Luke 11:1-13

Friend in Need and Widow and Judge
"A Friend in a Need and the Widow and the Judge" by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.


Various answers have been given as to the locale of this pericope, when it took place, who the disciple was. In the opinion of these notes this took place at least a year after the Sermon on the Mount, somewhere in southern Palestine, in the fall before Jesus' suffering and death. Respectable Lutheran commentators have different views of the chronology, but that does in no way affect the exegesis.

In our day higher critics think that the form of the Lord's Prayer here is eschatological.

Morris: Recent scholars often see the prayer as primarily eschatological. They regard 'Thy kingdom come' as the central petition and the others as elaborating aspects of the coming kingdom. On this view the prayer asks God to hallow His Name by the final destruction of all His enemies, then looks for the bread of the Messianic banquet, for the forgiveness God will give on judgment day, and for deliverance from the final time of trial.

These observations are based on the presupposition that the early church rewrote the tradition about the Lord's Prayer, giving it an eschatological thrust. As does Morris, we reject this interpretation. As if Jesus could not have spoken the Lord's Prayer on more than one occasion!

It is difficult to improve on Luther's explanation to the individual petitions in the Catechism. The preacher is advised to study these at this point. Of course, the prayer has a shorter form here than in Matthew 6:9-13 but that does not disturb the meaning.

Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."

"One day" is a favorite Lukan way to introduce an incident. We do not know precisely where this took place, but the prayer must have been prominent. Someone, we know not who, recognized Jesus as Lord, and his request is a straightforward command. It denotes familiarity.

This is the only instance in the Gospels of a request from Jesus to be taught.

The disciples of Jesus had a high regard for John the Baptist.

Luke 11:2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

"When" or "Whenever." "Father" immediately indicates that the one praying is a child of God by faith in Christ. The first petition asks that God's name, which means everything that He is by revelation to man, be set aside for proper use by man.

Look at Luther's explanation. The second petition has to do with His Kingdom, His reign through the Gospel in the hearts and lives of believers.

This "kingdom" was present then in the person and message of Jesus. It meant for them then what it means for us now, but was more fully preached on Pentecost and thereafter.

Luke 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.

As Luther says, this verse deals with all our wants and needs for our body. It is not an allusion to the "eschatological banquet in heaven."

Luke 11:4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'

Arndt: Our chief burden is not poverty or illness, but our sins. The motive can be nothing but grace, undeserved favor. Indirectly Christ admonishes His disciples to cultivate a forgiving spirit.

"Sins" means "missing the mark" of God's commands. We commit them. In the petition about bread we mention ourselves twice, but in this petition, we refer to ourselves four times.

"For we also forgive" can be translated "for to be sure." It is a reminder to ourselves and a promise to God that we shall do to others as He does for us.

"We do constantly forgive." We are constantly forgiving individuals because individuals are constantly in need of forgiveness. It should be obvious from this text and many others in Scripture that what God forgives us is vastly more than what we forgive our fellowmen.

The final petition in this verse has evoked much discussion. The eschatological translation found in TEV and NEB is roundly condemned: "Do not bring us to hard testing," "Do not bring us to the test." We reject this translation.

Implicit in the petition, as Luther points out, is the fact that God indeed tempts no one. We acknowledge that God is the gracious Father who governs our life and has the power to lead us safely past all the invitations to sin. There are temptations within us and all around us. They are inevitable. But we pray that none of these will trap us. Jesus was tempted but did not yield. We are tempted but pray God that we will not yield.

Luke 11:5 Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Here begins a parable or illustration which actually amounts to a rhetorical question running to the end of verse 7. Who "them" is we do not know.

This is an argument from the lesser to the greater, very similar to Luke 18:1-8. Here we have an instance of a sentence which begins with one construction and wanders off into another. The sentence begins with a question which wanders into the future and then into the deliberative subjunctive.

Arndt: The strict rules of sentence structure are not observed. The parable is put in colloquial speech, that of ordinary life.

Jesus spoke as ordinary people speak. "Suppose" could be translated "Can anyone of you imagine that...?" That is worth pondering. Who would do such a thing? It is very striking and most unusual.

Friend #1 goes to friend #2 and makes a request for friend #3.

"Midnight" means "in the dead of night."

Luke 11:6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

In oriental custom the man has a big problem.

Luke 11:7 "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.'

The friend has not opened the door. The door is bolted. Everybody is in bed. "I refuse to get up and give you anything."

Luke 11:8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

"I tell you" is often used of the divine authority of Jesus. He answers the rhetorical question Himself, giving the point of comparison. The basis of giving is not friendship, which one would expect. "Boldness" means the man has no shame.

Fahling: With this shameless disregard of his neighbor's private comfort and apparent indifference the importunate disturber succeeded in gaining his end.

Of course, the parable in no way means that we should act rudely and shamefully toward God. So deeply did friend #1 feel a need that, disregarding the situation of friend #2, he persisted until he acquired what he needed. That is the point.

By the way, he asked for three loaves. But friend #2 gave him "whatever he needed." This might indicate that he received more than he asked.

"Friend" is mentioned many times. It is emphasized. But that was not the reason for which the request was answered. The reason was the unashamed persistence of friend #1.

Lenski: If this friend could and did succeed with such a friend in such a case, then we can and will most assuredly succeed with our heavenly Father.

Our relationship to Him is based on agape, not merely filia and He never slumbers nor sleeps. He has commanded us to pray and has promised to hear us.

Luke 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

"Ask, seek and knock" do not denote different aspects of prayer, but rather an ascending climax of faithful, persistent prayer which God commands. The words which follow the imperatives are an assurance that prayer is never unanswered. Look at John 11:42.

Luke 11:10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

The promises are repeated. Of course, Jesus is speaking about all those who truly believe His promises. Faith in Christ is implicit in these words. In that sense they hark back to verses 5-8 and depict friend #1 who persisted because of his convictions.

Luke 11:11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

"You just can't imagine a father who would do such a thing!" A snake instead of a fish? Absolutely not. Jesus is stating the rule, not the exception.

Luke 11:12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Another example to emphasize the first. A scorpion instead of an egg? Absolutely not!

Luke 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

"In view of this obvious and axiomatic principle."

"You are evil." This little phrase clearly teaches the total depravity of human nature and lends force to the illustration. The heavenly Father, much greater than an earthly father, gives from heaven, He is holy and righteous.

Again, look at Luther's explanation to the Third Article. Also Galatians 3:1-5 and 13-14. The giving of the Spirit is identified with justification and the atonement. Look at Romans 8:12-16. In a word, the forgiveness of sins. The prayer presupposes faith in Jesus Christ.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 30-32. Used with permission.

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