the bar of justice to come knocking on the door of our human hearts. He enters our lives to become a “Father to the fatherless.” The whole concept is replete with wonder and incredible love. It hardly seems possible that He who has been from everlasting to everlasting, the eternal, infinite God, should delight to have us call Him, “Our Father.” But not all of us can do this either easily or in sincerity. It is a frightening fact that for many people, the word father does not denote a dear one. It does not conjure up the thought of a happy home. Rather, to them it may well be a repulsive and abhorrent title. Many people have known only harsh, hard fathers. Their human father may have been a selfish, self-centered person who cared little for their well-being. He may have been a derelict, a drunkard, a dope addict, or some other distorted person who wrought havoc with their personalities in early childhood. (A Layman Looks at the Lord's Prayer).

Jesus Himself used Abba(Aramaic for "Father") in addressing God, a use without parallel in the whole of Jewish literature. The explanation by some of the early Church fathers (Chrysostom, Theodore, Theodoret) was that Abba was the word used by a young child addressing his or her father. It was an everyday family word, which no one had ventured to use in addressing God. And so Jesus uses it quite naturally to address His heavenly Father in as childlike, trustful, and intimate a way as a little child to its father.

And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." (Mark 14:36)

Paul likewise mentions that because of our redemption and adoption into God's family, NT believers can address God as "Abba".

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:14-15)

But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:4-6)

R Kent Hughes on Abba - When we say Abba today in our prayers, as we sometimes do, we are making the same sound that actually fell from Jesus’ lips—and from the lips of his incredulous disciples. Jesus transferred the Fatherhood of God from a theological doctrine into an intense, practical experience, and he taught his disciples to pray with the same intimacy. And that is what he does for us. “Our Father”—“Our Abba”—“Our dearest Father”—this is to be the foundational awareness of all our prayers. Does it undergird your prayer life? Is a sense of God’s intimate Fatherhood profound and growing in your life? Addressing God as Abba (Dearest Father) is not only an indication of spiritual health but is a mark of the authenticity of our faith. Paul tells us in Galatians 4:6, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” The impulse to call on God in this way is a sign of being God’s child. Romans 8:15, 16 says the same thing: “you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” True believers are impelled to say this....Do you know that God is your Father? Do you think of him and address him as your “Dearest Father”? If you cannot answer in the affirmative, it may be that he is not your spiritual Father and you need to heed the words of Scripture and come into relationship with him through Christ. “Yet to all who received him [Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). (The Sermon on the Mount)

C H Spurgeon - A Father! There is music in that word, but not to a fatherless child—to him it is full of sorrowful memories. Those who have never lost a father can scarcely know how precious a relation a father is. A father who is a father indeed, is very dear! Do we not remember how we climbed his knee? Do we not recollect the kisses we imprinted on his cheeks? Do we not recall to-day with gratitude the chidings of his wisdom and the gentle encouragements of his affection? We owe all! Who shall tell how much we owe to our fathers according to the flesh, and when they are taken from us we lament their loss, and feel that a great gap is made in our family circle. Listen, then, to these words, "Our Father, Who is in heaven." Consider the grace contained in the Lord's deigning to take us into the relationship of children, and giving us with the relationship the nature and the spirit of children, so that we say, "Abba, Father." Did you ever lie in bed with your limbs vexed with sore pains, and cry, "Father, pity thy child"? Did you ever look into the face of death, and as you thought you were about to depart, cry, "My Father, help me; uphold me with thy gracious hand, and bear me through the stream of death"? It is at such times that we realize the glory of the Fatherhood of God, and in our feebleness learn to cling to the divine strength, and catch at the divine love. (Flashes of Thought)

J. I. Packer considers one's grasp of God's Fatherhood and adoption as His child as of essential importance in one's spiritual life explaining that "If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. "Father" is the Christian name for God." (Packer, J: Knowing God)

The Net Bible notes explains that...

God is addressed in terms of intimacy (Father). The original Semitic term here was probably Abba. The term is a little unusual in a personal prayer, especially as it lacks qualification. It is not the exact equivalent of “daddy” (as is sometimes popularly suggested), but it does suggest a close, familial relationship. (The NET Bible; Bible. Biblical Studies Press)

To open this prayer addressing God as Father, indicates He is personal (not merely "a higher power") and that He cares for His family (as a father would).  Without faith in Christ’s blood and union with Him, it is useless to talk of trusting in the “Fatherhood” of God. Only believers can truly call God "Father" because we alone are His children, having received Jesus as Savior and believed in His Name (Jesus means "Jehovah saves")

He (Jesus) came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13-note)

Jesus answered (Nicodemus) and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5)

The early church actually forbade non-Christians from reciting this prayer as vigorously as they forbade them from joining with believers at the Lord's Table!

Kent Hughes - the idea that God is our Father, our Abba, is not only a sign of our spiritual health and of the authenticity of our faith, it is one of the most healing doctrines in all of Scripture. Some grew up only with a mother and no father. Others grew up in conventional homes where the relationship with the father was negative at best. But whatever our background, we need the touch of a father, and our God wants to provide that. Some of us need to bow before God and simply say, "Dearest Father, Abba" and so find the wholeness and healing that he wants to give us... The problem among some evangelical Christians today is the opposite - they have sentimentalized God's fatherhood so much that they have little concept of his holiness. Many Christians are flippantly sentimental about God, as if he is a celestial teddy bear. Such flip familiarity outwardly suggests super-intimacy with God but actually hides a defective knowledge of God. (Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books)

Phil Newton adds a practical note to those who have had "suboptimal" relationships with their earthly fathers writing that...

Some of you may have bad memories of your earthly father. I have observed through the years that some people have unfounded fears of God, and grave apprehensions of depending upon Him because they bear deep wounds of their own earthly fathers that disappointed them time and time again. The image of father brings pain to them and not delight. They could never measure up to their father’s expectations or demands. They never felt an intimacy with him because of his self-centered ways. That is why our Lord distinguishes the Heavenly Father from all sinful, earthly fathers. He is not like those bad memories that haunt your understanding of God. He is “Our Father who is in heaven.”...Gardiner Spring gives us a picture of what it means to call upon God as Father. "Secrets may be committed to God that cannot be committed to another. The world knows not of this relief, to spread before Him the secret wants of the soul; to tell them one by one; to tell them all. The conscience, wounded by a sense of sin, finds healing there. Want there finds supply; distrust finds confidence and depression finds praise. Ignorance is enlightened there; poverty is enriched, and weakness becomes strong. Darkness is there dissipated and trembling hopes encouraged. The bruised reed is not broken there, nor is the smoking flax quenched. Grace there cherishes what it bestows, and completes what it begins…There are no broken cisterns at the mercy seat; it is all a fountain of living water, where streams flow from it, without which this earth were a desert."...It is in the sphere of relationship to God as Father that kingdom citizens find the significance of prayer. It is not a psychological exercise that helps us to cope with the troubles of life, but the heart of children gathering into the bosom of their Father to find peace, comfort, security, and provision for every need. Do you see the Father like that? Are you in relationship to Him through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Then pray, and pray often and boldly, to the Father in heaven. (Sermon)

One often hears someone begin a prayer with "Dear Jesus..." Although that is certainly not heretical, in fairness and in a desire to pray as Jesus teaches, it should be emphasized that Scripture does not instruct believers to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ or to the Holy Spirit. The Bible is our only guidebook for Scripturally sound praying and supersedes the experience or traditional practices of men, whether pastors or laymen. What we do observe is that the entire Godhead is integrally involved in the prayers of the saints. The Holy Spirit leads and initiates our prayers (see Praying in the Spirit). The Father is the One to Whom all of our prayers are directed or addressed. And finally, all of our prayers ascend to the Father's throne only through the Great High Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Ti 2:5) a truth which explains why we always end our prayer with a phrase like "in the Name of Jesus". In fairness one might argue that petitions to Jesus made while He was on earth set the precedent for prayers to Jesus. For example, Peter cried out "Lord, save me!" as he began to sink into the water (Mt 14:30). In Acts 7:59-60 Stephen  directly addressed the Lord Jesus, so clearly prayers to Jesus have Scriptural precedent. Such prayers simply do not appear to be the norm if one follows Jesus' instructions on prayer.

MacArthur gives us some practical thoughts on how to use the Disciple's Prayer as a pattern -  You can say "Our Father" and then stop and pray your way through everything you can think about, about what it means to be a child of God.  That's all inherent in "Our Father."  And then you could say, "Hallowed be Your name," and you can pray your way through everything you know about the sacredness of God, the holiness of God, and how you as a worshiper are privileged to come before Him and worship Him. 

MacArthur also adds how this prayer stimulates right attitudes - You find here as well a family spirit, “Father” talks about intimacy, personal life given to you by Him.  You find here a reverent spirit, "Hallowed be Thy name," a loyal spirit, "Thy kingdom come," a submissive spirit, "Thy will be done," a dependent spirit, "Give us our daily bread," a penitent spirit, "Forgive us our trespasses," a humble spirit, "Lead us not into temptation," a confident spirit, "Yours is the kingdom," a triumphant spirit, "And the power," a joyful spirit, "And the glory," and so it goes with all the attitudes and all the relationships summed up in this incredible, amazing economy of words. We learn how to pray. (Sermon)


Hallowed be Your Name - “Let your name be hallowed” “May Thy name be held in reverence.” Constable adds that "This petition is as much an expression of worship as it is a petition. It asks God to act so people will regard Him as holy, to cause situations in which they will reverence and obey Him rather than blaspheming and sinning against Him."

Phillip Keller on hallowed - Putting it into plain language, what Jesus is saying in this prayer is, “Father, may Your person, Your identity, Your character, Your reputation, Your very being always be honored.” (Ibid)

Brian Bill on hallowed - To make something “hallow” carries two basic ideas in the Greek. The first means to make an ordinary thing extraordinary by bringing it into contact with something extraordinary. That’s how it’s used in 1 Peter 1:16 where God says, “Be holy because I am holy.” We’re unholy, but by coming into contact with One who is holy, we can be made holy. The second meaning for “hallow” means to treat something or someone as set apart or separated. To “hallow” God’s name therefore is to hold His matchless being in awe and veneration so that we will believe what He says and obey Him. Friends, we have to guard against becoming flippant and shallow in our view of God. God is holy, holy, holy. The holiness of God is the only one of His attributes repeated three times. One way that we can “hallow” His name is by living a life of obedience before Him. God want His name “hallowed” in us so that we can become a vehicle of His holiness to others. Martin Luther said that God’s name is made holy among us “when both our doctrines and our living are truly Christian.” That’s where prayer begins. Before we start asking for what we want, we need to ask for what we should be in light of His penetrating holiness. Two questions come to mind related to this part of the prayer: Are we approaching God with holy reverence, awe, and respect when we pray? Are we “hallowing” God by the way we are living? (How To Pray The Lord's Way)

Cathers on Hallowed - We need to treat God’s name as holy, as different. The Jews had a concept of this.  As they copied the Old Testament manuscripts, instead of writing out the actual name, Yahweh, they felt they were too unclean to be able to even mention let alone write God’s name, and so they would write the consonants of “Yahweh”, but they would pronounce “Adonai”, or, “Lord”. Though I don’t think we ought to be afraid of saying God’s name, I think we could use a little more awe and reverence towards God’s name. (Notes)

As an aside many (most) movies and television shows today (even so-called PG!) glibly blaspheme God and Christ, the Name above all names. What hypocrisy for believers to take in this profane language and then go before the Father and say "hallowed be Your Name!" Hallowed has a bit of a hollow ring if one is not guarding his ear-gate with a "Phil 4:8 grid." Steven Cole adds "People often use God’s holy name as a swear word, putting God on the same level as human excrement! As Paul cites the psalmist, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18; Ps. 36:1). Setting God’s name apart as sacred or hallowed begins in our hearts. We must submit every thought to Him as the Holy Lord. Everything we say and do must take the Holy God into account. So as we draw near to God in prayer, we must first make sure that we reverence Him as holy."

Hallowed ((37) (hagiazo from hagios = set apart, holy, sanctified) means treated as holy, dedicated, consecrated, set apart, sanctified. It means to set apart for God, to sanctify, to make a person or thing (in the OT altars, days, priests, etc were set apart) the opposite of koinos, which means profane or common.

Mattoon on hagiazo - A thing which is hagios is different from other things. A person who is hagios is separate from other people. So, then, this petition, "hallowed be thy name," means, "Let God's name be treated differently from all other names. Let God's name be given a special position which is absolutely unique. Christians are also commanded to be holy, but our Lord is acknowledged as being holy.  When we pray "hallowed be they name," we attribute to God the holiness that already is, and always has been His. To hallow God's name is to revere, honor, glorify, and obey Him as perfect. We do not need to pray that the Lord will become more holy, for He is already holy. It is the essence of His being. The name of the Lord is holy.

Hiebert - The primary meaning of sanctify is "to set apart, to consecrate," but it also carries the thought of the resultant holiness of character in the consecrated. The note of holiness was already sounded in  1Th 3:13-note and 1Th 4:3--note, 1Th 4:4, 5-note, 1Th 4:6, 7, 8-note

Barclay on hallowed - The word which is translated hallowed is a part of the Greek verb hagiazo. The Greek verb hagiazo is connected with the adjective hagios, and means to treat a person or a thing as hagios. Hagios is the word which is usually translated holy; but the basic meaning of hagios is different or separate. A thing which is hagios is different from other things. A person who is hagios is separate from other people. So a temple is hagion (Greek #39) because it is different from other buildings. An altar is hagios because it exists for a purpose different from the purpose of ordinary things. God's day is hagios because it is different from other days. A priest is hagios because he is separate from other men. So, then, this petition means, "Let God's name be treated differently from all other names; let God's name be given a position which is absolutely unique." But there is something to add to this. In Hebrew the name does not mean simply the name by which a person is called-- John or James, or whatever the name may be. In Hebrew the name means the nature, the character, the personality of the person in so far as it is known or revealed to us. That becomes clear when we see how the Bible writers use the expression. The Psalmist says, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee" (Ps 9:10). Quite clearly that does not mean that those who know that God is called Jehovah will trust in him. It means that those who know what God is like, those who know the nature and the character of God will put their trust in him. The Psalmist says, "Some boast of chariots and some of horses, but we boast of the name of the Lord our God" (Ps 20:7). Quite clearly that does not mean that in a time of difficulty the Psalmist will remember that God is called Jehovah. It means that at such a time some will put their trust in human and material aids and defenses, but the Psalmist will remember the nature and the character of God; he will remember what God is like, and that memory will give him confidence. So, then, let us take these two things and put them together. Hagiazo, which is translated to hallow, means to regard as different, to give a unique and special place to. The name is the nature, the character, the personality of the person in so far as it is known and revealed to us. Therefore, when we pray "Hallowed be Thy name," it means, "Enable us to give to thee the unique place which thy nature and character deserve and demand." (Matthew 6 - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

Kent Hughes mentions four ways we hallow God's Name...

First, negatively, we are careful not to profane God's name with our mouths. We avoid swearing or taking his name in vain. We speak of him with great reverence. This is perhaps the least requiring aspect of hallowing his name.

Second, we begin with the positives: We reverence him as Father with acts of public and private worship. I personally consider the morning worship at the church I pastor to be the most important aspect of my life and ministry (apart from my personal devotion). I do not consider my sermon to be the most important part of the service but the worship. Is God's name truly being lifted up? Do the hymns, Scriptures, and prayers lift up his name? We hallow his name when we worship.

There is a third way: We reverence God or hallow his name when our beliefs concerning him are worthy of him. We cannot hallow his name if we do not understand it. Specifically, in the Lord's Prayer we must understand his Abba-Fatherhood. The deeper our understanding, the more depth there will be to our reverence. It is all the work of the Holy Spirit, of course, but we must yield to that work. We understand the depth and wonder of saying, "Abba Father" only through the Holy Spirit. Is God your Dearest Father?

And fourth, we hallow his name by living a life that displays that he is our Father... Luther was right. We best hallow God's name when our life and our doctrine are truly Christian. When we pray, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name," we are dedicating ourselves to lead lives that reverence all that he is. (Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books)

How important is it that we "hallow" God's Name? Jesus teaches that kingdom citizens are to recognize the greatness of God's Name and ascribe to Him the glory due His Name. When Ezekiel prophesied against Israel, the word of the Lord explained the foundational problem as Israel’s failure to recognize the LORD’s name.

"Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned (defiled, polluted, desecrated, treated with abuse, irreverence, or contempt) among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. (Ezekiel 36:22-23-note)

Martin Luther (Greater Catechism) asked “How is it [God’s name] hallowed amongst us?” Answer “When our life and doctrine are truly Christian”

The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study comments that "The first and most encompassing petition in the prayer Jesus gives his disciples as a model concerns God's glory. They are to ask God to make His Name something people will treat as holy, and not common or profane. This will ultimately be done after the judgment when the righteous remain (Mt 13:41-43). But this petition probably has a present relevance, too, as peo­ple become disciples and begin to relate to God as Father. This petition thus becomes a missionary prayer that God would enable Jesus' followers to accomplish their mission of making disciples of all nations, honoring God in the process (Mt 28:19-20). (Bock, Darrell L, Editor: The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study)

J C Ryle explains that "By the “name of God we mean all those attributes through which He is revealed to us—His power, wisdom, holiness, justice, mercy and truth. By asking that they may be “hallowed,” we mean that they may be made known and glorified. The glory of God is the first thing that God’s children should desire. It is the object of one of our Lord’s own prayers: “Father, glorify (aorist imperative) Your Name!” (John 12:28). It is the purpose for which the world was created; it is the end for which the saints are called and convened (Related resource: John Piper's sermon God Created Us For His Glory on Isaiah 43:1-7): it is the chief thing we should seek—“that in all things God may be praised” (see note 1 Peter 4:11).

Name (3686) (onoma) is the proper name of a person or object. In our modern world, a name does not have the same significance as it did in antiquity. In both the Old and New Testament times "the name" concisely summed up all that a person is. One's whole character was implied by their name. And so it follows that the Names of God denote not just His title, but also include all that by which He makes Himself known and all that He shows Himself to be.

In Biblical times a Name was a means of self-revelation. In the ancient world it was especially important to know the name of the deities in order to invoke their presence and obtain help from them. One of the most famous encounters is found in Exodus when Moses was confronted by God at the burning bush, and given a commission to deliver Israel from bondage. Moses argued with God, saying that no one would believe him.

Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" And God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. (Exodus 3:13-15)

Have you ever begun your prayer addressing God as "I Am", His memorial name to all generations?

Why should we study and be familiar with God's many Names? God commands us in the Old Testament to honor His Name, Moses recording...

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." (Exodus 20:7)

Now this commandment means more than avoiding using God's name in a profane (means common) manner. This is important because it speaks to the root sin of disbelieving, denying or distorting the truth about His glorious Being as manifest in part through His Name. The opposite of profaning God's Name is hallowing His Name! It means that those' who are in relationship with Him must honor or hallow His name in the way they live. For citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, we are called to be lights in the way we live and in so doing we give the unbelieving world a proper opinion of our Father Who art in heaven (see note by Ray Stedman below with expounds on this point)..

There is protection in God's Name, Solomon writing that...

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. (Pr 18:10-note)

God's Name is like a well fortified structure that provides protection for citizens of the Kingdom of heaven who still reside on earth. The more we understand God's various Names, the more they become a spiritual fortress for us in our times of need. As we grow to understand the very nature and character of God through a study of His magnificent Names, we will find yourselves running to His name to find safety and strength. His name truly is like a strong tower! God's Name stands for the manifestation of His presence in His revelation and His relation to His people. It is essential to know God's Name because we bear His Name ("Christian") and we are commanded to live in such a way that will bring glorify His Name. As we come to know the significance of each name, we will enhance the breadth of our ability to praise God and to live in His protection.

He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name (Psalm 111:9)

Nathan Stone in a classic work (The Names of God) elaborates on this idea explaining that...

a name in the Old Testament was often an indication of a person's character or of some peculiar quality. But what one name could be adequate to God's greatness? After all, as one writer declares, a name imposes some limitation. It means that an object or person is this and not that, is here and not there. And if the Heaven of heavens cannot contain God, how can a name describe Him? What a request of Moses, then, that was —that the infinite God should reveal Himself to finite man by any one name! We can hardly understand or appreciate Moses himself unless we see him in his many-sided character of learned man and shepherd, leader and legislator, soldier and statesman, impulsive, yet meekest of men. We can know David, too, not only as shepherd, warrior, and king, but also as a prophet, a poet, and musician. Even so, the Old Testament contains a number of names and compound names for God which reveal Him in some aspect of His character and dealings with mankind...As one would expect, the opening statement of the Scriptures contains the name God. "In the beginning God!" The Hebrew word from which this word God is translated is Elohim. While not the most frequently occurring word for the Deity, it occurs 2,570 times. The one which occurs most frequently is the word in the King James Version translated Lord, and in the American Standard Version, Jehovah...There is a spiritual significance in the use of these different names. It is much more "rational" to believe that the great and infinite and eternal God has given us these different names to express different aspects of His being and the different relationships He sustains to His creatures. (Nathan Stone. Names of God)

It follows that one would be well rewarded with a greater understanding of the many names of God in the Old Testament, for then one could approach the throne of grace addressing Him by a specific name which speaks of an aspect of His character. For example, if one were in need of help, it might be quite reasonable to approach Him as Jehovah Jireh: The LORD Will Provide. For a study of the Names of God see the following links for a more detailed and practical analysis of a number of God's specific Names. And then go to our Father Who art in heaven and speak with Him based on what you learn about Him from His many Names. Go into His presence acknowledging His worth (worship ~ "worth-ship") giving Him honor and reverence due only to Him. Worship in prayer in Scripture is not repetition or frenzy but includes a review of His character and His ways.


Jesus' focus in this model prayer on God's Name emphasizes the importance of worship ("worth-ship") as we begin to commune with our Father Who art in heaven.

How does worship affect us? Well, for example, if you are going through a difficult time, experiencing assaults from the world, the flesh and/or the devil, all these enemy forces crying out to you to abandon your faith and hope in God, then take a moment and read the encouraging example of King Hezekiah of Judah in Isaiah 36-37. Remember that the nation of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms, Israel to the north with the ten tribes, and Judah in the South with two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Assyria had defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 712BC and taken the 10 tribes into captivity. In Isaiah 36, we find the formidable foe threatening to bring about the same fate for Judah.

Another way to hallow His Name, is to study what His Name stands for, as manifest in His character and His attributes. Consider taking the a month to do an overview of His attributes. What might that do to our faith and our desire to come into His presence in prayer? For assistance in your study you could use the links below as guidelines, but remember not to just read the description or definition of His attribute. Always take time to read the Scriptures (in context) that relate to the specific attribute.


Now memorize His Names so that you will be able to meditate (see Primer on Biblical Meditation) on them and the Spirit can call them to your remembrance in your hour of need. This is part of what it means to "hallow" His Name.

As alluded to earlier acknowledging God by His various names, although highly commendable, does not encompass the fullness of what is called for in hallowing His name. In other words, we don't just speak His Name with our lips, but we are called to live in the light of the truth of His Name. Believers as a royal priesthood are to represent His Name by walking "in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called." (Ephesians 4:1).

Ray Stedman elaborates on hallowing God's Name noting that this part of the prayer reflects a personal surrender explaining that...

"this is the petition that makes hypocrites out of most of us. For we can say "Father" with grateful sincerity, but when we pray "Hallowed be thy name," we say this with the guilty knowledge that, as we pray, there are areas of our life in which His Name is not hallowed and in which, furthermore, we don't want it to be hallowed. When we say "Hallowed by thy name," we are praying,

"May the whole of my life be a source of delight to you and may it be an honor to the name which I bear, which is your name. Hallowed be your name."

It is the same thing we find in that prayer of David's at the close of one of his great psalms:

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer," (Psalms 19:14).

That is praying "Hallowed be thy name."

The trouble is that we so frequently know there are great areas of our life that are not hallowed. There are certain monopolies which we have reserved to ourselves, privileged areas which we do not wish to surrender, where the name of our boss or the name of our girl friend or some other dear one means more to us than the name of God. But when we pray this, if we pray it in any degree whatsoever of sincerity or openness or honesty, we are praying,

"Lord, I open to you every closet, I am taking every skeleton out for you to examine. Hallowed be thy name."

There cannot be any contact with God, any real touching of his power, any genuine experiencing of the glorious fragrance and wonder of God at work in human life until we truly pray, and the second requisite of true prayer is that we say "Hallowed be thy name."

But we are not only aware that in each of us there are areas where God's name is not hallowed, where he cannot write his name, but furthermore we are aware deep in our being that none of us can make our lives like this, that no matter how we may try to arrange every area of our lives to please him, there is a fatal weakness, a flaw that somehow makes us miss the mark. Even when we try hard we find ourselves unable to do this. But you will notice that this prayer is not phrased as simply a confession or an expression of repentance to the Father. We are not to pray as so frequently we do pray, "Father, help me to be good," or "Help me to be better." Is it not rather remarkable that throughout this whole pattern prayer, not once do you ever find an expression of a desire for help in the sanctification of life? That which is so much our concern, and so much the concern of Scripture, is never once reflected in this prayer. No, Jesus turns our attention entirely away from ourselves to the Father. This phrase, "Hallowed be thy name" is really a cry of helpless trust, in which we are simply standing and saying,

"Father, not only do I know that there are areas in my life where Thy Name is not hallowed, but I know also that only You can hallow them, and I am quite willing to simply stand still and let You be the Holy One Who will actually be first in my life."

When we pray that way, then we discover that the rest comes by itself, so to speak.

The man who lets God be his Lord and surrenders to Him is drawn quite spontaneously into a great learning process and becomes a different person. Martin Luther once said,

"You do not command a stone which is lying in the sun to be warm. It will be warm all by itself."

When we say,

"Father, there is no area of my life that I'm not willing to let you talk to me about, there is no area that I will hide from you, my sexual life, my business life, my social life, my school life, my recreation times, my vacation periods,"

that is saying, "Hallowed be thy name." When we pray that way we discover that God will walk into the dark closets of our life where the odor is sometimes too much even for us to stand and clean them out and straighten them up and make them fit for his dwelling.

"If we walk in the light," John says, (and that is not sinlessness, that means where God sees everything), "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin," (1 John 1:7 RSV). (The Pattern Prayer)


Your Kingdom come - Notice that this plea is in the aorist imperative which is a command which normally calls for urgent action. Compare the exclamation of the early church "Maranatha" which means "Our Lord, come", "O Lord come!" or "Our Lord has come." (1 Co 16:22). Would it be that we heard this same cry more often from the modern church!

Spurgeon - When we come to God in prayer, we are apt to think first of our own necessities, but if we came aright, in the spirit of sonship, truly saying, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we should begin our prayer like this, “’Hallowed be thy name.’ May all men honour, reverence, and adore thy holy name. ‘Thy kingdom come.’ We are not satisfied that thou shouldst be anything less than king; our heart’s desire is, ‘Reign, gracious God over us and over all men.’ 

Phillip Keller on Your kingdom come - When all is said and done, most of us from our earliest childhood believe we are the king of our own castle. We determine our own destinies; we arrange our own affairs; we govern our own lives. We become supreme specialists in selfish, self-centered living where all of life revolves around the epicenter of me, I, mine. So, if I sincerely, earnestly, and genuinely implore God to come into my life and experiences, there to establish His Kingdom, I can only expect that there is bound to be a most tremendous confrontation. It is inevitable that there will follow a formidable conflict between His divine sovereignty and my self-willed ego. When I pray, “Thy kingdom come,” I am willing to relinquish the rule of my own life, to give up governing my own affairs, to abstain from making my own decisions in order to allow God, by His indwelling Spirit, to decide for me what I shall do. Paul emphasized this concept in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Also, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Co 6:16-18). So when Christ uttered the simple yet profound petition, “Thy kingdom come,” He envisaged His own future kingdom on earth and also the very Spirit of the living God coming into a human heart at regeneration to make it His holy habitation. He pictured the King of kings so permeating and invading a life that His authority would be established in that person’s mind and will. He saw a human being as a temple, an abode, a residence of the Most High. But He knew that only when such an occupied heart is held and controlled by the indwelling Spirit could it be truly said that here indeed is a part of the spiritual Kingdom of God where His will was done on earth. (Ibid)

Bishop Taylor Smith of the Church of England applied "Thy Kingdom Come" this way - “As soon as I awake each morning I rise from bed at once. I dress promptly. I wash myself, shave and comb my hair. Then fully attired, wide awake and properly groomed I go quietly to my study. There, before God Almighty, and Christ my King, I humbly present myself as a loyal subject to my Sovereign, ready and eager to be of service to Him for the day.”

When we pray Thy kingdom come, we are praying for the glorious day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16-note, compare Da 2:34, 35-note with Da 2:44, 45-note) to set up His millennial (1000 year - see Millennium) kingdom on earth in which righteousness will be the rule of the day. Indeed the Kingdom is inseparable from the King and to pray for His Kingdom to come is to pray for its consummation. This is the kingdom to which we are citizens and its fulfillment should be the longing of our hearts and our prayers. Maranatha. Our Lord, come!

As an aside, it is ironic that many amillennialists pray this prayer for the millennial kingdom to come! 

Constable - If the messianic kingdom had already begun, as some scholars affirm, this prayer would hardly be necessary.

Steven Cole - The second petition is a logical extension of the first. It points to that future day when Jesus Christ will return in power and glory to set up His kingdom on this earth and rule the nations with a rod of iron. Every child of God longs for that day when God will put down every enemy, when righteousness shall reign on this earth. But it can also be applied to God’s ruling in my own and in every other human heart in the interim before that coming day of His outward reign. This request acknowledges God’s right to reign over my sinful heart.  (Lord Teach Us to Pray)

Alan Redpath quipped "Before we can pray, 'Thy kingdom come', we must be willing to pray, 'My kingdom go'."

Although the kingdom had already come in Jesus’ ministry (Lk 17:21 - KJV "within you" is not accurate for He was addressing unbelieving Pharisees! cf Mt 12:28), its final consummation will be in the future. Wherever the King is, that’s where His kingdom is. 

Kingdom (932) (basileia from basileus = a sovereign, king, monarch) denotes sovereignty, royal power and dominion. Most of the NT uses of basileia do not refer primarily to a geographical territory. The Kingdom of God is the sphere in which God is acknowledged as King in the hearts of those giving Him loving obedience. This is the Kingdom in its present form (But see in depth discussion at basileia). The prayer is asking for the future Kingdom (and King) to come where

THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Mt 13:43)

Brian Bill on kingdom - The word “kingdom” in the Greek means “rule” or “reign.” I think this is a better translation than the word “kingdom” because this word makes us think of castles and knights. To pray, “Your kingdom come” is to pray that God may take up reigning residence in the hearts and lives of those who are in rebellion. It is a prayer for salvation, for kingdom citizenship. There are at least three aspects of praying for God’s kingdom to come that should permeate our prayers: 1. Conversion. We should pray that people would bow before Christ and get saved. One of the ways we want to do this as a church is to establish Lighthouses of Prayer this fall as a precursor to the mass distribution of the Jesus Video in December. It’s my prayer that scores of people will be converted in Livingston County! 2. Commitment. As believers, we need to daily respond to the royalty residing in us and bow before His lordship in our lives. We need to check to make sure Jesus is at the center of our lives, not anyone, or anything else. The bottom line in prayer is this: “God, because you are King, do what you want in my life and in the lives of others.” 3. Consummation. One day the heavens will split open, and Jesus Christ will descend and plant His feet on the Mount of Olives, and He will establish His kingdom that will last forever and ever. How is one qualified to pray, “Your kingdom come”? By changing citizenship through conversion. How does one live out that citizenship? By commitment. And how is that citizenship fully realized? By consummation. (How To Pray The Lord's Way)

Rod Mattoon - Praying, "Thy kingdom come..." also demands commitment from the person doing the praying. Once you have trusted Christ as your Savior, then yielding the throne of the kingdom of your life day by day is vital if you are going to have a passion for His coming, power for Satanic conflict, purity of character, perfection or maturity in consecration,77 persistence in consistency, plenty of compassion, and patience in your calamities. "Thy kingdom come" can apply to the kingdom of our heart and our commitment to serving Him until He returns. Over and again we are challenged in Scripture to give our heart to the Lord and be committed to living for Him. Proverbs 23:26—My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. Romans 12:1—I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.. 2 Corinthian 8:5—And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Praying "Thy kingdom come" does demand a depth of commitment from us, and such a commitment produces a life that makes a difference in our society and world. Kingdom power impacts our most intimate relationships with people. Lives are influenced for Christ, and some are changed. We can make a difference in our schools and neighborhoods when we are sold out to the Lord. God help us, God help us, God help us to make a difference until He returns.

J C Ryle - By his kingdom we mean, first, the kingdom of grace which God sets up and maintains in the hearts of all living members of Christ by his Spirit and Word. But we mean chiefly the kingdom of glory which one day will be set up when Jesus comes the second time, and “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (He 8:11-note). This is the time when sin, sorrow and Satan will be driven out of the world. It is the time when the Jews will be converted, and the full number of the Gentiles will come in (Romans 11:25-note), and a time that is to be desired more than anything. It therefore fills a foremost place in the Lord’s Prayer.

Ray Stedman writes (in his sermon The Pattern Prayer) that "The third cry of true prayer, again concerned with God, is a cry of hope, "Thy kingdom come." Now this can be a sigh for heaven. Who of us does not get homesick for heaven once in awhile, longing to be free from the desultory humdrumness of life and to experience the glory we read of in the Bible. Or this can be, as it ought to be, a cry heaven to come to earth. That is, "Thy kingdom come," meaning, may the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. This is which we sing in the hymn, Jesus Shall Reign,

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Luke 11:3  'Give us each day our daily bread.

KJV Luke 11:3 Give us day by day our daily bread.


The prayer now shifts from the God-ward focus to the man-ward focus. Once God is given His rightful place, then we have a proper perspective toward ourselves. Some people feel that it’s too selfish to ask God for their own needs, and yet this is exactly what Jesus is teaching us to do.

The writer of Proverbs 30:8 says "Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion."

Give us each day - Matthew 6:11 has "Give us this day." One clear implication of this petition is that our Father wants to hear our voice each day! Have you spoken with Him today? Praying this prayer is a reflection of our dependence on Him and our faith that He will supply our need. "Jesus teaches us to ask our heavenly Father for a day’s rations at a time. It is the natural corrective to Martha’s anxiety about many things (Lk 10:40-41-note)." (Brooks) Another implication of this request acknowledges our daily dependence of God not self, trusting in His sufficiency to supply our needs (not our greeds).

George Muller of Bristol, England built orphanages which cared and educated 1000's of children in the 1800's without ever asking any human  to supply his need, instead committing to ask only his Father in heaven. And the children never once went without a meal, food sometimes arriving by a knock at the door with the children seated at their tables with empty plates. Over his lifetime, Muller received donations that would be the equivalent of $180 million dollars today, all without an appeal letter, a phone call, a personal visit, etc. Watch this one hour docudrama of Muller's incredible life of faith and prayer to His Father. His legacy has remained alive now for well over 100 years. O to live a life of faith like George Muller should be the heart cry of every hungry disciple of Christ. Amen

Brian Bell has a convicting thought - I believe when we won’t seek Him, He will teach us to pray. Example: Absalom and Joab story in 2 Sa 14:28-33. When we are lifeless in prayer, backwards in our exercise of it, & we disregard His invitation to “seek His face” don’t be surprised if He lovingly sets your Barley on fire. (Coming Up for Air)

Give is in the present imperative reflecting our continuing need for His spiritual and physical sustenance. 

Jesus explained that He was the true Bread of Life, the Bread that alone could meet man's greatest need...

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe....48 “I am the bread of life. 49“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  (John 6:35, 48-51)

Our daily bread - Note repetition of the time phrases (each day...daily), again emphasizing God's desire for us to seek Him daily for our needs (not our "greeds"). Practically in Jesus' day, bread had to be made daily for they had no freezers to store surplus loaves. Ancient flour mills didn’t grind a week’s worth of flour, but only a days’ worth. Each day you baked bread for the family. These facts remind us of the children of Israel's need to daily rely on the manna that God sent once a day. To hoard the manna was in essence saying "I don't trust You to provide enough for the day" and God caused the excess manna to rot to make the point that they were to dependent totally on Him and His faithfulness. (Read Ex 16:18, 19, 20, 21).

Bread in this petition is a figure of speech called a synecdoche in which the part (bread) represents the whole. In other words bread speaks of the totality of the basic necessities of life. One person has quipped "Oh that we’d be content with our daily bread and quit looking at our neighbors slice!"

Spurgeon - “Give us, O Lord, what we really need; not that which would be a luxury, but that which is a necessity. ‘Give us,’ according as we shall need it day by day, what we shall then actually need, ‘our daily bread.’” We are not warranted in asking much more than this in temporal matters. They are all comprehended in this petition as far as they are necessary, but God has not given us carte blanche to ask for wealth, or honor, or any such dangerous things. There is no harm in asking for bread, and he will give us that.

Brian Bill asks "Do we pray for our daily needs? Do we take time to ask God to meet our physical needs or do we at least give thanks for them? Sure, we might say grace before every meal but these prayers can easily become just a sanctimonious way of saying, “Let’s eat.”Friends, if we don’t ask God to give us what we need every day we will gradually succumb to the delusion that we actually can provide for these needs ourselves. We can think that we handle this part and God only handles stuff that is serious. Here’s the danger in thinking like this: pride can swell up within us and we can subtly pull away from trust in God." (How to Pray the Lord's Way)

Luke 11:4  'And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

 KJV Luke 11:4  And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.


And forgive us our sins - The clear implication is that we sin daily with sins of commission and omission

Forgive is in the aorist imperative and speaks of a request to dismiss a debt we owe to God, Who "dismisses" the charge against us. 

Forgive (863)(aphiemi [see detailed study] from apo = prefix speaks of separation, putting some distance between + hiemi = put in motion, send) conveys the basic idea of an action which causes separation. Literally aphiemi means to send from one's self, to forsake, to hurl away, to put away, let alone, disregard, put off. It conveys the basic idea of an action which causes separation and refers to total detachment, total separation, from a previous location or condition. It means “to send away,” to remove the sin from the sinner so that he is free of it, and so that the sin can never be found and charged against him before the judgment bar of God. In secular Greek aphiemi initially conveyed the sense of to throw and in one secular writing we read "let the pot drop" (aphiemi). From this early literal use the word came to mean leave or let go."Perhaps the synonym that best reflects its use in this passage is “to hurl.” Just as God figuratively hurled believers’ sins into the depths of the sea at salvation (Mic. 7:19), so also must believers hurl away the sins of others and not hold on to them. Only then will the Lord forgive the sins that disrupt their relationship with Him." (MacArthur)

Aphiemi from God's perspective "refers to the act of putting something away. God did that at the Cross when He put sin away by incarnating Himself in humanity in the Person of His Son, stepping down from His judgment throne, assuming the guilt of man’s sin, and paying the penalty, thus, satisfying His justice, and making possible an offer of mercy on the basis of justice satisfied. When a sinner avails himself of the merits of that atoning sacrifice, he thus puts himself within the provision God madeHis sins were put away at the Cross, and he comes into the benefit of that when he believes." (Wuest)

Related Resources: Forgive/Forgiveness

Study the main NT words for forgive/forgiveness:

Excellent 5 Part Sermon Series on Forgiveness by Dr Ray Pritchard:

Sins (plural)(266)(hamartia) has the basic meaning of "to miss the mark" specifically to miss God's mark or standard

For (gar) is a term of explanation which explains how God is able to forgive us.

Rod Mattoon - This second clause in the sentence does not mean that we must earn God's forgiveness with our own forgiveness of others. Our forgiveness of others demonstrates our felt need of being forgiven by the Lord. It shows what the Lord has done in us and for us. The attitude of forgiveness of others demonstrates genuine repentance. No repentant person truly seeks forgiveness who does not have a forgiving spirit himself. We must not expect our prayers for forgiveness to be heard, if we pray with malice and spite in our hearts towards others. We are wasting our time. To pray in such a frame of mind is mere formality and hypocrisy. So let me ask some probing questions here. Do you need to forgive your wife or husband? Make up your mind to do so right now. Have you been unwilling to forgive your parents for things that have happened in the past, perhaps many years ago? Promise God that you will do it. In fact, do it today! Forgiveness is not a psychological trick. It is a miracle and God can help you do it. If He commands us to forgive, He will give us the ability to do it (Ed: The Holy Spirit will give us the desire and the power to forgive! Php 2:13NLT).

We ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us - Forgive here is present tense indicating this is to be our lifestyle. And in the active voice it speaks of us making a volitional choice, a choice of our will to forgive (a Christ-like attitude/action that is enabled by His Spirit indwelling believers). "An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms." (MacArthur)

Matthew's version says "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Note the small word "as" which clearly shows that God's forgiveness flows to those who forgive. Unforgiveness effectively shuts off the flow of forgiveness from our Father. Clearly forgiveness is a critical issue for believers. In fact it is so important that in Matthew's longer version of the prayer, the only petition which has additional explanation is the petition dealing with forgiveness. Jesus adds this explanation...

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.  (Mt 6:14-15-note)

You may be asking "Well I thought Jesus paid for all my sins on the Cross didn't He?" And the answer is of course He did. He became a curse in our place and God's righteous wrath judged our sin which was laid on Christ. So yes our position now is perfectly righteous before the Father because we are forever in Christ, the Righteous One. That is "judicial forgiveness (see MacArthur's sermon - Forgive Us Our Sins - Part 2)." But unforgiveness is a sin that creates a break in fellowship with the Father. That is "paternal forgiveness" and it is that forgiveness which is conditioned upon our willingness to forgive others their sin against us. Stated another way it is not a matter of my eternal standing before God but a matter of my present relationship with Him (cf 1 John 1:6-7)

John MacArthur - The question naturally arises as to why the Lord commands us, whose sins have already been forgiven, to ask the Father for forgiveness. The answer lies in grasping a second aspect of forgiveness, relational forgiveness. While believers’ sins—past, present, and future—were forgiven at the point of salvation, they nevertheless still sin. Those sins do not change the declaration by the “Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25) that Christians are just and righteous because their sins were paid for by the death of Christ. But they do affect their relationship with God, whose “eyes are too pure to approve evil,” who “can not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab 1:13). David’s penitent prayer in Psalm 51 illustrates this principle. His terrible sin with Bathsheba did not cause him to lose his salvation; in fact, in Ps 51:14 David addressed God as “the God of my salvation.” It did, however, disrupt his communion with God, causing him to cry out, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Ps 51:12). He did not ask for his salvation to be restored, but rather for his relationship with God to be restored so his joy would return. (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Luke 11-17)

MacArthur goes on to explain why our forgiveness of others is so important -  Those who come to God seeking relational forgiveness will find it only if they forgive those who have wronged them. The Lord gave this prerequisite because bitterness can easily reign supreme in the human heart. People hold grudges—sometimes for a lifetime—and are prone to seeking vengeance. Relationships that fall apart do so ultimately because one or both parties involved are unwilling to forgive. The world is filled with bitter, angry people. Vengeance is considered a virtue, and those who seek it are heroes. The result is shattered marriages, broken relationships, gang warfare, crime, and lawsuits. Some psychologists argue that it is unhealthy to forgive, that it is healthy and normal to lash back at those who hurt us and give them what they deserve. That, they insist, makes the angry person feel better. But the price of unforgiveness is actually extremely high. Rather than make someone feel better, unforgiveness imprisons people in their past and makes those they refuse to forgive their jailers. Those who refuse to forgive continually pick at an open wound, never allowing it to heal. Having chosen to embrace hate, they become tortured prisoners of the offense and the offender. Such behavior is foolish, lacks common sense, and is self-destructive. It consumes unforgiving people’s lives, robs them of their well-being, and deprives them of happiness and joy. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a virtuous, noble, liberating, and loving act. But the more profound and compelling reason to forgive others is that doing so allows one to receive relational forgiveness from God. (Ibid)

MacArthur writes "While the most important reason to forgive others is to enjoy our relationship with God, there are at least nine other reasons to do so." For a discussion of all nine I strongly recommend you read his discussion of each point in his sermon - Forgive Us Our Sins - Part 4

Steven Cole explains it this way - I’m my dad’s son because I was born into his family. I’ll always be his son, even if I wrong him. But he and I can only enjoy a close relationship if, when I wrong him, I confess it and ask him to forgive me. In the same way, we will drift in our relationship with the heavenly Father if we are not sensitive to our sin by coming to Him for forgiveness as we need it....This means that your relationship with God is inextricably linked with your relationships with your fellow man, especially with those in your family and in the church. You can’t just walk away from a strained relationship as if it doesn’t matter. If you’re bitter, you can’t pray rightly until you choose to forgive. And, the rest of us must pray for those in the church who are hurt and bitter, that they would forgive those who have wronged them. (Lord Teach Us to Pray)

Brian Bill - Forgiveness of sin is the greatest need of the human heart. Only God can grant us a pardon from punishment and guilt. It’s been my observation that there is one thing that troubles Christians more than anything else. It’s guilt. We kick ourselves for our failures and punish ourselves relentlessly. Let’s pray this prayer, asking God to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Romans 8:1 declares that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Let’s claim it and live without being paralyzed by guilt and shame. Now, having said that, notice that Jesus immediately gives us a limitation ­ we are to also forgive others. This verse teaches us that it is wrong to ask from God what we are not willing to give to other people. Let me ask you a question. Is there anyone who comes to mind right now who is in need of your forgiveness? Have you been holding someone captive? Is there someone in need of some grace? These are potent words. When we fail to forgive someone, we set ourselves up as a higher judge than God himself. Another way to say it is that our relationship with the Lord cannot be right until our relationship with others is made right. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us what to do if we know of someone who has something against us. Matthew 18:15 urges us to make things right when we have something against someone else. Have you been wronged by someone? Have you sinned against anyone else? Meet with the person face-to-face. Express yourself. Then let it go by giving the gift of forgiveness. Most of us grossly underestimate how committed God is to building and maintaining a loving community. Before we pray together, take some time right now to do a “forgiveness” inventory. Ask God to bring someone to mind that you have been withholding forgiveness from. Ask Him also if you have wronged anyone else. If the Holy Spirit brings a name to mind, determine right now to meet face-to-face this week. Don’t short-circuit your own spiritual welfare. (How to Pray the Lord's Way)

Everyone who is indebted to us - Sin is depicted here as a debt owed. The old saying is that "We owed a debt we could not pay. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe!" 

Brian Bell - This is a prayer for believers, so this isn’t for salvation, but it assumes a regular need for confessing sin, even as 1 Jn.1:8-9.  Could it ever read? “Lord, Forgive me my debts, even if I won’t forgive any debtors.” or, “Forgive me my debts, but don’t you dare think I’m forgiving my debtors.” BB.In asking for forgiveness of sins a person expresses his faith that God will forgive him. Such a person then evidences his faith by forgiving others.[see Mt.6:12-note where as = because]


This at first glance seems to be a puzzling petition in light of James clear teaching

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.(James 1:13-15-note)

And lead us not into temptation - NLT has "And don't let us yield to temptation." “Do not allow us to be led into temptation”, “Keep me away from the place of temptation”

The NET Note says "The request Do not lead us into temptation is not to suggest that God causes temptation, but is a rhetorical way to ask for his protection from sin."

Like the petition for daily bread, this petition expresses our desire to depend on his daily power to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. 

Spurgeon - “Lord, do not try us and test us more than is absolutely necessary, for we are so apt to fall: ‘Lead us not into temptation;’ but, if we must be tempted,” — Deliver us from evil. “If some good end is to be answered by our being thus tested, then let it be so, but, O Lord, ‘deliver us from evil,’ and especially from the evil one; suffer us not to fall into his hands in the hour of temptation.”

MacArthur adds that "there is a second sense in which this petition may be understood. It is an appeal to God not to allow the inevitable tests and trials of life to become temptations that would prove overpowering. Peirasmos (temptation) is a neutral word with no inherent moral connotation. God does not tempt anyone to do evil, but He does permit tests to come into the lives of believers, as He did to Job (Job 23:10), Abraham (Heb. 11:17-19), Paul (2 Cor. 12:7-10), and Jesus (Heb. 5:8), as part of the process of strengthening and maturing them (Deut. 13:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:10). How believers respond to those tests determines whether they remain perfecting trials that bring spiritual growth, or become debilitating temptations that overwhelm them and lead them into sin.The basis for this request is God’s promise, expressed in 1 Corinthians 10:13-note, that He will never allow a temptation that is stronger than believers can bear. Those He permits are common to all people, and He will provide a way to escape being led into sin by them. People fall into sin not because they are overpowered by Satan and the demons, or because they were trapped with no way out. As James explained, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Luke 11-17)

Rod Mattoon explains that the Greek word for temptation (peirasmos) "refers not so much to solicitation to do evil or enticement to sin, as to trials that test the character of a person. God does not tempt us to do evil. God did not cause Adam and Eve to sin. He is not the author of sin. If God tempted men to sin, then His nature would not be holy. Why do we need to pray that He will not lead us into testing or temptation? Even though God is not the instrumental cause or author of our testing, He does permit or allow us to experience temptation from the world, from the flesh, and from the devil. The Bible is clear that temptations and testings are going to come into our lives. They are unavoidable. Therefore this petition is a request that the Lord minimize the occasions of our testing that may result in our sinning or yielding to our fleshly desires. It articulates the repentant disciple's felt weakness to stand up under severe trials in view of his sinfulness. Thank God, He promises us that we will not be given more than we can handle. (1 Cor 10:13-note). 

Brian Bill - You and I are faced with temptations all around us. The Greek word translated temptation is neutral and can refer to a test or a trial. This phrase should read, “And lead us not into trials or testings that can turn into temptation.” The word “into” means “into the power of” or “into the hands of.” And so, we are to ask God to keep us from falling into the power of trials and temptations. We are not strong enough to handle these on our own. Will God answer a prayer like this? You bet He will. 1 Corinthians 10:13-note gives us a wonderful promise. Brothers and sisters, ask God to lead you away from temptation. When you’re faced with an enticement to sin, look for the way out. God is faithful and will not leave you to face your temptations alone. Pray for His protection and keep your guard up. (How to Pray the Lord's Way)

ESV Study Bible - The word translated “temptation” (peirasmos) can indicate either temptation or testing (Ed: see related verb peirazo in Lk 4:2-note; James 1:13). The meaning here most likely carries the sense, “Allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin” (cf. Mt. 26:41). Although God never directly tempts believers (James 1:13), He does sometimes lead us into situations that “test” us (cf. Matt. 4:1; also Job 1:1-8; 1 Pet. 1:6; 4:12). In fact, trials and hardships will inevitably come to believers’ lives, and believers should “count it all joy” (James 1:2-note) when trials (Ed: Trials = peirasmos) come, for they are strengthened by them (James 1:3–4-note). Nonetheless, believers should never pray to be brought into such situations but should pray to be delivered from them, for hardship and temptation make obedience more difficult and will sometimes result in sin. Believers should pray to be delivered from temptation (cf. Mt. 26:41; Lk 22:40, 46; 2 Pe 2:9; Rev. 3:10) and led in “paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:3).

