Summary: A sermon for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, Series C.
6th Sunday after Epiphany, February 11, 2007 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you poured out your saving grace upon us through your Son, Jesus the Christ, who entered into death to destroy the power of death, and rose victoriously from the grave to bring immortality to light. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen our faith in the hope of the life to come, and empower us to life our lives in this present world, as you would have us live. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
There are some striking differences between our Gospel lesson from Luke, and its counterpart in Matthew’s Gospel. Thus, I would like to begin with a brief comparison of these two accounts, which I believe will help us better grasp the significance of our lesson for this morning.
In Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus saw the crowds, we are told that he went up a mountain, where he was alone with his disciples, to teach them. The implication is that Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” as it is affectionately known, had a limited audience, intended for his closest disciples.
But according to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus went up the mountain where he spent the night in prayer, and when he had finished, he called those who had been following him together, and chose twelve of them to become his disciples, “whom he also called apostles.” The implication in Luke, is that Jesus spent this time on the mountain in private meditation and prayer, in order to be led by Gods Spirit to choose those who would become his closest students.
Then, following his selection of “the twelve,” he came down from the mountain, to the plain, or level place, where he was surrounded by a huge multitude of people from all over the region. These were people who had come to hear him preach, and to be healed of various diseases.
Now, there is more involved here than simply the location in which Jesus preached. At that time, the mountain was understood to be the place where one could enter into the Spiritual presence of God. For example, it was on the mountain where Moses received God’s call from the burning bush, to return to Egypt to free Israel from bondage, and it was on the mountain where he received the Ten Commandments.
The mountain became associated with the place of spiritual discernment, whereas the level place was where common, everyday work was done. Thus, it is not surprising that Jesus went up the mount to pray for God’s guidance in choosing his apostles, or, as we will celebrate next Sunday, was the location for his Transfiguration.
But the location in which this sermon of Jesus took place, can also help us understand the difference in emphasis between the two accounts in Luke and Matthew. In Matthew, where this sermon takes place on the mount, it is very spiritual in nature, compared to the down to earth concerns that Luke records Jesus addressing.
For example, in Matthew, Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But in Luke, Jesus says “Blessed are you who are poor, [lacking money] for yours is the kingdom of God.” Or, consider the difference between Jesus saying “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” with Luke’s “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”
The difference between Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” and Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain,” is strikingly different. One is spiritual in nature, asking us to explore our relationship with God, the other challenges us to honestly look at our relationship and values that we place on living in relationship with one another, here on earth.
John S. McClure, in his commentary on our text, puts it this way: “Unlike Matthew’s Gospel, where this sermon takes place on the mount, here, Jesus comes and stands “on a level place.” He is surrounded by a great crowd, both his disciples and those who come in search of healing or restoration. As usual in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ healing actions and his words are closely interrelated. The good news of Jesus the Christ is not to be found exclusively on either side of this equation. Words and actions are wrapped together.” End Quote. [New Proclamation, Year C, 2003, Fortress press]
I believe that Luke’s Gospel wants us to realize that when we come into God’s presence and experience God’s gift of grace that we receive in our relationship with Jesus the Christ, that it is not simply a restoration of our spiritual relationship with God. Luke wants us to realize that through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we have already become members of God’s kingdom, here on earth.