The Light Within You

This next passage, Luke 11.33-36, is still in the same context as was discussed in v.29-32 – that is, the Jews have sought a sign from Jesus but he has categorically denied them of any and also refuted them that he drives out demons by demonic forces. They are without excuse concerning their blasphemy. And so, Jesus preaches a sermon to them, calling them, it would seem, to leave a life of darkness and be “full of light, with no dark part” in them.

The Illustration

Jesus begins by explaining the purpose of a lamp: not to be hid but to provide light. Duh! Its designed purpose is to give light to everyone. And so be put in a place where is does not good is ridiculous; it belongs on its stand giving light. Jesus mentions a similar teaching in Matt 5.14-16 concerning the Christian’s life.

The Application

In this instance, though, he is driving toward the point that the eye, which is to illumine the whole body, if “bad” (or “evil”) will cause the whole body to be “full of darkness.” But if it is “good” (or “healthy”) then your body is “full of light.” As the song children learn goes: “Be careful little eyes what you see.” If we allow our eyes to be bad, that is too look and watch and read things that are “darkness,” we become a person who is “full of darkness.” In fact, though we should be “full of light,” that light becomes darkness (v.35). The apostle John wrote concerning this very thing in 1 John 1.5: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Hence to be where God is, we need to fill ourselves up with light for God can having nothing to do with darkness. John goes even further when he says, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do live by the truth” (1 John 1.6).

This seems to be what Jesus is driving at: To be a person “full of light,” we must rid ourselves of all the darkness that can rob us of our light. James says it this way: “Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1.21). And that is it: darkness is moral filth, evil, wickedness. Hence, light is that which is absolutely morally pure and perfect, since in fact that is what God is. Like standing in the light of a lamp, so you will be full of light. Let us strive to be where our Lord, in the light, free from wickedness and sin.

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The Sign of Jonah

Jesus has just eradicated the argument that he drives out demons by the power of Satan (Luke 11.15) and now, in Luke 11.29-32, he tackles the issue of the people asking for a sign (from v.16). Hence, we need to keep this in context. Some groups of people want to rip this from its context and will even it turn it on Christians, calling us a wicked and perverse generation (see Matt 12.39) when we ask them to back up their claims. But if we understand this passage (and the parallel passages) in thier contexts, we know exactly to whom Jesus is talking. Notice, v.29, that he crowd was increasing. Obviously a crowd was already present when he had taught about the divided kingdom that cannot stand. It had been people in the crowds who had pressed him for a miracle. It had been people from the crowd who had grumbled about his power. But now even more people are joining to hear Jesus teach.

The Convicted Seer

Jesus, not mincing words, calls the situation and the people for what it is. They are a “wicked generation” comparable to the likes of the Ninevites. And why are they wicked? They seek a sign. What’s wrong with that? Well, in the first place, Jesus has already provided ample signs for the people, miracles that confirmed the word he had been speaking. From mutes, to the blind, to the dead, Jesus has worked tremendous works. Those should have been enough. But in the second place, there were improper motives for the seeking of the miracles. They sought to test Jesus (v.16) by asking for a sign. Their hearts were not right and were in fact hardened.

And so Jesus says that there will be no sign given to these people save for the “the sign of Jonah.” What does the convicted seer have to do with the concerned Savior. Jesus continues in v.30 that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. So how was Jonah a sign? The parallel passage in Matthew gives us a little more information: Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the fish and the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth. And so, by the resurrection, the supreme proof that Jesus was the unique Son of God, Jesus will be a proof to that “wicked generation.” So someone today who claims to be a miracle worker and calls you a “wicked generation” fails to recognize that this was directed to the people Jesus was speaking to. And if these modern day miracle workers want to back up their statement, then they must do it the same way Jesus did with a physical resurrection.

The Conscientious Sovereign

Jesus does not stop there. He continues about a monarch who had heard of the great wisdom of Solomon. The Queen of the South is none other than the queen of Sheba from 1 Kings 10. And this is not an obscure reference thrown in by Jesus haphazardly; this is a selected account given to hammer home the guilt of these people before him. Something (Gk. neuter, implying something more than “someone greater”) greater than Solomon is present before them. As wise and powerful as Solomon was, he was riddled with mistakes and gross sin, including idolatry. Hence, Jesus, greater than Solomon, is present and the queen of Sheba will rise up to condemn the men of Jesus’ generation for their unbelief. What an astounding rebuke! To be compared to a Gentile woman! Surely the Jews were infuriated by this.

The Converted Sinners

But Jesus goes even further. Even the pagan Gentile nation of Ninevah will rise up to condemn that generation present. Why? Because they heard the message of Jonah and repented at the preaching. Even more will they condemn that generation because “something greater than Jonah” has come on the scene and stands in their midst. The “something greater” may refer to all that has been involved in bringing the Christ into this world and beginning his kingdom. Hence, the sum of all that God has been doing stand before them in Jesus and yet they refuse to hear his message and so be saved. Therefore, these past generations, the queen and the people of Ninevah, will rise up to condemn that generation.

