Jesus’ Response to Misrepresentation and Unbelief (Luke 11:14-36)

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2008-06-06 12:30.

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According to the belief of the multitude, demon possession caused a certain man to be mute. Whether Jesus effected the cure and expressed himself in a manner that accommodated the common view or whether this involved an actual case of demon possession cannot be determined with certainty. When Jesus expelled the demon or freed the man from the agent responsible for his muteness, he could speak, and the many people who witnessed this were amazed. Certain ones, however, blasphemed Jesus, maintaining that he expelled demons by Beelzebul (Beelzebub), the ruler of the demons or the devil. Others, wanting to test Jesus, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. They wanted to see some spectacular sign from heaven that they felt was needed to establish whether he was the promised Messiah. (Luke 11:14-16; see the Notes section for additional comments.)

Aware of the thinking of those who persisted in unbelief, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes desolated, and house falls upon house. If, then, Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” This should have caused those who misrepresented Jesus as being in league with the demons to think seriously. Divisions or rifts cause ruin, as when one house collapses on another house. It was inconceivable that Satan would be working against himself, destroying his own realm. (Luke 11:17, 18)

If the casting out of demons could be used as evidence that one was in league with Beelzebul (Beelzebub), this would raise a serious question, By whom did the “sons” of Jesus’ opposers exorcise demons? It is likely that these “sons” would have been disciples of the unbelieving Pharisees. Their own followers thus condemned them, exposing the inconsistency of the judgment they had made about Jesus’ works of power. (Luke 11:19)

The Son of God then continued, “But if I cast out the demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:20) An act accomplished by the “finger of God” denotes one that is effected by God’s power. Through the working of divine power, Jesus revealed himself to be the promised Messiah. Therefore, in him as the king to whom his Father had granted authority and power, the reign of God had come. Jesus’ powerful works confirmed that he was in possession of God-given royal authority.

Whenever a well-armed strong man guards his own courtyard, intruders could not enter his house. Therefore, his possessions would be safe. If, however, someone with greater strength came and overpowered him, he would be stripped of his protective armor and deprived of his possessions. (Luke 11:21, 22) Accordingly, Jesus’ powerful works demonstrated that he had far greater authority than existed in the realm of darkness, for all injurious elements had to yield to his command.

In view of Jesus’ great God-given authority, the wise course would have been for individuals to take a firm stand on his side. There was no middle ground. As Jesus said, “The one not with me is against me, and the one not gathering with me is scattering.” (Luke 11:23)

Jesus made use of a common view about unclean spirits to illustrate the sad spiritual condition that existed among the people. Upon leaving a man, an unclean spirit passes through waterless areas in search of a resting place, but does not find one. Therefore, this spirit decides to return to its original home, which it then finds swept clean and well-arranged. (According to numerous manuscripts, the house is also described as “unoccupied.”) Leaving again, the unclean spirit finds seven (a complete number) of other spirits more evil than it is. All these wicked spirits then enter the man and take up permanent residence, and his final condition comes to be worse than the first. (Luke 11:24-26)

In Matthew 12:43-45, the same parable appears and concludes with an application to the “evil generation.” The Israelites had ceased to be enslaved to the kind of idolatry that existed before the Babylonian exile. From that standpoint, their house had been cleaned up and put in order. This, however, did not protect them from being victimized by worse “demons” and coming into an even graver spiritual plight.

Among the influential members of the nation, legalistic views began to crowd out the importance of growth in love, justice, and compassion. The men who exercised teaching authority formulated regulations and commands that went far beyond the requirements of the Mosaic law. This legalism spread like leaven among the people and brought spiritual ruin to them. The scrupulous observance of humanly devised commands interfered with the proper display of love, justice, and mercy. It obscured spiritual vision, making it impossible for the majority to recognize Jesus as God’s Son on the basis of his powerful works, exemplary life, and sound teaching. The hostility that developed among those poisoned to the greatest extent by legalism led to their wanting to kill Jesus.

