|BLESSINGS & WOES
Series: The Sermon on The Level - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 5, 2020
Over the next 5 Sundays we’re going to be focusing on Luke 6:17-49 which we’re calling The Sermon on the Level. As we come together before God and His word, will you please stand with me and read with me the part of that sermon that we’re focusing on today.
And He 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.
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.
Verses 17 to 19 are the set-up for Jesus’ Sermon on the Level. The location and the listeners.
In verse 17 Luke tells us that Jesus came down with them. Coming down not being hard because the Sea of Galilee is in a valley.
Looking at the picture. We’re looking southwest. On the left is the Sea of Galilee. Straight ahead in front of the mountain - the green area is Magdala where probably Mary of Magdala - Mary Magdalene - was from. Down the hill behind us to the left is Capernaum.
This picture is taken from where tradition says that Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount - because He gave it on a… “mount.” And so going down from the mount - Jesus ends up on the plain by the Sea of Galilee. Most probably in those fields there. Where Jesus gives His sermon on the… level - because it’s on a level place.
Which is literally what it says in Greek.
Which is a very simple way that Luke identifies for us that this is a different sermon - than the one on the mount - given in a different location to a different group of listeners.
“...with them” is a large crowd of Jesus’ disciples and a great multitude of people from Judea and Jerusalem - Jews coming up from the south - maybe even some religious leaders. And there’s people coming from the north coast on the Mediterranean Sea - from Tyre and Sidon - which probably meant Gentiles. Most of whom have traveled for days to get to Galilee.
Luke tells us that they’re from all over the map. Literally and figuratively. Religiously and culturally and economically and geographically. They’re people who are very different from each other who normally would not associate with each other. Maybe even some would go out of their way to avoid each other. But, they’re all drawn to Jesus.
Luke points out that the multitude is drawn to Jesus to hear what He has to say. There’s a desire on their part to listen to Jesus teach and to understand what He’s teaching. And also to be healed and to get relief from the demons that are haunting them.
The multitude is diverse in seemingly every way but need.
Being messed up is pretty universal to what it means to be human. Yes? We all kind of get that.
And kudos to these people for not only recognizing their need. But also for they’re coming to Jesus to meet that need. To hear what Jesus has to say and to be healed and to be exorcised.
Which Luke tells us that Jesus responded to by healing them all. That’s a whole lot of need and whole lot of healing and compassion going on.
Merced has become a small city with a whole lot of diversity and a whole lot of need. Some of that need is here - even in this congregation.
It would be hugely wrong of us to think that being Creekside means having it all put together - no issues - no hang-ups - no needs. We’re all coming with something. We all got needs. That’s Creekside. That’s us. And we all need... Jesus. Amen?
Then, Luke tells us - verse 20 - that in the midst of all of this needing and healing and compassioning that Jesus - as He begins to teach - Jesus lifted up His eyes and looked specifically at His disciples.
That distinction is important. Within in the great multitude of people is a great crowd of disciples.
Like if we had a large box full of lots of bowling balls and lots of ping pong balls. They’re all a multitude of balls. But the crowd of ping pong balls are different that the bowling balls. Right? Try playing ping pong with a bowling ball and the difference becomes pretty clear pretty fast.
That distinction is important because while the disciples are part of the great multitude - with their own needs - the disciples - as a crowd - are different than the multitude.
Disciple translates the Greek word “mathetes” - a learner. Which is more than just someone who goes to class - learns the material - and hopefully regurgitates it on a test.
A disciple is someone who seeks to be mentored - to be instructed - to become like his or her instructor. Total life transformation. Someone who learns to so closely follow the teaching of the teacher that at the mind and heart level - in the manner of life - to see the student is to see the teacher.
Which is most probably why Jesus makes the distinction between the two crowds. The distinction that Luke records. Amidst the multitude are the disciples - that Jesus levels with.
The big picture of that being Jesus leveling with His disciples about what it is at the heart level to follow Him. The heart level attitude and actions of someone who’s really following Jesus.
There are churches today that are filled with people who want to be taught and who have come with great needs. And that’s a good thing. But so often we want to be taught and have our needs met on our terms and not God’s.
It’s the 5G mentality that goes with our expectation of having instant answers - instant solutions - accessed by our tapping on some device. Or taking meds to cure the symptoms of our disease or having some surgery without doing the hard work of actually loosing weight or exercising or changing our lifestyle.
We want answers and solutions. But we only want to go so far.
Are we tracking? Hopefully. Because none of us is immune to the distinction between being part of the multitude and being a disciple.
Most of us don’t do well with the life reorientating - it’s not easy - the long term process of dealing with the deeper issues of our lives. Seemingly most of us would rather go for the quick fix of finding some working balance or tolerable healthiness - and to keep moving forward in what’s familiar - painful as it may be.
But going deeper - letting God do more - accountability - commitment - openness - vulnerability - to God and to each other - that all is way more than what we’ve come to Jesus for. That all just opens up to us the potential for a whole lot more hurtful stuff that we’d rather not go there with. Deep down we fear what that might be like.
The multitude wants to get enough from Jesus to keep going.
But God has more for us than just physical healing and getting balanced psychologically and being able to manage what’s coming at us.
Jesus desires to redeem us and to heal us and to deal with the core and deepest issues of our lives. To bring us to the wholeness of a person created in the image of God. To give to us life - abundant - full - overflowing with joy - life with God now and forever.
Jesus is healing the multitudes - compassionately responding to their needs. Even speaking to them. But lifting His eyes now He’s going to teach those who specifically desire to go deeper - to go farther in their following.
Jesus leveling with His disciples about what it is - the heart level attitude and actions of someone who’s really following Jesus. That’s the big picture of this sermon on the level.
The first part of Jesus’ teaching - what we’re focusing on this morning - comes in verses 20 to 26 - which is a contrast of blessings and woes. Which is a contrast between two very different perspectives of what’s valuable in life. When we look at what’s around us and we look at our lives - what is it that we need to be hanging on to as really worth hanging on to.
The big picture for this section of teaching is this: In following Jesus we need to learn to value in life what Jesus values in life.
Jesus begins: “Blessed are you who are…”
The people Jesus is talking to are living in an occupied country - run by a thinly veiled military dictatorship. They’re a subjugated people - oppressed in their own land. Taxes are oppressive. Life is oppressive - cruel - hard - often brutal.
Their king isn’t even Jewish. Herod is an Edomite. A generations long enemy of Israel. A foreign usurper to the throne - who’s certifiable and leading the country down the tubes.
The religious leadership and the courts are in league with the government. Both are corrupt. False ideas about God abound.
Sound familiar? Surviving is huge.
“Blessed” translates the Greek word “markarios.” It means a whole lot more than some passing surface emotion - or having things seemingly go right for us.
“Blessed” has the idea of a profound sense of essential well being - of being rightly aligned at the deepest core of who we are. Being centered on what’s important in life and experiencing a peace - a settledness in our hearts - as a result.
In the midst of what this world tries to abuse us with - conform us to - beat us down with - in the midst of the understandable survival mentality of this world - God offers to each of us something tremendously different. His approval - His provision for our lives - His healing - His purpose for us - life in His kingdom - His very presence with us - knowing God and being known by God. God’s blessing of our lives.
It is a description of those who are the disciples of Jesus. Here and now, in the midst of the dog eat dog - survive at all costs - drama filled world of where we live our lives - we disciples of Jesus are blessed by God now.
Hang on to that. Especially when it doesn’t seem like it. Which may be most of the time. Because we still are.
Hugely valuable to hang on to. You - me - we’re blessed by God.
Let’s repeat that together: “We are blessed by God.” “I am blessed by God.”
Expanding on the reality of that truth - Jesus teaches: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Jesus talking to the… poor.
In a very real sense Jesus’ disciples were not materially rich. Most of us can relate to that.
Jesus says of the poor, “yours is the kingdom of heaven” - present tense. “yours is...” God has already brought the immeasurable - creation spanning - wealth of God’s eternal kingdom down to those who are poor and blessed them with it.
Which - to Jesus’ disciples - wouldn’t have added up. To the people of Jesus’ day - being poor physically was evidence of being poor spiritually. Evidence of God’s judgment. Not God’s blessing.
But Jesus is teaching about is really valuable in life. Which is way more than shekels and stuff. And here - Jesus it zeroing in on spiritual poverty and what God does bless.
Jesus is talking to those who’ve been told all their lives - that spiritually - you don’t have what it takes. You’re damaged goods. You’ll never measure up.
Anybody else here have a penchant for doing the wrong thing? Some of us are really good at it. We have lots of practice.
Being a disciple of Jesus means being aware of our spiritual poverty. It means admitting that we don’t measure up. That we’re powerless to control our penchant for doing the wrong thing. Being poor in spirit means coming clean with God that we are spiritually very needy - broken - people.
