The joy of Christ's disciples. 6:17-26
Jesus has just symbolically reformed God's elect people Israel by choosing twelve apostles from among his disciples. Like Moses on Mount Sinai, Jesus now comes down from the mountain with his disciples, exuding power, and sets about reestablishing the covenant agreement between God and his people. Jesus tells his disciples that they are a privileged people, fortunate indeed, for they are God's servant people, inheritors of the kingdom of God.
v17-19. Luke's Sermon on the Plain is introduced with signs of the kingdom - healings and the casting out of demons. On this occasion it is accentuated when it is noted of Jesus that "power was coming from him." Moses was radiant when he came down from the mountain and Jesus exudes the same wonderful power.
v20-21. Jesus now specifically addresses the disciples; he actually fixes his eyes upon them and says "privileged are you." They are privileged before God because they are "the poor". Some commentators interpret this poverty, as with hungering and weeping, in a socioeconomic way, but this is a spiritual poverty. "The poor" are God's servant people, the righteous remnant of Israel, scattered, lost, enslaved and broken before God. The "poor" remnant of Israel yearn to be restored to God, they hunger and thirst for their vindication, they weep for their state of loss. So right now, because the disciples have reached out for God's mercy in Christ, all the privileges of God's eternal reign are theirs. As for the future, they will be satisfied with the fullness of God's blessings; divine joy will be eternally theirs.
v22-23. Moving back to the present situation faced by God's righteous "poor", Jesus reminds his disciples that in this age God's servant community faces marginalization. Yet in a sense, marginalization is a privilege. Rejoice, for it but heralds the day of eternal reward.
v24-25. Jesus now addresses those who have not sought God's mercy in him, those who are satisfied in their own self-righteousness - "tragic is your fate." Again it is possible to interpret these three qualities in a socioeconomic way, but they are spiritual qualities. "It's trouble ahead if you think you have made it, what you have is all you'll ever get", Eugene Peterson.
v26. The "woe" of being well-spoken-of parallels the "privilege" of being marginalized. Woe to those who seek the respect of others by telling them what they want to hear.
Which man am I?|
The beatitudes have always worried me because if God blesses the people who do it rough in this world and curses those who get a good run, then I am in trouble. So, is God the God of rough times? Is he the God who redresses balances; a little here gets allot there, while allot here gets little there?
Gladly he is not such a God. He is a God who brought his people out of slavery, a "no" people who then became his people. He is a gracious God, and that's what the beatitudes, the blessings, are all about. As Moses descended from the mountain and declared the gift of God's love ("you are my people"), so Jesus descends from the mountain and declares a similar blessing to his disciples - "blessed are you".
When we look at the substance of the blessings we are reminded that God's blessings are not just words. The blessings are all about possessing "the kingdom of God", of being eternally "satisfied" in union with God, of experiencing "joy", of possessing "reward in heaven."
Yet, what marks out the blessed? It has nothing to do with worldly loss. The blessed are disciples. "Looking at his disciples, he said: blessed are you ...." The disciples were marked out from the crowd, and particularly from the "woe to you" crew, because they possessed a certain quality. They are "poor", poor in spirit, humble, broken before God and desiring, before everything else, their salvation. Theirs is a poverty hungering and thirsting for vindication; they desire to be right before God. Theirs is a poverty that weeps for their lostness in the sight of God. Theirs is a poverty of rejection, hated because they follow Jesus.
So, we friends of Jesus, with so little to commend ourselves before the living God, are welcomed by Him. Happy are we, fortunate are we little broken ones, because God's divine favour is now eternally ours. This blessing is ours, not because we are "voluntarily poor", but because He is voluntarily kind.
The renowned theologian Jeremias argues that the beatitudes proclaim grace, not law. Discuss this idea.
Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons