Luke 6:17-26: Jesus Teaching on Blessing: Part One
Jesus was the greatest teacher who has ever lived, He would have spoken the truth perfectly with no error. Would He have had the greatest gifts in preaching? All we can know is that He would have been perfectly fitted to preach outdoors to very large groups. Jesus taught authoritatively on God as our Father, on Himself as divine and the Spirit as personal. He taught on angels, and demons, heaven and hell. He taught on the historicity of creation and the inerrancy of the Scriptures. He taught about the purpose of His coming to earth to save sinners and prophesied His own death and resurrection. He came with a message about the Kingdom of God being present because He the King was among them. And he taught on the nature of true religion and exposed the false religion of His day. The sermon we are beginning to examine is one instance of Jesus teaching about the Kingdom and true religion.
This is the second recorded sermon by Luke, the first was when He announced His mission in the synagogue Luke 4:18; it is similar to the Sermon on the Mount but it is probably similar content preached at a different time. Jesus like many preachers in history would have had a few set sermons up His sleeve and this material could be reworked depending on who the audience was. He did not preach from notes but extemporarily. Jesus has just appointed the 12 apostles and has come down from the mountain to a level place v17. Some think that this is a plateau upon the same mountain making this the same sermon as sermon on the mount, but this is not necessary. We see that at this early point of His ministry there were many who were coming to Him, v17 lists three groups of people, ‘And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.’ There is the ‘them’ of the 12 apostles, the disciples and a great multitude from Israel and further afar. They came to hear him and to be healed, v18-19, ‘who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.’ Luke gives us an in depth account of some of Jesus teachings.
This Sermon on the plain is similar to the Sermon on the mount as it too divides all of humanity up into two groups those who are blessed by God and those who under God’s displeasure, v20-26, this will be our focus today. Then in v27-36 Jesus teaches on love, in v37-38 on judging, and then the sermon closes with 3 parables, v39-49.
Today we are looking at the Beatitudes and the woes. The beatitudes are some of Christ’s most memorable statements. The word ‘blessed’ means O how Happy! It refers to the joy and blessing that result from being in God’s favor. Its opposite is ‘woe’ which refers to being in God’s disfavor. Because one of Jesus main aims is to subvert the false religion of His day and set forth God’s idea of true religion, the beatitudes and the woes picture for us the one who is truly favored of God and the one who is not. The beatitudes use paradox and innuendo to subvert prevailing ideas. Happy are the poor, hungry, weeping and hated is a shock tactic to get you to think about what Jesus is saying. How can someone be blessed by God and happy if they are poor, or hungry, or sad, or rejected by the people of Israel. Likewise the woes speak of the disfavor of riches, and fullness and laugh and being well regarded. But isn’t it a sign of God’s blessing to be prosperous so that one is rich and well fed, and full of happiness and well loved? In ancient Israel many thought that rich people were rich because God was blessing them for their godliness.
Jesus intends the words poor, hungry, weep, rich, full, and laughter with innuendo. Poor may have relation to those who are actually poor, for it was often the case that those who were in an impoverished position were more reliant upon God, but it is more primarily talking about one’s spiritual attitude, Matthew makes this clear when he records, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’
Each of the lists would be characteristics of one group of people, those who are godly are poor, hungry, weeping and hated, those who are worldly are those who are rich, full, laughing and loved.
We will take each of the beatitudes and their opposites together. So we will have four points today we will be looking at the poor and rich, next week we will look at hungry and full, sad and happy and the hated and heralded.