We all enjoy many blessings from God, but above all God blesses you in Christ. The verses here in Luke 6:20-26 will explain why I say that. But more, you’ll see here what real blessing from God is.
The world around you sets expectations of what a good life should look like.
- In the next 2 months you’ll be bombarded with adverts reminding you how much better your life could be if you had this product or that.
- Or if you had some kind of ideal, family Christmas with perfect gifts and delicious food.
But all that is a symptom of what everyone knows: Things should be better than they are. Well, the Bible agrees with that. But what do we mean by “better”? If you look to the Bible to answer, you’ll see.
See the world upside down
Last time we saw Jesus gather his 12 apostles around him. Everything is in place for him to start his organised, public ministry. He came down from the mountain to the gathered crowds. They’d come from miles around. Everyone who was sick or demon-possessed was healed. Everyone, without exception.
And when everyone was ready, he began to teach.
- The contents here are similar to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7.
- This is shorter, and took place on a “large, level area” so is sometimes known as the “Sermon on the Plain”.
- They might just be the same sermon recorded differently, but most likely it’s a sermon Jesus repeated. Both Matthew and Luke are obviously summarising a much longer sermon.
So here’s Jesus starting his full ministry. Where does he start with his teaching?
- He speaks about blessing. Blessing from God.
- Way back in Genesis 12, God promised that all nations would be blessed through Abraham and his offspring.
- In Psalm 1, we read of how the one who builds his life on God’s word will be blessed.
- And here’s Jesus, explaining about who will receive God’s promised blessing.
- By starting with blessings, Jesus is putting his own teaching at the very heart of God’s grand plan to bring blessing to the world – for God to dwell on the earth with humankind.
The Sermon on the Mount / on the Plain
There’s a difference in emphasis for Luke, compared with the very similar phrases in Matthew 5.
- Read Luke 6:20. Matthew refers to those who are “poor in spirit.”
- Read Luke 6:21. Matthew mentions those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”.
- Luke records four “blessed” statements and then has four “woes” (“what sorrow” in NLT).
- Luke’s woes are very much about wealth, which matches his emphasis in the blessings (“poor” rather than “poor in spirit”).
It’s ridiculous to ask whether Matthew or Luke has it right. They’re just a different emphasis.
- Luke’s gospel has wealth and poverty as a running theme, included here.
- Because the Bible never suggests that wealth is a sin; but it’s obvious that it’s often a snare.
- We benefit not from pulling Matthew & Luke apart, but rather seeing them together.
See it this way:
- A poor person looks to the future, hoping for happier days.
- A rich person lives for today, and might even fear the future, lest he loses his wealth and happiness.
Jesus is saying that if you fill your life with riches and things then you’ll not look forward to ultimate truth and reality. And woe to you.
On top of that, the Bible repeatedly reveals God to have particular concern for the poor, the weak, vulnerable, abused. In promising a Messiah for the world, that was explained as “good news for the poor” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
The world is upside down.
- Success (culture says) = riches, fame, acceptance
- Failure (culture says) = poverty, obscurity, exclusion (e.g. cancel culture).
- And yet God is God over all, and he cherishes most those at the bottom! Woe to those at the top!
If you chase after success and happiness as culture tells you, you’ll actually be veering away from the blessing God offers you. But if you pursue God’s kingdom life you’ll “fail” according to culture – you won’t prize money, popularity, and acceptance in the way you’re expected. You might even find yourself cancelled, poor, rejected.
For you and me, that might be unpleasant or embarrassing. For Christians around the world, it can mean imprisonment or death.
- The world is often comfortable with Christian “good works” but is then confused or hostile towards Christian ethics.
- People like doing Christmas shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse, until they find out that Christian tracts are included in each box bringing hope in Christ.
- Christians are encouraged to adopt or foster children, but are under pressure to conform to unbiblical ethics to do so.
But Christians see the world as upside down. You put God first, with life in his kingdom – wealth and possessions and self come down as the bottom.
- If you’re in the upside-down life with your things, money, job, even family at the top, and then God and his church and kingdom at the bottom, you need to know this:
You’re living your best-ever life now.
When you lose it at death, you’ll have eternity to look back.
Jesus says, “What sorrow awaits you / woe to you.”
Maybe you don’t believe Jesus
Hear him again: Read Luke 6:24-26.
- You wonder why you should heed a warning from a poor, homeless, ex-carpenter from Nazareth?
- But we’re in Luke chapter 6. Luke spelt out from the beginning that Jesus is far more than that.
- Jesus is Christ the Lord, Son of God Most High.
- He is divine. God the Son in human flesh.
- And he came from infinite glory and splendour to come and say to you, “woe”.
- And he came to call you to blessing; he came to save you.
Jesus is the head, the centre, the Son of God. He knows the future, and he calls you to blessing in himself. God blesses you in Christ, and only in him for eternity. Jesus is uniquely placed to know the truth of these words, and he lives today and invites you to respond! Will it be blessing with Christ, or woe without him?
But remember this too: These words are his first teaching to his newly-gathered Apostles and disciples.
So he’s not only pointing out that the world is upside down in its values. Jesus is also preparing them (and you) for what you can expect if you live in the kingdom of God – the right way up.
Turn your world right side up
God’s kingdom is right. God rules and reigns, and his people delight in that kingdom reign. But the society you live in is upside down – possessions and things at the top, with some spiritual stuff now and then at the bottom. One day, Jesus will return and make all things new. The kingdom of heaven will be on the new earth forever.
It’s not your job to turn the whole world the right way up. But you are to live with your own world the right way up. Read Luke 6:20-21.
Whatever your actual circumstances of life, Jesus calls you to look forward, to be heavenly-minded.
- He is preparing a feast, a banquet, a wedding!
- If you come to Jesus for life, you inherit the earth, will be satisfied, and you will laugh for joy.
- God blesses you in Christ, and Christ alone.
Read Luke 6:22.
Now if people hate, exclude, mock or curse because you’re being rude or obnoxious, you can’t claim to be living for Christ!
But if people do those things precisely because you are living for Christ then you’re blessed! Why?
- Not because you’re being brave putting up with it.
- Not even because you hope that God’s judgment will fall on those people!
- But rather, because your hope is in Christ for the future.
- Hebrews 11:25 says this about Moses: He chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. For he considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking ahead to the reward.
- What reward? Christ himself, the blessing of God.
No-one is saying it’s easy. And yet, Jesus says something remarkable: Read Luke 6:23.
- For those of you who have been beaten and tired because you want to live for Christ, you might not feel like leaping for joy.
- If you feel bruised and hurt, that’s inevitable and natural, not a sin. You’re not a failure to feel that way.
- Even so, Christ does call you to rejoice.
- Paul put it this way in Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
- No-one is diminishing your pain, or pretending it’s not real.
- You’re called to rejoice that you experience that because you belong to Christ.
- And you’re called to rejoice that in Christ your future glory and bliss will be so great as to make any sufferings here seem trivial.
- If you could glimpse the treasure of Christ, you could put up with anything for him.
- If you find it hard to live for him, the answer is to move closer to him, delight in him, know his grace in you.
And more, have compassion on those hurting you. Look ahead to your own future in Christ and leap for joy, but look ahead at their future too – the woes that are coming their way.
Because you mustn’t miss the reference to prophets in v23 & 26.
- People in the Old Testament rejected God’s prophets (think Jeremiah in Jerusalem, or Elijah at Carmel).
- But there are examples of them turning to false prophets and false gods.
- God’s prophets were, above anything else, calling God’s people to return to him, to repent.
- They were rejected by religious and the non-religious!
As you stand in Christ’s kingdom, living for him and doing good, you’ll clash with the world at some point.
- People will be confused you don’t live like they expect.
- But, as you put Christ first, you witness to him. Just as the ancient prophets did.
- You’re saying that Christ is life. He is worth all the ridicule, persecution, pity or exclusion that people might bring.
Even so, when your life does clash with the world you can witness winsomely, rather than confrontationally / negatively.
- Some Christians seem to actively seek out ‘persecution’ when they’d be bette off being more winsome for Christ.
When your life for Christ differs from what you’re expected to do in work, or in your family, or thinking about who to vote for etc, what are you like to others?
- Are you a “Bible says ‘no’” person – known as someone who won’t do things
- or a “God says ‘yes’” person – known as someone who does good things
- E.g. if asked about sexual ethics, do you focus on the sinful nature of humanity, or the beauty of Christ and his church and how we’re to model his great love for us?
In the verses to come, we’ll look in the coming weeks at specific examples of what Jesus is teaching.
Here at the outset, he’s giving you the big picture and reminding you to orient your life the right way up.
- Put Jesus first. He came from glory to warn you, to call you, and – today – to save you. Turn to him, follow him.
- With Christ as your king, live in his kingdom. This world is temporary, so live with an eternal perspective.
- Do that for yourself, facing opposition.
- Have that eternal perspective for those who make life hard for you too; have compassion.
- Follow Jesus, and pursue kingdom life all the way to glory and eternity with him.
- Expect to clash at times with this world, but keep going towards Jesus, and keep showing the world that Jesus is utterly, utterly worth anything they throw at you.