THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 9: Chapter 11
The Journey to Jerusalem Continues

Lord God,
Your Son taught us how to pray, but we do not pray as often as we should. We know that prayer is our spiritual life line that connects us to the divine, strengthening our relationship with You and helping us to live in the image of Christ. Help us to recall, as Jesus' example of prayer teaches, that our prayers should begin with expressing our love for You as our divine Father and the recommitment and submission of our lives to Your sovereignty before progressing to petitions of mercy for ourselves and for others. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Lord's Prayer, the prayer that identifies our unique relationship as the children of our Lord and divine Father. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Chapter 11: Jesus Teaches about Prayer and the Continued Hostility of the Pharisees and Scribes

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

This chapter can be divided into three parts:

  1. Jesus teachings on the Christian's attitude to God in prayer (11:1-13)
  2. Jesus' teachings on Satan and unclean spirits (11:14-26)
  3. Jesus' teaching on true blessedness and the failure of the Pharisees and Scribes (11:37-54)

Jesus offered a public prayer to the Father in Luke 10:21-22, expressing His joy over the success of the first missionary journey of His disciples. In chapter 11 the disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray just as St. John taught his disciples (11:1-4). It was common for the disciples of Rabbis to have a communal prayer to unite them. Jesus will give three teachings in this chapter defining the Christian's attitude toward God in prayer:

Luke 11:1-4 ~ The Lord's Prayer
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." 2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread 4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."

Jesus probably taught the people how to pray many times during His ministry. We have two renderings of how to pray in the Gospels: in Luke 11:1-4 and in Matthew 6:9-15 (see the study on the Gospel of Matthew Lessons 10-11). The longer version of this prayer in the Gospel of Matthew has an invocation and seven petitions while this version has an invocation and five petitions.

Question: There are 3 versions of the Lord's Prayer in Scripture and in antiquity. The short version is in the Gospel of Luke 11:1-4, a longer version is in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13, and a third version is found in the Church's first catechetical instruction known as the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," also known as the "Didache" (c. 50/120 AD; Greek word for instruction/teaching). Which version is prayed in the Catholic Mass and in most Protestant Churches?
Answer: The version from the Didache that contains a doxology (see Didache 8.2).

The invocation is a single word in verse 2 ""Father."

Question: In the invocation, to who does the word "Father" refer?
Answer: "Father" refers to the one, holy and eternal God "the God of Adam, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel ""our" God and Father.

Question: In teaching us to pray, Jesus encourages us to humbly address God as "Father." What does this intimate address suggest? See CCC 2786-87.
Answer: This intimate address indicates an entirely new relationship with God based on the gift of a new and eternal covenant in His Son, Jesus the Messiah.

The first words of the prayer teach us that we should express our adoration before we express our supplication. It is by the grace of God that we can recognize Him as "Father." This recognition is a gift and we should give Him thanks and praise for having revealed the intimacy of His name as "Father."

Question: In what three ways are we blessed to address God as "Father" that we should give thanks?
Answer:

  1. We give thanks to God for having revealed His name to us.
  2. We give thanks for the gift of believing in His divine Fatherhood.
  3. We give thanks for the indwelling of His divine Presence in us that makes us His children.

St. Paul wrote: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (Gal 4:4-7). We adore the Father because, through the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, He has caused us to be reborn into His life by adopting us as His children, and He has incorporated us into the unity of the Church, the Body of Christ (CCC 2782).

Question: How have we been adopted into the family of God? Does the free gift of our adoption that gives us the right to call God "Father" require any continual action on our part? What is that action? See CCC 2782-84.
Answer:

  1. We have been created in His image but we are restored to His likeness by the grace imparted to us by the Holy Spirit through our Christian baptism (Jn 3:3-5).
  2. Therefore, we must respond to His grace by continual conversion in living our new "life in the Spirit."
  3. As children in the family of God, we must continue to behave as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father by showing mercy to others as He has shown mercy to us and by dying to self in order to live in Christ.

That Jesus should directly address God as "Father" was shocking to 1st century AD Jews. Sacred Scripture called angels, Davidic kings, prophets and the children of Israel collectively as "sons of God," but never had anyone dared to address Yahweh publically as "Father." For the 1st century Jewish authorities, this was blasphemy, an accusation leveled against Jesus and one of the reasons His enemies sought to kill Him: But Jesus answered them, "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God (Jn 5:17-18). Tertullian, the 3rd century Roman jurist who surrendered his life to Christ to become a priest and Christian apologist, wrote that before Jesus ... the expression God the Father' had never been revealed to anyone. When Moses himself asked God who He was, he heard another name. The Father's name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name Son' implies the new name Father.'

Question: When did God become God the Father? Was it in the Incarnation of the Son? Hint: what is the second line of the Nicene Creed?
Answer: No. God the Father did not become "Father" only after the Incarnation of the Son. He has been "Father" for all eternity because the Most Holy Trinity has always lived in perfect communion through all eternity "Three in One " God the Father with His Son and united with the Holy Spirit. It is what we profess in the creed: I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father ...

It is not God who has changed, but through our baptism we have changed and as a result our relationship with God has changed. God is Father to Jesus, and it is Jesus who shares His divine Sonship with us. It is through Jesus that we are made "sons in the Son" through our baptism and become partakers of the divine nature, no longer to be called the sons and daughters of Adam but the sons and daughters of God. St Peter wrote: Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. And St. Cyprian wrote, The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son (2 Pt 1:4; also see CCC 2782).

God the Father is Father because He has eternally "fathered" the Son. He was a "father" before there were human fathers. St. Ephraim noted that earthly men are called fathers, but He is the true Father. He also wrote of the earthly relationship of "fathers" and their "sons": The terms father' and son' by which they have been called are borrowed names that through grace have taught us that there is a Single True Father and that He has a Single True Son."

