Luke was a skilled and organized writer; he had the ability to report the events of Jesus’ life in such a way that scenes flow one to another without causing the reader sharp, disjunctive turns.  Luke’s clarity and sophisticated style are a delight; if one were able to secure Luke as their biographer, even he or she may find their life more remarkable!  Yet Luke was working with far more than any other human figure could provide; his aim was to present, and celebrate, the life of Jesus Christ.  Luke 11-12 is a part of the author’s portrait of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (9.51-19.41).  While some of Jesus’ sayings in Luke 11-12 are also found in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (chs 5-7), it may be that Luke had sufficient evidence to place these scenes as he did.  Perhaps Jesus, like many teachers ancient and modern, said the same kinds of things to different audiences at different times.  One can identify at least six components in Luke’s account of Jesus in Luke 11-12:

  1. Jesus taught His disciples about Prayer (11.1-13).  Jesus’ customary seasons of prayer prompted one of the disciples to ask, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples” (v. 1).  His answer was surprisingly simple: Ask God to be honored and known as holy, provide for one’s needs, forgive as one has forgiven others, and keep one from temptation (vv. 2-4//Matt 6.9-13).  While the nature of these requests may seem simple—even childlike—Jesus challenged the disciples with the necessity of perseverance in them, like a man banging on a friend’s door for food at midnight (vv. 5-8).  Jesus’ instruction thus emphasized persistence in prayer—for the “basic” elements of one’s relationship with God (vv. 9-13//Matt 7.7-11)
  2. Jesus gave proofs of His Messiahship and His Kingdom (11.14-36).  Jesus set forth His spiritual supremacy by casting demons from the possessed (vv. 14-23//Matt 12.22-30//Mark 3.22-27).  On one occasion some scoffed at His ability, saying “He drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons!” (v. 15).  These folks needed a lesson in introductory logic; Jesus initially replied: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and a house divided against itself falls” (v. 17), and further chastised the skeptics: “If I drive out demons by Beelzebul, who is it your sons drive them out by?” (v. 19).  Jesus boldly informed the crowd that He had no need to appeal to a higher authority to cast out these messengers of Satan; He, the stronger man, had arrived (vv. 21-22)!  Those who reject His message would suffer the fate of demonic torture (vv. 24-26//Matt 12.43-45).  Yet the ultimate proof of His special place in God’s plan would not be the ability to cast out demons, but in His coming resurrection, “the sign of Jonah” (v. 29), he said, which would in fact be the basis of condemnation for all who refused the good news (vv. 29-32//Matt 12.38-42//Mark 8.11-12).  The crowd was thus warned to look at the signs of the times, as Jesus warned them: “Take care then, that the light in you is not darkness” (v. 35//Matt 6.23)
  3. Jesus went on to directly confront those who opposed His Messiahship and Kingdom (11.37-54//Matt 15.1-9; Mark 7.1-9).  Luke noted that at least one of the Pharisees in the crowd wanted a more personal interaction with Jesus, and so, “As He was speaking” (v. 37), he asked Jesus to dine with him.  What the Pharisee observed was abhorrent; Jesus reclined at table, “but He did not first perform the ritual washing before dinner” (v. 38)!  The Pharisee’s indignation set Jesus off; there in the privacy of the man’s home(!) Jesus called the Pharisees, “Fools!” (v. 40), and pronounced no less than six woes against this elite Jewish sect (vv. 40-52)!  They had used God’s instruction for their own end and missed the servant-hearted paradigm of spiritual leadership.  Luke recorded that those in earshot of Jesus’ rebuke were not pleased: “When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose Him fiercely and to cross-examine Him about many things; they were lying in wait for Him to trap Him in something He said” (vv. 53-54)
  4. Jesus made it a priority to reinforce to His disciples that they must be willing to confess the Messiah before their opponents (12.1-12//Matt 10.26-33).  Luke’s opening phrase in ch 12, “In these circumstances” (v. 1), prompts the reader to carry the previous chapter into the present scene.  That is, at a time when tensions were mounting between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus informed His disciples that they dare not cower before the religious elite of the day; “I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.  But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death.  Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear!” (vv. 4-5//Matt 10.28).  Jesus exhorted His disciples to entrust themselves to God’s providential care (vv. 6-9//Matt 10.29-33), and their courageous witness to the supply of the Spirit (vv. 10-12//Matt 10.19-20; Mark 13.11)
  5. Jesus set out that His followers should thus trust God for daily necessities as well (12.13-34).  While someone from the crowd urged Jesus to give instructions about a family inheritance, Jesus used the opportunity to instead reinforce for the disciples yet again His thesis concerning God’s providential care (cf. Matt 6.19-34).  Thus, His followers should continuously be mindful that their possessions, like their lives, may be demanded of them (vv. 13-21).  According to Jesus, the best course of action was clear: “Seek His (God’s) kingdom, and these things (the necessities of life) will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv. 31-32, 34)
  6. Jesus previewed the consummation of His kingdom and the conflict His followers would endure (12.35-59).  Jesus’ emphasis was that His followers should be ready and on the alert for His return, acting as faithful slaves entrusted with a great treasure (vv. 35-48//Matt 24.42-51).  While commitment to Him would bring division even in the closest family relationships (vv. 49-53//Matt 10.34-36), He yet urged His followers to pursue peace with their adversaries (vv. 57-59//Matt 5.25-26)

