Posts Tagged 'Sermon on the Plain'

LUKE: DIGGING DEEP

Not the best building codes in Taiwan.

Not the best building codes in Taiwan.

Luke 6:46 – 49

As for those who come to me and hear my words and put them into practice, I will show you what they are like. (Luke 6:47)

This verse, more than any other single verse in the Bible, best describes how a true Christian should live his life: come (to Jesus); hear (the Word); and put the Word into practice. We are to come to Jesus as Savior, hear Him as the great Teacher, and serve Him as Lord.

As Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” draws to a close, our Lord gives two character tests. The first one: the necessity of bearing healthy fruit (verses 43-45). A man’s character is revealed by the kind of fruit he bears; what he says and what he does, and the kind of attitude he has. Both actions and words tell the tale.

The second acid test involves doing what Jesus says. A true Christian will always strive to live in obedience to the Word of God.

These are great verses for modern believers in North America, where it costs virtually nothing to be a Christian. It seems as though anybody can say, “I’m a Christian,” or “I love Jesus,” while quoting John 3:16. According to Jesus Himself, those things may not be evidence of faith at all. Far too many people fail to put their faith into practice. It’s interesting that 2,000 years ago believers had the same problem as modern ones.

“Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (verse 46)

If someone is going to call Jesus their “Lord” and “Savior,” the very least they should do is pay attention to His teaching and do what He tells them to do. Being obedient is the bare minimum way of showing your allegiance to Jesus Christ.

The parable of the two builders ends the Sermon on the Plain and is also found in Matthew’s Gospel with minor differences.

1. The wisdom of the obedient

They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. (verse 48)

The first builder in this short parable is the “wise” one who listened to the teachings of Jesus and put them into practice. The “wise builder” displayed a number of characteristics:

(A) He believed in the Rock. This is implied; he had no faith in the sandy earth. He knew he couldn’t build his house on it. He knew he had to find solid ground upon which to build his house. Jesus Christ, as we know, is the Rock. A Christian would do well to remember this. Nobody thinks about the foundation of his house until it cracks or leaks. We tend to take Jesus for granted. But this is the truth:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV84)

(B) He put forth an effort. Jesus said the “wise builder” “dug down deep” in order to get to the rock. What a suggestive phrase! A life that is pleasing to God is not an easy life. Resisting sin is not easy. Loving others is not easy. Reading, studying, and understanding the Word is not easy. Christians are called to do these things and more, however. It seems as though some Christians feel like God owes them things, like good health and a healthy bank account. It is true that God does a lot for us. He saves us through no effort on our part; He does it all. But once we are born again, God gives us what we need to live for Him – things like the gifts of the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the Church. We are given the “tools” for successful Christian living, but the “living” part is up to us.

If we are to live successfully for Christ, we must “dig down deep.” We can’t live on the surface; we can’t be superficial Christians. We must live build our lives ON Christ, not near Him or beside Him, but ON Him. That means we live cautiously, with foresight. The “wise builder” was like that. He knew the good weather wouldn’t last. He knew the rains would come, like they always did. The Palestinian rainy season always brings with it floods and washouts.

(C) He built his house after he found the rock. It wasn’t just a good foundation he was after, the “wise builder” wanted the rock. How many people just assume being “a good person” is enough? A lot of Christians are like that, too. They find Jesus, they respond to an altar call and think all they have to do is live “the good life.” The thing is, anybody can live “the good life.” All you have to do is obey the law and life like your grandmother taught you do. But that’s not the same thing as building your life on the Rock of Jesus Christ. That means living BY faith. It means living BY every word that proceeds from the mouth of Christ.

