The Sixth Sunday after The Epiphany
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 6:17-21

 


THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY SOUNDS MUCH LIKE THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, SINCE BOTH MATTHEW AND LUKE USED THE LOST DOCUMENT KNOWN AS “Q,” OR THE SAYINGS OF JESUS AS THE BASIS FOR THEIR GOSPELS. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT IN MATTHEW AND THE SERMON ON THE PLAIN WE HAVE HERE IN LUKE. MATTHEW IS THE MOST HEBRAIC OF THE GOSPELS, AND HE DEPICTS JESUS SPEAKING FROM THE TOP OF A HIGH HILL, SEEING JESUS AS THE NEW MOSES BRINGING THE NEW WORD OF GOD TO HIS PEOPLE. LUKE, HOWEVER, IS WRITING FOR GENTILE READERS, AND HIS FOCUS IS MUCH MORE ON HOW THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH IN THE MIDST OF THE WORLD, DOWN ON THE PLAIN WHERE PEOPLE LIVE; A THEME HE WILL EXPAND UPON IN THE “ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.”

JESUS HAD BEEN UP ON THE MOUNTAIN TO PRAY, AND COMES DOWN TO ADDRESS THE GREAT MULTITUDE OF PEOPLE WHO HAD GATHERED TO HEAR HIM. THE TWELVE HE HAD CALLED WERE THERE, PLUS A GREAT MANY OTHERS WHO WERE ALSO DISCIPLES. THERE WERE ALSO MANY FROM ALL JUDEA AND JERUSALEM, AS WELL AS PEOPLE FROM THE COAST OF TYRE AND SIDON. WHILE THESE LAST COULD HAVE BEEN JEWS FROM TYRE AND SIDON, IT SEEMS THAT LUKE CONTRASTS THEM WITH THE PEOPLE FROM JUDEA AND JERUSALEM, SO HE PROBABLY INTENDS WE SEE THEM AS GENTILES. SO THE IMAGE IS OF A GREAT CROWD OF JEWS, GENTILES, DISCIPLES, HANGERS-ON, PEOPLE SEEKING HEALING BOTH PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL, AND THOSE WHO JUST WANTED TO HEAR WHAT HE HAD TO SAY. WHAT HE TELLS THEM IS FOUR PAIRS OF BLESSINGS AND WOES. JESUS CONTRASTS THE POOR WITH THE RICH, THE HUNGRY WITH THOSE WHO ARE FULL, THOSE WHO WEEP WITH THOSE WHO LAUGH, AND THOSE WHO ARE HATED FOR HIS SAKE WITH THOSE OF WHOM EVERYONE SPEAKS WELL.

HAVING GROWN UP POOR, I CAN TELL YOU IT DIDN’T FEEL LIKE A BLESSING AT THE TIME. HAVING BEEN SO HUNGRY MY STOMACH WAS IN GREAT PAIN, I SURE DIDN’T THINK I WAS BLESSED. LIKE ALL OF YOU, I HAVE WEAPT OVER GREAT LOSS WONDERING HOW I COULD EVER FIND CONSOLATION. I HAVE NOT BEEN REVILED, HATED, REJECTED, OR DEFAMED BECAUSE OF MY FAITH IN JESUS, BUT I EXPECT SOMEDAY THAT MIGHT COME. ONE MIGHT WONDER WHERE THE BLESSING IS IN ALL THIS. CERTAINLY THERE IS AN ESCHATOLOGICAL DIMENSION IN ALL THIS, SINCE HE SAYS, “SURELY YOUR REWARD IS GREAT IN HEAVEN;” BUT THERE IS ALSO A HERE AND NOW DIMENSION IN THE LIFE OF A DISCIPLE OF JESUS.

