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The Opportunity of a Lifetime

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 11:29–36

Learning the truth of God revealed in His Word is not merely an academic exercise. That is because the truth—properly understood and applied—changes our lives. Jesus warns that to reject it is to flounder in spiritual darkness and invite divine judgment.


Years ago, a young engineer invented the world’s first digital camera. He was so convinced of its potential, he met with his supervisors where he worked—at a famous camera company called Kodak. They rejected his idea and turned down the opportunity to develop and market this new invention.[1]

Today, the digital world is the standard. Kodak eventually went through bankruptcy as the camera industry changed almost overnight. They missed a great opportunity.

It is one thing to turn down a great opportunity and lose a lot of money. It is another thing to turn down a great opportunity and lose eternal life. That is exactly what we see happening in the Gospel of Luke as the multitudes are listening to Jesus preach.

Luke chapter 11 verse 29 says, “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation.’” How is that for a sermon introduction—“You are all a bunch of sinners”?

Clearly, Jesus is not interested in public approval. He is not running for office; He is delivering an eternal warning. It is a warning to the Jewish people not to miss the greatest opportunity they will ever be offered. That opportunity is to invest their lives in His kingdom by trusting Him for salvation and claiming Him as their Messiah.

However, the people just want another sign; they want more fireworks, a miraculous show. And Jesus refuses. Instead, He says to them, “No sign will be given . . . except the sign of Jonah.” He says here in verse 30, “For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

The cruel, pagan people of Nineveh repented after Jonah delivered the warning from God. Jesus is effectively saying that His Jewish audience is less receptive to God’s message. Frankly, they are more hardheaded than the Ninevites, because they refuse to repent at the preaching of someone far greater than Jonah—the Lord Jesus Himself.

Listen to what He says in verse 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.”

Well, this is not what this huge crowd was expecting to hear. Indeed, Jesus’ saying the ancient Ninevites are getting into the kingdom but this rebellious Jewish nation is not has to be infuriating to them.

And the Lord is not finished with His sermon just yet. Not only does He say that He is a greater prophet than Jonah, but He also adds that He is a wiser king than Solomon—verse 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.”

Jesus takes His audience back to the book of 1 Kings, which describes the queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:1-13). Solomon’s wisdom answered her deepest questions; His glorious kingdom of gold, she said, left her speechless. Bible scholars have wondered if she professed faith in the God of Solomon and of Israel. Well, according to what Jesus says here—that she will be among those who judge the unbelieving world one day—there is no reason to wonder at all; she certainly did believe.

Jesus is effectively saying that both this queen and the people of Nineveh saw the opportunity of a lifetime and seized it. And they are going to stand as witnesses at the last judgment against the Jewish people who rejected Jesus.

The message to the unbeliever today is this: You don’t need a sign; you don’t need a miracle to believe; you have the Word of God. Do not reject the greatest opportunity you will ever have in life—the opportunity to become a follower of the true and living God.

The message to the believer here is straightforward as well: You don’t need a miracle or a sign either, because you have the Word of God. Let’s obey what we have learned and follow Him today and trust Him for tomorrow.

Now the Lord provides a challenge to act on what we know to be true, as He speaks in verse 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.”

Jesus is saying, “My light—My truth—is out in the open; I am not hiding anything, so stop wandering around in the darkness.”

The Lord now makes a related analogy in verse 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 [evil], your body is full of darkness.”

In other words, when you receive the light of what Jesus is preaching, it lights up a lamp of truth inside you. It provides light for your walk, truth for your decisions, and guidance for your lifestyle.

However, if you refuse the light of God’s word, your body—that is, your lifestyle—continues on into the darkness of moral, ethical, and relational confusion and corruption. When you reject the light, you condemn yourself to walk in darkness.

With that, Jesus delivers a pretty serious warning in verse 35: “Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” Now Jesus is not saying that everybody has some kind of inner light. The light Jesus is talking about—true spiritual enlightenment—comes into us from outside of us. It comes from God alone.[2]

Jesus is warning His hearers in this verse not to reject the light they have already seen and heard from Jesus; do not turn away from it. Here is a wonderful promise in verse 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.”

In other words, receive and believe the truth of His word; allow His truth to literally come into your soul and take up residence in your life. When you do, it will shine outwardly, so to speak, and give off light—wisdom, insight, truth—to those around you who are still in darkness.

This is the challenge for the believer—to receive the light and live out the light. Or as the apostle Peter put it, we are to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Wherever God places you—in that office, that career, that classroom—turn on the light, and proclaim how excellent the Lord is!

I went to the optometrist a while back. I sat down in the chair, and he lowered that contraption in front of me, where I was to look through a series of lenses. He would ask me, “Which one is better—that one or this one?” And I would say, “That one.” “Which one is clearer now—that one or this one?” And I would say, “This one.” After three or four times, something occurred to me. I pulled back and said to him, “Doctor, you probably already know which one is better for me, don’t you?” He just smiled and said, “Yes, I do.”

Even as believers, we still have vision problems—perception issues. We still need daily clarity and insight. And beloved, the Lord already knows which way we ought to go. That is why He has provided His Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

We ought to pray daily something like this: “Lord, I need your light to change my life, to clarify my perspective, to repair my distorted vision. And Lord, give me then the joy of letting You shine through me as a light to the dark world around me, for your glory and praise. Amen.”

[1] “The Big Question,” The Atlantic, April 16, 2014.

[2] David E. Garland, Luke, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2011), 488.

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