Prayer and Confrontation. The stakes are rising as Jesus confronts the Pharisees more regularly. In fact, in my translation of the Bible, the section that begins at v. 37 is called “Denunciation of the Pharisees and Scribes of the Law.” Ouch. If you that section, which goes to v. 54, you will read of the rising tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, simmering even to a conspiracy against Jesus.
But the first part of this chapter is about prayer (vv. 1-13). Jesus gives the Lord’s Prayer, followed by further teachings on prayer, and concluding with the very famous teaching about answered prayers. The point on which all of this pivots is repeated time and again: the proper disposition to prayer is like that of a child to his/her Father. Jesus teaches that it’s humility and trust that are the starting point of prayers. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that God makes the first move in prayer. Our first move to prayer is always a response to God’s initiative and invitation.
There’s a rather complicated episode about Jesus and Beelzebul (vv. 14-23), that, if not read correctly, can leave one guessing about what Jesus is actually saying. Just to help provide some clarity: the strong man in this passage is Beelzebul, or Satan. The ‘stronger man’ that Jesus mentions in v. 22 is Him- Jesus. This is a teaching about conversion and about Jesus rescuing us from the clutches of sin. There are then four other episodes (vv. 24-26; 27-28; 29-32; 33-36) that happen in quick succession. Luke might be combining four different chronological episodes into this section simply to keep the narrative moving. Regardless, the teachings of Jesus are quick and straightforward. True blessedness, that is happiness on earth and in heaven comes from listening to the Word of God and responding to it- pretty straightforward there. Likewise, remaining vigilant during our conversion so as to reject either one or ten demons is good advice: don’t let your guard down even if it seems you are making progress on the journey to holiness.
The teaching about signs is somewhat complex (vv. 29-32). A little Old Testament knowledge may help: remember Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale after running from God. After three days, he was spit up onto the beach and then did what God commanded him to do. Jonah is a Christ-figure: Jesus will spend three days in the Tomb, after which, he will rise, having accomplished the Father’s Plan for Salvation.
Point for Prayer
“Jesus, teach me to pray just as you did when the apostles asked you for such training. Strengthen my life with the attitudes of the Our Father. Lead me to see that my desire for happiness comes from you and that you are indeed the one who can fulfill that desire”(113).