Question: Why is God "our Father"?
Answer: God is our Father because He has gathered us together in one family in Christ " established in a universal human family in the Catholic [catholic means universal] Church. It is our shared sonship with Jesus which gives us the right to address God as "Father" because through the Son we are indeed His children.

The words of the invocation express this unique relationship which we can only claim through the Son. Before we make this first exclamation we must repent our sins, cleanse our hearts and with humility recognize that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him (Lk 10:22). Each of us becomes the little child' that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18:3-5: Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Before repeating the prayer Jesus taught us we must step forward in the humility of childlike faith to address God as "Father."

Question: What are the five petitions in Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer?
Answer:

  1. "may your name be held holy"
  2. "may your kingdom come"
  3. "give us each day our daily bread"
  4. "forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us"
  5. "do not subject us to the final test"

hallowed be your name ... The first petition is that God's name be held holy or sanctified. The Old Testament instructs the faithful: You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses His name (Ex 20:7 NJB; also see Dt 5:11); and You will not swear by my name with intent to deceive and thus profane the name of your God. I am Yahweh (Lev 19:12 NJB).

The Greek word for hallowed or holy is hagiastheto. It is the aorist passive imperative of hagiazo, the verb meaning "sanctify." So this prayer literally reads: Let Your name be sanctified. It is significant that this is the first petition of the Lord's Prayer. This petition is the primary petition of all petitions. We should first pray that God's holy name will be sanctified everywhere "on earth, in the heavens, throughout creation in both time and space. But we also need to make it personal and relevant. Our cry should be: "Let Your name be sanctified in my life today, Father!"

The Greek word onoma (name) corresponds to the Hebrew word shem. In common use today a "name" is simply a label to differentiate one person from another. However, in the Bible and in other cultures in ancient times and in some other cultures today, the "name" of a person encompassed everything that the named individual represented "his entire character and personality, including his work, power, authority and moral essence or reputation. This petition for the sanctification of God's "holy name" can be expressed in two ways:

  1. We sanctify His holy name by His command to us to live holy lives, through obedience to His will (Lev 11:44-45; Mt 5:48), and by our offering of reverence and praise. If our lives are not holy, we desecrate that sacred family name by which we are called. We remind ourselves that we are called by our Father's most holy name every time we make the sign of the cross: In the Name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. His Name is our name because He is our Father.
  2. But also included is this petition is that God make holy His own name by manifesting His power and glory in our lives and in the lives of all members of the family of man by establishing the fullness of His Kingdom.

It was mentioned above that for ancient peoples one's "name" encompassed everything there was to know about a person: what that person stood for and what that person believed. Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yahshua (ancient Hebrew) or Yehoshua (in Jesus' time) means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation."

Question: What is the promise of Jesus' "name" in Acts 4:12? Also see CCC 432.
Answer: The "name" of Jesus signifies the very "name" of God who is united with and present in the person of the Son. Belief in the "name," meaning the whole of Jesus Christ "everything He taught and everything He did "is the only path to salvation: Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.

Question: What is the promise in Romans 10:12-13? What does "calling on the name" mean in this passage?
Answer: The same Lord is the Lord of all, and His generosity is offered to all who appeal to Him, for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. "Calling on the name" means all those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior by accepting everything Jesus taught and believing in everything that He did for man's salvation will be saved.

The second petition is ... your kingdom come. This petition requests that the Father's kingdom be manifested in our lives and among mankind.

Question: What is the kingdom of God in this petition? See Dan 7:27; Lk 4:43 to help you with your answer.
Answer: One aspect of God's kingdom is heaven, as expressed in the verse in the Psalms, but the kingdom of God is also linked to the "good news" which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Lk 4:43). It is His "good news" that announces the establishment Jesus' Kingdom of Heaven on earth "the universal Catholic Church that is an everlasting kingdom of the holy people of the Most High God (Dan 7:27).

The Kingdom of God is so identified with the life and work of Jesus Christ that the Gospel or "good news" of the Kingdom of God promised in Isaiah 40:9-11 is in the New Testament referred to as the "Gospel of Jesus Christ": Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings [good news]; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his block; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care. It is St. John the Baptist who first links this Isaiah passage to the coming of the Messiah and God's Kingdom in Luke 3:4-6 when he claimed to be the "prophetic voice" of Isaiah 40:3-5.

The kingdom of God has a present as well as a future reality. That present and future reality is expressed in Jesus' Beatitudes teaching found in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-12. That teaching begins and ends with a present tense verb in the promise of the Kingdom while all other blessings and promises were expressed in the simple future tense (see the study on the Beatitudes or Matthew Lessons 5-9). The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God's plan of salvation in the world. The Kingdom establishes itself in the core of our being, raising us up to share in God's own inner life. This elevation has two stages:

For our part we need to respond to God with humility, love, trust, and obedience and service to His Church. It is the Church (the Kingdom of Heaven on earth) that is His vehicle to help advance the faithful to that state of grace that will make entrance into the heavenly kingdom possible.

Luke 11:3 Give us each day [or this day] our daily bread... is the third petition.
This is the turning point in the prayer. The first two petitions were addressed to God: "hollowed be your name"; "your Kingdom come..."

Question: What is the subject of the next 3 petitions?
Answer: The second series of petitions concern us: "give us," "forgive us," and "do not subject us".

In the third petition, the Greek word, which in most Bibles is translated as "daily," is the Greek word epiousios. This word is a grammatical anomaly and the derivation and meaning of epiousios is one of the great unresolved puzzles of New Testament lexicography.(1) In Scripture the word epiousios is only found here in Luke 11:3 and in Matthew's rendering of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:11. This Greek word does not occur anywhere else in Greek literature except in Christian documents related to this prayer or the subject of the Holy Eucharist. The word is so unique that it was unknown in other literature even in the times of the early Church Fathers. Origen of Alexandria, considered by Christian historians to be one the greatest biblical scholars of antiquity, suggested that epiousios is a word invented by Matthew and adopted by Luke since there was no Greek word in existence that would adequately described the supernatural character of the "heavenly bread" (Origen, De orat. 27.7). Nor does there seem to be any link in the Hebrew of the Exodus passages referring to the manna from heaven: lehem minhassamayim = "bread rain down from heaven for you" or debar yom beyomo = "a daily portion" or the Aramaic translation pitgam yom beyomeh.