A true, successful Christian builds his life on Christ. He BUILDS upon the Foundation. In other words, a real Christian grows and prospers and expands his life, all while living in obedience to His Lord. They live in such a way as to reveal the sturdiness of their core being. Sadly, too many believers live lives that do NOT reveal the structure of faith. They rest on the foundation; they do not build on it. They may be saved, but that’s as far as they got.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:12-13 NIV84)

The Bible even tells us HOW to build our lives on the Rock:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV84)

When the bad weather came, when the difficult times came, the one whose life is built firmly on the Rock Jesus Christ, will stand. The life that is built on Jesus Christ will be strong and sturdy and will stand the tests of time. The Church, too, that is built on the Rock will likewise stand.

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his, ” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19 NIV84)

2. The foolish and disobedient

“But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:49 NIV84)

How dumb is the person who hears the Word of the Lord but then does his own thing? Pretty dumb, according to Jesus.

(A) He ignored the rock. The “foolish builder” knew all about Jesus as the Rock, was familiar with all His teachings but imagined he could do his own thing and get along just fine without Him. This is the picture of the lazy and deluded Christian:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:6-8 NIV84)

It’s always easier to live like the person Paul described in Colossians. It requires no particular skill or effort to walk by sight, not by faith. Human philosophies will always be easier to understand and practice than the Word of God. It requires no digging at all to build your life on the shaky foundation of the sand of the world.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. (Isaiah 5:21 NIV84)

(B) He began building too soon. The “foolish builder” was hasty. He started building right away on the sand. He didn’t take the time to dig and look for an appropriate foundation. Here was a builder who could see no further than the end of his nose. Thinking the warm, summer weather would last forever, thinking his life was good enough and that he had all the resources he needed within himself, he made no effort to “dig deeper.”

This is a person who does what he wants, where he wants because he follows his own way. He has no regard for the teachings of Jesus or learning how to live from the Word of God. Here’s a man who has heard His teachings but just doesn’t trust them or think they are for him.

(C) He built without a foundation. What a sad picture of a man who knows he needs a house; knows he needs shelter, but foolishly thinks he can provide his own. He thought he had the skills and intelligence to do it himself, his own way. But he did it all wrong. We all need salvation, but we need the kind Jesus provides.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV84)

It’s a waste of time and material to try to build your own foundation, ignoring Jesus Christ.

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:“Now See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16 NIV84)

When you build your life on a foundation other than Christ, you will always be disappointed because you will forever come up short.

(D) His hopes were cut off. The rains came and washed the “foolish builder’s” house away. All his work amounted to nothing. There is nothing sadder than a person who has worked and built his life on a foundation other than Jesus Christ. All the work is wasted because his life will never stand. There is nothing sadder than a person who is trusting in his religion to save him. Religion saves nobody. There is nothing sadder than one who is counting on his “good works” to tilt the scales in his favor. He will always be disappointed.

There are really four lessons that can be learned in this brief but powerful teaching:

(A) Every one is a builder. If you are alive, then you are a builder. Every living and breathing human being is engaged in building his life. This parable is especially addressed to those who have at the very least a passing knowledge of Jesus and of the Word.

(B) There are really only two kinds of builders: wise and foolish. In the world today, there are those who are saved and those who are lost.  In the church there are those who building their lives on Christ, and those who are trying to do all the work themselves.

(C) The “wise builder” build his house – his life – on Christ, the only solid Rock. He does this prayerfully and in earnest – digging deep – trying to build his whole existence around the teachings of Christ and the Word of God. The “foolish builder” just wants to be left alone so he can do it all his own way.

(D) Bad times – crises – are inevitable. No human being can avoid them. The result is irrevocable. The “wise builder’s” house stand firm; it isn’t so much as touched or shaken by the rising, rushing waters. The “foolish builder’s” house collapses immediately.

The lesson is obvious: build your life wisely. It takes time, and it takes thought and effort, but in the end, it’s worth it. If you want to end with Christ, you must begin with Him.