Temptation (trial, test) (3986)(peirasmos from peirazo = to make trial of, try, tempt, prove in either a good or bad sense - classic Greek of a medical test to prove health or disease) describes first the idea of putting to the test and then refers to the tests or pressures that come in order to discover a person’s nature or the quality of some thing. The key to accurately interpreting the meaning of peirasmos is to examine the context to see if the effect of the peirasmos is to lead one into sin ("temptation") or for a beneficial effect (usually translated "trial"). Context is the key. 

Zodhiates adds that "When the purpose of testing is for us to acquire experience, then God is the Author. He is testing us to determine if we can handle greater responsibility. God considers testing necessary, not to lead us into an evil act, but to acquire experience and strength. If you have wondered why God has not entrusted you with greater responsibility, is it possible that you have tried to avoid His testing? Whenever Satan tests us, the word should be translated "tempts," because his purpose is to cause us to fail, to fall into sin." (1 Corinthians Commentary)

Thomas Watson - The devil tempts, that he may deceive; but God suffers (allows) us to be tempted, to try us. Temptation is a trial of our sincerity." 

Think of yourself as a tube of "spiritual toothpaste". Pressures (trials) bring out what's really on the inside! Or as J C Ryle once said "Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees."

Spurgeon explains the great value of his personal trials writing "I am afraid that all the grace that I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable. What do I not owe to the crucible and the furnace, the bellows that have blown up the coals, and the hand which has thrust me into the heat?… I bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days… I can bear my personal testimony that the best piece of furniture that I ever had in the house was a cross. I do not mean a material cross; I mean the cross of affliction and trouble… In shunning a trial we are seeking to avoid a blessing."

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up these last 3 petitions - Our whole life is found there in those three petitions, and that is what makes this prayer so utterly amazing. In such a small compass our Lord has covered the whole life of the believer in every respect. Our physical needs, our mental needs and, of course, our spiritual needs are included. The body is remembered, the soul is remembered, the spirit is remembered…. We cannot fail to be impressed by the all-inclusiveness of these petitions. That does not mean that we should never enter into details; we must, we are taught to do so. We are taught to bring our life in detail to God in prayer; but here we have only the great headings. Our Lord gives us these and we fill in the details, but it is important for us to be sure that all our petitions should belong under one or other of the headings. (Sermon on the Mount)

Steven Cole - The final petition is, “Lead us not into temptation.” This is difficult to interpret because James 1:13-14 tells us that God does not tempt anyone to sin, but that we are tempted by our own lusts. And James 1:2 instructs us to count it all joy when we encounter various trials (“trials” and “temptations” translate same word in Greek). Why would Jesus tell us to pray that God would not do what He cannot do? And, if the sense is “trials,” why should we pray that God would spare us from that which is for our good? Jesus seems to be using the word in the sense of avoidance of temptation to sin. “Lead us not into temptation” is probably a figure of speech that expresses something by negating the contrary (D. A. Carson, The Sermon on the Mount [Baker], p. 70). For example, “not a few” means “many.” Jesus means that we should cultivate the attitude of fleeing from every situation where we might fall into sin. The idea is that, far from leading us into temptation (which He cannot do), God would lead us into His ways of righteousness where we will be kept from sin. So the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” is an acknowledgement of the weakness and sinfulness of our hearts. It is an admission that if God were to withdraw His gracious hand, we would fall into sin immediately. It is an attitude that flees temptation rather than sees how close to the brink we can come. It has been paraphrased as, “Lord, if the occasion of sinning presents itself, grant that the desire may not be found in me; if the desire is there, grant that the occasion may not present itself” (cited by Godet, Luke [I. K. Funk & Co., 1881], p. 317, footnote). 

During the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, Greg Livingstone was asked to give a “missions minute” at a large evangelical church. Since he had only one minute to speak, he decided to ask them only two questions. The first one was, “How many of you are praying for the 52 American hostages being held in Iran?” Four thousand hands went up. “Praise the Lord,” he said. “Now, put your hands down and let me ask another question: How many of you are praying for the 42 million Iranians being held hostage to Islam?” Four hands went up. Livingstone said, “What are you guys—Americans first and Christians second? I thought this was a Bible-believing church!” (Missions Frontiers [May/June, 1994]).

If we learn to pray as Jesus instructs us, we will focus on the Father’s purpose, that His name be hallowed and that His kingdom come in all the earth. And, we will focus on His family’s needs for provision, for pardon, and for protection from sin, not so that the family will be cozy and happy, but so that the family will have what they need to carry out the Father’s purpose. “Lord, so teach us to pray!

ILLUSTRATION -There’s a story about a fellow who was having trouble with his diet. He prayed, “Oh Lord, if it be your will for me to not have donuts, please don’t let there be any parking spaces in front of Krispy Kreme.” But alas he did eat a dozen donuts that day because there was a parking space in front, on the twelfth time around the block.

ILLUSTRATION - an unknown author put together an interesting (convicting) summary of how we cannot pray the Disciples’ Prayer 

  • I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
  • I cannot say, “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.
  • I cannot say, “hallowed be your name” if I am playing around with sin.
  • I cannot say “your kingdom come” if I am not allowing God to reign in my life.
  • I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” if I am trusting in myself instead of in God’s provision.
  • I cannot say, “Forgive us our sins” if I am nursing a grudge or withholding forgiveness from someone else.
  • I cannot say, “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.

Luke 11:5  Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves;

 KJV Luke 11:5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;


Luke 11:5-8 is referred to as a "parable" by most commentaries and it is a "parable" that is unique to the Gospel of Luke.

Most commentaries interpret Lk 11:5-8 as describing the value of persistence in prayer, but I like how the Life Application Study Bible helps understand the meaning of this persistence...

Persistence, or boldness, in prayer overcomes our insensitivity, not God's. To practice persistence does more to change our heart and mind than His, and it helps us understand and express the intensity of our need. Persistence in prayer helps us recognize God's work.

Marshall - The point of the parable is clearly not: Go on praying because God will eventually respond to importunity; rather it is: Go on praying because God responds graciously to the needs of His children.

MacArthur - Jesus illustrated the importance of boldness in prayer in a story unforgettable for its clarity and touch of humor.

Then He said to them - Jesus is relating to His disciples asking them a practical question. 

Suppose one of you has a friend - In Lk 11:13 we see the character of this "friend" is contrasted with gracious character of God. Friend is philos which refers to one kindly disposed. 

Goes to him at midnight Why midnight? Because a visitor has just arrived (Lk 11:6). In ancient Israel journeys were often undertaken by night in order to avoid the stifling heat of the day.

Leifeld however notes that Bailey (Poet and Peasant, p. 121) maintains that, on the contrary, while this is true in desert areas, the elevation of central Palestine and Lebanon and the sea breeze along the coast made travel during the day customary. The night arrival would therefore be unusual. In either case, a host in that first-century society would be expected to provide a welcome. (Expositor's Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke)

J C Ryle writes that Lk 11:5-11 teach "the importance of perseverance in prayer. This lesson is conveyed to us in the simple parable, commonly called the “Friend at Midnight.” We are there reminded what man can obtain from man by dint of importunity. Selfish and indolent as we naturally are, we are capable of being roused to exertion by continual asking. The man who would not give three loaves at midnight for friendship’s sake, at length gave them to save himself the trouble of being further entreated. The application of the parable is clear and plain. If importunity succeeds so well between man and man, how much more may we expect it to obtain mercies when used in prayer to God.

Friend, lend me three loaves - This is an urgent request for bread. 

Three loaves - There is no justification for seeing the number three in this context as having some allegorical interpretation as do some commentaries. The use of loaves ties nicely with the petition for bread in Lk 11:3. 

Rod Mattoon - When we look at this portion of Luke, we find a man that is responding to the tyranny of the urgent. Jesus shares this story to teach us important principles about persistence and prayer and how to get your prayers answered. If you have been begging God for something, pay close attention to this section. If you have a tendency to quit and give up easily, stay focused on what the Lord is teaching here. 

ILLUSTRATION - A messenger at a photo lab was leaving a building one day when his beeper went off. The message instructed him to pick up a package at an unfamiliar company with a 12-syllable, tongue-twisting name. The messenger looked skyward and sighed, “God, where am I supposed to go?” Just then the pager came on again, this time with the client’s address. A man nearby witnessed this scene. Raising his arms to the heavens, he cried, “Why don’t you ever answer me?” (From Reader’s Digest [4/91], p. 127.) All of us who are Christians have struggled with the problem of unanswered prayer. In fact, that problem can discourage us so much that we start thinking, “What’s the use?” and we even quit praying. We hear stories of how God answered prayer for others, but for us it just doesn’t seem to work. Sometimes we may try again, but we’re like boys who ring the doorbell and run away. We don’t stick around long enough to find out if God is home and if He is going to open the door and answer our request. (Steven Cole)

Luke 11:6  for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him';

 KJV Luke 11:6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?

For - Explains why he is asking at such a late hour. 

I have nothing to set before him - it would be unthinkable not to provide him with hospitality.

NET Note - The background to the statement I have nothing to set before him is that in ancient Middle Eastern culture it was a matter of cultural honor to be a good host to visitors.

Constable gives us the cultural context - Hospitality was a sacred duty in the ancient Near East. When visitors arrived, the host would normally provide lodging under his roof and food to eat. The host in this parable did not have enough bread for his guest so he appealed to his neighbor for some. The fact that he came knocking on his friend's door at such a late hour as midnight indicates that this was an inconvenient time for the neighbor. Jesus did not explain why the man came so late, and the reason is irrelevant.

Luke 11:7  and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.'

 KJV Luke 11:7  And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.

  • Do not bother me Luke 7:6; Gal 6:17
  • the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed Luke 13:25; Mt 25:10
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:5-10 Pray Boldly - John MacArthur

Do not bother me - Literally "Do not give me bother." He does not address his intruder as friend which suggests his aggravation for being awoken at midnight.

My children and I are in bed (my children with me are in the bed) - "In Jewish homes in the time of Jesus, the beds were often all together in one room; thus the householder may be speaking of individual beds (using a collective singular) rather than a common bed." (NET Note)

IVP Bible Background Commentary – The children would sleep on mats on the floor of the one-room dwelling; unbolting the heavy bar that was laid through rings attached to the door was a bother and would make noise that would awaken them.

Bother (2873)(kopos from kopto = chop, hew, cut down, strike; figuratively to lament which apparently came from the idea of striking one's breast) (See also study of related verb kopiao) is strictly a smiting as a sign of sorrow, then sorrow itself. Kopos thus describes a state of discomfort or distress, trouble, difficulty, transferring the sense of the primary meaning which is beating.

Guzik -  It took a lot of boldness for the man in the story to so shamelessly ask his friend in the middle of the night; he really wanted and needed the bread.. God often waits for our passionate persistence in prayer. It isn’t that God is reluctant and needs to be persuaded. Our persistence doesn’t change God; it changes us, developing in us a heart and passion for what God wants.

Luke 11:8  "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

KJV   I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

NET  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. 

  • yet because of his persistence he will get up  Luke 18:1-8; Ge 32:26; Mt 15:22-28; Ro 15:30; 2 Cor 12:8; Col 2:1; 4:12
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:5-10 Pray Boldly - John MacArthur

Yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs - He had ask for 3 but here he says he will give him as much as he needs. 

Wiersbe - We have already seen that prayer is based on sonship ("Our Father"), not on friendship; but Jesus used friendship to illustrate persistence in prayer. God the Father is not like this neighbor, for He never sleeps, never gets impatient or irritable, is always generous, and delights in meeting the needs of His children. The friend at the door had to keep on knocking in order to get what he needed, but God is quick to respond to His children's cries (Luke 18:1-8)....Why does our Father in heaven answer prayer? Not just to meet the needs of His children, but to meet them in such a way that it brings glory to His name. "Hallowed be Thy name." When God's people pray, God's reputation is at stake. The way He takes care of His children is a witness to the world that He can be trusted. Phillips Brooks said that prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance; it is laying hold of His highest willingness. Persistence in prayer is not an attempt to change God's mind ("Thy will be done") but to get ourselves to the place where He can trust us with the answer.

Persistence (335)(anaideia from a = without + aidos = shame)  means shamelessnesss in the sense that one is insensitive to what is proper, "carelessness about the good opinion of others," (BDAG), but in this context is may also convey a positive sense of "persistence, tenacious insistence without regard to time, place, or person." (Friberg) The meaning of anaideia depends to a large degree on whether on interprets this as noun as a description of the friend asking or the friend being asked (See Rosscup below). 

Gilbrant on anaideia - In classical Greek the predominant sense of anaideia points to “shamelessness.” There are a few examples where this word or one from the same root means “impudence,” but in classical literature no form of anaideia has the sense of “persistence.”...(The man in Lk 11:5) had no shame in making an unreasonable request in the middle of the night. It was impudent of him to expect help at such a time.

NET Note on anaideia - The term anaideia is hard to translate. It refers to a combination of ideas, a boldness that persists over time, or "audacity," which comes close. It most likely describes the one making the request, since the unit's teaching is an exhortation about persistence in prayer. Some translate the term "shamelessness" which is the term's normal meaning, and apply it to the neighbor as an illustration of God responding for the sake of his honor. But the original question was posed in terms of the first man who makes the request, not of the neighbor, so the teaching underscores the action of the one making the request. 

ESV Study Bible on anaideia - In all of its other known uses in ancient literature, the term means “lack of sensitivity to what is proper,” “impertinence,” “impudence”; it describes being without aidōs (“respect,” “modesty”). “Impudence,” then, would indicate that the friend is shamelessly and boldly awakening his neighbor, and of course the neighbor will give him whatever he needs. On this interpretation, Jesus’ point is that if even a human being will respond to his neighbor in that way, then Christians should go boldly before God with any need they face, for God is more gracious and caring than any human neighbor. Some other interpreters believe that anaideia means “persistence” here, even though there are no other known occurrences of that meaning. Such a reading does fit the context, however, for the very next verses emphasize that believers must keep seeking, asking, and knocking (Lk 11:9–10). This would make the parable similar to Lk 18:1–8. Both ideas—a kind of shameless persistence—are possibly intended by this unusual term. (Ed: But see Rosscup's analysis below)

NLT Study Bible -  because of your shameless persistence (or in order to avoid shame, or so his reputation won't be damaged): Shame would also lie on the man who didn't want to get up, since hospitality was a community requirement. God protects his good name by providing for his people.

Life Application Study Bible - Persistence, or boldness, in prayer overcomes our insensitivity, not God's. To practice persistence does more to change our heart and mind than his, and it helps us understand and express the intensity of our need. Persistence in prayer helps us recognize God's work.

King James Bible Commentary - The parable of the friend who came at midnight was told to reinforce an aspect about prayer. Although importunity is important in prayer, this parable is probably trying to show a contrast between God and the friend who eventually opened the door. God is more than a friend, and will certainly grant our needs much more readily than the man who had gone to bed.

Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – The parable offers great encouragement for boldness and persistence in prayer. It rests upon an argument that moves from the lesser to the greater, and this type of approach often appears in the New Testament (e.g., Luke 11:13; 12:28; Matt 7:11; Rom 11:12; 1 Cor 6:3; Heb 10:28-29). The point here is straightforward: if a reluctant friend will rise to give three loaves of bread to a needy neighbor to avoid shame, how much more will a loving, gracious, all-powerful God act to help his needy children when they expectantly seek his aid! “The problem is not that man has to overcome the reluctance of God to hear and answer his prayers. To the contrary, the problem is located in the one who prays. If God does not respond immediately and on his terms, then the individual is apt to lose faith, either in God’s existence or in his character as a loving Father. Persistence in prayer is an act of faith, a testimony to our belief in a loving personal God” (Tolbert 1970:98).

Spurgeon - See the power of importunate prayer; and you, beloved, can have all that you really need for yourselves or others if you will only ask for it in the right way. If, summoning every faculty of your being, you resolve to plead, and plead, and plead yet again and again, and never take “No” for an answer, your heart’s desire shall be granted.

Wiersbe - In this parable, Jesus did not say that God is like this grouchy neighbor. In fact, He said just the opposite. If a tired and selfish neighbor finally meets the needs of a bothersome friend, how much more will a loving Heavenly Father meet the needs of His own dear children! He is arguing from the lesser to the greater.

Constable - In the parable the host's shameless persistence showed how strongly he regarded his friend's friendship. It shows how much he dared to ask and to expect from his friend. This persistence moved the friend to grant his request. The secret to the host's success was his persistence. 

J Vernon McGee - My friend, do you think that God is asleep? Do you feel that He has gone to bed when you pray, and you cannot get Him up? Do you believe that He does not want to answer your prayers? God does want to answer your prayers and He will. That is what this parable is saying. It is a parable by contrast and not by comparison. You do not have to storm the gates of heaven or knock down the door of heaven in order to attract God's attention. God is not reluctant to hear and answer you. God tells us in Isaiah 65:24, "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." God wants to hear and answer. (Thru The Bible)

Rosscup favors the noun anaideia as referring to the sleeping friend, not the asking friend - A story about prayer (Lk 11:5–8). Luke is the only gospel writer to incorporate this parable. Jesus relates practically with His disciples. He asks which of them shall have a friend he asks at midnight for three loaves to feed a visitor, a friend who first refuses because he and his family are in bed. The friend does get up and give as much as the one asking needs on another basis than just friendship, however. He gives due to the prompting of “his anaideia” [the Gr. term, Lk 11:8].

Some believe that the “his” refers to the disciple outside the door, asking for loaves. The word anaideia, used only here in the N. T., is taken to mean the caller’s “persistency” in keeping up the asking until he rousts the hesitant friend. A large part of this is the assumption that the word does mean “persistency,” and the fact that in both Matt. 6 and here in vv. 9–10 the three words “ask … seek … knock” are all in the present tense, “keep on asking,” etc. The point is that those praying gain encouragement from the idea that if they just can persist to pray through, they are sure finally to get God’s provision. He honors tenacious prayer.

Another way of thinking, which fits the details even better, is this. The “his” refers back to the friend in bed. In Lk 11:7–8, he is the subject of all the other clauses (“he … me … my children … I … I … I …” (Lk 11:7), then “he … he … friend.…”). After all of this flow, it seems natural that in the last part of Lk 11:8, also, the meaning is “yet because of his [the same friend in bed] anaideia, he [the friend in bed] will get up and give him.…” A second reason for the latter explanation is that the word anaideia itself is based on aidos, “blame,” and the prefix letter “a” called an alpha privative; the prefix causes the meaning to be the opposite of “blame” as an “atheist” (a + theist) is a person who is not a theist, does not believe there is a God. Here, the idea then is “shamelessness” [reaction against shame] or “sense of honor” that the friend in bed has. He thinks of his reputation in his community, which one in a small town must live with the rest of his life. He has an honor toward a neighbor and must keep this as a shining thing, or his dishonor will quickly be all over the village; if he fails he will be known for not helping a friend in need. So he gets up and gives due to his image that is worth protecting. Still another reason for this view is that Luke 11:2 emphasizes God’s shining honor at the outset, “hallowed be Thy name.” His character is also the great emphasis at the close of the prayer verses (Lk 11:13). He, “much more than” human fathers, knows how to give what is good. Fourth, it is a far greater encouragement for prayer to think of the Father’s blameless character answering prayer than to dwell on our faithfulness to persist. Aroused by his image of being shameless, the friend rises to answer with “as much as he [the one requesting] needs.” The “three loaves” is a normal meal in the culture at the time, and “three” also a number of completeness, a supply that is full, adequate. The provision includes a loaf to set before the guest, a loaf to put at his own place, and an extra loaf to put the guest at ease because there is plenty. While the man is selfish in some ways and God is not like these, his basic honor to respond with good illustrates God very well (cf. vv. 8–13). (An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible)

Steven Cole on Luke 11:5-8 - Jesus is responding to the request of an unnamed disciple, “Lord, teach us to pray” (11:1). In 11:2-4, He gives us the pattern for prayer, that we are to pray to the Father about His concerns and we are to pray about the family’s needs. In 11:5-13, Jesus continues His instruction by showing us how we should approach God in prayer. If you live in a country with a sovereign monarch, you don’t just pop in on the king and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” If you have an interview with the king, you need some coaching on what to say and do and what not to say and do. You need to know what social courtesies are expected in the presence of the king. When you come before the King of kings, you need some coaching about how to do it. Some may think that because God is sovereign and holy, perhaps we shouldn’t bother Him with our petty needs. Or, perhaps we should come apologetically and timidly, afraid to let Him know what is really on our minds. Maybe once we’ve let our needs be known, we should back off and not bother God again. Jesus shows us here how to approach God to receive the things we need as we seek to do His will:

Approach God with bold persistence, knowing that as a loving Father, He will provide for our spiritual good.

The instruction of Luke 11:5-13 assumes the foundational instruction of Luke 1:2-4. We must be children of God through the new birth before we can address God as Father and approach Him with our needs. We must be committed to seeking first His kingdom and glory, so that our prayers are properly motivated and directed. Our prayers for our needs are not just for the purpose of making us happy, but for the overall aim of seeing the Father’s name hallowed and His kingdom brought about on the earth. In this context, Jesus tells a humorous parable (Luke 11:5-8) to teach that we should approach God with boldness as His friend, persisting until we obtain what we need in order to minister to our friends. Then (Luke 11:9-10) He applies the parable by telling us to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking in prayer until we obtain the answer we need. Next (Luke 11:11-12) Jesus shifts the picture with a ludicrous, but memorable, illustration of a boy asking his father for a fish or an egg. The father would not give his son a snake or a scorpion! Then (Luke 11:13) Jesus applies this illustration by saying that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more shall the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. The strong emphasis in this whole section is on receiving answers to our prayers. The friend at midnight did not go away empty-handed. He got the bread that he came for. The application emphasizes that one who keeps asking, seeking, and knocking will receive what he is after. The story of the father and his son makes the same point: the boy will get what he asks from his father. The final application drives it home again with force: How much more will the heavenly Father respond favorably to those who ask Him? John Calvin observes, “Nothing is better adapted to excite us to prayer than a full conviction that we shall be heard”. Our Lord wants us to come to the Father and keep on coming until He gives us what we need to see His kingdom come.

Approach God with boldness as His friend, persisting until you obtain what you need to minister to your friends (Luke 11:5-10). The story (Luke 11:5-8): The story gives us a humorous incident from the culture of Jesus’ day. A guy has a traveler drop in on him late at night and he has no fresh bread to set before him. You couldn’t run to the all-night supermarket and buy a loaf of bread. They didn’t have freezers or refrigerators full of food. Cultural hospitality demanded that you give him something to eat. So the guy goes over to his friend’s house at midnight. It’s dark inside and the door is bolted shut. But, after all, this is his friend, and what are friends for? So he starts banging on the door. Inside, the family would all be sleeping together in one place. There were probably some domestic animals inside for the night, and the banging on the door would arouse them, too. The guy groggily calls out, “Who is it? What do you want at this hour?” The “friend” cheerily explains his need. The guy inside says, “Stop bothering me! The door is bolted shut, we finally got the kids to go to sleep (every parent knows what that is like!), and I don’t want to get up and give you anything!” But the “friend” keeps on knocking and asking! Finally the guy in bed realizes that the quickest route to getting back to sleep is to get up and give him what he’s after.

Then Jesus gives an initial application (Luke 11:8) before expanding on it (Luke 11:9-10): Apart from the friendship issue (which may be a bit strained at this midnight hour!), the host will obtain what he went for because of his persistent boldness. The word translated “persistence” (KJV = importunity) has the idea of shameless boldness. The idea of persistence comes out in the present tense verbs of Luke 11:9-10. Before we look at the direct application, let’s consider some things about the story.

First, it shows us that necessity drives bold prayer. The host had a need to provide for his friend, and he did not have the resources to meet that need. It is an awareness of great needs and our own lack of resources to meet those needs that will drive us to prayer. All too often we fail to pray because we assume our own sufficiency or competence. We wrongly think that we can get by with just a little boost from God here and there. But the fact is, we are destitute of physical, mental, and spiritual resources unless God graciously provides them. In every situation, we must recognize our desperate need and call on God for help.

Second, the need in this case was not directly personal, but the need of someone else. If the man himself had been hungry, no doubt he would have waited until morning to go to his friend’s house. But the need was not his; it was the midnight guest’s need that drove this man to his friend’s house at this unseemly hour. While we should go boldly to God to find help for our own needs, we should keep in mind that the main thrust of prayer is not just to meet our needs, but to further the Father’s kingdom. Thus we are to ask for what we need to meet the needs of others in the name of the Father’s business.

Third, the man already had an established friendship before he went to his neighbor’s house at midnight. He wasn’t just introducing himself for the first time that night! They had a personal relationship that he was acting upon. While God is often gracious to introduce Himself for the first time in response to a midnight knock on His door, the time to meet Him is before the midnight need! If you know Him as a familiar friend, you will feel more comfortable banging on His door at midnight when you have to!

Fourth, we should recognize the stark contrast between the man in bed and God. The man in bed was asleep, whereas God never sleeps. The man in bed did not want to be disturbed, whereas our requests do not disturb God. The midnight request probably put a strain on the relationship between these two friends, whereas our midnight requests do not strain our relationship with God. Jesus’ point is that we should be boldly persistent in bringing our requests to God at any hour and in any situation. If a cranky friend responds to this kind of bold persistence, how much more will your Friend in heaven respond! (Luke 11:5-13 How to Approach God)

Luke 11:9  "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

KJV Luke 11:9  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
I say Luke 13:24; Mt 6:29; 21:31; Mark 13:37; Rev 2:24

  • Ask Ps 50:15; 118:5; Jeremiah 33:3; Mt 7:7,8; 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 4:10; 14:13; John 15:7,16; 16:23,24; 2 Cor 12:8,9; Heb 4:16; James 1:5; 5:15; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14,15
  • seek 13:24; Ps 27:4,8; 34:4,10; 105:3,4; Song 3:1-4; 5:6; Isa 45:19; 55:6,7; Jer 29:12; Daniel 9:3; Amos 5:4-6; John 1:45-49; Acts 10:4-6; Ro 2:7; Heb 11:6
  • knock Luke 13:25; 2 Cor 6:2
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:5-10 Pray Boldly - John MacArthur


Guzik subtitles Luke 11:9-13 Pray with a childlike confidence. 

Luke 11:9-10 speaks of the Lord's certainty to answer prayer. However some take this passage out of context and use it as if God has given them a "blank check!" A similar misuse can occur with John 15:7 where Jesus gives a similar promise "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (cf similar promise in Jn 14:13-14) I have seen otherwise sound Christians take this verse as a veritable "carte blanche" taking it to mean that God will give us whatever we ask for. John gives us the proper balance in his first epistle writing

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask (present tense - continually) anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask (present tense - continually), we know that we have the requests which we have asked (perfect tense) from Him. (1 John 5:14-15-note, cf 1 Jn 3:22-note)

So John's qualification is that we ask according to God's will, which is best discerned from God's Word, which is why praying Scripture back to God is one of the best disciplines we can develop in our prayer life. But even if we pray in His will, there may be delay. My parents prayed for me to become a believer in Christ for 20 years and finally at age 39, God's Spirit granted me the grace to believe and be born again (see ). I prayed for my son for almost 20 years and he was recently born again. On the other hand I am still praying for a daughter who is not born again (and I have prayed for her for over 20 years). And yet, from passages such as Luke 11:5-13, I receive encouragement to continue to pray and will do so until the day I die. 

We see similar qualifying phrases regarding answered prayer in the Psalms

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Ps 84:11)

If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;  (Ps 66:18)

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

Related Resources:

Brian Bell on what Lk 11:9-13 DOES NOT mean - It doesn’t teach us to keep beating & hammering on God’s door until he answers. It doesn’t teach us to keep trying until you overcome God’s unwillingness to act. It doesn’t teach us God plays hard to get. It doesn’t teach us our goal is to coerce an unwilling God to answer. (Luke:11:5-13 Someone’s Knocking at the Door)

I say to you- The pronoun "I" is in the Greek text which serves to place emphasis on this statement.

MacArthur - As God incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks with the voice of absolute divine authority. Using three present tense imperative verbs, the Lord commands believers to boldly, aggressively storm the gates of heaven. The three verbs, ask, seek, and knock are progressively more intense, and each one repeats the promise

Lloyd-Jones said “This holy boldness, this argumentation, this reasoning, this putting the case before God, this pleading His own promises, this is the whole secret of prayer.”  

A. S.K.

A for asking, S for seeking and K for knocking. 

Brian Bell - Asking = Implies humility & an awareness of need! Seeking = Is Asking + Acting! Knocking = Is Asking + Acting + Persevering! Example: [Asking] “Honey, have you seen my keys?” [Seeking] “Honey are you sure you haven’t seen them?” as you search diligently for them.” [Knocking] You now go door to door throughout your house knocking on the kid’s doors, “kids have you see my keys?”  Ok, so what does it mean by “ask, seek, knock” then? Is He not encouraging persistence in prayer? Yes! But it’s tied to sonship (Lk 11:11 “if a son…”). See, it’s not trying to twist God’s arm to get what we want.It means keeping in close communion with the Father, knowing His will, & asking Him to perform His will.Note: It’s command/promise; command/promise; command/promise! (Luke:11:5-13 Someone’s Knocking at the Door)

Ask, seek and knock as noted below are all commands to continuously ask, seek and knock and speak of an earnestness and intensity. Sadly, all too often, our prayers are merely wishes cast up to heaven, and this is not real prayer that Jesus describes in this section. These are the times we need to keep asking. A non-Jewish, Canaanite woman did this.  Her daughter was being tormented by a demon.  She needed Jesus’ help (Read Mt 15:22–28) Don’t be too quick to quit praying for something.

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed
The motion of a hidden fire
That kindles in the breast
-James Montgomery

Kent Hughes on ask, seek, knock - "Ask" implies requesting assistance for a conscious need. We realize our lack and thus ask for help. The word also suggests humility in asking, for it is commonly used of one making a request of a superior. "Seek" denotes asking but adds action. The idea is not just to express our need, but to get up and look around for help. It involves effort. "Knock" includes asking plus acting plus persevering—like someone who keeps pounding on a closed door....Does Jesus' call to persistence in prayer make prayer a meritorious work? The answer is clearly no, because what Jesus is calling for here has to do with heart attitude, not mere religious routine....Persistence is an indication of our soul's confidence. Jesus says, "it will be will find...and the door will be opened." Those who "ask," "seek," and "knock" are people who believe God will answer. Their prayers are not works, but acts of faith—not ritual but reliance....This is the way the Son of God prayed, as for example when he spent the whole night on the mountain in prayer before choosing his disciples (Luke 6:12-16-note) and in the Garden of Gethsemane, where during his asking, seeking, and knocking "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).(Preaching the Word – Luke, Volume I: That You May Know the Truth)

Ask ("keep on asking")(154) (aiteo) means to ask for with urgency, even to the point of demanding. Aiteo more frequently suggests attitude of a suppliant (one who supplicates [supplicate is from Latin supplex = bowed] means to makes a humble, earnest plea or entreaty), the petitioning of one who is lesser in position than he to whom the petition is made. To ask means to to call on for an answer, which indicates that we believe there is someone (our Father) listening. It also implies that we expect Him to answer or otherwise why ask? The self-righteous person does not ask but tells God how good he is (see parable Luke 18:10, 11, 12, 13).

Mattoon adds that aiteo "suggests humility in asking and recognizing our needs and limitations. When we approach the Lord in prayer, we are not to have a cocky, proud, demanding spirit."

Ask is present imperative = Keep on asking. Make this the pattern of your life, a continual act of devotion. Jesus calls us to be "Coram Deo" before the face of God. In His presence in His throne room continually.

Asking is what beggars do and that is exactly what those who are "poor in spirit" (Mt 5:3-note) are! In poor countries beggars unashamedly stand by the road with their hands held out, asking alms for the poor. Sometimes they can be quite bold about it and even irritating to passers by. In those moments it helps to remember that you would be bold too if you were in their position. And in a spiritual sense we are in their position for we have brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out. We are totally dependent on God the Father of lights from Whom every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift comes (cf James 1:17). But unlike beggars on the streets, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven have access through Jesus to our Father Who art in heaven!

By asking we nurture our relationship with our Father. He delights to hear and to answer His children.

Mattoon writes that seek "involves asking but adds action. The idea is not merely to express one's need, but to get up and look around for help. It involves an effort on our part. It is not a casual search. This type of search involves effort and energy. The message here is the fact that prayer is not a casual exercise. It is more than simply going through the motions, being concerned more about form than substance. You cannot expect God to get serious about answering your prayer if you are not serious and sincere in praying your prayer. It is the effectual, fervent prayer that is effective. (Ed comment: James 5:16 where "effectual" = energeo giving us English "energetic" - Does that describe your prayer life? Or is "anemic" a better description? I am asking this of myself as I write!)

Seek ("keep on seeking")(2212) (zeteo) means to attempt to learn something by careful investigation or searching, to look for something earnestly and intently. Seeking is asking plus acting, implying earnest petitioning coupled with an active endeavoring to fulfill needs. When you seek something, you rearrange your priorities so that you can search for what you desire until you find it. Do you prioritize prayer?

Seeking implies a desire for something of great value. A good illustration of this is Jesus' analogy that...

the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Mt 13:45-46)

Or think about Jesus’ story of the woman searching for a lost coin...

"Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?' (Luke 15:8)

ILLUSTRATION - In 1935, Blasio Kugosi, a schoolteacher in Rwanda, Central Africa, was deeply discouraged by the lack of life in the church and the powerlessness of his own life. He followed the example of the first Christians by seeking the Lord's power in his life. He closed himself in for a week of prayer and fasting in his little cottage. Revival gripped his life and he emerged a changed man. He confessed his sins to those he had wronged, including his wife and children. He proclaimed the Gospel in the school where he taught, and revival broke out there, resulting in students and teachers being saved. They were called abaka, meaning "people on fire." Shortly after that, Blasio was invited to Uganda to share with other Christians what God had been doing. As he called the leaders to repentance, the fire of the Holy Spirit descended again on the place, with similar results as in Rwanda. Several days later, Blasio died of fever. His ministry lasted only a few weeks, but the revival fires sparked through his ministry swept throughout East Africa and continue to the present. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been transformed over the decades through this mighty East African revival. It all began with a discouraged Christian, setting himself apart to seek the fullness of God's Spirit. The tyranny of his discouragement demanded the urgency of prayer and getting deliverance from the Lord. He sought God and found Him. Jeremiah said we would find the Lord if we would truly seek Him. (Read Jer 29:12-13) (Rod Mattoon)

Hughes points out OT illustrations of persistent prayers - When Hannah pled with God concerning her barrenness, so great was her passion that the priest Eli "said to her, 'How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.' 'Not so, my lord,' Hannah replied, 'I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord'" (1 Samuel 1:14, 15). And God responded to Hannah's passionate prayer by giving her a godly son. Ezra, the restorer of Israel, says, "Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed" (Ezra 9:5, 6a). So it was also with his cohort Nehemiah, who prayed and wept over Israel's fallen walls (Nehemiah 1:4ff.). (Ibid)

Puritan Thomas Manton wrote that "If we don’t receive by asking, then let us seek; if we don’t receive by seeking, then let us knock."

Spurgeon - This is the simplest form of prayer. Follow up your prayer by the effort. “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Add force to your petitions and to your prayers. If the door blocks the way, knock until it is opened...Prayer knocks till the door opens. Open it will, for so runs the promise of our faithful God, "To him that knocketh it shall be opened." "If the angel opened the door of the prison to let Peter out, it was prayer that opened the door of heaven to let the angel out."

Mattoon - The word "knock" includes asking, acting, and persevering, like someone who keeps knocking on a closed door or one who keeps calling your house when they don't get an answer on the phone! Again, the fact that this word is in the present imperative tense gives it a more intense and stronger meaning. We are to keep on knocking and the door will be opened to us. This word "knock" will reveal a number of insights. This word reveals insights about our faith. We are to pray with faith and trust in the Lord. That may sound so simple, yet many do not put this simple truth into practice because they are consumed or overwhelmed with fretting, frustration, and failure. One knocks on a door that is closed. Sometimes when we pray to the Lord, the door appears closed. We may feel we are not getting anywhere and get discouraged. The Lord, however, wants us to keep knocking on His door. We are to demonstrate our faith in Him by continuing to bring our petitions before Him. We are to live by faith even when our situation challenges our faith. The difficulties of our lives reveal the strength of our faith and also strengthen it if we respond properly to those difficulties. Our Lord has the ability to unlock closed doors. The word "knock" also reveals the fact that when we pray, we are not to come before the Lord with pride and cockiness, but with a reverent attitude. There are two words for 'knock' in the Greek, one which refers to an unceremonious pounding and the other refers to a polite knock. The word "knock" used here comes from the Greek word krouo which means "to rap or knock reverently." This word does not mean to bang discourteously, or to kick in the door, but to knock courteously. Our praying to the Lord is to be done with respect for Him. We are not to demand, insist, or pray with an attitude that says God owes us the answer.

Knock ("keep on knocking")(2925) (krouo) means to rap at a door for entrance and thus implies an even greater and more repetitive intensity than either asking or seeking. The English word "knock" comes from German word meaning to press! You knock and wait, then you knock again, then you say, “I know you’re in there,” then you knock again and say, “I can hear your voice. Come on, open the door.” Then you knock again. If you’re on the other side, you know how annoying it can be to listen as someone knocks and knocks and keeps on knocking. But that’s precisely the picture behind Jesus' command to keep on knocking! The idea might imply praying in the face of difficulty and even resistance. If you knock like this, your desire for entrance must be very great indeed.

Note the ascending degree of intensity from asking then to seeking and finally to overtly knocking! Each of these verbs is in the present imperative, which is a command to do each of these activities continually. These three present imperatives show the priority that prayer is to have in our lives. Jesus is calling for persistence in prayer. Prayer is as necessary to us as oxygen to our life. Prayer is the lifeline for citizens of the Kingdom of heaven who are still on earth and as such it expresses our continued dependence on Him as we beseech Him for the grace and power to live the supernatural life of that Jesus lived as our Perfect Example.

Mattoon commenting on the three present imperatives says that Jesus "is telling us to persist in our prayer life and never be discouraged in prayer and to never give up until the Lord removes the burden to stop praying about a matter. This will test our sincerity and steadfastness in the area of our praying. Do we really want a certain thing? Is a matter of such nature that we can bring it repeatedly into the presence of God? The biggest test of any desire that we have is, "Can I pray about it?"

CAVEAT regarding the present imperatives ask, seek, knock - As with all the over 1500 commands in the NT, there is simply no way you can obey this command in your natural strength. You need supernatural strength found ONLY in the enabling power (Eph 3:16, Acts 1:8, even Jesus was dependent on His power! He gave us the example of a Perfect Man which we are called to imitate - Acts 10:38, 1 Cor 11:1, 1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21) of the indwelling Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19). See another explanation of our need to daily be dependent on the Spirit's empowerment. If you TRY to keep the commands in your natural strength, you will fall into the subtle snare of legalism. Beware. Cry out like Peter did when he was sinking "Lord, Help!" See also article on Praying in the Spirit

Krouo - 9x in 9v - Matt 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10; 12:36; 13:25; Acts 12:13, 16; Rev 3:20.

Will be opened (455) (anoigo from ana = again + oigo = to open) means to open, to open up, to open again, to give access to. To open one's eyes causing them to see (Acts 26:18). To open one's mouth that they might begin to speak (Mt 5:2). Figuratively, to open a "door" meaning to make possible (Col 4:3).

Spurgeon wrote that "There was a nailhead for the knocker to drop on, and people used to smite it so heavily that some remarked that such blows on the head were killing. Hence arose the mirthful proverb, "as dead as a doornail." It betokens a hearty kind of knocking, which I would have you imitate in prayer. Knock at heaven's gate as ear­nestly as people knocked at doors in the olden time."

Hughes - Ask implies asking for a conscious need. The word also suggests humility in asking, for it is commonly used of one asking a superior. The next step, seek, involves asking but adds action. The idea is not merely to express one's need, but to get up and look around for help. It involves effort. Knock includes asking plus acting plus persevering - like someone who keeps pounding on a closed door! The stacking of these words is extremely forceful, but the fact that they are present imperatives gives them even more punch... Jesus is driving his point home, and the point is this: We are to passionately persist in prayer. We naturally persevere in our prayers when someone close to us is sick. If one of our children becomes ill, we pray without ceasing. Likewise, if we are in financial trouble or if we are hoping for a promotion or if we have a frightening or dangerous task ahead of us, we generally find it easy to pray. But do we persist in our prayers for spiritual growth for ourselves and others? Do we "ask . . . seek . . . knock" for a pure mind? Do we keep on knocking for a forgiving spirit or for the removal of an angry or critical spirit? (Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books) (Bolding added)

ILLUSTRATION - J. Vernon McGee - As a young preacher I prayed for God to open up the door to a certain church where I wanted to serve as pastor. I was asked to candidate, which I did. The machinery of the church and the political bigwigs met behind closed doors to decide if I would be pastor. They decided not to accept me because I was not a church politician, and theirs was a strategic church in that day. I went to the Lord and cried about it and told Him how He had let me down. Today I am ashamed of myself, and I have asked Him to forgive me for my attitude. He did not let me down. He knew what was best for me. He had something much better in store for me. Many times since then I have thanked Him for that "NO."

Rod Mattoon - God is not a celestial slot machine where you pull the handle enough times in prayer and you will get what you want! There is more to prayer than this. This passage tells us how to pray for Christlike character in our lives. It instructs us how to pray the Lord's Prayer. It teaches us to pray that our morals and ethics will be like the Lord Jesus Christ. In a word, Jesus teaches us how to pray for our spiritual lives as well as for other needs. (ILLUSTRATION) The story of Frances Havergal is an example of this truth. As a young woman, Frances Havergal, author of the hymns, Take My Life and Let It Be and Like a River Glorious, had a very quick temper. It was the kind that would easily explode. After she would blow up, she would be mortified and confess her failure to the Lord only to lose her temper, again and again. One day after a particularly bad explosion, she threw herself down by her bed and wept. She prayed, "Lord, must it always be so? Will I always have this temper to keep me humble before you?" While she was on her knees, the Lord injected a verse of Scripture in her mind: "The Egyptians whom you have seen today you will see no more forever." God spoke these words to Moses when the Egyptians pursued the Israelites to take them back into bondage. Havergal related the verse to her temper and the way in which Satan wanted to use it to pull her into failure, bondage, and defeat. She saw that God could take her temper away. She asked, "Lord, could it be forever?" It seemed to her that the words came back from the Lord, "Yes. No more, forever." Her sister said that from that day Frances Havergal never again lost her temper. She believed God, and the Lord gave her total victory in her life.

ILLUSTRATION - When Howard Carter, the British archaeologist, peered wide-eyed into an ancient Egyptian tomb in 1922, at first he saw nothing. For more than twenty centuries archaeologists, tourists, and tomb robbers had searched for the burial places of Egypt's pharaohs. It was believed that nothing remained undisturbed, especially in the Royal Valley where the ancient monarchs had been buried for over half a millennium. With only a few scraps of evidence, Carter carried on his pursuit, privately financed, because nobody felt there was anything left to be discovered. He was convinced, however, that there was one remaining tomb. Twice during his six-year search he came within two yards of the first stone step leading to the burial chamber, and finally he found it. "Can you see anything?" his assistants asked, as Carter's eyes adjusted. He was seeing, but he had difficulty speaking because he saw what no modern man had ever seen. Wooden animals, statues, chests, chariots, carved cobras, vases, daggers, jewels, a throne and a hand-carved coffin of a teenage king were in the tomb. Mr. Carter found the priceless tomb and treasure of King Tutankhamen, the world's most exciting archaeological discovery. Howard Carter's persistence and steadfastness brought him King Tut's treasure. How much greater our rewards will be when we pray with persistence for God's spiritual treasures! King Tut left his treasures behind after he died, but the treasures that Christ gives to us are ours for eternity. (Mattoon)

Morning and Evening Spurgeon - We know of a place in England still existing, where a dole of bread is served to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is the dole of bread for him. Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that he has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have his wants supplied. Nay, he has done better; he has attached to this Hospital of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is black and filthy, it has but to go there and be washed. The fountain is always full, always efficacious. No sinner ever went into it and found that it could not wash away his stains. Sins which were scarlet and crimson have all disappeared, and the sinner has been whiter than snow. As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good for him shall be denied him. He shall have spending-money so long as he lives, and he shall have an eternal heritage of glorious treasure when he enters into the joy of his Lord. If all these things are to be had by merely knocking at mercy’s door, O my soul, knock hard this morning, and ask large things of thy generous Lord. Leave not the throne of grace till all thy wants have been spread before the Lord, and until by faith thou hast a comfortable prospect that they shall be all supplied. No bashfulness need retard when Jesus invites. No unbelief should hinder when Jesus promises. No cold-heartedness should restrain when such blessings are to be obtained.

Thomas Kelley described how we can continually be asking, seeking, knocking - There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we can be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings. (Thomas Kelly, Testament of Devotion New York: Harper, 1941)

A Praying Father - A minister concluded his sermon one Sunday by saying, "If there's someone here who wants help in getting to know God, and you would like me to pray for you, please raise your hand." A young man stood up and said, "Please pray for me, sir. The burden of my sin is too heavy to bear." After the service, the minister talked with the man and led him to faith in Jesus. The young man had been wandering around the country for 8 years without contacting his parents, so he decided to write to them and tell them about the change in his life. Several days later, a reply came from his mother: "My dear son, you must have accepted Jesus Christ at the same hour your father went home to heaven. He had been sick for a long time, and that day he was very restless. He tossed from side to side on his bed, crying out, 'Lord, please save my poor, wandering boy.' I'm sure that one of the reasons you became a Christian was Dad's unceasing intercession." A praying father will "ask," "seek," and "knock" in behalf of his children, persistently trusting his wise heavenly Father to do what is best. Let's thank God today for faithful fathers who never stop praying for their children. —Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

We thank You, Lord, for fathers true
Who always spoke to us of You;
Their great concern and tender care
Assured us of their constant prayer. —Bosch

A praying father reflects the love of our heavenly Father.

Luke 11:10  "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

KJV Luke 11:10  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Constable - Verse 10 gives the justification for the promise in verse 9. It sets forth the absolute certainty of what Jesus just said. God will definitely respond to the prayers of His children. A stronger promise is difficult to imagine.

MacArthur - This promise is not a blank check granting people whatever they wish, since it has already been qualified by the Lord’s teaching in Luke 11:2-4 that God is the focus of all true prayer. James struck this same balance between boldness in prayer and selfish greed. In James 4:2 he rebuked his readers for failing to pray boldly: “You do not have because you do not ask.” But then he went on to warn, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Those who pray with a proper, God-centered focus will receive what they desire, but the selfish requests of the greedy will not be granted.

Wiersbe on asks...seeks...knocks  all being in the present tense (continually)  - In other words, don't come to God only in the midnight emergencies, but keep in constant communion with your Father. Jesus called this "abiding" (Jn 15:1ff), and Paul exhorted, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Th 5:17). As we pray, God will either answer or show us why He cannot answer. Then it is up to us to do whatever is necessary in our lives so that the Father can trust us with the answer. (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Everyone who asks receives - This statement does not mean that we will always receive what we ask because, as a popular old television show put it ,"Father Knows Best." In other words, He knows what is best for us and knows that what we are asking for may not be in our best interest. 

It is important to reiterate that all there "prayer verbs" are in the present tense which pictures our prayer life as just that -- a lifestyle of prayer. Lord, teach us and enable us by Thy Spirit to pray as our lifestyle, a lifestyle that exhibits continual dependence on and communication with the Living God of the universe. Amen.

Kent Hughes gives an important caveat regarding asking, seeking and knocking warning (this comment is specifically on Mt 7:7-11 but clearly applies to Luke's passage) that "The instruction in this text should not be lifted from its context (Ed note" see importance of context in accurate interpretation and valid application) in the Sermon and abused. All of us have heard this done. "The Bible says, 'Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.' Therefore, all we have to do is ask for it with faith and persistence, and we will get it. 'You do not have because you do not ask' (James 4:2). So go for it! Name it and claim it!" This view sees God as a celestial slot machine. Pull the handle enough times in prayer, be persistent, and you will get what you want! Such thinking is entirely wrong! A text without a context is a pretext. Isolating this text from its setting in the Sermon on the Mount is deadly. The broad context of the Sermon sets down the surpassing righteousness, humility, sincerity, purity, and love expected of those who are members of the kingdom of God. These virtues are beyond human attainment apart from God's grace. The broad context underscores our need. In the immediately preceding context (Mt 7:1-6) Jesus has shown us the danger of condemning other people as if we were judges. He also has told us to get the plank out of our own eye before we attempt to remove a speck from someone else's. His warning is, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Mt 7:2). This standard is terrifying. Who is adequate for such things? How can we live up to such a high standard? We need to be cleansed. We need help and grace, but from where? Jesus answers, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Mt 7:7). This famous text is not carte blanche for our material desires. Rather, it tells us how to pray for the character of the kingdom in our lives." (Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books) (Bolding added)

Spurgeon comments that "There are different methods of praying, and each one has its special adaptation to the state in which you may be; so use that method to which the Holy Spirit guides you, so use all methods until you prevail."

Asks...seeks...knocks - Regarding this section Spurgeon draws an interesting conclusion in his book Power in Prayer...

Until God had said that word or a word to that effect (Asks...seeks...knocks...receives...finds...opened), it was at His own option to hear prayer or not, but it is not so now. For now, if it is true prayer offered through Jesus Christ, His truth binds Him to hear it. A man may be perfectly free, but the moment he makes a promise, he is not free to break it; and the everlasting God does not want to break His promise. He delights to fulfill it. He has declared that all His promises are “yea” and “amen” (2 Cor. 1:20) in Christ Jesus. For our consolation, when we survey God under the high and awesome aspect of His sovereignty, we have this to reflect on: He is under covenant bonds of promise to be faithful to the souls that seek Him. His throne must be a throne of grace to His people.

Once more, and the sweetest thought of all, every covenant promise has been endorsed and sealed with blood, and far be it from the everlasting God to pour scorn upon the blood of His dear Son. When a king has given a charter to a city, he may have been absolute before, and there may have been nothing to check his prerogatives; however, when the city has its charter, then it pleads its rights before the king.

