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Luke 11:29-11:36
Key Verse: 11:34

Thank God for helping us to understand the spiritual reality better: the kingdom of God has come to us through Jesus, who is stronger than Satan and has taken away his armour by the cross. God wants us in his grace to put on the full armor of God for ourselves and his flock of sheep and to engage in Jesus’ rescuing wok for God’s kingdom in our personal obedience to him. In today’s passage Jesus says, “This is a wicked generation” and “Your eye is the lamp of your body.” In this study we can think of the meaning of "wicked generation", about the importance of good and healthy spiritual eyes to see, and how we can have such eyes.

First, “this is a wicked generation” (29-33). Look at verse 29, “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, ‘This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’” In verse 16, some people tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. We don’t know what kind of sign from heaven they expected, but probably something thrilling, exciting, sensational, like a chariot of fire and horses of fire appearing--as when Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Now as the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation…” Evidently the demand for a sign was widespread and he regards it as characteristic of the generation. So he said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign.” To Jesus, the generation of his time was a wicked generation, for it asked for a sign, despite so many signs which Jesus the Messiah had already shown, and which they could see with their own eyes, like a man who had been mute speaking, a man covered with leprosy being cleansed, the dead being raised, his feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish, etc. According to John, if all the miraculous signs Jesus did were written down, even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (Jn 20:30; 21:25). Still, they asked for a sign. So we see that sign-seeking desire is endless and the eyes of sign-seeking people can never be satisfied. In Mark 8:12, Jesus said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”

Here Jesus said, “…none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus makes it clear that when he gives a sign, it will be one of his own choosing, not one given at the demand of an unbelieving generation. What, then, is the sign of Jonah? The Jews, knowing the history of the Israelites, were familiar with this. Jonah was a prophet who had tried to run away from the LORD. He was thrown into a sea, but the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:15, 17). And then Jesus said in verse 30, “For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.” Certainly, Jonah was thought to be dead in the fish, but he came back to life when the fish vomited him on the seashore of Nineveh, the largest city of that time. This was a sign to the Ninevites, whether they heard of Jonah's story before or after their repentance at Jonah’s preaching. Here Jesus said, “…so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.” Jesus the Son of Man has been a sign to the generation through his countless miraculous signs, but the last and greatest sign will be his resurrection from the dead. Matthew wrote it this way in 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” When Jesus said, “For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation,” Jesus wanted the people of the generation to look up to the person Jesus, not just to the signs themselves. The rescued Jonah and the resurrected Jesus are signs. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, and he would die for man’s sins and rise on the third day. His resurrection was soon to take place. Jesus really wanted them to be prepared to see the greatest sign so that they might not perish, but be saved and become members of God’s eternal kingdom through believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

In order to help them, Jesus gave two examples from God's history with a serious warning. Look at verse 31. “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” In 1 Kings 10, when the queen of Sheba, which is in southern Arabia, the modern Yemen, heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the name of the LORD, she came and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. Then she said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard…” And she praised the LORD (1 King 10:1-9). According to Jesus she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. She had a great desire for wisdom and spent lavishly of her time and money to obtain it. Though a queen, she also humbled herself. Jesus wanted the people of his time to have the same attitude. In fact they should have been better, for Jesus, greater than Solomon, was in their midst. In truth the two are incomparable. However, Jesus used this comparison in his humility to somehow help them. Solomon was a mere man who ultimately found life meaningless, and wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. But Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus’ teachings had revealed mysteries of the spiritual world that Solomon did not understand. Jesus’ words were words of life and power. The people of Jesus’ time had indeed the tremendous blessing of having Jesus, but could not bear the blessing. Jesus said that the Queen of the South would rise at the judgment with the men of the generation and condemn them.

