Luke 11: 29-53Signs, Light & Calling out Pharisees

29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now one greater than Solomon is here. 32 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now one greater than Jonah is here.

33 “None of you lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead you put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”

46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose Him fiercely and to besiege Him with questions, 54 waiting to catch Him in something He might say.

Points of Interest:

  • (v.29) “none will be given it except the sign of Jonah”—Jonah was an Israelite prophet whom God sent to preach to Nineveh, a powerful enemy city. Jesus is contrasting the Jews of His own day with Jonah’s Ninevites. Jesus’ listeners are asking for a sign to prove that He is from God; but the people of Nineveh—though they didn’t know God, didn’t have any reason to respect an Israelite, and were so wicked that God had decided to destroy them—believed Jonah’s words without any miracles and immediately declared a fast to show their humility and repentance. If the Ninevites believed Jonah without any signs, why should Jesus—who’s actually done very many miraculous signs already—have to continue to do miraculous signs to prove Himself to his listeners?
  • (v.31) “The Queen of the South”—this is the fabled Queen of Sheba. Sheba may have been Ethiopia, or it may have been a kingdom in the far south of the Arabian peninsula; either way, it was the farthest known civilization to the south of Israel. The Queen of the South heard that God had blessed Solomon with supernatural wisdom, and she traveled all the way from her own faraway land to hear what Solomon had to say. If this stranger would travel so far to hear Solomon’s words, why won’t Jesus’ fellow Jews—people raised on the Law and Prophets that testify to him—listen to Him?
  • (v.42) “You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone”—Jesus doesn’t criticize them for their scrupulousness in giving God a tenth; it’s a good thing that they want to give proper thanks to God. However, it doesn’t mix well with the fact that they don’t show much concern for the larger things God cares about—or even for showing genuine love toward God himself. It seems like what they love is following the rules.
  • (v.51) “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah”—Abel’s death at the hand of his jealous brother (Genesis ch. 4) was the first murder in the Jewish Bible, and Zechariah’s martyrdom at the hands of an angry mob (2 Chronicles 24:20-22) was the last—the standard order for the books of the Bible was a little different in Jesus’ day from today. So, Jesus is saying they have a share in every murder of God’s people, from the first to the last. It’s just a happy coincidence that in English it works out as going from A to Z.
  • (v.52) “You yourselves have not entered”—apparently, the experts enjoy teaching the Law of Moses more than doing it. Also, the complexity of their teaching made it more difficult for others to follow; so, the net result of all of their attention to the law is that no one was actually performing it.


Taking it home:

  • For you: Ask God to give you good eyes. Pray that you would be able to easily spot and welcome good things God is doing for you. Ask God to help you to see clearly what is good and what is harmful.
  • For your Six: Ask God to give your Six good experiences with the Bible. Pray that they would encounter life-giving guidance from the Bible, rather than joyless and oppressive rules.
  • For our church/ILTJ: Jesus was critical of religious leaders in this passage because their efforts to look like they had it all together were actually blocking people from moving toward God. Pray that our church would help people take steps toward Jesus. Pray that God would wash us clean from the inside out and remove anything that will hinder us.