Summary: Jesus words are to sustain, encourage, and inspire believers and warn those who trust wealth and popularity to repent, and turn to God in humble dependence upon him.
Luke 6:17-26 : Best to be Blessed.
Year C : The Third Sunday before Lent
17 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 coast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 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. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Many people have recently been following a television programme called ’popstars’ where thousands of young hopefuls were shortlisted to ten. Half of these ten were selected to form a new, pop band of five, three girls and two boys. One of the later programmes featured members of the selection panel going to the homes of the shortlisted ten to tell them whether or not they had been chosen.
Immediately before today’s reading Jesus had prayed all night and had selected his twelve apostles from a much larger number of disciples. Jesus invited the disciples to join him on a mountain, and then he told them who had been chosen. This leads us into verse 17 when Jesus comes down from the mountain onto a plateau.
He is addressing a mixture of people: Jews from Judea and Jerusalem; people from Tyre and Sidon, a gentile area; and a large number of disciples.
In this passage we observe the authority of Jesus: as a healer; an exorcist; and a prophet.
We read in verses 18 and 19 that people came to be healed and that all of them were cured. These healings were a demonstration of the power that Jesus has to undo the effects of sin. Not that every disease was, and is, a direct result of a sin that someone had committed. But when sin came into the world so did sickness, death and enmity. By healing people Jesus was showing why he had come. To undo the effects of sin.
Jesus still frees people today from the power of sin and death to a new, eternal life free from the bondage of sin to a life able to follow God’s ways.
Jesus also showed his authority over evil by driving out evil spirits from people. Today, some commentators and preachers shy away from admitting the existence of evil spirits. Some claim that, when Jesus’ was alive, people didn’t understand the difference between some diseases and demon possession, whereas we know better in our ’scientific’ age. But, when you read the gospels, it is obvious that Jesus, who created everything that is created and knows everything, knew the difference between someone who was sick and someone who was possessed. Therefore, we have to conclude that there are evil spirits. However, this should not alarm us because Jesus still has power and authority over them today. So we need not fear evil spirits ourselves because we have God’s Spirit within us. And, a Christian can, in the name of Jesus, that is to say relying on everything that he is and stands for, drive out evil spirits from a person or a place.
Jesus authority over evil was shown on the cross, an instrument of suffering, defeat and death. He transformed this into a symbol of love, victory and life when he rose from the grave.
We then come to Jesus authority as a prophet. A prophet is someone who speaks the word of God to people, not necessarily someone who tells what is going to happen. Jesus encourages some and warns others what may happen to them.
The teaching featured in this Chapter has many similarities with the Sermon on the Mount recorded by Matthew in Chapters 5 to 7. For example both feature the command to love enemies and not to judge others, of good people producing good fruit, and the parable of the wise and foolish builders. However, Matthew’s has twice as many ’blessings’ and no woes, and his sermon was much longer and was delivered on a mountain. Some of Matthew’s Sermon is found in other portions of Luke (e.g., 11:2-4; 12:22-31,33-34), suggesting that the teaching may have been repeated by Jesus.