Jesus continues in verse 32, “The 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 one greater than Jonah is here.” When the prophet Jonah delivered a simple message, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,” the king and the inhabitants of Nineveh repented and believed God and were saved from the destruction God was about to bring on them. Though they were wicked, their repentance was exemplary. Jesus wanted his generation to learn from them. They should have been much more eager to repent, for Jesus, greater than Jonah, was there. Again the two are not comparable at all. But Jesus did so to help them from his broken shepherd heart for them. Jesus preached a much better message than Jonah. Jesus not only talked about judgment, but also about salvation. Jesus preached forgiveness of sins, eternal life and the final victory of God and his children. Jesus’ message of saving grace in God’s love was wonderful news that everyone should have accepted with deep gratitude and great joy. But many in Jesus’ generation did not. Jesus said that the Ninevites would stand up at the judgment with the generation and condemn it, for not repenting even at the preaching of the very Son of God, while they, the Gentiles, repented at the preaching of Jonah, a mere preacher.

In this part we learn that each generation has its own difficulties and also special blessing of God. Despite one’s own difficulties, we should know and bear God’s given specific blessing. As for the people of this generation of the 21st century, in this free country, we have the Bible, the complete book of the words of God and the written records of the lives of the countless men and women of faith throughout the generations. We can hear in the Bible the words of Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again from the dead, and who is thus now the King of kings and Lord of lords. How much more responsive should we be to his words! A wicked generation is none other than the generation that is not responsive to the words of God despite many evidences. Truly, those who hear his word, repent, and obey it are blessed. May we know God’s amazing blessing given to us and bear it by being responsive to his words so that we may be truly blessed people with salvation and eternal life and clear life direction and purpose in this world.

Second, “your eye is the lamp of the body” (33-36). Look at verse 33. “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” In the natural sphere no one would think of lighting a lamp and then hiding it in a cellar or under a bucket; yet that was exactly what the people of that generation were doing in the spiritual sphere. They seemed to listen to Jesus' words, but did not do so from their hearts. Instead of allowing the light of Jesus to shine into their hearts and lives, they were obscuring it. Thus they did not put the lamp of Jesus’ word on its stand, its rightful place.

Then Jesus said here according to Luke, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.” The eye is the organ that receives light, and Jesus speaks of it as the lamp of your body. We can understand this figure of speech. When a person’s eyes are in good condition, the entire body will know exactly what to do, being illuminated. The foot will know where to step. The hand will realize how to take hold, etc. The opposite is true when, because of some illness or the aging process, a person’s eyes do not function properly. Such a person will grope in the dark. Those bodily organs over which he would normally exercise conscious control will now refuse to function properly. They are, as it were, “in the dark” as to what to do. Then why does Jesus say this? Surely he is talking about more than one’s physical sight.

Look at verse 35. “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” This verse is the key connecting the physical sight to the spiritual sight. Each person can think, “I have light within me. I know what to do and where to go.” Even the people who asked Jesus for a sign from heaven must have thought that they had light in themselves and they were doing what was right and good in their sight, although in fact what they were thinking and doing was completely wrong. The light within them was actually darkness. Also, in the previous passage, those who had said that Jesus was driving out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, must have thought that they had light within themselves, so they judged Jesus according to their view, which was irrational and subjective. In truth, the light in them was darkness. They all had a crooked view of Jesus, the Messiah, whom God had sent as the Light of the life and the Light of the world. So Jesus tried to enlighten them through his teaching. Jesus once healed a man born blind and helped him to stand firm in his faith, although he was cast out of the community. Then he said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:39-41). The Pharisees were the ones who claimed they had light within them and so could see, but according to Jesus they were dark inside and so were spiritually blind. They were in self-deception. Likewise, there are many who live in self-deception and delusion. It is so easy to live in self-deception.