THE WOES HE PRONOUNCES ON THE RICH, THE FULL, THE ONES WHO LAUGH NOW, AND THE ONES OF WHOM ALL SPEAK WELL, ARE NOT SO MUCH CURSES AS WARNINGS. IF YOUR LIFE IS ALL ABOUT YOUR RICHES, THEN THAT IS YOUR CONSOLATION IN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT. YOU MAY BE FULL NOW, BUT HUNGER COULD BE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER. YOUR LAUGHTER IS ONE GREAT TRAGEDY AND LOSS AWAY FROM WEEPING. THE FACT THAT EVERYONE TELLS YOU HOW GREAT YOU ARE IS MEANINGLESS; THAT’S WHAT THEY DID TO THE FALSE PROPHETS, AND THEY DO IT TO YOU FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT NOT YOURS.

THIS IS ALL MORE DIRECT THAN THE SPIRITUALIZED VERSION OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, BUT WE CAN NOT TURN THIS INTO SOME MANIFESTO OF THOSE WHO HAVE LITTLE AGAINST THOSE WHO HAVE MUCH. THIS IS ABOUT HOW THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS ARE TO LIVE THE LIFE OF THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE MIDST OF THE WORLD AROUND THEM; HOW TO LIVE THE HEAVENLY LIFE ON THE PLAINS OF THIS WORLD. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BONHOFFER’S “THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP,” I URGE YOU TO DO SO; IF YOU HAVE, THEN READ IT AGAIN. THE COST OF BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS IS EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING YOU ARE, AND EVERYTHING YOU HAVE, BECAUSE NOTHING IN THIS LIFE MATTERS WHEN SET AGAINST THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD; NOT WHO YOU ARE, NOT WHAT YOU HAVE, NOT WHAT YOU DO, NOT YOUR FAMILY, NOT YOUR NATIONALITY, NOT YOUR RACE, NOT YOUR GENDER. NOTHING MATTERS IN THE FACE OF THE GLORIOUS GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS WHEN HE CALLS YOU TO BE HIS DISCIPLE AND OPENS TO YOU THE GATES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW. THAT IS THE BLESSING AND THE CONSOLATION OF GOD.

WE CAN’T THINK THAT BECAUSE WE ARE A DISCIPLE OF JESUS ALL THE BAD THINGS IN LIFE WILL GO AWAY AND THAT WE WILL LIVE A FAIRY TALE EXISTENCE OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER. IN FACT, BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS MIGHT JUST MAKE THINGS MORE DIFFICULT. MOST PEOPLE FIND IT HARD TO EMBRACE THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP, ESPECIALLY IN A CULTURE THAT EQUATES PROSPERITY WITH THE MARK OF A TRUE BELIEVER, WHICH IS THE MESSAGE PROCLAIMED BY MANY OF THE MEGA-CHURCHES IN THIS COUNTRY. AS JESUS CLEARLY WARNS US, AND LUKE WILL TELL US IN THE BOOK OF “ACTS,” BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS WILL NOT BE AN EASY JOURNEY, BECAUSE, AT THE END OF IT, THERE IS A CROSS.

JESUS’ SERMON ON THE PLAIN IS A DEFINITION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. IT IS NOT BASED ON OUTWARD APPEARANCES, ECONOMIC STATUS, OR SOCIAL STANDING; ALL OF WHICH ARE INSUFFICIENT AND IRRELEVANT. IT IS BASED ON THE TRUST IN AND THE TOTAL DEPENDENCE ON THE WORD OF GOD IN JESUS. WE LIVE, THEN, AS HIS DISCIPLES IN HIS WORD, IN THE MIDST OF THE REALITIES OF THIS LIFE. IN SO DOING, WE HAVE THE CONSOLATION OF HIS PRESENCE WITH US NOW, AND THE CERTAINTY THAT, WHATEVER OUR STATION IN LIFE, THIS IS NOT ALL THERE IS; THERE IS MORE TO COME – MUCH MORE. THIS IS THE BLESSED LIFE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD, NOW AND FOREVER.
AMEN