Focus (Luke 11:33-36)

Luke 11:33-36

My roommate in college was named Kippy, from Talledega, AL. Kippy was blind. At least he was mostly blind in one eye - his right eye, he said was 97% blind. His other eye was a glass eye, which he loved to take out and chase people with. One Saturday night, he and I were eating in the cafeteria and he finished and left earlier than me and was jogging across campus when he ran into the metal lid of the garbage dumpster sitting at the corner of the parking lot. Someone had left the lid opened so that it hit him right across the face and because he was jogging, he ran into it hard. It knocked him on the ground and knocked him unconscious. Students called 911 and the paramedics arrived and he was still unconscious. They started testing him and one was using a light to check the dilation of his pupils when he woke up and when they were doing his left eye, the glass eye, he said, “If we’re waiting for you to get a response out of that eye, we’re going to be here a long time.”

If you have a diseased eye, you might not see very well. And having improper vision can cause serious problems. When we lived in Romania, one of the couples on our mission team was sponsored by a church whose preacher was blind. He came over with some other men to visit us and he preached one time, reading Braille, from the prophet Hosea. It was very interesting that he was reading Braille, interpreting it into English, and then Eric was translating him into Romanian.

In Luke 11:33-36, Jesus uses a healthy eye as a parable for an eye that is focused on Jesus and His kingdom and spiritual things. Let’s take a look at Jesus’ message…

The crowds of Jews were getting larger and pressing on Jesus so He decided to take advantage of the attention to teach them about “signs.” In verse 16 some had demanded a sign from Him. Notice that that happened right after Jesus cast out a demon and healed the man of demon possession.

Now in verse 29, Jesus states that His generation was a wicked generation. They were seeking a sign, despite the many signs Jesus had already given, but no special sign would be given to them except the sign of Jonah.

The first sign Jesus performs in the Gospel of Luke (4:31-37) was also casting out a demon. By my count, Jesus has performed a dozen miracles / signs already in the Gospel of Luke with another four general references to His miracles. Jesus has done plenty of signs to indicate to His generation that He was a messenger sent from God.

What kind of hard heart and closed mind do you have to have to ignore the plain evidence of Jesus Christ right in front of your eyes?

The story of Jonah is, of course, told in the book which bears his name. He is also mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the nation that would invade and carry many Israelites into exile about two generations after Jonah lived (around 750-770 B. C.).

Jonah himself became a sign to the Ninevites (ver. 30) after the whale (or big fish) spat him on land after three days in its belly. Either the seamen who had been with Jonah told the story ahead of him in Nineveh or the Ninevites believed Jonah’s story once he arrived there and started preaching. But the “sign” was that Jonah had been swallowed by a whale, stayed in its belly for three days, and came out of his “grave” alive and well. The Ninevites believed the message about Jonah. The fact that he had been in the belly of this fish for three days and he remained alive and the fact that the fish spit him out on land and he was still alive to tell about it… and the fact that this whole ordeal was an expression of the wrath of God. This is the God who was going to destroy Nineveh if they did not repent of their sins. So the Assyrians believed Jonah and repented of their sins, from the king down to the common man. The Bible says that even the animals were clothed in sackcloth.

To use Jesus’ parable from verses 33-36 for just a moment, the Nineveites, even though they were Gentiles, had a “clear” eye. They saw the evidence in front of them, they trusted that evidence and they acted on that evidence. Then their whole body was full of light.

In the same way (ver. 30), Jesus would be laid into the earth, dead, but three days later He would rise from the grave alive and well. Matthew’s account (12:40) makes the connection with Jesus’ resurrection more explicit. Jesus was laid in the ground on a Friday; Luke 23:54 is explicit. Luke 24:1 is just as explicit that He was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, on the third day.

Returning to the account of Jonah (ver. 32), Jesus adds that the Ninevites who, again, were Assyrians (Gentiles) and hated by the Jews would also condemn Jesus’ generation because they repented when Jonah preached God’s message. Jesus’ generation (as a whole) refused to repent. “Something greater than Jonah is here.”