When the light within oneself is darkness, his spiritual eye becomes so bad to the point of blindness. He becomes spiritually blind. What he thinks is dark, and his view of all things is dark, fatalistic, and distorted. We have already considered the example of the Pharisees and sign-seeking people. Another example is that of the Israelites in the desert. God was leading them to the promised land. God sent ahead twelve spies to explore the land. Seeing the land, ten of the spies reported, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num 13:32-33). Their view of themselves was so dark and fatalistic as to see themselves as grasshoppers, although they were God’s chosen people in God’s eyes, and they saw the godless corrupted Canaanites as of great size. Their report seemed to be an honest report, but the author regarded it a bad report (KJV, “evil report”). Their report was bad because their eyes were bad and so was their view of all things. The badness of their eyes was due to their inner darkness, without God in their hearts. The result of such a report was so terrible that all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud that night, grumbling against Moses and Aaron and complaining to the Lord, saying, “Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword…Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” However, seeing the same thing, the report of Joshua and Caleb was different. They said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Num 14:7-9). First of all, in their report was the LORD God, because they had God in their hearts. They feared God, not the giant-looking, (Nephilim-like) Canaanites, and wanted to please God. Then their eyes were good and their view was bright and positive. They saw themselves as God’s people, the people whom God is with, and saw the Canaanites as those whom they could swallow them up, as their bread (NET, ESV, NRSV, KJV ), prey (NASB), food (BBE) or lunch (MSG). God dealt with the two groups of reporters differently. Numbers 14:36-38 says, “So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it—these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.”

On one occasion Jesus and his disciples saw a man blind from birth. At this moment the disciples’ view of this man born blind was very dark and fatalistic, asking, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parent that he was born blind?” It was because although they were with Jesus physically, still their hearts were dark. But Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (Jn 9:1-3). Jesus’ view of this man born blind was totally different from that of his disciples, full of brightness and hope. Jesus’ view turned out to be true. At the grace of Jesus the man born blind is still displaying the work of God with his confession, “I was blind, but now I see.” Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world.” With Jesus anyone’s life is given to glorify God, and in Jesus any situation is an opportunity to display the glory of God.

Look at verse 35 again. “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” In order to overcome self-deception we all need to struggle with God’s word sincerely, and repent before the word and accept the word of God and keep it in our hearts. In this way we are to put the lamp of God’s word on its stand, its rightful place. For Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” In Genesis, when Lot had parted with Abraham, Abraham was greatly disheartened. But God did not just try to comfort him by compensating his loss of materials or saying nice but empty words. God’s way of helping was for Abraham to renew God’s word of promise in him, act upon it, and have God’s hope and vision. He said, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you” (Ge 13:14-17). Another time, Abram was in deep despair in his dark room when he did not have any visible fruit in life, even after ten years of living by faith. At that time, God took him outside and said to him, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars…So shall your offspring be” (Ge 15:1-5). God wanted Abram to go into the world of God, the Creator of the universe, and have a deeper understanding of the word of God’s promise given to him and renew the promise of God in his heart. At this, Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. God was pleased with Abram’s faith. When Abram believed the LORD, keeping the word of God’s promise in his heart, his heart was bright and all things looked different, even though nothing was changed outwardly, and his situation remained the same.

After Jesus had died on the cross, two men were going back to their village in despair. They had heard of the news of Jesus’ resurrection, but they could not accept it as real. Then the risen Jesus appeared, walked with them, and had Bible study with them, explaining to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself until their hearts were burning and bright (Lk 24:25-27, 32). The risen Jesus also had Bible study with the Eleven until they opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures (Lk 24:44-45). This was the way the risen Jesus helped his despairing disciples. Apostle Peter encourages us to struggle with God’s word, saying, “…you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pe 1:19).

Look at verse 36. “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.” This is Jesus’ hope for us. When we are completely lighted, we can truly be a blessing to others, as Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13,14).

Thank God for Jesus who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He is the light of the world. He is the Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords. He enlightens our hearts with his words. Although we live in an unbelieving and wicked generation, we may be responsive to Jesus' words, the very word of God, putting it in the rightful place so that our hearts be enlightened and our eyes be good and healthy to see all things rightly and brightly.

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