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.” – Luke 11:33-36 ESV
Jesus has been falsely accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan. And, despite all the miracles He has performed, the people continue to ask that He perform some kind of sign that might prove His identity as the Messiah. It seems likely that they are wanting Him to do something that might fall in line with their expectations of the coming Messiah. Since the anointed one of God was to conquer their enemies and re-establish the independence of the kingdom of Israel, they were probably demanding that Jesus display His royal power through some kind of military exploit against the occupying Romans.
But Jesus had come to conquer sin and death, not the Romans. His mission was to set people free from their captivity to Satan and provide them with a means of escaping the sentence of eternal condemnation that hung over their heads. But they were missing the point. They had their eyes and their hopes focused on the wrong thing.
Their problem was their failure to believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be. They attributed His power to Satan. They deemed His miracles as inadequate proof of His Messiahship and demanded more. But Jesus warns them that there will be no more light than that which they have already received. To make His point, He reaches back into a lesson He had taught earlier in His sermon on the mount.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
On that occasion, Jesus had placed the emphasis on His listeners. He had declared them to be the light of the world. They were the ones who were to shine before others, giving evidence of their relationship with God. But they had failed to do so. In fact, they were incapable of doing so because of their sin natures. The entire sermon on the mount was designed to describe life in the kingdom of God. Jesus was letting His audience know that the righteous requirement for godly living was far more demanding than they had ever expected. And without a relationship with Him, it would be impossible.
So here, Jesus seems to be placing the emphasis on Himself. In this scenario, He is the lamp, providing light to the inhabitants of the house.
“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.” – Luke 11:33 ESV
This fits in well with the declaration He made about Himself as recorded in John’s gospel.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 ESV
But the problem is that those in His audience are refusing to recognize the light. Jesus was sent into the world to illuminate the darkness of sin. But through their refusal to accept Him as their Messiah, the Jews were guilty of placing a basket over the light of life. They were attempting to obscure the very light that could eliminate the darkness of sin in which they were held captive. And the apostle John paints a less-than-flattering picture of their stubborn rejection of the light.
God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. – John 3:19 NLT
But John also reminds us that man’s love affair with darkness cannot and will not overcome the light of the world.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5 ESV
Jesus would not be put under a basket. His light would not be extinguished.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:5 ESV
But the day was coming when He would leave this world. His earthly ministry had a shelf life and He wanted all those who heard His message to understand that His light would not shine among them forever.
“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” – John 12:35 ESV
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” – John 12:46 ESV
But so many who stood in the light of His glory remained immersed in the darkness of sin. And Jesus infers that it was because they had an eye problem.
“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.” – Luke 11:34 ESV
The human eye is not the source of light, but the means by which light enters the body. It is the lense through which the light flows and provides sight. That is why Jesus refers to a good eye and a bad eye. One allows light to enter, providing sight. The other, marred by cataracts or some other disease, prevents the light from entering, resulting in blurry or distorted vision. The word “healthy” in Greek is haplous (hah-ploos), and it means “single, whole, singleness of purpose, undivided loyalty.” Jesus is saying that your eye, like a lamp, is to have a single purpose. The one who is approved by God is to have unswerving loyalty to God’s kingdom purposes. Jesus is talking about heart fidelity toward God. The good eye is the one fixed on God, unwavering in its gaze, and constant in its focus. We should not suffer from a “wandering eye.” An eye that has a single focus will have a single byproduct: Light (purity).
…but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. – vs 34
The word “bad” in Greek is ponēros (pah-ney-rahs), and it means “bad, blind, or wicked.” Jesus is referring to spiritual blindness or an inability to focus on the right things. It results in darkness (a void of God’s precepts). A dim light is a light without focus or purpose. It results in darkness. The one who is approved by God will live a life of single-mindedness. Consider the following Old Testament passages regarding the one with a “bad eye.”
A stingy man [a man whose eye is evil] hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. – Proverbs 28:22 ESV
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; [a man whose eye is evil] do not desire his delicacies. – Proverbs 23:6 ESV
Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, “The seventh year, the year of release is near,” and your eye look grudgingly [be evil] on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. – Deuteronomy 15:9 ESV
Those who were accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan were suffering from bad eyesight. They could not see the light shining in their midst. In a sense, they had placed a basket over the light of life, which left them living in darkness. Those who demanded that Jesus perform some kind of spectacular sign that would prove He was the warrior-king and emancipator from Rome they were expecting were blind to the truth. They were looking for the wrong kind of Savior. That is why Jesus warned them, “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness” (Luke 11:35 NLT).
These people thought they knew what was right. They believed their understanding of the Messiah to be accurate and were having a difficult time accepting Jesus as the fulfillment of their long-held expectations. But Jesus wanted them to know that their faulty eyesight had left them with a severely distorted vision of who He was and what He had come to do. But all they had to do was remove the basket they had placed over His light.
“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.” – Luke 11:36 ESV
Jesus had come to illuminate the darkness that filled the world and permeated their lives. He longed to shine the light of His grace and mercy into the hidden recesses of their hearts, exposing and expunging the last vestiges of sin and releasing them from the condemnation of death and eternal separation from God the Father. But to benefit from the light, they would have to allow it to penetrate their lives. They would have to believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
“I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” – John 9:39 NLT
And in time, every person who had been exposed to the light would be forced to put it on a stand so that it might illuminate their life, or under a basket, so that they might continue living in the darkness they had learned to love.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson