February 17, 2019 – Luke 6:17-26
How are you doing this morning? There used to be a man who when he walked into church on Sunday mornings and I asked him how he was doing, he would respond with a single word. He would say, “Blessed!” Every week he said the same thing. How many of us would give that response today? Maybe all of us because “blessed” seems like a pretty “churchy” thing to say, right? But if you actually gave it some thought, what would you look to see if you were blessed? Maybe you would quickly take inventory of what’s going on in your life. You might think, “Well, my health has been relatively good, at least it certainly could be a lot worse. I’ve got a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I’ve got friends to talk to. You know what, I am pretty blessed.” But what if all those things were taken away, would you still consider yourself blessed?
This morning, Jesus teaches us where to find his blessing. And like many of Jesus teachings, he turns things upside down. While the world tells us to look in one direction to find the Lord’s blessing, the Lord completely turns us around and point us in the opposite direction. Where does he tell us to look? Well, let’s look at the words of Jesus which are recorded for us in the gospel of Luke which are traditionally called “The Beatitudes” and see the unusual places that the Lord promises his blessing.
As we begin our study of these words, it’s important that we take note of the audience. The gospel of Luke tells us, “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” (Luke 6:17,18). Jesus was preaching to a large and diverse crowd of believers and unbelievers. Some were followers of his and some were probably just interested in seeing the man they had heard about but did not yet believe in. But when it came to these specific words of The Beatitudes notice how the audience is specified as “Looking at his disciples, he said…” (Luke 6:20). These words are NOT directions in how to BECOME a Christian. These are Jesus’ words to those who were ALREADY Christians. As these Christians lived their Christian lives of thanks to their Savior, Jesus promised to bring his blessing in some pretty interesting places and situations in their lives.
Luke records these words of Jesus in a very memorable way. Did you notice how there are two sets of 4 things listed here? First you have four statements of blessing followed by four statements of woe or warning. Each of the four statements of blessing have a direct contrast in the four statements of woe and warning: poor to rich, hunger to well fed, weep to laugh, hate to speaks well of you. The first four statements of blessing seem to be speaking of spiritual things, while the second four statements of woe and warning seem to be speaking of physical or material things. This style not only made it memorable, but brings out the stark contrast between the two lists. Let’s begin by taking a look at the list of blessings.
It’s a little strange, isn’t it, where Jesus says that you find blessing? If you asked someone how their week was and they responded, “Well, I’m poor, hungry, sad, hated, excluded, insulted and rejected,” you probably wouldn’t respond with, “That’s great to hear!” Yet, that is where Jesus tells us that we find blessing. How can that be? Remember that Jesus is talking about spiritual things here.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” The psalmist wrote, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them– the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Psalm 49:7-8). I am by nature poor. I possess nothing that can pay the price of my freedom from sin’s condemnation. We are spiritually bankrupt beggars. My good works and niceness, my patience and putting myself out for others, will never be enough to reach the standard of perfection that God requires for me to be part of his kingdom. It is only when I recognize my utter spiritual poverty, that I can truly appreciate the riches of God’s grace and forgiveness. It is when I realize that I cannot contribute even an ounce towards my salvation that I am blessed with the confidence and peace of knowing that Jesus has paid fully for my salvation. How blessed are poor sinners who depend fully on the riches of Christ’s love and forgiveness.
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” This is closely connected to the previous thought with a bit of a different emphasis. We might not think of hunger as a good thing, until you meet someone who is not hungry and does not want to eat. The feeling of hunger is what drives us to receive the nourishment that our bodies need to go on living. Spiritual hunger is a good thing for the Christian. This is the spiritual hunger that comes from longing to hear of Christ’s forgiveness which my sins regularly make me aware I am in desperate need for. That spiritual hunger comes from seeing my weaknesses, where I have fallen once again for the devil’s lies and given into the sinful world around me. I hunger to hear that Christ forgives and loves me. Only in Christ can that hunger truly be met. How blessed!
Jesus then says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” This is kind of an interesting one because the world around us repeatedly tells us that we should never feel bad about anything. In fact, the only thing that we’re told to feel bad about is feeling bad. That’s especially true when it comes to those things that the Bible says are contrary to God’s will for us. We’re told, “God should just get over it, and so should those who claim to follow him. Don’t feel bad about it! Instead, exalt it, take pride in it, make others feel bad for not supporting or taking part in it!” But Jesus says that there is blessing for those who weep. Sadness is the result of recognizing that something is broken – a relationship, trust, my body, my life, a friendship. When I see that I have sinned, the Christian weeps and is sad. Why? Because we realize that we have broken something that God gave to us. But what is the purpose of that sorrow over sin? It is not that God wants us to stay miserable. Not at all! The apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christians, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The sadness over our sin leads us to repentance. And repentance always leads the Christian to Christ, to hear those words that he longs for us to hear, “You are forgiven. You are loved. You are mine.” How can that not bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart! How blessed are those who weep with a repentant heart!
Jesus concludes his blessings by saying, “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.” There is a little phrase that is important to keep in mind when you read this verse. It’s the phrase, “Because of the Son of Man.” A Christian doesn’t go around searching for suffering and looking for insult so that he can claim the Lord’s blessing. The difficulties Jesus is talking about are those that come as a direct result of actively living your Christian life. This would be the student who is made fun of because they won’t participate in underage drinking. This is the woman who is bashed on Facebook because she said that she believes that life begins at conception. This is the man who loses a promotion at work because he wouldn’t go out to the strip club with his boss. These are the parents who are told by their child they are no longer welcomed at their house because they won’t support their child’s choice of lifestyle. Where is the blessing in these things? It always goes back to remembering the reason that you are experiencing that rejection and ridicule. It’s only because you are a follower of Christ Jesus. These difficulties are evidence of your relationship with him. And your relationship with Christ brings you blessings that far outweigh the temporary difficulties in this life, blessings that go on into eternity.
Jesus then goes on to make a list of woes or warnings. This list is parallel to Jesus’ list of blessings. These are probably the things that many people would use to determine how “blessed” they are: wealth, extravagance, happiness, popularity. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. God wants us to enjoy the material and physical things that he has given to us. But Jesus make its repeatedly clear that we need to watch out and not be deceived by those things. While those things can certainly bring temporary pleasure and popularity, those that depend on them will be left lacking the riches won for us by Christ and rejected by God himself. How can that happen? When a person begins to think that those things are evidence that God approves of what they are doing, a person is deceived. When a person starts to use those things as a gauge of success or popularity, that person is being deceived. Yes, they may bring some temporary pleasure and popularity, but they eventually can rob a person of the eternal riches Christ came to win because that person fails to see their need for those riches of Christ.
Remember that Jesus was talking to his disciples, people just like us. He knows the temptations that are out there for his followers, how easily we can be led into looking in the wrong places for evidence of his blessing. The purpose for Jesus’ promises and warning, is always to lead us back to the one place where real and lasting blessing comes – the cross of Christ Jesus – to the richness of his love, the satisfaction of his forgiveness, the confidence of life eternal. It is there, in Christ alone, that you can always say, “I am blessed.” Amen.