Summary: Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001

Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Heavenly Father thank you for blessing us when we, aware of our needs, look to you alone for help. Amen.

Title: “Blessings and Woes”

Luke 6: 17-26

Jesus delivers a sermon that is parallel in many ways to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, but here on “level ground,” in which he paints two kinds of characters: one “blessed” and the other “cursed,” depending upon a person’s present conduct and attitudes.

Luke, in all likelihood has a copy of Mark in front of him and incorporates much, about sixty percent, of Mark into his work. He also depends on a source he shares in common with Matthew, called “Q” by scholars. To these sources he adds special material unique to his work, called “L” by scholars, and blends it all into his own unique style and favorite themes, concern for the poor, the marginal, women, and outcasts. This text contains four “beatitudes” and four corresponding or more correctly, contrasting “woes.” These same beatitudes are found in modified and expanded form in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Matthew’s sermon is more structured and longer. Luke’s is more rambling, but shorter, occurring within what is called the “little interpolation.” Luke interrupts his copying of Mark by inserting this “interpolation” now found in Luke 6:20 to Luke 8:3.

Luke’s sermon is addressed to two groups: disciples, especially those suffering because they are such; and would-be disciples. Jesus, in typical Wisdom fashion, divides the human race into two groups: the happy and the unhappy. He rejects what the world admires- wealth, popularity and comfort and praises what the world would consider pitiable- poverty, sorrow, persecution. The beatitudes and woes are not really blessings and curses so much as insights into the true human condition in the eyes of God and eternity. One’s present conduct and attitudes reveal to which group one belongs.

In verses seventeen to twenty we have the introduction to the sermon on the plain, however, in verse twenty, “blessed”: The Greek for “blessed,” is a word for divine bliss, that is, the quality of life the gods or God enjoy or enjoys.

It is a bliss unaffected by circumstances. It is attitudinal, rather than emotional or circumstantial. It is the result of right or Godlike attitudes, not pleasant surroundings or luxuries.

Poor: Jesus is not blessing economic poverty or raising one social class above another. Matthew spiritualizes the word by saying “poor in spirit” in order to make the point more clear. “Poor” was a religious term for “pious,” meaning those who depend absolutely on God, which everyone does, and know it. It is the opposite of “rich” which means, in this context, “self-sufficient.” Luke does not qualify it because he apparently considers the economically poor to be more likely to also be spiritually “poor” or “rich,” if you prefer, than the economically rich. This appears to be Jesus’ position as well.

The kingdom of God is yours: The meaning of “is” is always two-dimensional when speaking from the eternal point of view. It means “is now” and “will be” even more so in eternity. Jesus is saying that if one has this attitude now, he or she already is enjoying life in the kingdom or realm or atmosphere of God.

In verse twenty-one “hunger…full”: These terms have essentially the same meaning as “poor” verses “rich.” The emphasis is on need. Matthew adds “and thirst for righteousness” making explicit what is implicit here.

“Weep”: Even though one’s bliss is not determined by one’s circumstance, that does not mean, that there is no sorrow, in the life of a Christian disciple. The disciple is sensitive to evil both within one’s self and in the world. The disciple does grieve what is absent from the world, love, justice, peace and suffers because of it. Jesus says that, that may be the present situation but that it will change and wrongs will be righted and weeping will cease. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes…” Revelations 21:4

“Laugh”: This laughing refers to the joy of those who will laugh in eternity. The structure of these beatitudes and the woes is based on the “reversal of fortune” theme so prominent in Scripture. Matthew has no exact equivalent to this beatitude, although the merciful being shown mercy comes close.

In verses twenty-two “hate…exclude…insult…denounce”: This does not refer to suffering in general, but to persecution because of the Son of Man, because one is Christian. Not to be pitied, they are blessed, happy, because they are in such good company, the mistreated prophets of old. Being absurdly happy does not mean being out of trouble or slander-free. The presumption here, however, is that the Christian is innocent of such charges. In that case, he or she is to rejoice. As 1 Peter 3: 13-17 states in a very good commentary on this beatitude: “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”

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