17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
“I have the worst parents in the world,” was how the commercial started. I was skeptical at first to whether or not this would be worth my time to watch as the opening line sounded harsh and sad, but I kept watching. The young man was speaking at his wedding reception and going into detail about the way his parents raised him. He had a slideshow presentation of pictures from his childhood highlighting what his parents had not done for him with these examples…never being given piano lessons, instead karaoke in front of the TV at home, not being sent to an expensive private school for a better education, not going to Florida and Disney World for vacation, instead some place local, and not having a big, fancy birthday party at a club house with a professional magician, but just some cheap tricks performed by mom and dad at home. By the end of the list, the camera shows the young man’s parents looking sad and guilty as if they really were the worst parents in the world.
We’ve all had moments in our childhood where we wondered why our parents denied us something, but how much more have we all wondered why God denies us things. Our parents are just people like us, so we might cut them some slack. Also, once we become parents we understand the limits of parenting ever better, but God has no limit on his power or love. We believe that God ought to give us everything as his followers. The crowds in our Gospel reading certainly believed that Jesus was able to give them all they needed. In Luke 6, we read that Jesus came to
17 …a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.
The people were not skeptical about what they had heard about Jesus. They came because they trusted he would teach and heal with real power and love. Jesus’ message to the crowds could be summarized like this, blessed are Jesus’ followers, for their reward will last.
People flocked to Jesus because they believe he would help them. We can understand why so many people came to Jesus if we go to the beginning of Luke 6. It began with Jesus teaching the true meaning of the Sabbath Day. On two separate occasions, Jesus explained that the Sabbath was about rest from God, not rules as the Pharisees and teachers of the law had taught the people. He went on to say this even stronger by saying,
9…“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
Jesus got to the heart of the matter. God made the Sabbath day for good and to save life. This was also Jesus’ mission. It was the mission he planned to carry out with his twelve disciples. After Jesus explained the Sabbath, he went up on a mountain to pray, then he appointed his disciples and began to teach them starting with the verses from our Gospel reading.
Jesus’ teaching began with a change of perspective. Whether you walked with Jesus two thousand years ago or are alive today, there are some things about people that just don’t change. People want to be rich, well fed, happy and well liked. And if I asked most of you if that sounds like a good life, you would say, “Yes!” Those things do sound good because having them would take away most of our problems. In other words, these things sound good because we all have problems. We all have needs that are not being met in our lives and we all want a way to meet those needs. The many people who flocked to Jesus believed he could help them with their needs and he would, but first he needed to show them what they really needed from him. The disciples, the crowd and all of us need a constant reminder to change our perspective on what we need from Jesus.
Jesus catches all of us off guard when he tells us the things we think we need from him aren’t coming until heaven. Jesus said,
24 “But woe to you who are rich…25 Woe to you who are well fed now…Woe to you who laugh now…26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.”
When we first hear these words, we think, “Why would Jesus say that it is bad when someone is rich, well fed, happy and well liked?” When Jesus said this, he was talking about these things from more of a spiritual perspective rather than physical. He meant that anyone who believes they have all they need without Jesus will get nothing from him. At the end of listing these woes, Jesus said,
26…“for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”
False prophets tell people lies about Jesus to ease people’s conscience when they are doing something wrong. Paul explained it like this in his second letter to Timothy,
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
2 Timothy 4:3
Jesus told the crowds that by nature people want to be rich, well fed, happy and well liked on their terms in this world and they want this from God, but that is not what they need from God now.
What we all need from God now is a way to heaven. This world is broken. We all know this because we all have needs that are not being met, we all want more from our lives, we will all die and the Holy Spirit has given us faith in the Bible that says we are sinners living in a sinful world. We need a way out of this world, but waiting for heaven or believing in Jesus isn’t a way paved with riches, full bellies, laughter and approval from the world. Our sinful hearts want to feel rich, well fed, happy and well liked now. This spiritual problem overflows into our lives so that we put time with Jesus on the back burner and spend our time working, believing we can get all we need on our own. In our Old Testament reading from
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
When we equate riches with more time in the office, promotions and money. When we are well fed, while others go hungry. When we laugh and approve of images, TV shows, movies and lifestyles that uphold everything God’s commandments condemn. When we listen to the lies that we will find riches, full bellies, laughter and approval from the world apart from Jesus, then woe to us. When we look for our reward now and not in heaven, from our own strength and not from the Son of Man, then woe to us.
Jesus changed the people’s perspective with his words in order to give them what they needed. The people needed to put their hope in the Son of Man, Jesus. Jesus said,
20…“Blessed are you who are poor…21…who hunger now…who weep now…22…when people hate you…exclude you…insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
Again, Jesus was talking more spiritual than physical. He was not saying that you can’t have a successful job, enjoy a nice meal, go out to the movies or have any friends. Jesus was saying that those who trust in him recognize their broken, fallen and sinful state in this world. Those who trust in Jesus do so because they cannot find true satisfaction for their souls from this world. There is no purpose for our lives without Jesus because it all comes to an end and leaves us still needing. Our perspective has been changed by Jesus and we now
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”
We don’t look for satisfaction in this world, but in the next, and for that, the world rejects us.
Even when the world rejects us as followers of Christ, we are still blessed. We may not be poor or hungry, but we face suffering having our identity founded and shaped by Christ. The Apostle Paul was often met with more opposition than acceptance because he shared the message of Jesus. He wasn’t a false prophet peddling whatever was trendy, constantly changing his story to gather a following. He said,
“There is one body and one Spirit…5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
We have the same bold confession as Paul, but we face a world united against that message. We often feel weak, rather than strong to share and live our faith. When Paul felt this way, God said to him,
2 Corinthians 12:9…
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When you feel weak, poor, broken, rejected and so ready to leave this world for heaven, the strength to carry on does not come from you, but from God.
Jesus changes our perspective by calling us blessed by his power. In his list of those who are blessed, Jesus said,
20…“yours is the kingdom of God.”
You are a citizen of heaven now. Though we wait to be satisfied and to laugh in heaven, and though we endure hardships, we are at this moment citizens of heaven. We are citizens of heaven because Jesus came to rescue us. He knows we long to be rich, well fed, to laugh and to be spoken well of. Jesus had to become one of us and experience all our needs to save us. When Jesus came to this world, he was poor, in
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He was hungry, but did not give into his hunger and said,
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus knew what is meant to be rejected as the Son of Man, as Isaiah prophesied,
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
When Jesus calls us blessed even though we are poor, he doesn’t do it with empty words, but with words of promise. He did it as the Son of Man who overcame this world for us, who rose from the dead, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, who will return to bring us to heaven. Until then, these words of Jeremiah remind us of our reward.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
“I have the worst parents in the world,” was how the commercial started. I was skeptical, but watched it to the end. The man explained all the ways his parents were the worst, but the second half of his speech revealed that they were really the best parents in the world. His speech was all about perspective. He didn’t have piano lessons, but they sang karaoke as a family. He didn’t go to a private school, but was tutored by their neighbor. He didn’t get far off destination vacations, but the vacations they took were all about family. He didn’t get big birthday parties, but his parents never celebrated their birthdays so his could always be the best. At the end of his speech, he thanked his parents for all they gave up to give him the best childhood.
Yes, we will endure droughts in our lives like Jeremiah said, but as followers of Jesus we are planted beside the river of God and we will always bear fruit. We will always
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”
Sometimes we wonder why God denies us things when he has no limit on his power or love. The reality is that he has not held anything we need back from us. He made us members of his kingdom and he gave us life through his Son. Jesus’ message to us can be summarized like this, blessed are Jesus’ followers, for their reward will last. Amen.