SERMON ON THE PLAIN: BLIND GUIDES, EYE-DOCTORS, AND ROTTEN FRUIT

shd10-speck-and-log

Luke 6:41-45

As Luke records Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, we note that so far, Jesus has taught about love. His followers are to love their enemies and treat all people, but especially their enemies, with compassion and mercy. In other words, Christians are to go out of their way to treat everybody with the utmost respect and kindness. That is the essence of what real love is: how we treat others.

At this point in the sermon, Jesus delves into the psyche of the Christian mind to deal with a most heinous sin: the sin of self-delusion.

1. Seeing yourself in the right light

He begins with this:

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39)

At first, it seems like Jesus is completely changing the subject. He had just taught about loving our enemies, lending freely without expecting to get anything back, and other very thought-provoking notions. Jesus’ teaching was in stark contrast to the dry-as-dust teaching of the scribes. Why was their teaching so dry and burdensome? It’s because of the truth buried in verse 39! The scribes were pretty much a useless bunch in terms of leading God’s people because they were “the blind” trying to lead “the blind.”

There is no more delusional a man than one who thinks he is a fount of wisdom when, in fact, he has none. This was the fatal delusion of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They thought they were the repositories of God’s wisdom of the ages. But they were, in reality, the “blind guides” of verse 39. It’s understandable that the average man is “blind” or unlearned. But it’s particularly pathetic when a man automatically assumes he has all kinds of knowledge simply by virtue of his position in life, his title, or even his education! None of these blessings make one wise. And the point of this brief parable is that nothing good can come from an ignorant man trying lead an ignorant man. Eventually they will “fall into a pit.” In other words, sooner or later both the delusional teacher and the ignorant student will be worse off than before.

But what is this “pit” they fall into? Some Bible scholars rightly note that Jesus is teaching his disciples some very profound and deep spiritual truths so the “pit” of the parable to them represents Hell. There is some merit to this view. The delusional teacher of the Law doesn’t have the truth in him and the ignorant follower is in the exact same state. Without the truth of the Gospel, there is no hope for either of them.

Here was a powerful warning from Jesus to His disciples. They should be careful who they are listening to. It may well be that Jesus’ message is stronger than that. The Twelve, most of whom were listening to Jesus’ sermon, were destined to replace the blind guides. But if they were to assume the role of teacher and leader, they must do so with humility and not pride, like the scribes and the Pharisees. They must be motivated by love, the kind of love Jesus had just been teaching about.

Following this, Jesus makes an interesting statement:

Students are not above their teacher, but all who are fully trained will be like their teacher. (Luke 6:40)

As we read this proverbial-sounding statement, we immediately think of instances where this is not necessarily true. Many students out pace their teachers in terms of knowledge. So right away we know Jesus has something more than mere knowledge or even wisdom in mind here. The key is character. And the primary application of this verse has to do with Jesus, the Teacher, and his disciples, the students. The connection with the previous verse is comes into view. One day, the Twelve will be the teachers and they will, eventually be fully trained, just like their teacher, Jesus.

This was so important for these men to hear at the outset of their journey with Jesus. Here they were, “unschooled and untrained,” according to Acts 4:13, yet our Lord has just informed them they would be the teachers one day. The distance between them and the scribes and the Pharisees was great, but the distance between them and Jesus was immense!

What Jesus had done with these two verses was tell His friends that whatever the scribes and Pharisees thought about themselves, they were in truth ignorant and blind and that they, the disciples, would be thoroughly trained and taught by Jesus to be the spiritual leaders the aforementioned groups never were. Though they could never be the Teacher He was, they would be what the people needed.

2. Humility is the key

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, `Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42)

The kind of humility needed by the disciples is fleshed out in these two verses.

In Matthew, this teaching is tied to an admonition against judging others. Here in Luke it is part of the teaching against the blind haughtiness of the scribes and Pharisees. It’s easy to see how this humorous injunction relates to both situations! The scribes and Pharisees were experts on how other people ought to lives their lives and they were the only ones fit to judge.

