Lessons from the Plain
Lessons from the Plain
Words of Faith 4-23-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 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,  who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured,  and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
 Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  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.  "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.  "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.  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.  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Now Luke brings to us the core of the teaching of Jesus. This passage is sometimes called the "Sermon on the Plain". The teaching is similar to the Sermon on the Mount but also different in many ways.
Most scholars believe that Jesus taught these matters on many occasions, so both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain represent separate teaching moments with different emphases. In this teaching, Jesus confronted many of the assumptions we have about life and even our lifestyle. He revealed several points of conflict between the world and the Kingdom of God.
Many of us are familiar with The Beatitudes, the eight beautiful Kingdom statements uttered by Jesus and recorded in Matthew's Gospel (5:3-10). Luke recorded these beatitudes for us as well, but we immediately recognize that they are different.
The statements recorded by Luke have been described as direct, pithy, and confronting. On this occasion, Jesus only uttered four beatitudes, not eight, and then He added four "woes". Four blessings and then four stingers, and even the blessings sting a little.
It is no wonder that the Church has gravitated to the Gospel of Matthew over the centuries. Given the choice between "Bless are the poor in spirit" and "Blessed are the poor", or between, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" and "Blessed are those who are hungry", the choice has always been for Matthew. This is precisely why we need to be sure and not miss them.
What is a "woe"? The word is literally "ouai". It is a cry of grief pronounced "ooh-ah-ee". It is a warning. It is not a curse but it is a piercing thought that should cause us to stop, take notice, and evaluate carefully. Part of Jesus' message may have been to point out that there is a balance of blessing and woe in life, joy and sadness, but also that the Kingdom is about justice. In the Kingdom, things that were unjust are set right. Things that were not whole are made whole. The Kingdom is centered in eternal values and destinations.
We struggle with these passages. It is easier to go to Matthew's version, the favored Gospel of the Church. But the more we struggle with these four statements the better we get to know the heart of Jesus. There are some things here that we must face or we will not know Jesus.
As we struggle with the blessings and the woes we first need to face that Jesus meant exactly what He said. We are tempted to say, "Didn't Jesus mean something spiritual by that?" We cannot spiritualize it. We cannot quickly explain it away. Jesus was talking to a world where there were rich and poor. By and large the poor were excluded from religious observance by the laws and rules of the religious elite.
Jesus addressed a gathering of some who were poor and some who were rich, some who were well fed, and others who were hungry. Some were grieved and others were accustomed to laughter. Some were very well thought of, others who were thought to be troublemakers.
To these he said, the poor, literally the paupers and the destitute, are blessed! Those who are hungry will one day be satisfied. You who are weeping will one day laugh. And if you are excluded, insulted, rejected or your name trashed for the sake of the Lord? That is a blessing too! And you, who are rich and well fed, watch out! That may be all you will get. You are in peril.
You who are happy now may not be so happy one day! And you who carefully guard your name and reputation, who say all the right things and hang with all the right people and go to all the right parties? That does not mean a thing in eternity because this is the way false prophets are treated.
One of the things that we will discover here on the plain is that Jesus had a heart for the poor, the hungry, the outcast and the grieved. If we do not know that, He might well say... "You do not know me very well..."
We will delve a bit more into the specific conflicts that Jesus pointed out. For now, perhaps it is the perfect time to focus on the things that are eternal. If we have found our comfort in things that are temporary, now is the time to wake up and see that this world is fleeting and illusory.
Lord Jesus, reveal Your heart to me. Show me Your heart for the poor, the hurting, the grieved and the outcast. Show me how to respond in a world so very wealthy and also so very poor. Show me how to find my way in a world full of illusion and deception. Give me Your heart for people. Give me the clarity of Your Spirit so that I may see the Kingdom. In Jesus' name.