[Jesus] 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, who came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch Him, for power came out from Him and healed them all.
And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
“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! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:17–26).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
This week I asked my Facebook friends this question: In a sentence or two, what would you describe is “living the good life”? I received answers like:
- “Spending time with grown kids and grandkids. That is definitely the good life!”
- “A life filled with family, health, faith, home, and time.”
- “Loving and being loved.”
- “Dying in Christ.”
- “Year round living in Yellowstone.”
- “Being able to drive just a couple of hours either way to see all of my children.”
- Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
- “Being surrounded by those you love every day and knowing that in the end you will all be together in Heaven.”
- “Learning to enjoy every minute of it. When you learn to be happy NOW. When you realize that you don’t need to wait for someone or something outside of yourself to make you happy today or in the future.”
- “Finding the good in situations and know God is with you always.”
- “To live by Faith in Jesus every day.”
Some must have felt “a sentence or two” to be too constraining. Or else, they just have a lot of time to themselves to ponder meaningful philosophical questions.
- “I’m in heaven. There is brightness everywhere, but it’s not the sun. It’s 75 degrees constantly, no winter. I’m surrounded by everyone I love. There is no sickness, no death, no sadness. There are friendly dinosaurs walking in the meadow nearby. There’s a beautiful waterfall, birds are singing, children are laughing. Everyone is healthy and fit. Then I turn around and there is a huge banquet table, I see popcorn, ice cream, and a huge chocolate fountain surrounded with strawberries, toasted marshmallows, and special K bars.”
For the most part, I must say that I have a pious and conservative set of friends (at least the ones who were willing to answer). I suspect the answer wouldn’t be the same if we were doing a scientific poll of the country.
I place before you Exhibit A: television advertisements. If you were to spend a day watching television ads, you would get a sample of what many people consider to be the “good life.” Whether it is laundry detergent or a new automobile, the good life consists of riches, satisfaction, happiness, and praise.
Take for example, the advertisement for the Swiffer Wet Jet. Riches allow a family to buy a nice house with beautiful wood floors. The homemaker gets a sense of satisfaction with keeping the floor looking nice. Visitors praise the beauty of the freshly cleaned floors, which brings joy to the homeowner.
Riches, satisfaction, joy, and praise. These four qualities are woven together in our marketplace, and they help to shape the expectations we have of living the good life.[i] This is what we strive to attain and to achieve.
You’ll notice how most of the answers my friends gave would fit into one or more of these categories as well, though most of them stayed away from anything that might be considered materialistic. Now, there is nothing wrong with riches, satisfaction, joy, and praise in and of themselves. Many of the greatest people were blessed by God with an abundance of these gifts. The problem, however, is that we may let these qualities shape our expectations of God. So that there would be no confusion, Jesus speaks directly and clearly to those things in our text.
In His Sermon on the Plain, Jesus’ teaching begins with contrasting blessings and woes. Each of the eight statements is a paradox, an assertion of a truth that is contrary to conventional wisdom. These blessings and curses are closely related and parallel, with the four woes the exact opposite of the blessings.
In the ways of the world, people expect God to work in riches, satisfaction, joy, and praise.[ii] But Jesus does something that turns everything upside down. Jesus teaches how God works in a hidden way. God works in poverty not riches, hunger not satisfaction, weeping not joy, and rejection not praise.
With clear, contrasting parallelism, Jesus curses our cultural expectations. He says “woe” to those who are rich (verse 24), satisfied (verse 25a), joyful (verse 25b), and praised (verse 26).[iii] When people try to find ultimate fulfillment in the things of this world, they are finally left unsatisfied. However much one consumes and relishes the things of this world, it will never be enough apart from God.
Similarly, those who devote themselves to laughter and good times will be sorely disappointed in the end. It is worth noting here that Solomon compares the pursuit of wealth, gratification, and joy to a “striving after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:1 ff.).
Jesus also points out the folly of making “people-pleasing” into our life’s goal. For, even if we achieve popularity and the praise of humans, what does that really gain us? In this regard, it is also good to remember that people are always fickle about whom they choose to praise, and, in the end, purely human expressions of affirmation do not endure.
The good life of the world is not good for discipleship. Why not? Our world tempts us to measure God’s grace by the good things we receive. It is not a sin to rich, to be satisfied, to experience joy, or to be praised… but when you use these qualities to measure whether God is working in your life, you end up limiting God’s Kingdom.[iv] God’s Kingdom shrinks.