Here is one group of verses never meant to be taken literally. It is physically impossible for a man to walk around with a plank of wood sticking out of his eye. The same is true regarding the “speck,” which in the Greek would be something like a “piece of straw.” It’s a ridiculous picture of two men walking around with big, long things poking out of their eyes.

It’s just as ridiculous for a spiritually blind guide to try and lead a spiritually blind person. See the connection? Jesus is teaching the same thing twice. Blind guides lead blind followers into pits, and how ridiculous is it for an eye doctor with a pole hanging out of his eye to convince a poor guy with a piece of straw in his eye that he knows what’s best for him! That’s the essence of what Jesus is saying here. Whatever other wonderful applications you can find, this is the simple meaning of these four verses.

The would-be eye doctor of Jesus’ illustration is called a “hypocrite.” This word is used to describe a person who pretends to be something he is not. We call them actors, and in Jesus’ homey story, the actor is a deliberate deceiver. The blind guide and man with a pole in his eye are both deceivers, trying to convince others they have what the he needs. In both cases, the end for the hypocrite is not good.

If these disciples, the Twelve and others listening to Jesus, wanted to follow in their Master’s footsteps, they could never develop egos like the scribes and Pharisees, thus deluding themselves, and they needed to remain humble, never thinking they were something they were not.

Jesus is certainly not discouraging the disciples, or by application any member of the Body of Christ today, from acts of mutual discipline. The last clause suggests the distinct possibility of removing the “speck” or “straw” from another’s eye. However, it is only after God’s grace has removed the plank from one eye, that the former pretend eye-doctor will be able to see clearly enough to help out another in need.

3. Bearing the right fruit

In Matthew, these verses follow a teaching on false prophets, here they are given in connection with the plank-eyed hypocrites. The meaning is broad but obvious: a man is known by the fruit of his life as surely as a tree is.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. (Luke 6:43-44)

In some versions, the word “for” starts off verse 43. Often going from Greek to English, “for” is unnecessary and left untranslated, but here verse 43 cries out to have it! “For no good tree bears bad fruit…” Verse 43 is intimately connected to what preceded it. Jesus is teaching that if you have a plank in your eye, you are producing bad spiritual fruit. Therefore pull it out and start bearing the right kind of fruit. Good fruit comes from a healthy tree and followers of Jesus ought to be producing good fruit. Bad fruit, obviously, comes from unhealthy trees.

Every tree, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, is known by the quality of its fruit. This is important to note. All trees – note ALL trees – are capable of producing fruit. But the abundant fruit of some trees may not be fit to eat no matter how good it may look. One bite of really awful, sour fruit and you know that tree is not a good tree! The connection between, (1) the blind guides, (2) the plank-eyed hypocrite, and (3) the fruit from the bad tree should have been obvious to those listening as it should be obvious to us. Not every teacher or spiritual leader is what they seem. If you think yourself a spiritual leader, make sure you are genuine; that you have been taught and trained by Jesus, and that your life is bearing the right kind of fruit

Here is the punchline:

Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke6:45)

This is what Jesus wanted His disciples, and us, to take away from His sermon. Only the good man is capable of doing good things as they are already in his heart. The evil man can only produce evil works because that is what is in his heart. This truth is so important, Jesus repeats it three times!

It’s what’s inside a man that counts. What’s inside will eventually find its way outside for all to see. All of this hearkens back to the very beginning of Jesus’ sermon were He taught the beatitudes which reveal how the human heart is made new by receiving the Kingdom of God.

SERMON ON THE PLAIN, Part 2

 jesus-preaching

BE…JUST AS YOUR FATHER

Luke 6:27-38

True love, in spite of what the songs tell us, is the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that “Love is of God,” and “God is love.” Therefore, is it a surprise that our Lord teaches us to “Love our enemies,” and “to bless those who curse you?” Nothing shows the world that we are children of God more than when we love unexpectedly. It’s easy to love those who are lovable, but when we love those who are not, that gets noticed.