Besides the few who became Jesus’ disciples, many others were impressed by his works and words. One woman, emotionally moved by what she heard expressed how fortunate the mother was who had given birth to and nursed a son such as he was. Jesus, though, stressed that fortunate or in an enviable state of well-being or happiness are those who hear and heed God’s word. (Luke 11:27, 28)

As the crowds increased in number, Jesus focused on those who wanted to see some spectacular sign to convince them about who he was. He referred to them as an “evil generation,” for they persisted in unbelief despite all the powerful works they had seen. They would not be granted the kind of sign they were seeking. The only sign they would be given would be the “sign of Jonah,” which sign pointed forward to Jesus’ resurrection on the third day after his death. (Luke 11:29)

Just as Jonah had been a sign to the Ninevites, so the Son of Man would be a sign to the evil generation then living (the generation that persisted in unbelief). Jesus contrasted the course of non-Israelites living in the past with that of his fellow Jews. In the judgment to come, “the queen of the south,” by her course of action, would condemn the then-existing generation for their unbelief. She came from a distant land to hear Solomon’s wisdom, but someone greater than Solomon was in their midst, but they paid no attention to him. The people of Nineveh likewise would condemn the unbelief of Jesus’ contemporaries. This is because they believed Jonah and repented, but the majority who saw and heard one greater than Jonah refused to believe him and act accordingly. (Luke 11:30-32)

Jesus’ next words illustrated the seriousness of continuing in spiritual darkness, choosing to act in a manner that is contrary to the purpose for which light or enlightenment is made available. A person does not place a lit lamp in a storage space or under a container but on a lampstand, to provide light for those who enter the house. For the body, the eye serves as a lamp. By means of the eye, the body or the individual perceives everything that light makes visible. Without sight, a person’s world comes to be a world of darkness. Whenever the eye does not function properly, images are distorted or obscured, and the visual perceptions cannot be trusted. (Luke 11:33, 34; regarding Luke 11:33, see the Notes section.)

The Greek word for “simple” is haploús and can denote what is sound or properly focused and, in a moral sense, can mean “straightforward,” “sincere,” “guileless,” and “generous.” When the eye is properly focused and provides clear images, the whole body is filled with light. The manner in which one views matters is a reflection of the inner moral or spiritual condition. Therefore, a distorted or corrupt view, plunges the whole person into a realm of darkness. (Luke 11:34) That was true of those who persisted in unbelief. Their distorted view of Jesus gave evidence of a deep moral and spiritual darkness. He, therefore, called upon those hearing his words to examine themselves, to consider whether the “light” in them was not “darkness.” (Luke 11:35) When the people refused to benefit from the light that Jesus offered, comparable to his putting a lamp on a lampstand, they continued to walk in a realm of darkness.

Only if the whole body or the whole being is filled with light, with no part being in obscuring or distorting darkness, can the individual correctly evaluate the evidence and make wise decisions. The entire being would have the light comparable to what a lamp provides, enabling the individual to see what is needed to follow the right course. (Luke 11:36)


It should be noted that Jesus’ mission did not include correcting popularly held views regarding sickness and other afflictions. The people then living could not have comprehended what humans have learned over the centuries since then and will continue to learn. To make himself understood, Jesus had to express himself in terms familiar to the then-existing generation. That required accommodating his parables and responses to their belief system or their limited knowledge. Therefore, it is not always possible to determine whether the accounts in the Scriptures reflect this accommodation or express what the actual situation was.

Clear evidence of accommodation is the parabolic saying about the demon that leaves a man and searches for a resting place as it passes through dry areas devoid of human habitation. It was a common belief that demons had their haunt in desolate places, including towns and cities lying in ruins. To convey an important truth, Jesus made use of this belief when formulating his parable.

In Luke 11:33, the Greek word that designates a storage place or hidden place is krypte, and the related verb krypto means to “hide” or “conceal.” The oldest extant papyrus manuscripts (P45 and P75) do not include the words about the container (módios, meaning “bushel,” “bushel basket,” or “vessel”).