The Gospel of Luke - Part 52: Power and Purity — Luke 11:14-53
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

We are in Luke Chapter 11 where Jesus teaches us:

A.   To Be Prayerful
B.   To Be Powerful and
C.   To Be Pure

Last week we started into His teaching about being powerful. He cured a mute man by driving out a demon, but as usual, the people who saw it tried to make it an evil act and attributed it to work of the devil. Jesus lectured them about how ridiculous that was. Why would Satan drive out an evil demon?

Jesus told them that they were either on Satan’s side, or His side.  There is no other option. He said:

He who is not with Me is against Me. —Luke 11:23
Neutrality is not an option in this spiritual war. You can pick your side, but it is God or Satan, not neutral. We saw that in Matthew, Jesus warned that if evil is driven out and God is not invited in, the evil comes back even worse.

This morning — let’s pick up Luke’s record with verse 27 of Chapter 11.

While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.” —Luke 11:27-36
In this passage, Jesus also implies power. He speaks of judgment, a final reckoning for those who saw His miracles and heard His teaching but refused to believe. Let’s break this section apart and find some lessons.
While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” —luke 11:27-28
Relationships are important. This woman in verse 27 was thinking that the greatest blessing of all would be to be Jesus' mother. But Jesus said she was wrong — the greatest blessings come as we obey God's Word.

There are at least two truths we don’t want to miss.

Jesus continues:

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation”. —Luke 11:29
What is our response to what God says?

Jesus uses two Old Testament illustrations to drive home the unbelieving attitude of the people He was talking to. First he recalls the experience of Jonah.

“This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” —Luke 11:29-30
The first illustration is Jonah's preaching in Nineveh. These non-Jews were far more responsive to Jonah's message — they believed and repented and turned from their sinful behavior.   Jonah performed no miracles. He didn't even like the Ninevites. And yet they believed and repented at his message. You may remember that that really ticked off Jonah and he sat on a hillside and wanted to die rather than see the Ninivites repent.

Then Jesus uses another old testament event.

The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. —Luke 11:31
The second illustration is the queen of Sheba's response to Solomon. She traveled a long way to learn from him. Her response to his wisdom included in believing in “the Lord your God.”

Jesus' wisdom was far greater than Solomon's. Jesus' message was more powerful than Jonah's and was accompanied by many miracles. Yet these people did not believe! It reminds me of the parable of the four soils we studied in Luke 8:4-15. These people were hard-hearted. Though they heard the words of Jesus and saw His miracles, they refused to believe and they did not obey.

Jesus continues:

No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.” —Luke 11:33-36
Taken in the context of the previous verses, Jesus seems to be illustrating our responsiveness to His words. When we hear and obey, we let light into our lives so that our whole life “is full of light”. But when we hear and disregard, our lives are full of darkness.

The key to having real God's power in my life is to obey God's Word. As this passage points out, it's not enough to hear. Lots of people hear God's message and reject it. Lots of Christians know God's Word but don't obey it. Paul warned against people who appear religious but refuse to believe and obey God's word:

...holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.   Avoid such men as these. —2 Timothy 3:5
How are you doing in obeying Jesus? James instructs us:
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. —James 1:22
Look for one application you can work on this week from this chapter. God blesses and empowers those who do something with what they hear, who obey Him.

So Jesus has taught us how to be powerful:

Purity:

Now let’s turn to the third part of what Jesus teaches in this section. We have learned how to be Prayerful and to be Powerful. The third teaching is to be Pure.

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54 plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. —Luke 11:37-53
What are your reactions to what Jesus has to say in this section?

Prayer, power and now purity. These are three important values for the disciple. In today’s society, moral purity is not very important any more. We don't even expect our national leaders to be morally pure. But purity is important to God.

Note, we’re not talking about sexual purity here. We’re using the term more broadly. Purity of heart is a synonym for integrity. Is being pure in heart as important to us as it is to God?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. —Matthew 5:8

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. —1 Timothy 1:5

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. —2 Timothy 2:22

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart... —1 Peter 1:22
Jesus hammered the religious people of his day because they were more concerned with having the appearance of purity (integrity) than being pure in heart.

First notice that they were more concerned with tradition that God’s instructions.

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. —Luke 11:37-38
Surprised in verse 38 may not be the best translation of this word. The Greek word here seems to be strong. It is more often translated “amazed, astonished, marveled”. So it is probably stronger than just surprised. The Pharisee was shocked to see that Jesus had not ceremonially washed His hands.

This isn’t the only place in the gospels where this issue of ceremonial washing of the hands is mentioned:

Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. —Matthew 15:2

Mk 7:3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders.) —Mark 7:3

Mk 7:8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” —Mark 7:8
This wasn't an issue of being sanitary but of religious ceremony. Part of the Jewish tradition involved this ceremonial washing before a meal. But it’s important for us to understand that Jesus wasn't ignoring Scripture (there is no such command in the Bible). But He was ignoring their tradition.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says:

The ritual washing regulations were observed by the Pharisees and all the Jews (a generalization depicting their custom) as part of the tradition of the elders which they followed scrupulously. These interpretations, designed to regulate every aspect of Jewish life, were considered as binding as the written Law and were passed on to each generation by faithful Law teachers (scribes).

The most common ritual cleansing was the washing of one’s hands with a handful of water, a formal practice required before eating food. This was especially important after a trip to the marketplace where a Jew would likely come in contact with an “unclean” Gentile or such things as money or utensils.

The comment that the Jews observed many other traditions (Mark 7:4), some of which Mark named, indicates that the issue under discussion involved the whole detailed question of ritual cleansing. For a loyal Jew, to disregard these regulations was a sin; to follow them was the essence of goodness and service to God.

Immersion in a Mikveh and Washing Hands and FeetConsidering how important this ceremonial washing was, especially to the Pharisees, why did you think Jesus deliberately chose not to?

Jesus did this intentionally, apparently, to precipitate this discussion. He wanted to address several critical flaws in the Pharisees’ thinking. The first wrong idea that Jesus wants to correct is their excessive reverence for religious traditions.

Traditions aren’t necessarily wrong. Traditions give us a sense of roots, of history. But when we confuse the practice of traditions with the commands of Scripture, we’re going to have problems.

In an interview in the U.S. News and World Report in June 1989, Jaroslav Pelican, a historian of the Catholic Church traditions stated: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering we are where and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”

Blaise Paschal, a French mathematician and devoted Christian said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Here are some specific applications to this teaching.

A Christian writer said: “All Christians are at once beneficiaries and victims of tradition We are all beneficiaries of good, wise, and sound tradition and victims of poor, unwise, and unsound traditions.”

Next week we will learn more about what Jesus is teaching about being pure, and his lecture to the pharisee.