The theme of the book of Hebrews is “greater” or “better.” Jesus is “greater than” anything that has ever come before Him or after Him. He is greater, or better, than anything God had ever done for mankind before! In Matthew 12:6, Jesus stated that He was greater than the temple. In Matthew 12:8, Jesus says that He was “Lord of the Sabbath,” which means He is greater than the Laws of Moses. We saw at the Transfiguration that Jesus is greater than both Moses and Elijah (9:30). Here, Jesus says He is greater than Jonah.

Again, to use the parable from 33-36, the Jews of Jesus’ generation had a “bad eye,” their focus was fuzzy and so their whole body was full of darkness. They could not see the plain evidence of God’s presence among them in the person of Jesus Christ.

The queen of Sheba came to Solomon recorded in 1 Kings 10 and also 2 Chronicles 9:1-12. “Sheba” or the “south” was in southern Arabia around modern-day Yemen.

You may remember that because of the faithfulness of King David, Solomon’s father, God promised King Solomon that He would give him anything he asked. Solomon asked for wisdom and God gave it to him in spades. He also gave Solomon an astronomical amount of wealth. So the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:1ff) and she came to Jerusalem to “test” Solomon with difficult questions. When Rachel and I first dated and married, she would shower me with questions so that I nicknamed her the “Queen of Sheba.”

The Bible says that the queen brought a lot of gifts to King Solomon and then she asked him about “all that was on her heart” (ver. 1). Solomon answered everything; nothing was hidden from Solomon - which shows the wisdom was given to him by God - and he explained everything to her.

After the queen had experienced both Solomon’s wisdom and his wealth, the queen was “breathless” (ver. 4). The text literally says “there was no spirit in her.” The text then reads: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard.”

Notice the queen said “I did not believe until I came and my eyes had seen it.” The queen of Sheba was a Gentile. But she saw and believed. She marveled at Solomon’s wisdom and stated that “half had not been told” about Solomon (2 Chron. 9:6). In the judgment, the queen would condemn Jesus’ generation because she sought wisdom from a godly source and she accepted it when she found it. But His generation - of Jews, God’s chosen people no less - were ignoring the epitome of wisdom in the Son of God.

“Something greater than Solomon is here.” The queen had a clear eye; she focused on what was true and right and good and she embraced it. So her whole body was full of light.

The message for modern Christians relates to two things: 1) Jesus is predicting His burial and resurrection, which proves that He was a prophet sent by God; 2) Jesus is greater than the greatest persons in the Old Testament.

The problem Jesus’ generation was having was in their hearts. The information that was going into their hearts through their eyes was contaminated by prejudice. This is the message in verses 33-36.

A lamp is not hidden (ver. 33); it would serve no purpose. Rather, it is placed on a lamp stand so that it can give light. No one should “hide” Jesus nor His teachings; they will do no good. He and His teachings need to be announced and embraced. Speaking of lamps, Jesus states in verse 34 that the eye is the “lamp” of the body; it allows light (and information) to penetrate the body, notably the heart. If the eye is clear and sincere and healthy, it allows proper information in and the body is “full of light.” But if the eye is diseased or “evil,” then the body itself will also be full of darkness.

So Jesus warns in verse 35 that disciples need to be careful that the light that is in them is not darkness. We should be very careful that we examine the claims of Jesus and the teachings from His apostles and we should embrace what we know to be right and live by that light. If the whole body is full of light and there is no darkness in it, then we will be completely illumined, knowing what we need to know and our heart can respond appropriately (ver. 36).

While sincerity alone cannot define Christianity and fulfill God’s expectations, it takes obedience as well, if one has proper sincerity which will be accompanied by humility, then the disciple will trust Jesus’ message, embrace His Gospel, and obey His commands. The life follows the heart’s directions.

Take home message: Follow and embrace and focus on the Light who is Jesus and His teachings!


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