Scholars have proposed 4 different meanings for the word epiousios:

  1. daily
  2. necessary for existence
  3. for the following day
  4. for the future.

St. Jerome's definition was "super-substantial" or "necessary for existence." In any case, from the times of the Fathers of the Church this word has always been taught as a reference to the Holy Eucharist:

Question: What miracle in the Exodus liberation prefigures the first promise of our super-substantial bread? Quote the passage from the Book of Exodus, chapter 16.
Answer: In the miracle of the manna from heaven: Yahweh then said to Moses, Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people must go out and collect their ration for the day... (Ex 16:4, NJB).

Question: Where in the New Testament does Jesus promise "bread from heaven"? See John chapter 6:28-59 and quote a significant verse.
Answer: So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-35).

Question: When does Jesus fulfill this promise? What is the symbolic link to the manna?
Answer: It is fulfilled at the Last Supper in Jesus' statement, "This is my Body..." and it is fulfilled at every Mass when the priest stands in the person of Christ (Persona Christi) and says the words of consecration which begins the transformation by God the Holy Spirit of our gifts of bread and wine into the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Savior, Jesus! This is our heavenly bread that our heavenly Father provides to nourish us on our spiritual journey to the promised land of heaven, just as He gave manna to the Children of Israel on their physical journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Do we interpret this petition as the daily nourishment that we need to survive physically or spiritually? The Church Fathers do acknowledge that all bread, heavenly and materially, does indeed come from God, and we do provide in cooperation with God's creation the bread that is supernaturally transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. However, the Fathers warn this interpretation of bread for our physical nourishment must also include the acknowledgement that this petition also refers to the heavenly bread that is Christ our Savior. In sacred Scripture, "table bread" is always an anticipation of the heavenly banquet (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; Lk 24:30-31). Every meal over which Jesus presided in the New Testament had deep eschatological significance "every meal was a salvation meal which looked forward to the "final feast." The material bread that God provides for us daily on our own tables symbolizes and foreshadows the heavenly reality that we see in the Real Presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist which is the visible reality of a heavenly promise when we are called bodily to the heavenly Communion of Saints.

The next petition is "forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us..." Jesus makes forgiveness the cornerstone of one's relationship with God. In God's mercy He has forgiven us our sins and therefore we must show the same mercy to those who have wronged us and seeks our mercy.

This petition also refers to:

  1. Our continual repentance and conversion as we seek forgiveness for our sins on our journey toward salvation.
  2. Our plea for God's mercy and forgiveness when we face our Individual (or particular) Judgment after physical death (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:37; CCC 2846-49).

The Greek word opheilema, which can be translated "trespass" or "debt," is found in Matthew 6:12 (plural) and in Romans 4:4 (singular) in the New Testament. However, St. Luke uses a form of this word meaning "indebted" in 11:4. The transliteration of this Greek word is "what is due" or "an obligation, a debt owed." But here it clearly has a moral connotation, meaning "the debt of sin." This interpretation is supported by Luke's use the Greek word hamartias which means sins in the sense of "missing the (moral) mark." Jesus was probably speaking in Aramaic, the common tongue of the region, and in Aramaic the word hobha means debt or sin. In the Old as well as in New Testament times, sin was conceived of in terms of a debt owed to God. Since for his Greek readers Luke translated the Aramaic word into the Greek word hamartias, meaning "sins," we should obviously understand it in that sense.

According to the Law, the only way in which a "debt of sin" can be paid is with the blood of an unblemished victim (Heb 9:22). In the Old Testament animal sacrifice was the temporary remedy for sin. The animal died in place of the sinner whose confessed sins were forgiven (i.e. Lev 4:27-31; 5:17-19; Lev 17:11-12; etc.). Jesus was the perfect, unblemished sacrificial victim for the forgiveness of the sins of man:

In the ceremonial ritual of the Passover meal, after drinking from the communal 4th cup that closed the meal, it is interesting that the last words the host spoke before dismissing the participants were "It is finished" or "It is fulfilled," referring to the fulfillment of the covenant obligation to eat the Passover sacrifice in a sacred meal. These were the same words (recorded in the Gospel of John as teltelestai in Greek) that Jesus cried out on the cross before He gave up His spirit (Jn 19:30). In the time that Jesus lived, the word teltelestai was also an accounting term that was announced or written across a ledger when a debt was paid. Jesus paid our debt of sin when He gave up His life on the Cross and fulfilled all the commands of the Old Covenant Law.

Question: What is the penalty that we pay for sin in our lives? How can that penalty be removed? See Rom 6:3-9; 6:22-23; Phil 3:10-11; CCC 1006.
Answer: Since Adam and Eve's fall from grace through sin death has reigned over man's life ever since and has been measured by the passing of time in the limit placed on life by death. But, Christ has claimed victory over sin and death and has shared that victory with those who believe in Him. All those who die in Christ's grace become participants in the death of the Savior with the promise that they can also share in His Resurrection and live eternally in defiance of "time" in the heavenly Kingdom.

The 4th petition in St. Luke's rendering of the way Jesus taught His disciples to pray is: "and do not subject us to the final test." Other translations read: "Lead us not into temptation," but this is in fact a poor translation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the better understanding of this phrase in CCC 2846-49 and notes that the original Greek in both Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:5 can mean either: "Do not let us yield to temptation" or "do not allow us to enter into temptation," as it is translated in most other languages. The Catechism explains: This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation... God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that heads to sin... (CCC 2846).

In this petition we recognize that human efforts alone are not enough to help us cope with temptation. We must turn to God to get the strength we need. St John of Avila wrote: God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm (Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent).