Luke is concerned about people, so once again it is not surprising that he devotes a significant number of verses to show how Christians ought to treat people, especially those who, from another perspective, deserve to be treated the exact opposite way to the way Jesus taught.

1. The Precepts

These “made-in-heaven” laws established for us by Jesus are mirrors that reflect the merciful character of God the Father. Their purpose is to make us more like Him. While the world may love parts of Jesus’ teaching, especially the “Golden Rule” part, these laws are for Christians, not for the unsaved. No doubt the world would be a better place if everybody followed the “Golden Rule,” following it does not earn one a place in heaven. These laws are to be followed after one has repented and confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior. The temptation is to reverse this order: live right, then get saved. The Bible, like the hymn, stresses the correct order:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

To stress the moral and ethical parts of the Gospel, to make them the law, is to lose the Gospel. This teaching is given by Jesus as a way to manifest salvation; to show an unbelieving world what a “new creation” looks like.

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:27—30)

The phrase, “to you who are listening” tells us that Jesus is about to get very, very serious. He is not addressing casual listeners, but those who are paying attention, soaking up His teachings this day. So, what Jesus is about teach is for those who are following Him or will be following Him.

Concerning blessing

Loving your enemies was a revolutionary thought in Jesus’ day. This teaching went completely contrary to what the scribes were teaching at the time: “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” Matthew 5:43. This must have caught “those who were listening” by surprise. The question we should ask ourselves is, How far do we take this admonition? The answer lies way back in the Old Testament. In this teaching, Jesus was really clarifying part of the Law, the part that had been misinterpreted by the teachers of the Law.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)

For generations, the religious teachers had been teaching that this meant a Jew was responsible for loving a fellow Jew. Jesus is correcting this misunderstood admonition. His followers were not allowed to treat an unbeliever or even an enemy in a way differently than they would treat fellow believers. As is Luke’s custom, he makes the “upside down” (or maybe “rightside up” is more accurate!) nature of the Kingdom clear.

If we note what Peter wrote, we see that this revolutionary teaching was really just as old as Judaism itself.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

From there, Peter goes to quote from the Law of Moses. A good example of “loving your enemy” is given by none other than Moses himself. Maybe our Lord had this in mind as He was teaching this day:

“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it.  If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help your enemy with it.” (Exodus 23:4, 5)

Concerning Prayer

…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28)

Not only should believers have love in their hearts for the unbeliever or an enemy, they must go even further than that. We ought to pray for those who may oppose us or even do us harm.

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. (verse 29)

How literal do we take Jesus’ “slap on the cheek” comment? Should Christians let everybody else just abuse them and walk all over them? Some would say yes, pointing to Jesus’ example. Others suggest the “slap on the cheek” is really referring to an insult or a slight. In light of the rest of the New Testament, and looking at the example of Paul, it seems that Jesus is not suggesting His followers sit back and let society, especially the judiciary, take advantage of them unless that advances the cause of the Gospel. If our suffering causes the glorification of Christ in some way, then we should suffer as Jesus did. If not, Christians should claim their civil rights, even as Paul did, because anarchy itself is unbiblical.

The essence of Jesus’ teaching is simple. We may not “like” the criminal who just robbed us; we may not “like” the person at work who gossips maliciously about us, but we must see them as Christ sees them: a sinner in need of prayer. God is not calling us to make these kinds of people our “best friends,” He calls us to pray for them and treat them as we would treat a friend.

As Jesus prayed for His enemies while He hung on the Cross, and as Stephen prayed for his enemies, we should be prepared to do the same. It’s the highest of roads to take.

Concerning Giving

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30)

We need to read each word in this statement carefully. This admonition is very specific. Jesus is NOT teaching that Christians are to give everything they have to just anybody. If a person comes to us asking for something from us, we shouldn’t be stingy, we should freely give to them what they have asked for, as long as we are able to. But we have to be good stewards at the same time. For example, if a drunkard on the street hits you up for money, the odds are good he will use the money you give him to buy more booze. In his case, while he is asking for money, what he needs is the Lord. In his case, buy him a meal and share Jesus with him. It would be wrong to enable the sin of another.

