Luke 11:29–41 (ESV)
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.” 37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.”
Have you ever heard of inattentional blindness? This kind of blindness is not a physical problem. It’s something that your brain does to you. Basically, inattentional blindness happens when you focus so hard on one thing, such as the actions of a main character in a movie, that you miss much of what’s happening around the main character or things that are happening in the background.
If you want to experience this phenomenon, I’ve included a video below that will help you see what that’s like (no pun intended).
This kind of blindness is what’s happening with the Pharisees and this “generation.” They’ve been accusing Jesus of being in league with the devil while others have been asking Jesus for a sign. The truth is that the people have already already had sign after sign, however, they are blind to the kingdom of God breaking into the world in Jesus.
Before this chapter in Luke’s Gospel Jesus has performed dozens and dozens of healings, both physical and spiritual. Jesus has demonstrated His authority not only over physical illness but also over nature in the calming of the storm, and Jesus has also given His authority to others as they were sent out in His name (Luke 9 and 10). And yet they still ask for a sign.
Jesus says that no sign will be given them except the sign, the example, of what happened with Jonah and the queen of the South.
First Jesus points to Jonah. When the prophet Jonah went to the pagan city of Nineveh and preached against it, the people responded by repenting from their wicked ways and turned to the Lord.
Then Jesus points to the Queen of the South. When the Queen of the South, that is the queen of Sheba, when she traveled to see King Solomon, she listened and responded to God’s revelation.
What’s so special and piercing with the examples of Nineveh and the Queen of the South is that both are pagans, outsiders, not the people of God and yet they saw the truth, they understood it, and they responded and changed.
There’s an obvious comparison going on here between these pagans who responded to the message of God and the religious leaders who are rejecting Jesus. These pagans saw the signs, while the religious leaders, who know what to look for, do not; they are completely missing or choosing to ignore the living, breathing, loving and forgiving ultimate sign of God’s mercy and grace that is quite literally standing in their presence.
Quite literally they are blind to the light of the kingdom of God standing before them in Jesus.
That reality is reflected in Jesus’ little parable about the lamp and the eye as the lamp of your body.
The point of the parable is that Jesus is the light and for us to let the light of Jesus not just shine in us, rather that light is to take up residence within us and infusing itself into every fiber of our being.
As Jim Edwards notes in his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, “Without that source of light the human heart, even if ‘swept clean and put in order’ (vs. 25), will not grow increasingly luminous but will succumb to an infinitely worse condition.”
And then as if on que, we have the practical outworking of this little parable in real life as Jesus interacts with the Pharisees. Jesus warns the Pharisees that they are missing the point, they are blind. They are so concerned with outward appearances that they are blind to their inward darkness as they fail to even give a thought to their relationship with the Lord.
This passage brings a sobering challenge for today. Before we rush to judge those who rejected Jesus, let’s take a moment for self-examination. Are you and I concerned with the outward appearances only or are we just as concerned about our relationship with Jesus to the point that we’re centering on Him and filtering everything in our lives through His light, His presence within us?
If we’ll do that, everything will find it’s right and good place in our joys as well as our difficulties and even sorrows.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers!