We’re continuing our journey with Jesus and His disciples in Luke’s gospel. Today, we’re going to look at the first half of Luke 6:17-49. There we read:
Then [Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place. And a large number of his disciples had gathered along with a vast multitude from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. They came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases, and those who suffered from unclean spirits were cured. The whole crowd was trying to touch him, because power was coming out from him and healing them all.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort already. Woe to you who are well satisfied with food now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”— Luke 6:17-36
In this long passage, we see Jesus talking about what might seem to be many different topics. However, there is one consistent theme that binds them together.
Living in the Kingdom
After Jesus appointed the apostles (Luke 6:12-16), he came and ministered to the multitudes. The sermon that follows closely parallels that of Matthew 5-7. However, it’s clearly different for two reasons. First, Jesus is said to have on a “plain” (or level place, as the ESV says), where as in Matthew, ther sermon is given on the side of a mountain. Second, the content, while similar, is not identical has has a few different emphasis. Both accounts, though, focus on the same theme, life in the Kingdom. (By the way, for Matthew’s account, the Sermon on the Mount, you can read the blogs in the “Growing in Christ” series.)
What’s the first thing that Jesus does here? Preach? No. Verses 17-19 tell us that Jesus ministered to the people in practical ways. Those with diseases were cured, the demon-oppressed were set free. His ministry was so strong that Luke says, “And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.” Before He began to teach them about the Kingdom, he focused on physical needs. We see this over and over in the gospels, Jesus using physical needs as a doorway to talk about spiritual needs.
Then we have the contrast between the people in verses 20-23 and those in verse 24-26. Where one group is “blessed,” for the other Jesus pronounces “woe!” This is certainly at odds with how the world sees things. The poor, the hungry, those who weep and mourn, and those who are hated and cursed by people because of the Son of Man are blessed. Why? Because rewards await them. Those rewards are eternal and cannot be taken from them.
On the other hand, Jesus says, “Woe!” to those who are rich, those who are full now, those who know not the experience of weeping and mourning, and those who who are spoken well of by all people (by the world). Why “woe”? Because what they experienced in this life is all they will receive. Why is that? It’s not that being “satisfied” is a sin. Rather, Jesus is again talking about earthly things to demonstrate spiritual realities. Those who are rich, who do not know hunger, who have not experienced weeping, and whom are always well-spoken of by the world are in a place where they believe they don’t need God. This is a common theme through Luke’s gospel. Remember, Jesus came to for the sick, not those who claim to be healthy.
What’s the implied lesson here? We who follow Chirst are to have a different attitude–former attitude, not the latter. We are to be different than the world. The next verses (27-36) give us another example of how that should look. Notice first that Jesus talks about two groups in this passage. He distinguishes them as “sinners” and “you who hear” (meaning those who are His disciples). There’s an implication to this that we won’t dive into right now, but it is this: Those who are in God’s kingdom are not known as sinners; they have a different identity.
Let’s look at the contrasts between these two groups. First, Jesus gives the commands to His disciples:
- Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you
- Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
- Do not retaliate against one who strikes you or seizes your possessions; instead offer the other cheek.
- Give to all who ask of you, not expecting it back. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
Then He contrasts that commands with how “sinners” relate to people.
- Even sinners love those who love them back.
- Even sinners do good to those who do good to them.
- Even sinners lend to others, expecting to get back what they lent.
Jesus finishes here by repeating his command earlier, and adding that for those who do, “Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (verses 35–36). There are at least two lessons here.
First, Jesus tell us the character of the Father. He is kind. But He is not only kind to those who are righteous and grateful, but also to the ungrateful and evil. This kindness is likened to mercy. Mercy, in Jesus’ language is always active kindness.
Second, because God is our Father, we are to be of the same mindset. We are to be merciful. Not only because He is merciful toward us, but because He is merciful. We have been and are being transformed to His moral image. Thus, Jesus is telling us to walk according to who we are.
The disciple of Jesus, then, is to rise above, going the extra mile (to borrow that old saying). And why are we to do that? Not simply because “the Bible says so,” but because of our identity. (Remember the implication from earlier?) We are no longer sinners. We have been redeemed, and now we can, should, and desire to love God and love others, even beyond the world’s definition of “love.”