That confession of spiritual poverty and turning towards God is what God values - what God blesses. Even with the astounding unimaginable wealth of His eternal kingdom.
Jesus goes on: “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
Picture the scene of starving people in a Third World country. Children - dying with swollen stomachs. People who are desperate - without hope. Day after day the only task is survival. Do you have that image? It’s horrendous.
When the trucks arrive with water and food do the people respond with indifference? Like they really don’t need what’s on the truck? Or politely? “If it’s not too much trouble, may I please have a sack of grain and some water.”
People are desperate - starving - hungering and thirsting - surging towards the truck - jostling with each other. Nothing will keep them back from what they desperately need. Women - mothers - will throw themselves in front of a moving truck to get it to stop so the children can swarm onto it. In a matter of minutes the children will strip it clean.
Those who are blessed are those who are hungry for God - who have passion - an insatiable desire - a desperation for God - for His righteousness - for living life God’s way.
The Greek verb for “satisfy” is ”chortazo” - it has the idea of fattening up cattle. Remember this? Happy cows come from… California. Well fed. Satisfied.
Jesus is teaching that those who desperately hunger after God - who are passionate in their desire to live as God requires - they’re blessed. They will be stuffed - fully satisfied - by God.
That hungering after God is what God values - what God blesses. When you and I pursue God and living life as God would have us live life - God takes care of the rest - supplying all that we need - satisfying us - even at the depths of our hearts.
Jesus goes on: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
When Jesus traveled to Jerusalem - on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday - Jesus comes to a place where He can see the whole city of Jerusalem laid out in front of Him. Remember this?
Luke writes that when Jesus, “drew near and saw the city, He wept over it.” (Luke 19:41)
Same word in Greek - “to weep”
In one instant of time Jesus is confronted with the sin of Jerusalem. He sees all the sins the people have committed - that they are committing - that they will commit. Sees the spiritual poverty of the people. Their coming judgment because of sin. Sees His crucifixion and His carrying of their sin - and ours - the cost of their sin. And Jesus weeps for the people of Jerusalem.
That’s what Jesus means by “you who weep.”
“To laugh” is not just a bunch of religious happy thoughts. It is the realization of God’s presence with us - of God’s working in our lives - of God meeting the deepest needs of our lives - despite what goes on in us and around us.
Our feeling the depth of our own spiritual bankruptcy - mourning the cost and depth of our sin. Feeling the spiritual poverty of those we live with - those around us - who like us are crying out - in the same ways that we cry out. Who have the same needs and struggles - and who sin as we sin - and desperately need to know God’s comfort and healing - His blessing.
That weeping over our sin is what God values - what God blesses. In Jesus, God has answered our cry with the comfort of salvation and life. In Jesus, God Himself has come to us - to comfort us and to lift us up - to bless us.
Jesus goes on - verse 22: “Blessed are you when people hate you - literally it means that people are indifferent to you. They don’t give a rip about you.
...and when they exclude you - which means that people just don’t want you. And everyone knows it.
...and revile you - which is like having stuff posted about us that shames us - slanders us - scandalizes and stigmatizes us.
...and spurn your name as evil - which is like being unfriended by Facebook. Getting kicked off of social media… publicly humiliated. No longer welcomed by people we thought were our friends.
Why? ...on account of the Son of Man! Because of our association with Jesus.
The name of Jesus our Savior is trashed today. Christians are shredded in the media. Our morals and values and beliefs are continually - increasingly - assaulted - ridiculed - laughed at.
Increasingly - in the places where we’re trying to do life and live for God - if we take stand for God - it is concerning how easily we can be misunderstood or marginalized or even for doing what meets God’s approval.
Jesus told His disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18,19)
To follow Jesus - to be His disciple - is to be hated by the world - to become a target of our Adversary Satan.
Jesus tells His disciples: Rejoice in that day - when you’re being hated and excluded and reviled and spurned because of Me - rejoice and leap for joy - which literally means… leap for joy. Praise God and put on your happy feet.
...for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
The people Jesus was talking to - His disciples - probably didn’t see themselves on the same level as the Old Testament prophets. Most of us don’t see ourselves as legendary spiritual giants. But Jesus’ point is that it’s all the same battle - the prophets - the cross - Merced.
When we’re needing to make choices to follow Jesus that our family and friends probably won’t understand and may even look down on us for - choices that may exclude from opportunities or we may get grief for - making those choices in obedience to God - God values - God blesses.