Jesus’ use of the Old Testament in these chapters provides a commentary on His unique place in God’s plan.  The history of Israel, including her prophets, reached their climax in Him, and were thus by deduction inferior to Him; even Solomon the great king took second place to Jesus.  But He was not only concerned for the past; He prepared His followers for the day of His return and urged them to be alert to the times.  On the whole, Luke 11-12 points up once again Jesus’ understanding of His unique position in the flow of the storyline of Scripture:

  1. Jesus noted that because He is superior to the prophets, those who rejected Him would have a worse fate than those who rejected them.  Jesus condemned the generation of His day because they continually sought a sign of His Messiahship.  To them He promised the sign of Jonah, saying: “For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation” (11.30).  Jonah was three days in the fish before preaching to Nineveh, and Jesus would be three days in the tomb.  While the fish was sent to keep Jonah alive, the sign of Jesus was greater—He died and was raised to life.  This sign, Jesus’ death and resurrection, would be all that Jesus offered—and that was no small proof of His supremacy!  Yet Jesus knew the hard-heartedness of the day; He didn’t expect much of a response even after He was raised from the dead.  Since the Jewish leadership had flatly rejected Him—while the wicked city of Nineveh repented at the paltry sermon of Jonah, “In 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown!” (Jonah 3.4)—the latter would rise up in condemnation of the former.  Likewise, since the queen of Sheba traveled a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and Jesus’ generation rejected His wisdom, at the judgment she would rise up and condemn their obduracy
  2. Jesus denounced the experts in the law for acting consistently with their fathers—those who had killed the prophets.  He told them that since they had rejected Him, God in the flesh, they would in turn be culpable for the blood of all the prophets.  Jesus chastised the Pharisees for making monuments to the prophets—the very ones their fathers had killed.  Because the Pharisees had rejected Him, Jesus inferred it was as if His opponents were actually anachronistically participating with their forefathers in the persecution of all the prophets; “So that this generation may be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world—from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary” (11.50-51; cf. 2 Chron 24.20-22), he said
  3. Since Jesus urged all, especially leaders, to be zealous in watching for His return, it follows that kingdom-priorities would force His disciples to separate from even some of their closest companions.  To illustrate His point, Jesus cited Micah 7.6, where the prophet lamented the social decay in Judah—so fractured that no one could be considered a loyal friend, not even one’s family.  While Micah argued that the divisiveness of his day was the result of unfaithfulness to the Lord, Jesus said that all who are faithful to Him would have to endure a divisive culture; “They will be divided, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law,” He said (12.53).  He had not come to bring peace to all human relationships, but peace between God and His people—which would cause many to oppose His followers, divide from them

*For a complete list of references, please see