Luke: Part 2
Read Luke 11:1-28
1. What are the details of the story Jesus uses to teach the disciples about prayer (verses 5-13)?
2. After Jesus casts out a demon, what conversation does he have with those around him watching what just occurred (verses 14-23)?
3. What is Jesus’s response to the woman who said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” (verse 27)?
Jesus had stepped aside to pray again. Over and over the disciples had seen him pull himself away from everyone and pray. He was praying before the dove descended on him during his baptism. He prayed all night before choosing the disciples. He was praying when they went ahead in the boat across the lake. He took Peter, John, and James up on the mountain to pray just before the transfiguration. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus frequently withdrew into the wilderness to pray. The disciples must have both watched him retreat to pray and also heard him pray numerous times out loud. They knew that John’s disciples had learned from him a pattern of prayer. John had given them some kind of model to use. Jesus’s disciples, fittingly, asked for the same. This is actually the only time recorded in the gospel that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them anything. What he gave them was not a formula or a rosary but a guide. He probably did not mean for them merely to repeat the words by rote but to provide a paradigm for prayer. The gist of it was this: God’s glory and his kingdom must be our first desire. We live in utter dependence upon him.
It starts with a desire for God’s name to be honored by all. “Hallowed be your name” could be translated “let your name be treated as/set apart as holy.” It is a desire for all to worship God as he should be worshipped, to honor him as he should be honored, to come to him in the posture of obedience and adoration that he deserves. As Leon Morris writes, “It is a prayer that ‘God shall be God, that man shall not whittle God down to a manageable size and shape.’” But Jesus isn’t just giving the disciples a model for prayer. He is laying out for them the model for life. Our first and greatest desire must be for God to be seen, known, and worshipped as he truly is. We are asking for this for all of humanity, but it must begin in our own hearts. This is not a prayer to be rattled off without thinking, a box to be checked off in order to please God. Part of what this pattern does is serve as a check for our own hearts. When God’s glory is not our first and deepest longing, this is the place to stop, realign ourselves with reality, and ask the Lord to make it so.
The next petition or desire is for God’s kingdom to come. Many of us have repeated these words for so many years that we no longer think about what we’re asking. God’s kingdom is his rule and reign, the areas where people are living in obedience to the king. When we ask for his kingdom to come, we are asking for an extension of this rule, for more people to live in obedience to the good king. We ask that the kingdom that was inaugurated by Jesus’s earthly ministry be extended and enlarged by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has explained where their prayer should begin–with a resolute focus on God’s glory and kingdom. Now he teaches his disciples how to pray for themselves–as completely dependent creatures. They are to understand that everything they need for every day in this world comes from the Father. As Robert Stein explains, “Bread is an example of synecdoche, in which a part (bread) represents the whole (food). It is a request for the basic necessities of life, not for luxuries.” Then he moves on to our relationships. Just as we have a daily need for bread and other necessities, so we have the daily need for confession of our sins and forgiveness of others. It is not that our salvation depends on our success in forgiving. Rather, as we will see over and over in Luke, this is an argument from the lesser to the greater. Father, forgive us for our sins. We, your sinful, broken, twisted people forgive those who hurt us. How much more do you, the perfect Father, forgive us? And if we are not forgiving others, perhaps we have not yet truly known God’s forgiveness.
The fourth petition deals with temptation. This is not a request for rescue from every trial. Rather, we ask God to keep us away from things that might lead us to destruction, to walking away from him altogether, to abandoning our faith. Literally, the verse could read, “rescue us from evil.”
These requests may strike us as elementary, below us, but they’re essential. We’re told to ask for God to receive glory, for his rule and reign to be extended. But we should also ask for all of our daily needs to be met. This is the way of discipleship. This is not only the way to pray but the way to live. Jesus’s prayer reshapes not only the words but the priorities and perspective of those in his kingdom.
Like the excellent teacher that he is, Jesus illustrates his lesson for the disciples. The parable he tells is set in a Palestinian home, where the entire family would have slept in one place, probably all on one mat. The father getting up to open the door would have woken everyone. But his friend begs shamelessly for bread for the traveler who appeared in the middle of the night at his front door. Finally, because his rude friend keeps begging, the father disturbs everyone, gets out of bed, and gives his friend bread for the traveler. What does this have to do with praying to God? If this sleeping, reluctant man responds to the needs of his friend because of his rude persistence, how much more will the always-attuned, kind Father respond to the needs of his children? God is not like the sleeping friend, who must be convinced and roused. This is an illustration of contrast, meant to encourage us to pray, which is what Jesus does in his ask, seek, knock command. Our Father listens for our voice; he waits to hear from us. In fact, in this story, he is encouraging us to beg shamelessly for his help. He is ready and willing to listen. In this, the upside-down kingdom, we only need to ask to share the wealth of the king.