For example, if you measure God by the riches that He gives you, then the loss of a job has the potential to take you out of God’s Kingdom. God is either not working for you or, worse, He’s working against you. Your lack of employment leads to poverty and makes it difficult to put food on the table, so you and your family are not satisfied. This lack of satisfaction causes your marriage to sour and soon you experience rejection.[v] Your spouse is disappointed with you and your in-laws say you are “Not able to hold down a job.” Blinded by the standards of the world, you might say that God is not present in this time of unemployment.
Jesus curses that way of looking at things. But He does not only curse, He also blesses. And in that blessing, Jesus reverses things. He reverses our blindness. He helps us to see God’s presence in the most unlikely of places.
Imagine what might have happened to one of the people gathered to hear Jesus preach that day. She travels from Sidon into the region of Galilee to see Jesus. She knows that she will not be welcomed by most of the people there because of her Gentile heritage. But she comes anyway. She has heard that Jesus could do amazing things. He will cast out demons and heal the sick. So, she brings her blind child to Jesus and watches as power comes out from Him to give sight.
If the woman goes home at this point, she will have an experience of the Kingdom, but it will be a limited experience. It will be a place where God only works with riches, satisfaction, joy, and praise. Fortunately, she stays. She stays to listen to Jesus, and He opens a fuller richer Kingdom for her.
Jesus begins, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (verse 20). His words are life-giving. They open the doors for those who are counted the least. The ones who realize they have nothing to offer to God except their sin. In Christ, God’s blessings come in the most unexpected places.
The Beatitudes are largely about filling emptiness. If you’re poor, your pockets are empty. If you are hungry, your stomach is empty. If you are mourning, there’s an emptiness in your heart that used to be filled with the presence of a loved one.[vi] Jesus assures us that in each case He will fill our emptiness. That assurance gives us not only peace, but also courage to follow the Lord faithfully.
With His four blessings, Jesus reveals how God’s Kingdom is far wider than we could ever imagine. Poverty (verse 20), hunger (verse 21a), weeping (verse 21b), and social rejection (verse 22) do not pose problems for God. In fact, God brings blessings into these experiences.
All God’s blessings are found in Christ, and Christ is the source of every blessing. Each Beatitude applies to Christ in the fullest sense. He is the one who believed with unswerving faith the Father’s words about the fulfillment of His mission of salvation, and He persevered without taking offense at the shame of the cross. Jesus is the one who was poor and hungry, who wept and was persecuted like the prophets of old (Luke 6:23). He is the one who had no physical children, but who made possible the new birth for countless sons and daughters of God (cf. Luke 23:29). Jesus’ table fellowship makes it possible for repentant sinners to recline at God’s table in His Kingdom (Luke 14:14-15).
This is the larger story of Jesus in Luke. With gracious power, Jesus comes to reclaim and redeem the world. Jesus enters situations of poverty, hunger, weeping, and rejection and brings about God’s grace. Poor Lazarus dies and is carried by the angels to Abraham’s boson while the rich man who experienced good things in his lifetime suffers the torments of hell (Luke 16:19-31). Jesus feeds the hungry multitude by multiplying five loaves and two fish. They all eat and are satisfied (Luke 9:10-17). The weeping widow of Nain joyfully receives her once dead son back alive (Luke 7:11-17). The one who denies himself, takes up his cross, and loses his life for Jesus’ sake, will save it (Luke 9:21-27).
This is living the good life!
In the Kingdom of God, by grace, a job loss can be a place of God’s working in your life. Hunger can be used to draw you closer to Jesus. Weeping can inspire hopeful longing. And persecution can be endured in a courageous confession of Christ’s rule.[vii] With these words, Jesus curses and reverses the world’s way of living. He lives to stand by you in suffering and to bring His promised blessing.
Jesus promises to work in the places our world would say are God-forsaken. He reveals this to us by His death on the cross. On that cursed tree Jesus enters our painful humiliation. He bears God’s wrath for the sins of the world so that He might rise and create a humble and faithful body of believers.[viii] Through humble means of grace, He comes and brings grace for you. Your sins are forgiven, and your life is His.
Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[i] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.
[ii] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.
[iii] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.
[iv] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.
[v] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.
[vi] LCMS Stewardship Ministry – Bulletin Blurbs – February 2022, https://files.lcms.org/dl/f/4E134EA6-D6B8-430C-A419-5BB5E2C5EA80.
[vii] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.
[viii] Gospel: Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6: Series C) | 1517, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-luke-617-26-epiphany-6-series-c-1.