Jesus is teaching that it is better to be taken advantage of (being robbed) than to give into feelings of anger or revenge. So, if somebody takes advantage of your generosity, don’t get angry with him, just let it go.

However, as we asked previously, how far do we take this admonition? This sermon is full of extreme, startling statements. It was Jesus’ intention to drive home His point—his punchline—with extreme language. Of course, there are times when it is quite correct to stand up and claim your rights (see John 18:22, 23 and Acts 16:37—40 as examples). For the Christian, though, our motivation should never be revenge. That’s why Jesus said that if somebody takes something that belongs to you, just write it off. There are times when it is just Godly to forego our rights, just like there are times when we should claim them. Christians, as taught elsewhere, are citizens of Heaven. We are obligated to follow Heaven’s rules of conduct, not the earth’s. But sometimes, obeying the rules of earth may glorify God in some way. That should be our guide: does my conduct glorify God or make me feel better?

Some Examples

The world loves its own. Sinners are capable of wonderful acts of kindness. But our love for the world is NOT to be like their love for each other; it is to be like God’s love for them.

Love

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)

The love of the unsaved is given, generally speaking, only to those who love them in return. God wants us to love others with the same kind of love with which He loves us: agape love; unconditional love. The love of God embraces even those who hate Him. There was no hatred in Jesus as He hung on the Cross. It is of no credit to us if we love those who love us back.

Works

“And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” (Luke 6:33)

Again, worldly people, sinners as Jesus called them, can do good things for other people. In Jesus’ mind that’s no big deal. It’s completely common and understandable why anybody would want to help a person who has helped them in the past or may be helpful in the future. We call that the “Godfather Philosophy,” or, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” But the motives for the Christian in doing good works must be way, way above the motives of any worldly person. The ungodly will show kindness to those who show kindness to them, but Christians are obligated to treat all people mercifully, as God treats them.

Grace

“And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.” (Luke 6:34)

The unsaved have no problem lending things to anybody as long as they get them back. This is a most common exchange in the world. But Christians need to act as God acts:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45)

3. The Promises

If the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts so that we able to love our enemies and treat them better than they deserve, God will reward us. Of course, we aren’t obedient for what we can get out of God, but God is fair and will openly reward the obedient.

A great reward

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (Luke 6:35)

This sounds like Jesus’ summary statement, and it sort of is! Verses 34 and 35 are not found in Matthew’s version of this sermon. Matthew adds some phrases that would would have been meaningful to his Jewish readers, but Luke’s reader, a Gentile, needed to read these passages on “loving enemies.”

There is an eternal principle in Luke 6:35 that applies to anybody in the faith. If we treat people well, even our enemies, and if we don’t treat them with contempt, God will reward us. When we treat people like this, we are acting like God’s children, because that is how He acts.

Children of God

Believers are to act like what they really are. If we claim we are children of God, we have to start acting like children of God. It’s natural for children to take on some of the characteristics of their parents, and so it should be Christians.

God has high standards for His children:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Here is the clincher. A person may be able to act right and do right, but he will probably fall short. Remember, the Pharisees? They did much of what Jesus taught, but for all the wrong reasons. They tithed spices, for example, but had no “justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matthew 5:20). The righteousness of believers MUST exceed that of the Pharisees, and everybody else. Our righteousness should be measured against God’s. Are we as righteous as God is? That’s the most important consideration we should take away from Jesus’ sermon up to this point.

