Lk 11:14-54

Some thoughts as I prep a guest sermon.

As large as the section is, it’s not as disparate as the sub-heading titles most translations give. In fact, I think the whole lot holds together fairly well. The theme as a whole of the unit is alluded to in Luke’s introduction of the narrative. The occasion is the exorcism of a mute demon, which evokes three responses: amazement (fairly usual), “by Beelzebul …” etc.etc., and the call for a sign. Essentially, it’s about responding to Jesus (many things are however), but the slant here is on the dangers of responding negatively. The sum of that comes in the eye-lamp-light part – be careful lest the light in you be darkness. That, though, needs some explaining.

The problem for Jesus is that he’s surrounded by a bunch of people who just won’t repent, hear the Word and keep it, or otherwise believe that the Kingdom of God has come. So first off, he deals with the objection about him and Beelzebul, first with logic, then with a “Hey, it’s the Kingdom of God”, then with a warning about the need for permanent change in life to prevent undoing of demon exorcism. Then, what may be described as an over-enthusiastic fangirl makes a blessing remark that clearly shows that she hasn’t understood or been listening to what Jesus has just said, hence his response. Then Jesus deals with the demand for a sign, first by condemning people for their lack of repentance compared to some Gentile characters in the Scriptures. Then we get the whole light show. I didn’t used to understand this, but I’ve figured it out now. Firstly, he uses the figure of speech to point to the self-evident nature of his works. Second, he moves to the whole eye thing. As noted in Green and others, it’s not about light entering the eye, but the eye as a barometer of one’s inner ‘seeing’ light or lack thereof. For whatever reason (like, lack of modern medical knowledge), the ancients thought light came out of the eye and came back in. Thus, Jesus links one’s eyes, and hence, faculty of perception, with one’s ‘inner light’. Then he warns about whether what you think is light is in fact darkness. In other words, whether you think you can see, but are in fact blind (thanks John 9).

Thus, what ties this unit together is the inability of people to see or understand what’s going on in front of them, i.e., that the Kingdom of God has come upon them in Jesus.

The following part of Jesus and the woe-ing of the Pharisees and the lawyers simply demonstrates further Jesus previous point. Their inner ‘darkness-that-they-think-is-light’ is blinding them to the truth of Jesus. In the Pharisees’ case, what they think is their light – their commitment to purity and zealous following of the law – is in fact darkness because they ignore their greed, the love of God, and are ironically pictured as unclean tombs. So also the lawyers. They love their knowledge of the Torah, but don’t actually help people keep the law, think the only good prophet is a dead prophet, and in fact hinder people’s knowledge (there may well be some quiet reference to the law, prophets, and writings, but I’m not putting anything on that. Just a “hmm, I wonder”.)

One Response to “Lk 11:14-54”

  1. psychodougie says:

    nice work. looking forward to it (on mp3 after the fact).
    looking forward to how you explain the light out of the eye thing!
    and i think you may have something there with the law, prophets writings – that in turn they have mussed all three of them up. (the zechariah is the writings bit, yeah?)