The "final test" can mean:

  1. The final temptation to sin just prior to one's death before one has the opportunity to repent.
  2. The final period of tribulation prior to the return of the Messiah.
  3. The Last Judgment at the end of the Age (CCC 1038-41).

Question: But all the same, should we expect trials? Does God send us into evil to test us? See Sir 15:11-20; Mt 5:10-12; Jam 1:12-15 and CCC 1264, 1426, 2515.
Answer: Yes, we should expect trials because of the evil that is in the world. No, God does not tempt us with evil. God wants only what is good for us. It is our own concupiscence "our human tendency to be attracted to sin "that entices us to sin.

Question: If God does not tempt us, then why do we even pray And do not subject us to the final test or as this petition is badly translated, And lead us not into temptation; but in a better translation, And let us not be led into temptation. See Wis 3:1-9 and Ps 37:23-24 and quote a passage that is an encouragement in the face of temptation.
Answer: God would never tempt us to do evil, but He will allow Satan to tempt us and when we rise above that temptation we are strengthened and purified by the experience: But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. [...]. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace... Wisdom 3:1a, 5.

Question: Temptation is part of this world and we must face it every day, but what promise does God make us as we face temptation and trial? Read 1 Cor 10:13 for your answer.
Answer: It is God's solemn promise that He will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

The Catechism explains that rejecting the temptation to sin is part of our growth toward spiritual maturity (CCC 2847). We must discern between being tempted and consenting to that temptation by our action. We must guard ourselves against temptation in two ways:

  1. By recognizing the sin and willfully turning away from the temptation to sin.
  2. By refusing to be a source of temptation to others.

St. James, first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem and kinsman of Jesus wrote: Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death (Jam 1:12-15). And St. John of Avila also wrote: Lean upon Him, because if the Lord is not your support and your strength, then you will fall and you will be afraid of everything (Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent).

We must turn to God to get the strength we need to resist the temptation to sin, and through the work of the Holy Spirit to fight the battle against sin in order to live the victory of a holy life. Such a battle and such a victory are only possible if we remain vigilant, if we remain obedient, and if we are strengthened through prayer and the sacraments Jesus gave to His Church. Our petition is really that God will give us the grace to discern what is evil and the strength to resist the temptation to do what is evil. When we pray this petition it is also good to follow Jesus' example when He was tested by Satan "He quoted Sacred Scripture. We should recall the words of Sacred Scripture that promise us victory if we persevere in faith. Take courage when you are tested and remember: The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand (Ps 37:323-24), and St. Paul's words of encouragement: I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

Luke 11:5-8 ~ The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor
5 And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' 7 and he says in reply from within, Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' 8 I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

This is Jesus second teaching on how to pray and the Christian's attitude toward prayer (the first was the Our Father). This time He presents a parable that emphasizes the importance of being persistent in prayer. Jesus offers three parables on the power of prayer in the Gospel of St. Luke:

  1. The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor (Lk 11:5-13)
  2. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8)
  3. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14)

See CCC 2613.

Question: What comparison is Jesus making and what is His teaching point?
Answer: A neighbor who is relentless in his request to borrow some food and the friend who fulfills his request to get rid of him is compared to the person who is persistent in petitioning God for an answer to prayer. The point is that our persistence and urgency in prayer will get results. It doesn't change God's intentions toward us; instead our persistence changes us to recognize God's work in us and His will for our lives.

Luke 11:9-13 ~ Effective prayer
9 "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who asks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? 12 Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Addressing the effectiveness of prayer to the Father, Jesus does not put any restrictions on prayer. St. Jerome commenting on this passage notes: It is written, to everyone who asks it will be given; so, if it is not given to you, it is not given to you because you do not ask; so, ask and you will receive (Jerome, Commentary of Matthew, 7).

Question: Even though prayer is infallible, we are not infallible. If Jesus says prayer is as easy as asking and "it will be given to you," why is it that sometimes God's answer to our prayers is "no" or "be patient" which is often wrongly interpreted as the absence of an answer?
Answer: Our petition may be delayed or denied because:

  1. Our personal dispositions are not righteous because of personal sin.
  2. What we have asked for is not a righteous and unselfish request.
  3. Now is not the time to receive such a petition in God's plan for our lives.

Jesus has already warned us against the sin of hypocrisy using the Pharisees and scribes (scholars of the Law) as an example, and He has already given us His own model prayer in the Lord's Prayer/Our Father. Now He encourages His disciples to pray by giving several commands and promises. In verses 9-10 Jesus gives three direct commands and three promises if one follows these commands in connection to how we should pray.

Question: What are the three commands and the three promises?
Answer: The commands are expressed in three words and are linked to the promises that are expressed in three statements:

COMMAND: PROMISE:
Ask everyone who asks receives
Seek the one who seeks finds
Knock to the one who knocks, the door will be opened

Question: What door will be opened to those who persist in prayer? Quote the significant passages. See Mt 3:13-17 and Lk 3:21-22; Rev 3:8; 20-21; 4:1; CCC 536 and 1026.
Answer: The door to heaven and eternal life had been closed since the Fall and had not been opened until the coming of the Christ (CCC 536, 1026):

Jesus illustrates His promise in a series of sayings that use the example of a child coming to a father with a request, something with which everyone hearing Jesus can relate - everyone having been either a child or a parent themselves.

Question: What are the four contrasts Jesus makes? What is the relationship between the fish and the snake, the scorpion and the egg and what is the point? Hint: The kind of fish named in the passage is a barbut; it is found in the Sea of Galilee and its appearance is smooth and without scales, somewhat like a snake. The scorpion probably refers to one at rest with its tail relaxed instead of curved above its body and the legs beneath its body, looking somewhat like a brown egg.
Answer: The contrasts are between a snake and the fish without scales, between a scorpion and an egg, between the unrighteous father and the heavenly Father and between a child asking an unrighteous father as opposed to a believer making a petition to God the Father:

Contrasts in Luke 11:9-12
Fish without scales Snake
Scorpion Egg
Wicked father Heavenly Father
A child asking an unrighteous parent A child of God asking

The fish without scales and the snake look somewhat alike but they are not the same, and a stinging scorpion is certainly different from an egg. It is not difficult for even a wicked father to determine that one choice is definitely better for a child than the other. The point is that even the unrighteous know the difference between what is good parenting and what is not good; therefore, can you trust your heavenly Father to give you the best gift when you pray, even if you don't know yourself which gift is best. It is interesting that the force of this parable lies in the contrast rather than in the comparison between the Father who is God and the human father. Jesus acknowledges that even the unrighteous can perform good acts when He make this statement: If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Question: Why does Jesus call His listeners "wicked"? Isn't He speaking to His disciples who are righteous men who have made the choice to follow Him? See Rom 3:23.
Answer: Ever since the Fall of our original parents and the curse of the inherited tendency to sin, that is what men and women were in the family of Adam "the "wicked" lost in original sin and with the inherited tendency to sin.

Because of the human condition, even when humans are doing good and following nobler instincts like good parenting, they cannot escape the designation "wicked." It is only when we are reborn as God's children through the sanctifying grace of Jesus' sacrifice that we can live as the "righteous" sons and daughters of God.

Question: What is the best "gift" our heavenly Father has given His children? See Jn 15:26 and Acts 2:1-4.
Answer: The gift of sanctifying grace through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:14-23 ~ Beelzebul and the parable of the strong man
14 He was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute person spoke and the crowds were amazed. 15 Some of them said, "By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons." 16 Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. 17 But he knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid to waste and house will fall against house. 18 And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. 19 If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. 22 But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. "Your own people" in the Greek text reads "your sons" (IBGE, vol. IV, page 197).

Jesus and the disciples are no longer alone. A crowd has gathered and Jesus heals a demon possessed person. Most of the people are impressed and amazed but some level another accusation against Jesus. This is the first of three episodes that Luke recounts where Jesus deals with either demons or signs from heaven (11:14-23, 24-26, and 29-32).

Question: Jesus has already faced several challenges/accusations by the scribes and Pharisees. What is the list of accusations against Him?
Answer: This is another accusation to add to the list:

  1. He blasphemes (5:21a)
  2. He claims equality with God by forgiving sins (5:21b)
  3. He eats with tax collectors and sinners (5:30)
  4. He does not fast (5:33)
  5. He allows His disciples to do what is unlawful on the Sabbath (6:2)
  6. He drives out demons by the prince of demons (11:15)

Jesus defends Himself against the accusation that He has healed by the power of Beelzebub, a reference to Satan (see verse 18). It is thought that Beelzebul refers to the principal false god of the Philistine city of Ekron, Ba'al-zebub (2 Kng 1:2-3, 6, 16). However the name is altered to show the Jew's disgust for the pagan god by calling it Beelzebul making the title "Lord of the Flies" in Aramaic (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 9.2.1). Another suggestion is that it is the Aramaic word be'el-debab, which means "adversary," and is the Aramaic word for a prosecuting attorney in a lawsuit. The Hebrew word satan also means "adversary" or "accuser" as in a court of law. The third suggestion is that it is the Aramaic for be'el-zebbul, "Lord of Dung" (Fitzmyer, page 920).

Question: What two examples does Jesus use to refute the slander of the accusation that evokes the image of a civil war?
Answer: (1) a divided kingdom and (2) a failed or fallen house/household.

Luke 11:19-20 If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I drove out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Question: What three ways does Jesus challenge His critics by turning their accusation against them in verses 18-20?
Answer: He challenges his critics to address the ridiculousness of the charge they have made:

  1. Why would Satan drive out his own demons? Satan cannot prevail if he and his demons are divided in both demon possession and casting out demons (verse 18).
  2. If their accusation is correct, then even their own Jewish exorcists must be in league with Satan (verse 19).
  3. If Jesus heals by the power of God then He is an agent of God like the Old Testament prophets, and the coming Kingdom they preached has arrived (verse 20).

Since in accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan they have implicated their own exorcists, let those exorcists judge the veracity of their ridiculous slander. It is hardly likely that they will agree that they also can only cast out demons by Satan's power. Jesus completes this part of His defense against their accusations by a reference to eschatological judgment in verse 20. Jesus' meaning is that those who slander Him will face divine judgment.

In verses 21-22 Jesus speaks of a strong man versus a more powerful man. The reference to the "strong man" and the "stronger man" is probably an echo of the words of St. John the Baptist in Luke 3:16 and also of Jesus defeat of Satan in the Temptation (4:1-13).

Question: Who is the "strong man" and who is the "stronger man"? What is the "strong man's" palace? See Lk 3:16; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.
Answer: Beelzebub/Satan is the "strong man" who is the ruler of the world, but Jesus is the "stronger man" who will take dominion of the earth away from Satan.

Beelzebul (Beelzebub)/Satan is the "strong man" guarding his "palace" "the earth over which he has rules as "prince" since the Fall of Adam. But now Jesus, the "stronger man," has appeared to defeat him and to take possession of the earth to establish His own Kingdom "the Church.

Symbolism of Luke 11:21-22
The strong man Satan
The palace Earth, the present dominion of Satan
The stronger man Jesus who has come to take back the earth to found the Kingdom of heaven on earth

Luke 11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

This verse echoes the "civil war" imagery of the earlier passage in which Jesus spoke of a kingdom divided and a household divided. There are only two sides in God's battle against Satan "those who are for Jesus and belong to God and those who are against Jesus who advance the cause of Satan, bringing violence to ( scatters") the people (the Jews) who are meant to inherit the coming Kingdom.

Luke 11:24-26 ~ The continued danger of unclean spirits
24 "When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, I shall return to my home from which I came.' 25 But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first."

Question: What is Jesus' warning? See 2 Pt 2:20 and Jn 5:14.
Answer: His warning is not to feel smug concerning the apparent defeat of evil in the driving out of a demon. Once being driven out, a demon can return if the delivered person does not repent and get his life right with God. It is not enough to experience an exorcism by becoming a "house swept clean" "the "house"/soul must guard against evil by continual conversion.

Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself... the number seven probably symbolizes the full force of evil. Jesus warning highlights the unfortunate failure of the human condition "often repentance and the expressed desire to reform doesn't last long. Think of how full the churches were after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th 2001. It was a condition that lasted a few weeks and then the size of the congregations returned to what they had been prior to the tragedy. In the course of ancient Israel's history, God's temporal judgments like war or famine caused the people to repent their sins and turn back to God. However, not long after a good king pulled down the images of false gods a bad king would succeed him who would set them up again and the people would fall away from their covenant obligations to God. It is not enough to repent evil and to be made "clean" again "conversion must be an on-going process in which we must be continually freed from our sins, renewed in turning back to God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's purpose for our lives (see Mt 12:43-45; Gal 5:22).

Luke 11:27-28 ~ The truly blessed
27 While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed." 28 He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

A woman in the crowd who is impressed with Jesus' wisdom and healing blesses His mother. What she says is reminiscent of Proverbs 23:25: Let your father and mother have joy; let her who bore you exult. Again, Jesus' response must not be taken as a criticism of His mother (see Lk 8:21). Rather Jesus echoes the sentiments of Elizabeth's blessing of Mary in Luke 1:45 and Mary's Canticle in Luke 1:46-48.

Question: What was the basis of the Virgin Mary's blessing in those passages?
Answer: In Elizabeth's blessing of Mary in Luke 1:45 Elizabeth says: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled," basing Mary's blessing on hearing and believing the angel's announcement of the birth of the Christ. In the Virgin Mary's Magnificat, she makes it clear that she is blessed because she has believed and submitted herself to the will of God: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on all ages call me blessed.

Jesus' beatitude does not reject the woman's blessing for His mother but sets the priority of blessedness in obedience to God.

Luke 11:29-32 ~ The sign of Jonah
29 While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. 30 Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. 32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Jesus reference to "a sign" refers us back to verse 16: Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven, where some in the crowd were asking for a divine sign as proof of His authority from God.

Question: Why is does Jesus call His generation evil or corrupt? What other generation was given the same label by God and by God's covenant mediator? See Num 14:10b-11, 27; Dt 32:4-5.
Answer: No other generation with the exception of the Exodus generation has seen such mighty works/signs of God and yet they refuse to believe and to trust Jesus just as the Exodus generation refused to trust God.

Question: What two comparisons does Jesus make with His generation?
Answer: He compares them to the Ninevites of Jonah's time and the Queen of the South who visited King Solomon.

Question: Who was the Queen of the South who came to hear Solomon's wisdom and knowledge of God? See 1 Kng 10:1-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12.
Answer: The Queen of Sheba. She came to hear the wisdom of Solomon and proclaimed the goodness of the God of Israel.

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and Sheba was a country on the east coast of Africa.

Question: What do the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba have in common?
Answer: They were pagan Gentiles, yet they accepted the testimony of God that was spoken by His agents, the prophet Jonah and King Solomon.

Jonah son of Amittai was the 8th century BC prophet from Gath-hepher in the Galilee (2 Kng 14:25), a town located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, in the territory of Zebulun (Josh 19:13). St. Jerome identified Jonah's village and the location of his tomb two miles from Sepphoris on the road to Tiberius (Jerome, Commentary on Jonah).

Jesus mentions the Galilean prophet Jonah 6 times in 5 verses in Matthew's Gospel (Mt 12:39, 40, 41 twice; 16:4 and 17.

Question: What is significant about Jesus' references to Jonah in the Gospels? See Josh 19:13 and 2 Kng 14:25; Jon 1:1-3; 2:1, 11; 3:1-10.
Answer: Other than Jesus, Jonah was the only prophet of God who came from the Galilee and his mission prefigured the mission Jesus will give to His Apostles and disciples. Jonah's mission was to tell the non-Israelite, Gentile people of Nineveh to repent their sins or their city would be destroyed. At first Jonah resisted his mission, but when he relented God freed him from being entombed in the whale and he was free to carry out his mission to the people of Nineveh. When the people repented, they were saved.

Jesus identifies the "sign" His generation will receive with Jonah being entombed in the whale/great fish and resurrected on the third day (Jon 2:1).

Question: When was Jesus resurrected from the tomb as the ancients counted (without the concept of zero as a place value) from Friday to Sunday?
Answer: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning are three days.

Jesus is making a symbolic link to the prophet Jonah. In Scripture the number three is one of the so called symbolic "perfect numbers." The number three signifies completeness, fulfillment or perfection and points to what is solid, real, and substantial. As a number which indicates completeness, the number three always identifies some important event in Salvation History.

Question: How will Jonah's entombment in the whale and his liberation that is a symbolic "rebirth" three days later, resulting in Jonah carrying God's message of repentance and forgiveness to the people of Nineveh, be the only "sign" for Jesus' generation? What is the two-fold symbolic link?
Answer: First, like Jonah's "entombment and rebirth" experience, Jesus' "rebirth" in His Resurrection will follow His death and entombment. Jesus' Resurrection, like Jonah's resurrection, will be a "sign" that will bring about the repentance and salvation of the Gentile nations. The only "sign" Jesus' generation will receive of His divine authority will be His death and Resurrection.

In identifying Himself with the prophet Jonah, Jesus affirms Jonah's message of salvation to the Gentiles "God's gift of salvation isn't just for the Jews but for all people. Matthew 12:40 further clarifies the link to Jonah in the statement that Jesus will die and be resurrected on the third day:

Luke 11:31a and 32a 31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them ... 32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

The Assyrian people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba turned to God on far less evidence than Jesus has presented to Him own people during the years of His ministry. On the day of the Last Judgment the Queen of Sheba and the men of Nineveh will stand before God's throne and accuse the faithless generation that rejected Jesus the Messiah.