 

SERMON ON THE PLAIN

Jesus crowd

Luke 6:17-26

Most Bible scholars, if not Bible readers, are quick to point out this sermon in Luke (6:17-49) is essentially the same one given in Matthew, except there we call it the Sermon on the Mount. Though there are some differences, the similarities outweigh them. The most obvious difference is this one:

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… (Luke 6:17)

Other differences include:

  • Matthew’s version is much longer than Luke’s;
  • In Matthew, Jesus preaches on a mountain, in Luke He is on a level place;
  • Luke includes some material not mentioned in Matthew;
  • Matthew has nine beatitudes but Luke has only four.

For the similarities, notice the following:

  • Both sermons begin with a series of beatitudes;
  • Both sermons include serious teaching on loving your enemies;
  • Both end with the same parable.

If we believe both Luke and Matthew have recorded the same event, why are there differences? Luke was writing to Theophilus, a Greek, who had little or no interest in anything having to do with Judaism. Luke’s Gospel, when taken as a whole, is very light in Jewish context. Matthew, on the other hand, is writing primarily for Jewish readers, so it is no wonder Luke excludes much of what Matthew had included for his audience.

1. The setting, verses 17-19

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, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke uses a curious phrase to describe who was listening to Jesus this day: “a large crowd of his disciples…and a great number of people” from various places. Luke always stressed Jesus’ popularity, especially during these early days of His earthly ministry. Many members of the audience are described by the historian as “his disciples.” There were “the learners,” the people who, though not apostles, were people traveling around with Jesus. Today, we might call them “fans.” In addition to these “fans,” where others. These were the “curiosity seekers,” the “rubber neckers,” who had heard about Jesus, this miracle working preacher, and they came to see what the hubbub about this man was all about. We have no reason to think there were trouble makers in the crowd.

In addition to this group of listeners, we find out that Jesus’ apostles were there, and it was to this group in particular that Jesus addressed the bulk of His sermon, although we can be sure everybody else heard His teachings.

2. Four blessings, verses 20-23

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 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. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Jesus looked intently, meaningfully, at His disciples. Which ones? It may be that Jesus was addressing His comments to the many learners listening to His teaching, or specifically to His apostles. The phrase “you who are poor” seems to narrow it down. Was He addressing only poor disciples? Perhaps, but more likely Jesus is addressing those whom He had called earlier that day; those who had given up everything to follow Him. If that was the case, then Jesus was talking to The Twelve, with the others listening in.

Luke’s version of the blessings, or the Beatitudes, is much shorter than Matthew’s but no less powerful, especially when they are contrasted with the four woes which follow them. Each blessing finds its opposite in a corresponding woe. We’ll look at the woes in due course.

Blessed are you who are poor.

Jesus is NOT saying that all poor people are blessed nor does He mean that those who follow Him are blessed because they are poor. Physical poverty is not necessarily a blessing. No, what Jesus is getting at here is something much deeper than mere physical poverty. Jesus’ apostles were definitely impoverished, having given up their former lives as fishermen or tax collectors or whatever, to follow Him. But thanks to their material poverty, these men had been made aware of their spiritual poverty. Not only that, although they were spiritually poor, they were not bankrupt. For it is at the very depths of spiritual poverty that one finds the riches of God:

…for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now.

This is the hunger that no amount of food and drink can satisfy. Matthew adds “…for righteousness,” so we know that this hunger is something that relates to the kingdom of God. What is explicit in Matthew is implied in Luke. Jesus is referring to spiritual hunger. Those who hunger for the things of the Spirit, righteous things, will see their hunger satiated:

…you will be satisfied.

Jesus would later tell a parable, relayed to us only by Luke, of the Pharisee and the tax collector, that serves to illustrate this idea of spiritual hunger. Notice the punch line:

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)

Here was a man desperate for mercy and forgiveness, for a touch from God, and for the peace of mind and heart that comes from knowing one is in right standing with God. This is what spiritual hunger looks like. Whenever anybody is that desperate to experience God, he will not be disappointed.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

Blessed are you who weep now.