And God will bless us - even with the same unimaginably great reward in heaven that He has blessed those who came before us in the battle with.
Are we together on all this? God’s blessing us - isn’t some philosophical exercise in religious happy thoughts or a choice of moral paths through life.
In the poverty of where we are spiritually. In what we deeply long for and what causes us great grief. In our isolation and the drama of our lives. God has come to us and God is there - here with us - never leaving us - carrying us forward - and giving to us all that we need now and forever.
God’s blessing satisfies the deepest needs of our lives. And as a follower of Jesus - His disciple - we need to value and tightly hang on to what God blesses.
Verse 24: “But” - meaning in contrast - “woe to you…”
Meaning that whatever being blessed is, woe is not.
Job contemplating the train wreck of his life - Job says, “Woe to me.” (Job 10:15).
Woe is sorrow and suffering and misery and affliction and grief and distress and anguish and despair.
When Jesus says “But woe to you” He’s expressing a present tense state of being. Woe expresses the reality of what life is really like in the present tense of right now whether we see it that way or not.
The contrast between blessing and woe is like the infamous frog in the beaker. Floating around thinking life is just great. Never thinking to jump out. While the heat is slowly being turned up. Not realizing the deadly precariousness - the woe - of our situation - until it’s too late.
What the world values as success and good times and great accomplishment is actually great woe. The consequences of living by what the world values is sorrow and suffering and misery and affliction and so on…
Which isn’t how we naturally look at life.
Woe #1: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
The average person - in their lifetime - spends 90,000 hours earning money that pays for food and shelter and clothing and tech and other things. Which is not a bad thing.
Jesus says that those who are rich will be consoled. Meaning comforted - encouraged - strengthened. There are benefits to being rich. Which in the world’s way of looking at things is pretty good because... it is a good thing.
The people of Jesus’ day assumed that having shekels and stuff meant being blessed by God. Which it may be. Even today - those who have financial success are looked on as being successful.
The problem is that wealth can mess with our minds. We can replace being aware of our spiritual poverty towards God with the delusion of our own self-sufficiency. We tend to forget that all this is about God and not us. That the ability to earn and enjoy and use any of it is because of and should be for God.
When we do that, we become indifferent to the precariousness of our position. A position of woe instead of blessing.
Woe #2 - in contrast to hungering after God - “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
Having three square meals a day is a good thing. What people saw as an enviable sign of success. But, having three squares a day is deceptive - dangerous - precarious.
Jesus told His disciples: “I have food to eat that you do no know about… My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:32,34)
In contrast to desperately hungering after God and what God has for us in life we can get into the mode of being complacent in where we’re at spiritually which may bring us some kind of here and now satisfaction.
But ultimately that leaves us empty. A void within that never gets filled. A purposelessness. A uselessness to life. Especially as we get towards the end and start looking back. There is no satisfaction. No blessing of God in all that.
Woe #3 - “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
In contrast to weeping and repenting over sin is living the good life. Partay on. Wine, women, and wifi. A lifestyle envied by the world.
The day will come when the party is over and there will be hell to pay. One day in hell there will be weeping and mourning forever.
Woe #4: “Woe to you , when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Most of us would rather be liked than hated and excluded and reviled and spurned. Yes?
But who really wins the competition for the most number of friends on Facebook. For how many likes or views we get?
It is crucial to be spoken well of for the right reasons. Not because we’ve watered down the gospel - or we’re compromising with God’s truth. But because we’re living by that gospel - according to that truth - following closely after Jesus - living for Him and what is promised to us in heaven.
Are we following Jesus? Each of these woes - without the woe part - what Jesus points to is pretty enviable - sought after - valued by the world. But in reality deadly. To live in woe - whether we recognize it or not - is to not live blessed by God. Quite the opposite.
Which may seem counter intuitive. But it’s still true. The world we live in is pretty satisfied with itself - like a frog in a beaker.
Processing all that…
Here’s the bottom line challenge question for us: Are you a disciple being transformed into the image of Jesus or are you part of the multitude content to float around in the beaker?
In the big picture of why we’ve come to Jesus - today - to hear His teaching and with our various needs - how willing are we - are you - to let Jesus rock your boat?
To follow Him whatever He says that means?
To let Him mess with what really is messed up at the core of who you are, however He chooses to mess with that?
How greatly do we - you - value being blessed by God verses trying to hang on to what you value as worth hanging on to?
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.