Luke 31b and 32b 31b... there is something greater than Solomon here. 32b ... and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Question: What is the "something greater" than Solomon son of David and Jonah the prophet? Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Dt 18:15-19.
Answer: The Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba believe the testimony of God's prophet and anointed King, but Jesus is a much greater messenger than either of them. Jesus is the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God, the true Davidic heir and God's supreme prophet to whom the people must listen.

Luke 11:33-36 ~ A parable about a lamp and its light
33 No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness. 35 Take care, then that the light in you not become darkness. 36 If you whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness."

This is Jesus' second parable about a lamp and the light (see Lk 8:16-18 in Lesson 7). In the earlier parable, the faithful disciple is the lamp and Jesus lights the lamp with the "word." The light is the "word" illuminated by the faith of the disciple that is evidenced by his righteous deeds that are radiated out to the world from the lampstand that is the Church.

Question: What is the symbolic meaning of this teaching? What does each element in the parable represent?
Answer:

The Symbolism in Luke 11:33-36
the lamp a life
the light Christ
the darkness evil
the sound eye spiritual understanding and insight
bad eye blinded and corrupted by evil desires
lampstand the Church through which the Christian's light of Christ shines out to the world

Evil desires make the "eye" less sensitive to the will of God and the darkness of evil actions can blot out the "light" of Christ's presence. Those who are like many of the Pharisees and scribes are unable to perceive the work of Christ in the world. They are blinded by the darkness of their own un-repented sins and are closed to the light of Christ in their lives.

Luke 11:37-54 ~ Jesus denounces the Pharisees and scholars of the law (scribes)
37 After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. 38 He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. 39 The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside; you are filled with plunder and evil. 40 You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? 41 But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you. 42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk." 45 Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, "Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too." 46 And he said, "Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them. 47 Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48 Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. 49 Therefore, the wisdom of God said, I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' 50 in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the Temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! 52 Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter." 53 When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, 54 for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

This is not the first time Jesus was invited to dine in the home of a Pharisee (see Lk 7:36 and 14:1). In this passage Jesus reads the thoughts of His host who is critical of Jesus' failure to observe the custom of the ritual purification of His hands before the meal. That is not to say Jesus did not have clean hands. The ritual of dipping one's hands in water was not to cleanse them but to emphasize one's internal righteousness after the blessing of the food and the washing away of any contamination from that is ritually unclean. In the ritual of eating the Passover victim, for example, there were three ritual hand washings during the meal. This was not a command found in the Mosaic Law but an addition to the Law. Jesus' response to the critical heart of His host is a three-part "woe" judgment against the Pharisees and their hypocritical approach to fulfilling the Law (verses 42-44) followed by a similar three-part judgment against the scribes (teachers of the Law) who are also at the meal (verses 46, 47-51 and 52). The total of six curse-judgments may be significant. Six is the number of man and often of man in opposition to God's divine plan. In this case, in opposing Jesus both the Pharisees and the scribes are in opposition to God's divine plan for man's salvation.

Luke 11:39-41 The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside; you are filled with plunder and evil. 40 You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? 41 But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.

Jesus contrasts a clean outer cup and dish that is filthy within with the condition of the Pharisees who appear to be righteous outwardly but inwardly neglect to purify their souls through repentance of their sins and acts of mercy that would truly cleanse their inner lives.

Question: What does the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) say about almsgiving in Sir 3:30/33 where he compares fire to sin and water to alms?
Answer: Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.

Question: Who is the "maker of the outside" who also made the inside?
Answer: God, the Creator of life, who created man to be holy externally and internally.

Luke 11:42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.

In Woe #1 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being concerning with the minutia of their understanding of the Law and neglecting what is important.

Question: They tithe the little herbs in their gardens but what do they forget/neglect?
Answer: They forget about what is really important: mercy, justice and love for God and that God will judge them for these failures.

Jesus is not criticizing tithing in this judgment against the Pharisees. His point is that attention must be paid to love of God and love of neighbor before all else.

Question: Jesus' statements are reminiscent of what teaching by the prophet Micah in 6:8 where the prophet encourages what three things in the obedient response to God's mercy?
Answer: You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.

Luke 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.

Question: In Woe # 2 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for what sins?
Answer: He condemns them for the sins of pride and arrogance by expecting the best seats during public worship in the Synagogue and to be the first to be greeting in the public marketplace. For them it is all about the observance of their rank and privilege in Jewish society.

Luke 11:44 Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.

Woe #3 sums up Jesus' assessment of the Pharisees and their outward show of righteousness.

Question: To what does Jesus compare them and why? See Lev 21:1-4 and Num 19:11.
Answer: He compares them to an unmarked grave that is a source of ritual contamination if someone who is unaware comes in contact with it.

An unmarked grave is not readily discernible as a source of uncleanliness, just as the Pharisees are not easily detected as unclean on the outside but like a dead body inside a grave their internal condition is corrupted.(3)

A scribe takes it upon himself to rebuke Jesus for insulting the scribes as well as the Pharisees. In this passage St. Luke uses the word nomikoi, which is the Greek word for "lawyer." The scribes (lawyers) were teachers of the Law and most of them were Pharisees (verse 46).

Luke 11:46 And he said, "Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.

Woe #4: The "burdens" were the details they added to the commandments and prohibitions of the Law. For example the Law prohibited any labor on the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; Dt 6:13-14), but they so strictly interpreted the Law that they added the prohibitions that a person couldn't pick a few pieces of grain to eat when hungry, nor could a fire be lighted to cook food on the Sabbath, there were prohibitions against walking more than a half mile, and carrying a certain weight, or even tying certain kinds of knots. The Pharisees even criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath as a violation of the Sabbath rest (Lk 6:7). Jesus' point is that instead of teaching the people, caring about them and being reasonable about ordinary needs, even on the Sabbath, that the scribes and Pharisees really distained them as being inferior and made life more difficult for them.

