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Every preacher repeats himself. In the course of a faithful ministry there are great issues that need to be treated often, especially the fundamentals of salvation and the path of discipleship. We see in the Gospels that Jesus was no exception to that pattern. We turn now to consider Luke 6:17-26 Preaching on the plain.
1. The ministry Jesus exercised
Jesus has appointed twelve ‘whom he designated apostles’ (v13), even including Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus knew from the outset would betray him. The apostles are now openly associated with Jesus’ ministry (v17). The following teaching is often called the Sermon on the Plain – not the same occasion as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The ministry that Jesus exercises has always 2 elements:
(i). Word: above all Jesus proclaimed ‘the good news (Mark 1:15). This word concerns God’s saving work carried out through the Messiah, explaining not only how to enter the Kingdom, but also how to live in it, the theme of v27-49.
(ii). Deed: people also come ‘to be healed of their diseases’ (v18), and in addition ‘Those troubled by evil spirits were cured’. Jesus reveals his power over the material and spiritual creation. The deeds are always supportive of his preaching, authenticating his words.
2. The blessings Jesus promised
Jesus declares certain people to be ‘Blessed’ (‘Truly happy’), which is possible only when living in the Kingdom of God. These blessings represent a reversal of the world’s outlook – those Jesus pronounces ‘blessed’ are despised by the world. Those who seek to live according to the Lord’s will must be prepared for the world’s scorn.
How are we to understand ‘poor…hunger…weep’? Note ‘because of the Son of Man’ (v22) – these hardships are consequences of discipleship of the Messiah. Note:
‘poor’ – aware of need and trusting in the Lord, they share the bounty of the Kingdom.
‘hunger’ – for righteousness – they will ‘be satisfied’, now or in the life to come.
‘weep’ – sorrow for sin, theirs and that of others – they will know true joy.
‘when men hate you’ – the world is often our enemy, as Jesus knew (John 15:20).
The Lord promises blessing on his people. They can ‘Rejoice’ (v23) not by denying the hardships but by seeing God’s hand in what they endure. The reward is finally ‘in heaven’ and they are standing in a tradition of suffering for the Lord’s sake that the prophets endured.
3. The woes Jesus pronounced
Verses 24-26 contrast the world’s values with Kingdom values. Jesus is not saying that no disciple will ever be rich, etc, but he condemns a life of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. God is not in the thoughts of these people, much less the centre of life. This is the life of the ‘natural man’ – like the ‘fool’ (Luke 12:20). The good things of this life will be left behind and the joy of the Kingdom will never be experienced. It is a solemn warning.