Good morning! Jesus is teaching the crowds throughout today’s passage, Luke 11-12. He gives pointed critique of Jewish religious leaders, but he generally addresses the crowds who follow him in order to exhort them regarding the life of discipleship. Though these chapters are set as though they occur before Jesus reaches Jerusalem, I believe the gospel writer is channeling what disciples need to hear in the decades after Jesus, adapting to an increasingly fragmented civic life and still expecting Christ’s triumphal return at any moment.
Jesus sneaks off for times of private prayer throughout Luke (one of the gospel’s characteristics), and at the beginning of Luke 11 he gives his disciples the main verses of what we now call the Lord’s Prayer. These simple, direct pleas are easy to pray but hard to practice, which is why Jesus emphasizes the importance of persistence in prayer. “Knocking on heaven’s door”, as the song goes, will lead to success also because those who seek find and those who knock will have the door opened to them. But the successful pray-er must be prepared to follow through with reinforcing action. Jesus’ words concerning unclean spirits offer a case in point. Driven out by the power of God, fugitive spirits are proof that God’s kingdom has come. But if a person doesn’t replace the false gods or demons with something true when freed, the freedom only lasts so long before the original evil is back and worse than ever. Maintaining care of one’s eyes (as a lamp unto the soul) is another human response to the grace of God. The ancient practice related to this, called “custody of the eyes”, feels like a helpful reminder in these days where much media is harmful just to view or experience, let alone pass on to others.
Chapter 12 could truly be subtitled “For Those Who Wait”. Many parts of this chapter seem to be informed by the experience of early Christians waiting for the expectedly-imminent but long-delayed return of Jesus as conquering Messiah. When Luke opens with Jesus’ exhortation to Christ-followers to find their voices and stand their ground, it’s easy to imagine this having immediate resonance among the people who faced expulsion from home and synagogue in the decades after Jesus. Jesus’ deeply reassuring section against worry comes in this chapter as well—God will take care of the beauty of the field, every creature in it, and every human being who entrusts herself to divine care. I’ve gone back to this section before to get courage when I find myself feeling anxious or distraught. Other instructions for Christ-followers include living with generosity and regard for the other, since trust in God to take care of all that’s needed allows a freedom of spirit when encountering the world. In a season of divided households, wise disciples will learn to interpret the signs of God’s presence as surely as others read the sky. Whether or not the Messiah returns with power and majesty right away or not, watchful disciples are ready to be found at work no matter the time of day or night. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Luke 13-14. Thanks for reading!