Luke’s third blessing finds its counterpart in Matthew’s second. Luke’s “weepers” are Matthew’s “mourners.” In Matthew, these people are promised “comfort,” and in Luke, we read this:

…you will laugh.

But what are these people crying over or mourning over? The obvious answer is the state of their own sinfulness. When we get close to God, the Holy Spirit reveals and convicts us of our sins. We certainly can’t be thrilled when we see ourselves the way God does! Indeed, it saddens us. But even more than our own personal sinfulness, when we are born again, His Spirit dwells within us, and His Spirit surely grieves at the state of mankind. When He grieves, we grieve.

So, Jesus is referring to “God-centered” weeping. Perhaps Psalm 119:136 illustrates this kind of weeping best:

Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

And in Daniel, we see the prophet in prayer, weeping over the sins of his people, culminating in 9:19–

Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

These weepers are also blessed. One day, their weeping will end and they will be able laugh.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. (Psalm 126:5)

Blessed are you when you are hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected as evil.

The blessing associated with being hated, excluded, insulted, and taken for evil is not unlike being able to laugh:

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

All this negative treatment must be the result of being associated with Jesus Christ. If you are persecuted on account of your faith, “great is your reward in heaven.” Your reward is in direct proportion to your sacrifice, and yet, because it will be a heavenly reward, it will be much, much greater.

In a way, this particular blessing is prophetic in that it described precisely what happened when Jesus ascended to heaven.

3. Four woes, verses 24-26

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 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. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Now we come to the woes, which in both structure and content form an exact antithesis to the blessings. In each case, Luke quotes Jesus as blessing the very people we would normally call the unfortunate ones and pronouncing woes upon the kinds of people we generally consider fortunate. Once again, we see this major theme of Luke’s: the Kingdom of God is the exact opposite to man’s expectations. It has no parallel in this world. Jesus’ teachings turn everything upside down.

Woe the the rich

There is nothing wrong with wealth, but trusting in wealth is sinful. When acquiring earthly wealth of any kind is your sole ambition, this woe is for you. This woe is particularly dreadful. Those who have chosen to find satisfaction in the here and now over future blessings basically forfeit those future blessings. Quite literally, they:

…have already received their reward.

Never let it be said that God would force His blessings on anybody who doesn’t want them!

Woe to you who are well fed now.

One who is “well fed” is one who thinks they have no needs. Like those who have trusted in their wealth, those who have so much they think they need nothing else, will receive exactly that from God: nothing. The sad fact is, every man, even one who is stuffed with and choking on blessings, is a needy man. But God will do nothing for a needy man if that man manifests no desire.

In a weird twist, one who is full, will go hungry.

Woe to you who are laughing.

The same holds true for those who revel in gaiety and joviality while ignoring God. Imagine the tragic scene of sinners, blind to their own state, laughing and joking on their way to an eternity of misery, completely unaware of that future. Eventually, their smiles will fade and it will be time for them mourn and weep.

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.

What does Jesus mean? Is it bad when people compliment you? Obviously, Jesus is getting at something deeper. Hendriksen offers this insight:

What Jesus is saying amounts to this: “When everybody speaks well of you it must be that you are a deceitful, servile, flatterer.

Absalom,. King David’s son, is a good example of the kind of person Jesus had in mind (2 Samuel 15:2-6).

And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.” (2 Samuel 14:4)

Here was a man who did everything he could to ingratiate himself with just about everybody, yet he was a liar, he was insincere, and sought only to enrich himself. Absalom, and people like him, are like the ancient false prophets who preached only what people wanted to hear. This kind off preaching and flattery is vacuous. If everybody speaks well of you, there must be something wrong with you. If you are taking a stand for the truth, especially God’s truth, you will offend somebody.

Like the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus wants us to understand that following Him means radically changing the way we live, which begins with changing the way we think. Naturally, when we live and think differently than those around us, trouble may ensue. While looking for trouble is not something we should be doing, if it comes our way, it means we are doing something right.


Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 285,785 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 279 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket