The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50
4. The dawning of the kingdom in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50
ii] Promises and principles of the coming kingdom. 6:17-49
a) The happiness of Christ's disciplesSynopsis
Having called his disciples to him and selected twelve as appostles, Jesus, like Moses of old, comes down from the mountain to a great crowd gathered below. After healing many he looks squarely at his disciples, Israel's representatives, and renews the covenant in the words of the sermon on the plain.
In line with the Abrahamic covenant which promised a people blessed before God, as extended in the Sinai covenant detailed in the book of Deuteronomy, Luke records Jesus' covenant renewal statement. The passage before us consists of the blessings and cursings. The blessings and cursings define the characteristics of those who are welcomed as members of the kingdom and those who stand outside. Happy are those who are this way: poor, hungry, weeping and hated; woe are those who are that way: rich, full, laughing, and spoken well of.
i] Context: See 6:12-16. The sermon on the plain The promises and principles of the coming kingdom is the second episode in the fourth section of Luke's gospel, The dawning of the kingdom in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50. The sermon serves as a covenant renewal statement, establishing that God's unmerited grace is the basis for kingdom membership. For preaching purposes, this episode in divided into three parts: First, the beatitudes and woes, v17-26; Second, Jesus' teaching on love and mercy, v27-38; Third, three sets of illustrative sayings and parables on the human condition and thus the need for grace, v39-49.
ii] Structure: This passage, The beatitudes and woes, presents as follows:
Four beatitudes, v20-23:
"blessed are you who are poor ....."
"blessed are you who hunger now ....."
"blessed are you who weep now ....."
"blessed are you when people hate you, ......."
Four woes, v24-26;
"woe to you who are rich ....."
"woe to you who are well fed ....."
"woe to you who laugh now, ....
"woe to you when everyone speaks well of you ...."
See Introductory Notes on the Great Sermon. Commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, for Luke it is the Sermon is on a Plain. Like Moses, Jesus comes down from the mountain to speak to the people gathered on the plain and there he restates the substance of the covenant between God and his people Israel.
The blessings and the cursings: The blessings and woes clearly differentiate the two central participants in Luke's gospel - the sinner and the self-righteous. The blessings and woes define the characteristics of those who are welcomed as members of the kingdom and those who stand outside, and thus declare God's acceptance, or rejection, of those who share these characteristics. Happy are those who are this way: poor, hungry, weeping and hated; woe are those who are that way: rich, full, laughing, and spoken well of.
The characteristics are neither conferred by God, nor are they effort based, nor are they actual physical descriptives, rather they employ the Old Testament imagery of Israel's enslaved/exiled remnant people, as opposed to faithless / self-righteousIsrael.
The characteristics of the blessed describe the lost of Israel, exiled, enslaved, impoverished, persecuted, awaiting the day of their redemption, their vindication (possibly with the sense of "righteousness" in Matthew). Jesus now addresses his disciples as the lost of Israel who recognize in Jesus the realization of Israel's redemption. To his disciples Jesus announces the fulfilment of their eschatological hope: in Jesus theirs is now the kingdom, they will be filled, they will laugh and great will be their reward.
The characteristics of the cursed, on the other hand, describe that other part of Israel that has no association with the remnant, those who persecute the prophets, proclaim peace where there is no peace, who are contented now, filled now, but who, like the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, are lost in themselves, lost in self-righteousness, and therefore have no part in the dawning kingdom.
Here then are "the qualifications of those who are admitted as members of Christ's kingdom (along with) the fate of those who, on account of their life and attitude, will have no share in His salvation", Geldenhuys.
The difference in the wording between the beatitudes' in Luke and Matthew: Matthew's spiritualization of the beatitudes doesn't alter the message that much, although many commentators would disagree. Luke's failure to offer a commentary to the beatitudes is not an attempt to glorify poverty, hunger, grief and persecution, rather, like Matthew, he glorifies emptiness before God, the emptiness that only God can fill, the emptiness of lost Israel, and by extension, lost humanity. The blessings of the kingdom belong to a certain type of person, a person with certain characteristics, a person with a healthy discontent as to their standing before God that leads them to yearn for the "wealth, the satisfaction, the consolation and the comradeship of the kingdom", Caird.