Even thus, God has given to His people a charter of untold blessings, bestowing upon them the sure mercies of David. Very much of the validity of a charter depends on the signature and the seal, and, my friends, how sure is the charter of covenant grace! The signature is the handwriting of God Himself, and the seal is the blood of the Only Begotten. The covenant is ratified with blood, the blood of His own dear Son. It is not possible that we can plead in vain with God when we plead the blood-sealed covenant, ordered in all things and sure. “Heaven and earth shall pass away” (Matt. 24:35), but the power of the blood of Jesus can never fail with God. It speaks when we are silent, and it prevails when we are defeated. “Better things than that of Abel” (see note Hebrews 12:24) does it ask for, and its cry is heard. Let us come boldly, for we bear the promise in our hearts. When we feel alarmed because of the sovereignty of God, let us cheerfully sing:

The gospel bears my spirit up,
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood.

May God the Holy Spirit help us to use rightly from this time forward “the throne of grace.” Amen. (from Power in Prayer)

Spurgeon writes regarding receives...finds...opened...

This is the rule of God’s kingdom invariably, whenever the request is a right one, and is presented in a right manner.

Ask the people of God whether it is not so. Go among them, and question them upon this matter. They know the power of prayer, so let them tell you whether they have been deceived or not. Well, then, as it has been so with them, let this encourage you to expect that it shall be the same with you also.

One way or another you will get the blessing if you are but persevering, and blessed is the man who is a master of the art of asking, but does not forget the labor of seeking an entrance through the importunity of knocking.

In John Piper's book Desiring God he explains why more Christians are not asking, seeking, knocking writing that…

Unless I'm badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God's children don't have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don't want to, but that we don't plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don't just get up one summer morning and say, "Hey, let's go today!" You won't have anything ready. You won't know where to go. Nothing has been planned.

But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be part of our life, but nothing's ever ready. We don't know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don't plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch TV!

The natural unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality.

There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.

Therefore, my simple exhortation is this: Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Try some new venture with God. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you. Don't be tyrannized by the press of busy days. We all need mid-course corrections. Make this a day of turning to prayer — for the glory of God and for the fullness of your joy. (Available online - Desiring God - Meditations of A Christian Hedonist) (Bolding added)

Steven Cole -  The application (Luke 11:9-10): Jesus applies the parable by telling the disciples to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, with the promise that if they do, they will obtain their requests. The present imperative mood in Greek has the nuance of continuous action, and so I do not understand or agree with some well-known commentators who say that the idea is not persistence and that if you have to keep on asking, you are not asking rightly (G. Campbell Morgan, The Parables and Metaphors of Our Lord). I agree that God is not like the neighbor in bed, where you have to keep bugging Him because He is reluctant to give you what you need. But the fact is, God doesn’t always answer according to our timetable. He knows when our faith has been sufficiently tried and our submission to His will is sufficiently complete so that the time is right for Him to grant our requests. Andrew Murray (With Christ in the School of Prayer [Spire Books], p. 49) explains,"Intercession is part of faith’s training-school. There our friendship with men and with God is tested. There it is seen whether my friendship with the needy is so real, that I will take time and sacrifice my rest, will go even at midnight and not cease until I have obtained for them what I need. There it is seen whether my friendship with God is so clear, that I can depend on Him not to turn me away and therefore pray on until He gives." 

Also, the idea of persistence is reinforced by the increasing intensity of the words “ask,” “seek,” and “knock.” Seeking is stronger than asking; knocking is stronger than seeking. Although the word isn’t used there, the word knocking relates back to the story of the friend at midnight, banging on his neighbor’s door until the guy gets out of bed and gives him what he needs. I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones who writes (The Sermon on the Mount [Eerdmans], 2:201), "The importance of this element of persistence cannot be exaggerated. You find it not only in biblical teaching, but also in the lives of all the saints. The most fatal thing in the Christian life is to be content with passing desires. If we really want to be men of God, if we really want to know Him, and walk with Him, and experience those boundless blessings which He has to offer us, we must persist in asking Him for them day by day. We have to feel this hunger and thirst for righteousness, and then we shall be filled. And that does not mean that we are filled once and for ever. We go on hungering and thirsting." 

If we come to realize that our request is not in accord with God’s will or if we get a distinct sense from God that we should cease praying, then we should not continue to pray for that need. But otherwise, we should keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking until God answers. I have one request I have been asking for almost 28 years, another that I’ve been asking for 25 years, and another that I’ve been asking for over 10 years without adequate answers. To answer these requests would be for God’s glory and the furtherance of His kingdom. They are not selfish requests. So I keep knocking, even though at times I grow weary. For reasons I do not fully understand, God has not seen fit to grant these requests. But, I believe that like the friend at midnight, my job is to keep knocking on behalf of my needy friends until I obtain from God what they need. (Luke 11:5-13 How to Approach God)

Luke 11:11  "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?

KJV Luke 11:11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? (Dark blue not in most modern manuscripts, but in the Textus Receptus used for translating the KJV).

Matthew's version

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? (Mt 7:9-10)

Luke 11:11-13 invokes a lesser (giving by earthly fathers to their sons when they ask) to a greater (giving by our heavenly father when we ask) argument. Since Lk 11:11-12 are true for earthly fathers, how much more true for our heavenly Father.

Brian Bell says "Now, I do have one friend who put his glass eye in his son’s cereal bowl!" No father is going to give a small child a sharp knife or a loaded gun, no matter how much the child begs. No mother is going to give her pre-teen the keys to the car for a joyride, or her toddler freedom to pay in the medicine cabinet. Thus, God will not put some things in our hands, until he 1st prepares our hearts.  Our heavenly Father knows how to give far better than we know how to ask! We might think, “I asked God for something, & He did not give it to me.” We should rather say, “I wanted something I did not need, so my Father knew best not to give it to me.” (Luke:11:5-13 Someone’s Knocking at the Door)

Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish - Children naturally ask their fathers for what they need (and in America too often more than they need). And why do they ask? They know their fathers love them, having experienced their care in many ways. And so they have confidence to petition their papa's! 

He will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? - Clearly the answer is "No!" No father would give his son something that would at best mock his request or at worst would even harm him. 

MacArthur - The obvious answer to Christ’s questions is no, because of the principle that fathers take care of their children and meet their needs. Knowing their heavenly Father’s care for them and commitment to meet their needs, believers can confidently ask Him for all that they need. Unlike the false gods of pagan religions, God is loving, approachable, and generous. (MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

If your child asks for a stone or a snake, will you give it to him? No, no matter how much he begs. Children often ask for foolish things, which are withheld. The same is true with our heavenly Father. As ignorant, willful children we often ask for things that to us seem like fish or bread but which God knows will have the effect (figuratively of course) of a stone or a snake in our lives. Our Heavenly Father says no, not because He hates us but because he loves us. God's "No" is a sure sign of His wisdom and His love for us. If a five-year-old asks to play with a sharp knife, most reasonable fathers would respond with a definitive "No" and even let him cry and pout. His tears only show his immaturity. And frankly, if the father does give him the knife, it shows he doesn't really love him at all. In the same way, as God's children, believers often ask for things that might bring us harm, including even things we think are good, like a new job, a better salary, a new house, etc. But God Who Alone knows the beginning from the end, sees through to the end and knows that what we have asked for would harm us more than help us. So in His omniscient, loving wisdom He says "No".

Spurgeon  - The point is, not only that God gives, but that He knows how to give. If He were always to give according to our prayers, it might be very injurious to us. He might give us that with which we could do hurt, as when a father should put a stone into a boy's hand; or he might give us that which might do us hurt, as if a father were to give his child a serpent. He will do neither of these things; but He will answer us in discretion, and with prudence will He fulfill our desires. You know how to give to your children; How much more shall your infinitely-wise Father, Who from heaven sees all the surroundings of men, give good things to them that ask Him? 

J R Miller  - Good Things from God - No father will answer his hungry child's cry for bread with a stone, or give the child a serpent if he asks for a fish. Even sinful parents have in their hearts something of the image of God's own fatherhood. The argument is from the less to the greater. If a true earthly father, with all his imperfection, will not mock a child's cry, but will respond lovingly, how much more will our Father in heaven do for us? "How much more?" is a question none can answer. We can only say as much more as the heavenly Father is more loving, and wiser, and more able to give, than is the earthly father. Yet we must explain this promise also by other scriptures. The gate of prayer is set very wide open in this verse, yet those who would enter must come in the right way and seek "good" things.  While no one who asks for bread will receive a stone, neither will one who asks for a stone receive a stone. And many times do we come to God pleading with Him to let us have a stone. Of course we imagine it is bread, and that it will be food to us. It is some earthly thing, some gift of honor or pleasure, some achievement of ambition, some object of heart desire. It looks like bread to our deluded vision. But God knows it is only a cold stone, that it would leave us starving if we were to receive it; and He loves us too well to listen to our piteous cries for it, or to be moved by our earnestness or our tears to give it to us. When we ask for a stone He will give us bread. Thus it is that many requests for earthly things are not granted. Yet the prayers are not unanswered. Instead of the stone we wish, God gives us the bread we need. We do not always know what is bread and what is a stone, and we must leave to God the final decision in all our prayers.

Luke 11:12  "Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

KJV Luke 11:12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

He will not give him a scorpion, will he? - Clearly the answer is "No!"  To give something potentially harmful, in place of something useful would be unheard of. In the Middle East the effect of a scorpion sting on human beings is at the least severe pain, but occasionally led to collapse and death, especially in younger children.

Mattoon has an interesting comment on scorpion - When the scorpion is at rest, its claws and tail are folded inward. There is a pale kind of scorpion, which, when folded up, would look exactly like an egg. If a son asks for an egg, will his father mock him by handing him a biting scorpion? No! God is not deceptive in His giving. He does not trick the person asking for certain things by giving that person things which look like that which was requested, but in fact, are not. The character of the normal earthly father is not so mean as to give these deceptive things to his son. If an earthly father would not deceive his son in giving needed supplies for the son, neither will the heavenly Father. God has better character than to be deceitful and play mean tricks on people who come to Him in honest prayer for the basic needs of life. If He promises to answer your request, He will answer it. Keep in mind, however, that "No" is an answer. God will never refuse to answer our prayers in one way or another and He will never mock our prayers. Our Lord will always answer our prayers, but He will answer them in His own time and way, and His way will be the way of perfect wisdom and of perfect love. The bread and fish are good gifts. The stone and serpent, are bad, harmful gifts....There are some things that we pray for that are not good for us and would ruin us. The Lord in His love and wisdom says "No" to these requests. God's gifts are good and He will not give us something bad even though we have asked for that which could hurt us unless He wants to discipline or judge us by granting our selfish requests. Sometimes we pray for things that would harm us, but God will not answer those prayers as we have prayed them if it is His will. For example, the prophet Elijah prayed to die but God did not grant the request (1 Kings 19:4). It was not good for Elijah to die at that time. All of us can be grateful to God that His goodness has kept us from having some of our requests answered as we prayed them. There may be some exception to this when God grants something which we persisted in prayer for that which was not good for us. God may answer a bad prayer to discipline us and turn our life around in the right direction. He will chasten us to bring us close to Him. (Ps 119:67) 

See below for example of God answering Israel's prayer for "meat" in Numbers 11). Remember that 1 Cor 10:6 makes it clear that "these things (1 Cor 10:5) happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved." God gave sinful Israel what they wanted and then He disciplined them severely.

Nu 11:13  (Moses says to God) "Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, 'Give us meat that we may eat!'

God answered Moses in Nu 11:18 - 

"Say to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for (EXPLAINS WHY THEY SHALL EAT MEAT) you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, "Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt." Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. 19  'You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days,
20  but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?"'

Psalm 78:29 says 

So they ate and were well filled; And their desire He gave to them.  Before they had satisfied their desire, While their food was in their mouths, The anger of God rose against them, And killed some of their stoutest ones, And subdued the choice men of Israel. (Ps 78:29-31)

Why did God punish them even after answering their cry for meat? Ps 78:32 says

In spite of all this they still sinned, And did not believe in His wonderful works.

The simple answer is that Israel did not trust Him despite the wonderful works He had already accomplished in their midst (Passover salvation, Red Sea redemption, provision of daily manna, etc). O that we might heed 1 Cor 10:5, and that our prayers never be from a heart of distrust of the good gifts of our gracious Father in heaven. Amen

Psalm 78:29 is an especially frightening verse to me as it shows that if we persist in our willful rebellion, at the same time despising His good gifts, God will sometimes give us what our sinful rebellious hearts desire! Beware! Instead of the nourishing manna which they despised (Nu 21:5) God sent them a "blue plate special" of bird-meat which became "loathsome" (Nu 11:20) when it caused a great plague ("wasting disease") that took many lives (Nu 11:33,34, Ps 106:15) Here is another potential application: If our prayers focus primarily on physical rather than spiritual desires, God's answer may be one of physical satiation but spiritual poverty.

Let me encourage you to take three and one half minutes to read (and sing or read along as Matt Foreman sings) John Newton's words, especially "Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring." 

Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare
(Listen to a beautiful vocal by Matt Foreman - it will move you deeply!)
by John Newton

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay;
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt;
Set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to Thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There Thy blood bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign;
And without a rival reign.

As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder's face;
Thus unto my heart appear,
Print Thine own resemblance there;
Print Thine own resemblance there.

While I am a pilgrim here,
Let Thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey's end;
Lead me to my journey's end.

Show me what I have to do,
Every hour my strength renew:
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die Thy people's death;
Let me die Thy people's death.


God wants to give us good things and has the ability to do so. We are to ask, seek, and knock on His door with humility, faith, reverence, and persistence and be prepared to receive His answer. The tyranny of the urgent should drive us to our knees. In his book Beyond Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson shares the story of an old African woman who demonstrated faith in God's power to provide. Although she lived in a tiny mud hut, she had taken on the responsibility of caring for 56 orphans. A small group of Wilkinson's "Dream for Africa" volunteers had arrived in this grandmother's native Swaziland to plant gardens. On the final day of their visit, they came upon her tiny home, surrounded by the many children in her care. A number of little gardens had been dug up all around the hut, but oddly, no plants were growing in any of them. The volunteers learned that, earlier on the same day, the woman had told the children to dig lots of gardens. When the children asked her why, since they had neither seeds nor money, she responded, "Last night I asked God to send someone to plant gardens for us. We must be ready for them when they come." Wilkinson's volunteers had come with hundreds of ready-to-plant seedlings. God sent them to the very place where one of his servants had begged for His intervening hand. The faithful grandmother and her children were ready when the answer came. Are you ready for your answer? Are you asking for an answer? May the tyranny of the urgent keep your face before the throne of God! (Rod Mattoon)

Luke 11:13  "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

KJV Luke 11:13 If ye then, being  vil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

  • If you then, being evil, Genesis 6:5,6; 8:21; Job 15:14-16; Ps 51:5; John 3:5,6; Ro 7:18; Titus 3:3
  • know how to give good gifts to your children Isa 49:15; Mt 7:11; Heb 12:9,10
  • how much more  Mt 6:30; Ro 5:9,10,17; 8:32; 2 Cor 3:9-11
  • will your heavenly Father Luke 11:2; 15:30-32; Mt 5:16,45; 6:14,32
  • give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him Pr 1:23; Isa 44:3,4; Ezekiel 36:27; Joel 2:28; Mt 7:11; John 4:10; 7:37-39
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:11-13 God's Generous Response to Boldness in Prayer - John MacArthur


Matthew's version has

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Mt 7:11)

MacArthur notes that the phrase you then, being evil speaks of "the biblical doctrine of total or radical depravity. Even His true followers, those who had embraced Him as Lord, Savior, and Messiah, were still evil....Significantly, the Lord did not say that they do evil, but rather that they are evil. Though they are redeemed and forgiven, sin remains a powerful operative principle in believers (Ro 7:14-25).

If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children - This statement is true. Even "evil" (sinful) fathers generally give good gifts to their children, despite their sinful nature. "It is natural for even unbelievers to love their children, be kind to them, and provide for their needs." (MacArthur)

Remember that Jesus is addressing His disciples and He reminds them of their own intrinsic depravity! And notice that Jesus does not say they DO evil but that they ARE evil! His Own disciples are "evil!" In short, Jesus' brief description of mankind is that we are inherently evil, which is a reference to the fact that we have all inherited the sinful nature of Adam (Ro 5:12-note, cf Ro 7:18-note) and sin is evil (see Ge 39:9b, Dt 9:18, 1 Ki 15:26, 34)! Even the "best" of us still have evil dwelling within us! Sometimes the truth hurts!

Being (present tense = continually)(5225)(huparcho from hupó = under + árcho = begin or arche = beginning) means literally to begin under and then to exist, be present or be at hand. It denotes the continuance of a previous state or existence. To live, to behave or to continue to be. To be in existence and in this passage it means to continually exist as an evil (sinful) person! Woe! Jeremiah was right when he said 

The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)

And Paul was right when he said 


Evil (wicked, bad) (4190)(poneros from poneo = work or toil) means evil (as used here by Jesus referring to men's evil, malignant character), pernicious, that which is morally or socially worthless. Poneros describes determined, aggressive, and fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. So it should not surprise you that poneros is used to describe Satan himself as the evil one (e.g., 1 Jn 5:18-19-note). Poneros is not just bad in character (like kakos), but bad in effect (injurious)!

MacArthur explains "Whenever you see what we call “the milk of human kindness,” whenever you see people who don’t know God parent well, love their children, show kindness, give their children what they need, be philanthropic; you’re seeing the residual of the image of God, so warped and scarred in the fall, but still there.  And so He says, “You, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children." (Sermon)

Know (1492)(eido) means in general to know by perception and is distinguished from ginosko because ginosko generally refers to knowledge obtained by experience. Eido/oida is a perception, a being aware of, an understanding, an intuitive knowledge which in the case of believers can only be given by the Holy Spirit. However in this context Jesus refers to that knowledge is available to all men. And so all men have an "absolute knowledge" (that which is without a doubt) of how to give good gifts to their children.

Good (18)(agathos) means intrinsically good, inherently good in quality and also conveying the sense of good which is  profitable, useful, beneficial or benevolent (marked by or disposed to doing good). As an aside, as father of 4 children, I wonder how often my gifts to them have truly been agathos? I fear too often I indulged them, which was not good!

How much more - This is an old rabbinical way to argue. This lesser to greater argument is a variant of an a fortiori argument which is an line of reasoning which draws upon existing confidence in a proposition to argue in favor of a second proposition that is held to be implicit in the first and in this case even greater than the first.

How much more - This exact phrase in the NAS 20x in 20v - 

Deut. 31:27; 1 Sam. 14:30; 1 Sam. 23:3; 2 Sam. 4:11; 2 Sam. 16:11; Job 15:16; Prov. 15:11; Prov. 19:7; Prov. 21:27; Ezek. 14:21; Matt. 7:11; Matt. 10:25; Lk. 11:13; Lk. 12:24; Lk. 12:28; Rom. 11:12; Rom. 11:24; 1 Co. 6:3; Phlm. 1:16; Heb. 9:14

How much more will your heavenly Father - This phrase in effect introduces a contrast.  If it is true of the lesser, how much more of the greater. God is our Father (pater), our Abba, our Dear Father! Think of sinful earthly fathers at their very best and multiply that by infinity, and you have it (Dads, are you as convicted as I am?) As fathers, few of us are perfect, but even the most imperfect of us are usually able to love our children. But there is a perfect Father in heaven Who is perfect love and so is a much greater Father than we are. His heart is pure and good and His love knows no bounds. It follows that His answers to His children's prayers are supremely good.

MacArthur - If you who (Ed: are sinners) can only love imperfectly give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father who loves perfectly give to His children?  If you who are limited in your wisdom give to your children what you think is best, how much more will your Father who is perfectly wise give the best to His children?...You can go to God because He’s a loving Father.  But He’s a loving Father far beyond the most loving father in this world who is by nature evil and who does his best to give good gifts out of a corrupt and fallen heart.  How much more will your heavenly Father love you with a perfect love?  How much more with perfect wisdom, and perfect compassion, and perfect mercy and grace, and perfect understanding of your situation, and perfect goodness give to you? So when you go to God, and you go with boldness, and you go with persistence, and you rush in and you unload what’s on your heart, and first you ask, and then you start pleading (Ed: seeking), and then you start banging (Ed: knocking), know this, that God is delighted with that because He, with His perfect love, and perfect wisdom, and perfect power, and perfect provision is able to give the best to His children.  (Sermon)

The psalmist testifies to God's ability to give of good gifts

“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11, cf. Ps 34:9-10; Mt 6:33; Php 4:19).

James adds 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17-note)

To reiterate, the phrase how much more is not just a comparison but a contrast and is the key to the Lord’s point. Reasoning from the lesser to the greater, if human fathers who are evil lovingly provide for their children, how much more will the perfect God Who loves perfectly not also give what is best to His children (cf those who are His children in Jn 1:12-note) who ask Him.

Brian Bell comments on the phrase how much more - Jesus doesn’t tell us how much more, He just lets our imagination run loose for awhile. When we ask for bread, maybe we’re thinking about a little dinner roll. When actually he’s baking up some fresh cinnamon pull apart bread. Believe me, we are not wringing gifts from an unwilling God, but going to One who knows our needs better than we know them ourselves, and whose heart towards us is the heart of generous love. "If persistence conquered selfishness, what will not pity do?" (Griffith Thomas) God is the Greatest Giver, gives highest gift, and shows largest generosity! (Teaching of the Rabbis, Taanit, 8a) “Only that man’s prayer is answered who lifts his hands w/his heart in them!” "When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; When we rely upon education, we get what education can do; When we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do; When we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do." [A. C. Dixon] The greatest blessing of prayer is not in receiving the answer, but in being the kind of person God can trust with the answer! The most important part of our lives is the part that only God sees. The hidden life of prayer is the secret of an open life of victory! When You Pray, Remember…The Love of God that wants the best for us. The Wisdom of God that knows what is best for us. The Power of God that can accomplish it. (Luke:11:5-13 Someone’s Knocking at the Door

D A Carson states that in this section "What is fundamentally at stake is man's picture of God. God must not be thought of as a reluctant stranger who can be cajoled or bullied into bestowing his gifts, as a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks he plays, or even as an indulgent grandfather who provides everything requested of him. He is the heavenly Father, the God of the kingdom, Who graciously and willingly bestows the good gifts of the kingdom in answer to prayer." (Reference) Remember John Newton's great advice regarding prayer (click link for full hymn)...

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;


Your heavenly Father (will) give the Holy Spirit - In a sense this is a fulfillment of the prophecies in Ezekeil

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes (God's Provision), and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Man's Responsibility).(Ezekiel 36:26, 27-note, cf Joel 2:29, 29, 32).

Spurgeon on the gift of the Holy Spirit - If you have the Holy Spirit, you virtually have all good gifts, for the Spirit is the earnest of God’s love, the pledge of joys to come; and he brings with him all things that are necessary and good for you.

Brian Bell says "The Holy Spirit is the best and highest gift for humanity, for regeneration and for all its life.In receiving Him, receiving the filling/refilling/overflowing of the Spirit; the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit of the spirit.Oh how we need the Spirit to help us: build character,guide our conduct, and empower us for service! Of course you should pray for material things, health, finances, but this isn’t the highest form of praying. We must not stay on that level! Graduate to the highest level of praying, asking for the blessings of the Spirit of God that result in Christian Character & conduct that glorify the Lord. Examples from Paul: (Phil.1:9-11; Eph.1:15-23; 3:14-21; Col.1:9-12) He prays about love, discernment, maturity, obedience, faith, power…these are all blessings that only the Holy Spirit can produce. (Luke:11:5-13 Someone’s Knocking at the Door)

A T Robertson calls the Holy Spirit "the great gift (the summum bonum)."

Wiersbe - Note that the lesson closes with an emphasis on God as Father (Luke 11:11-13). Because He knows us and loves us, we never need to be afraid of the answers that He gives. Again, Jesus argued from the lesser to the greater: if an earthly father gives what is best to his children, surely the Father in heaven will do even more. This even includes "the good things of the Holy Spirit" (compare Luke 11:13 with Matt. 7:11), blessings that in the Old Testament were reserved only for a special few.

Give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him - Note that parallel passage in the Sermon on the Mount

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11-note)

So in Mt 7:11 "good" is used in the same context as the Holy Spirit. Comparing these two passages leads to the clear conclusion that the greatest good God could give us is His precious Spirit.

Steven Cole writes "Whatever our needs, our greatest need is to be filled continually with God’s Spirit (Eph 5:18-note). So Jesus instructs us to come as needy children and ask the Father to pour out His Spirit upon us. Jesus’ specifying the Holy Spirit shows that He is not promising to meet our every whim for material things or for earthly benefits. But He is promising that if something is for our spiritual good and we come as trusting children and ask, the loving Father will give it to us."

In his sermon MacArthur explains that "The whole idea is come and ask for whatever’s on your heart and rush into God’s presence whenever you want, of course with a measure of humility and reverence, but still unbare your heart, speak boldly, be persistent, go over the top, if you will, and you can expect that God who is generous will give you whatever’s good.  But how does the Holy Spirit fit in? Let me just make it real simple, okay?  It doesn't say you ask for the Holy Spirit necessarily.  It says “Give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”  When you go to ask God for whatever you ask God for, whatever it is, God gives you the Holy Spirit.  Let me show you what I mean.  You ask for comfort, He gave you the Comforter, right?  You ask for help, He gave you the Helper.  You ask for truth, He gave you the Truth teacher.  You ask for power, He gave you the Spirit of power.  You ask for wisdom, He gave you the Spirit of wisdom.  You ask for guidance, He gave you the Guide.  You ask for love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control and He gave you the Spirit whose fruit were released in your life.You see, this is the generosity of God.  You ask for the gift, He gives the giver.  You ask for the effect, He gives the cause.  You ask for the product, He gives the source.  Is that generosity?  He gives you according to His riches, not out of His riches.  You ask God, as it were, going to the bank, you ask for some money, He gives you the bank.  That’s the point.  I’ll just give you the Holy Spirit, then you’ve got it all because out of the Holy Spirit comes power. Out of the Holy Spirit comes the anointing which teaches you all things.  Out of the Holy Spirit comes the giftedness, out of the Holy Spirit comes the fruit, out of the Holy Spirit comes the direction and the guidance.  From the work of the Holy Spirit comes everything.  Out of the Holy Spirit comes intercession on your behalf so that all things work together for good.  I’ll just give you the Spirit....Giving us the Holy Spirit specifically is not something less than good gifts, it is something more than good gifts.  The Lord is taking it a step further.  He said, “I’ll give you that which is good.”  And now He says, “I’ll just give you the good One, the third member of the Trinity, God of very Gods, God the Spirit to come and live in your life...In summary, when the Lord gave you the Holy Spirit, He gave you everything, absolutely everything.  By His presence, by His power, by His grace we are permanently the possessors of everything we need and so much more that “He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can - ” what? “ - ask or think.”  You have more resource in the Holy Spirit than you can even imagine....God is not like that neighbor, is He?  Who was bothered and said, “Go away,” but finally relented.  God is so generous.  He gives us more than we could even imagine because since we can’t comprehend God, or His power, or His wisdom, or His resources, we can’t comprehend the Spirit, even though He lives in us.  That’s why He’s able to do exceeding, “abundantly above all we can ask or think.”  Don’t dishonor God by doubting His generosity.  Go to Him in the middle of your "night" and know you are not interrupting Him (Ed: Ps 121:4 "He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep").  He delights that you’re there (Ed: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight." [Lxx = dektos = means to be met with approval in someone's company, welcome in His Throne Room! Meditate on that truth today and then pray without ceasing!] - Pr 15:8, cf Ps 37:23, Pr 3:12, 11:20, 12:22).  And hold Him to His promises and be persistent and demand that He listen and give you what is best.  Does this help you to see prayer in a different way?  Good.”  (Sermon)

MacArthur sums it up in his commentary - This is an intriguing statement, which differs from the Lord’s teaching of this same truth on a different occasion, as recorded in Matthew 7:11. There He spoke of the Father giving what is good; here He expanded that and spoke of God’s giving the Spirit, who is the source of all goodness and blessing, to live within every believer. To those who ask for a gift, He gives the Giver; to those who ask for an effect, He gives the Cause; to those who ask for a product He gives the Source; to those seeking comfort He gives the Comforter (Acts 9:31); to those seeking power He gives the Source of power (Acts 1:8); to those seeking help He gives the Helper (John 14:26); to those seeking truth He gives the Spirit of truth (John 16:13); to those seeking “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23) He gives the Producer of all those things. The indwelling Holy Spirit (Ro 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Ti 1:14) is the Source of every good thing in the Christian’s life (Eph. 3:20-note Ed: "the power which works [energeo - present tense = continually] within us" - Who is the power continually energizing us? The Holy Spirit!). (MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

In a word, we ask for a gift and our Father graciously gave us the Giver, the Spirit of Jesus Christ! Praise Him, Praise Him...

Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
  Sing, ye saints! His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! mightiest angels in glory;
  Strength and honor give to His holy name!

Like a shepherd, Jesus will feed His people,
  In His arms He carries them all day long;
O ye saints that live in the light of His presence,
  Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!

James Rosscup adds - Jesus climaxes the prayer motivation with God giving “the Holy Spirit,” not “good gifts” as in Matt. 7. Jesus could use both in the different situations of ministry. Of all good gifts in prayer, the Holy Spirit is the source, the believer’s great benefactor in prayer according to God’s will (cf. Rom. 8:26–27). If one has Him, he has in the Spirit all the riches of God, whether power, guidance, gifts of ability for service, fruit He supplies, or any boon. (An Exposition of Prayer in the Bible - Matthew - Acts)

Rosscup goes on to summarize principles on prayer which he gleans from Luke 11:1-13 - The request (Lk 11:1), sample of prayer (Lk 11:2–4), story of prayer (Lk 11:5–8) and summary on prayer (Lk 11:9–13) has its vital principles.

  1. First, the one who will be an example in prayer for God’s glory must be found faithful in it.
  2. Second, the disciple shows us the principle of respecting a person’s praying and waiting until it is finished to talk with him.
  3. Third, it is wise to seek tutoring in prayer from the One who models it the best. Today we have this help in the things the gospel accounts teach us.
  4. Fourth, prayer as Jesus gives a pattern for it puts praise in glorifying God in prominence.
  5. Fifth, the friend in bed, although only human and evil (cf. Lk 11:13) and unlike God in that he is unwilling at first, still rebounds to be like God in his zeal to show himself in a good light. If he does this, “how much more” God!
  6. Sixth, the friend who answers the request gives all that is needed, as God is adequate or even gives above all we ask or think (Eph. 3:20).
  7. Seventh, when a son asks a human father for what is good, the father usually gives it, God even more so with His sons.  (An Exposition of Prayer in the Bible - Matthew - Acts)

ESV Study BibleFish and eggs were common foods in Palestine, while serpents and scorpions were regular hazards. A far more important gift than material blessings is the powerful anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life (see Mt. 12:28; Lk 4:1, 14; Acts 1:8; Ro 8:13–14, 26; 1 Cor. 12:11; Gal 5:18).

John Martin on the Holy Spirit - Believers today are not to pray for the Holy Spirit because this prayer of the disciples (for the Holy Spirit) was answered at Pentecost (cf. Rom. 8:9). (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

NET Note on the Holy Spirit - The provision of the Holy Spirit is probably a reference to the wisdom and guidance supplied in response to repeated requests. Some apply it to the general provision of the Spirit, but this would seem to look only at one request in a context that speaks of repeated asking. The teaching as a whole stresses not that God gives everything his children want, but that God gives the good that they need.

The Gospel of Luke has been called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit, because He is named more in this Gospel than in Matthew and Mark combine and even more than in John's Gospel. Luke also shows a marked emphasis on Jesus’ dependence on the Spirit. Thus Luke shows us Jesus as the Savior Who was fully human, but Who triumphed as Man through dependence on prayer and the Holy Spirit, leaving us the Perfect Example to follow in His steps (1 Pe 2:21-note, 1 Jn 2:6-note).

J C Ryle - There are few promises in the Bible so broad and unqualified as those contained in this wonderful passage. The last in particular deserves especial notice. The Holy Spirit is beyond doubt the greatest gift which God can bestow upon man. Having this gift, we have all things, life, light, hope and heaven. Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love, God the Son’s atoning blood, and full communion with all three Persons of the blessed Trinity. Having this gift, we have grace and peace in the world that now is, glory and honor in the world to come. And yet this mighty gift is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ as a gift to be obtained by prayer! “Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”....If we do pray, let it be a settled rule with us, never to leave off the habit of praying, and never to shorten our prayers. A man’s state before God may always be measured by his prayers. Whenever we begin to feel careless about our private prayers, we may depend upon it, there is something very wrong in the condition of our souls. There are breakers ahead. We are in imminent danger of a shipwreck.

Other Resources Related to Prayer:

Now be sure that your reading of these comments issues in action (pray!) for as someone once said, 

"Any discussion of the doctrine of prayer that does not issue in the practice of prayer is not only not helpful, but harmful."

Steven Cole draws this principle from Luke 11:11-13 -  Approach God with trust as His child, knowing that if it is for your spiritual good, the Father will give it. (Ed: Cole somewhat speculates) Jesus seems to be answering a silent objection: “If God is like the groggy, unwilling neighbor at midnight, then I’m not sure that I want to bug Him.” Jesus changes the picture to a loving father who meets the needs of his children and then concludes how much more the heavenly Father will meet the needs of His children. His aim is to encourage us to come to God as our loving Father, being assured that He cares for us and that He will meet our needs. As in 11:5-10, Jesus gives an illustration followed by direct application.

Luke 11:11-12: Some Greek manuscripts add from Matthew the clause that if a son asks for a loaf of bread, the father won’t give him a stone (see Matt. 7:9-note). But probably the original of Luke omitted that illustration and added the other about the egg and the scorpion. There is no need to harmonize the two accounts since Jesus gave the same teaching in two different settings. He just varied His illustrations. The illustration is effective because it is so ludicrous. No earthly father would be so cruel as to give his hungry child something deceptive and harmful in place of the food the child asked for. A snake with its silvery scales could be mistaken for a fish and a coiled up scorpion could look like a small egg to a child. But when he takes these trustingly from his father, they harm him rather than feed him and meet his need. Even though we are evil by nature (Luke 11:13-note how Jesus assumes that men are evil even when they are acting with love toward their children), we would never treat our children in this manner. The argument is from the lesser to the greater. As Calvin expresses it, “If the little drops produce such an amount of beneficence, what ought we to expect from the inexhaustible ocean?” If sinful men so love their children and provide for their needs, how much more will God?

Luke 11:13 - The application: Then Jesus drives home the application: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” In the parallel in Matthew 7:11, Jesus is more general in saying that God will give what is good to those who ask Him. But here He specifies the Holy Spirit Who, being God, is the greatest good we could imagine. While all who truly believe in Christ receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Ro 8:9-note), we all need to know more and more of the Spirit’s fullness in our daily walk. Whatever our needs, our greatest need is to be filled continually with God’s Spirit. So Jesus instructs us to come as needy children and ask the Father to pour out His Spirit upon us. Jesus’ specifying the Holy Spirit shows that He is not promising to meet our every whim for material things or for earthly benefits. But He is promising that if something is for our spiritual good and we come as trusting children and ask, the loving Father will give it to us. He may delay the blessing because He knows that I am not ready to receive it yet. He may have purposes of training me in faith and prayer that require His withholding the request for the present time. He may know what I do not know, that my request is not for my ultimate good, and so He will deny my request because He has something better for me. But Jesus is teaching that we should approach God with trust, as a child would come to a loving father, and if my request is for my spiritual good, the Father will give it to me. Andrew Murray (p. 37) puts it, “Fatherlike giving is the Divine response to childlike living.”

So verse 13 brings us back full circle to where Jesus’ instruction on prayer began (11:2), that we must come to know God as our heavenly Father. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (p. 202) states,
  This is one of our main troubles, is it not? If you should ask me to state in one phrase what I regard as the greatest defect in most Christian lives I would say that it is our failure to know God as our Father as we should know Him.... Ah yes, we say; we do know that and believe it. But do we know it in our daily life and living? Is it something of which we are always conscious? If only we got hold of this, we could smile in the face of every possibility and eventuality that lies ahead of us.
One of Satan’s original ploys was to get Eve to doubt that God is good. His commandment was keeping something good from her. He still uses that ploy to cause Christians to fall and to keep unbelievers from God: If your God is good, why does He allow such pain and suffering in the world? Why does a good God allow a little child in a war-torn land to get his legs blown off by a land mine? Why does a good God allow a sweet little toddler to die a slow, painful death from cancer? Why does a good God allow His servants who are dedicated to doing His work to be killed by evil men? The difficult questions could go on forever.
The Bible doesn’t gloss over these problems or pretend that they do not exist. The Book of Job shows us that a partial answer centers on our finiteness and sinfulness and God’s infinite holiness. We as sinful creatures dare not challenge the Almighty Holy One. He is perfectly just to allow the most righteous man on the earth to suffer terrible things, because not even that man has a claim on God. Furthermore, Scripture shows that the final resolution to the problem of suffering and evil lies in eternity, not in this life, when God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked.
But the existence of pain and evil in this world does not undermine the goodness of God or His fatherly love for His children. Even when we do not understand why God allows the trials we are suffering, we must come to Him in faith and ask for a fuller measure of His Holy Spirit. Keep on asking and seeking and knocking. Jesus promises that we will not be sent away empty-handed. Approach God with bold persistence, knowing that as a loving Father,

He will give you what is for your spiritual good. It is impossible for Him to do anything evil toward us.
A dad with a three-year-old son had just gone through the bedtime routine of reading a story, listening to his prayers, answering a dozen questions, giving him a hug, and saying good-night four or five times before slipping out of the room. Finally, after a long, hard day, he could relax.
He sat down in his easy chair and it was quiet for about five minutes before he heard, “Daddy, can I have a drink of water?” He said, “No, son, be quiet and go to sleep.” It was quiet for a couple of minutes before, louder than before, he heard, “Daddy, can I have a drink of water?” “Son, I said to be quiet and go to sleep!” There was silence again, but it didn’t last long. “Daddy, please can I have a drink of water?” The dad could see that he wasn’t getting anywhere, so he said, “Son, if I hear one more sound out of that room, I’m going to spank you!” You could hear a pin drop. The silence was thick for about one minute. Then he heard, “Daddy, when you come in here to spank me, would you bring me a drink of water?” Now the dad knew that his son really was thirsty! Why? Because he was boldly persistent in his request.
We all have friends who drop in on us at midnight. We don’t have in ourselves what they need. But we have a Friend and Father in heaven who has plenty to meet their needs. He invites us to disturb Him at any hour and to keep on knocking until we obtain what our friends need.
Discussion Questions
  1. How do we know when (if at all) to stop persisting in prayer when God doesn’t answer?
  2. How would you answer a critic who brought up cases of horrible suffering as evidence that God is not good? Why is it crucial to affirm God’s goodness even when we suffer?
  3. Why does God delay to answer prayers that seemingly would be for His glory to answer now?
  4. Is it a cop-out to pray, “If Your will be done?” Can we know God’s will for a specific situation in advance?

Luke 11:14  And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed.

KJV Luke 11:14 And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.

John Hannah's Outline of Luke 11:14-54

  • The conflict causing the rejection of the Son of Man  (Lk 11:14-36)
    1. The occasion  (Lk 11:14)
    2. The charge of empowerment by Satan  (Lk 11:15-16)
    3. The defense against the charge  (Lk 11:17-23)
    4. The illustration of Israel's plight  (Lk 11:24-28)
    5. The sign to the nation  (Lk 11:29-32)
    6. The warning to the nation  (Lk 11:33-36)
  • The consequence of the rejection of the Son of Man  (Lk 11:37-54)
    1. The occasion  (Lk 11:37-38)
    2. Woes pronounced upon the Pharisees  (Lk 11:39-44)
      1. For their externalism  (Lk 11:39-41)
      2. For their disregard of true justice  (Lk 11:42)
      3. For desire to be regarded by men  (Lk 11:43)
      4. For their deceit  (Lk 11:44)
    3. Woes pronounced upon the lawyers  (Lk 11:45-52)
      1. For their lack of care  (Lk 11:45-46)
      2. For their attitude toward the prophets  (Lk 11:47-51)
      3. For their hindrances  (Lk 11:52)
    4. The result  (Lk 11:53-54)


As noted in the Outline above Luke 11:14-54 deals primarily with the mounting rejection of Jesus and His message. The synoptic Gospels have parallel passages in Matthew and Mark (Mt. 12:22-30; Mark 3:20-27). While some feel Luke is recording the same events as Matthew and Mark other commentators feel they are different accounts. 

Steven Cole introduces Lk 11:14-28 - In 1938, Orson Welles terrified millions of Americans with his radio narration of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. (Here is the original 1938 radio broadcast that frightened so many of the listeners) The drama was so realistic that many thought that aliens were actually invading our planet, intent on destroying the human race. It was only fiction; no one should have believed such a far-fetched tale. But they did. The Bible clearly affirms that we are engaged in combat with an unseen enemy that is intent on destroying the human race: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). It is a frightening truth which no one should doubt or ignore. But many do doubt it and live as if it is not true. The apostle John affirms that “the Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Luke is showing that Jesus’ miracles establish His legitimate authority as the Messiah, the Son of God, sent to deliver us from the power of Satan. But Jesus’ authority put Him into conflict with the Jewish religious authorities, who did not want to yield to Him. Luke 11:14-54 shows the mounting tension between Jesus and these religious leaders. Rather than approaching Jesus with teachable hearts and open minds, they accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan and they challenged Him by demanding some sign from heaven. As such, they were reissuing the third temptation that Satan had put before Jesus, to use His power for show by casting Himself off the Temple pinnacle. Jesus soundly refuted their demands by giving this extensive teaching on spiritual conflict, the heavenly war. (Luke 11:14-28 The Heavenly War)

Darrell Bock writes that "To understand the significance of Jesus' miraculous work, especially His exorcisms, one must understand Luke 11:14-23." (Luke Commentary).

Guzik has an interesting note - The Jews in Jesus’ day had their own exorcists, who sought to cast demons out of people. But they believed that they had to make the demon reveal his name, or they had no authority over the demon to cast it out.

And - Notice that this verse begins with and (kai, as a marker of connections or a coordinating conjunction in the Greek) which connects it with the previous passage (Lk 11:13) in which Jesus described the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some commentators (including this writer) think that Jesus was in a sense demonstrating the power of the Spirit Who we know from Lk 4:14-note (cf Acts 10:38) empowered Him for ministry. The Jews however accused Jesus of being empowered by an unclean spirit, Satan himself!

Matthew records a similar passage

As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”(Mt 9:32,33)

MacArthur comments that "They knew of the many miracles God wrought while Moses appealed to Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage, and of the deliverance through the Red Sea and the provision of water and manna in the wilderness. They knew of God's giving the law on Mt. Sinai on tablets of stone inscribed with His own finger and of His dramatic crumbling of the walls of Jericho. They knew of the great miracles of Elijah and Elisha. But in less than a year's time, they themselves had witnessed miracles of a greater and absolutely unique magnitude. Here was a display of divine power unequaled not only in the history of Israel but in the history of the world. (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew 8-15)

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute - Not that the demon was itself "mute" but that it caused speechlessness. This act clearly demonstrated Jesus' power over the supernatural world, specifically the kingdom of darkness headed by Satan. This episode of casting out gets two reactions, one of amazement but another of accusation as discussed below. "This miracle is different from others in Luke. The miracle is told entirely in one verse and with minimum detail, while the response covers several verses. The emphasis is on explaining what Jesus' work means." (NET)

Casting out (1544)(ekballo from ek = out + bállō = to cast, throw, drive) means to cast, throw out often with the idea of force (Mt. 8:12; 15:17; 25:30; Acts 16:37, 27:38; Lxx - Lev. 14:40).

Demon (1140)(daimonion from daímon = demon) most often describes demons or evil spirits who have supernatural powers and are neither human nor divine (Mt 7:22). BDAG says daimonion is a "transcendent incorporeal being with status between humans and deities."

Luke's uses of daimonion - Luke also uses the word 'unclean spirits" 5 times (Lk 4:36, 6:18, 8:29, 9:42, 11:24) and "unclean demon" once (Lk 4:33) Lk. 4:33; Lk. 4:35; Lk. 4:41; Lk. 7:33; Lk. 8:2; Lk. 8:27; Lk. 8:29; Lk. 8:30; Lk. 8:33; Lk. 8:35; Lk. 8:38; Lk. 9:1; Lk. 9:42; Lk. 9:49; Lk. 10:17; Lk. 11:14; Lk. 11:15; Lk. 11:18; Lk. 11:19; Lk. 11:20; Lk. 13:32;  Acts 17:18; Luke also uses the word 'unclean spirits" 5 times (Lk 4:36, 6:18, 8:29, 9:42, 11:24) and "unclean demon" once (Lk 4:33)

When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke - So the effect of the demon on this man was to prevent him from speaking. It is interesting that in Lk 1:22+ Zacharias is unable to speak as a result of his doubting God, but his mute condition was not demonically bestowed but divinely bestowed (divine discipline).

Steven Cole - In that day, there were a number of Jewish exorcists who tried to cast out demons by special potions or incantations or magical procedures. Sometimes they seemingly succeeded, although they often failed. But every time Jesus cast out a demon, He simply spoke the word and the demon obeyed. Yet in spite of His obvious power, these skeptics accused Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power. We learn from this that belief in Jesus Christ is not simply a matter of having sufficient evidence. If Jesus had not done these mighty works of miraculous power, or if He had done them by some sleight of hand, surely His critics would have pounced on this and accused Him of practicing magic. But they never used that line of attack. Since they couldn’t dispute the fact of the miracles, all they could do was to accuse Jesus of doing them by Satan’s power. Even though Jesus here knew their thoughts, this did not convince them that He was from God! Truly, the god of this world had blinded them, as he does every unbeliever!  (Luke 11:14-28 The Heavenly War)

The crowds were amazed - Amazed is in the present tense indicating they continued in this state. This is the second time Luke describes the crowd's ("large crowd" Lk 9:37+) marveling as Jesus demonstrated His power and authority over the demonic world. 

And they were all amazed (ekplesso) at the greatness of God (for context see Lk 9:42). But while everyone was marveling (thaumazo) at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, (Luke 9:43+)

Amazed (2296)(thaumazo  from thauma [from thaomai = to wonder] = wonder, admiration) means to wonder, marvel, be struck with admiration or astonishment. Thaumazo describes the human response when confronted by divine revelation in some form. Luke's uses of thaumazo -  Lk. 1:21; Lk. 1:63; Lk. 2:18; Lk. 2:33; Lk. 4:22; Lk. 7:9; Lk. 8:25; Lk. 9:43; Lk. 11:14; Lk. 11:38; Lk. 20:26; Lk. 24:12; Lk. 24:41;Acts 2:7; Acts 3:12; Acts 4:13; Acts 7:31

Matthew uses thaumazo in a similar context in two passages 

After the demon was cast out (for context see Mt 9:32), the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." (Matthew 9:33+)

So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:31)

Steven Cole - Satan and his demonic forces are committed to the ultimate harm and destruction of the human race. To rewrite the Four Spiritual Laws, “Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life!” Since God’s purpose is to be glorified through the human race, created in His image, Satan’s purpose is to defile and degrade people so that their lives do not bring glory to God. Some of Satan’s demons are more evil than others (11:26), but they all have the same evil purpose. Since the fall of the human race into sin, every person is born under Satan’s domain and power (1 John 5:19; Eph. 2:2). Jesus called him “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and Paul called him “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Cor. 4:4). In this case, the demon caused the man to be dumb, or unable to speak (Matt. 12:22 reports that the demon also had blinded the man). We have already encountered Legion, who showed us the hideous harm that demons can inflict on people. While we may not encounter such extreme cases very often, we should not be lulled into thinking that Satan is not alive and well on planet earth in our day. As J. C. Ryle puts it (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:17, on Luke 11:14-20)  Do we suppose, because bodily possession by Satan is not so glaringly manifest as it once was, that the great enemy is less active in doing mischief than he used to be? If we think so we have much to learn. Do we suppose that there is no such thing as the influence of a “dumb” devil in the present day? If we do, we had better think again. What shall we say of those who never speak to God, who never use their tongues in prayer and praise, ...? What shall we say, in a word, of those who can speak to every one but God? What can we say but that Satan has despoiled them of the truest use of a tongue? Sometimes we look at nice, decent, law-abiding people and assume that they are not in Satan’s domain, as if there is some large, neutral zone between God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. But Satan is a deceiver, and he cunningly leaves many in their not-toobad condition so that we look at them and think, “This person couldn’t be in Satan’s domain!” Do not be deceived! Even though a person may not look like Legion or may not be struck dumb and blind by demons, he or she is still just as much in Satan’s evil domain, headed for an eternity in hell, if he is not rescued by Jesus Christ. This means that every time we proclaim the Gospel to a lost soul, a spiritual battle is raging. There are two and only two sides. Either the person ignores or rejects the Gospel and remains in Satan’s domain; or, Jesus Christ saves him and he is transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13).  (Luke 11:14-28 The Heavenly War)

Related Resources:

Luke 11:15  But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons."

KJV Luke 11:15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.

NLT Paraphrase   but some of them said, "No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons."

Parallel Passages:

Matthew 12:24+ But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”  

Mark 3:22+ The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” 


Rod Mattoon has a nice alliteration of this section:

  • The Rejection of Reality - Luke 11:14-15
  • The Rancor of Resentment - Luke 11:16
  • The Rending of Relationships - Luke 11:17-22

But some of them said - The identity of the "some" cannot be determined definitively from the immediate context, but clearly they are Jewish protagonists and most likely from the party of the Pharisees because this party name is mentioned 6 times in the following section - Lk 11:37, 38, 39, 42, 43, 53. The point is that while the majority of Jews ("crowds") were amazed at Jesus' power over the demons, a smaller group of Jews sought to discredit His miraculous powers and attribute them to Satan. 

J Vernon McGee - The convincing nature of Jesus' miracles forced the Pharisees to offer some explanation for them. They could not deny the existence of miracles when they were happening before their eyes. They resorted to the basest and most blasphemous explanation for the miracles of Jesus. They did not deny that they took place but claimed that they were done by the power of the Devil.

