Luke 11:29–36 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
Are Your Eyes Good or Bad?
Philosophers continually assert that we must have sufficient evidence, along with human reason, to arrive at "the truth." In philosophers' eyes, Christians can't be reasonable believers in God, because there's insufficient evidence of who he was and is today. The problem with assuming that "evidence and reason are all that's needed to arrive at the truth" is that their assumption ignores the need for God's revelation to inform human reason; it also ignores the inability of fallen human reason to grasp and accept divine revelation. Thus a fallen sinner can look at all the evidence and logic in the world and yet not grasp the truth of the gospel, unless God opens his eyes wide and grants him repentance and faith to turn from his sin and begin believing fully in Christ.
In this lesson, Jesus talks about the blindness of his own generation, exhorting his disciples to make sure that they're seeing him and his kingdom clearly. But we'll see a twist in this passage that might make us pause. Nevertheless, let's open our eyes wide as we examine in Luke's verses how Jesus is showing us the way we should respond to God's Word of truth. So keep your eyes open wide!
A Wicked Generation Calls for Signs (v. 29)
For us today, we often demand to others, "Prove it to me!" In Jesus' day they asked for a sign. In last week's study, right after Jesus cast out a demon and enabled a mute man to speak, some accused Jesus of being Beelzebul (a.k.a. the devil); "others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven" (11:16). Jesus answered the objection about Beelzebul in vv. 17–28. Now he responds to their demand for a sign (vv. 29–32, shown below). You'd think that "healing the blind" or "exorcising a demon so a man could speak" would be pretty impressive signs. But Jesus' critics were asking for more. They wanted something so remarkable, so outstanding, that there'd be no question that those miracles had been performed by God.
Because they refused to see what was happening before their very eyes, Jesus calls them "a wicked generation," wicked in their unbelief. Here the Son of God is in their midst, performing outstanding miracles, teaching spiritual truth. Yet they "test" him (11:16) by demanding that he prove himself by giving them a sign. Was the entire generation wicked? No, many of them turned to him in faith. But their leaders and the majority of the population either ignored Jesus or actively resisted him, making them honorary members of their spiritually blind, wicked generation.
The Sign of Jonah (vv. 29c–30)
Wicked-generation leaders called for a sign; but none would be forthcoming that Jesus wasn't already exhibiting in his day-to-day ministry. The sign would be "the sign of Jonah." (If you haven't read the four-chapter book of Jonah lately, why don't you take a few minutes this week to read it. Jonah goes to Nineveh, still filled with bitterness towards its people. Yet out of obedience he preaches. The result is wholesale Ninevite repentance causing God to turn his anger from the people in Nineveh, much to Jonah's displeasure.)
What are the points of comparison between Jesus' ministry and Jonah's? In what way was "the sign of Jonah" given to Jesus' generation? Both men preached; as a result, people turned to God in repentance. But preaching probably isn't enough of a "sign" to convince the hard-hearted Jews. The point of comparison seems to be Jonah's three days in the fish's stomach and Jesus' death and burial in the tomb, to be raised to life on the third day. The sign of Jonah is equivalent to the sign of the Resurrection.
The Queen of Sheba and the Men of Nineveh (vv. 31–32)
The Queen of Sheba, a foreigner from far-off present-day Yemen, visited Solomon and acknowledged his wisdom and his God (1 Kings 10). She was a foreigner but she believed. The residents of Nineveh were foreigners but they believed and repented. Jesus' point herein: If foreigners can believe and acknowledge God, what excuse do Jews have since they've already seen and heard the Son of God teaching in their midst? Yet they met him with resistance rather than repentance? Jesus states that his ministry is even greater than Jonah's was; yet Jesus' people still won't repent.
No One Lights a Lamp to Hide It (v. 33)
Now Jesus turns from his demonstration of the wickedness of his generation to a discussion of light and darkness. Jesus taught the same truths hundreds of times in countless villages up and down Palestine. But the discussion also occurs elsewhere in the context of "Jesus being the lamp burning brightly." Right after Luke writes his account of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says, "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light" (8:16).
In today's text, Jesus compared his own preaching with that of Jonah and Solomon, saying that "now something greater than Solomon . . . and Jonah is here" (vv. 32–33). Jesus is the lamp; he's shedding his powerful light into the bodies and lives of those with "sound eyes"; but he's being blocked out by those with "unsound eyes."
Good Eyes, Bad Eyes (v. 34)
We often think of lamps in terms of lighting an enclosure so those inside can see better. However, here Jesus switches that metaphor. Instead of lighting others, the body's eyes are viewed as lenses that shed light into the body itself. This is a spiritual concept not a scientific one. The shining light is Jesus; his light comes into our life only if and when we open our hearts to see and believe his truth. Then we're filled with the "inner glow" of spiritual life. Suffice it to say: It all depends upon the health of our spiritual eyes.
Healthy spiritual eyes allow the full light of Christ's presence and truth to flood into us. Sick, wicked, selfish, spiritual eyes, keep us in darkness.
When Light Is Darkness (vv. 35-36)
Jesus' admonition is directed squarely to his hearty disciples: "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you" (vv. 35–36).
Are things that you accept and believe false? Yes, probably so. To help our eyes see light fully, we need to be exposed to the full strength of Jesus' Light and Spirit so he'll change us and enable us to achieve true discernment. The Pharisees saw Jesus preach; they saw men and women respond in faith. They also saw Jesus perform miracles and exorcisms, but they discerned them through their unhealthy, sick, self-protecting, wicked, spiritual eyes, seeing Jesus as their enemy rather than their friend. We can't ever afford to miss seeing Jesus and his truth. Open your eyes and always look for and follow him.
[You can see in Warren's commentary on the Parable of the Lamp of the Body why Jesus tells us this second of two 'Lamp' parables. He explains why it matters what our eyes view: What we allow our eyes to see affects the goodness (or evil) that develops within us.]
- Q. 1 How would you respond to someone who said, "If I could see a miracle with my own eyes, I'd believe"?
- Q. 2 If people without Christ are spiritually blind, is it wrong to appeal to them to "see" (by believing)? Why/why not?
New International Version (NIV)
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The Sign of Jonah
29As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
The Lamp of the Body
33"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you."