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 6:17
The sermon on the plain: i] The setting - a great crowd gathers to hear Jesus and be healed by him, 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 wonder-working power.
katabaV (katabainw) aor. part. "he went down" - having come down. The participle is adverbial, possible serving to form a temporal clause; "then he came down with them", Phillips.
met (meta) + gen. "with" - Expressing association.
autwn "them" - Obviously "the disciples."
epi + gen. "on" - on, upon. Spacial.
pedinou adj. "a level [place]" - level, flat (in contrast to what is steep or uneven). Probably an allusion to Moses coming down from mount Sinai and meeting with the people of Israel gathered on the plain below, so Plummer, cf. Ex.34:29. None-the-less, it could be a "level place" somewhere on the mountain; "he .... stopped at a piece of level ground", NJB. "Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by (his) disciples", Peterson.
maqhtwn (hV ou) gen. "[a large crowd] of [his] disciples was there" - [a crowd many] of disciples [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Rather than "a large crowd", the sense is more likely that of a major gathering of Jesus' disciples, the whole number not being that large. Presumably Jesus came to the level place with some of his disciples and met the others there. "Many other disciples were there", CEV.
plhqoV (oV) "a [great] multitude" - a very large number. "A great mob of people", Barclay.
tou laou (oV) gen. "of people" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
apo + gen. "from" - Expressing source/origin.
Tupou kai SidwnoV "Tyre and Sidon" - Not implying a Gentile mission, rather the effectiveness of Jesus' mission in gathering the lost of Israel.
oi} rel. pro. "who [had come]" - Referencing Jesus' disciples and others.
akousai (akouw) aor. inf. "to hear" - As with "to be healed", the infinitive expresses purpose; "in order to hear."
apo + gen. "from [their diseases]" - Expressing separation, "away from"; "they had come .... to have their illnesses cured", Barclay.
oiJ enocloumenoi (enoclew) pres. pas. part. "those troubled" - the ones being troubled, plagued. The participle functions as a substantive. The release of Satan's captives is a pivotal messianic sign. "Those showing the effects of demon possession."
apo + gen. "by [evil / impure spirits]" - Here the preposition expresses agency - a rare usage replacing uJpo; "those troubled with/by unclean spirits."
ezhtoun (zhtew) imperf. "tried [to touch]" - were seeking. The imperfect indicating ongoing action, probably iterative, repetitive action.
aJptesqai (aJptomai) pres. inf. "to touch [him]" - to touch, seize, grasp. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "were seeking."
oJti "because" - Here expressing cause or reason, as NIV, and possibly governing both verbs, "was going out" and "was healing", although "Jesus" may be the subject of the imperfect verb "was healing"; "for power issued from him, and he healed them all", Barclay.
exhreceto (ecercomai) imperf. "[power] was coming" - was going out. Imperfect expressing ongoing action, durative. The power referred to here is "the power of the Lord", 5:17, the power that derives from God and completes his will. The words may describe an actual evidence, aura etc. alluding to the power evident in Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai - his face shone.
para + gen. "from [him]" - Expressing source; "out from beside."
ii] The beatitudes / blessings - good news for the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the persecuted, v20-23. 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 of the covenant, and 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. Of course, 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.
kai autoV "-" - and he. Emphatic by position, although usually not treated as such in translation.
eparaV (epairw) aor. part. "looking at" - [and he] having lifted up [the eyes of him toward the disciples of him]. The participle is adverbial, probably forming a temporal clause, while the "lifted up" most likely describes a focused stair; "then, fixing his eyes on his disciples", NJB.
makarioi adj. "blessed are you" - blessed, happy, contented, fortunate. Rather than a secular "lucky the person ....", an Old Testament wisdom background to the term is more likely where the word expresses God's favor toward a person; "privileged are you before God ...."
oiJ ptwcoi adj. "the poor" - Adjective used as a substantive. "The pious poor who look to and depend on God", Bammel, pushes in the right direction = Matthew's "poor in spirit." The intended sense is surely religious/spiritual: the meek and humble, broken before God, the lost of Israel, the persecuted remnant. An economic sense cannot be excluded, but most likely images Israel's righteous poor, those faithful to the law and thus disadvantaged by the less pious rich. Bock unites the spiritual with the economic: "blessed are you materially poor, who nonetheless look to God and his promise, for the kingdom is yours", although this seems unlikely.
oJti "for" - because. Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining the reason why "you" are favoured; "you are privileged because .... "
uJJmetera "yours" - The position is emphatic. An unusual second person singular, as if Jesus was individually pointing out the disciples, as opposed to Matthew's "theirs"; "blessed are ye poor (lit. the poor) for yours is the kingdom of heaven", RV.
estin (eimi) pres. "is" - The present tense indicating the disciples present possession of the kingdom, but note that in the following beatitudes, although the blessing is "now", the full realization of this blessing is future, establishing a now/not yet dichotomy. Nolland brings out the present tense in his translation of Matthew's "poor in spirit"; "Good fortune now to the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
hJ baliseia tou qeou "the kingdom of God" - For Luke, the kingdom is something we possess and thus enjoy; it entails "all the blessings that are brought by the eschatological rule of God", Nolland. The genitive "of God" is usually classified as verbal, subjective, although adjectival, possessive seems more likely.