MacArthur describes the some of them as "propagandists spreading the lies of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, were quick to offer their slanderous, false explanation of the Lord’s miraculous power. The same lie that had been spread in Galilee was now heard in Judea as well. Since it was impossible even for His enemies to deny that Christ’s miracles occurred (cf. John 11:47), they sought instead to attack the source and assign them to demonic power. (Ibid)

Steven Cole - In that day, there were a number of Jewish exorcists who tried to cast out demons by special potions or incantations or magical procedures. Sometimes they seemingly succeeded, although they often failed. But every time Jesus cast out a demon, He simply spoke the word and the demon obeyed. Yet in spite of His obvious power, these skeptics accused Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power. We learn from this that belief in Jesus Christ is not simply a matter of having sufficient evidence. If Jesus had not done these mighty works of miraculous power, or if He had done them by some sleight of hand, surely His critics would have pounced on this and accused Him of practicing magic. But they never used that line of attack. Since they couldn’t dispute the fact of the miracles, all they could do was to accuse Jesus of doing them by Satan’s power....Truly, the god of this world had blinded them (2 Cor 4:4), as he does every unbeliever!  (Luke 11:14-28 The Heavenly War)

He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons - Notice that even this group of Jews recognized that Jesus was performing a supernatural work. However were not willing to ascribe this work to God. In short they were saying that Jesus' power over the demons was the result of Satan empowering Jesus, presumably by indwelling Him! In essence they were accusing Jesus of performing diabolical acts! Mark 3:22+ the Jewish protagonists clearly stated that Jesus was "possessed by Beelzebul!" In Matthew 10:25+ the Jews called Jesus Beelzebul! They were calling Jesus the Devil! In claiming that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul, BDAG says they were accusing Him of witchcraft!

Casts out (present tense)(1544) see ekbállō from ek = out + bállō = to cast, throw, drive) means to cast, throw out often with the idea of force (Mt. 8:12; 15:17; 25:30; Acts 16:37, 27:38; Lxx - Lev. 14:40). Casting out of demons was a common occurrence in Jesus' ministry and His associates -  Luke 4:33–35, 41; 8:27–37; 9:37–42; 13:32),e twelve apostles (Lk 9:1); seventy evangelists (Lk 10:17).Luke's uses of ekballo - Lk. 4:29; Lk. 6:22; Lk. 6:42; Lk. 9:40; Lk. 9:49; Lk. 10:2; Lk. 10:35; Lk. 11:14; Lk. 11:15; Lk. 11:18; Lk. 11:19; Lk. 11:20; Lk. 13:28; Lk. 13:32; Lk. 19:45; Lk. 20:12; Lk. 20:15; Acts 7:58; Acts 9:40; Acts 13:50; Acts 16:37; Acts 27:38

Demon (1140)see note above on daimonion 

Beelzebul (KJV = Beelzebub - see Gilbrant's note)(954)(beelzeboul) is transliterated from the Hebrew phrase "Baal Zebub" which means "Lord of the Flies" or the "Fly God" (see 2 Ki 1:2-3, 5, 16). In Jesus' reply to the accusation of the Jews in Mt 12:24 that He cast out demons by Beelzebul, He answers in Mt 12:26 substituting the name Satan which clearly identifies the Jewish references to Beelzebul as another name for Satan. It is interesting that the name Baalzebul also appears in the Ras Shamra tablets, where it is used of a Canaanite deity and seems to have the meaning “lord of the high place” or “lord of the dwelling.” (See Got Questions entry)

Beelzebul - 7x in 7v - Matt. 10:25+ = Jesus accused of being the embodiment of Satan!!!; Matt. 12:24+; Matt. 12:27+; Mk. 3:22+; Lk. 11:15+; Lk. 11:18+; Lk. 11:19+. Jesus, rejecting His accuser's false charges, pointed out that the expulsion of demons was Satan's defeat, heralding the arrival of God's kingdom (see Luke 11:20-22+).

Gilbrant has an in depth discussion of beelzeboul - Beelzeboul was a name Jews gave to “the prince of devils” (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; cf. Luke 11:15), that is, Satan. The term does not appear outside the Synoptic Gospels except in later writings based on them. To show contempt for Jesus the Pharisees called Him this name— along with “gluttonous,” “winebibber” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34), and “Samaritan” (John 8:48). According to them not only did Jesus have a demon (Mark 3:30; John 8:48,49,52; 10:20,21; compare Matthew 11:17; Luke 7:33) that made Him crazy (John 10:20), but He exorcised demons by the power of this prince of demons (Matthew 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15).

The Gospels record two, if not three, occasions when the Jews tried to discount Jesus’ miracles by saying that He was in league with the devil: (1) Matthew 9:32-34; (2) Matthew 12:22-37 (cf. Mark 3:19-30); (3) Luke 11:14-26 (may parallel number 2). Beelzeboul occurs seven times in the last three passages, plus Matthew 10:24-33 recounts a private discussion with Jesus’ disciples about some previous instance of this same slander. The term also appears in the actual episode Matthew 9 refers to and may be what Jesus meant in Matthew 10. At any rate, the religious leaders used this epithet to create sentiment against Jesus.

The word itself has several interesting features.

Beelzeboul is pronounced almost as a four syllable compound word (the first half has a vowel glide from long to short “e”): Bē-ĕl + ze-boul. A number of spellings appear in English versions depending on how the translators decided to represent the Greek sounds with English letters, on what manuscripts they followed, and on whether they chose to represent the name in its Hebrew or Aramaic form. The first half of the word comes from the Canaanite deity Baal, spelled “Beel” in Aramaic, the language that largely replaced Hebrew among the Jews after the Babylonian Captivity; consequently, the full designation appears both as Beelzeboul and Baalzeboul. Baal means “lord,” or “master.”

The last syllable is zeboul or zebul depending again on how translators represent the Greek vowel sound in English letters. A greater issue lies behind the difference between Beelzebul and Beelzebub. In all seven places the ancient Syriac translation, the Latin Vulgate, and a few Greek manuscripts have the latter reading. Most modern textual critics have concluded that the original Greek text, however, carried -bul.

Beelzebub was the name of a pagan god worshiped in Ekron (2 Kings 1:2,3,6,16). When Ahaziah, king of Israel, severely injured himself in a fall, he tried to consult this deity to see whether he would live (Ed: Before we are too hard on Ahaziah, how often is our first reaction to go to sources other than God when confronted with adversity, affliction, etc?). Zebub, the Hebrew word for “fly,” is translated in the Septuagint which then reads “Baal muian (Ed: muia = fly)” in the four verses of 1 Kings 2. “Lord of the fly,” or “Fly-god,” might refer to the shape of the idol, to the god’s oracles supposedly given by the flight pattern or buzzing of flies, to the swarming of flies around sacrifices offered to him, or to a god that protected from flies and diseases associated with them (for example, the Greek god Zeus Apomyios, “Fly-Averting Zeus”), or to the Roman god Myagros.

If the term for “the prince of demons” has any connection with the god mentioned in 2 Kings, the question is how the shift between Beelzebub and Beelzebul happened. The least likely conjecture is that since the Ras Shamra literature mentions a Canaanite god Baalzebul, Baalzebub is an intentional corruption of that name written into the original Old Testament text itself. In that case, zebul may have derived from a Hebrew word root meaning “habitation” (see Psalm 49:15); Baalzebul could then mean “Lord of the Habitation/Temple” or even “Lord of the High Place.” Calling the god of Ekron “Lord of Flies” instead in 2 Kings 1 and later labeling Satan with that name would have been a derogatory shift to Baalzebub. Applying Beelzebub to Jesus would carry a double sting—calling Him the devil and doing so with a derogatory term.

The difficulty here is that the correct reading in the New Testament is almost certainly Beelzebul. A New Testament textual shift to -bub under the influence of 2 Kings is understandable, but one wonders what could explain the opposite shift during the textual history of Greek Gospels.

Especially in post-Biblical rabbinic writings, the Hebrew root meaning “habitation” had another derived meaning, “manure.” It has been frequently suggested that Baalzebub was in fact the name of the god in Ekron and that later Jews caricatured it into a similar sounding name for Satan: “Lord of the Manure Pile” since manure draws flies; so the shift between Beelzebub and Beelzebul would have taken place in the opposite direction from the first scenario. The “double cut” against Jesus, then, would almost have involved a vulgar name.

One last option has been to dissociate the Gospel accounts from the “Beelzebub” of 2 Kings 2 and to simply say that Beelzebul, “Lord of the Temple/Habitation,” was a name Jews used for Satan, a name not in itself particularly derogatory but one that recalled the pagan practices of ancient Canaanite religion and identified them with “the prince of demons.” The application to Jesus, then, would be derogatory insofar as He was being called the devil. Under this explanation commentators have seen special appropriateness in Jesus’ comments to His disciples in Matthew 10:25, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”

In all this ambiguity the central point is clear. The religious leaders were trying to denigrate Jesus’ miracles by associating them with the power of Satan. Accordingly, in Matthew 12:31,32 and Mark 3:28-30 the Lord warned them that assigning to Satan miracles by which the Spirit bore witness to Jesus is blasphemy of the Spirit, a sin which is not forgiven in this age or in the one to come. (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Ruler (758)(archon  from present participle of archo = to rule) describes  one who has eminence in a ruling capacity, referring to earthly figures (Mt 20:25) such as rulers (Acts 4:26),  Moses ( Acts 7:27, 35), of Christ as the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5). In the present context archon refers to the devil as ruler over the demons in Mt 9:34; Mt 12:24; Mk 3:22; Lk 11:15 and Eph 2:2 "the PRINCE (archon) of the power of the air." There is a demonic hierarchy a word which describes a system or organization in which one is  ranked one above others according to status or authority. Paul alludes to this stratification of authority in Ephesians 6:12+ "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Luke 11:16  Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.

KJV Luke 11:16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.

Parallel passages

Matthew 12:38; 39+  Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;

Mark 8:11; 12+  The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. 12 Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Others, to test Him - The intent of their "test" was really to taunt Him! In Luke 8:44 Jesus described these Jews as sons of Satan, and here we see they are doing exactly what their father attempted in the Wilderness Testings of Jesus. Earlier Luke recorded

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted (peirazo) by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. (Lk 4:1-2-note)

Test (3985)(peirazo) is a morally neutral verb which simply means to test but whether the testing is for a good (Heb 11:17) or evil (as the present context indicates) depends on the intent of the one giving the test. As described above these testing Jews were "like father, like son!" When the context indicates the testing is an enticement to evil, the word is most frequently translated as tempt, which of course conveys a negative connotation. 

Were demanding of Him a sign from heaven - They were not seeking truth but were in a sense "spies" gathering information with which they could condemn Jesus. Luke 11:17 says "He knew their thoughts" and that they were not honest seekers. 

Stein on sign - Only Luke referred to the temptation/test for a sign. Some opponents did not see the exorcism as sufficient evidence. They wanted a clearer sign, i.e., a sign from heaven. With this statement Luke tied this pericope to Luke 11:29–32 by foreshadowing it. Luke wanted his readers to understand that to ask for signs, both in Jesus’ day and possibly their own (cf. 1 Cor 1:22), was to tempt the Lord (Luke 4:12). There was sufficient proof for faith in the Scriptures (cf. Lk  16:31). (New American Commentary – Volume 24: Luke)

Mattoon - Not only were these folks rejecting the reality of this situation that Christ was God, the Messiah of the world, but their anger, bitterness, and resentment caused them to be peevish and slanderous when they should have been praising the Lord for delivering this demon-possessed man.

MacArthur comments that these "blaspheming rejecters....taunted Jesus, derisively demanding that He falsify their absurd charge that He was in league with the devil by performing a spectacular miracle. Because the mighty works He had already done were conclusive proof that He was the Messiah and Son of God (John 10:25), Jesus refused their request. As He said to them in Luke 11:29, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.”

Sign ((4592)(semeion from sema = sign) a sign is something that serves as a pointer to aid perception or insight. In the NT a sign speaks of a token which has behind it a particular message to be conveyed. 

Gene Brooks notes that "Isaiah 35:6 tells us that the healing of the mute is a sign of God’s end-time salvation. Here is a sign. They ask for a sign, but they do not recognize the signs they want to see."

Luke 11:17  But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.

NET  Luke 11:17 But Jesus, realizing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and a divided household falls.

GNT  Luke 11:17 αὐτὸς δὲ εἰδὼς αὐτῶν τὰ διανοήματα εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πᾶσα βασιλεία ἐφ᾽ ἑαυτὴν διαμερισθεῖσα ἐρημοῦται καὶ οἶκος ἐπὶ οἶκον πίπτει.

NLT  Luke 11:17 He knew their thoughts, so he said, "Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

KJV  Luke 11:17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.

ESV  Luke 11:17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.

NIV  Luke 11:17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.

ASV  Luke 11:17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.

CSB  Luke 11:17 Knowing their thoughts, He told them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and a house divided against itself falls.

NKJ  Luke 11:17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.

NRS  Luke 11:17 But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.

YLT  Luke 11:17 And he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, 'Every kingdom having been divided against itself is desolated; and house against house doth fall;

NAB  Luke 11:17 But he knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.

NJB  Luke 11:17 but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, 'Any kingdom which is divided against itself is heading for ruin, and house collapses against house.

GWN  Luke 11:17 Since Jesus knew what they were thinking, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is ruined. A house divided against itself falls.

BBE  Luke 11:17 But he, having knowledge of their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom in which there is division is made waste; and a house in which there is division comes to destruction.


But (de) term of contrast. They had just said they wanted a sign, however Jesus knew better! 

He knew their thoughts  - To whom does their refer? While the immediate context does not allow dogmatic identification, from comparison with similar passages (cf Mt 12:24+, Mk 3:22+) this is almost surely the scribes most of whom were also Pharisees. The Jewish crowds at this time were not antagonistic but attracted by His miracles, while the religious leaders were antagonized by His miracles. Mt 12:25+ is similar to Luke recording "and knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them." The fact that Jesus knew their thoughts offers further proof of His deity, since only God knows the heart (1 Sa 16:7; 1 Ki 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; Jer. 17:10; Ezek 11:5) 

MacArthur on knew their thoughts - Their whisperings may have been hidden from the Lord’s ears, but not from His omniscience, since He knew their thoughts (cf. Lk 5:22; 6:8; 7:39–47; Jn 2:25). Their thought processes, purposes, and intents were transparent to Jesus, and He knew that those thoughts were sinful, blasphemous, and damning. He had every right at this point to abandon them to their unbelief and its inevitable eternal doom. Yet He reached out to them again in mercy, exposing the irrationality of their damning false conclusion. (MNTC-Lk)

Knew (1492)(eido) means in general to know by perception not so much by experience. Eido is not so much that which is known by experience as an intuitive insight. Eido/oida is a perception, a being aware of, an understanding, an intuitive knowledge which in the case of believers can only be given by the Holy Spirit. Eido also suggests fullness of knowledge, absolute knowledge (that which is without a doubt), rather than a progress in knowledge. The idea is that Jesus knew beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Thoughts (only NT use)(1270)(dianoema from dianoéomai =  to agitate in mind from diá = denoting separation + noéō = think over) means the content of what a person is thinking about. It refers to a thought or reflection with an evil connotation in the present context. Gilbrant adds "This term is akin to the verb noeo, “to consider,” but emphasizes the result of the activity of thought. It overlaps into the realm of purpose, intent, and motive. It was a favorite word of Plato." Six times in the Septuagint - Pr 14:14; Pr 15:24; Isa. 55:9; Ezek. 14:3; Ezek. 14:4; Da. 8:25

Any kingdom (basileia) divided against itself is laid waste - One is reminded of the popular saying "United we stand, divided we fall." This is a truth that is simple and obvious, even to His obtuse protagonists. A divided kingdom results in civil war and usually the destruction of the kingdom. If Satan was empowering Jesus to cast out demons, Satan's kingdom would be divided against itself and would be ruined be ruined. 

Divided (3307)(merizo) means to divide, part, share, separate. Merizo - 13x in NT - Matt. 12:25; Matt. 12:26; Mk. 3:24; Mk. 3:25; Mk. 3:26; Mk. 6:41; Lk. 12:13; Rom. 12:3; 1 Co. 1:13; 1 Co. 7:17; 1 Co. 7:34; 2 Co. 10:13; Heb. 7:2

Laid waste (2049)(eremoo from eremos = wasteland) means brought to ruin, be laid waste, become desolate, be devastated (Mt 12:25). Of a prosperous city meaning to be ruined or depopulated.

A house divided (merizoagainst itself falls - Again this truth of this statement is obvious. The meaning of house is not clear as it could be strife in a family (in the house) or strife between households. Most  translations (NIV, RSV, NEB, NASB) imply division and strife within a family. We all have seen the devastating effect of divorce on families. "This phrase pictures one house collapsing on another, what we call today a "house of cards." (NET) The point is that if Jesus' power over the demon was derived from Satan, this would be ridiculous for Satan was the enemy of Jesus and would hardly empower an assault on his own kingdom, the kingdom of darkness (cf Col 1:13, Acts 26:18). 

Rod Mattoon - We now enter a section of Scripture that has become very familiar because of its use in illustrating truths by famous men. Jesus said in verse seventeen that every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and a house divided against a house faileth or cannot stand.On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a famous speech known as the House Divided Speech in Springfield, Illinois that was based on this principle. On this occasion, Lincoln accepted the Illinois Republican Party's nomination for United States senator. It became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln used this speech to create a lasting image of the danger of disunion because of slavery. At that time, there was division in the United States between the slave states and the free states. Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new—North as well as South."

One thing for sure, Lincoln understood the principle of this passage. He knew the mess that would be created in this nation as long as it was a divided country. We face a divided nation today. The division has been created by our selfish political leaders that pit black against white, poor against wealthy, homosexuals against heterosexuals, and now socialism and communism against capitalism.

Socialists and communists believe in big government which should be in charge of our lives and provide for the nation through heavy taxation, especially on those who are financially successful. They strongly believe in government-controlled health care. History shows this is how socialism gets its foot in the door and gains governmental control. I don't know about you, but I don't want to have to get permission from someone on some government health-board telling me that I or my family can or can't get medical treatment.

Capitalists on the other hand, believe that people should be responsible to provide for themselves through hard work and private enterprise. They also believe in a small government with little taxation. They believe the government should have to live as we do, and balance their own budget and not spend money they do not have. Our great nation is in a moral and financial mess that continues to deepen every day. One key reason is because we have ignored the Lord and we have107 also ignored what was laid out by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution of the United States of America. We've got a mess for sure and we need God's help to get out of it.

Luke 11:18  "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.

NET  Luke 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.

GNT  Luke 11:18 εἰ δὲ καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἐφ᾽ ἑαυτὸν διεμερίσθη, πῶς σταθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ; ὅτι λέγετε ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐκβάλλειν με τὰ δαιμόνια.

NLT  Luke 11:18 You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive?

KJV  Luke 11:18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

ESV  Luke 11:18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.

NIV  Luke 11:18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub.

ASV  Luke 11:18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub.

CSB  Luke 11:18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say I drive out demons by Beelzebul.

NKJ  Luke 11:18 "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.

NRS  Luke 11:18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?-- for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul.

YLT  Luke 11:18 and if also the Adversary against himself was divided, how shall his kingdom be made to stand? for ye say, by Beelzeboul is my casting forth the demons.

NAB  Luke 11:18 And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.

NJB  Luke 11:18 So, too, with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom last? - since you claim that it is through Beelzebul that I drive devils out.

GWN  Luke 11:18 Now, if Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom last? I say this because you say Beelzebul helps me force demons out of people.

BBE  Luke 11:18 If, then, Satan is at war with himself, how will he keep his kingdom? because you say that I send evil spirits out of men by the help of Beelzebul.


Jesus now applies the two analogies He has just made regarding the divided kingdom and divided house in Luke 11:17.

If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand - Of course the answer is that it cannot stand. Jesus' reasons that if He was possessed or empowered by Satan against Satan's own demons, then Satan's kingdom could not stand. No divided kingdom can stand. And thus their accusations border on the absurd. Common sense says their accusations against Jesus are ridiculous. 

Darrell Bock - Jesus argues that it is a strategy of foolishness if Satan has sent one of his henchmen to undo his own work of destruction. (IVP Commentary)

NET Note on "if Satan..." - This first class condition, the first of three "if" clauses in the following verses, presents the example vividly as if it were so. In fact, all three conditions in these verses are first class. The examples are made totally parallel. The expected answer is that Satan's kingdom will not stand, so the suggestion makes no sense. 

Divided (1266)(diamerizo from dia = through + merizo = to divide) means literally to divide (as Jesus' garments - Mt 27:35, Mk 15:24, Lk 23:34, Jn 19:24), in a figurative sense of a kingdom divided (Lk 17:17, 18), of families divided by being forced to choose for or against Jesus (Lk 12:53). Jesus' coming demands a choice and neutrality is not one of the choices! Diamerizo has the sense of share as in the Last Supper, where the disciples "divided" (shared) the Passover cup paradoxically as a sign of their unity and allegiance to their Lord. 

Gilbrant - The believers made a regular practice (note the imperfect tense here) of selling their material possessions and dividing the proceeds among themselves according to individual needs (Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, p.101). Of Acts 2:3 Marshall says, “A flame divided itself into several tongues, so that each (tongue) rested upon one of the persons present” (Marshall, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 5:68). (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Among classical writers diamerizo was used by Plato of a butcher who cuts animals into pieces.  The Septuagint uses diamerizo to describe dividing the earth (Ge 10:25), dividing the nations (Deut 32:8), dividing garments (prophecy of Jesus - Ps 22:18), dividing land (Ps 60:6; 108:7; Isa 34:17; Ezek 47:21), of David distributing (dividing) food throughout Israel (2 Sa 6:19, 1 Chr 16:3), dividing spoil or plunder (Jdg 5:30; Zech 14:1), and food (2 Sa 6:19).

Thayer - 1. “to cleave asunder, cut in pieces”: ζωα διαμερισθενα namely, by the butcher, Plato, legg. 8, p. 849 d.; according to a use peculiar to Luke in the passive, “to be divided into opposing parts, to be at variance, in dissension”: επι τινα, against one, Luke 11:17f; επι τινι, Lk 12:52f. 2. “to distribute” (Plato, polit., p. 289 c.; in the Septuagint chiefly for ‏חָלַק‎): τι, Mark 15:24 Rec.; τι τινι, Luke 22:17 (where L T Tr WH εις ἑαυτους for R G ἑαυτοις); Acts 2:45; passive Acts 2:3; middle “to distribute among themselves”: τι, Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24 G L T Tr WH; Luke 23:34; with ἑαυτοις added (Matthew 27:35 Rec.); John 19:24 from Ps. 22:18). (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament)

Diamerizo - 17x in 17v in the Septuagint - Gen. 10:25; Gen. 49:7; Deut. 32:8; Jos. 21:42; Jdg. 5:30; 2 Sam. 6:19; 1 Chr. 16:3; Neh. 9:22; Ps. 17:14; Ps. 22:18; Ps. 55:21; Ps. 60:6; Ps. 108:7; Isa. 34:17; Ezek. 47:21; Mic. 2:4; Zech. 14:1;

Diamerizo - 11x in 11v -  distributing(1), divided(4), divided...among(1), divided up...among themselves(2), dividing up...among(1), share(1), sharing(1).

Matthew 27:35  And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.

Mark 15:24  And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.

Luke 11:17  But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.

Luke 11:18  "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.

Luke 12:52  for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.

Luke 12:53  "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Luke 22:17  And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves;

Luke 23:34  But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

John 19:24  So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS."

Acts 2:3  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

Acts 2:45  and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing (imperfect tense = over and over they were dividing their possessions) them with all, as anyone might have need.

For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul - Jesus is explaining why it would be ridiculous for Satan to be divided against his own kingdom, which would in fact be the case if Jesus truly did cast our demons by virtue of the power of Satan. The conclusion is clear that they were clearly not correct in attributing Jesus' power over the demons to the ruler of the demons. Such a thing would be absurd!

MacArthur - Inconsistencies often appear in the strategies of the kingdom of darkness, since evil is inherently inconsistent, demons operate independently, and Satan is not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. He may also allow his servants to pretend to cast out demons as part of their cover as angels of light (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14–15). But Satan’s goal is to destroy God’s kingdom, not his own, and his kingdom is unified in that evil intent. Therefore to argue that he would empower Jesus to cast out demons on an unprecedented scale and thereby destroy his own kingdom is ridiculous. Yet that is precisely what the Lord’s opponents were doing by claiming that He cast out demons by Beelzebul. Since that option is irrational and untenable, the only alternative is that Jesus cast out demons by God’s power.

Luke 11:19  "And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges.

NET  Luke 11:19 Now if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

GNT  Luke 11:19 εἰ δὲ ἐγὼ ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν ἐν τίνι ἐκβάλλουσιν; διὰ τοῦτο αὐτοὶ ὑμῶν κριταὶ ἔσονται.

NLT  Luke 11:19 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said.

KJV  Luke 11:19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

ESV  Luke 11:19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

NIV  Luke 11:19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

ASV  Luke 11:19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

CSB  Luke 11:19 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, who is it your sons drive them out by? For this reason they will be your judges.

NKJ  Luke 11:19 "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

NRS  Luke 11:19 Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

YLT  Luke 11:19 'But if I by Beelzeboul cast forth the demons -- your sons, by whom do they cast forth? because of this your judges they shall be;

NAB  Luke 11:19 If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

NJB  Luke 11:19 Now if it is through Beelzebul that I drive devils out, through whom do your own sons drive them out? They shall be your judges, then.

GWN  Luke 11:19 If I force demons out with the help of Beelzebul, who helps your followers force them out? That's why they will be your judges.

BBE  Luke 11:19 And if I, by Beelzebul, send out evil spirits, by whose help do your sons send them out? so let them be your judges.


And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons - The "IF" here is a second class condition which is considered as an unreal case. Jesus did not cast out demons by the ruler of the demons! That would be absurd.

By whom do your sons cast them out -  Your sons most likely refers to Jews who practiced exorcism (but see comments below). On one hand Jesus seems to imply that the so-called Jewish exorcists were successful at making others think that they had truly cast out demons. However Acts 19:13-15+ describes unsuccessful Jewish exorcists who ironically were attempting to use Jesus' Name to cast out demons. Jesus' point is that if He was possessed and/or empowered by Satan to cast out demons then what about the source of power for the Jewish exorcists (whether they were successful or not)?  

J C Ryle - It is not agreed among commentators to whom our Lord refers in this expression. Bishop Jewel thinks that He refers to His own disciples, John, James, Peter, Andrew, and the rest, and calls them “sons of the Jews.” Others, however, think that He refers to certain persons among the Jews who had power to cast out devils, though they were not disciples of Christ. That there were such persons seems likely from Acts 19:3.

Darrell Bock - Then Jesus makes a second argument. By whose power do their own followers cast out demons, if Jesus casts out demons by Satan’s hand? Now this argument is making one of two points. Jesus may be saying, I do the same exorcisms as Jewish exorcists do, so to attribute my exorcisms to Satan is to attribute theirs to Satan as well. Do you wish to demean the activity of your own exorcists in this way? Another possibility, and the one I prefer, is that Jesus is arguing that their “sons”—that is, his disciples—also do this work. So if the people are going to question his work, they must also question the work of those who follow him. I prefer this argument because I am not sure Jesus would endorse the activity of Jewish exorcists and, more important, predict their positive role in the future judgment, since they are currently outside God’s will in their rejection of him. More likely Jesus is arguing that he is not alone in this ministry. Either way, the argument that Jesus is enabled by Satan falls like a house of cards. (IVP Commentary)

Kent Hughes -  Jewish contemporaries did indeed perform exorcisms (cf. Acts 19:13, 14; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 8.2, 5), and most people believed they did it by the power of God. Were they on Satan’s team too? Were all who cast out demons in league with Satan? Absurd! (PW-Lk)

Trent Butler - Then he turned the charge on them. They claimed to have people in their company with power over demons (Mark 9:38; Acts 19:13–14). Did this mean they were allied with Satan? Oh, no! Their people exorcised demons in God’s name. Well then, why could Jesus not do the same? Go let your exorcists be the judge and address the issue: Who has power to cast out demons? (HNTC-Lk)

Geldenhuys - After exposing the absurdity of the accusation of His enemies, the Lord now reveals their wilful falseness by showing that they measure by two standards. It was at that time the general idea among the Jews that when a rabbi or other Jew delivered anyone from possession of the devil, it was a sign that God worked through him. But now that they see that Jesus (indeed in a far more signal manner) releases unhappy possessed people from demoniacal powers, they ascribe this in the wickedness of their hearts to the powerful workings of Satan. Thereby they declare, as it were, that their fellow-Jews also who in God’s power freed people from demon-possession, did so through Satan. So they will be judged by their fellow-countrymen. (NICNT-Lk)

Cornerstone Bible Commentary - The point here is that in accusing Jesus of using Satanic power, the Jews were condemning their own people (assuming sons does not refer to His disciples which most writers do not favor) of doing the same. This effective use of logic turned the argument of Jesus’ opponents back against them....Their rejection of Jesus’ exorcisms alone was based upon sheer prejudice and was untenable.

Nelson's NKJV Study Bible comment on by whom do your sons cast them out - Jesus' question and the implied reply to it can be taken in one of two ways:

(1) How did Jewish exorcists expel demons? If the answer is by God's power, then why not give Jesus the same credit?

(2) How did Jesus' disciples, who were the “sons” of Israel, drive out demons? The dissenters not only had to explain Jesus' miracles, but those of His followers. Most scholars prefer the former interpretation.

So they will be your judges -  If Jesus acted by the power of Satan, then your sons depended upon the same power. As discussed above the difficult question is who are your sons? Some commentators say these are Jewish exorcists. Others say they are the Lord's disciples (and we know that they likely have performed actual exorcisms based on Jesus' delegating His authority to them as in Mt 10:8). Either way, to condemn Him was to condemn either group.

J C Ryle - Shall they be your judges. The meaning of this expression is, “They shall condemn your supposition that I cast out devils by Beelzebub, as unreasonable and absurd. They shall be witnesses that devils are not cast out by devils, but by the power of God.”

Steven Cole favors your sons as referring to Jewish exorcists rather than Jesus' disciples and writes that "the Pharisees had never accused them (JEWISH EXORCISTS) of being empowered by Satan. If they are going to be consistent, they must say that the Jewish exorcists also did their work by Satan’s power. Otherwise, those exorcists served to judge the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in singling out Jesus for condemnation, while accepting the exorcists, who did the same thing." 

MacArthur favors your sons as referring to Jewish exorcists rather than Jesus' disciples and writes "For the sake of argument, Jesus granted their point. Assuming that He was, as they claimed, using the power of Beelzebul (Satan) to cast out demons, the Lord then asked, By whom do your sons (i.e., rabbis, scribes, Pharisees, and their associates) cast them out? The Jews uncritically assumed that their useless exorcists were doing the work of God. Acts 19 records a typical failed attempt by some would-be Jewish exorcists to cast out a demon at Ephesus. Impressed by the miraculous power displayed by the apostle Paul (vv. 11–12), they decided to add the name of Jesus to their repertoire. But the consequences were disastrous (see Acts 19:13-16) The Lord’s question exposed their (PHARISEES/SCRIBES) inconsistency, hypocrisy, and lack of integrity. If casting out demons proved someone was in league with Satan, then why were they not suspicious of their own exorcists? How could they not apply the same standards to their failures as they did to Jesus’ successes? By insisting that their own exorcists’ ineffective attempts to cast out demons were from God, while rejecting Jesus’ uniformly effective exorcisms as being from Satan, they were in effect making Satan more powerful than God.  (MNTC-Lk)

Darrell Bock - 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. Their works go together. If the opponents’ judgment about Jesus is wrong, they can know that these exorcists will judge them for their refusal to accept God’s work. (BECNT-Lk)

Bruce Barton - Jesus was not the first person to exorcise demons. In the first century, exorcism was thriving as a business in both Jewish and pagan societies (Mark 9:38; Acts 19:13–14). Many Jewish exorcists were Pharisees. “Now,” says Jesus, “if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out?” If it took Satan’s power to drive out demons, then those Pharisees who drove out demons were also working under Satan’s power. Those Pharisees who had performed exorcisms would act as judges regarding this allegation. Those accusers should go to those Pharisees and find out if they were working for Satan. (LAC)

R C H Lenski favors your sons as referring to Jewish exorcists rather than Jesus' disciples and writes - The emphasis is on the subjects: “I—your sons.” The latter are not physical sons or just pupils of the Pharisees but, like the similar expression, “sons of the prophets,” Genossen eurer Zunft, experts of your own guild, whom you approve and are proud of because they are able to expel demons. We know nothing further about these Jewish exorcists, especially as to what means they used, or what success they had. We know only that exorcism was practiced, that it was not very successful, judging from the many demoniacs that came to Jesus for healing, and that the means used were not objectionable. The fact that Satan did not and, in fact, could not lend his hand to such expulsions the previous argument has placed beyond question. Whoever drives out demons can do so only by being in the necessary connection with God. What a desperate self-contradiction, therefore, to say: when Jesus drives them out, the connection is Satan; but when their own experts drive them out, the connection is God! Something is viciously wrong with men who ascribe the identical effect to absolutely opposite causes. “Because of this,” i. e., the thing Jesus exposes, “they,” their own associates, “shall be your judges” before God’s judgment bar. God will let these Pharisaic exorcists pronounce the sentence on these blaspheming Pharisees, and what that verdict will be need not be stated.(ISLG)

Luke 11:20  "But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

NET  Luke 11:20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.

GNT  Luke 11:20 εἰ δὲ ἐν δακτύλῳ θεοῦ [ἐγὼ] ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

NLT  Luke 11:20 But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.

KJV  Luke 11:20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

ESV  Luke 11:20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

NIV  Luke 11:20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

ASV  Luke 11:20 But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.

CSB  Luke 11:20 If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

NKJ  Luke 11:20 "But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

NRS  Luke 11:20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

YLT  Luke 11:20 but if by the finger of God I cast forth the demons, then come unawares upon you did the reign of God.

NAB  Luke 11:20 But if it is by the finger of God that (I) drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

NJB  Luke 11:20 But if it is through the finger of God that I drive devils out, then the kingdom of God has indeed caught you unawares.

GWN  Luke 11:20 But if I force out demons with the help of God's power, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

BBE  Luke 11:20 But if I, by the finger of God, send out evil spirits, then the kingdom of God has overtaken you.


But - This contrast is between two "IF'S" - the "IF" of Lk 11:19 and the "IF" in this passage! And so Jesus introduces another explanation for His ability to cast out demons and it is the antithesis of the accusation made by the Jews.

If I cast out demons by the finger of God - "IF" is not an expression of doubt, but a first class conditional statement (see Conditional statements) meaning "Since by the finger of God I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." Jesus having demolished their scandalous charge that He was empowered by Satan, now gives the true source of His power, the finger of God. The parallel passage in Matthew 12:28 says "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." From this we can conclude conclude that the finger of God is the same as the Spirit of God. The fact that Jesus was casting out demons by the Spirit of God was evidence indeed that the kingdom of God had come upon the people of that generation. The kingdom had come in the Person of the King Himself. The very fact that the Lord Jesus was there, performing such miracles, was proof positive that God's anointed Ruler had appeared upon the stage of history. 

We see this same phrase finger of God in Exodus 8:19 where Pharaoh's magicians even admitted that Moses signs pointed to the fact that his power was from God. "Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said." Compare these other allusions to the finger of God - The Ten Commandments were inscribed by the “finger of God” (Ex 31:18; Dt 9:10). Ps 8:3 says the heavens are the work of God’s fingers. In sum, the finger of God is clearly a reference to God's power and not to the power of Satan as asserted by the protagonists. Jesus exorcised the demons by the power of God and the Spirit of God Who filled Jesus and empowered Him for ministry (see Lk 4:2-note and Lk 4:14-note, cf Acts 10:38).

Steven Cole - The term, “finger of God,” goes back to Exodus 8:19, where the Egyptian magicians recognize God’s power through Moses. Jesus is saying that if Satan is not behind His power, then clearly, God is. By saying that the kingdom of God had come upon them, Jesus was referring to the initial phase of the kingdom as manifested in the presence of the King. Jesus’ deliverance of people from Satan’s bondage anticipates the coming day when Jesus will reign not only in hearts, but on the throne of David, when Satan will be bound from his powerful influence on earth. Until His enemies are made His footstool, Christ exercises His rule from the Father’s right hand in the hearts of all who submit their lives to Him.

Then the kingdom (basileia) of God  One must understand that there are (at least) two phases to the Kingdom of God. The first phase is the invisible, internal Kingdom of God and which He later described as "in your midst” (Lk 17:21+), the Kingdom in which the King reigns in the heart of the person who has accepted Jesus as Messiah. To proclaim the Kingdom of God is to preach the Gospel, to proclaim the good news of salvation, explaining how one can enter the Kingdom of God. (Jn 3:3-16+) When the King returns on "the day that the Son of Man is revealed (apokalupto)," (Lk 17:30+) the heart of every person will also be revealed as to whether they sought the kingdom of "self" or the kingdom of the Savior! The future phase of the Kingdom of God is known as the Messianic Age or the Millennial Kingdom.(See detailed explanation of Jesus' meaning of the Kingdom of God in notes on Luke 17:20-21). Jesus knew the Jews were looking for the future aspect of the Kingdom of God, (cf Mt 20:21 and Acts 1:6+) but His preaching and that of His disciples was to explain how one could enter the invisible aspect of the Kingdom of God in the present and in that way they would be assured of experiencing the visible Kingdom of God in the future. All of this talk about the Kingdom begs one question dear reader -- Have you entered the Kingdom of God by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of that Kingdom? If not today could be the best day of your life (2 Cor 6:2). 

Has come upon you - Has come is the aorist tenseindicative mood which speaks of a completed action, something that has taken place. Jesus' ability to cast out demons who belong to the kingdom of darkness is clear evidence that another Kingdom (and King) has arrived! The miracles of Jesus demonstrated God's victory over the forces of evil, a victory which was achieved on the Cross and validated by the Resurrection. Christ's Kingdom will be consummated when He returns and defeats the Antichrist (Rev 19:11-16+, Rev 19:19-21+) and casts Satan into prison for 1000 years, the Millennium, (Rev 20:1-3+) and then into the Lake of Fire forever (Rev 20:7-10+ where He had cast the Antichrist 1000 years prior)! That said, it is should be emphasized that Satan is presently still powerful, but His power is limited, his doom is sealed, and his time is short.

Bock on kingdom of God has come - Jesus says the miracles are evidences of the arrival of God’s promised, redemptive rule. They are audiovisual testimony to God’s power and rule....The key term in the verse is ephthasen (from phthano), “has come.”....The miracles trumpet the arrival of God’s ruling power in such a way that Satan’s display of power on earth is challenged and is in the process of being defeated.To say the kingdom has arrived is not to argue that consummation has come, only that its presence has begun. The process of establishing kingdom authority is a long one, as Jesus will reveal, and it will take his return to bring the full promise of the kingdom to completion....God is breaking peacefully into the creation through Jesus to reclaim humanity from Satan’s grip. Jesus overcomes the presence and power of evil in the world. His power is greater than that of demons. He is stronger than Satan. His power and authority reverse the effect of sin. This exercise of power through Jesus is why Paul can call the gospel “the power of God” in Romans 1:16–17+. The story of the gospel is the story of how Satan, sin and the flesh are overcome through Jesus’ provision of the Spirit (1 Th 1:5+). So Paul calls the kingdom of God a matter of power (1 Cor 4:20) as well as justice, peace and joy inspired by the Spirit (Ro 14:17). And Ephesians 1:15–2:10 and Eph 6:10–18+ refer to the battle we have against the forces of evil and note how Jesus has a position of authority over them. These theological realities are pictured in Jesus’ words.” (IVPNTC-Lk) (IN LIGHT OF THESE TRUTHS - Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." Eph 6:13+)

The NET Note on has come upon you - The phrase is also quite important. Does it mean merely "approach" or actually "come upon"? The issue here is like the one in Lk 10:9 (see note there on the phrase "come near"). Is the arrival of the kingdom in process or merely anticipated? Two factors favor arrival. First, the prepositional phrase "on you" suggests arrival (Da 4:24, 28 Theodotion). Second, the following illustration in Lk 11:21-23 looks at the healing as portraying Satan being overrun. So the presence of God's authority has come.

Cornerstone Biblical Commentary on the Kingdom of God has come - The exorcisms performed by Jesus provided strong evidence that God’s Kingdom, long anticipated and hoped for, had at last entered history in a transforming way. In fact, the words and works of Jesus as a whole revealed the fact that the Kingdom of God had actually arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Jesus’ answer to John the Baptist’s questions in Lk 7:22+; Mt 11:5). Yet, there was still the future time when the purposes of God would be fully realized and consummated, and so the disciples were taught to pray, “May your Kingdom come soon” (Lk 11:2; Matt 6:10). The Kingdom’s nearness and imminence (Mark 1:14-15+) called for repentance in preparation for its final realization, when the Son of Man would come in power (Mark 14:62; Matt 26:64; cf. Luke 21:36; 22:69). Both the “already” and the “not yet” dimensions of the Kingdom must be affirmed and kept in careful balance to do justice to the present and future dimensions of the Kingdom theme. For further discussion see Beasley-Murray (1986). (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 12: Luke and Acts)

Has come (aorist tense) (5348)(phthano) originally meant to precede someone, to come before or to anticipate (as in 1Th 4:15+). Over time phthano begin to lose the idea of priority and to mean simply to come to or to arrive at. The idea is to come to a particular state or to arrive at a goal and so to attain it. In Mt 12:28+ "“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." Phthano pictures progress along a road to a certain point. 

Ryle - The kingdom of God is come upon you. The argument here appears to be this,—“If these miracles which I work are really worked by the finger of God, and I am clearly proved by them to be one sent from God, then, whether you will allow it or not, the times of Messiah have evidently arrived. The kingdom of God has come down upon you unawares, and these miracles are signs that it is so.”—This argument reduced the enemies of our Lord to a dilemma. Either they must deny that our Lord cast out devils,—this they could not do;—or else they must admit that their own sons cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub;—this they would not do.—The nature of the argument appears to show that when our Lord spake of “your sons casting out devils,” He could not have meant His own disciples.

Luke 11:21  "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.

NET  Luke 11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe.

GNT  Luke 11:21 ὅταν ὁ ἰσχυρὸς καθωπλισμένος φυλάσσῃ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ αὐλήν, ἐν εἰρήνῃ ἐστὶν τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ·

NLT  Luke 11:21 For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe--

KJV  Luke 11:21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:

ESV  Luke 11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe;

NIV  Luke 11:21 "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.

ASV  Luke 11:21 When the strong man fully armed guardeth his own court, his goods are in peace:

CSB  Luke 11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his estate, his possessions are secure.

NKJ  Luke 11:21 "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.

NRS  Luke 11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe.

YLT  Luke 11:21 'When the strong man armed may keep his hall, in peace are his goods;

NAB  Luke 11:21 When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.

NJB  Luke 11:21 So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own home, his goods are undisturbed;

GWN  Luke 11:21 "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own mansion, his property is safe.

BBE  Luke 11:21 When the strong man armed keeps watch over his house, then his goods are safe:

Parallel Passages:

Matthew 12:29+ “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

Mark 3:27+ “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. 


When a strong man - Literally "the strong one." To whom does Jesus refer? In context strong man refers to Satan the king of the demons. The demon-possessed man was an evidence of his power. Jesus explains this is the second reason His opponents were wrong in accusing Him of being empowered by Satan in carrying out His exorcisms. The point is that the One who would attack Satan must be stronger than Satan. Jesus is stronger than Satan, which was the reason He could cast out the demon. Ryle comments that "The literal translation (the strong one) brings out the character of the devil, and the applicability of the whole passage to him with much force."

If you as a believer are fearful of the demonic recall John's assuring words...

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4+)

Deffinbaugh - In this analogy, Satan is the strong man and his “possessions” are those who are demon-possessed and Jesus is the One who has greater power and is taking away those he has possessed. Jesus is saying that He must overpower Satan before He can deliver those whom he had formerly possessed. His enemies refused to acknowledge that Jesus was God or that His power was God’s power, and yet logic would once again force them to this conclusion. In order to deliver men and women from demon-possession Jesus had to be greater than Satan. To attribute His power to Satan was foolish. To think He was not greater than Satan was also folly. If the evidence were interpreted according to good logic, the evidence would point to Jesus as the Messiah.  (Evidence that Produced Various Verdicts Luke 11:14-36)

Strong (mighty) (2478)(ischuros from ischuo = to be able) is an adjective which means strong, powerful, mighty (usually referring to inherent physical strength), able, forcible. Strong, having moral power. Inherently strong. Ischuros denotes power or ability and places “stress on the actual power that one possesses rather than on the mere principle of power. Luke uses ischuros in Lk 3:16+, Lk 11:21, 22+, Lk 15:14+.

Fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions (huparcho) are undisturbed Fully armed (kathoplizo only here - fully equipped) means completely armed with weapons and in the perfect tense indicates this is a permanent state. This armed guard does not let its guard down. Guards is in the present tense picturing the strong man continually on guard. House (aule) describes a building large enough and elaborate enough to have an interior courtyard and pictures not a pauper's shack but a palatial mansion or palace. His possessions is literally "the things that belong to him." Undisturbed is literally "in peace" (en eirene). As explained by Steven Cole the strong man's own house and possessions are men and women who are not believers and by default who belong to Satan's kingdom, not in the sense that they are "possessed" (as in demon possession) but that in the sense that they are "owned" by Satan and are subjects of his kingdom of darkness.

THOUGHT - When we were born again, we were set free of Satan's power and control. God "rescued (rhuomai) us from the domain (exousia - the right and the might of the "strong man") of darkness, and transferred (ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME) us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption (apolutrosis) (JESUS PAID THE "RANSOM" PRICE TO SET US FREE = THE BLOOD OF JESUS! SEE 1 Pe 1:18-19+), the forgiveness (aphesis)(SENDING AWAY FOREVER) of sins (PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE)." (Col 1:13-14+) Satan continues to cast accusations and charges at believers (cf Rev 12:10+, Eph 6:16+) but they won't "stick" because we have been forever clothed in the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21+, 1 Co 1:30, cf Isa 61:3+). John adds "We know that no one who is born of God sins (habitually); but He who was born of God keeps (present tense = CONTINUALLY GUARDS) him, and the evil one does not touch him." (1 Jn 5:18+)

Steven Cole has an interesting note on the nature of the strong man's house and possessions -  Jesus further underscores His victory over Satan with the parable of disarming the strong man (Lk 11:21-22). Satan is the strong man armed. He is a powerful spiritual master. His homestead is the heart of unbelievers. All of an unbeliever’s powers and faculties are Satan’s possessions, at his use. Further, these possessions, securely under Satan’s rule, are undisturbed, or “at peace.” The unbeliever, dead in his sins, under the sway of the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:1,2+) is unaware of his own desperate condition. As Matthew Henry describes it "The sinner has a good opinion of himself, is very secure and merry, has no doubt concerning the goodness of his state nor any dread of the judgment to come; he flatters himself in his own eyes, and cries peace to himself. Before Christ appeared, all was quiet, because all went one way; but the preaching of the Gospel disturbed the peace of the devil’s palace."

Guards (5442)(phulasso) means to watch, to carry out the function as a military guard or sentinel (cp Ac 23:35, 28:16), to keep watch, to have one's eye upon lest one escape, to guard a person that he might remain safe (from violence, from another person or thing, from being snatched away, from being lost). The NT uses phulasso figuratively of guarding truth (eg, 1Ti 5:21, 6:20, 2Ti 1:14) 

Luke uses phulasso in 14/31 NT uses to describe the shepherds "keeping watch over their flock by night" (Lk 2:8), of the demon possessed man "kept under guard" (Lk 8:29), of the blessing on the one who observes ("guards") the Word of God after hearing it (Lk 11:28, cf "observe" in Acts 16:4), of Jesus' warning to "be on your guard against every form of greed" (Lk 12:15), of the rich young ruler who said "all these things I have kept from my youth (Lk 18:21), of Israel who did not "keep" the law (Acts 7:53, of Paul "keeping the Law" = Acts 21:24 and "abstain" in Acts 21:25), of James guarded by Herod's guards (Acts 12:4, cf Paul in Acts 23:35 in Herod's Praetorium and later in Rome where the soldier "was guarding him" - Acts 28:16), of Saul "watching out (guarding) for the cloaks" while they were stoning Stephen (Acts 22:20), 

Luke 11:22  But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.

NET  Luke 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.

GNT  Luke 11:22 ἐπὰν δὲ ἰσχυρότερος αὐτοῦ ἐπελθὼν νικήσῃ αὐτόν, τὴν πανοπλίαν αὐτοῦ αἴρει ἐφ᾽ ᾗ ἐπεποίθει καὶ τὰ σκῦλα αὐτοῦ διαδίδωσιν.

NLT  Luke 11:22 until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.

KJV  Luke 11:22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

ESV  Luke 11:22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.

NIV  Luke 11:22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.

ASV  Luke 11:22 but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him his whole armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

CSB  Luke 11:22 But when one stronger than he attacks and overpowers him, he takes from him all his weapons he trusted in, and divides up his plunder.

NKJ  Luke 11:22 "But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

NRS  Luke 11:22 But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder.

YLT  Luke 11:22 but when the stronger than he, having come upon him, may overcome him, his whole-armour he doth take away in which he had trusted, and his spoils he distributeth;

NAB  Luke 11:22 But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

NJB  Luke 11:22 but when someone stronger than himself attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

GWN  Luke 11:22 But a stronger man than he may attack him and defeat him. Then the stronger man will take away all the weapons in which the strong man trusted and will divide the loot.

BBE  Luke 11:22 But when one who is stronger makes an attack on him and overcomes him, he takes away his instruments of war, in which he had put his faith, and makes division of his goods.


But - The contrast here is the strong man of Lk 11:21 and that man is Satan. This contrast will show the dramatic difference between the creature Satan and the Creator Christ, Who is stronger than the "strong man" Satan. 

When someone stronger (ischuros) than he attacks him and overpowers him - Literally “the One stronger than he.” This is clearly an allusion, a prophecy if you will, by Jesus of His soon to be accomplished victory over Satan and the Kingdom of darkness. Every casting out of a demon was like a "preview" of the main feature so to speak! Jesus' death was in the eyes of the world His greatest point of weakness, but He was in fact at His strongest as He bore the sin of the world, was buried and rose victorious from the grave crushing the power of Satan once and for all. Hallelujah! John the Baptist referred to our Lord as "One is coming who is mightier (same word used here ischuros)" (Mark 1:7+, Luke 3:16+)

THOUGHT - "Not only during the trials of life but surely also at the approach of death it is a great comfort to know that Christ, symbolized by “SOMEONE STRONGER" has conquered Satan. Therefore Ro 8:31–39+ applies." (Hendriksen - BNTC: Lk)

Overpowers (conquer) (3528)(nikao) means to conquer, to be victorious or to prevail in the face of obstacles. Satan's kingdom presents obstacles such as the scribes who opposed Jesus, but Jesus overpowers them with His pristine perfect logic. And because He has overcome, all of His brethren are now overcomers in Him even as He promised the first disciples "You are from God, little children, and have overcome (nikao) them; because greater is He Who is in you (CHRIST AND HIS SPIRIT) than he who is in the world (SATAN AND HIS EMISSARIES)." (1 Jn 4:4+) " For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome (nikao) the world–our faith." (1 Jn 5:4+) Now we need to bask in and believe His Word for He declared "These things I have spoken to you, so that (PURPOSE CLAUSE) in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome (nikao) the world.” (Jn 16:33)  Overcome describes the quality of a true saint who may stumble and fall but who God always picks up and he continues onward and upward in the power and motivation of the victory Christ has won for us on the Cross.

THOUGHT - Paul uses a derivative of nikao in Ro 8:37KJV+ declaring "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer (hupernikao) through Him who loved us." This is our lot in this life beloved. Are you living in light of this great truth? If not confess, repent and be filled with all powerful Spirit Who Alone can enable this quality of "overcoming life," which is the will of God for all of His children in Christ! 

Several passages describe SOMEONE STRONGER overpowering the STRONG MAN...

Satan's defeat was prophesied immediately after his greatest victory in deceiving Adam and Eve and resulting in their sin against God and mankind's spiritual death - "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He (Messiah) shall bruise you (Serpent - Satan) on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”  (Ge 3:15+)

The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God (SOMEONE STRONGER) appeared for this purpose, to destroy (luo) the works of the devil (THE STRONG MAN). (1 John 3:8+)

Therefore, "since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself (JESUS) likewise also partook of the same, that through death (THE CROSS) He might render powerless (katargeo) him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (diabolos), and might free (apallasso) those who through fear of death were subject (enochos) to slavery (douleia) all their lives." (Heb 2:14-15+) "Hallelujah!"

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed (apekduomai)(CF "ATTACKS AND OVERPOWERS") the rulers and authorities (THE "STRONG MAN" - SATAN AND DEMONIC HORDES), He made a public display of them, having triumphed over (thriambeuo) them through Him.  (Col 2:13-15+)

He takes away (airo) from him all his armor (panoplia) on which he had relied and distributes his plunder - "Christ is the stronger man who attacks the devil and overpowers him. As Paul puts it, at the cross Christ “disarmed the rulers and authorities” and triumphed over them (Col. 2:15+). What no mere man could do, Jesus Christ did in His death and resurrection. Satan is now a defeated foe, although he is still allowed to reign until his being bound at the second coming of Christ. This means that Jesus Christ is the only one powerful enough to save a soul from Satan’s dominion and power. Men cannot do it by their own will power or moral reformation. Even though men can get free of problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, or even so-called “sexual addiction,” through self-help programs, this is not the same as salvation from sin and Satan. The focus of those programs is never the glory of God, but rather, the happiness of self. Satan is not unhappy if a drunk becomes sober and still goes to hell. What that sinner and every sinner needs is the deliverance that only Jesus Christ can give. As John Calvin put it, “Let us ... learn that, as we are all subject to the tyranny of Satan, there is no other way in which [God] commences his reign within us, than when he rescues us, by the powerful and victorious arm of Christ, from that wretched and accursed bondage” (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], “Harmony of the Evangelists,” 2:72-73)." (Steven Cole) 

Bock on plunder (skulon or spoils) - The spoils in these texts are the benefits of salvation distributed to those who have been redeemed. (Ibid)

Ryle on plunder (KJV = "divideth the spoils") - He takes possession of the affections and intellectual capacities, over which the devil once exercised dominion, and uses them for His own glory. Ford quotes a saying of Bishop Reynolds: “God maketh use of that art, wealth, power, learning, wisdom, intellect, which Satan used against Christ’s kingdom, as instruments and ornaments unto the Gospel; as, when a magazine in war is taken, the General makes use of those arms, which were provided against him, for his own service.”

One is reminded of a phrase in Isaiah 53:12+ describing one of the effects of Christ's Crucifixion - "Therefore, I will allot Him (MESSIAH) a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors." (See also Isaiah 49:25-26).

Distributes (1239)(diadidomi from dia = transition, dispersion + didomi = to give) literally is to deliver through and means to give out, assign, distribute, dispense, allot, give out especially hand to hand in succession, " apportion among various parties" (BDAG).  Used 4x in NT - Lk. 11:22; Lk. 18:22; Jn. 6:11; Acts 4:35

J C Ryle - Let us observe in these verses what a fearful picture our Lord draws of Satan’s power. There are four points in His description, which are peculiarly instructive. Christ speaks of Satan as a “strong man.” The strength of Satan has been only too well proved by his victories over the souls of men. He who tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God, and brought sin into the world,—he who has led captive the vast majority of mankind, and robbed them of heaven; that evil one is indeed a mighty foe. He who is called the “Prince of this world,” is not an enemy to be despised. The devil is very strong.

Christ speaks of Satan as a “strong man, armed.” Satan is well supplied with defensive armor. He is not to be overcome by slight assaults, and feeble exertions. He that would overcome him must put forth all his strength. “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”—And Satan is also well supplied with offensive weapons. He is never at a loss for means to injure the soul of man. He has snares of every kind, and engines of every description. He knows exactly how every rank, and class, and age, and nation, and people can be assailed with most advantage. The devil is well armed.

Christ speaks of man’s heart as being Satan’s “palace.” The natural heart is the favorite abode of the evil one, and all its faculties and powers are his servants, and do his will. He sits upon the throne which God ought to occupy, and governs the inward man. The devil is the “spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Ephes. 2:2.)

Christ speaks of Satan’s “goods being at peace.” So long as a man is dead in trespasses and sin, so long his heart is at ease about spiritual things. He has no fear about the future. He has no anxiety about his soul. He has no dread of falling into hell. All this is a false peace no doubt. It is a sleep which cannot last, and from which there must be one day an awful waking. But there is such a peace beyond question. Thoughtless, stolid, reckless insensibility about eternal things is one of the worst symptoms of the devil reigning over a man’s soul.

Let us never think lightly of the devil. That common practice of idle jesting about Satan which we may often mark in the world, is a great evil. A prisoner must be a very hardened man who jests about the executioner and the gallows. The heart must be in a very bad state, when a man can talk with levity about hell and the devil.
Let us thank God that there is One who is stronger even than Satan. That One is the Friend of sinners, Jesus the Son of God. Mighty as the devil is, he was overcome by Jesus on the cross, when He triumphed over him openly. Strong as the devil is, Christ can pluck his captives out of his hands, and break the chains which bind them. May we never rest till we know that deliverance by experience, and have been set free by the Son of God!

Luke 11:23  "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.

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

GNT  Luke 11:23 ὁ μὴ ὢν μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ κατ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ ὁ μὴ συνάγων μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ σκορπίζει.

NLT  Luke 11:23 "Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me.

KJV  Luke 11:23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

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

NIV  Luke 11:23 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.

ASV  Luke 11:23 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

CSB  Luke 11:23 Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.

NKJ  Luke 11:23 "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

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

YLT  Luke 11:23 he who is not with me is against me, and he who is not gathering with me doth scatter.

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

NJB  Luke 11:23 'Anyone who is not with me is against me; and anyone who does not gather in with me throws away.

GWN  Luke 11:23 "Whoever isn't with me is against me. Whoever doesn't gather with me scatters.

BBE  Luke 11:23 He who is not with me is against me, and he who will not give me help in getting people together is driving them away.

NAS  Luke 11:23 "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.


Jesus' ministry and specifically in the present context the irrefutable evidence of His power over the kingdom of darkness demands a decision. The only two possible conclusions are that either Jesus comes from God or He does not. And not to believe that Jesus cast out demons by the power of God and not to align with Him is in effect aligning against Him. We cannot be neutral like Switzerland was during World War II. You cannot be a disinterested bystander! There is no neutrality in this war between Jesus' kingdom of light and Satan's kingdom of darkness. This is the opposite principle from what is stated in Lk 9:50.

As Darrell Bock quips "There are no Switzerlands in this cosmic war! Jesus says that neutrality to him is opposition to him. To decide for God, one must decide for Jesus. In a cosmic war there are no spectators; everyone lines up on one side or the other. The implication is to be careful which side you choose. The miracles not only make a statement about Jesus’ authority; they ask a question about our response." (Ibid)

Deffinbaugh observes that "In football, lining up in the neutral zone is an offense. In life, many seem to think that neutrality is a virtue. In the Bible, neutrality toward the person of Christ is offensive to God. In Lk 11:24-26 Luke will inform his reader that neutrality toward Jesus is also dangerous....Neutrality about the person of Jesus is no virtue, it is a vice, and indeed it invites Satanic involvement, and it leads to a latter state that is worse than the former. Are those who attribute Jesus’ power to Satan His enemies, those who live dangerously? So, too, are those who think they can remain neutral concerning Him, for those who are not for Him are against Him." (Evidence that Produced Various Verdicts Luke 11:14-36

The upshot of Jesus' clear teaching on two kingdoms and two rulers is that Jesus' hearers (and readers) must make a choice of their will to follow Jesus and enter God's Kingdom to follow Satan and his demons and remain in the kingdom of darkness. 

Luke explains how this "choice" is made. It is choice that is empowered by the Spirit of God and the Gospel of God "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me." (Acts 26:18+

Ascribed to several different authors are the lines:
    In things essential unity;
    In doubtful things liberty;
    In all things charity.
In all essential matters—those touching the basics of the Christian faith—a firm and united stand is required. There must be no attempt at compromise. (Hendriksen)

He who is not with Me is against Me - This is a clear statement that there are only two options in this one life. You are either for Jesus or against Jesus. You cannot straddle the fence, for Jesus did not leave that as an option. Plainly stated, if you are not a follower of Jesus, then by "default" you are a follower of Satan! Satan is your master, not Jesus. You may not be in a "Satanic Cult" but you still owe your allegiance to Satan whether you realize it or not! 

There is no place for neutrality in the battle between light and dark!
To be undecided is to be decided!

THOUGHT - Have you decided? Are you for Christ? If not you are against Him and more fearful, HE IS AGAINST YOU! If you have decided for Christ celebrate by playing I Have Decided. Or Michael Card's version I Have Decided. See story on I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

Ryle on He that is not with me is against me - This is a general truth concerning all waverers, and doubters, and half-hearted, and excuse-making people, of whom no doubt there were many among our Lord’s hearers. They argue that our Lord is exposing the awful danger of many of His Jewish hearers, who had been a little roused by John the Baptist, and seemed likely to receive Christ when He appeared. And yet, when He did appear, they hung back and affected to be troubled with doubts, and so continued neutral and undecided.—This opinion appears to me by far the most probable, and is confirmed by the passage which immediately follows. The sentence is directed against undecided Jews, who were like the man from whom the unclean spirit had gone forth. Their hesitating neutrality was a most dangerous position. Their last end was likely to be worse than their first. 

NET Note - Whoever is not with me is against me. The call here is to join the victor. Failure to do so means that one is being destructive. Responding to Jesus is the issue.

MacArthur "It is not necessary to oppose Christ in order to be against Him; it is only necessary not to be with Him. Nor is it necessary to actively interfere with His work in order to be one who scatters; it is only necessary to not gather with Him. The person who does not belong to God is the enemy of God (Rom. 5:10); the person who is not a child of God through Christ is a rebel against God."

He who does not gather with Me, scatters - NLT has "anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me." For the image of scattering, see Psalm of Solomon 17:18 = "They that loved the synagogues of the pious fled from them, As sparrows that fly from their nest."

Scatters (present tense - continually)(4650)(skorpizo) means scatter or disperse, to cause a group or gathering to go in various directions, scatter, disperse. It is the opposite sunago (gather). It is used as a metaphor drawn from seed sowing, for what one does to help those in need distribute, disperse, give generously ( 2Co 9.9)

Thayer - (probably from the root, skarp, ‘to cut asunder,’ ‘cut to pieces’; akin is σκορπιος; cf. Latin scalpere, scrobs, etc.; Fick 1:240; 3:811, etc.)); “to scatter”: ὁλυκος σκορπιζει τα προβατα, John 10:12; ὁμην συναγων μετ’ εμου σκορπιζει, Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23 (this proverb is taken from a flock — to which the body of Christ’s followers is likened (others regard the proverb as borrowed from agriculture); συναγει τους εσκορπισμενους το οργανον (i.e. a trumpet), Artemidorus Daldianus, oneir. 1, 56 at the beginning); τινα, in the passive, of those who, routed or terror stricken or driven by some other impulse, fly in every direction: followed by εις with the accusative of place, John 16:32 (cf. Winer’s Grammar, 516 (481)) (1 Macc. 6:54; φοβηθεντες εκορπισθησαν, Plutarch, Timol. 4; add, Josephus, Antiquities 6, 6, 3). equivalent to “to scatter abroad” (what others may collect for themselves), of one dispensing blessings liberally: 2 Corinthians 9:9 from Psalm 111:9 (Psalm 112:9) (cf. Winer’s Grammar, 469 (437)). (According to Phrynichus the word was used by Hecataeus; it was also used — in addition to the writings already cited — by Strabo 4, p. 198; Lucian, asin. 32; Aelian v. h. 13, 45 (here διεσκορπιζω (edited by Hercher); λογους (cf. Latin spargere rumores), Josephus, Antiquities 16, 1, 2); cf. Lob. ad Phryn (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament)

In Hellenistic Greek skorpizō is used in one case to describe the scattering of materials hastily built into a dam which was struck by a violent flood

TDNT - skorpízō means “to scatter,” “to disperse,” “to divide.” In the LXX it has much the same sense as diaspeírein (diasporá). It is used in the OT for God’s judgment on enemies (2 Sa 22:15). The Egyptians are scattered according to Wis. 17:3. The judgment on Jerusalem in Ezek. 5:1ff. includes scattering as well as fire and sword. The sheep will be scattered when the shepherd is smitten in Zech. 13:7ff.

Skorpizo - 5x in 5v - scattered(2), scatters(3). Matt. 12:30; Lk. 11:23; Jn. 10:12; Jn. 16:32; 2 Co. 9:9 Skorpizo - 9x in Septuagint (Lxx) - 2 Sa 22:15; Neh. 4:19; Job 39:15; Ps. 18:14; Ps. 112:9; Ps. 144:6; Ezek. 5:12; Hab. 3:10; Mal. 2:3; 

J C Ryle - Let us observe, for another thing, in these verses, how strongly our Lord teaches the impossibility of neutrality. He says, “he that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”

The principle laid down in these words should be constantly remembered by all who make any profession of decided religion. We all naturally love an easy Christianity. We dislike collisions and separation. We like, if possible, to keep in with both sides. We fear extremes. We dread being righteous overmuch. We are anxious not to go too far.—Such thoughts as these are full of peril to the soul. Once allowed to get the upper hand, they may do us immense harm. Nothing is so offensive to Christ as lukewarmness in religion. To be utterly dead and ignorant, is to be an object of pity as well as blame. But to know the truth and yet “halt between two opinions,” is one of the chiefest of sins.

Let it be the settled determination of our minds that we will serve Christ with all our hearts, if we serve Him at all. Let there be no reserve, no compromise, no half-heartedness, no attempt to reconcile God and mammon in our Christianity. Let us resolve, by God’s help, to be “with Christ,” and “gather” by Christ’s side, and allow the world to say and do what it will.—It may cost us something at first. It will certainly repay us in the long run. Without decision there is no happiness in religion. He that follows Jesus most fully, will always follow Him most comfortably.—Without decision in religion, there is no usefulness to others. The half-hearted Christian attracts none by the beauty of his life, and wins no respect from the world.

Luke 11:24  "When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'

NET  Luke 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.'

GNT  Luke 11:24 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·

NLT  Luke 11:24 "When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, 'I will return to the person I came from.'

KJV  Luke 11:24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.

ESV  Luke 11:24 "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'

NIV  Luke 11:24 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.'

ASV  Luke 11:24 The unclean spirit when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none, he saith, I will turn back unto my house whence I came out.

CSB  Luke 11:24 "When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest, and not finding rest, it then says, 'I'll go back to my house where I came from.'

NKJ  Luke 11:24 "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says,`I will return to my house from which I came.'

NRS  Luke 11:24 "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'

YLT  Luke 11:24 'When the unclean spirit may go forth from the man it walketh through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding, it saith, I will turn back to my house whence I came forth;

NAB  Luke 11:24 "When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, 'I shall return to my home from which I came.'

NJB  Luke 11:24 'When an unclean spirit goes out of someone it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, "I will go back to the home I came from."

GWN  Luke 11:24 "When an evil spirit comes out of a person, it goes through dry places looking for a place to rest. But it doesn't find any. Then it says, 'I'll go back to the home I left.'

BBE  Luke 11:24 The unclean spirit, when he has gone out of a man, goes through dry places, looking for rest; and when he does not get it, he says, I will go back to my house from which I came.

  • When the unclean spirit goes out of a man Mt 12:43-45
  • it passes Job 1:7; 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8
  • through waterless placesJudges 6:37-40; Ps 63:1; Isa 35:1,2,7; 41:17-19; 44:3; Ezekiel 47:8-11; Eph 2:2
  • seeking rest  Pr 4:16; Isa 48:22; 57:20,21
  • 'I will return to my house from which I came  Mark 5:10; 9:25
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:24-28 The Danger of Moral Reformation - John MacArthur

When the unclean spirit goes out of a man - This speaks of a man exorcised of a demon (unclean spirit). For unclean spirit see Luke 4:33-note.

Hughes warns that "A person reading this short passage might conclude that the most important aspect of ministry is casting out demons. Although this theme is present, deliverance from the power of Satan is not enough. Our lives also must be filled with the power and presence of the Spirit, who indwells us. Life must not be left empty." (The Spirit-Anointed Jesus: A Study of the Gospel of Luke)

Unclean (169)(akathartos from a = without + kathaíro = cleanse from katharos = clean, pure, free from the adhesion of anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts, in an ethical sense, free from corrupt desire, sin, and guilt) (See study of related word akatharsia) in a moral sense refers to that which is unclean in thought, word, and deed. It can describe a state of moral impurity, especially sexual sin and the word foul is an excellent rendering. The idea is that which morally indecent or filthy. It is not surprising that as noted below this word is repeatedly applied to filthy demonic spirits in the Gospels. The related term akatharsia refers to filth or refuse! Now with this description ponder for a moment the true nature of demonic activity - foul, filth, refuse. One cannot help but think of the moral filth and refuse which is now easily found on countless internet pornography sites, which undoubtedly are a reflection of filthy, unclean demonic spirits possessing and influencing the lost, deceived perveyors of this immoral trash! O God, deliver your pristine Bride, especially the believing men therein, from the evil addictive power of these internet sites which are too horrible to even speak about! Amen (cf Ps 101:3 where "fasten grip" = Hebrew dabaq = "stick like glue!" Beware!)

Unclean spirits is a term used 23x in the NT, mostly in the Gospels:

Zech. 13:2; Matt. 10:1; Matt. 12:43; Mk. 1:23; Mk. 1:26; Mk. 1:27; Mk. 3:11; Mk. 3:30; Mk. 5:2; Mk. 5:8; Mk. 5:13; Mk. 6:7; Mk. 7:25; Mk. 9:25; Lk. 4:36; Lk. 6:18; Lk. 8:29; Lk. 9:42; Lk. 11:24; Acts 5:16; Acts 8:7; Rev. 16:13; Rev. 18:2

It passes through waterless places seeking rest - The demon sought "rest" in dry, arid places.

MacArthur on waterless places  - It says in verse 24 that this demon passes through waterless places seeking rest.  Now that's metaphoric.  Since demons are spirit, they don't need water.  It's simply a metaphor for the barrenness of a demon floating around in the nether world, floating around in the spirit world.  They do their work through people....And here is this demon, who leaves because of some moral change and wanders aimlessly in the spiritual realm with no person through whom to work his diabolical work.  To be in that existence outside someone is like being in a barren desert for a demon. It's like being in a waterless place.  It's a restless, distressing situation.(Luke 11:24-28 The Danger of Moral Reformation)

And not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came - The demon concludes the first house, the man from whom he was exorcised, was the better place and determines to return. This refers to demon possession of the person, because the person is the demon's "house" so to speak.

Steven Cole - Jesus goes on (Luke 11:24-26) to illustrate what happens to the man who tries to be neutral: It doesn’t work. Perhaps the man has experienced a moral reformation, either through the Jewish exorcists or through his own will power and determination. The demon that he struggled against for years has left him. As Matthew Henry (p. 697) describes it, Satan gives order to his troops to retreat temporarily in order to draw the deluded soul into an ambush. At first, it is wonderful! The man sweeps up the dirt from his soul and feels a sense of order and peace that he never felt when he was in bondage to his former sins. But, meanwhile, the departed demon is restless. Passing through waterless places is a metaphorical expression that “denotes that to dwell out of men is to him a wretched banishment, and resembles a barren wilderness” (Calvin, p. 84). The demon is not a happy camper until he moves back in. So, he goes and finds seven other demons more evil than himself and they move in. “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
What are we to learn from this illustration? J. C. Ryle says it well: “Let us observe ... how dangerous it is to be content with any change in religion short of thorough conversion to God” (p. 25). Jesus’ words “are a solemn warning to us, never to be satisfied with religious reformation without heart conversion” (p. 26). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, “we must always remember that there are other powers, beside that of Christ, which can give ‘results.’ ... It is possible for men and women to get relief from many of their ills and troubles apart altogether from the gospel” (Evangelistic Sermons [Banner of Truth], p. 179).
This is especially important in our day when truth and doctrine are set aside as of no consequence. We don’t really care about doctrine. We want to know, does it work? What will the gospel do for me? Will it help my troubled marriage? If not, I’ll go to the world if it will get me some results. I had a church member ask me, “If my wife finds help by counseling with a Hindu psychiatrist, what’s wrong with that?” I didn’t say this in reply, but later I thought that I should have said, “If she got relief by sacrificing a chicken to Satan, would that be okay?”

Luke 11:25  "And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.

NET  Luke 11:25 When it returns, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.

GNT  Luke 11:25 καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον.

NLT  Luke 11:25 So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order.

KJV  Luke 11:25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.

ESV  Luke 11:25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.

NIV  Luke 11:25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.

ASV  Luke 11:25 And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished.

CSB  Luke 11:25 And returning, it finds the house swept and put in order.

NKJ  Luke 11:25 "And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.

NRS  Luke 11:25 When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.

YLT  Luke 11:25 and having come, it findeth it swept and adorned;

NAB  Luke 11:25 But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.

NJB  Luke 11:25 But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied,

GWN  Luke 11:25 When it comes, it finds the house swept clean and in order.

BBE  Luke 11:25 And when he comes, he sees that it has been made fair and clean.


The parallel passage in Mt 12:44 adds one phrase (see bold words below)

“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house (NOTE THE DEMON SEE THE PERSON AS HIS POSSESSION!) from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.

Comment: The only way to absolutely assure that one won't be seen by a demon as his "possession" is to be "possessed" by Jesus Christ. Titus 2:14-note says Jesus "gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (cf 1 Peter 2:9-note) In short "swept and unoccupied" is the problem with morality because the moral man's heart is empty. Only Jesus can fill his heart and thereby prevent a worse situation ("more evil" - Lk 11:26). 

And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order - Swept and put in order describes the person as ostensibly in "good shape" but the problem is his "spiritual house" is empty and the strong man's henchmen can return. And so the demon returns to possess the man again. How is this possible? Clearly it is possible is the man does not have the Spirit of Jesus dwelling within him (I realize that this did not routinely happen to believers until after Pentecost when all received the indwelling Spirit). Presumably even before the giving of the Spirit if one truly was born again they would be in effect "immune" from demonic possession. 

Swept (4563)(saroo) mans to sweep by using a broom. The verb is used by Matthew in the parallel passage (Mt 12:44) and also by Luke in his description of the woman who sweeps the house to search for her ten silver coins (Lk 15:8-note). There are no uses in the Septuagint. In classic Greek writings saroo has a metaphoric meaning of “exhausted.” (Liddell-Scott).

Hendriksen on one whose "house" is put in order -  “I don’t smoke; I don’t drink; I don’t swear. Hallelujah, I’m a Christian.” If a telephone pole could talk, it might say the same thing. But a series of zeros does not make a Christian. A million negatives do not produce even one positive. We pity the man with an empty mind. But what about the person with an empty heart … and an empty life? (Baker NTC: Luke)

Put in order (2885) (kosmeo from kosmos = adorning or order, ornament, decoration, adornment -- this root word gives us our English cosmetic something women use to "adorn" their face and make themselves more physically attractive) speaks of that which is to put in order. To make congruous, fitting or orderly. To decorate. To embellish (to make beautiful with ornamentation; to heighten the attractiveness of by adding decorative details)  Kosmeo conveys the idea of arranging something in proper order so as to give it symmetry, comeliness, and beauty.

Kosmeo depicts one who looks good on the outside but is filled with rottenness on the inside! What this man needed was not reformation (put in order) but regeneration (a brand new "house" so to speak). 

As MacArthur asks "Do you know what moral rearmament will do for you?  Do you know what moral reformation will do for you?  It will kick open a double door for the demons to come in.  This is a frightening reality, folks.  One demon went out and eight came back.  We're talking here about a very religious person.  We're talking here about a person who cleans up his act.  By the way, this is almost identical to the parable that Jesus told in the very similar account in Matthew 12.  There, Matthew 12:43-45, the similar discussion months earlier in Galilee.  The main point is this, moral reformation is dangerous.  Morality without salvation is frightening. (Luke 11:24-28 The Danger of Moral Reformation)

John MacArthur has an interesting application of Jesus' teaching to a prevalent mindset among many in America today - True Christians rightly decried the abandonment of the saving gospel for the social gospel by the liberal mainline denominations in the previous century. Yet the emphasis among current professing believers on restoring public morality amounts to nothing more than a form of neo-liberalism. Once again the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is being set aside in favor of a different, non-saving message. Albert Mohler defines moralism as “the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior” (“Why Moralism Is Not the Gospel—And Why So Many Christians Think It Is”). It is a false gospel and hence under the condemnation of God (Gal. 1:8–9). Dr. Mohler goes on to note that "Moralism … promises the favor of God and the satisfaction of God’s righteousness to sinners if they will only behave and commit themselves to moral improvement … we sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. (ibid.) He then concludes by noting the sharp contrast between the saving Gospel and moralism: “Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God” (ibid). Moralism was never the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Old Testament prophets, or the New Testament apostles. On the contrary, Jesus reserved His most scathing denunciations for the outwardly moral scribes and Pharisees, characterizing them as hypocrites, destined for eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 23; Luke 11:37–54). Improving a nation’s morality, like bodily discipline, does have the limited temporal value of making life safer and more peaceful. But making a society more moral will not and cannot bring God’s blessing, which comes only from true godliness (1 Tim. 4:8). A more outwardly moral society will not escape the same divine judgment that falls on perverted killers, any more than Pharisaic Judaism in Jesus’ time escaped the devastating judgment of God in A.D. 70 and the eternal hell that followed. There is only one reality that God blesses—penitent saving faith in and love for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is not to say, of course, that Christians should not at all times hate evil and in all places oppose wickedness in every form. The issue is whether we are to carry out that effort by pursuing societal moralism through human effort, or by preaching personal salvation through the power of God. (For more in depth discussion read Dr MacArthur's interesting message wherein he gives 15 dangers of promoting cultural morality without regeneration of heartsLuke 11:24-28 The Danger of Moral Reformation)

Here is the question that relates to this passage - Can a Christian be demon possessed? Can a Christian be demonized?

While the Bible does not explicitly state whether a Christian can be possessed by a demon, related biblical truths make it abundantly clear that Christians cannot be demon possessed. There is a distinct difference between being possessed by a demon and being oppressed or influenced by a demon. Demon possession involves a demon having direct/complete control over the thoughts and/or actions of a person (Matthew 17:14-18; Luke 4:33-35; 8:27-33). Demon oppression or influence involves a demon or demons attacking a person spiritually and/or encouraging him/her into sinful behavior. Notice that in all the New Testament passages dealing with spiritual warfare, there are no instructions to cast a demon out of a believer (Ephesians 6:10-18). Believers are told to resist the devil (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9), not to cast him out. Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). Surely the Holy Spirit would not allow a demon to possess the same person He is indwelling. It is unthinkable that God would allow one of His children, whom He purchased with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19) and made into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), to be possessed and controlled by a demon. Yes, as believers, we wage war with Satan and his demons, but not from within ourselves. The apostle John declares, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Who is the One in us? The Holy Spirit. Who is the one in the world? Satan and his demons. Therefore, the believer has overcome the world of demons, and the case for demon possession of a believer cannot be made scripturally. With the strong biblical evidence that a Christian cannot be demon possessed in view, some Bible teachers use the term “demonization” to refer to a demon having control over a Christian. Some argue that while a Christian cannot be demon possessed, a Christian can be demonized. Typically, the description of demonization is virtually identical to the description of demon possession. So, the same issue results. Changing the terminology does not change the fact that a demon cannot inhabit or take full control of a Christian. Demonic influence and oppression are realities for Christians, no doubt, but it is simply not biblical to say that a Christian can be possessed by a demon or demonized. Much of the reasoning behind the demonization concept is the personal experience of seeing someone who was “definitely” a Christian exhibiting evidence of being controlled by a demon. It is crucially important, though, that we do not allow personal experience to influence our interpretation of Scripture. Rather, we must filter our personal experiences through the truth of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Seeing someone whom we thought to be a Christian exhibiting the behavior of being demonized should cause us to question the genuineness of his/her faith (Ed: That is he/she might be a professor but not a possessor of genuine salvation in Christ). It should not cause us alter our viewpoint on whether a Christian can be demon possessed / demonized. Perhaps the person truly is a Christian but is severely demon oppressed and/or suffering from severe psychological problems. But again, our experiences must meet the test of Scripture, not the other way around.

Steven Cole - Jesus goes on (Lk 11:24-26) to illustrate what happens to the man who tries to be neutral: It doesn’t work. Perhaps the man has experienced a moral reformation, either through the Jewish exorcists or through his own will power and determination. The demon that he struggled against for years has left him. As Matthew Henry (p. 697) describes it, Satan gives order to his troops to retreat temporarily in order to draw the deluded soul into an ambush. At first, it is wonderful! The man sweeps up the dirt from his soul and feels a sense of order and peace that he never felt when he was in bondage to his former sins. But, meanwhile, the departed demon is restless. Passing through waterless places is a metaphorical expression that “denotes that to dwell out of men is to him a wretched banishment, and resembles a barren wilderness” (Calvin, p. 84). The demon is not a happy camper until he moves back in. So, he goes and finds seven other demons more evil than himself and they move in. “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” What are we to learn from this illustration? J. C. Ryle says it well: “Let us observe ... how dangerous it is to be content with any change in religion short of thorough conversion to God” (p. 25). Jesus’ words “are a solemn warning to us, never to be satisfied with religious reformation without heart conversion” (p. 26). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, “we must always remember that there are other powers, beside that of Christ, which can give ‘results.’ ... It is possible for men and women to get relief from many of their ills and troubles apart altogether from the gospel” (Evangelistic Sermons [Banner of Truth], p. 179). This is especially important in our day when truth and doctrine are set aside as of no consequence. We don’t really care about doctrine. We want to know, does it work? What will the gospel do for me? Will it help my troubled marriage? If not, I’ll go to the world if it will get me some results. I had a church member ask me, “If my wife finds help by counseling with a Hindu psychiatrist, what’s wrong with that?” I didn’t say this in reply, but later I thought that I should have said, “If she got relief by sacrificing a chicken to Satan, would that be okay?”

Luke 11:26  "Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."

NET  Luke 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." 

GNT  Luke 11:26 τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ· καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων.

NLT  Luke 11:26 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before."

KJV  Luke 11:26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

ESV  Luke 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first."

NIV  Luke 11:26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first."

ASV  Luke 11:26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more evil than himself; and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first.

CSB  Luke 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man's last condition is worse than the first."

NKJ  Luke 11:26 "Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

NRS  Luke 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first."

YLT  Luke 11:26 then doth it go, and take to it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and having entered, they dwell there, and the last of that man becometh worst than the first.'

NAB  Luke 11:26 Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first."

NJB  Luke 11:26 it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, and so that person ends up worse off than before.'

GWN  Luke 11:26 Then the spirit goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself. They enter and take up permanent residence there. In the end the condition of that person is worse than it was before."

BBE  Luke 11:26 Then he goes and gets seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they go in, and take their places there: and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.


Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there - Now the man is possessed by even more demons, more evil than the one originally exorcised. In other words, to fail to respond is to risk a worse fate than when one started. 

It is not enough to turn over a new leaf!
We need to be a new creation! (2 Cor 5:17+)

The last state of that man becomes worse than the first - Worse because of more demons of an even more evil character. Notice Jesus is teaching that while all demons are evil, some are characterized by an even greater degree of evil! "Not to advance means to retreat. There is no standing still." (Hendriksen) Phillips adds that "The Bible gives examples of multiple demon possession, including Mary Magdalene and the Gadarene demoniac. Even when evil spirits are expelled, unless the Holy Spirit comes in, the unfortunate host can be repossessed. One obvious lesson from all of this is the hopelessness of reformation apart from regeneration." (Exploring Luke) John MacArthur warns of the deceitful condition of reformation without regeneration warning that "There really is no more serious danger than the danger of morality. It’s like the leper with no sense of pain. Such a person destroys himself without knowing it. Leprosy is a nerve disease that obliterates feeling. And lepers rub off their fingers and rub off their feet and rub off their faces because they can’t feel anything. This is the deadly danger of morality. So to attempt to clean your life up without Christ coming to dwell there is to be exposed to an even greater danger. That statement, “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first,” is very definitive. In the end, being moral is more dangerous than being immoral. There is no benefit in reformation without regeneration."  (The Danger of Moral Reformation)

Arrington adds that "After the man's deliverance from the evil spirit, he continues to live apart from God. The Holy Spirit does not occupy his heart. In other words, deliverance from the power of evil is not enough. The heart must be filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Getting rid of an evil spirit never means we are immune to Satan's assaults. Satan is persistent, and unless our hearts are filled with God, the outcome can be tragic. (The Spirit-Anointed Jesus: A Study of the Gospel of Luke)

Jesus spoke of this same spiritual dynamic in Matthew 23 declaring "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."  (Mt 23:15) Why twice as much a son of hell? Because the proselyte becomes more fanatical for self-righteous works than the teacher. 

Peter describes this deceptive spiritual dynamic writing about the false teachers (2 Pe 2:1-2) "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (CLEARLY THEY WERE NOT BORN AGAIN), they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22+) In a sense they have reached a state of self-deceit from which they can never be saved. 

Life Application Study Bible - Our desire to reform often does not last long. In Israel's history, almost as soon as a good king would pull down idols, a bad king would set them up again. It is not enough to be emptied of evil; we must then be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's new purpose in our life (see also Matthew 12:43-45; Galatians 5:22).

MacArthur emphasizes the danger of morality writing  "The church’s message can never be morality. Jesus’ message was never morality. Morality makes people double sons of hell. Morality kicks the door wide open for more demons. Morality makes the last state worse than the first. Let me say this to you, and it may shock you that I say it, it is better to be immoral than moral without Christ. It is better to be irreligious than religious without Christ. Because morality and religion are a seduction. Morality and religion give the deception of all is well with God when it is not. Morality and religion is a soul numbing deception. As long as a person believes he is immoral, he can be saved, right? It’s when a person believes he’s moral, doesn’t need a Savior. As long as a person knows he’s irreligious, he’s iniquitous, he’s wretched, he is in a position to be delivered. When a person comes to believe in his own righteousness, he is not redeemable. It was never the immoral people, by the way, that blasphemed Jesus!...Moral people, religious people are self-congratulatory, they are self-righteous, they’re confident in their own holiness, in their own morality. They are utterly deceived into believing that they have been delivered form the powers of Satan because they live moral lives. And the truth of the matter is they may be more infested with demons than a prostitute or a criminal. Moral people tend to have no vigilance and therefore no protection." (The Danger of Moral Reformation)

Deffinbaugh explains "If Jesus is more powerful than Satan, which His last argument has shown, man is not. Man is not able, in and of himself, to resist Satan. The man who is possessed by a demon can, Jesus said, be re-possessed. The only power that can keep the demons out of a man is the power of the One who is able to deliver that man in the first place. Jesus was warning those who would attempt to remain neutral, who would not come to receive Him as their Messiah and to obey His commandments, that neutrality toward Messiah is hospitality toward the hostile forces of Satan. It is no blessing for men to be exorcised, rid of demon-possession if men do not have the person of God dwelling within. Just as man is unable to rid himself of a demonic inhabitant, neither is he able to keep an exorcised demon from returning. Jesus must not only be believed in as Messiah, He must also be received into one’s life, lest Satan only return in greater force." (Evidence that Produced Various Verdicts Luke 11:14-36) (Bolding added)

J C Ryle - Let us observe, finally, in these verses, how dangerous it is to be content with any change in religion short of thorough conversion to God. This is a truth which our Lord teaches by an awful picture of one from whom a devil has been cast forth, but into whose heart the Holy Spirit has not entered. He describes the evil spirit, after his expulsion, as seeking rest and finding none.—He describes him planning a return to the heart which he once inhabited, and carrying his plan into execution.—He describes him finding that heart empty of any good, and like a house “swept and garnished” for his reception.—He describes him as entering in once more, with seven spirits worse than himself, and once more making it his abode. And He winds up all by the solemn saying, “the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

We must feel in reading these fearful words, that Jesus is speaking of things which we faintly comprehend. He is lifting a corner of the veil which hangs over the unseen world. His words, no doubt, illustrate the state of things which existed in the Jewish nation during the time of His own ministry. But the main lesson of his words, which concerns us, is the danger of our own individual souls. They are a solemn warning to us, never to be satisfied with religious reformation without heart conversion.

There is no safety excepting in thorough Christianity To lay aside open sin is nothing, unless grace reigns in our hearts. To cease to do evil is a small matter, if we do not also learn to do well.—The house must not only be swept and whitewashed. A new tenant must be introduced, or else the leprosy may yet appear again in the walls.—The outward life must not only be garnished with the formal trappings of religion. The power of vital religion must be experienced in the inward man.—The devil must not only be cast out. The Holy Ghost must take his place. Christ must dwell in our hearts by faith. We must not only be moralized, but spiritualized. We must not only be reformed, but born again.

Let us lay these things to heart. Many professing Christians, it may be feared, are deceiving themselves. They are not what they once were, and so they flatter themselves, they are what they ought to be. They are no longer sabbath-breaking, daring sinners, and so they dream that they are Christians. They see not that they have only changed one kind of devil for another. They are governed by a decent, Pharisaic devil, instead of an audacious, riotous, unclean devil.—But the tenant within is the devil still. And their last end will be worse than their first. From such an end may we pray to be delivered! Whatever we are in religion, let us be thorough. Let us not be houses swept and garnished, but uninhabited by the Spirit. Let us not be potsherds covered with silver, fair without, but worthless within. Let our daily prayer be, “Search me, O God;—and see whether there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24.)

Luke 11:27  While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed."

KJV Luke 11:27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.


While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed - Notice the praise is for His mother and this is a compliment to Jesus. 

NET Note - Both the reference to the womb and the breasts form a figure of speech called metonymy. In this case the parts are mentioned instead of the whole; the meaning is "Blessed is your mother!" The warnings seem to have sparked a little nervousness that brought forth this response. In the culture a mother was valued for the accomplishments of her son. So this amounts to a compliment to Jesus.

Hendriksen - An emotional outburst, if rooted in truth, has its value. One must be careful, however, not to make primary that which is, after all, secondary. Note the careful manner in which Jesus corrects and completes this lady’s statement. He does so without discouraging her … a lesson for us all.(Baker NT Commentary: Luke)

Steven Cole -  The way to be on Jesus’ side is to hear the word of God and do it. As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” It is interesting that right in the context of Jesus’ teaching about demons, this woman extols Mary! She may have been well-meaning, but clearly she was misguided. She was trying to give praise to Jesus by saying, “Your mother is a woman truly blessed to have a son like you.” Of course, that was true; Mary was blessed by God to be the mother of Jesus. His response does not deny this, but He does correct the direction of this woman’s thoughts. He says in effect, “Natural family ties to Me are not the point; the point is to hear God’s Word and do it.” The person who is decidedly with Jesus doesn’t just mouth pious platitudes; rather, he hears what Jesus says and acts on it. This is not to teach salvation by works because the Word of God that we must obey clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith alone. But the Bible is also clear that saving faith is obedient faith (Rom. 15:18; 16:26). Jesus’ clear authority over demonic forces shows that He is both Savior and Lord. Therefore, each person is forced to choose sides in the heavenly war. Having heard the Word of God, we must now act on it in obedience to Jesus or else we are opposed to Him and in league with Satan. Conclusion - During that part of the Naval War College course known as Fundamentals of Command and Decision, the instructor was stressing the importance of being able to make sound decisions under pressure. A visiting officer from a small foreign navy spoke up. “Talk about decisions!” he said. “I was 700 miles out to sea in my destroyer when I received a dispatch from my base: ‘We have just had a revolution. Which side are you on?’” (Reader’s Digest [5/83].) Thankfully, our decision isn’t that difficult! We have some solid evidence to go on. We have the clear record of the gospel accounts that relate to us what Jesus said and did. William Barclay puts it this way (cited by Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 414):   Either, what Jesus said about Himself is false, in which case He is guilty of such blasphemy as no man ever dared to utter; or, what He said about Himself is true, in which case He is what He claimed to be and can be described in no other terms than the Son of God. Jesus leaves us with the definite choice-we must accept Him fully or reject Him absolutely. That is precisely why every man has to decide for or against Jesus Christ. There is a spiritual battle raging with two and only two sides. Clearly, Jesus has authority over Satan and his forces. We are on one side or the other. If you are not decisively on Jesus’ side, you are against Him. To join His side, you must believe in Him and follow Him in obedient faith.

James Rosscup comments on Lk 11:27 - Correcting a Misguided Focus -- Jesus taught about prayer (Lk 11:1–13), then about His casting out demons and showing that God is His source (Lk 11:14–26). He has just issued this teaching when a woman in the crowd cries out to Him, touting His mother’s womb for bearing Him and her breasts for nursing Him (Lk 11:27). It is time to correct values that can get so twisted (Lk 11:28). Jesus teaches what a proper sense of worth will promote as blessed. The focus will not be on His mother’s womb, but on God’s Word which is God’s source of truth. It will not tout His mother’s breasts as nursing Him, but belief in God’s Word that begets obedience to it. The woman who addresses Him needs to get her eyes on Him, not on His mother as blessed of God as she is (Lk. 1:28). God is the One who blesses, and she is a recipient, highly blessed by Him. A follow-up to this is His teaching that the generation at the time He is speaking is wicked, getting its attention on a sign it craves. The woman’s concentration, the focus of the people at large, should be on Him, the Son of Man. He Himself will be the sign by His resurrection, He being greater than Solomon in wisdom (Lk 11:31), and greater than Jonah in what He preaches (Lk 11:32). Guidelines relevant to prayer derive from this woman’s utterance to the Lord. First, it is wise to be sure the focus is on the Lord in a proper way rather than letting a flush of emotion incite one to spout off lightly. Diligence to know God’s Word aright can shape the one who speaks to Him to speak along right lines, and not need correcting. People emulate the woman in saying many careless things to the Lord out of ignorance. Second, the Lord’s graciousness in correcting what one says to Him, if the person will hear, gives new opportunity. Third, wise prayer can be shaped by giving a true place to hearing God’s Word and obeying what one learns. (An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible).

Luke 11:28  But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

KJV Luke 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.


Notice that in contrast to  moral "reformation" described in Lk 11:24-26, verse Jesus describes transformation, for only a person transformed by the Gospel of grace has the inner power to hear and observe the Word of God

Jesus is "saying it is not enough to commend Jesus, you’re not necessarily with Me just because you commend Me, just because you honor Me, just because you respect Me." (MacArthur - Luke 11:24-28 The Danger of Moral Reformation)

Jon Courson - Although this woman draws attention to His mother—a position that could be claimed by only one, Jesus redirects her attention to His family—a position available to all (John 1:12). (Courson's Application Commentary New Testament)

On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it - Jesus corrects the woman's statement by explaining that it is not hearers of the Word who are blessed but doers of the Word. He is not saying keeping the law merits God's blessing, for apart from union with Christ and filling with His Spirit, a human being can do absolutely nothing to please God when what he does emanates from his sinful, fallen flesh. The only way to observe the Word of God is to possess the indwelling Spirit, who energizes the desire and gives the power to obey the Word (see Php 2:13NLT-note). 

As Cole writes Jesus is in effect saying “Natural family ties to Me are not the point; the point is to hear God’s Word and do it.” The person who is decidedly with Jesus doesn’t just mouth pious platitudes; rather, he hears what Jesus says and acts on it. This is not to teach salvation by works because the Word of God that we must obey clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith alone. But the Bible is also clear that saving faith is obedient faith (Ro 1:5-note, Ro 15:18-note; Ro 16:26-note).

See discussion of the phrase Obedience of faith 

Word of God - This phrase occurs less than you might think, being found 47x in 46 verses 

1 Sam. 9:27; 2 Sam. 16:23; 1 Ki. 12:22; 1 Chr. 17:3; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 15:6; Mk. 7:13; Lk. 3:2; Lk. 5:1; Lk. 8:11; Lk. 8:21; Lk. 11:28; Jn. 10:35; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:2; Acts 6:7; Acts 8:14; Acts 11:1; Acts 13:5; Acts 13:7; Acts 13:46; Acts 17:13; Acts 18:11; Rom. 9:6; 1 Co. 14:36; 2 Co. 2:17; 2 Co. 4:2; Eph. 6:17; Phil. 1:14; Col. 1:25; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:5; 2 Tim. 2:9; Tit. 2:5; Heb. 4:12; Heb. 6:5; Heb. 11:3; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Pet. 3:5; 1 Jn. 2:14; Rev. 1:2; Rev. 1:9; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 19:13; Rev. 20:4

Blessed (3107)(makarios) means spiritually satisfied independent of one's external circumstances.

Observes (present tense = continually)(5442)(phulasso) has the idea of being on one's guard, watching, defending and so keeping or observing God's Word and present tense indicates doing so as the general pattern of one's life. The present tense does not point to perfection, but does indicate the general direction of one's conduct and behavior. 

John describes the result of observing or keeping His Word..

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him (THIS DESCRIBES BEING WITH CHRIST). We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 Jn 3:23-24-note)

MacArthur comments - Being with Christ is not just being moral. Being with Christ is not just honoring Him, very unlike the Pharisees. Being with Christ, He says, is hearing the Word of God and doing it. And the Word of God initially is to believe in the Son and be saved. A moral person is in the greatest danger. That danger is not mitigated by having good feelings about Jesus. A person would still be empty and a haven for demons. On the other hand, a saved person is one who hears the Word concerning Christ, believes it in its fullness, embraces Him as Lord and Savior and sets out on a path of obedience enabled by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus emphasized this same principle

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.  "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. "And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall." (Mt 7:24-27-note)

James echoes Jesus' words

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove (present imperative) yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (James 1:21-note, James 1:22-note)

Deffinbaugh - Obedience to Jesus is one of the central themes of the Gospels, one of the fundamental elements of discipleship. The Father said it at the mount of transfiguration: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35-note). In John’s gospel, the issue of obedience (or of not wanting to obey) is clearly linked with the accusation that Jesus was demon-possessed: "At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”" (John 10:19-21). The real problem for those who rejected Jesus and who attributed His power to Satan was that of obeying Him. In seeing this as the issue, they were correct. In rejecting Jesus as Messiah, as the Son of God, they were wrong. The woman was wrong, too. She did not interpret the evidence correctly. She saw Jesus as great and His mother as blessed, but she did not see that Jesus was the One to receive and to follow by obeying His commands. How often we view Jesus through the grid of our own needs and desires and our own narrow view of significance.

Luke 11:29  As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.

KJV Luke 11:29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.

  • As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, Lk 12:1; 14:25,26
  • This generation is a wicked generation Lk 11:50; 9:41; Isa 57:3,4; Mt 3:7; 23:34-36; Mark 8:38; John 8:44; Acts 7:51,52
  • it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given  Mt 12:38,39; 16:1-4; Mark 8:11,12; John 2:18; 6:30; 1 Cor 1:22
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:29-32 The Last Sign - John MacArthur


As the crowds were increasing, He began to say - The crowd in Lk 11:14. The increasing crowds speak of His increasing fame, but not necessarily their belief in Him, as He quickly demonstrates with His characterization of them as a wicked generation. One wonders if this had any effect at thinning the crowds?

Steven Cole on as the crowds were increasing and what Jesus began to say - “You’re all wonderful people. God loves you and so do I.” That’s not what He said! Jesus wasn’t into giving strokes to everyone to build their self-esteem. Centuries before the false prophets won a large following by saying, “Peace, peace,” when there was no true peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). God said that they healed the brokenness of His people superficially. Any preaching that does not confront sin is false preaching. God doesn’t heal by giving lots of hugs to make sinners feel better about themselves. He heals by confronting and cutting out the cancer of sin that is slowly but surely destroying people. So Jesus began by saying, “This generation is a wicked generation.” We tend to view success in the ministry by numbers. If a church is growing, if thousands are flocking to it, then the pastor becomes a model for church growth. He writes books on how he did it and he puts on seminars where thousands of unsuccessful pastors come to hear how they can do what he did. The sad thing is, at very few of these seminars do the pastors hear that they need to preach against sin, to preach the holiness of God, to preach about the awfulness of the coming judgment. What they’re hearing is that they need to preach for only 15 or 20 minutes at the most, and use lots of stories, because people don’t want to hear stuffy doctrinal sermons. Don’t say anything to confront sin, because these people get beat up in the rough world all week long. What they want and need when they come to church is some good feelings and uplifting stories that will inspire hope for the next week. As a result, people in American churches are starving for a word from God. Just before the apostle Paul was martyred, he wrote to his successor in the ministry, Timothy, and gave him one of the most solemn charges in all of Scripture (Read 2 Ti 4:1-4-note). Biblical preaching always reproves, rebukes, and exhorts. It does not tickle your ears and go along with your own desires. So when you hear the Word preached or when you read the Word, allow it to confront your sin. God only wounds in order to heal. When Scripture confronts you, don’t dodge it. By owning up to sin and turning from it, you will grow to be more like Jesus.  (Luke 11:29-36 How to Respond to God’s Word)

This generation is a wicked generation - In Mt 12:39 Jesus called them "An evil and adulterous generation." Earlier in Luke Jesus had characterized them with this description “You unbelieving and perverted generation." (Lk 9:41) Luke 11:29 is Jesus' final statement on Israel. This is Jesus' final verdict on Israel. Yes, the "crowds were amazed" (Lk 11:14) at the many miracles Jesus was performing, but it was as Jesus was a great "carnival act" to see, but not a Messiah to be believed in. And thus Jesus crashed the gravel down in His judgment of them as a wicked generation. And with this declaration, Jesus was not just speaking of a few Jews but of the majority of their generation. And as discussed above, Jesus was not addressing a generation that was overtly immoral in their conduct (contrast what is transpiring now in America where sin is beng flaunted, actively pursued and even praised!). No, these Jews were moral, like the Law keeping Pharisees. However Jesus saw through to their hearts and what He saw on the inside was that they were spiritually wicked to the core! And tragically, as discussed above, in their moral deception they were in an even more deadly condition, for they would think of themselves as having no need for the Gospel of Jesus, no need for repentance. Their "religion" blinded them to their need for a genuine "relationship" with God through belief in the Messiah, Whom they hated because He called them out for their "religiosity!" Religion and morality cuts people off from salvation by giving them the illusion of a right relationship to God. This is why as we discussed earlier, it is better to be immoral than moral, to feel the full weight of your guilt than to think you could do some meritorious act to assuage your guilt. Self-righteous people are difficult to call to repentance because in their mind they are thinking of what are they going to repent?!

Wicked (4190)(poneros from poneo = work or toil; Noun poneria ) describes that which is evil or malignant  in character. Poneros denotes a determined, aggressive,  fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. Poneros is not just bad in character, but bad in effect (injurious)! Poneros used to describe Satan (ho poneros) as the "Evil one." So here Jesus lumps this generation into the same category as Satan himself! Clearly Jesus' sermons were not seeker sensitive!

Generation (1074)(genea) literally refers to those descended from a common ancestor and in this sense refers to a race, a clan or descendants. Using this term Jesus is referring essentially to the entire nation and characterizing their character as actively wicked!

MacArthur on a wicked generation - An attempt to clean your life up without Christ coming to dwell there is to be exposed to an even greater danger. That statement, “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first,” (Lk 11:26) is very definitive. In the end, being moral is more dangerous than being immoral. There is no benefit in reformation without regeneration. And this is exactly what the Jews did...And that’s why in Lk 11:29 Jesus began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation.” They wouldn’t see it that way at all. They thought they were a righteous generation and that’s why they hated Jesus. They were moral but filthy. They were void of the purifying presence of God. They were damned by morality, damned by religion, damned by reformation!  (The Danger of Moral Reformation)

Steven Cole - Jesus confronted them with their wickedness in seeking for a sign (Lk 11:29). Christ, who knows the hearts of all men (Lk 11:17), knew that a hundred miraculous signs would not be sufficient for these scoffers. They had just seen Him cast the demon out of a man who could not speak so that he became able to speak (11:14). They had seen Him raise the paralytic (Lk 5:17-26), heal the man with the withered hand (Lk 6:6-11), and do many other miracles, but none of these signs had brought them to believe in Him. What was their sin in seeking for a sign? Their sin was their rebellious, unrepentant hearts. They were curious to see Jesus perform miracles, but they were not contrite about their sins. They wanted to watch a good show, but they would have been quick to explain away any signs that Jesus performed because they were not willing to follow Him. In other words, their problem was not a lack of evidence. Their problem was a lack of repentance. (Luke 11:29-36 How to Respond to God’s Word)

It seeks for a sign - Why did this wicked generation want a sign? Their desire for a sign was first voiced their demand for a sign from heaven in Lk 11:17 in the context of the accusation against Him that He was casting out demons by the power of Satan. So here the pick up their request by asking Jesus for a sign to prove to them that He was not the servant of Satan. They had seen countless miracles and had not yet believed. And so they were taunting Jesus saying something like "Just try to do something that would make us believe!"

Sign (4592) see semeion

NET Note - The mention of a sign alludes back to Luke 11:16. Given what Jesus had done, nothing would be good enough. This leads to the rebuke that follows.

Rod Mattoon - A sign was a confirming miracle which gave evidence that a spoken message was genuine and truthful. There was nothing wrong in seeking a sign, some proof, or evidence that Jesus was the Son of God. That was not the problem here. The problem was the fact that these folks were not satisfied with all they had seen and heard. They were seeking more and more thrills. The Jews had the greatest sign they could have, God in the flesh. What more did they want? He demonstrated His great love and power by feeding the hungry, calming the seas and tormented men, healing the sick, and breaking up funeral processions by raising the dead. They were throwing away their opportunity to believe in the Lord. Jesus

MacArthur explains that in asking for a sign to prove He was not operating by the power of Beelzebul "they were saying their unbelief and their rejection of Jesus Christ and their conclusion that He was satanic rather than divine was His fault, not theirs....that their righteous assessment of the data, that their insight into what He had said and what He had done led them to this conclusion alone, that He did what He did by the power of Satan and they concluded that because they were wise and they were insightful and they were spiritually sensitive and they had great discernment. And if they didn’t believe that He was from God, it was His fault. This is blasphemy upon blasphemy. They were blaming Jesus for their conclusion. They were saying Jesus left them no other option than to conclude that He was satanic. This is a blasphemy that is inconceivable. They were a wicked generation because they were blasphemers and their blasphemy went all the way to the extreme of rejecting everything He said and everything He did, or concluding that it only proved He served Satan.

Yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah - Notice the word "yet" which shows God's grace to give the Jews the final sign, but not the kind of sign they were demanding (like doing something incredible with the heavenly bodies, etc). They were testing Jesus (Lk 11:17), in effect taunting Him and even in the face of their wicked behavior, He graciously agrees to give them a sign! And this sign of course is the "sign" of His resurrection, the greatest miracle the world has ever seen. 

Don Fortner - Are you looking for a sign? Are you waiting for the Lord to show you a sign? We live in an age of such religious deception and perversity that men and women are taught from the pulpits to do so. Such a generation is described by the Son of God in this passage of holy scripture as a wicked, perverse and adulterous generation. Any faith that is based upon a sign, the observation of a miracle, the proof of logic, a feeling of something spiritual, an experience, or anything else other than the revelation of God in holy scripture is a false faith. True, God-given, saving faith has for its foundation the Word of God alone. That is the message of the text before us. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Ro 10:17) May God give us grace to believe him, not our experiences! him, not our feelings! him, not our reason! him, not signs and wonders!

Kent Hughes - There is much-needed instruction and correction here for segments of Christianity that have gone headlong in pursuit of miraculous signs and wonders. It is imperative that we recognize that miraculous signs do not ipso facto guarantee that one will believe. This is both implicit and explicit in Luke 11. Verse 16 records that “Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.” These were people who did not want to believe. They were maliciously testing Christ. That is why he indicted them here in verse 29 by saying, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign.” Ten million signs and wonders would not make the world turn to Christ. Belief is a choice, an act of the will, not a convincing of the intellect.
Second, the ultimate sign is “the sign of Jonah,” because it makes Christ everything. Jesus was not interested in giving signs abstracted from his person. He is the sign. He is the gospel. (Ibid)

Related Resources:

Luke 11:30  "For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 

KJV Luke 11:30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.


For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites - Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days until "the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land." (Jonah 2:10, cf Jonah 3:4, 10). And how did the Ninevites respond? Jonah 3:5 says "Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them." They believed Jonah's message from the true God, not because they had the Scripture, but because God had done a miracle which they believed only He could do and which attested that the messenger had to be from Him. This was the sign of Jonah. As an aside, Jesus' reference to Jonah authenticates this OT book, which many have considered to be a myth!

Sign (4592) see semeion

In Matthew Jesus explains the sign of Jonah

for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Mt 12:40-42)

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. (Matthew 16:4)

So will the Son of Man be to this generation - Which generation? In context the wicked generation! Just as Jonah was all but dead in the belly of the sea monster,  after three days he came fourth alive. So too Jesus would be in the "belly" of the earth, He would come forth alive after three days. The Resurrection of Christ was the greatest "sign" ever given as it was the seal authenticating that His sacrifice on the Cross was acceptable to His Father. 

Jesus explained His sign in Luke 24

“Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.(Lk 24:46,47)

Did the Jews react the way the pagan, Gentile Ninevites did when they heard about the sign of Jonah? No, they (who considered themselves spiritually superior to the pagan Gentiles) persisted in their stubborn unbelief and spread a lie that the "sign of Jonah" was a sham and Jesus was not resurrected by that His body was stolen:

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (Mt 28:11-17)

Below is a table from William Hendricksen's commentary on Luke:

Comparison Between Those Whom
Jesus Addresses, and Ninevites
Scribes and Pharisees
and their followers:

  See Jonah

It is the Son of God himself, “one greater than Jonah,” who addresses them again and again, and bids them to be converted (Lk 5:32; 13:3; etc.) It was a minor prophet who preached to them.
This Christ is completely sinless (Jn 8:46), filled with wisdom and compassion (Mt 11:27–30; 15:32; 1 Co 1:24). This prophet was a sinful, foolish, and rebellious person (Jonah 1:3; 4:1–3, 9b).
He presents the message of grace and pardon, of salvation full and free (Lk 19:10; Jn 7:37). His message was one of doom. Though a call to repentance and conversion was certainly implied, the emphasis was on “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
This message is being fortified by miracles in which prophecy is being fulfilled (Lk 4:16–21; cf. Isa 35:5, 6; 61:1–3). There were no miracles or other authenticating signs to confirm Jonah’s message.
It is being brought to a people who have enjoyed ever so many spiritual advantages (Dt 4, 7, 8; Ps 147:19, 20; Is 5:1–4; Am 3:2a; Ro 3:1, 2; 9:4, 5). Jonah’s message was addressed to a people with none of the advantages that scribes, Pharisees, and their followers had enjoyed.

Hendriksen comments -  Ninevites repented; most of the Israelites do not (John 1:11; 12:37). Less enlightened people obeyed less enlightened preaching, but more enlightened people refuse to obey the Light of the world. The question is asked, “But was this repentance of Ninevites genuine, that is, unto salvation?” The answer, often given, is that it was not, otherwise Nineveh would not have been destroyed. Objection: The destruction of this great city occurred about the year 612 B.C., that is, about a century and a half after Jonah’s preaching. It is therefore unjust to charge Ninevites of Jonah’s day with the sins of a much later generation. Scripture nowhere claims that the repentance of all Ninevites was genuine, but neither does it leave the impression that none of them were saved; rather the opposite. That there were indeed genuine conversions in Nineveh, perhaps many of them, seems to be implied both in the prophetic book and here in Luke 11:32. The idea that the repentance of Ninevites was not genuine, that it was merely from vice to virtue, is open to objections: (a) in Luke 10:13–15 Nineveh is not included in the list of Old Testament impenitent cities; and (b) if the repentance referred to here in Luke 11:32 is not genuine it is hard to explain the statement, “Men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it.” It should be noted that concerning these “men of Nineveh” it does not say, as it does in the case of those of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, that in the judgment it will be “more tolerable” for them, but that, like the queen of the South (Luke 11:31), they shall stand up in the judgment and shall condemn “this” generation, that is, the generation of the scribes and Pharisees and their followers. Since it is the teaching of Scripture (Dan. 7:22; Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 15:3, 4; 20:4) that God’s children are going to participate in the final judgment (for example, by praising God in Christ for his judgments?), this statement of Jesus about the role of certain Ninevites in that Great Assize is understandable, especially if their repentance was genuine.Again the Pharisees and scribes are reminded of the greatness of their sin in rejecting and blaspheming the Christ, the One far more exalted than Jonah...Greater privileges imply heavier responsibilities. Carpe diem! (Baker NT Commentary: Luke)

Luke 11:31  "The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

KJV Luke 11:31 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

  • The Queen of the South 1 Kings 10:1,2-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12; Mt 12:42
  • will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them Isa 54:17; Jeremiah 3:11; Ro 2:27; Heb 11:7
  • behold, something greater than Solomon is here 3:22; 9:35; Isa 9:6,7; Col 1:15-19
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:29-32 The Last Sign - John MacArthur


Alfred Plummer - Lk. inserts this illustration between the two sayings about Jonah. Mt. keeps the two sayings about Jonah together. Lk. places the Ninevites after the Queen of Sheba either for chronology, or for effect, or both: their case was the stronger of the two. There is a threefold contrast in this illustration: (1) between a heathen queen and the Jews; (2) between the ends of the earth and here; (3) between Solomon and the Son of Man. There may possibly be a fourth contrast between that enterprising woman and the men of this generation implied in andron, which is not in Mt. (Luke 11 Commentary)

The Queen of the South  - Read this story of the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10:1-13 (2 Chr 9:1-12), which begins "Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD (NLT has "Solomon's fame, which brought honor to the name of the LORD"), she came to test him with difficult questions."

In 1 Ki 10:9 the Queen responds upon hearing Solomon's wisdom:

“Blessed be the LORD your God Who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel (SPEAKS OF GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY); because the LORD loved Israel forever (HIS COVENANT WITH ISRAEL), therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”

Her response indicates the Queen of Sheba was converted by Solomon's words and witness of His God. She  had no knowledge of the true God and no invitation to discover anything about Him and yet she sought the truth about Him from Solomon and when she heard, she believed. She was converted despite having had none of the privileges nor hearing any of Jesus' teachings as the Jews of this wicked generation had!

Related Resources:

Will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them - She will rise up because she was converted. This pagan Gentile Queen believed while the moral, religious, law keeping Jews rejected Jesus! What utter irony to this wicked generation that a pagan Gentile believer would judge and condemn them!

MacArthur - Some day in the judgment, in the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15-note) when the final verdicts are made and the ungodly from all of human history...will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to suffer forever for their rejection of the truth in Jesus Christ. This woman will stand up symbolically to condemn them with much less opportunity, much less personal experience and exposure. She heard the truth and believed. It’s always dangerous to hear it and not believe it. And for them, the severest judgment awaits. (The Last Sign)

Judgment (2920)(krisis from krino = to judge, decide) means a decision or judgment, verdict, justice, court (tribunal). Mt 10:15, 11:22, 24 all describe Jesus' sobering warning to the Jews of a specific future and frightening "day of judgment." (cp "sentence of hell" Mt 23:33, see also 2 Peter 2:9, 11, 3:7, 1 John 4:17) 

Condemn (also in Mt 12:41,42)(2632)(katakrino from kata = down, against + krino = to assess, then to separate or distinguish, then to give an opinion upon, judge, then to decide or determine and finally to judge (to judge one down [kata = down]), pronounce judgment or to condemn) means to give judgment against, pass sentence upon, pass judgment against and hence to condemn, this latter action implying there has been a crime. It means to pronounce sentence against or to adjudge guilty and always denotes an adverse sentence (to sentence to punishment). 

The same idea is shown in Hebrews 11:7, when Noah condemned the world.

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 

Barclay - In the day of judgment these people would rise up and condemn the Jews of Jesus’ time, because these Jews had had an opportunity and a privilege far beyond anything they had ever had and had refused to accept it. The condemnation of the Jews would be all the more complete because their privileges were so great. Privilege and responsibility go ever hand in hand. (Ibid)

Because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon - She came from modern day Yemen, the most mountainous,  fertile part of Arabia. What a constrast - here was Jesus in their midst with miracles and teachers and here is this pagan Queen who travels from afar to hear about the God of Israel. They reject Jesus and she accepts the True God!

Wisdom of Solomon - 1 Ki. 4:34; 1 Ki. 10:4; 2 Chr. 9:3; Matt. 12:42; Lk. 11:31

Wisdom (4678) (sophia, compare saphes = clear) is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding.

Luke's uses of sophia - Lk. 2:40; Lk. 2:52; Lk. 7:35; Lk. 11:31; Lk. 11:49; Lk. 21:15; Acts 6:3; Acts 6:10; Acts 7:10; Acts 7:22; 

Behold, something greater than Solomon is here - Some "thing" and some "One" greater than Solomon. Jesus was a King greater than Solomon, His kingdom was greater than Solomon, He was wiser than Solomon, His Gospel was  more fully developed than that of Solomon. And in spite of this far greater insight, they rejected it all!  On Jesus and wisdom, see Luke 7:35; Luke 10:21-22; 1Cor 1:24, 30.

Behold (2400)(idou) is the second person singular aorist middle imperative of eidon which means to see, perceive, look at. In the NT idou is used as a demonstrative particle that draws attention to what follows. Idou in the middle voice means "you yourself look, see, perceive!" The aorist imperative is a command emphasizing "Do it now! Don't delay!" Spurgeon reminds us that "Behold is a word of wonder; it is intended to excite admiration. Wherever you see it hung out in Scripture, it is like an ancient sign-board, signifying that there are rich wares within, or like the hands which solid readers have observed in the margin of the older Puritanic books, drawing attention to something particularly worthy of observation." I would add, behold is like a divine highlighter, a divine underlining of an especially striking or important text. It says in effect "Listen up, all ye who would be wise in the ways of Jehovah!"

J C Ryle on something greater - The Queen of Sheba had such faith that she travelled a vast distance in order to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Yet Solomon, with all his wisdom, was an erring and imperfect king. The Ninevites had such faith that they believed the message which Jonah brought from God, and repented. Yet even Jonah was a weak and unstable prophet. The Jews of our Lord’s time had far higher light and infinitely clearer teachings than either Solomon or Jonah could supply. They had amongst them the King of kings, the Prophet greater than Moses. Yet the Jews neither repented nor believed!

Cole -  Seek God’s wisdom and truth no matter what the cost. This is the lesson we should learn from the Queen of Sheba (“the South”), who went to great trouble, effort, expense, and time to travel from southern Arabia to learn God’s wisdom through King Solomon. Jesus’ point was that the men of His day had the very Son of God preaching God’s wisdom in their very midst, and yet they ignored Him, whereas this pagan woman was willing to travel hundreds of miles through harsh terrain to seek out someone not nearly as great. We must ask ourselves, “Will the Queen of Sheba rise up and condemn us in the day of judgment?” We have the completed canon of God’s Holy Word in our own language. Men like Wycliffe and Tyndale suffered much persecution and Tyndale gave his life so that we could have the Bible in English. There are still many people groups around the world who do not have even one book of the Bible in their own language. Do we read the Word? Do we meditate on it daily? Can we truly say with the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Ps. 119:72)? I read of a man in Kansas City who was severely injured in an explosion. His face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He had just become a Christian when the accident happened, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in braille. But he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been too badly damaged to distinguish the characters. One day, as he brought one of the braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. In a flash he thought, “I can read the Bible using my tongue.” At the time this incident was reported, the man had read completely through his Bible four times using his tongue! (in Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines cf the Christian Life [NavPress], pp. 30-31). So what’s your excuse for not reading your Bible regularly? (Luke 11:29-36 How to Respond to God’s Word)

Luke 11:32  "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

KJV Luke 11:32  The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

  • The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it Jonah 3:5-10
  • behold, something greater than Jonah is here Jonah 1:2,3; 4:1-4,9; Heb 7:26
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:29-32 The Last Sign - John MacArthur


The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it - They repented at Jonah's preaching whereas the wicked generation rejected Jesus' preaching. 

Because they repented at the preaching of Jonah - Woe to those who teach that repentance is not intrinsically integral with belief and salvation. 

Repented (3340) (metanoeo from meta = with, among + noeo = to think, exercise the mind <> from nous = mind - see study = metanoia) means to have another mind. Metanoeo means to change one's mind in respect to sin, God, and self. To turn to God and from sin (Luke 15:7 = "one sinner who repents", 10, cf 1Th 1:9-note). It is not an intellectual decision but a change of mind that issues in a change of behavior. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (2Cor 7:8, 9, 10, 11); but sorrow for sin, though it may cause repentance, is not repentance.

Luke's uses of repent (metanoeo) - more than all the other Gospel writers:

 Lk. 10:13; Lk. 11:32; Lk. 13:3; Lk. 13:5; Lk. 15:7; Lk. 15:10; Lk. 16:30; Lk. 17:3; Lk. 17:4; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 17:30; Acts 26:20

Preaching (cf Mt 12:41)(2782)(kerugma where –ma means the result of <> from kerusso = to proclaim or announce in public) means not so much the act but the content or the result of preaching, that which is cried by the herald (an officer sent by a king or other high official to proclaim a message or announce good news) or public crier. It can have such senses as “news,” “declaration,” “decree,” “announcement,” etc. In Classical Greek the kerux (noun from kerusso) was a public servant of supreme power both in peace and in war, one who summoned the ekklesia (1577) (later used for the Church), the town gathering. The kerux was the public crier and reader of state messages such as the conveyor of a declaration of war or as well as the “publication” of honors or victories.

MacArthur comments - Again it’s a comparison of opportunity and response. The Ninevites had so little. One prophet and a self-confessed sinful foolish rebellious prophet, one prophet with one miraculous experience and the whole city repents, hundreds of thousands of people. They had none of the privileges, none of the advantages the Jews who heard the sinless Son of God and saw miracle after miracle had. Ah, but then Jesus said in Luke 16, “If they don’t believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe though one is raised from the dead.” The Ninevites repented and God’s judgment was prevented for 150 years, through really three generations (See Why Was Nineveh Destroyed?). The Jews rejected the truth in their midst and that generation was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman holocaust. The Jews had the living God in their midst, perfect holiness, perfect wisdom, perfect clarity, perfect love, perfect grace, wielding astonishing power unmistakably proving He was Israel’s God and they hated Him. And so at the judgment the Gentile Ninevites who believed stand as symbols of condemnation over a greater privileged Israel because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And behold indeed, something greater than Jonah is here. Jesus saying, “It’s Me … It’s My message, it’s My Kingdom.”  (The Last Sign)

Cole applies the truth about the Ninevites to us today -   Turn from your sin and obey God no matter how radical the change. This is the lesson of Jonah and the Ninevites. Jonah despised the Assyrians, whose capital was Ninevah. They were a brutal, godless people, devoted to the destruction of Israel. But God told Jonah to go and preach to them. After his three-day submarine ride, the disobedient prophet repented and went to Ninevah. Just as he feared, though, the Ninevites repented and God withheld His judgment from them. Even the king of Ninevah put on sackcloth and publicly repented of his sin! It was one of the most astounding revivals in history! It shows us that no matter how wicked and worldly the sinner, if he hears the message of God’s impending judgment and yet of His great mercy in Jesus Christ, and comes in genuine faith to Christ, he will be transformed. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, whether it be the raw pagan or the religious do-gooder (Ro 1:16). This means that there is hope in Jesus Christ for the worst of sinners. No matter how terrible your past, if you will repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who bore your penalty on the cross, God will transform your life from the inside out. The men of Ninevah are a testimony of what God’s grace can do with any sinner who will repent and believe the gospel. (Luke 11:29-36 How to Respond to God’s Word)

Luke 11:33  "No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.

KJV Luke 11:33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.

  • No one, after lighting a lamp Lk 8:16,17; Mt 5:15; Mark 4:21,22
  • puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand,  Mt 5:15
  • so that those who enter may see the light see Mt 5:16; 10:27; John 11:9; 12:46; Phil 2:15,16
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight - John MacArthur



Matthew 5:15-note nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Light reveals and dark conceals (cf Eph 5:13)

Hendriksen on Lk 11:33-36 - a moment’s study immediately reveals that the Lucan paragraph harmonizes beautifully with the preceding context. Christ’s enemies have been slandering him. They have been saying, “It is by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons, that he casts out demons” (Lk 11:15). Also they have been demanding “a sign from heaven” (Lk 11:16, 29–32). What all this amounts to is that they have been saying, “It is your fault that we do not believe in you.” It is therefore most appropriate that Jesus now shows them that the actual situation is the other way around; to put it colloquially, that “the shoe is on the other foot.” It is not Jesus who is at fault but his enemies are to blame. The Light is shining, but they are obstructing it! The Father had sent his Son into the world to be its Light, but these people are turning their backs on this great Gift!

In Mt 5:15 Jesus "used the subject of light and darkness to illustrate the testimony of the disciples and how the disciples were giving forth light. But even though there was light, people couldn’t see it because they didn’t have sight. He was talking about the disciples. Here He uses the same metaphors, the same similes, the same word pictures, only He’s referring not to the testimony of the disciples but to His own testimony, His own witness....The simple truth is this, light is everywhere but blind people can’t see it."

So what is the context for the focus on light in Lk 11:33-36? Jesus' entire ministry of miracles and teaching was one of bringing spiritual light to the spiritual darkness that dominated the land of Israel. If we go back to Lk 11:14 we see the spiritual light in the form of Jesus' casting out the demons, a "light" which amazed the crowds but ultimately a "light" which was rejected by most, to the point that they accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon! In a sense they were forced to make that blasphemous accusation, because the miracles were clearly indicative of irrefutable supernatural power over the forces of darkness. And so they were forced to say His miraculous power was Satanic, for the only alternative was to say He was empowered by God and ultimately that He was God. In summary, the spiritual light of His ministry was a clear sign that He was the Messiah. 

Now when the Jews asked for a sign in Lk 11:16 they were in effect asking for more light. They were implying that with casting out the demon (and all His other miracles), He was not giving them enough "light." And what did Jesus call them because of their desire for a sign? A wicked generation (Lk 11:29). They were not immoral but even worse were moral and religious. They were not wicked because of their "morality" but wicked because they sought a sign! How wicked were they? Light was all around them and they could not see it (or refused to see it). And thus He promised them only one more sign, the sign of Jonah, ultimately the sign that demonstrated He had the power over death. But even then the leaders bribed the soldiers to lie about the empty tomb and say His body was stolen. They refused the greatest light any man could be given, the light of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! They were supremely wicked!

MacArthur explains "It was never an issue of light. It was always an issue of sight. And it is today. You say you don’t have enough information about Jesus, you don’t know how to conclude about Jesus. I remember one night when Larry King said to me, “I wish I had your faith.” Faith comes by hearing the message about Christ. There’s plenty of light; the issue is sight. And so Jesus concludes this discussion in Luke 11:33–36 by talking about the difference between light and sight. They were wicked because they were laying the responsibility for their unbelief at the feet of Jesus and simply saying, “You didn’t make Your point. We didn’t have enough light. We came to the conclusion we came to because that’s all the information You gave us. You left us in the dark.”But that wasn’t really the issue. They were blind willfully because they hated His message. They hated the indictment of their sin and hypocrisy and false religion and self-righteousness. They hated the idea that He called on them to acknowledge themselves as poor prisoners blind and oppressed, sinners under the judgment of God headed for eternal punishment who needed to repent and be saved. They hated that message. And so it skewed their ability to see the truth. " (Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight)

No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand - Jesus is describing a common, everyday event, that is readily understood by all. How absurd would it be to light a lamp and hide it in a cellar or under a basket! Little oil lamps were placed on a lampstand to give light to the whole room.

Hendriksen - In the natural sphere no one would think of lighting a lamp and then hiding it in a cellar or under the peck-measure; yet that is exactly what you, my critics, are doing in the spiritual sphere. Instead of allowing my light to shine into your hearts and lives [‘on the lampstand,’ where everyone who enters can see it], you are obscuring it.” How were they doing this? See Matt. 15:3; 23:23.

Ryle - The saying of this verse is evidently intended to be a rebuke to the unbelieving Jews, who had the light, but would not use it,—and a warning to our Lord’s disciples, who believed in the light, that they ought not to conceal the light, but display it to the world. A candle is intended to be placed on a candlestick and give light. So also God’s truth is intended to be imparted to others, and exhibited to all around us.

No one - oudeis = absolutely no one. 

Lighting (681)(hapto/haptomai) means to touch but in the active voice as here refers to lighting or kindling a fire (cf Acts 28:2, Lk 8:16, 22:55).

Lamp (3088) (luchnos/lychnos from leukos = brilliant, shining white) refers to a portable lamp fed with oil, not a candle

Basket (Peck-measure) (3426) (módios) refers to a Roman measuring basket of various sizes to measure dry material and was large enough to cover a light. Modios is a Latin word for a unit of dry measure equal roughly to 8 dry quarts or 1 peck. These containers, which held 2 to 7 gallons, were common household items in those times. Jesus uses the peck-measure (or grain-measure) to indicate a familiar object which is found in every house. Friberg says  modius, was one-peck measure, a Roman grain measure holding 16 sextarii, equivalent to 2 English gallons or about 1 peck 

Modios is used on in Mt 5:15, Mk 4:21, Lk 11:33 and not in the Septuagint.

So that those who enter may see the light - Clearly the purpose of keeping the light unconcealed is to give light to all those who enter a room or house.

NIV Study Bible - Jesus had publicly exhibited the light of the gospel for all to see, but "a wicked generation" (Lk 11:29) requested more spectacular signs. The problem was not with any failure on Jesus' part in giving light; it was with the faulty vision of his audience.

So what is Jesus saying? His point is that He had light (of course He was the Light, see Scriptures below) and did not try to hide His light (His miracles and His teaching) but placed His light in the open for all the Jews to see. As He has already explained, the Jews had far more spiritual light than the Ninevites of Jonah's day and the Queen of Sheba, but they still believed. Had God not given them spiritual light, they could never have understood the spiritual truth about God. And so for the three years of Jesus' ministry, the nation of Israel was flooded with spiritual light! So the problem of the wicked generation was not enough light but no sight!  

John explains the problem of the wicked generation

John 3:19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 

The Scriptures repeatedly allude to Jesus as the Light of God or from God. According to tradition, Light was one of the names of the Messiah.

John 8:12  Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

John 1:9; There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

1 John 1:5; This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

2 Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 

Daniel 2:22  “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. 

Psalms 36:9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. 

Luke 1:78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, 

Isaiah 9:1  But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 2  The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.

Isaiah 42:6 "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations,

Isaiah 49:6  He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

Malachi 4:2 "But for you who fear My name the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.

J C Ryle - WE learn from these words of the Lord Jesus, the importance of making a good use of religious light and privileges. We are reminded of what men do when they light a candle. They do not “put it in a secret place,” under a bushel measure. They place it on a candlestick, that it may be serviceable and useful by giving light.
When the Gospel of Christ is placed before a man’s soul, it is as if God offered to him a lighted candle. It is not sufficient to hear it, and assent to it, and admire it, and acknowledge its truth. It must be received into the heart, and obeyed in the life. Until this takes place the Gospel does him no more good than if he were an African heathen, who has never heard the Gospel at all. A lighted candle is before him, but he is not turning it to account. The guilt of such conduct is very great. God’s light neglected will be a heavy charge against many at the last day.
But even when a man professes to value the light of the Gospel he must take care that he is not selfish in the use of it. He must endeavor to reflect the light on all around him. He must strive to make others acquainted with the truths which he finds good for himself. He must let his light so shine before men, that they may see whose he is and whom he serves, and may be induced to follow his example, and join the Lord’s side. He must regard the light which he enjoys as a loan, for the use of which he is accountable. He must strive to hold his candle in such a way, that many may see it, and as they see it, admire and believe.
Let us take heed to ourselves that we do not neglect our light. The sin of many in this matter is far greater than they suppose. Thousands flatter themselves that their souls are not in a very bad state, because they abstain from gross and glaring acts of wickedness, and are decent and respectable in their outward lives. But are they neglecting the Gospel when it is offered to them? Are they coolly sitting still year after year, and taking no decided steps in the service of Christ? If this be so, let them know that their guilt is very great in the sight of God. To have the light and yet not walk in the light, is of itself a great sin. It is to treat with contempt and indifference the King of kings.
Let us beware of selfishness in our religion, even after we have learned to value the light. We should labor to make all men see that we have found “the pearl of great price,” and that we want them to find it as well as ourselves. A man’s religion may well be suspected, when he is content to go to heaven alone. The true Christian will have a large heart. If a parent, he will long for the salvation of his children. If a master, he will desire to see his servants converted. If a landlord, he will want his tenants to come with him into God’s kingdom. This is healthy religion! The Christian who is satisfied to burn his candle alone, is in a very weak and sickly state of soul.

Luke 11:34  "The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.

KJV Luke 11:34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.

  • The eye is the lamp of your body of Ps 119:18; Mt 6:22,23; Mark 8:18; Acts 26:18; Eph 1:17
  • when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light Acts 2:46; 2 Cor 1:12; 11:3; Eph 6:5; Col 3:22
  • but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness  Genesis 19:11; 2 Kings 6:15-20; Ps 81:12; Pr 28:22; Isa 6:10; 29:10; 42:19; Isa 44:18; Jeremiah 5:21; Mark 4:12; 7:22; Acts 13:11; Ro 11:8-10; 2 Cor 4:4; 2 Th 2:9-12
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight - John MacArthur



Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 

The eye is the lamp of your body - This expresses the straight-forward truth that the eye is the organ that allows light into our body. The light rays are "translated" by the mind into information that makes things clear (most of the time, unless we are reading Plato!). The eyes is the lamp of the body and the lamp of the body is the soul. The eye of the soul is the heart. Israel's eyes are blinded by the love of their sin manifest not by immorality and vile wickedness, but by external morality, legalistic adherence to the laws, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Their religion is a religion which blinds them to a relationship with the Light, Christ Jesus. They are deceived and do not acknowledge their sinful condition (are blind to it), and so they see no need for a Savior. 

Paul described Israel's tragic condition and the condition of every human being who fails to see (cf "eye") their sin against God and to repent and believe

And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world (SATAN) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:3-4)

When your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light - The eye is the only organ that allows light into our body and so when it is clear and light can enter, there is in effect light for the entire body. So in the context of the incredible light Israel had access to in Jesus the Light of the world, the problem with Israel was not the Light, but the sight of the people of Israel. They do not have spiritual sight which allows them to perceive the Light they have received. Their eyes have been blinded. 

Clear (single, generous) (573)(haplous from a = negation + pleko = twine, braid, weave, knit) means single (as translated by the KJV), simple, uncomplicated. Here haplous is used in the sense of sound, healthy, normal.

Haplous pertains to being motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward, i.e. without a hidden agenda. The phrase "if your eye is clear" is translated variously as - "if therefore thine eye is single" (KJV), " If then your eye is healthy" (NET, ESV), " If your eye is good" (CSB), " if, therefore, thine eye may be perfect" (Young's Literal). The key word Jesus used is the adjective "clear" (NAS) which is the Greek word haplous  which strictly speaking means single (as rendered in the KJV) or without folds which came to mean simple, sincere, innocent, healthy, clear ("clear vision" - spiritual vision ) 

Ryle on clear eye - The eye is to the body, what the heart is to the man. If the eye is dimmed—does not see objects clearly, the whole action of the body is more or less affected. If the heart is double-minded and compromising, the whole character of the man will be influenced by it. His course will be wavering and unstable. His life will be trimming and inconsistent.

NIV Study Bible - Those asking for a sign do not need more light; they need good eyes to allow the light to enter.

Reformation Study Bible - When the eye is functioning correctly the body receives the benefit of light ("is full of light"; cf. Ps. 18:28). The people seeking a sign did not need more light, but better receptiveness to the light they already had. What God was doing in Jesus was plain enough.

But when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness - An "evil" (bad) eye cannot see light and therefore is full of darkness. In a sense, the "light" of Christ was turned into darkness. They heard His teachings and saw his miracles like casting out a demon and yet still accused Him of being empowered by Satan.

Bad (4190)(poneros) is not just evil but speaks of active evil which seeks to injure and thus it comes as no surprise that Satan is called poneros (1 Jn 3:12, 1 Jn 5:18-19). Poneros is used 4x in Luke 11 (Lk 11:13, 26, 29, 34).

Darkness (4652)(skoteinos from skotos = darkness) means dark, without light. Friberg says skoteinos means "in the dark; figuratively, as characterized by lack of moral and spiritual perception full of darkness, i.e. unable to know the difference between right and wrong "

Gilbrant - In classical Greek usage this noun denotes “darkness.” It describes the state of things that are difficult to see and the results of such a state (e.g., perilous movement, a kind of paralysis, danger, and fear). To be locked outside the city gates after dark was to be at the mercy of vicious bandits and wild animals. Darkness also signifies ignorance, obscurity, deception, or even the inability to “see,” that is, to learn anything new. Hence, darkness can refer to all that is dangerous or evil (Ps 69:23). Darkness is also the condition of death and the underworld (Job 10:20-22; Ps 88:6). The evil person is “darkened” (spiritually blinded). 

Skoteinos us used only in Mt 6:23, Lk 11:34, 36 but 15x in 15v in the Septuagint - Ge 15:12; 2 Ki. 5:24; Job 10:21;15:23; Ps 18:11; 88:6; 143:3; Pr. 1:6; 4:19; Isa. 45:3; 45:19; 48:16; Jer. 13:16; Lam 3:6; Dan. 2:22

Hendriksen - The figure is easy to understand. When a person’s eyes (sing. “eye” here for pl.) are in good condition, the entire body “will be illumined,” will know exactly what to do. The foot will know where to step. The hand will realize how to take hold, etc. The opposite is true when, through some illness, a person’s eyes do not function properly. Such a person will be groping in the dark. Those bodily organs over which he would normally exercise conscious control will now refuse to function properly. They are, as it were, “in the dark” as to what to do. So also when a person’s inner disposition is right, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, his entire personality will be illumined. He will possess the true knowledge of God, will experience peace of mind that passes all understanding, and will be able to thank the Lord for joy unspeakable and full of glory. On the contrary, when his heart is not right with God, this lamentable condition will also affect his entire personality. Instead of spiritual progress there will be spiritual retardation and deterioration.

Nelson's NKJV Study Bible has an application of Jesus' words - It has been said that “you are what you eat.” But even more accurately, you are what you see. This is why David said, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Ps. 101:3). A person who concentrates on what is good (God's teaching) is healthy. But a person who focuses on what is bad (the false teaching of the world) is full of darkness.

MacDonald - The application is this: God is the One who has lit the lamp. In the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, He provided a blaze of illumination for the world. If anyone doesn't see the Light, it isn't God's fault. In Lk 8:16-17-note Jesus was speaking of the responsibility of those who were already His disciples to propagate the faith and not to hide it under a vessel. Here in Lk 11:33 He is exposing the unbelief of His sign-seeking critics as caused by their covetousness and fear of shame. (Believer's Bible Commentary)

J C Ryle - We learn, secondly, from these verses, the value of a single (clear = haplous) and undivided heart in religion. This is a lesson which our Lord illustrates from the office of the eye in the human body. He reminds us that when the eye is “single,” or thoroughly healthy, the action of the whole body is influenced by it. But when, on the contrary, the eye is evil or diseased, it affects the physical comfort and activity of the whole man. In an eastern country, where eye diseases are painfully common, the illustration is one which would be particularly striking.
But when can it be truly said that a man’s heart is single in religion? What are the marks of a single heart? The question is one of deep importance. Well would it be for the church and the world if single hearts were more common.
The single heart is a heart which is not only changed, converted, and renewed; but thoroughly, powerfully, and habitually under the influence of the Holy Ghost. It is a heart which abhors all compromises, all luke-warmness, all halting between two opinions in religion. It sees one mighty object,—the love of Christ dying for sinners. It has one mighty aim,—to glorify God and do His will. It has one mighty desire,—to please God and be commended by Him. Compared with such objects, aims, and desires, the single heart knows nothing worthy to be named. The praise and favor of man are nothing. The blame and disapprobation of man are trifles light as air. “One thing I desire,—one thing I do,—one thing I live for:” this is the language of the single heart. (Ps. 27:4.; Luke 10:42; Philip. 3:13.) Such were the hearts of Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Paul, and Luther, and Latimer. They all had their weaknesses and infirmities. They erred no doubt in some things. But they all had this grand peculiarity. They were men of one thing. They had single hearts. They were unmistakeably “men of God.”
The blessings of a single heart in religion are almost incalculable. He who has it, does good by wholesale. He is like a light-house in the midst of a dark world. He reflects light on hundreds whom he knows nothing of. “His whole body is full of light.” His Master is seen through every window of his conversation and conduct. His grace shines forth in every department of his behavior. His family, his servants, his relations, his neighbors, his friends, his enemies, all see the bias of his character, and all are obliged to confess, whether they like it or not, that his religion is a real and influential thing. And not least, the man of a single heart finds a rich reward in the inward experience of his own soul. He has meat to eat the world knows not of. He has a joy and peace in believing to which many indolent Christians never attain. His face is toward the sun, and so his heart is seldom cold.
Let us pray and labor that we may have a single eye and a whole heart in our Christianity. If we have a religion, let us have a thorough one. If we are Christians, let us be decided. Inward peace and outward usefulness are at stake in this matter. Our eye must be single, if our whole body is to be full of light.

Luke 11:35  "Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.

KJV Luke 11:35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.

  • Pr 16:25; 26:12; Isa 5:20,21; Jer 8:8,9; Jn 7:48,49; 9:39-41; Ro 1:22; 2:19-23; 1 Cor 1:19-21; 3:18-20; Jas 3:13-17; 2 Pe 1:9; 2:18; Rev 3:17
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight - John MacArthur


Then (Better = "Therefore") - This is a term of conclusion. Based on the points in Lk 11:33-34, Jesus issues a warning shot across the bow, so to speak. 

Watch out that the light in you is not darkness - Jesus anticipates the reaction to His teaching about light, knowing that His hearers considered themselves almost to be "bearers of the light." They felt their spiritual insight was superior and that they understood spiritual truth better than anyone. So here Jesus says "You think you have the light of spiritual insight. You need to be concerned about the fact that your so-called "spiritual light" is in fact spiritual darkness!" 

Watch (4648) (skopeo from skopos = distant mark looked at, goal or end one has in view; English "scope" as in microscope or telescope) means to "spy out", to look at, to observe, to contemplate, to mark ( to fix or trace out the bounds or limits of). Skopeo implies mental consideration and so conveys the picture of attentively fixing one's attention upon something with desire for or interest in. The idea can be to "aim at". Jesus issues this warning in a present imperative which calls for continual fixing of our attention. 

Stein - This oxymoron or paradox is intensified by the imperative “see to it.” Make sure that what directs your thoughts/life is in fact the true light.

Darkness (4655)(skotos from skia = shadow thrown by an object. Skia it can assume the meaning of skotos and indicate the sphere of darkness) is literally that sphere in which light is absent. Luke's uses of skotos -Lk. 1:79; Lk. 11:35; Lk. 22:53; Lk. 23:44; Acts 2:20; Acts 13:11; Acts 26:18; 

Friberg on skotos - (1) literally, as an enveloping sphere where light (phos) is absent darkness, gloom, obscurity (Mt 27.45); in relation to the world, as the primitive chaos before light was created (2Co 4.6); idiomatically literally the outer darkness, i.e. the place of punishment, as the region of future exclusion from the kingdom of God (Mt 8.12); (2) figuratively, as an absence of moral and spiritual renewal ignorance, lack of understanding ( Acts 26.18); metaphorically, as the domain under the authority of the devil and demons realm of evil, evil world (Lk 22.53; Ep 6.12)

Hendriksen - It is important to notice that while in Lk 11:19, 20 Jesus was addressing his audience as a whole, using the plural you and your, he now directs his attention to each person individually, and binds it on the conscience of each to ask himself whether the light of the gospel has brought about a genuine, deep, inner change in his heart and life; that is, whether he now truly loves God and the neighbor, so that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident in his life; or whether perhaps even that which he considers to be light is actually darkness. See also Practical Lessons on this verse....There are two kinds of darkness: (a) that of ignorance, and (b) that of stubborn unbelief. The second kind, here in view, is by far the more dangerous. It was that kind of darkness which reigned in the hearts of those who hated Jesus. Once present, it is hard to dislodge. “Watch out, therefore.”

MacArthur explains that "Every time you hear some liberal theologian deny some truth of Scripture because he’s come to some profound, historic understanding and he’s been lifted above the errors of the Bible, you know what he thinks is light is actually darkness. Every false religion, every form of heresy, every system in the world apart from the true gospel of Jesus Christ is nothing but another form of darkness. But the sad reality of it is the people think it’s light. There are people who think Jewish Cabala is light—it’s darkness. There are people who think that Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses have the light—it’s darkness. And Jesus is saying to these Jewish leaders, You better be careful, you better watch out that the light you think is in you is not in fact darkness. This is so hard to deal with. When a person thinks they have the light, they come to a very dangerous place. This is why Satan disguises himself as an angel of … light. That’s his great deception, to make people think they found the light when in fact it’s the darkness. Listen to the words of Paul, Romans 1:21-22-note, “Even though they knew God, or had the knowledge of God available to them, they didn’t honor Him as God, didn’t give thanks, they became empty in their speculations, their foolish heart was darkened.” These are people who reject the truth. “Their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools” (morons in the Greek). Their heart was darkened and they congratulated themselves on their wisdom. They’re fools. This is the deepest darkness of all. This is the deception that makes the sinner think that darkness is light. All unconverted sinners are in the darkness without exception. But it seems to me that most of them think they’re in the light, particularly those in religion. That’s why Jesus says you better take another look, watch out, you better look again. What you think is light is darkness.  (Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight) (Bolding added)

Jesus alluded to this spiritual blindness to Biblical truth in Matthew (quoting Isaiah's prophecy) 

Therefore I speak to them in parables (which are riddles if not explained); because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;  (Mt 13:13-14 from Isa 6:9)

MacArthur explains "Jesus says I talk in parables because they will not hear; they will not see; they have closed their eyes. They will not listen; they will not understand. They will not repent. And because they will not, now they cannot. And so now I speak in parables....What started out as a willful rejection of the truth in Isaiah’s day became a judgment of God, confirming them in their unbelief. And it’s stark and frightening. In Isaiah 29:10, “The Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep. He has shut your eyes. He has covered your heads. You wouldn’t and now you couldn’t.” In Isaiah 44:18, “They do not know nor do they understand, for He, God, has smeared over their eyes so they cannot see in their hearts so they cannot comprehend.” What a frightening judgment. And by the way, that judicial hardening, that judicial blindness, judicial deafness is reiterated all through the New Testament. All of the NT passages go back to that same Isaiah passage to explain how that if someone goes far enough in willfully not seeing and hearing, God locks them in that condition as a judgment. Jesus here is then warning us and saying, watch out, watch out that your willful blindness doesn’t become judicial blindness, that because you won’t see, you can’t see. Watch out. Don’t interpret the darkness as if it were light. And this isn’t just Israel. This is a universal issue. In writing to the church in the book of Revelation 3:17-18 "Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." There are people sitting in "Christendom," sitting in churches today, who can’t see either, and you better be careful because it goes from I won’t see to I can’t see. Watch out for the state of your heart and your openness to see the truth. If you want to see the light, you have to turn from sin and repent and ask God to forgive and cleanse and open your spiritual eyes." (Ibid) (Bolding added)

Life Application Study Bible - The lamp is Christ; the eye represents spiritual understanding and insight. Evil desires make the eye less sensitive and blot out the light of Christ's presence. If you have a hard time seeing God at work in the world and in your life, check your vision. Are any sinful desires blinding you to Christ?

Luke 11:36  "If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays."

KJV Luke 11:36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.

  • If therefore your whole body is full of light  Ps 119:97-105; Pr 1:5; 2:1-11; 4:18,19; 6:23; 20:27; Isa 8:20; 42:16; Hosea 6:3; Mt 13:11,12,52; Mark 4:24,25; 2 Cor 4:6; Eph 4:14; Col 3:16; 2 Ti 3:15-17; Heb 5:14; James 1:25; 2 Peter 3:18
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight - John MacArthur


These titles are from John MacArthur's outline

  • The presence of light - Luke 11:32
  • The problem of sight - Luke 11:33
  • The pretense of sight - Luke 11:34
  • The preciousness of sight - Luke 11:35

If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined -  First, observe the repetitive description - whole, full, no dark, wholly illumined. Jesus states for those who turn from their blinding sin and unto God, the Spirit of truth and the Word of truth (the Gospel) enables them "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me (Jesus for He is speaking to Paul)." (Acts 26:18-note) And when that happens, their whole body becomes full of light with no dark part because it is wholly illumined by the Gospel. 

Jesus gave a frightening warning to all who would not turn to the light and receive the Light of the world that they might be "wholly illumined"

So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes (cf Lk 11:34b). 36 “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” (John 12:35-38)

They had tauntingly ask Jesus for a sign in Lk 11:16-note and He graciously gave them the sign of Jonah (Lk 11:29-note). As John records in chapter 12 of his Gospel Jesus "had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him"  which is why "He went away and hid Himself from them." John's words should frighten everyone who continues to deny the truth of the Gospel, because there may come a day when they will no longer be able to believe the Gospel. Jesus will have hidden Himself from them!

John's description goes on to record 

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him (same verb homologeo in Ro 10:9-10!), for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42-42, cf John 5:44, 9:22, Jn 2:23-25)

MacArthur comments on this passage -  That will send you to hell. And what was it that damned them? They knew; it was obvious. But people, religious people and their religious system, and the approval of their religious leaders was more important to them than the approval of God. False religion damns—even Judaism, even false Christianity. The light is everywhere...The problem isn’t light; the problem is sight. And the deadly danger is to have the pretense of sight and to miss the preciousness of the true sight when the scales of sin come off your eyes and everything becomes clear. This is God’s gift to the penitent who puts his trust in Christ. God knows your heart. He knows where you are. Before you reach the point where your blindness becomes permanent, this is the time to plead for your sins to be forgiven, scales to come off your eyes, embrace Christ.   (Luke 11:33-36 A Question of Sight)

Leon Morris of "Defender's Study Bible" has an interesting note: "A mental belief in the facts concerning Christ is not sufficient for salvation. Open confession is an evidence of saving faith (Ro 10:9,10)." 

Steven Cole has an interesting discussion of John 12:42-43 -  The sticky issue is whether John is describing true believers or not. Some emphasize “believed” and argue that John is talking about men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who were secret believers for fear of the Jews (Jn 19:38-39). They would say that they were saved, although their faith was defective. But I would contend that while these rulers later may have come to saving faith, at this point John is describing men who were not yet saved. We saw this “non-saving belief” back in Jn 2:23-25, where many believed in Jesus but He didn’t entrust Himself to them. Those verses set the stage for Jesus’ interview with Nicodemus. We saw the same thing in Jn 8:31-59, where John says that the Jews believed in Jesus, but they clearly do not believe in a saving way. John’s comment here about these men loving the approval of men, not of God, goes back to Jn 5:44, where Jesus asked His opponents, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (The word translated “approval” in Jn 12:43 is literally, “glory,” which stands in contrast to Jn 12:23, Jn 12:28, & Jn 12:41.) Added to this are Jesus’ words in Mk 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” These Pharisees would not confess Jesus because of their fear of being put out of the synagogue and their love of man’s glory over God’s glory. Unless they later became willing to confess Christ whatever the cost (Ed: E.g., notice Joseph of Arimathea's willingness to go before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus which surely was not without danger - Mk 15:43), I contend that their faith was not saving faith. Why does John include verses Jn 12:42 and Jn 12:43? Perhaps to warn those who say they believe, but are afraid to confess Christ, that they will face Jesus in judgment someday (“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. Jn 12:48). He wants us to see that true faith sees Jesus’ glory and confesses Him, no matter what the cost. True Christians are not ashamed to confess Christ before this adulterous and sinful generation. Man’s approval may last a few years; God’s approval lasts forever. (Why People Don’t Believe in Jesus  John 12:36b-43)

Warren Wiersbe - Many people reject the truth simply because of the fear of man (John 12:42-43). Among those who will be in hell are "the fearful" (Rev. 21:8). Better to fear God and go to heaven than to fear men and go to hell!