Here for a third time in the passage we see an argument from lesser to greater. Earthly fathers are tainted by evil, the same word Jesus used in his prayer earlier when he taught his disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation/evil.” But even those sinful fathers will not trick their children by giving them bad things when asked for something good. How much more will the perfect Father give his children good things when they ask? Here Luke inserts the Holy Spirit. The point is this: When we ask God for something we need, he doesn’t respond by harming us. He only gives good things, like the Holy Spirit, who is the comforter, the counselor, the one who attends us at every moment here on earth. The confusion in our lives comes in the discernment of what is good. There are things that we know are invariably good–salvation and growth in grace, both for us and others. But other things are not so simply discerned as good or evil. In our limited perception, something we ask for may seem unquestionably good. How could it be bad to ask for a promotion? Or for a loved one to live? Or for God to provide in a certain way? But in our narrow field of view, we may unknowingly be asking for scorpions. And God will only give us eggs. We may be asking for things that will tempt, harm, or lead us astray. And God will only give us things that are for our good, our ultimate good, the good of our souls and our dependence and love for our father.
Where is Jesus getting his power? This is the question being answered in these next few verses. If he is working for Beelzebul, a term used for the head demon, Satan himself, then the kingdom of Satan is divided and will fall. This makes no logical sense. Furthermore, if he is using Satan’s powers, then so are the Jewish religious leaders who are also driving out demons. When Pharaoh’s magicians could not produce the same miracles as Moses just before the Exodus, they said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Ex 8:19). There was only one explanation: Jesus drove out demons by the power of God.
But Jesus keeps going. He further explains the battle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness by talking about a strong man and a stronger man. Satan is the strong man. He has power that he wields in the world. He is the ruler of this present dark age, and he guards his house, along with his possessions, meaning those who are currently under his power. But, thanks be to God, he is not the strongest man. There is one who can and will defeat our enemy. In the coming of his kingdom, in his death and resurrection, Jesus has attacked Satan in his own realm, has taken away his most prized possession, death, and has divided up the plunder of his gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and the Spirit among his people, the church. Satan has been defeated by the stronger one, Jesus. We can see the already of his kingdom’s power and authority in our world, though not the not yet of his total dominion. Jesus does not mince words about these two kingdoms. If you are not working for his kingdom, you are working against him.
Jesus was not yet finished talking about the workings of Satan and his demons. The story he tells in verses 24-26 is that of moral reformation. The man has cleaned up his life, done the right thing, made some good choices. Deserts were understood to be the dwelling places of demons who were not currently housed by a person. But demons work in and through people, and this particular one could not find a place to rest in the desert. The demon decides to return to its former home, which in the Greek the demon actually calls “my house.” Matthew’s account of this same story helps us here, as he adds, “On its return, it finds the house vacant” (Matt. 12:44). The void left by the demon has not been filled by the Holy Spirit. In other words, this is a superficial change, not a spiritual transformation. Moralism absent of the Holy Spirit deceives a person, leaving her vulnerable to even worse attacks. Though some well-meaning people may try to convince us otherwise, good behavior is not salvation.
We can imagine Jesus teaching, some in the crowd electric with anticipation and hope as they marvel at his healing and words. A woman, in her joy and pleasure at what she hears, cries out a blessing on Jesus’s mother. But Jesus, always reshaping the perception of the kingdom in the eyes of his listeners, does not miss an opportunity to point her to the greater good. True fulfillment, he tells her, true and deep contentment comes not from a familial relationship to Jesus but through faithful obedience to his Word. It is not being related to him that brings us blessing, but abiding in him, having faith in him, and letting his gospel take root in our hearts. May this be how we find our contentment, as we pray the way he taught us, are encouraged by his words to keep on praying, and live in hope while we wait for Jesus’s kingdom to come.
4. As you look at the Lord’s Prayer broken down into the different parts, which part have you seen shape your life the most? Which one do you want to have more of an impact on your life in the future?
5. Are you surprised that Jesus used a story of a man shamelessly begging to demonstrate what prayer should be like? How will that reshape the way you pray?
6. Jesus explains that when we pray to God, our good Father, he will give us good things, even if in our limited understanding we don’t view them as good. What in your life story makes you struggle to believe this truth? Where do you need God to restore your view of him as a good Father?
7. How does Jesus describe demons and the battle that he is waging against Satan? What does this teach you about spiritual warfare that goes on in unseen ways?
8. Again Jesus redefines blessedness as less about familial connection and more about having a faith in God’s Word that leads to action. How does this change your view of what it means to be blessed?
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13