I think the same thing can happen to our generation as well. We can become a “wicked generation” by refusing the same gospel that is preached to us. We can reject the purposes of God for our own life. And in so doing, we then stand condemned by the past generations and by God himself for we rejected that which is greater than Solomon and Jonah. We have had the “sign of Jonah” all this time in the actual, factual, historical resurrection of Jesus Christ. And to deny that grand sign is to reject the salvation that it brought with it.

Outline from John Phillips’ commentary on Luke.

The Finger of God

Imagine coming upon the scene found in Luke 11.14ff: a once mute demoniac has been healed and now the man is in his right mind and speaking. Perhaps you would respond with the crowd in amazement. But there is not a lot said about the miracle in Luke’s account (just one verse, v.14); instead the focus is on this dialogue which takes place between Jesus and sme of the crowd there. That is where we pick up the story.

The Crowd’s Challenge

After just performing this miracle of casting out a demon, the crowds demand another sign (v.16). But it is not for the purpose of belief or to increase faith or for noble purposes; this is to “test” him. Another translation may read “to tempt” Jesus. This is not a solicitation for evil; rather, it is a test of Jesus’ character. They are lumped in with the people of v.15 who do not attribute the exorcism of the demon as a sign from heaven. The people say this is done by the power of Beelzebul, who is the ruler or prince of demons. Jesus obviously connects this demonic prince to be Satan (cf. v.18). And so, the crowd demands a “true” sign from heaven, not a work of the kingdom of darkness. Therefore, Jesus must set the record straight.

The Christ’s Counter

Luke tells us he knew their thoughts, quite possibly pointing us back to a prophecy made about the babe in 2.35. They need not speak for their thoughts deceive them. So Jesus says to them that their logic is flawed: they have Satan shooting his own soldiers, which is ridiculous. A kingdom like that, where the ruler is killing his army, will fall. Further, if Jesus casts out demons by the power of the devil, then what power are the people’s exocists tapping into? Would it not be the same power, i.e. demonic forces, further confounding the situation. In a word, Jesus says their argument is “stupid.” It is utter foolishness.

So in v.20, Jesus clears up the matter. It is by “the finger of God” that he does these things. Now we could sit and debate about what the finger of God is all day, but fortunately, Scripture is self-interpreting. In the parallel account in Matthew (Matt 12.28), Jesus tells us what the finger of God is – the Spirit of God. That is, the Holy Spirit which has come upon Christ with mighty power (see 4.18-19 which is the fulfillment of Isa 61.1). So the man, Jesus, is using the Holy Spirit to perform these miracles. I think this points to the perfect balance between his humanity and his divinity. He was both 100% man and 100% God at the same time and never did one infringe upon the other.

Not only this, but also Jesus says the kingdom has come upon these people. That is, the rule and reign of God is present in the first century. Hence, when one speaks of the kingdom of God, it is not a thing yet in the future. Rather, it was present in Jesus’ day and indeed, men still enter into it today.

Then there is this quasi-parable in v.21-22. Some would say that the strong man is Satan, guarding his “pssessions,” which are those under his control and that the strong man can be beaten by someone stronger, i.e. the Spirit. Others say that Christ is the stronger man in this parable and he overpowers and binds Satan. Either one would make sense. Though Satan is strong and has some power, he is not omnipotent like God. Jesus concludes the parable with a saying: those not with Jesus are against him and those who scatter are not with Jesus either.

Follow this is another illustrative teaching from the Lord. It would seem that Jesus tells this story to show that he is not about temporary change in a persons life. Again, he points us toward deeper discipleship. It should not be that once the demon is driven out he can return with seven more spirits more evil than himself. As one commentator put it: “This parable shows that spirituality takes not just the absence of evil but the presence of God.” Jesus is warning these people that they are in danger of having even more demons come into their house and that their later state will be worse than it was before. Hence, they should not linger in unbelief and slander, but should turn to God and acknowledge his finger at work in their midst.

Indeed, we can take this to heart as well. We were at one time enslaved to the forces of evil, by the strong man. But Christ worked a work in us and we were “brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col 1.13). But it is not enough to get rid of evil, we are to pile in more and more of God within us. Otherwise we risk falling into an even worse situation than we were in. Paul pictures this perfectly in Colossians 3 where he says we kill some things, put off some things, but also put on some things.

The Chick’s Cry

As Jesus is speaking this teaching about his power and authority, a woman speaks up and blesses Jesus’ mother. It would seem that she was so enthralled with Jesus’ teaching that it must be such a blessing to have a son like him. Jesus, in the word “rather,” does not negate the truth of her statement, but shows the greater value of what he says. True blessedness is found in (again) hearing the word of God and obeying it. There is not higher calling in life than to read, study, and comprehend God’s word and do what it says. You are truly blessed for you are a person in the kingdom, that is, under the rule and reign of God in your life.