Daily Devotional

September 6, 2019

Daybreak: Luke 11:29-54

“And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.” (Luke 11:29)

In today’s focus verse, Jesus condemned the “evil generation” of His day who sought for a sign, perhaps to satisfy their curiosity, or as proof of His ability to work miracles. However, spiritual unbelief did not exist solely in the time when Jesus walked this earth. Throughout the ages, Christ and His teachings have been viewed with skepticism, doubted, mocked, and rejected by many.

One such demonstration of unbelief occurred in nineteenth century London, when Charles Bradlaugh, an avowed atheist, challenged Christian preacher H. P. Hughes to a debate on the existence of God and the legitimacy of religious faith. Hughes accepted the challenge on one condition: that he and Bradlaugh would each bring to the debate one hundred individuals whose lives gave “concrete evidence of the validity of their beliefs.” Hughes, who worked among the poor in the slums of London, said he would bring one hundred people whose lives had been changed for the better by Christ. Bradlaugh was to bring one hundred people who would certify that their lives had been made profoundly stronger, nobler, and more decent by their unbelief. Each side would be allowed time to cross-examine the witnesses of the other, in order to satisfy themselves as to the truth of the claims made.

When the appointed time for the debate arrived, a vast crowd had gathered to hear what they assumed would be a lively exchange. Hughes had experienced no difficulty in finding one hundred believers who had once lived in deep sin but whose lives had been transformed by Jesus Christ. Bradlaugh, however, could not find a single individual who would testify in support of his position! Apparently embarrassed by that fact, he never even showed up for the debate — and as a result, Hughes was able to preach the Gospel to the assembled crowd without hindrance. The one hundred believers gave their personal testimonies, and many who had come to hear the debate gave their lives to Christ as a result.

Like Charles Bradlaugh, those in the crowd around Jesus who asked for a sign were guilty of unbelief — they had even accused Him of casting out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils (see Luke 11:15). Jesus already had done many miracles in their midst, and He refused their demand for some spectacular or sensational action by saying that no sign would be given them except the sign of the prophet Jonas. Just as Jonah came forth after three days in the belly of the whale, Jesus Christ would come forth triumphant over death after three days in the tomb.

Disbelief and rejection of Christ’s message will one day bring judgment. Jesus pointed out that the heathen queen of the south and the warlike people of Nineveh had responded by believing when enlightened by truth. What condemnation will fall upon those who have had far more opportunity but have failed to believe!

Today, we live in a society that is rife with religious skepticism. We must guard against being influenced by its negative pressure. As we study today’s text, let us make careful evaluation of our hearts. Do we really believe? Do we have complete confidence in Christ’s words? It takes courage and determination to stay solidly rooted in our faith in our increasingly cynical and anti-Christian world, but God can and will help us do so as we look to Him.

Background

Today’s text covers three topics: Jesus’ warning against unbelief (verses 29-32), His teaching about the light within (verses 33-36), and His condemnation of religious leaders for their hypocrisy and legalism (verses 37-54).

In verses 29-32, Jesus denied the request of those who “tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:16). He had just healed a demoniac, and no further proof of His divine authority should have been needed. The word translated sign in this verse means “a supernatural token or wonder” and is the word commonly used in the Gospels to refer to miracles. The meaning of verse 30 is amplified by Matthew 12:40, which indicates that just as Jonah spent three days in the whale’s belly, Jesus would spend three days in the tomb before being resurrected. The repentance of the men of Nineveh is documented in the Book of Jonah; Jesus’ reference to Jonah in this passage verifies the historical fact of Jonah’s experience. The “queen of the south” was a reference to the Queen of Sheba, who pronounced a blessing on Solomon’s God when she observed Solomon’s great wisdom and wealth (see 1 Kings 10:1-13).

The concept of the light within as addressed in verses 33-36 is also referenced in the other Gospels. The word translated “single” in verse 34 means “healthy” or “sound.” The light represents Christ. Thus, Christ was teaching that when one is open and receptive to spiritual understanding and insight, every part of the body benefits. He warned against allowing evil influences to obscure or blot out the light of Christ’s presence.

Verses 37-54 are a denunciation of the Pharisees and lawyers whose public displays did not align with the inward condition of their hearts. While Matthew 23 records a similar condemnation, the event in our text was a different occasion; the Matthew 23 passage occurred in Jerusalem, while the setting of the Luke text was in the region of Perea (the eastern side of the Jordan River valley).

Since the Pharisees were already aligned against Jesus, the invitation of verse 37 may have been a trap in which the religious leaders hoped to observe Jesus breaking one of their many regulations. Since the same verse implies that Jesus went in and sat down immediately, it is quite probable that He purposefully refrained from the customary washing upon entering with the intent of precipitating the discussion that followed.

Jesus addressed the behavior of the Pharisees very directly. Six times in this passage He uttered the words, “Woe unto you . . .” which could be translated “Alas for you!” and was an exclamation of doom and denunciation. (This phrase is used forty times in thirty-three verses in the New Testament, and it was uttered by Jesus thirty-two of those times.) He also called the Pharisees “fools” (spiritually imperceptive) and “hypocrites.” He accused them of a range of corrupt behaviors: neglect of the inner man (verse 40), failure to treat others properly (verse 42), pride (verse 43), corrupting others (verse 44), putting legalistic burdens on others (verse 46), approving the slaying of the prophets (verse 47), and making God’s truth hard to understand and practice (verse 52).

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

V.    The rejection of the Son of Man
    B.    The conflict causing the rejection of the Son of Man
        5.    The sign to the nation (11:29-32)
        6.    The warning to the nation (11:33-36)
    C.    The consequence of the rejection of the Son of Man (11:37-54)
        1.    The occasion (11:37-38)
        2.    Woes pronounced upon the Pharisees (11:39-44)
            a.    For their externalism (11:39-41)
            b.    For their disregard of true justice (11:42)
            c.    For desire to be regarded by men (11:43)
            d.    For their deceit (11:44)
        3.    Woes pronounced upon the lawyers (11:45-52)
            a.    For their lack of care (11:45-46)
            b.    For their attitude toward the prophets (11:47-51)
            c.    For their hindrances (11:52)
        4.    The result (11:53-54)

A Closer Look

  1. What did Jesus say the men of Nineveh did when they heard the teaching of Jonah? What did their action indicate?

  2. How do you think the lawyers took away the “key of knowledge” from the people? Luke 11:52

  3. What are some steps we can take to ensure that an attitude of pride does not creep into our lives?

Conclusion

God may bless us with visible “signs” or miracles, or He may choose not to. Either way, we must continue to believe in Christ, and trust that what God says is always right and true.

Reference Materials