Luke 11:14–12:12. A Declaration of War.
Key Notes: The ultimate insult: Jesus' power comes the Devil. Jesus responds at length, finally denouncing the Pharisees and lawyers. He concludes with instructions to the disciples facing crises.
In this passage, the disagreement between Jesus and the officials of Judaism comes to an open confrontation. It begins with a terrible insult spoken by the Pharisees, and ends with Jesus' instructions for defense to His followers.
11:14–26 Some of the people marveled when Jesus cast out a demon, but others said Jesus' power came from Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Some wanted to see a real sign, a sign from Heaven.
In response, Jesus gave a series of responses to the charge and the criticism.
- If I cast our demons using Satan's power, Satan is against himself; he is finished.
- If I cast out Satan by Beelzebul, what empowers your sons who exorcize demons? [Many of them used magic arts.]
- When a stronger man (Christ), attacks the strong man's (Satan's) castle, takes away his armor and plunders his goods, then know that the Kingdom of God is upon you. An excellent example of Jesus raiding Satan's stronghold and seizing his goods, is the rescue of the Gerasene maniac / demoniac (Lk.8:26–39) who was sent to be a preacher in his own people.
- The Kingdom has come with Jesus, proven by His power over Satan.
- When a person is cleansed of an evil spirit, but the Holy Spirit does not fill the void, other evil spirits may invade and leave the person worse than before. It is likely that Jesus is reminding them that they had purified themselves by the baptism of John in preparation for the Messiah (Lk.3:10–17), but rejected Him when they saw Him, leaving themselves prey to Satan, whom they were now following.
- "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and do it." 11:27–28. Jesus deflected praise of His mother in favor of those who heard the word of God and were doing it, as He said in Lk.8:21. His own relatives did not believe in Him, thinking that He was deranged. Mk.3:21
- The sign to this generation is Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. (11:29–32). The crowd wanted a sign from Heaven. (11:16). That sign was the sign of Jonah. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matt.12:40
- Ninevah and the Queen of Sheba will point the finger at the Israel of Jesus' day. Ninevah responded to Jonah's preaching, and the Queen of Sheba traveled (~1200 miles) to hear Solomon's wisdom. A greater than either of them was here--Jesus Himself.
- Jesus was giving them light on a lamp-stand. (11:33–36). If their vision was clear, they would be enlightened. If they were not careful, they would be full of darkness—delusion and confusion.
- They should give mercy and demonstrate a cleansed life. 11:37–54
- In the next episode, Jesus went on the offensive.
A Pharisee invited Him to dinner (12:37–41) and was surprised that Jesus did not wash before the meal. (Hand-washing is not part of the Law, but was a ritual practice of the elders--good hygiene.) I think he intended to make a point. Jesus said that the trouble with the Pharisees was that they were clean on the outside but inwardly full of extortion and wickedness.
- He went on to denounce the Pharisees' attention to the small details of the Law, leaving out justice and the love of God. Justice and mercy were more important than legal minutiae. (11:42–44) Then He denounced their love of public adulation. He said that they were like tombs that defiled those who unwittingly came near them. Their lives corrupted the unsuspecting people around them.
- At this point, a lawyer complained that he was rebuking them too. (11:45–53).They felt they were included in the indictment because of His reference to the Law, but they could also easily identify with loving the best seats in the synagogues and salutations in the markets. Jesus went right on. The lawyers have made the Law so complicated that no one can do it. The lawyers had made ordinary life unbearable for Jews.
- They were busy building tombs for the prophets, but Jesus said they were confirming their fathers who had murdered the prophets. They consented to the murder of the prophets, (and by implication would consent to His death as well.) The statement follows that the blood of all the prophets from the beginning of time would be required of this generation. That was a frightening prediction. because their participation in the death of Christ was the ultimate crime, climaxing the martyrdom of OT prophets and John the Baptist.
- They were guilty of keeping people out of the Kingdom. They had made entrance into the Kingdom impossible for the Jews by hiding the truth.
Now the scribes and Pharisees were ready to strike back and looked for their opportunities.
In the final segment, Jesus addressed His followers, preparing them for the future. (12:1–12). They were undoubtedly frightened by the confrontation and would be tempted to hide. The lessons from this part of the narrative were directed differently. Jesus was teaching the disciples how to behave in spiritual warfare.
a. The disciples should not be hypocrites like the Pharisees. Everything they whispered in private would be shouted from the housetops. Hypocrisy for them was blending with pagan society, not wishing to appear unusual.
b. They should not be afraid of the Pharisees or the Romans who could only kill them. They should fear God who alone had power over their eternal destinies.
c. Their fear of God should not be craven, but balanced by their knowledge of His loving care for them. God cares about the birds, and much more cares for His children.
d. They must tell the truth about their relationship to Him, and not deny His Name.
e. They must be able to discern the work of the Holy Spirit (which the Pharisees could not) and never speak a word against the Holy Spirit.
f. Finally, they should not be apprehensive about appearing in court. The Holy Spirit would instruct them "on the spot" as their Counselor and Advocate.
Note that the first responses of Jesus to the charge that He is Satan-empowered contain invitations to repentance:
Satan is being bound.
The Kingdom has come upon you.
Don't leave yourselves open to Satan's indwelling.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and do it.
The light is shining on you. Do not blind your eyes.
The next seven responses are indictments, especially of the leaders.
You are clean on the outside but evil on the inside.
You are legally scrupulous but have neither mercy nor love of God.
You love the praise of men.
You are contaminating the unknowing people around you.
You load legal burdens on others that are too heavy to bear.
You are hostile to the prophets.
You bar people from entering the Kingdom.
The final judgment will be severe: the blood of all the prophets will be required of this generation.
But even in the middle of spiritual warfare, the grace of God was extended before judgment was pronounced. 11:28,32,36.
The last six responses are instructions to His followers with the clear message that they should not be afraid.
Don't let adversaries shut your mouth.
God cares for you.
Confess Jesus before the unbelievers.
Do not say a word against the Holy Spirit.
Trust your Advocate when you are on trial.
Note that the Master's instructions to the disciples were not for attack but for defense. He was on the attack. They were not. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus give us any basis for aggression against our opponents. Our weapons are not carnal but nevertheless" mighty to the pulling down of strongholds." IICor.10:4