Luke 11:47 Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.

In Woe #5 Jesus' accusation is that one generation kills God's holy prophets and the next generation honors the dead prophet by building a tomb in his memory in hopes of making amends for the actions of their ancestors.

Luke 11:48-51 Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. 49 Therefore, the wisdom of God said, I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' 50 in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the Temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!

They may build tombs/memorials for the agents of God that their ancestors killed; however, they have the same mentality and will commit the same crimes.

The message Jesus gives in verse 49: I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' is not found in the Old Testament. It is Jesus' (the "Wisdom of God") direct message from God the Father.

Question: What is ironic concerning Jesus' charge that the Pharisees and scribes conspire to kill God's holy messengers? Lk 6:7, 11; 11:53; Mt 26:3-4; 26:57, 59, 65; Acts 7:8-14; 7:57-60; Acts 12:2.
Answer: They are currently conspiring against Jesus and will be successful in their plan. They will also persecute and kill Jesus' Apostles and disciples.

The death of Abel son of Adam is recorded in Genesis 4:8 and the death of the prophet Zechariah is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.

Question: What is Jesus' judgment on His generation?
Answer: God's holy prophets have been persecuted and murdered throughout the course of salvation history, but this time they have rejected more than a human prophet. His generation has rejected the promised Messiah "God Himself "the One to whom all of the sacred writings and the history of Israel has pointed. Therefore, they will bear the burden of the sins of all the past generations for the persecution and murder of the prophets who came before Him.

Luke 11:52 Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."

In Woe #6 Jesus' accuses them of abusing their gift of wisdom in interpreting the Scriptures. In addition, as Jesus has pointed out throughout His judgment, they have been bad examples of holiness to the people. Their actions have hindered the cause of salvation.

Question: How did the teachers of the law take away the "key of knowledge"?
Answer: Through their erroneous interpretation of sacred Scripture and their additions to the commands and prohibitions of the Law they made God's commands that were meant to be a tutor and a guide to holiness a hopeless burden that was impossible to keep. They so distorted the Law as to take away the key of knowledge in understanding God's teaching and locking the door to a future salvation.

Summary of the Six Woes
Pharisees Scribes
Woe #1: ... you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God Woe #4: You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.
Woe #2: You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe #5: You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48 Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors...
Woe #3: You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk." Woe #6: You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.

Luke 11:53-54 When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, 54 for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

Instead of accepting Jesus' judgment against them with humility, they prove His accusations by following the example of their forefathers' treatment of God's prophets. They immediately begin planning Jesus' destruction. They cannot arrest Him for speaking against them, but they will look for the opportunity to accuse Him officially of blasphemy, heresy and law-breaking as St. Luke traces their growing hatred for Jesus (Lk 6:11; 11:53-54; 19:48; 20:19-20; 22:2).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Question: How might you compare our relationship with Father God to a child's relationship with an earthly father who houses, feeds and disciplines his children? Also see Jn 14:23; Ps 90:1; 27:4-5; and Acts 17:24.
Answer: As God's children:

In other words, He creates a home for us, first in Mother Church who instructs and guides us and later in our heavenly home. Sacred Scripture guides us in our understanding of our future home. Look up the following passages: Ps 23:6; 27:4-5; 90:1; Jn 14:2, 23; Acts 17:24.

Question: In the Lord's Prayer Jesus gave His disciples a formula to help them pray. Do you have a formula for prayer? If not consider committing to one. A helpful formula is the word A.C.T.S.:
Answer:

  1. A = Adoration: begin by telling God how much you love Him.
  2. C = Contrition: next, make an honest confession of your sins and expressing your sorrow.
  3. T = Thankfulness: express your thanks for God's blessings.
  4. S = Supplication: humbly express your petitions, keeping in mind to pray for God's will for your life and in the lives of those for whom you pray.

Endnotes:

  1. See IBGE, vol. IV, Mt 6:11 pages 14 and Lk 11:4 page 196 (#1967). The Greek word epiousios and other words like it that occur only once or twice in the Bible are designated hapax legomenan (Greek for "said once"). There are about 1,500 of these in the Old Testament; but only 400 are, strictly speaking, hapax legomena (plural), meaning the word is absolutely new coinages of roots or cannot be derived in their specific meaning from other occurring root stems. The other approximately 1,100 words, while occurring only once as a form in the corpus of the biblical text, can be connected with other existing words.
  2. The Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-14 is inscribed on the walls of the Pater Noster Church in Jerusalem in over 50 different languages. The original church was built in the 4th century AD over the grotto where, according to tradition, Jesus taught His disciples this beautiful and ageless prayer outside Jerusalem.
  3. The people of the Sinai Covenant were commanded to be holy (sacred) as God is holy (Lev 11:45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; Num 15:40; Dt 7:6; 14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9). Therefore, they had the obligation to remain in a state of ritual purity. Once a year at Passover all the tombs around Jerusalem were whitewashed so that an unaware person did not become ritually contaminated and unable to eat the Passover meal (Mt 23:27). Ritual contamination through coming in contact with the dead required a seven day ritual purification (Num 19:11), but ordinary contamination required purification in ritual bath and purity was restored at sundown, which was the beginning of the next day (i.e., Lev 14:46; 15:5-11).

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson (*indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):

Lk 11:1

520*, 2601, 2759, 2773, 2782-84, 2786-87

Lk 11:13

443*, 728*, 2623*, 2671*

Lk 11:2-4

2759*

Lk 11:20

700

Lk: 11:2

2632*

Lk 11:21-22

385*

Lk 11:4

1425, 2845, 2846-49

Lk 11: 37

588

Lk 11:5-13

2613*

11:39-54

579*

Lk 11:9

2761

Lk 11:41

2447