Comment: In fairness, it should be noted that other commentators favor these rulers to be genuine believers, saying things like a "mute" person cannot confess Jesus (would not a sign language confession be acceptable to God Who knows the heart?) Ultimately God knew the hearts of these rulers who John says believed.  

Becoming a believer and having your spiritual eyes opened opens limitless vision to you so that you understand spiritual things heretofore hidden from you. You go from total spiritual blindness to total spiritual sight (not that you understand everything immediately but you now have the mind of Christ, the Spirit of truth and the potential to understand the Word of truth which previously was foolishness to you!). You go from total spiritual blindness to 20/20 spiritual vision.

We repeatedly see the Scripture use the metaphor of light in the description of believers

John 8:12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Eph 5:8-note for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

Comment: Notice Paul does not say they were IN darkness, but their intrinsically WERE darkness! Woe!

Col 1:12-13-note (Now as those who are in the Light, in Christ we give) thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered (rescued) us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son (the Kingdom of Light),

1 Thes 5:4-6-note  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;  so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

1 John 1:6-7-note  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie (present tense) and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Romans 13:12-note (An exhortation to the children of light)  The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

1 Peter 2:9-note But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Steven Cole - Respond obediently to the light that you have been given and you will receive more light. This is the main thrust of the parable that Jesus goes on to give (Lu 11:33-36). Jesus’ teaching is the lamp set on the lampstand. He was displaying God’s truth openly for all to see (Lu 11:33). If a person’s spiritual eye is clear, he can see the truth that Jesus proclaims. But, if a person’s heart is darkened by sin, the light does no good. No amount of light helps a blind man (Lu 11:34). Thus, the warning, “Watch out that the light in you may not be darkness.” Respond obediently to the light that you’ve been given through Jesus and you will receive more light. Ignore or reject the light that you’ve been given, and it will be taken away and you’ll be left in total darkness. But if you respond obediently to the light Jesus gives, your entire life will be lit up and you will be a light unto others (Lu 11:36). Thus great privilege is also great responsibility. It is a great privilege to hear God’s Word preached and to read the Word. But that privilege also means that we are responsible to obey what we hear and read in the Word. If we respond obediently, our lives will be illumined by God so that we will know how to live in a manner pleasing to Him. Also, He will use our lives to shine on others who are lost in the darkness of sin. But, if we disregard the Word, even the light we have received will become darkness.

Disregard the light you have been given and you will face eternal judgment. It is plain from our text that Jesus believed in a coming judgment where all the living and dead will be present. The Queen of Sheba and her retinue will be there. The people of Ninevah will be there. The men of Jesus’ day will be there. You and I and everyone we know will be there. God, the righteous judge, will judge every person based on the light they received and their response to it. As Paul argues in Ro 1 and Ro 2, God has made Himself evident to all people through creation and through conscience, but men “did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Ro 1:21). All people have violated both the law of God and their own consciences and thus stand justly condemned before God (Ro 2:12-16). Any darkness in our lives is not God’s fault. It is due to our own sinfulness and our stubborn refusal to obey God’s Word. Thus all people need a Savior from the coming judgment. Thank God, He has provided that Savior!

Our faith must be in Jesus Christ who is God’s only way of salvation. Jesus is the lamp on the lampstand, set there for all to see. He and His teaching is the “something greater” than Solomon or Jonah. His death and resurrection from the dead is the sign we need to confirm that He is God’s chosen one, God’s Savior. As Paul argues (1Co 15:12-19), the entire Christian faith rests on the reality of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. If we don’t see Him and flee to Him for refuge from God’s wrath, the problem is with our darkened eyes, not with His shining light. We must cry out to God for eyes to see the light of Jesus Christ, who offered up Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sinners. “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Conclusion Several years ago, a man and his wife started attending the church I pastored in California. She was a believer, but he was not. After a few months, the wife needed surgery, and so I went to the hospital to sit with the husband while she was being operated on. After we had chatted about general things for a while, I said, “Bruce, you’ve been coming to the church for quite a while. I’d be interested to know whether you have yet put your trust in Christ as Savior or not.” He replied, “No, I still have some unanswered questions.” I said, “Well, what are they? Maybe I can shed some light on them.” He said, “I have a lot of them.” I said, “Well, we’ve got lots of time right now. What are the main ones?” He still hesitated, so I said, “How about if you give me a list of your questions. If I can give reasonable answers to them, then will you become a Christian?” He said, “If I’ve been hearing you correctly, if I trust in Christ then I have to yield my whole life to Him and do what He says. Is that right?” I said, “You got it!” He said, “I’m not ready to do that yet.” Thankfully, a few months later he made that commitment to Christ and I baptized him. The issue isn’t that you need more evidence. The issue is that you need repentance. You need to acknowledge that you have sinned against the holy God and that your good works could never pay for your sins. You need a Savior. You need to recognize that Jesus Christ is that Savior. He offered Himself on the cross to pay the price you deserve. If you will turn from your sin and trust in Christ as your sin-bearer, you will be flooded with light from God. You will be able to say, “I once was blind, but now I see!” (Luke 11:29-36 How to Respond to God’s Word)

Luke 11:37  Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table.

KJV Luke 11:37 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.

John MacArthur's Outline
Luke 11:37-54 Characteristics of False Religionists

False Religionists Are Characterized By What They Love (Lk 11:38-44)

  • False Religionists Love The Symbolic (Lk 11:38)
  • False Religionists Love The Sinful (Lk 11:39)
  • False Religionists Love The Simplistic (Lk 11:40-41)
  • False Religionists Love The Secondary  (Lk 11:42)
  • False Religionists Love The Showy (Lk 11:43-44)

False Religionists Are Characterized By What They Lack (Lk 11:45-54)

  • False Religionists Lack Spiritual Power (Lk 11:46)
  • False Religionists Lack Spiritual Life (Lk 11:47-51)
  • False Religionists Lack Spiritual Truth (Lk 11:52-54)



Hendriksen suggests that the link of Luke 11:38-54 with the previous topic on the seriousness of having great spiritual light and rejecting it could only result in great judgment. And in this present section we see Jesus "reveal to them what would be the result of their continued hostility. He now does this by pronouncing “woes” upon them." 

Now when He had spoken - This refers to Jesus' teaching on Light in Luke 11:33-36 where Jesus emphasized that the problem of the wicked generation in Israel was not a problem of light but of sight. It was not that they did not have adequate spiritual light (they had the 3 year ministry of Jesus), but that they did not have spiritual sight (or insight). In a very real sense the present story of the Pharisee in Lk 11:37ff is a living example of spiritual light without spiritual sight. 

Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table - From this text, there is nothing to suggest the Pharisee had an ulterior motive to test or expose Jesus. He wanted to share a meal with this Man Who had gained such a huge following. Jesus shows us that He is willing to be associated with the religious group, who were among those He had labeled a wicked generation. He still sought to see them converted. This is a great example of our Lord to all of us, for we tend to push away from religious hypocrites, but Jesus shows us we should at least be willing to dialogue with them. 

Earlier Luke recorded another "dinner invitation" from a Pharisee:

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. (Lk 7:36-note)

Lunch (709)(aristao from ariston = breakfast) means to eat a meal and generally referring to the meal nearer breakfast (perhaps akin to our "brunch"). It is clearly used in the context of breakfast in the only other NT occurrences (Jn 21:12, 15).

Many of Jesus' teaching opportunities arose during meals (cf. Lk 14:1-24; Matt. 15:1-20; 23:1-36; Mark 7:1-22).

MacArthur on aristao - This is the word for lunch. So it was the meal after a few hours of work; and a significant meal, a meal that took some time. And so in the typical fashion it wasn’t a snack, it wasn’t on the run, and this required an invitation, and He went in and did what you do at a prolonged meal, to have a prolonged conversation—you recline at the table, extending yourself toward the table, your feet away from the table in a sort of comfortable posture on a kind of couch—you get ready for an extended meal and conversation.

J C Ryle writes "Christ is our pattern as well as our propitiation. There are evidently times and occasions when the servant of Christ must mix with the ungodly and the children of this world. There may be seasons when it may be a duty to hold social intercourse with them, to accept their invitations, and sit down at their tables. Nothing, of course, must induce the Christian to be a partaker in the sins or frivolous amusements of the world. But he must not be uncourteous. He must not entirely withdraw himself from the society of the unconverted, and become a hermit or an ascetic. He must remember that good may be done in the private room as well as in the pulpit. One qualification, however, should never be forgotten, when we act upon our Lord’s example in this matter. Let us take heed that we go down into the company of the unconverted in the same spirit in which Christ went. Let us remember His boldness in speaking of the things of God. He was always “about His Father’s business.”—Let us remember His faithfulness in rebuking sin. He spared not even the sins of those that entertained Him, when His attention was publicly called to them. Let us go into company in the same frame of mind, and our souls will take no harm. If we feel that we dare not imitate Christ in the company which we are invited to join, we may be sure that we had better stay at home."

Pharisees were a relatively small Jewish sect (about 6000 in Jesus' day) but were the most influential of the three major Jewish sects. Their major tenet was strict adherence to the Mosaic Law, not only as it was written, but more importantly, how they interpreted it adding their extrabiblical teachings and traditions. By strictly adhering to these rules they sought to attain (self) righteousness before God. Ironically, it was the zeal of the Pharisees for the law that caused them to become focused on rituals and external keeping of the law. They abandoned pursuit of relationship with God in lieu of outward behavior modification and ritual which they, in their deluded state of spiritual blindness (cf "Light" in Lk 11:33-36), thought would be pleasing to God. The totally missed the mark of true spirituality.

Pharisees (5330) see study of pharisaios from an Aramaic word peras (found in Da 5:28), signifying "to separate. (See Wikipedia article)

Reclined at the table - The middle east custom was to recline rather than sit in chairs.

MacArthur begins his sermon with some interesting thoughts on the nature of ceremonial religion - Now as we look at the story, you’re going to see the state of apostate Judaism; you’re going to see the character of Pharisaism. But I want you to get beyond that also. You’re going to see an example of all false religion and how it operates, how it functions in its blinding, iniquitous, deceptive hypocrisy. Religious hypocrites with unchanged hearts cut off from God are left to do nothing but be hypocrites. And we’re very familiar with it, whether you’re talking about the Roman Catholic Church, for example, the Greek Orthodox movement, Anglo-Catholicism, Hindus, Muslims—whatever you’re talking about. It’s the same kind of thing; it’s all for show and absent of any reality. Their religion was purely external. And what happens is this: in order to live out your religion and put on a convincing show, you elaborate the external, so you expand the emblems; you expand the functions; you expand the ceremonies; you expand the rituals; you proliferate the prescriptions. That’s exactly what the Jews had done—way beyond the Old Testament. That’s what the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox have done—way beyond what the New Testament teaches, adding almost endless rituals, routines, ceremonies, regulations, because there’s nothing on the inside—but you can create a bigger illusion that way.

Steven Cole - There is probably no sin more tolerated or more widespread in the Christian world than legalism. It may surprise you to hear it labeled as sin. Legalists are thought to be a bit overzealous or “uptight,” but they aren’t usually thought of as sinning in the same sense as adulterers, thieves, liars, and the like. To the contrary, legalists seem to be concerned about holiness. Yet the Lord Jesus had more conflicts with the legalists of His day than any other group. It wasn’t the adulterers, the robbers and that sort, who put Jesus on the cross. It was the legalists. Later on, the Apostle Paul had the same experience, as the legalists dogged his steps, perverting the gospel of the grace of God. When you study the life of Christ, it is noteworthy how He deliberately did things to provoke the legalists. He could have healed people on any other day of the week, but He often did it on the Sabbath. He could have been more discreet in violating the Pharisees’ rules, but He did it openly. When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, He could have gone along with their elaborate hand-washing custom, but He deliberately ignored it. When they questioned Him about it, He could have been more polite, but He blasted them for their hypocrisy. When a lawyer pointed out that Jesus had offended them as well, He didn’t say, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you good folks.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well!” Jesus confronted legalism as sin.
And yet many Christian churches today are riddled with legalism, but the pastors are too “nice” to stand up to the legalists and say, “You’re not going to do that in this church!” The evangelical church today is plagued by “niceness.” Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that to be like Jesus means always being nice, never offending anyone, never confronting anyone. But clearly, if we want to be like Jesus, we must confront sin. And, legalism is sin!
What is legalism? Some erroneously confuse it with an emphasis on obedience. I have been accused of being legalistic because I preach that we must obey God’s Word. But every book of the Bible teaches that we must obey God. Being under grace does not mean that we are free to disobey God.
Others say that legalism is when we set up any manmade rules. But there are many areas not specifically addressed in the Bible where we need some rules in order to function as a family or church. Parents are not being legalistic when they set a curfew for their kids. Churches are not being legalistic when they follow certain procedures or practices.
So, what is legalism? Legalism is an attempt to gain favor with God or to impress our fellow man by doing certain things (or avoiding other things), without regard to the condition of our hearts before God. At the root of legalism is the sin of pride, because the legalist thinks that he is able to commend himself to God by his own good deeds. Invariably, he is only looking at externals, not at his heart. Also, the legalist’s pride motivates him to exalt himself in the sight of others by his outward behavior, again neglecting to see the corruption of his own heart. Thus legalism denies human depravity and exalts human ability. As such, it is opposed to the gospel of God’s grace. That’s why both Jesus and Paul clashed with the legalists.
Jesus hates legalism because it does not deal with the condition of our hearts before God.
Christianity is primarily a matter of the heart. Everything flows from a heart relationship with God, who transforms our hearts when He regenerates us. The Jewish religious leaders seemingly were seeking after God, but in reality they were self-seeking. They didn’t see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. They saw themselves as good people because they kept the Law. But in reality, they didn’t keep the Law because they didn’t apply it on the heart level. Thus, Jesus in effect said that if they would be as careful about clean hearts as they were about clean hands, then they would be what they ought to be.  (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Luke 11:38  When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.

KJV Luke 11:38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.


He was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal - There was no regulation in the Mosaic Law stating one needed to ceremonially wash before meals. Men added this hypocritical "rule" which dealt only with external "uncleanliness" but said nothing about the uncleanness of the heart. They demonstrated (they thought) their holiness but demonstrating their attention to external cleanliness but they it was all show because their heart remained unclean before God (see the words of Jesus below). 

Mark records

The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions (see paradosis) of the elders (presbuteros); 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing (baptismos) of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure (common, unclean, unholy = koinos) hands?” (Mk 7:1-5)

Comment: In their minds the traditions of the elders were superior to Truths of the Scripture and thus was the only reliable interpretation of God’s Word. (see the prayer below)

See John MacArthur's sermon "Scripture Twisting Tradition" on Mark 7:1-13

Matthew records a confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders over hand-washing: 

Then some Pharisees and scribes *came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do Your disciples break the traditions (see paradosis) of the elders (presbuteros)? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 “For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ 5“But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 “You hypocrites,(hupokrites) rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:  8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.  9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’”  (Mt 15:1-9) (See MacArthur - Confusing Man's Traditions with God's Commandments)

MacArthur adds that they would wash their hands ceremonially if by chance they had  "touched a Gentile that day or touched something a Gentile touched, or touched something an unclean person touched, or touched something else unclean (Ed: like a dead animal). This ritual was to symbolize their holiness and their desire to be clean from all the defilements of the world. And the Mishnah actually describes how this was to be done. It even gets down to the amount of water. You were to use enough water to fill one and a half egg shells, and it was to be poured across the tips of the fingers, running down to the wrist, and then the hands were to be washed, symbolizing this bathing/cleansing.

See an interesting Jewish article on the ritual of handwashing (sample quote) = "A benediction is recited over the washing of the hands: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.” Notice how the benediction falsely ascribes this ritual to a commandment from God! When you are deceived, you don't even know it!

He was surprised - Notice that there is no record the Pharisee spoke anything, so undoubtedly this is another episode in which Jesus knew what the man was thinking. Recall Simeon's prophetic words to Mary in Luke 2:35-note "and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”  The thoughts in this Pharisee's heart had been revealed to Jesus. 

Surprised (astonished, amazed)(2296) see previous note on thaumazo. This is the same verb Luke used to describe the reaction of the crowd when Jesus cast out the demon (Lk 11:14-note).

Ceremonially washed (907)(baptizo from bapto = cover wholly with a fluid) literally means is to submerge, to dip or immerse as in water. A study of the 77 NT uses (See below) reveals that most of the uses of baptizo in the Gospels and Acts are associated with literal water baptism. Here we see the Pharisee's teaching of "ceremonially baptizing" your hands before a mean. The ritual was not about hygiene but hypocrisy! 

Edersheim, the great Jewish scholar, writes, "Water jars were kept ready to be used before every meal. The minimum amount of water to be used was a quarter of a log, which is defined as enough to fill one and a half eggshells. The water was first poured on both hands, held with the fingers pointed upward. It must run down the arm as far as the wrist and drop off from the wrist, for the water itself was now unclean having touched the unclean hands. If it ran down the fingers again, it would render them unclean. The process was repeated with the hands held in the downward direction, the fingers pointing down, and finally, each hand was cleansed with being rubbed with the fist of the other, and a strict Jew would do this before every meal and between every course in every meal." (Quoted from MacArthur's sermon Confusing Man's Traditions with God's Commandments)

Manners and Customs of Bible Lands - CUSTOMS AT MEALTIME -- Eastern habits, connected with the eating of a meal, are such a decided contrast to Western habits, that much care should be given to the study of them, if the many references in the Bible to eating, are to be interpreted accurately. Washing Of Hands Before Eating - Orientals are careful to wash their hands before a meal, but they would think that the Occidental way of washing in the water already made dirty by the hands, to be very untidy and disgraceful. The servant or whoever takes his place, pours water on the hands to be washed as they are held over a basin. Often the basin has a concave cover with holes, so as to allow the dirty water to run through and thus be out of sight. The method of eating without knives, forks, or spoons, makes this washing a necessity. That this method of washing was in vogue in the days of the prophets is seen by the way Elisha was characterized by the king's servants: "Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah" (2Kings 3:11). Elisha had served as Elijah's servant, and pouring water, so that his master could wash his hands, was an important part of his duties. When the Pharisees complained against the disciples of Jesus, because they ate bread without washing their hands (Matt. 15:1, 2; Mark 7:1-5), it was concerning a lengthy ceremonial washing of hands that they spoke. The Jewish hierarchy of that day had given forth a positive injunction as to exactly how this ablution should be done. It was not a law of Moses but a tradition of the elders. Jesus refused to sanction it as a rule that was binding. It was not the custom of washing hands before eating that Jesus objected to, but the authority the rabbis claimed to have in telling the people the exact and detailed manner in which it must be done. (Manners and Customs Pdf)

See Wikipedia article - Ritual Washing in Judaism

Ablution in the Jewish Encyclopedia (click for ful article) - For the purpose of actual or ritual purification, ablutions or washings form an important feature of the Jewish religious ceremonial. Judaism is in thorough accord with the proverb, "Cleanliness is next to godliness" (see Mishnah, Soṭah, ix. 15): indeed, it goes further; for it holds practically that cleanliness is godliness itself. There are three kinds of Ablution recognized in Biblical and rabbinical law: (1) Washing of the hands, (2) washing of the hands and feet, and (3) immersion of the whole body in water.

Mishnah (Yadaim 1:1-2)

         1:1      A      [To render hands clean] a quarter-log of water do they pour for hands,
               B      for one,
               C      also for two.
               D      A half-log [is to be used] for three or four.
               E      A log [is to be used] for five and for ten and for a hundred.
               F      R. Yose says, “And on condition that for the last among them, there should not be less than a quarter-log.”
               G      They add [to the water used] for the second [pouring], but they do not add [to the water used] for the first [pouring of water over the hands].

         1:2      A      With all sorts of utensils do they pour [water] for hands,
               B      even with utensils made of dung, utensils made of stone, utensils made of [unbaked] clay.
               C      They do not pour [water] for hands either with the sides of [broken] utensils, or the bottom of a ladling jar, or with the plug of a barrel.
               D      Nor should a man pour [water] for his fellow with his cupped hands.
               E      For they draw, and they mix [water with the ash of the red cow], and they sprinkle purification water, and they pour [water] for hands only with a utensil.
               F      And only utensils afford protection with a tightly fitted cover, and nothing affords protection from the power of a clay utensil [in the Tent of a corpse] except utensils.

Luke 11:39  But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness.

KJV Luke 11:39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.

  • Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter Mt 23:25; Gal 1:14; 2 Ti 3:5; Titus 1:15
  • but inside of you Lk 16:15; Genesis 6:5; 2 Chr 25:2; 31:20,21; Pr 26:25; 30:12; Jeremiah 4:14; Mt 12:33-35; 15:19; John 12:6; 13:2; Acts 5:3; 8:21-23; James 4:8
  • you are full of robbery and wickedness. Ps 22:13; Ezekiel 22:25,27; Zephaniah 3:3; Mt 7:15
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:37-44 How to Evangelize Religious People - John MacArthur


But the Lord said to him - Jesus knew that failing to ceremonially wash would incite a reaction from the Pharisee. He allowed the confrontation because He wanted to highlight the foolishness of their empty ritual and worthless religion. 

Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter - Now think about what Jesus is saying to the Pharisee. Everyone knows a good host would not dare put a cup out that did not have even the outside spotless and the same for a plate. You could turn this host's plate over and look at the bottom and it would be clean! But when we drink from a cup or eat off of a plate, we are not generally concerned with the outside but we are definitely concerned with the inside. You can see how Jesus is leading this Pharisee to apply the same logic to our body and soul. External cleanliness is fine, but internal cleanliness is crucial. And this is where Jesus calls out the Pharisee, not on the external but on the internal.

Nelson's NKJV Study Bible - The Pharisees washed the outside of cups, making sure that the cups had not become unclean through contact with a dead insect (see Lev. 11:31-38).

but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness - They had clean dishes but dirty hearts! Imagine you are a guest in someone's house and you respond to them with words like Jesus did! Jesus is saying in essence that their symbolic acts lacked spiritual substance, as did their entire religious system! In fact it is characteristic of false religions, that the more symbols and symbolic acts they use, the less spiritual reality there is. And what does all the external symbolism hide? It hides the sinful state of the heart. We see this same type of symbolism in Hinduism and Buddhism, but it is all for naught because it does nothing the for internal wickedness of their heart. But the deadly deception of their symbolism, is that it makes them think that that they are "okay" inside, that they are somehow compensating for the wickedness of their heart. 

They could keep the external rules fastidiously, but they had no rule over their internal wickedness, which filled their soul. The Pharisees were concerned with what one does, while Jesus points out they lacked concern for what one is. As we read about the Pharisees, we all do well to examine our own heart, because just as the Pharisees were professors of religion without possession of relationship with God, so too are many in the church today. They claim to know Christ and yet continually compromise and live more like the devil. This is a deadly deception which will take a person to hell unless they repent and come to their senses and truly believe in Christ (cf 2 Ti 2:24-26). 

MacArthur paraphrases Jesus' words - “You know what your problem is, you clean the part of the plate that nobody eats from. You clean the part of the plate that doesn’t matter. You clean the outside of the cup and the outside of the platter. It is pointless. All your symbolic stuff doesn’t touch the inside that’s filthy and putrid.” And then He says it, Lk 11:39, “Inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness.” Would you call that a direct approach? That is the direct approach. In your heart you are wicked. You say, “How could He say that?” Well, first of all, He is omniscient, so He knows. But more than that, He understands religion that is false is always a cover-up, always. Again, Matthew 23:25, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, you clean the outside of the cup and dish, inside you’re full of robbery and self-indulgence. First clean the inside of the cup and the dish so that the outside of it may become clean also.” You see, they loved sin on the inside. In John 3, Jesus said, “You men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are” … What?… “are evil.” Their soul was feeding on pride. Their soul was feeding on lust. Their soul is feeding on deception. 

Jesus accuses the Pharisees not just of plundering people's possessions but of the far worse crime of "stealing" their souls. In Matthew Jesus describes their robbery of people's souls declaring "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (Mt 23:15).

Steven Cole on applying this section - Before we look specifically at the theme, take note that Jesus accepted social invitations from unbelievers. But, also note that He did not hesitate to confront unbelievers with their sin! He deliberately provoked this confrontation by doing something that surprised His host. But we need to be careful about how we apply this. Jesus was in a cultural context that understood the bold language of the prophets. Also, He is the Lord and as such has both the insight and authority to speak in this manner. Paul instructs us, “Walk with [NASB, margin] wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5, 6). The metaphor of salt implies that we can and should be provocative, but we also must speak in a gracious and sensitive manner. But in every social contact with unbelievers, keep your purpose clear. You’re there to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit in convincing the person about sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to proclaim the good news of God’s grace in Christ. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

MacArthur quips that "this approach of Jesus is utterly contrary to every evangelistic strategy you hear being applied today. But where are you going to go if you don’t get to the core of the issue? You can only get to the cross when you’ve gone through this kind of exposure. They love symbols on the outside; they love sin on the inside."

Full (1073)(gemo) means to be full of something, to contain, to be stuffed, to be filled full

Gilbrant - In the New Testament, as in the Septuagint, gemō is used both in the literal sense of something which is filled to capacity and in a metaphoric sense. The metaphoric usage of gemō is most common in the New Testament. For example, Jesus portrayed the scribes and Pharisees, who were so careful to maintain proper outward appearances, as being “full” of robbery and self-indulgence (Mt 23:25; Lk 11:39), and as being “full” of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (Mt 23:27). The Book of Revelation often uses gemō in describing events of the end times. For example, the four living creatures before the throne of God are “full” of eyes in front and behind (Rev 4:6,8) who possess golden bowls “full” of incense, described as the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8). The living creatures also possess golden bowls “full” of the wrath of God (Rev 15:7) to be poured out upon the wicked. (Ibid)

The last NT use in Rev 21:9 describes "the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues" which is the final pouring out of God's righteous wrath on a sinful, God hating world. 

Gemo - 11x  read passages to see what they are full of - interesting! - Mt. 23:25; Mt. 23:27; Lk. 11:39; Ro 3:14; Rev. 4:6; Rev. 4:8; Rev. 5:8; Rev. 15:7; Rev. 17:3; Rev. 17:4; Rev. 21:9

Gemo - 5x in the Septuagint - Gen. 37:25; 2 Chr. 9:21; Ps. 10:7; Ps. 14:3; Amos 2:13 The Septuagint uses gemo refers to a heavy load of material goods in a camel caravan (Ge 37:25), a ship’s cargo of precious goods (2 Chr 9:21), a mouth which is full of cursing and bitterness (Ps 10:7), and a wagon load of straw (Amos 2:13).

Here in Lk 11:39 Jesus uses gemo in the sense of their soul is full of robbery and wickedness. And He uses the present tense indicating that they are continually filled. This is their condition or state. What a horrible, albeit accurate, description of the souls of the super religious men!

Robbery (724)(harpage from harpazo = to seize and carry off with force, of the "Rapture" 1 Thes 4:17! from the root harp---, seen in Eng., "rapacious;" an associated noun, with the same spelling, denoted a rake, or hook for drawing up a bucket) means robbery, pillage, plunder, extortion, that which has been stolen such as loot or prey. In the New Testament harpagē is that which was gained unlawfully by the Pharisees and which was gained by extortion. (See Matthew 23:25.) In Hebrews 10:34 it is used of that which was taken from the Christians illegally and for which they were compensated by a better possession. Note that in Luke 11:39 it can refer to the desire in the heart of a man to indulge in gain that comes from greediness.

Friberg on harpage - (1) as an action of carrying off someone's belongings by force robbery, plundering (Heb 10.34); (2) concretely what has been seized, plunder, booty (probably Mt 23.25); (3) as an attitude greediness, covetousness (Lk 11.39).

Harpage - 3x - Mt 23:25, Lk 11:39, Heb 10:34. Used 5x in 5v in the Septuagint - Lev. 6:2; Eccl. 5:8; Isa. 3:14; Isa. 10:2; Nah. 2:12. In the Septuagint harpage described that which was stolen from the poor and was in the house of the robber (Isa 3:14). The lion when taking care of its young and filling its den with prey is said to fill its dwelling place with “spoil” (Nah2:12).

Wickedness (4189)(poneria from poneros from pónos = labor, sorrow, pain and and poneo = to be involved in work, labor) refers to depravity, to an evil disposition, to badness or to an evil nature. Poneria is used in the NT only in the moral and ethical sense and refers to intentionally practiced ill will. Poneria describes the state of lacking moral or social values (baseness, sinfulness, maliciousness, malevolence). Poneria is active malice. Poneria is malevolence, not only doing evil, but being evil. Webster defines malevolence as the condition which arises from intense often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred. Poneria is  used only two other times in Gospels - Matthew 22:18 Mark 7:22. Peter uses poneria in his confrontation of the Jewish audience boldly declaring "“For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning (apostrepho) every one of you from your wicked (poneria) ways.” (Acts 3:26). Poneria describes our demonic enemies as "spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12-note). 

Luke 11:40  "You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?

KJV Luke 11:40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?

  • You foolish ones 12:20; 24:25; Ps 14:1; 75:4,5; 94:8; Pr 1:22; 8:5; Jeremiah 5:21; Mt 23:17; Mt 23:26; 1 Cor 15:36
  • did not He who made the outside make the inside also Genesis 1:26; 2:7; Numbers 16:22; Ps 33:15; 94:9; Zechariah 12:1; Heb 12:9
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:37-44 How to Evangelize Religious People - John MacArthur

You foolish ones - What a way to address one's host! Unless, as in this case, it was the truth. How could He possibly win then to faith in the Gospel unless they had full understanding of their lost, sinful condition. This is sadly not the usual approach many take today in presenting the Gospel, but if you read Paul's pattern in Romans, he emphasized first the bad news (Romans 1-3) and then followed with the good news of the availability of justification by faith (Romans 3-5). Yes, Jesus said not to call anyone a fool (Mt 5:22-note), but that was a different context (where one was using it as a coarse, disparaging epithet) and a different word (moros). The word Jesus uses here (aphron) conveys the sense of one who is unwise or imprudent which is an accurate description of the mindset of most of the Pharisees. Paul used aphron in his letter to the saints at Ephesus exhorting them "So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph 5:17)

Jesus calls the ritualistic Pharisees fools (aphrones) because they thought that, by doing something external, they could automatically gain favor with God. That line of reasoning then and now is imprudent and unwise and will end up taking one straight to hell. 

Hendriksen - “You fools.” Whether, as English equivalent, we prefer “You fools” or “You foolish ones,” either way, would a modern audience approve of being addressed in this manner? We should remember, however, that Christ’s all-seeing “eyes” were able to do what today’s ministers cannot do. Those eyes were able to penetrate to the very depths of human hearts. Accordingly, the passage cannot mean that any clergyman now has the right to call the members of his congregation “fools.” On the other hand, it is also true that there are times when a faithful minister will have to use language that is not exactly complimentary. The result? The following summarizes what actually happened in the case of a pastor who was bidding farewell to his congregation. A certain lady shook his hand very firmly and, with tear-filled eyes, remarked, “No minister has ever hurt me as much as you did. Thanks be to God. I needed it!” (Ibid)

Foolish (878)(aphron from a = without + + phren = understanding, means originally meant diaphragm and was regarded as the seat of mental and spiritual activity, then mind or understanding -- see another study on aphron - click here) is literally a lack of sense, reflection, understanding or reason. Aphron is one who does not use his rational powers. Aphron describes one not employing his understanding especially as it relates to practical matters. It means lack of good judgment and can refer to folly in action. It can express a reckless and inconsiderate habit of one's mind. Related ideas inherent in aphron are not using common sense, mindless or unmindful of the consequence of a thought or action, acting rashly. The aphron is not a dim-witted person or clown (as in ‘play the fool’), but in secular Greek was the person who had lost the correct measure of himself and the world around him. He was one who lacked prudence (= the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason and includes the idea of acting with or showing care and thought for the future)

Did not He Who made the outside make the inside also - Even a foolish Pharisee could grasp this simple truth, that God made the outside (the body we see) and the inside (the soul we cannot not see).  He made them both. The implication is clear, the One Who made you is concerned about the outside and the inside. The Pharisees thought the external rituals made them holy, but failed to reflect on the fact that God is holy and so He is concerned about both the outside and the inside of those who call themselves "holy." To restrict one's holiness to the external is to wholly shortcut God's holiness. Jesus statement implies that the Pharisees know "deep inside" that inside, in their soul, they are not holy. Paul explains this in (1 Cor 2:11) asking (rhetorically) "who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" So all men know what they are like on the interior, at the heart level. And yet what were the Pharisees focused on, the internal heart condition or the externals? And of course the answer Jesus says is they were focused on the externals of religion toward God and devoid of the internal relationship with God. And that is why Jesus justifiably called them foolish!  

These men who were supposedly teachers of the Law ignored the repeated teaching in the Old Testament that God had always been interested in man's heart. David could not have stated it more clearly then when he wrote "For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice (EXTERNAL), otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart (INTERNAL), O God, Thou wilt not despise." (Ps 51:16-17-note, cf King Josiah's tender heart in 2 Ki 11:19)

C. R. Erdman - Jesus declared that to wash the body while the heart is impure is as absurd as to clean the outside of an unclean cup or platter. He declared that God who made the body created the soul also, and that God is more concerned with the latter than with the former. 

Leon Morris says this passage speaks of "the importance of a right inward attitude when we give alms. We must give from our hearts and not just make an outward gesture. ‘The gift without the giver is bare’ (Lowell, cited in Arndt). When one gives from the heart everything is clean. No amount of pouring of water can make up for a wrong state in the inward life." (Tyndale NT Commentary-Luke)

J C Ryle - Let us notice in this passage the foolishness which accompanies hypocrisy in religion. We are told that the Pharisee with whom our Lord dined marvelled that our Lord “had not first washed before dinner.” He thought, like most of his order, that there was something unholy in not doing it, and that the neglect of it was a sign of moral impurity. Our Lord points out the absurdity of attaching such importance to the mere cleansing of the body, while the cleansing of the heart is overlooked. He reminds His host that God looks at the inward part of us, the hidden man of the heart, far more than at our skins. And He asks the searching question, “Did not He that made that which is without, make that which is within also?” The same God who formed our poor dying bodies, is the God who gave us a heart and soul. For ever let us bear in mind that the state of our hearts is the principal thing that demands our attention, if we would know what we are in religion. Bodily washings, and fastings, and gestures, and postures, and self-imposed mortifications of the flesh, are all utterly useless if the heart is wrong. External devoutness of conduct, a grave face, and a bowed head, and a solemn countenance, and a loud amen, are all abominable in God’s sight, so long as our hearts are not washed from their wickedness, and renewed by the Holy Ghost. Let this caution never be forgotten. The idea that men can be devout before they are converted, is a grand delusion of the devil, and one against which we all need to be on our guard. There are two Scriptures which are very weighty on this subject. In one it is written, “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23.) In the other it is written, “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart.” (1 Sam. 14:7.) There is a question which we should always ask ourselves in drawing near to God, whether in public or private. We should say to ourselves, “Where is my heart?”

Luke 11:41  "But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. 

KJV  But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.

NET   But give from your heart to those in need, and then everything will be clean for you. 

ESV  But give as alms those things that are within, and behold (idou), everything is clean for you.

NLT   So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

CSB  But give to charity what is within, and then everything is clean for you.

NIV  But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

NAB   But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.

NKJ  "But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.

NJB  Instead, give alms from what you have and, look, everything will be clean for you.

  • But give that which is within as charity Lk 12:33; 14:12-14; 16:9; 18:22; 19:8; Deuteronomy 15:8-10; Job 13:16-20; Ps 41:1; Ps 112:9; Pr 14:31; 19:17; Eccl 11:1,2; Isa 58:7-11; Daniel 4:27; Mt 5:42; Mt 6:1-4; 25:34-40; 26:11; Acts 9:36-39; 10:31,32; 11:29; 24:17; 2 Cor 8:7-9,12; 9:6-15; Eph 4:28; Heb 6:10; 13:16; James 1:27; 2:14-16; 1 Jn 3:16,17
  • then all things are clean for you of such things as ye have Acts 10:15; Ro 14:14-18; 1 Ti 4:4,5; Titus 1:15
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:37-44 How to Evangelize Religious People - John MacArthur

But give that which is within as charity - Give is a command (aorist imperative) and the only way to obey this command is to be enabled by the Holy Spirit. So clearly Jesus is calling for them to be born again, and receive a new heart so that instead of getting they begin giving. In a sense, Jesus is indirectly giving this Pharisee good news of the way he could be transformed. 

The noun charity (or alms)(eleēmosúnē) is the result of being eleémōn, merciful, and it is the outward expression of eleos, active compassion or mercifulness. Applying this truth to the Pharisees, Jesus is saying that if they gave out of mercy, it would signify that they had a heart of mercy and by "default" that would be "clean" in heart. Their giving of alms would not MAKE them clean, but instead would demonstrate that they HAD BEEN MADE CLEAN by grace through faith. 

God has always been interested in the internal before the external .In Amos God says to Israel

"Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps (THEY ARE HYPOCRITICAL). But (AS A REFLECTION OF TRUE CHANGE OF HEART) let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24)

Charity (Alms) (1654)(eleemosune from eleemon = merciful from eleos = mercy, kindness, compassion) signifies mercy or pity and came to be applied particularly in giving alms because it refers to the actual helpful action of the pity. Stated another way alms represents money given out of mercy for the poor. Eleēmosúnē is the expression of mercy to be contrasted with oiktirmós, which conveys more the expression of sentiment than the outward manifestation of character.

Alms = something such as money or food given freely to relieve the poor. Our English word "alms" is from Latin eleemosyna in turn from the Greek word eleemosyne.

Giving was an important part of ancient Judaism where even those gleaning the fields were told to leave behind some of the sheaves so that the poor could gather and have food, Moses recording that…

'Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 'Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:9-10-note)

Since there is no longer a Temple, or priests, modern religious Jews instead pray or offer tzedakah as a form of charity.

William Barclay on charity -

To the Jew almsgiving was the most sacred of all religious duties. How sacred it was may be seen from the fact that the Jews used the same word—tzedakah—both for righteousness and almsgiving. To give alms and to be righteous were one and the same thing. To give alms was to gain merit in the sight of God, and was even to win atonement and forgiveness for past sins.

“Prayer with fasting is good, but better than both is almsgiving with righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than wealth with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold. For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do wrong are their own worst enemies. (Tobit 12:8)…

There was a rabbinic saying:

“Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices.”

Almsgiving stood first in the catalogue of good works. It was then natural and inevitable that the man who desired to be good should concentrate on almsgiving. The highest teaching of the Rabbis was exactly the same as the teaching of Jesus. They too forbade ostentatious almsgiving.

“He who gives alms in secret,” they said, “is greater than Moses.”

The almsgiving which saves from death is that

“when the recipient does not know from whom he gets it, and when the giver does not know to whom he gives it.”

There was a Rabbi who, when he wished to give alms, dropped money behind him, so that he would not see who picked it up.

“It were better,” they said, “to give a man nothing, than to give him something, and to put him to shame.”

There was one particularly lovely custom connected with the Temple. In the Temple there was a room called The Chamber of the Silent. People who wished to make atonement for some sin placed money there; and poor people from good families who had come down in the world were secretly helped by these contributions. (Gospel of Matthew - Daily Study Bible ) (Bolding added)

And then all things are clean (katharosfor you - Here is the ESV " and behold (idou), everything is clean for you." The word behold (sadly not translated in most modern versions) calls the reader to pay special attention to what follows.  In other words Jesus is saying not just their outside, but their inside would be clean. As noted there deeds of charity would reflect their "clean" (pure) heart. A pure heart would contrast with the heart of the Pharisees who gave alms (and even with great fanfare to be seen by men - cf Mt 6:2-4-note) but did so from a heart that was unclean, unregenerate. 

Jesus made a similar statement in Matthew

"You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean (katharos) also. (Matthew 23:26)

Paul made a statement very similar to Jesus

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure (katharos) heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

James said 

This is pure (katharos) and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27-note)

Clean (2513)(katharos) literally describes that which is free of dirt and thus clean. It describes that which is free from admixture or adulteration and thus is pure. From a biblical standpoint the concept of cleansing is deeply rooted in both the Old and the New Testaments.The Levitical laws placed  heavy emphasis on ceremonial cleansing and thus contact with any unclean animal, substance, person, or place was strictly forbidden. By the time Christ came this preoccupation with ceremonial cleanness had unfortunately displaced true worship with many of the Jews, most notably the Pharisees. It is not surprising then that the New Testament focuses mainly on an inward cleanness (heart, conscience), rather than on an external or ceremonial cleanness. Katharos is an adjective that figuratively is used in both the OT and the NT to describe the state of one's heart. When a person is pure in heart and mind, his or her perspective on all things is pure, and that inner purity produces outer purity. Katharos has to do with attitudes, integrity, and singleness of heart as opposed to duplicity and double mindedness. 

Here are some related uses of katharos

Matthew 5:8 (note) "Blessed are the pure in heart (see representative uses in the Septuagint below), for they shall see God.

John 13:10 Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."

Titus 1:15 (note)To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

NET Note - In Jewish culture giving alms to the poor was a very important religious observance; it was meant to be an act of mercy, kindness, and love (D. L. Bock, Luke [BECNT], 2:1114). The implication from the text is that the Pharisees gave alms, but without any of the spiritual concern which should have motivated those generous actions. Here Jesus commands the Pharisees to give from within themselves to those in need instead of just giving of their possessions. In so doing they would show true inner purity acceptable to God. This is in keeping with the author's social concerns elsewhere in the Gospel (cf., e.g., Luke 1:52–53, 4:18–19, 6:20–21, 14:13). The expression everything will be clean for you refers to the agreement that should exist between the overt practice of one's religious duties, such as almsgiving, and the inner condition of one's heart, including true love for God and the poor; one is not only to wash the outside of the cup and plate, but the inside as well, since as Jesus said, God created the inside too. Religious duties are not to be performed hypocritically, i.e., for the applause and esteem of people, but rather they are to be done out of a deep love for God and a sensitivity to and concern for the needs of others. Then, everything will be clean, both hearts and lives. 

Cole - The meaning of verse 41 is debated, but Jesus seems to be saying that if we deal with our hearts before God, then everything that flows outward is clean. As J. C. Ryle explains, “Give first the offering of the inward man. Give your heart, your affections, and your will to God, as the first great alms which you bestow, and then all your other actions, proceeding from a right heart, are an acceptable sacrifice, and a clean offering in the sight of God” (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

MacArthur explains this verse this way - All your symbolic alms giving, all your symbolic prayers, all your symbolic fasts are hypocritical as long as you keep plundering people, pillaging people, raping people, both body and soul. Give that which is within. Give your heart. Give your life and then all things are clean for you.

Luke 11:42  "But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

KJV Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

  • But woe to you Pharisees Mt 23:13-27
  • For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb Lk 18:12
  • yet disregard justice and the love of God  Deuteronomy 10:12,13; 1 Samuel 15:22; Pr 21:3; Isa 1:10-17; 58:2-6; Jeremiah 7:2-10; Jeremiah 7:21,22; Micah 6:8; Malachi 1:6; 2:17; John 5:42; Titus 2:11,12; 1 John 4:20
  • without neglecting the others. Leviticus 27:30-33; 2 Chr 31:5-10; Nehemiah 10:37; Eccl 7:18; Malachi 3:8
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • ​​​​​​​Luke 11:37-44 How to Evangelize Religious People - John MacArthur


But - What is Jesus contrasting? He has just described giving from an inside (heart) that is clean. The heart of the Pharisees was in stark contrast. It was an evil heart. They were going through the motions so to speak. They had symbol but no substance. Do we ever do that in Christianity? Certainly a number of denominations have routines that are part of their worship service. While sadly in many cases there is substance behind the ritual (e.g., reciting the Lord's Prayer as a congregation), what was meant to be substance can too often become only an empty ritual. This principle is true in our individual lives. We have our morning devotional, but there are many days when it seems more like an empty ritual than a meeting with the King. God, by Thy Spirit and Word, and for the sake of Jesus, deliver us from falling into the subtle trap of a ritualistic relationship with You. Amen

Woe to you Pharisees! - NLT paraphrases it "What sorrow awaits you Pharisees!" Jesus gives the first of 6 woes (Mt 23:13-29 has 7 woes!). Can you imagine Jesus' host, by this time he must have been totally rattled! Hendriksen adds the following differences between the woes in Luke 11 and Matthew 23

  • Those reported by Luke were addressed to Pharisees (Lk 11:42–44) and law-experts, scribes (Lk 11:46, 47, 52). Those reported by Matthew 23, though also directed to the scribes and Pharisees, were addressed “to the crowds and to Christ’s disciples.”
  • Those found in Luke 11 were spoken somewhat earlier than those found in Matthew 23 (the latter on Tuesday of Passion Week).
  • The six in Luke 11 were pronounced in a home, the seven in Mt 23 in the temple.

Woe (alas) (3750)(ouai  pronounced "oo-ah'ee," an eerie, ominous foreboding sound some say is like the cry of an eagle) is an onomatopoeic word (an imitation of the sound) which serves as an interjection expressing a cry of intense distress, displeasure or horror. Jesus uses it to convey a warning of impending judgment and disaster on the Pharisees. For example in Mt 23:13 the Woe says they will "not enter" the kingdom of heaven and Mt 23:15 the Woe prefaces Jesus' referring to them as "a son of hell." In Mt 23:29-31 the Woe relates to killing of the prophets and the Pharisees "bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets." And then in Mt 23:33 Jesus asks them "how shall you escape the sentence of hell?" The answer is they won't escape!

For term of explanation - Explaining why He is crying Woe to the Pharisees.

You pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb - They were meticulous on minutiae! They were punctilious regarding petty details! Imagine the burden of such detailed counting of seeds and stems! Jesus emphasizes their fastidious attention to external details, details which are not mentioned in Lev. 27:30–33; Dt. 14:22–29; 2 Chr 31:5–12). However Jesus' statement  without neglecting the others in context could be interpreted as a reference to their herbal tithing. In other words Jesus may not necessarily have condemned them for their tithe of minutiae. Alternatively, Jesus may be referring to the tithing clearly stated in Lev 27:30-33 because that text makes no mention of tiny herbs. MacArthur says yes, "they ought to have tithed. Jesus says, “You ought to have done that, the reasonable tithe, the required tithe, you ought to have done that.” MacArthur feels that tithing herbs is "over the top" and I tend to agree.

Lev. 27:30 ("the seed of the land") was used to support the tithing of herbs and spices. 

What is interesting is that their own extra-biblical writings in the  Mishnah said that rue is exempt from any tithe. These men were not even paying attention to their own traditions!  They were fastidious with their minutia on the outside and oblivious to justice and love that came from the inside, from the heart.

Rue is a strong-scented herb - see Wikipedia.

The tithing of various herbs was based on Lev. 27:30 "‘Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S; it is holy to the LORD." Though tithing of grain, fruit, wine, and oil was demanded (cf Nu. 18:12; Dt. 14:22-23), the scribes had expanded the items required to be tithed to include even the smallest of herbs.

Yet disregard justice and the love of God - The Pharisees were disregarding the spirit of the Law. And frankly they had no power to do otherwise because they were so corrupt inside. These are attitudes and actions which emanate from within, for a heart that is clean. These were basic things that the prophets also had warned about...

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? 

Zechariah 7:8-10 Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah saying, 9 “Thus has the LORD of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; 10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’

Augustine said -  Love God—and do what you please. If you love, what He wants will please you.

The first great commandment 


The Pharisees did not keep this commandment. They could not, because their heart was unclean!

But these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others - NLT paraphrases it "You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things." NIV - "You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone." They should have practiced the far more important matters of justice and the love of God. Tithing of tiny herbs could be done, but not in lieu of justice and love of God. 

The Pharisees were clever and would tell even their own parents that they could not help them financially because their money had been devoted to God (Mark 7:11 see Dictionary article, another or Korban). Technically, they were tithing, but practically, they were neglecting to love their own parents!

Steven Cole - Modern day legalists also major on the minors and minor on the majors. Some churches and Christian parents put major attention on rules about petty issues, such as dress codes or certain activities, but they tolerate serious sins, such as gossip, greed, and pride. If we shun people because of how they look, or over certain behaviors that, according to the Bible, are not major, we are guilty of the sin of the Pharisees. For example, you may be surprised to know what Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and C. S. Lewis all had in common. Yes, they were all godly Christian leaders who were greatly used by God. All except Lewis were gifted Bible expositors and pastors. But also, at least some of the time they were in the ministry, they all smoked! Many Christians question your salvation if you smoke! I think that if you smoke, you should quit as soon as possible, because it is not good stewardship of your body. The men I just mentioned all lived before that medical evidence was known. But my point is that there are many Christians who are more concerned with getting people to stop smoking than with getting them to walk in the Spirit and stop doing the deeds of the flesh. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Mishnah on tithing

A   Rue, goosefoot, wild coriander, water parsley, and eruca of the field are exempt from [separation of] tithes and may be bought from anyone during the Sabbatical year,
B   because produce of their type is not cultivated [but grows wild].
C  R. Judah says, “Aftergrowths of mustard are permitted [may be bought during the Sabbatical year],
D “because transgressors are not suspect concerning them [they are not suspected of cultivating mustard and then claiming that it is an aftergrowth].”
E  R. Simeon says, “All aftergrowths are permitted, except aftergrowths of cabbage,
F  “because produce of this type does not [grow uncultivated] among wild vegetables.”
G  And sages say, “All aftergrowths are forbidden.”

Luke 11:43  "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places.

KJV Luke 11:43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.


Woe to you Pharisees! - Warning woe number two of six in Luke 11. Surely this warning does not apply to Christians? Of course, that question is rhetorical! We are all continually vulnerable to falling into the fallen flesh's trap of desiring the spotlight more than some other brother or sister in Christ. Pride is a subtle sin that can creep up on us when we least expect it. We all do well to frequently pray Psalm 139:23-24 "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way." Amen

For you love the chief seats in the synagogues - The root of this sin is pride. These were not the "front row" seats but seats that were provided for dignitaries that actually faced the Jews gathered in the synagogue. The advantage of these seats was that they could be seen by all! They loved the publicity and prestige!