Note how Luke uses the 2nd person and adds "now". Also note the various arguments presented by commentators supporting either Matthew or Luke as properly representing the original words of Jesus - ho hum! Also note that it is quite probable that Luke uses "hungering" and "weeping" as conditions / characteristics / descriptors of the poverty of "the poor". Note also that whereas the conditions of God's servant people in v20 and 22/23 relate to the present, in this verse they are future, "you will be filled", "you will laugh".
makarioi adj. "blessed are you" - As above.
oiJ peinwnteV (peinaw) pres. part. "who hunger" - the hungering ones. The participle functions as a substantive. Matthew's "hunger and thirst for righteousness", probably in the sense of "vindication", encapsulates the substance of the hunger. It is the hunger of lost Israel for the putting down of the enemy and the uplifting and blessing of the people of God in the eschatological kingdom.
nun "now" - Serving to emphasize the future tense of the following clause.
oJti "for" - because. Causal, as above.
cortasqhsesqe (cortazw) 2 pl. fut. pas. "you will be satisfied" - you will be filled, sated, receive all that you need. A divine passive; God does the filling. "Satisfied" in the sense of entering the kingdom and participating in the totality of its blessings. "Satisfied" in the sense of fed and watered remains part of the imagery in that it conjures up the Old Testament image of sharing in the blessings of the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. In that day a man will sit on his back porch, under his grape vine, well satisfied. Although the prophets replay the promised economic blessings of the kingdom, they increasingly spiritualize them, eg. Ezekiel's description of the stream flowing from the sanctuary of the new temple with its healing waters and abundant produce, chapter 47. Jesus made this point well when he said "my kingdom is not of this world." None-the-less, it should be noted that many commentators are loath to remove an economic interpretation, eg. Bock: "It is important to note that the hungry has both socioeconomic and religious overtones and that errors of interpretation occur when either element is removed." Ellis and others disagree; "a religious, and not an economic status, is primarily in view."
makarioi adj. "blessed are you" - As above.
oiJ klaionteV (klaiw) pres. part. "who weep" - the ones weeping, mourning, sorrowing. The participle serves as a substantive. "Weeping with the affliction of the exile", Nolland.
gelasete (gelaw) fut. "you will laugh" - you will laugh, feel glad. Referring to "the joy that the kingdom of God will bring into the lives of human beings", Fitzmyer.
Interesting changes take place with this beatitude: it is longer and more detailed; there is a tense change from what the disciples are "now" to a future when ....; and the religious nature of the disciples' situation is spelled out in the terms of persecution due to their association with Jesus. These changes are most likely prompted by this verse serving as a dramatic conclusion to the beatitudes.
oJtan + subj. "when [men hate you]" - This conjunction with a subjunctive verb forms an indefinite temporal clause. Here the blessing is not "because" people hate you, ie. causal, but rather temporal, "whenever people are hostile toward you." Probably in a religious context, so "curse you."
aforiswsin (aforizw) aor. subj. "they exclude" - they ostracize, exclude, divide, outlaw. Here probably in the sense "excommunicate", probably from the synagogue, although Bock argues for the more general "ostracize."
oneidiswsin (oneidizw) aor. subj. "insult" - they insult, reproach, heap insults on, revile. "Slander and verbally attack", Bock.
ekbalwsin (ekballw) aor. subj. "reject" - cast out, throw out [your name as wicked]. The sense is of banning even the mention of a person's name. As my grandfather would put in 1st World War terminology, "they aught to be shot and their cloths burnt (usually referring to politicians!)", ie. all evidence of their existence removed.
eJneka + gen. "because of" - because of, for the sake of [the son of man]. Forming a causal clause. Matthew has "because of me." "Because you are loyal to the Son of Man", Phillips.
tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. This messianic title is favored by Jesus, possibly due to its illusive nature (the phrase can just men "man"), but more so due to its eschatological fit. Jesus is Daniel's coming Son of Man, the one who comes to the Ancient of Days, and in the presence of whose eternal reign all knees will bend.
carhte (cairw) aor. pas. imp. "rejoice" - rejoice, be happy. Describing a sense of wellbeing.
en + dat. "in [that day]" - Temporal use of the preposition; "when that happens", TH.
skirthsate (skirtaw) aor. imp. "leap for joy" - leap/dance for happiness, joy. The aorist indicating punctiliar action, although it would be normal to use an aorist for future action, as here.
idou "behold" - look, pay attention. Serving to introduce and emphasize the clause; "for know this assuredly that you will have a great reward in heaven."
gar "because" - for, because [the reward of you great in heaven]. Expressing cause / reason; introducing a causal clause expraining why the disciples should "rejoice", namely, because of the "recompense". Stated as an encouragement, not as an offer of reward for certain behavior.
uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.
oJ misqoV (oV) "reward" - reward, wages. A recompense based upon what a person has earned and thus deserves.* The reward is possibly divine approval, "you can be glad when it happens, skip like a lamb if you like! for ...... all heaven applauds", Peterson. Yet, it is more likely that the reference here is to the immanent eschatological fulfilment of all things which, because of its wonder and nearness, blunts the pain of our present circumstances. "Your reward in heaven is magnificent", Phillips.
en + dat. "in [heaven]" - Expressing space/sphere.
gar "for [that is how ...]" - for, because. Again expressing cause / reason, further explaining why the disciples should "rejoice" in persecution; they are in good company.
kata + acc. "[that is] how" - according to [the same things]. Expressing a standard; "in just the same way", Fitzmyer.
iii] The cursings - bad news for the rich, the full, the laughing and the well-spoken of, v24-26. Matthew does not have woes and his 8 beatitudes become 4 in Luke with 4 corresponding woes. Luke's fourth woe is not expanded like his fourth beatitude. Luke's "woes" are somewhat awkward and seem out of place. They probably serve to align with the "blessings and cursings" of the Deuteronomic covenant. "It's trouble ahead if you think you have made it, what you have is all you'll ever get", Eugene Peterson.
plhn con. "but" - but, nevertheless. Strong adversative. "On the contrary."
ouai "woe" - alas, disaster, horror. Expressing intense distress, possibly related to immanent divine judgment. "Unfortunate are you", "tragic is the fate of you who ....", Barclay.
uJmin dat. "to you" - Dative of interest, disadvantage. Unlike the opening beatitudes, Luke this time supplies the 2nd person pronoun, "you".
toiV plousioiV adj. "who are rich" - the rich ones. Adjective used as a substantive. If we have treated "the poor" as a religious descriptive then obviously "the rich" must be treated in the same way, rather than treating the phrase as an economic descriptive. The rich are those who are not rich toward God, they have not laid up treasure in heaven. The Pharisees serve as good examples of "the rich"; their self-righteous status gives them self-security and comfort. As with "the poor", there is an incidental economic component, primarily as an Old Testament allusion to the prosperity of unrighteous Israel. Certainly the Pharisees were generally blessed with this world's goods making them first century proponents of a prosperity gospel. "It's trouble ahead if you think you have made it, what you have is all you'll ever get", Peterson.
oJti "for" - for, because. Here most likely causal, as NIV.
apecete (apecw) pres. "you have already received" - you are receiving, obtaining, having in full. The present "receiving", implicit in the verb, can be emphasized with the addition of "already", as NIV. "You have received all the comfort you will ever get", Barclay.
uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - of you. The genitive is usually treated as adjectival, possessive, as NIV, although verbal, objective is possible, so Culy.
thn paraklhsin (iV ewV) "comfort" - encouragement, consolation.
Again, being well fed and happy are descriptors of being rich, as hungering and weeping are descriptors of being poor.
oiJ empeplhsmenoi (epiplhmi) perf. pas. part. "who are well fed" - the ones having been well fed. The participle serves as a substantive. The perfect expressing a past feeding continuing into the present. "Satisfied"; "have all you want", TH.
nun adv. "now" - Temporal adverb.
oJti "for" - because. Causal, as above.
peinasete (peinaw) fut. "you will go hungry" - you will hunger. Future expressing the sense, "there will be a time when."
oiJ gelwnteV (gelaw) pres. part. "who laugh" - the ones laughing. The participle serves as a substantive.
penqhsete (penqew) fut. "you will mourn" - To experience sadness or grief as the result of depressing circumstances.* The inner state is the issue here. "The laughter is that of those who feel quite happy with their present lot in life. Their's is a fool's paradise", Nolland.
oJtan + subj. "whenever" - Forming an indefinite temporal clause, although usually translated "when" rather than "whenever".
kalwV adv. "[speaks] well" - An adverb of manner; "praise you." The danger is when "all" praise you.
uJmaV acc. "of you" - An accusative of reference / respect; "concerning you."
gar "for" - because. Causal, as above.
kata + acc. "[that] is how" - according to [the same things]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with, corresponding to."
autwn gen. pro. "their [ancestors]" - [the fathers] of them. The genitive is adjectival, relational.
epoioun (poiew) imperf. "treated" - were doing. The imperfect carries a durative aspect expressing ongoing action.
toiV yeudoprofhtaiV (hV ou) dat. "the false prophets" - Dative of indirect object; "they were doing these things to the false prophets." This is a reference to the prophets who proclaimed peace when there was no peace (did not unsettle the status quo), prophets who did not properly declare the word of God.