Luke 11: 33 – 36 The lamp of the body
‘No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.’
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This passage puzzled me at first. It seemed to be two stories run together, especially when I compared it with the parallel passage in St Matthew’s gospel which omits the sentence about where a lamp should be placed to light a room. (Matthew 6:22 – 23)
I read a few expositions on what it means, and that prompted me to look at the original Greek. The word that the NIV translates as “healthy” is “απλους” which means “single”.
So this passage is about singleness of vision; or, to put it another way, purity of heart. If you are focussed on God, if your eye is single, if your heart is pure, then your life will reflect that. Your actions will express that singleness of purpose.
St Luke has positioned this teaching of Jesus in a different place from St Matthew, and this is significant. He is, I think, tying it in with the passage immediately preceding it, where he describes how many in the crowds around Jesus were challenging him, even to the extent of claiming that he drove out demons by the power of Beelzebul (Luke 11: 15). They did not recognise Jesus as the light of the world. Their eyes were unhealthy.
The previous passage also tells us that in response to Solomon’s wisdom, the Queen of the South took action; she came from the ends of the earth to hear his wisdom for herself. It tells us that at the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh took action; they repented in sackcloth and ashes.
St Luke’s implied question to us is “Where do we stand? Is the light of Jesus our single desire?” The challenge is that, like the Queen of the South, like the people of Nineveh, we should take action in response to Jesus’ teaching.
And while this is a challenge, it is also encouraging, because:
When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light, and:
Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.’
Thank you for sending Jesus as the light of the world. Please help me to have single vision and purity of heart, so that I may love and follow Jesus better every day.
In Jesus’ name, Amen