Summary: First in a 4 part series on the Blessings and Woes of Luke 6
The Blessed List: Rich Man, Poor Man
Luke 6: 17-20; 24
Dr. Michael W. Snow
August 10, 2008
I’m sure that by now many of you have seen the movie “The Bucket List.” It’s the story of two men who meet by chance as hospital roommates. As the story develops, we soon discover that one of the men is terminally ill, and the other man is incredibly wealthy. With hours to spend in their hospital room they have plenty of time to talk about how they are feeling and all that they are facing. Staring mortality in the face they each begin to rehearse some of the “if onlys” and “I wish I hads” of their lives. Finally the wealthy man said to the dying man, “so what’s stopping us?” And after a considerable amount of effort he finally persuades the dying man to spend his final days fulfilling many of the things that he had always dreamed of doing. So together they develop a “bucket list” a list of all the things they wasn’t to accomplish before they “kick the bucket.”
Now I don’t want to ruin it for you by telling you the whole story but we eventually discover that it was the dying man who was truly rich because of his faith and his family. And it was the wealthy man who though he had great riches was emotionally and spiritually impoverished.
So let me ask you, “What’s on your ‘bucket list?’” What are some of the things that you’d like to do, or places you’d like to visit, or the things that you’d like to have?
Perhaps your list would be something like the one found in The Book of History, from an ancient Chinese religion. It has a list of the Five Happinesses which include; long life, riches, soundness of body and serenity of mind, love of virtue, and an end crowning the life. That’s not a bad list.
I’m sure that the crowds who followed Jesus had wish lists as well. Those first century seekers were looking for happiness as much as anyone. Unfortunately, happiness for them seemed even further out of reach. But I’m sure that their needs and hopes and wishes were much more basic than ours. They, after all, were living in occupied territory a military state. They were forever being taxed and trampled by an oppressive foreign government.
They were also living in a two class society where the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer, where the vast majority of people were being pushed aside and ignored by the wealthy upper class.
Perhaps worst of all, they were feeling shut out by their own religious leaders. For rather than offering hope or consolation, the temple legalists were continually raising the bar of expectation by adding another hoop that they would need to jump through before they would be deemed good enough for God.
As far as they could tell the only blessed or "happy" people were the ones with all the wealth, political power or religious authority. All that was left for them to do was to grit their teeth and bear it.
So when Jesus came onto the scene and began preaching and teaching and healing the sick these people began to take notice. What’s more he began to tell them about a new way of life. He began to telling them about a new kingdom that he was preparing to establish, he called it the Kingdom of God. And the more that the people followed him and the more that they listened, the more curious they became. They wondered just what this new kingdom would be like. Would it be a kingdom of the powerful and the oppressed? Would it be a kingdom of the haves and the have nots? And more importantly, they wondered who would be allowed to enter. Was this kingdom only for the powerful and influential? Only the rich and famous? Only for the pure and pious. What were the requirements for admission? Could they possibly measure up? And like expectant athletes waiting to see if they made the cut, they listened for their name to be called wondering if they had made the team.
Imagine their amazement when Jesus began to teach them
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven."
"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
“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.”
What an amazing list. What a contrast it is to our lists… Our list of things to accomplish, Our list of qualities to emulate, Our list of goals to achieve, Our list of all the things which are sure to make us happy. And Jesus steps into our world and turns all our lists upside down. For Jesus tells us that true joy, true blessedness comes through being accepted by God, true joy comes through finding and experiencing his divine favor and being welcomed into his kingdom.