Cole - They were focused on their own glory, not on God’s glory. Pride is at the heart of legalism; humility is at the heart of true Christianity. The legalist can take pride in himself and his attainments because he is looking at outward matters, not at issues of the heart. He doesn’t acknowledge that his heart is just as sinful as the heart of the prostitute or robber. If he had been reared in their circumstances or had encountered the problems in life they had faced, he would have engaged in the same behavior, because he had the same heart of lust and greed. No, he sees himself as a notch above these sinners. He has attained a righteous life by his own hard work and discipline. The legalist is puffed up with pride.Scripture declares that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). One sure mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts is that we see ourselves as terrible sinners in the sight of God. We see that we deserve His judgment because of our pride, selfishness, and rebellion. Rather than comparing ourselves with others and concluding that we are basically good, we compare ourselves with God and conclude that no good thing dwells within us. Thus convicted of our great need, we flee to the cross for mercy. But legalists don’t like the message of the cross, because it confronts their pride. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

NET Note on chief seats - Or "seats of honor." The term here is plural and is not a reference only to the lead "seat of Moses" in the synagogue, but includes the front seats near the ark.

Hendriksen - Thus seated a person enjoyed the double advantage of (a) being near the person reading or leading in prayer, and (b) being able to see everybody. Besides, being ushered to such a seat was regarded as a mark of honor.As to “the formal salutations in the market places,” this indicates not a mere cheery “hello” but a demonstration of respect, an elaborate verbal recognition of the prominence of the person(s) addressed.

The respectful greetings in the market places - Matthew adds they loved "being called Rabbi by men." (Mt 23:7) The Hebrew word "rabbi" is transliterated from the Hebrew and literally meant literally "my great one" or "my lord" but was used as a respectful term of address for a scribe or one recognized as an outstanding teacher of the law, especially heads of rabbinical schools. So it was clearly a term of prestige which is what these prideful Pharisees insatiably craved. 

Barclay - The more exaggerated the respect of the greetings the Pharisees received in the streets the better they were pleased.

NET Note - The later Jewish summary of oral tradition, the Talmud, notes elaborate greetings for rabbis. The rebuke here is for pride. 

Jesus instructed His followers 

Do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Matt. 23:8–12; cf. Luke 14:8–11)

MacArthur - They loved status. O do religious leaders love to be somebody—hypocritical, self-righteous, proud, loveless, without justice or mercy, pillaging and raping the possessions and souls of people, covering their wretched sin. What do they want? They want to be loved and admired and accorded reverence and have elevated position and be venerated and be admired and have all kinds of titles and to be distinguished from everybody else by all the stuff they wear, so that somehow you think they’re holy. “Woe to you for wanting to be up in front where everybody can see you. Woe to you for all your elaborate titles, terms of exaltation....And this applies not only to Pharisees but all across the board, even into the modern time to all religious hypocrites. And that means all religious people apart from the true gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Barclay - Two things stand out about the Pharisees and for these two things Jesus condemned them.
(i) They concentrated on externals. So long as the externals of religion were carried out that was all that mattered. Their hearts might be as black as hell; they might be utterly lacking in charity and even in justice; but so long as they went through the correct motions at the correct time they considered themselves good in the eyes of God.
A man may be regular in his church attendance; he may be a diligent student of his Bible; he may be a generous giver to the church; but if in his heart there are thoughts of pride and of contempt, if he has no charity in his dealings with his fellow men in the life of the everyday, if he is unjust to his subordinates or dishonest to his employer, he is not a Christian man. No man is a Christian when he meticulously observes the conventions of religion and forgets the realities.
(ii) They concentrated on details. Compared with love and kindness, justice and generosity, the washing of hands and the giving of tithes with mathematical accuracy were unimportant details. Once a man came to Dr Johnson with a tale of woe. He worked in a paper factory; he had taken for his own purposes a very little piece of paper and a very little bit of string, and he had convinced himself that he had committed a deadly sin and would not stop talking about it. At last Johnson broke out, “Sir, stop bothering about paper and packthread when we are all living together in a world that is bursting with sin and sorrow.” How often church courts and church people get lost in totally unimportant details of church government and administration, and even argue and fight about them, and forget the great realities of the Christian life! (Luke 11 Commentary)

Luke 11:44  "Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it."

KJV  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.


Woe to you! - Whereas the woes above are warnings for the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, this woe is a warning to them for their influence on others. Of course, this woe speaks to all of us, for we all "touch" other people's lives at home, at school, at work, etc. The question we each need to ask ourselves is "Am I salt and light" to those I encounter each day? Or have I lost my saltiness and has my light grown dim? Am I sour, bitter, unforgiving, etc, so that contact with me is like a Jew walking over a concealed tomb? Lord, show me and deliver me from such spiritual dryness and deadness for Jesus' sake. Amen

For you are like concealed tombs - The Jews whitewashed their tombs so that no one would accidentally touch them and be defiled. In this cultural context, Jesus makes an incredible statement, for these men considered themselves bastions of holiness, and here Jesus is saying they are the exact antithesis, in fact they are paragons of perfidiousness, if you will. Their teachings seemed to be true to their hearers, but were perverted, non-biblical and thus misleading and defiling and as noted below had the potential to lead their hearers to hell (Mt 23:15). Woe!

The  paragons of purity were the pinnacle of perversion of God's standards of right and wrong. They who should have been a purifying influence, proved to be a defiling one.

Steven Cole - The picture behind these ceremonial laws was that sin leads to death and that the contamination of sin and death spreads to others if it is not dealt with. The Jew who became contaminated by contact with a dead body had to take responsibility for cleansing through the ashes of a red heifer and ritual washing (Num. 19:1-11). Here, Jesus accuses the Pharisees, who were meticulous about such laws of cleanliness, of defiling the Jewish nation through their own spiritual death! The charge must have shocked them! The application is that the sin of legalism contaminates unsuspecting people. It turns off unbelievers and keeps them from the truth of the gospel, because they can see the hypocrisy of the legalists. It contaminates young believers, who are mistakenly taught that if they do certain things and do not do other things, they will grow in holiness and be pleasing to God. But invariably, the things that they are told to do and not do are not the important issues of the Bible, such as the love of God and neighbor (as summed up in the Ten Commandments). Rather, they are petty things, often things that Scripture does not directly command. One reason many kids who grow up in Christian homes later reject the faith is that the parents and the church have been shot through with legalism. Instead of the joy of knowing God and of having our sins forgiven through His grace, the focus was on the rules and the outward conformity that had to be maintained so that everyone else would think that the kids (and parents) were good Christians. I’m not saying that Christian homes should not have any rules. But the emphasis in our homes and church should be on the joy of knowing God. As Paul says, “the kingdom of God is ... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Leon Morris - People who walked over unmarked graves became ceremonially unclean. And people who walked in the teaching and ways of the Pharisees became morally unclean. (TNTC-Luke)

Hendriksen - According to a Jewish custom, just before the arrival of vast caravans of people traveling to Jerusalem to attend the Passover, graves were whitewashed. The reason this was done was that they might be clearly visible, so that no one would ceremonially defile himself by walking over a grave. But at times some graves were inadvertently left unwashed, unmarked.

The people who walk over them are unaware of it - The OT forbade touching a corpse. The Jews broadened this to forbid contact with a grave and so graves were marked to prevent accidental ceremonial defilement. Jesus is comparing the Pharisees to these unmarked tombs, indicating any contact with the false, legalistic teaching of the Pharisees would bring spiritual defilement. Having led the people astray, the Pharisees were like unmarked graves, defiling the souls of those who came into contact with them. Graves spoke of death, which was a picture of the effect of the teaching of the Pharisees! The sad irony is that their teaching which should have effected an opening of the hearer's eyes and given spiritual light and life had the exact opposite effect of causing spiritual death! Jesus alluded to the effect of their false teaching in Matthew declaring

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte (persuade God-fearers to become full converts to Judaism by undergoing circumcision); and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell (literally "child of gehenna") as yourselves. (Mt 23:15)

Comment: They not only shut men out of the true kingdom (Mt 23:13), but they turned them into children of gehenna, the place of eternal punishment! In other words, their eternal destination was eternal destruction! Woe to teachers who do this!

Here is an OT passage related to dead bodies...

Numbers 19:16 ‘Also, anyone who in the open field touches one who has been slain with a sword or who has died naturally, or a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.

NET Note - In Judaism to come into contact with the dead or what is associated with them, even without knowing it, makes one unclean (Num 19:11–22; Lev 21:1–3; Mishnah, m. Demai 2:3). To Pharisees, who would have been so sensitive about contracting ceremonial uncleanness, it would have been quite a stinging rebuke to be told they caused it!

MacArthur - The false religionists are going to be judged not only for their own iniquity but for the corruption and defilement of all those who followed them. “Woe to you, not for your own evil, but for the evil you transmit to others for impacting your nation the way you have, for all the people who have been defiled for your hypocrisy, who have bought into your false religion....The Old Testament had laws about touching a dead body. Leviticus 21, you couldn’t touch a dead body. You were considered ceremonially defiled. If you did touch a dead body, the ninth chapter of Numbers says you couldn’t observe the Passover without going through a seven-day purification. That seven-day purification is described in the nineteenth chapter of Numbers. So God kept people away from corpses, certainly for protection from illnesses. But there was symbolic cleansing to remind people of what they needed to do in their hearts. The Jews, of course, understood that they could not touch a dead body. They extended it even beyond a dead body and decided you couldn’t touch a grave’cause if you touched a grave you’d be ceremonially defiled, you’d have to be disassociated from the people, you’d have to go through a very elaborate, costly, time-consuming, seven-day purification ceremony. So every grave in Israel was marked so the people didn’t touch them inadvertently or step on them. Jesus just uses this familiar thing and says, “You know, you’re liked unmarked graves. People have no idea that they’re walking all over you and being defiled all the time. People come in contact with you and they don’t know it, but you’re not making them holy—you’re making them unholy. You’re defiling them.” What a terrible description of someone, but that’s how it is with those in false religions—they are unmarked graves. And you touch them and you’re defiled. And your defilement is not just ceremonial, it is spiritual. And it’s not just your body; it’s your soul. And it’s not just a ritual defilement, it’s a real defilement. And they were making twice the sons of hell as they themselves.

Luke 11:45  One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too."

KJV Luke 11:45 Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.


One of the lawyers said to Him in reply - Little did he know that his rebuking comment would come back like a boomerang with three more woes!

Leon Morris on lawyers - The lawyers, as we have noticed before, were men who gave themselves over to the study of the Old Testament Law. They were religious men and many of them were Pharisees. There was a difference in that the lawyer was a member of a learned profession and the Pharisee of a religious party. There was a link in that the essential Pharisaic position was based on a close study of the Law. (TNTC - Luke)

Cole - At this point, an expert in the Jewish Law who was at the dinner spoke up. Probably he thought that this young rabbi did not grasp the full implication of His words. He was not only indicting the Pharisees; His scathing words also insulted the lawyers and the entire Jewish religious leadership. But rather than apologizing or backing down, Jesus laid into the lawyers with three more woes. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Hendriksen - In reality all six woes were meant for the Pharisees and the law-experts, but Nos. 4, 5, and 6 were more directly aimed at the men who had made the study of the law, in the light of tradition (!), their main field of interest.

MacDonald - The lawyers were the scribes—experts in explaining and interpreting the Law of Moses. However, their skill was limited to telling others what to do. They did not practice it themselves. One of the lawyers had felt the cutting edge of Jesus' words, and reminded Him that in criticizing the Pharisees, He was also insulting the legal experts. (Believer's Bible Commentary)

Lawyers (3544)(nomikos from nomos - law) means related to the law and generally refers to a legal scholar, an expert in the Mosaiac law, in interpreting Jewish law.  Many of them were also Pharisees and as noted below they are also called scribes. They were "Not legal practioners, but interpreters and doctors of the Mosaic law." (Vincent) The lawyers were in league with the Pharisees, as seen by the fact that the Pharisee had the lawyer attend the luncheon for Jesus. In the previous chapter a lawyer had stood up to put Jesus to the test (Lk 10:25) This lawyer stands up to confront Jesus' bold declarations. 

Lawyers were closely related to scribes. In fact it may be inferred that “scribes” is a generic name, and lawyers are the specialized ones skilled in law and jurisprudence of the Law of Moses. In this last section Jesus seems to interchange lawyer and scribe, first addressing them as lawyers (Lk 11:45) and then as scribes (Lk 11:53).

Most of the 9 NT uses of nomikos are in Luke - Matt. 22:35; Lk. 7:30; Lk. 10:25; Lk. 11:45; Lk. 11:46; Lk. 11:52; Lk. 14:3; Tit. 3:9; Tit. 3:13

Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too - He is saying that Jesus is expressing disapproval of not just the Pharisees but also the Lawyers. It was clearly taken as a rebuke, with the implication that "You are discrediting and disgracing us."

Teacher (1320)(didaskalos from didasko = teach to shape will of one being taught by content of what is taught <> cp didaskalía) is one who provides instruction or systematically imparts truth. It is interesting that the lawyer acknowledged Jesus as "Teacher." He is correct of course but did not have a tender, teachable heart to humbly receive the Teacher's pithy and powerful points!

Luke's uses of didaskalos

Lk. 2:46; Lk. 3:12; Lk. 6:40; Lk. 7:40; Lk. 8:49; Lk. 9:38; Lk. 10:25; Lk. 11:45; Lk. 12:13; Lk. 18:18; Lk. 19:39; Lk. 20:21; Lk. 20:28; Lk. 20:39; Lk. 21:7; Lk. 22:11Acts 13:1;

Insult (5195)(hubrizo from húbris = injury, insult, reproach, arrogance, insolence, ill-treatment) means act with insolence, wantonness, wicked violence, to treat injuriously. To act spitefully toward someone, treat shamefully, and therefore to injure or to abuse. It conveys the idea of treating someone contemptuously in an insolent and arrogant way. Hubrizo is used only 5x - Matt. 22:6; Lk. 11:45; Lk. 18:32; Acts 14:5; 1 Thess. 2:2. 

Luke 11:46  But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

KJV Luke 11:46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.


But - In contrast to letting the lawyers off easy, Jesus proceeds now to aim His criticism directly at this religious sect. 

He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well - NLT Paraphrase has "Yes," said Jesus, "what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law!" Remember that Jesus is Spirit filled (Lk 4:1-note) and thus He is empowered to speak boldly, an effect of the Spirit we see throughout the book of Acts (e.g., Acts 4:31). 

For (hoti - because) term of explanation. Jesus now proceeds to explain the reason for His cry of "Woe!"

You weigh men down with burdens hard to bear - This is a reference to the lawyers' interpretations of the Law and also their giving priority to the traditions of men. The NLT paraphrases it "you crush people with impossible religious demands." He is speaking of course of spiritual not physical burdens, all their rules and regulations that were impossible to "carry" out. They were placing the people under legalism with all of their man-made rules and regulations concerning matters of no real importance.

The Jewish Mishnah (see also What is the Mishnah? What is a midrash?) actually had a statement that men's traditions took precedence to God's Word (What pretentious arrogance!). Here is "Sanhedrin 11:3 from the Mishnah:

A   A more strict rule applies to the teachings of scribes than to the teachings of Torah.
B   He who rules, “There is no requirement to wear phylacteries,” in order to transgress the teachings of the Torah, is exempt.
C   [But if he said,] “There are five partitions [in the phylactery, instead of four],” in order to add to what the scribes have taught, he is liable.

Leon Morris explains the so-called "logic" of the Mishnah - The reasoning is that if it was a serious matter to offend against the Law which was sometimes hard to understand, it was a much more serious matter to offend against the interpretation which, the scribes thought, made everything clear. The lawyers ought to have expounded God’s Law in such a way that it helped and inspired people. Instead they made it a wearisome burden. (Ibid)

MacArthur gives us background to help picture the burdens of the common folks - The picture Jesus gives here reflects the common custom of that day, and of people in many underdeveloped countries today, of loading up a donkey, camel, or other beast of burden to the point where it can hardy move. As they traveled down the road, the owner would walk alongside, carrying nothing himself, berating and bearing the animal if it happened to stumble or balk, with no concern for the animal’s feelings or welfare. (Matthew Commentary on Mt 23:4)

Luke has already alluded to some of these burdens that were hard to bear - He had just mentioned the requirement of ceremonial washing (Lk 11:38).  

Luke 6:1-2 Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

Luke 6:6-11 On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. 8 But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” 10 After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. 11 But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus

John adds some other examples related to Sabbath keeping rules

John 5:9-10, 16, 18   Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” (5:16) For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. (5:18) For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. 

John 9:14, 18 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. (9:18) The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight,

Leon Morris gives an example of a burden the religious leaders placed on the people:

On the Sabbath, they taught, a man may not carry a burden “in his right hand or in his left hand, in his bosom, or on his shoulder.” But he may carry it “on the back of his hand, or with his foot or with his mouth or with his elbow, or in his ear or in his hair or in his wallet (carried) mouth downwards, or between his wallet and his shirt, or in the hem of his shirt, or in his shoe or in his sandal (Shabbat 10:3). Multiply this by all the regulations of the Law and ordinary people have a burden beyond bearing even to know what they might do and might not do. But there is also a multitude of loopholes for a lawyer who knew the traditions which enabled him to do pretty well what he wished. (Ibid)

While you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers - The lawyers laid the burdensome regulations on the laity, the regular folks, but were unwilling to help the people bear these heavy, often ridiculous legalistic burdens. And when the people were unable to keep the silly rules and regulations the religious leaders would chide them for not keeping the law which resulted in a sense of guilt that only added to their burden.

The lawyers had mastered the art of manipulating the rules so that they themselves were not burdened by them! They were experts in evasion! They were hypocrites, demanding absurd degrees of obedience from the "little" people but bypassing the rules themselves.  And of course they never could have obeyed them anyway because they had no spiritual power! They needed a new heart that brought with it new power (See Ezek 36:26-27-note)

Jesus alluded to their hypocrisy in Mt 23:3

saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe (THE THINGS THEY SAY THAT ARE SCRIPTURAL), but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

What a contrast the rules of the legalistic formalists were when compared to the gentle invitation of Jesus to help bear their burdens... 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

Steven Cole - The fourth woe: Legalism burdens people with peripheral commandments - The lawyers had taken the commands of Scripture and had multiplied them into hundreds of minute adaptations. But, like lawyers in every age, they had also come up with legal loopholes that enabled them to skirt around their own rules, while the average guy was still burdened with them. For example, on the Sabbath the lawyers determined that you could only travel 1,000 yards from your home. But if a rope was tied across the end of the street, the end of the street became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that. Or, if before the Sabbath a man left at any given point enough food for two meals, that point technically became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that. On the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a knot, because that was work. But a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So if you needed to draw water out of the well on the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a rope to the bucket, but you could tie a woman’s girdle to the bucket! (These examples are in William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke [Westminster Press], p. 158.) The Sabbath laws were given for our benefit, so that we would set aside one day in seven for worship and rest. I believe that modern Christians err by throwing out the entire Sabbath principle. Most Christians treat Sunday just like every other day. But some err by coming up with specific lists of what you can and cannot do on the Lord’s Day. The main issue is our heart before God. We are to honor Him one day each week by ceasing from our normal routine and worshiping Him. Legalism burdens people with peripheral issues and rules. Biblical holiness frees people by pointing them to the beauty of God’s holiness and love. As 1 John 5:3 states, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” When we obey out of a heart of love for God, even though it is not always easy, it will always result in great joy and blessing. To summarize, Jesus is elaborating on the theme that legalism puts the emphasis on the external to the neglect of the internal. He has shown that it majors on minors, it focuses on self-glory, it subtly corrupts others, and it burdens people with peripheral rules. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Morris - Perhaps we can see something of the situation by considering an example. On the sabbath, they taught, a man may not carry a burden ‘in his right hand or in his left hand, in his bosom or on his shoulder’. But he may carry it ‘on the back of his hand, or with his foot or with his mouth or with his elbow, or in his ear or in his hair or in his wallet (carried) mouth downwards, or between his wallet and his shirt, or in the hem of his shirt, or in his shoe or in his sandal’ (Shabbath 10:3). Multiply this by all the regulations of the Law and ordinary people have a burden beyond bearing even to know what they might do and might not do. But there is also a multitude of loopholes for a lawyer who knew the traditions which enabled him to do pretty well what he wished. (Ibid)

Barclay (Luke 11 Commentary) on the evasions of the lawyers and Pharisees - Here are some of their evasions.

  1. The limit of a Sabbath day’s journey was 2,000 cubits (1,000 yards) from a man’s residence. But if a rope was tied across the end of the street, the end of the street became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that; if on the Friday evening he left at any given point enough food for two meals that point technically became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that!
  2. One of the forbidden works on the Sabbath was the tying of knots, sailors’ or camel drivers’ knots and knots in ropes. But a woman might tie the knot in her girdle. Therefore, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well a rope could not be knotted to it, but a woman’s girdle could, and it could be raised with that!
  3. To carry a burden was forbidden, but the codified written law laid it down, “he who carries anything, whether it be in his right hand, or in his left hand, or in his bosom, or on his shoulder is guilty; but he who carries anything on the back of his hand, with his foot, or with his mouth, or with his elbow, or with his ear, or with his hair, or with his money bag turned upside down, or between his money bag and his shirt, or in the fold of his shirt or in his shoe, or in his sandal is guiltless, because he does not carry it in the usual way of carrying it out.”

Luke 11:47  "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them.

KJV Luke 11:47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.


Here is Matthew's description of their hypocrisy (Mt 23:29-37) for comparison

29  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30  and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31  "Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32  "Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33  "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? 34  "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify (JESUS), and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues (JESUS), and persecute from city to city, 35  that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar (THEIR ACTIONS PROVED THEY APPROVED IN THEIR HEART OF THE MURDER OF THE PROPHETS BY THEIR FATHERS). 36  "Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. 37  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (See MacArthur's related sermon Matthew 23:16-33 The Condemnation of False Spiritual Leaders 4)

Barclay - The attitude of the scribes to the prophets was paradoxical. They professed a deep admiration for the prophets. But the only prophets they admired were dead; when they met a living one they tried to kill him. They honoured the dead prophets with tombs and memorials, but they dishonoured the living ones with persecution and death.  (Luke 11 Commentary)

For you build the tombs of the prophets -  Instead of building tombs to "honor" the OT prophets, they should have honored their message! They were hypocrites (cf Mt 23:29) By building they tombs they are trying to show others that they  honored the prophets, but they were not being truthful. In fact they hated the prophets just as their fathers did. Here was the greatest Prophet standing in their midst (cf Dt 18:15, 18) and they hated Him because He boldly attacked their hypocrisy just like the OT prophets had done, resulting in their murder, just as it would for Jesus! They failed to honor the Prophet in their midst by regulating their lives according to His teaching, even as their fathers had failed to listen to the prophets of their day. Building a few tombs hardly proved they were better than then fathers who killed the prophets. As with most of their religion, it was all a sham, all external show, but void of any true internal (heart) transformation. They were hypocrites to the core of the deepest abyss of their soul! Instead of building tombs, they should have condemned their fathers for killing the prophets, but they uttered not a peep of paternal condemation!

Leifeld comments that "Yet this very act ironically symbolized approval of their forefathers' crimes against God's messengers." J.D.M. Derrett ("`You Build the Tombs of the Prophets' [Luke 11:47-51, Matt 23:29-31]," Studia Evangelica 4 [1968]:187-93) suggests that the building of tombs was a way of acknowledging guilt analogous to the offering of blood money to a victim's survivors by a relative of one guilty of murder." (Expositor's Bible Commentary)

Steven Cole - The fifth woe: Legalism dodges the personal application of God’s holiness, but pretends outwardly to honor it (Lk 11:47-51). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not submit their lives personally to the message of the Old Testament prophets, but they built monuments to them to make it look as if they honored them. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

It was your fathers who killed them - The acorn does not fall far from the tree. Like father, like son. Jesus sees through the veneer of their claim to honor the very prophets their fathers killed. Matthew records Jesus' commentary of hypocritical homage to the prophets:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ (THEY WERE LYING) 31 “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? (Mt 23:29-33)

Luke 11:48  "So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 

KJV Luke 11:48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.

So you are (present tense - continually) witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers - Jesus goes to the heart of the matter which is the problem of their hearts. He says that they are witnesses in effect against themselves because they approve the murder of these prophets by their fathers. The fact that they did not condemn their father's actions was tantamount to tacit approval! They were in a sense "accomplices" to these high crimes against God's messengers who brought God's words and so ultimately their crime was against God Himself! And as Jesus a result of their guilt, Jesus declared "how will you escape the sentence of hell?" (Mt 23:33) The answer of course is that they would not!

Witnesses (3144)(martus/martys) basically describes one who remembers something and testifies concerning what they remember. Notice that martus has a two fold meaning of (1) describing one who has seen and/or experienced something or someone and (2) one who testifies to what he or she saw.

You approve (present tense - continually)(4909)(suneudokeo) approve along with another and so approve of, means to give hearty approval to something. In this case they were continually heartily approving of the murders of the prophets by their fathers. Notice the lawyer does not say "Objection,"  because he knew Jesus' charge was accurate. The building of the tombs might to some suggest they did not approve of the murders, but Jesus saw through the external hypocrisy and into the true state of their hearts. 

The OT prophets were persecuted and killed (cf 1 Kings 19:10, 14; Jer 7:25-26; Mal 3:10).

Steven Cole - Jesus lumps the current leaders with their ancestors who killed the prophets. He is saying that the current leaders are finishing off the job that the earlier generations started. As in all the other woes, the underlying problem is that though outwardly they act as if they honor the prophets, inwardly they do not repent of the very sins which the prophets condemned. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Luke 11:49  "For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute,

KJV Luke 11:49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:

  • For this reason also the wisdom of God said  Pr 1:2-6; 8:1-12; 9:1-3; 1 Cor 1:30; Col 2:3 Probably by the Wisdom of God we are to understand the [logos] or Word of God, that is, our Lord himself; this being a dignified and oriental mode of expression for I say, as it is in the parallel passage.
  • I will send to them prophets and apostles Lk 24:47; Mt 23:34; Acts 1:8; Eph 4:11
  • some of them they will kill and some they will persecute,  Lk 21:16,17; Mt 22:6; John 16:2; Acts 7:57-60; 8:1,3; 9:1,2; 12:1,2; 22:4,5; Acts 22:20; 26:10,11; 2 Cor 11:24,25
  • Luke 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
  • Luke 11:45-52 Kingdom Obstructionists - John MacArthur
  • Luke 11:46-50 What's Missing in False Religion, Part 1 - John MacArthur


For this reason - This is a term of conclusion. Since they killed the former prophets and rejected their words of warning, God would send more prophets and apostles. He could have sent wrath, but He sent men who would tell them the truth, showing His longsuffering in spite of their hypocrisy, rebellion and rejection. However the conclusion continues in Lk 11:50, so that what Jesus is saying is since your fathers were such murderers, and you are in agreement with them, the blood of the prophets they murdered ones would be exacted from you (more accurately "this generation").

The wisdom of God - "The statement introduced by "the wisdom of God also said" is not a direct quotation from the O.T. The idea of the statement is found in 2Ch 36:15, 16. In Mt 23:34 Jesus makes this statement, and Luke probably intends "the wisdom of God" as an indirect reference to Jesus Himself." (Criswell)

Steven Cole - When Jesus refers to the wisdom of God, He is not quoting any specific Scripture, but rather is summarizing and personifying all of God’s wisdom as revealed through the prophets. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Henry Morris feels that "The wisdom of God" is here used as a synonym for "the Scriptures," which is surely the source of the true wisdom in all matters it addresses. The passage paraphrased is 2 Chronicles 36:15,16. It may be also here that Jesus is actually calling Himself "the wisdom of God," thus asserting His right to paraphrase or expand on Scripture as He will." (Defender's Study Bible -  wisdom of God)

I will send (649)(apostello from apo = from, away from + stello = to withdraw from, avoid) means to send off, to send forth, to send out. The idea is to send off on a commission to do something as one’s personal representative, with credentials furnished.  Jesus uses this very verb in His sending out the apostle Paul (Acts 26:17).

Prophets (4396)(prophetes from próphemi = literally to tell beforehand in turn from pró = before, in front of, forth, on behalf of + phemí = speak, tell) is primarily a forth-teller or one who speaks out God’s message, primarily to their own generation, usually always calling the people to God's truth for them at that moment, often using the phrase "Thus saith the Lord." In a word a prophet is Heaven's (God's) "mouthpiece" on earth. Indeed every believer is called to be God's "mouthpiece" on earth. Would you say you are committing to live your life as His "mouthpiece?" 

Apostles (652)(apostolos from apo = from + stello = send forth) (Click discussion of apostle) means one sent forth from by another, often with a special commission to represent another and to accomplish his work. It can be a delegate, commissioner, ambassador sent out on a mission or orders or commission and with the authority of the one who sent him.

MacArthur - The apostate religious leaders’ future actions would prove the truth of Jesus’ assertion that they were no better than their fathers....Their mistreatment of the gospel preachers would conclusively demonstrate Christ’s point that the scribes and Pharisees were as wicked and godless as their ancestors. In fact, they were much worse. 

Some of them they will kill and some they will persecute - The "prognosis" for the prophets and apostles was not good in earthly terms - murder for some, and persecution for others. This prediction in fact began to come to fruition during the book of Acts when James was the first apostle martyred (put to death with a sword = Acts 12:2-3, cf Stoning of Stephen = Acts 7:1-50, 51,52, 53-60). According to extra-biblical sources eventually all of the apostles were martyred and John was banished to the island of Patmos Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." (Rev 1:9-note) Josephus records the murder of Jesus' own half-brother James, the author of the epistle of James.  (Here is an excerpt from Antiquities 20. Chapter 9.1 = "Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned").

Will persecute (1377)(dioko from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to follow or press hard after, literally to pursue as one does a fleeing enemy. It means to chase, harass, vex and pressure and was used for chasing down criminalsDioko speaks of an intensity of effort leading to a pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain.

This prophecy proved true in the life of the apostle Paul and his helpers met with fierce opposition in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:45, 50), Iconium (Acts 14:2), Lystra (Acts 14:19), Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), Berea (Acts 17:13), Corinth (Acts 18:12; 20:3), Jerusalem (Acts 21:27; 23:12), and Caesarea (Acts 24:1–9).

Jesus warned again and again that persecution would befall His emissaries..

“But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name.(Lk 21:16,17)

“They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. (John 16:2)

(Jesus prophecy to Peter) “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!”  (John 21:18, 19). (Tradition says Peter was crucified upside down - see painting portrayal but see discussion of the evidence).

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:11-12-note)

"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. (Mt 24:9)

Luke 11:50  so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,

KJV Luke 11:50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;

  • the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world Genesis 9:5,6; Numbers 35:33; 2 Kings 24:4; Ps 9:12; Isa 26:21; Rev 18:20-24
  • may be charged against this generation Ex 20:5; Jeremiah 7:29; 51:56

So that term of purpose or result. The purpose of sending the prophets and apostles would prove the veracity of Jesus' judgment regarding their approval of their father's murders.

Hendriksen - The question is asked, “But was it fair to punish the Jews of Christ’s time for the blood that had been unrighteously shed ‘since the founding of the world’?” The biblical answer is that responsibility increases with the years. Every new generation that fails to take to heart the lessons of the preceding generation is adding to its own guilt and therefore also to the severity of its punishment. This is clear, for example, from such passages as Prov. 29:1; Jer. 7:16; Ezek. 14:14; Luke 13:34. And see especially Dan. 5:22. (Ibid)

Henry Morris on  since the foundation of the world - It is important to note that the blood of God's prophets (beginning with Abel) has been shed "from the foundation of the world," not beginning four billion years after the foundation of the world. This is an incidental, yet striking, confirmation that the world was created from start to finish in six literal days (Mark 10:6).

May be charged against this generation - This speaks of a judgment which is just. The generation of Israel which He had already classified as a wicked (actively seeking to injure) generation (Lk 11:29-note). 

Leon Morris - Jesus is saying that the blood of all those slain for their faithfulness to God will be required. It is laid at the door of this generation, because the people of the day fully share in the attitude that brought about the deaths of the prophets.

MacArthur - The Lord’s shocking declaration that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, would be charged against this generation reveals just how much worse the generation alive at that time was than those who killed the prophets. That God’s accumulated wrath would fall on one generation is not unprecedented. The generation alive at the time of the flood experienced the judgment that resulted from generations of wickedness, as will the generation alive during the final eschatological time of the tribulation (Rev. 6–19). This generation, the one alive when Jesus lived, was culpable for the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world because it had the most accumulated revelation, yet engaged in the same sins as previous generations. They had the teaching of the prophets in the Old Testament, they had heard John the Baptist, the twelve apostles, the seventy evangelists and, most significant, they had had the unprecedented privilege of hearing the profound truth of heaven from the lips of Jesus, God incarnate. And they had seen His divine power over demons, disease, death, and nature in a massive, unmistakable display of undenied miracles.

Charged (1567) (ekzeteo from ek = out or to intensify the meaning + zeteo = to seek) means to seek out, to look for, to search diligently for anything lost.  The other NT nuance of ekzeteo used in Luke 11 means to require, to demand, or to exact severely (Luke 11:50, 51. See this meaning in the Lxx uses in - "I will require your lifeblood" = Ge 9:5; 42:22; "shall I not now require his blood from your hand" = 2 Sa 4:11; "his blood I will require at your hand" = Ezek 3:18, 20). So the idea of ekzeteo is that the blood of all the murdered prophets is required of this generation.

NET Note on charged -  Or "that this generation may be charged with"; or "the blood of all the prophets… may be required from this generation." This is a warning of judgment. These people are responsible for the shedding of prophetic blood.

Generation (1074) see study of genea

Nelson's NKJV Study Bible feels that "The judgment here refers specifically to the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, and ultimately to the final judgment of God in the Tribulation (Ed: "Time of Jacob's Distress" - Jer 30:7-note)."

Luke 11:51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.'   

KJV Luke 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

From the blood of Abel - This murder is described by Moses:

Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.  9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground (Abel's blood cried out for justice). 11 “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. (Genesis 4:8-11)

To the blood of Zechariah - Many commentators feel this murder may be the one descried in Second Chronicles and since 2 Chronicles was the last book in the Hebrew Bible, that would make it the last murder in the Bible of Jesus' day.

Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus God has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you.’” 21 So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!” (2 Chr 24:20-22)

Zechariah was killed between the altar and the house of God - In other words he was slain the the Temple courtyard which included the Brazen Altar. So Abel was killed after a sacrifice and Zechariah was killed at the place of sacrifice. 

MacArthur has a different interpretation of the identity of Zechariah - No speculation is needed because Jesus made clear which of the more than two dozen Zechariahs mentioned in the Old Testament He was referring to. In Matthew 23:35 He called him “Zechariah, the son of Berechiah.” This was the prophet Zechariah, the author of the book of Zechariah (Zech. 1:1) whose martyrdom, though not recorded in Scripture, took place near the close of the Old Testament. Evidently Zechariah the son of Berechiah was also killed between the altar and the house of God (cf. Joab, who was executed at the altar itself [1 Kings 2:28–34]). The collective guilt for the deaths of all those righteous martyrs would be charged against that wicked generation that had filled up God’s wrath to the top.

Hendriksen - Between Abel and Zechariah ever so many other righteous men had been murdered in cold blood. And even while Jesus was saying this, Israel, by and large, had not repented. In fact, as is clear from 11:53, 54, while Jesus was saying these things the hearts of the scribes and the Pharisees were filled with wrath, vengeance, murder, the murder of the very One who was addressing them! Looking again at this entire passage (verses 49–51), one can hardly fail to be impressed by the marvelous manner in which the divine decree and human responsibility are intertwined here, each receiving its due. Cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23. (Ibid)

Steven Cole - Abel was the first man to die because his righteousness convicted his brother of his evil deeds. In the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Bible, Zechariah was the last prophet to be killed (2 Chron. 24:20-25).

Yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation - ESV = "Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation." CSB = "Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible." This could not be much clearer. The wicked generation would be charged of murder. 

Charged (1567) see discussion above - ekzeteo

Generation (1074) see study of genea

Cole -  Jesus is saying that the blood of all the righteous men who were martyred in the Old Testament would be charged against this current wicked generation, because they rejected God’s revealed wisdom about their sin. This may point to the awful judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or it may also include the final judgment. The point is, legalists don’t apply God’s holiness to their hearts; they just put on an outward show of honoring it. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

Luke 11:52  "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering."

KJV Luke 11:52  Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.


Woe to you lawyers - Jesus tells them they are not only guilty of taking physical life but also guilty of a far worse sin of taking (or at least preventing) spiritual life. These men who were to unlock the Scriptures, were in fact locking them from the people! As Hendriksen wells said "They are burying the law of God under a load of man-made “traditions.”"

For term of explanation

You have taken away the key of knowledge - Jesus is referring to the Scriptures. The Scripture is the key. The key is the pure milk of the Word, unadulterated. The lawyers adulterated the pure Word to the extent that what remained could give no spiritual insight to God and no entree into the Kingdom of God (i.e., no salvation from God). They should have been teachers of Scriptural truth, but they so obscured it with their man-made rules that the people could not discern God's truth from their error.

Look at Jesus' words in Mt 15

And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?....he is not to honor his father or his mother (see Korban).’ And by this you invalidated (made void, nullified) the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.(Mt 15:3, 6)

Comment: What were these religious teachers doing that took away the "key of knowledge?" They were depriving God's law of its authority by placing priority on their human traditions!

Leifeld - Jesus charged the experts in the law with dereliction of their most important duty.  (Expositor's Bible Commentary)

“The idea is that the scribes’ encrustation of the Word of God with the traditions of men keeps people from encountering the revelation of God.” (Pate)

MacArthur - As their rejecting Christ reveals, the scribes and Pharisees could not correctly understand the Old Testament, which pointed to Him (John 5:39; cf. Luke 24:27; Rev. 19:10). Their traditions increasingly obscured the truth contained in the Old Testament, turning it into a maze of riddles, allegories, secret meanings, and obscure interpretations, all designed to reinforce their cleverness and sell their false system of self-righteousness. Not only were they unable to enter the kingdom of God themselves, they also hindered those who were entering. That is the most severe condemnation given by our Lord

Hendriksen - For salvation by trust in God, hence in Jesus Christ whom he sent, they have substituted salvation by obedience to countless man-made regulations and hairsplitting stipulations. For the real key to the true knowledge of God as revealed in Scripture, hence also to the palace of salvation, see such passages as Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 11:28–30; John 3:16; Rom. 3:24; then also Matt. 23:23; Luke 10:27; 11:42; 1 Cor. 10:31. But these men have substituted work-righteousness for salvation by grace through faith. By this method they are shutting out themselves and those who might otherwise have entered. See also John 14:6 and Hos. 4:6. Woe to them! (Ibid)

NET Note - You have taken away the key to knowledge is another stinging rebuke. They had done the opposite of what they were trying to do.

Leon Morris - Their methods were such that people could not get at the essential meaning of God’s word. Instead of opening up the treasures of knowledge, the lawyers closed them fast. They turned the Bible into a book of obscurities, a bundle of riddles which only the experts could understand. And the experts were so pleased and preoccupied with the mysteries they had manufactured that they missed the wonderful thing that God was saying. They neither entered themselves nor allowed others to enter. There were ordinary people on their way to the knowledge of God until these teachers turned them away. (Ibid)

You yourselves did not enter - They could not interpret the Scriptures accurately themselves because they lacked access to the Spirit the Author and Illuminator of the Scriptures. They would enter the Kingdom of God. The parallel passage in Matthew says "you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people." (Mt 23:13)

You hindered those who were entering - Their confusion additions to the Law hid the truth from their hearers who were seeking to enter the Kingdom of God. The implication is that they were unable to enter because of the false teaching of the the lawyers (and Pharisees). 

Hindered (prevented) (2967)(koluo from kólos = docked, lopped, clipped, kolazo = curtail) means to cut off, to cut short, to weaken and generally to hinder, to prevent, to check, to restrain or to forbid by word or act.  Koluo describes the keeping back of something from someone, in the present context these experts in the OT law were keeping back truth could have set the hearers free from their sin. Koluo pictures these religious hypocrites making it difficult for the laity to enter the Kingdom of God. 

Barclay - The scribes shut the people off from scripture. Their interpretation of scripture was so fantastic that it was impossible for the ordinary man to understand it. In their hands scripture became a book of riddles. In their mistaken ingenuity they refused to see its plain meaning themselves, and they would not let anyone else see it either. The scriptures had become the perquisite of the expert and a dark mystery to the common man.
None of this is so very out of date. There are still those who demand from others standards which they themselves refuse to satisfy. There are still those whose religion is nothing other than legalism. There are still those who make the word of God so difficult that the seeking mind of the common man is bewildered and does not know what to believe or to whom to listen. (Luke 11 Commentary)

Steven Cole -  The sixth woe: Legalism misses the true knowledge of God and misleads those who seek to know Him (11:52).The key of knowledge refers to the personal knowledge of the living God through His revealed Word. As Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). True religion is a matter of knowing God personally and growing in that relationship with Him. Legalism is a matter of going through rituals and of keeping rules, but it’s devoid of the personal knowledge of God. In many well-meaning but legalistic Christian homes, parents mistakenly think that the way to keep their teenagers in line is to lay down and enforce a lot of rules. But the way to keep your teenagers in line is to lead them to a personal knowledge of the Holy One. He’s with them when you cannot be there. If they truly know Him and know the great love of Christ who gave Himself for their sins, they will want to please Him, beginning on the heart level. As our kids grow in their walk with God, we should be able to ease up on the number of rules, not impose more. Our goal is to get each child to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ, in a growing personal relationship with Him. Legalism takes an external approach; biblical Christianity focuses on the heart relationship. (Luke 11:37-54: Why Jesus Hates Legalism)

ILLUSTRATION - Some years ago, a church in Portland near a college wanted to develop more of a ministry to the students. They weren’t sure how to do it, but they tried to make them feel welcome. One Sunday, the church was packed and the service was already underway when a young man with unkempt hair, blue jeans, a T-shirt, and bare feet walked in. He came down the aisle, looking for a seat, but he couldn’t find one. Finally, he just sat down on the carpet at the front of the church. It created an uneasy atmosphere in this crowd of people who were mostly dressed in suits and dresses, seated in their rows of pews. Then, every eye noticed an elderly man in a suit walking slowly toward the young man. Everyone wondered, “Is he going to scold the young man for dressing like that for church? Is he going to ask him to leave?” There was a heavy silence in the church as everyone focused on this scene. Finally, he got down to where the young man was sitting. With some difficulty because of his age, he slowly sat down next to the young man and worshiped there on the carpet with him. (Told by Becky Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World [IVP], pp. 177-178.) It was a great example of not looking on the outward person or majoring on the minors, but of accepting the person as God does. Remember, Jesus hates legalism because it does not deal with the condition of our sinful hearts before God. But Jesus loves grace, because it is by His grace that He transforms sinners into saints who love God and who love others.

Luke 11:53  When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects,

KJV  And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:

NLT   As Jesus was leaving, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke him with many questions. (Luk 11:53 NLT)

Hendriksen - When he left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be violently enraged against him, and to ply him with questions, plotting, as if in ambush, to catch him with respect to something (that might fall) from his lips.


When He left there - Left His luncheon with the Pharisee. Notice that the luncheon guest followed after Him. They were not going to let His warning of condemnation be the last word, and certainly were not about to go down without a fight as we might say today. 

The scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile - They were not just slightly perturbed but intensely incensed! Jesus had not only accused them of murder but of keeping people from seeing spiritual truth contributing to their future judgment of condemnation by God, a condemnation that the scribes and Pharisees would also experience. It is little wonder that they became very hostile after being accused of these horrible sins which warranted them be sent to hell. Their hostile reaction was like a tidal wave of anger against Jesus that ultimately would end in His murder, just as had been the fate of so many of God's prophets.

MacArthur - Sadly, but predictably, the Pharisees and scribes failed to heed Jesus’ mercifully severe warnings. Instead of repenting of their sins, repudiating their false system of religion, and calling for divine mercy, they became even more aggressively hostile to Him.

Hendriksen - “The scribes and the Pharisees began to be violently enraged against him.” Why? For the answer see Luke 18:9, 11, 12. Jesus had exposed the depths of their sinful nature. When that happens, hearers frequently divide into two groups: (a) some would like to stone the minister; (b) others, by God’s grace, cry out, “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner.”

The scribes - Luke uses scribes as synonymous with lawyers

Scribes (1122)(grammateus from grapho = to write) was one skilled in Jewish law and theology scribe, expert, scholar (Mt 2.4).  However, being an expert in the Law did not automatically mean that one was a Pharisee, and neither did being a Pharisee mean that one was also a legal expert (e.g., Acts 23:9). Many Pharisees were not legal experts, although most of the leaders of the sect were. Scribes were also found in the party of the Sadducees, but their influence there was only minor. This explains why those who were both Pharisees and experts in the Law receive the most attention in the New Testament. 

Pharisees (5330) See discussion of pharisaios

Began to be very hostile - The picture of the Greek word (enecho) is that of holding a grudge. The religious leaders in effect took it personally that Jesus had exposed their false religious beliefs and practices. And the present tense indicates that this grudge was not passing displeasure but a persistent personal animosity toward Jesus. 

Very (1171)(deinos) means terribly, grievously, vehemently. Deinos is an adverb characterized by an extreme degree either of (1) of suffering terribly, fearfully (Mt 8.6); (2) of opposition fiercely, exceedingly (Lk 11:53). 

Hostile (1758)(enecho from en = in + echo = to hold) means literally to hold in or hold upon and came to mean ensnare and then by implication to hold a grudge. "With the dative: to urge, press upon one (Luke 11:53), to have a quarrel, to spite or have resentment against one, very close to hatred (Mark 6:19; Sept.: Ge. 49:23). In the passive = enéchomai, to be held in or by anything, metaphorically meaning to be entangled in, subject to, followed by the dative (Gal. 5:1)." (Zodhiates) 

Friberg says enecho means "strictly hold fast to, hold within; (1) active, of having hostile feelings hold a grudge against, feel resentful toward, colloquially have it in for (Mk 6.19); absolutely be very hostile to, harass violently, press on fiercely (Lk 11.53); (2) passive with the dative let oneself be entangled in, be subject to, be under the control of (Gal 5.1)

Enecho - 3x. There are only 3 uses in the Septuagint - Ge 49:23, Ezek 14:4, 7.

Mark 6:19  Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so;

Galatians 5:1  It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke (figuratively represents the burdensome nature of slavery) of slavery.

To question Him closely on many subjects - NLT paraphrases it "tried to provoke Him with many questions." Their questioning Jesus in an attempt to trap Him was an outworking of their inner seething hostility toward Him. 

Leifeld - His series of woes made the violent hostility against him described in Lk 11:53-54 inevitable. His opponents followed him out of the house and fired at him a barrage of difficult questions (Lk 11:53), such as those later used to embarrass rabbinic scholars. (Ibid)

Guzik - The religious leaders responded the way many do when they are faced with the correction and the truth of God. Instead of humbly receiving the correction, they responded with outraged accusations. Proverbs tells us what those who refuse correction do. First, they hate those who correct them (Pr 9:8, Pr 15:12). Second, they do not listen to the one correcting them (Pr 13:1). Third, they despise their own soul (Pr 15:32).. Proverbs also tells us the character of those who refuse correction. They are stupid (Pr 12:1) and they are foolish (Pr 15:5).

Luke 11:54  plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.  

KJV Luke 11:54 Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.


Plotting against Him = - Plotting is in the present tense and from this time on, they were "lying in wait" for Him, waiting for Him to slip up. 

Plotting and catch are very interesting verb choices for they are both hunting terms, the former (see more below) picturing the hunter lying in wait for his prey and the latter used of catching a wild animal. Their sin had blinded them so completely that they could not see that "prey" was the long awaited Jewish Messiah, the Creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Redeemer of mankind. There is a practical application beloved - If you are presently or seek to be a Spirit filled, Word centered pastor or teacher, do not be surprised when the "religious leaders" send their hunting hounds to harass you and trap you in an attempt to overturn your (His) ministry. For example, listen to Paul's warning

"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;  and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:29-32-note)

Plotting (lying in wait - present tense = continually) (1748)(enedreuo from enedra = an ambush - Acts 25:3+, Acts 23:16+) literally means to lie in wait for, to conceal oneself in preparation for a surprise attack, to wait in ambush for someone (as used in the only other NT occurrence = Acts 23.21+ = "lying in wait"). Used in the Septuagint to describe an immoral woman lying in wait to pounce on a man (Pr 7:12). Luke uses enedreuo figuratively meaning the serpentine, sinister religious leaders were continually making make plans "to pounce on" Jesus. 

Enedreuo is used 18x in 17v in the Septuagint - 

Dt. 19:11; Jos. 8:4; Jdg. 9:25; Jdg. 9:32; Jdg. 9:34; Jdg. 9:43; Jdg. 16:2; Jdg. 21:20; 1 Sam. 15:5; 2 Sam. 3:27; Job 24:11; Job 38:40; Ps. 10:9; Prov. 7:12; Prov. 26:19; Lam. 3:10; Lam. 4:19;

Deuteronomy 19:11 “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and rises up against him and strikes him so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities,

Joshua 8:4 He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready.

Judges 16:2  When it was told to the Gazites, saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.”

To catch Him in something He might say - Mark records "they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement." (Mk 12:13)

Hendriksen - Being violently enraged against him, they ply him with questions, hoping by this method to draw out of him some unguarded utterance, an indiscreet statement, which they would then be able to use in framing a charge against him. So intense is their hatred, so vicious their attack, that they are, as it were, lying in ambush in order to catch him. They are trying to hunt him down, as if he were a wild beast. Their curiosity about him has turned into deadly aversion. (Ibid)

Leifeld - He had challenged those who professed to be the expert biblical teachers. They were out to defend their reputation by discrediting His. (Ibid)

Matthew records a similar episode

Matthew 22:15; 18 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?

The word catch (2340thereuo) is used only here in the NT and means literally to hunt or to catch and metaphorically, of using treachery to gain advantage over someone who makes a mistake and to to catch them off guard and making a mistake. These wicked wordsmiths are trying to get Jesus to condemn Himself with His own words. 

We see this theme of the religious leaders trying to catch Jesus:

Luke 6:11 But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Luke 19:47 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, 48 and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.

Luke 20:19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. 20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.

Luke 22:2 The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people. 

Having utterly failed to do so, they were forced to bring in false, lying witnesses against Jesus at His trial

Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” (Matt. 26:59–61).

John MacArthur applies this teaching on the Scribes and Pharisees - The church of Jesus Christ must in every time and place be ever vigilant against false teachers who pretend to be moral, love God, and teach truth, yet in reality are sinful, self-seeking fools, devoid of spiritual power, spiritual life, and spiritual truth. Because they are guilty of “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30), they are not to be welcomed in the name of tolerance, but rejected as “those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching” of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 16:17; cf. 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:10; 2 John 10–11). The strong words of 2 Peter and Jude stand as the warnings to the church.