Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Present in Light of the Future - Luke 6:17-26 - October 23, 2022

 Luke 6:17-26 The Present in Light of the Future

Good morning! Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 6, verses 17-26, page 862 in the pew Bibles.

We are going to be looking at what I think we can all agree is Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, at least the first part of Luke’s version of it. Matthew also recorded this sermon in chapters 5-7 on his Gospel.

Before we read the text I have two questions for you to consider, they may seem a little abstract, and I’ll warn you that whatever your first easy guess is is probably wrong so just be prepared.

The first question is: what is it that keeps people out of God’s kingdom?

The second question is: what is it that you personally hate the most?

If you’re super spiritual and giving your best Sunday School answers, you probably think the answer to both questions is the same, and you’re wrong on both counts and you’re a liar or you just didn’t think about it hard enough.

Either way, we’ll get back to those two questions, for now let’s read the text.

17 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, 18 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. 

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Let’s pray

As most of you know, I am a bit of a word nerd. I like to find the key words in a given passage and do the best I can to get at the real meaning of those words and sometimes that means upending some well established and widely accepted ideas about things.

Can you guess the two words that are the keys to understanding this passage? I’d even accept three even though one is not in the actual text of Scripture it’s just a heading. Beatitude, blessed, and woe.

Beatitude and blessing are really the same. Beatitude is the Latin word, makarios is the Greek word, blessed is the spiritually acceptable word, but the English word is, happy, the enjoyment of favorable circumstances. That’s important for us to understand if we are to understand Jesus’ meaning in this passage.

The last word, if beatitude and blessed are the first ones, is, woe. You’ve heard this word used before, “Oh, woes is me…” But what does Jesus mean when he pronounces these four woes? 

The Greek word is ouai, which means, a state of intense hardship or distress, disaster, or horror. In the words of Andrei, one of our ski patrol instructors, “it’s really, really bad!”

So let me ask you, honestly, which would you rather be, poor, hungry, sad, and hated, or, rich, full, happy, and well respected?

On the surface, of course, the answer is obvious, we want to be rich, full, happy, and respected.

The people Jesus was speaking to had a definition of blessedness already but it sounded a lot more like what Jesus was saying the woes about. Deuteronomy 28:1-13…

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down,

Rich, full, happy, well respected… That doesn’t sound like what Jesus was saying at all. Well, in truth, it’s exactly what Jesus was saying, the only difference is the number one rule in real estate: location, location, location.

There’s another key word that I didn’t mention that is repeated several times in the second half of our text, that word is, “now.” It’s stated explicitly in two of those woes and implied in the other two.

Woe to you who are rich now, who are full now, who laugh now, who are spoken well of now. Those folks have applied the worldly definition of happiness or blessing and have enjoyed it in the present time at the expense of the future.

Now to be clear, we must not understand Jesus’ pronouncement of blessing on poverty, hunger, sadness, and being hated, as some kind of requirement to enter God’s eternal kingdom, as if to say, “If you’ve got no money, you’re in, if you’re hungry with no prospects of a decent meal, you’re in, you’re afflicted and nobody likes you, welcome to the kingdom! That’s monasticism, that’s what the monks do, but that is not the truth of God’s Word.

Jesus pronounces blessing of happiness on spiritual poverty, spiritual hunger, spiritual sorrow, and hatred for His Name’s sake. 

The key to understanding this passage is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of the earth, our culture demands, wealth, satisfaction, happiness, and respect NOW. The kingdom of God promises those things in the future in God’s eternal kingdom, that’s our hope.

This goes back to one of our two questions in the beginning: what is it that keeps people out of God’s kingdom. You probably guessed sin, but more exactly, it’s pride.

I deserve to be happy, I deserve the best, how I feel is the most important thing, how I feel is what defines my identity, I deserve to live my best life.

That brings us to the second question, what is it that you hate the most, don’t say sin you liar, what we hate the most is the same for everybody, Christian or otherwise, we hate to be told, “no.”

It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were told they could eat from every single tree in the whole garden except one! And in their pride they ate from that tree and mankind was cursed because of it and we all share the same sin, pride.

Jesus is telling us here that taking pride in temporary riches, satisfaction, laughter, and respect, in the end it results in the horror of eternal separation from God.

True happiness is found in denying ourselves, humbly admitting our spiritual poverty, hunger, and sorrowing over our sin, and willingly being rejected by the world because we follow Jesus, because we follow a different way, because the hope of reward is not in this life but waits for us in heaven.

John Calvin wrote, “Happiness is confined to those only who, under the discipline of the cross, have learned to be humble.”

The contrast of the beatitudes and the woes is the contrast between humility and pride, worldly wealth or heavenly riches. Jesus said in Revelation 22,

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.

Faith in Jesus is the only way to enter God’s eternal kingdom as symbolized by the washing of those robes, there is no blessing, there is no true eternal happiness without a relationship with Him.

Those of us that have faith in Him must be willing to say no to ourselves now, to live lives that are radically different from the rest of the world, like Jesus lived, humble, gentle, lowly, to the praise of His glorious grace.