Choices Are Demanded

I was reading in Luke 11 today and there were certain passages that seemed disjointed. When you read an account like the Gospels, pericopes (small portions of text) align with one another thematically. As I was reading, I was confused as to how the pericopes in Luke 11.24-36 related to one another. So I began to study them closer and here is what I found (though I may be wrong, or there may be more to uncover).

[24] “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ [25] And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. [26] Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
[27] As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” [28] But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
[29] When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. [30] For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. [31] The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. [32] The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
[33] “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. [34] Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. [35] Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. [36] If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” Luke 11.24-36

The first portion would seem to be vv. 24-26, the discussion of demons and an empty house. At first glance most readers, myself included, simply skim over this, or are not too concerned as we don’t know what Jesus means. However, upon closer examination, this portion is clearly about spiritual warfare and the decision of the homeowner. So, what is Jesus’s point here? I think the homeowners (a metaphor for people with bodies, and since there are not any people without bodies, that means all of us), must make a decision what to fill their home with. Jesus points out that a major act of grace was shown by the demon being removed from the person, however this person failed to fill the house (himself) with what was necessary to keep evil out, namely Jesus. Sure, this person was cleansed from evil for a moment, and the window of opportunity was present, but it quickly vanished as more evil was poured into this person. Therefore, in my estimation, refusing to respond to Jesus can, and most likely will, keep a person in destructive hands. Being neutral is not an option.

So, now we come to vv. 27-28, where someone attempts to honor the family from which Jesus came from. This is not uncommon in our culture either. We often look upon the success of some young man, or woman, and think that their parents reared them well. But, here Jesus does not allow for that to be the priority of blessing, or the ultimate achievement in life. As in the other pericope, Jesus is refocusing his hearer’s attention on the truth and importance of God’s Word. What is most important in life? According to Jesus it is having a relationship with the Creator, and Lord, of the universe. This is done by hearing (and reading) the Word and obeying it. Here is our fullness and our richness. Being neutral is not an option.

In vv. 29-32 Jesus invokes history on his behalf. Solomon, author of Proverbs, was a man of great wisdom (see 1 Kings 4.29-30), but Jesus says he is greater than Solomon. Just as the Queen of the South sought Solomon’s teaching (1 Kings 10.1-13), even more should we be chasing after the words of our Lord. Jesus also calls upon the history of Jonah and Nineveh. Some think that this reference is to Jonah in the belly of the great fish for three days, like Jesus was to be in the tomb for three days, but the context is concerned with the preaching of Jonah. Jonah preached repentance to an evil nation about to be destroyed by our Holy God. Jesus says he is greater than Jonah, thus his preaching is even more urgent, and his call to repentance even more powerful. Being neutral is not an option.

Finally, in vv. 33-34, we see Jesus use the imagery of light to strike his point home. His teaching is a light meant for all to see and not to be hidden. His teaching is God’s calling to the world, and we should not be afraid or ashamed to share it, in fact we are obligated to. Jesus also points out that the lamp is lit, but the light must be received. The eye, in this metaphor, is sort of like the gatekeeper. What the eye allows into the mind the person becomes. If you continually are filled with the light of Christ (that is, the Word of God), then you will be full of light and able to reflect light to the world around you. On the other hand, if your vision is in darkness and your eye allows that darkness (sin, evil, ungodliness) into your body then that is who you will be. In other words, what you let into your life, there your heart is also. Jesus calls us to be full of light. Being neutral is not an option.

One other thing to notice about these passages is that there is no light without God. There is no inner light residing with us, there is only darkness. Apart from God we are depraved and evil. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, not because we are lovely and beautiful, but because we are unlovely, evil, and despicable.

I would like to end with a quote from Darrell L. Bock from one of his commentaries on Luke:

No religious discussion is a private affair. One’s decision made about religion is privately made and considered, but the consequences are decidedly public, since character and morals are often the product of our religious choices. Our culture’s commitment to relegate religious discussion to the sidelines of life represents one of the great abdications of intellectual and spiritual well-being in the history of humanity. To pursue every other avenue of life with diligence and energy while ignoring the soul is to produce people whose lives may be full of activity, but whose souls are empty shells, houses waiting to be filled with something. Hollow people often live shallow lives. If any discussion should fill the public square, it is that of religion. The possibility of the existence of light means that discussion about where it can be found should proceed with vigor for everyone (328).

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