Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29; Luke 6:12-38; Psalm 67:1-7; Proverbs 11:27
Four blessings matched by four woes. The greatest commandment of all time. The Golden Rule. What rich instruction God’s Word offers us today!
If you’ve been around the Bible a time or two, then you’re familiar with the “Sermon on the Mount.” In fact, we read Matthew’s version earlier this year in Matthew 5-7. Here, it’s a “Sermon on the Plain.” Did you notice that? Luke says that after being in the mountains, Jesus “came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people…” (6:17). On this plain, Jesus gives the crowd four blessings and four woes.
- Blessed are the poor.
- Blessed are the hungry.
- Blessed are those who weep.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted (my summary of v. 22).
Probably every person in that crowd felt that all four of those descriptions applied to them. Many were downtrodden and oppressed by Roman rule, and those who were sick or lower class or female had been cast to the outskirts of society and marginalized. So Jesus’ words rang true for them and were extremely comforting, for each of these blessings came with a promise – that the kingdom of God was theirs, that they would be satisfied, that they would laugh and that their reward would be great in heaven. Definitely worth holding out for!
On the flip side, I’m willing to bet that for many of us, probably at least 3 out of the 4 of those attributes have never really been experienced. (We’ve probably all had our share of weeping, but have we truly ever been hungry? Or poor? Or persecuted like it’s described here?)
So we’re forced to read on and face what is ahead in the four very pointed verses that follow:
- Woe to the rich.
- Woe to those who are full.
- Woe to those who laugh now.
- Woe to those who are liked by everyone (my summary of v. 26).
How many of those statements accurately describe me? Yikes. Here Jesus turns the tables. He takes four states of being which are universally accepted as desirable (then and now!) and shows the danger in them. I usually read these verses as a warning, like Jesus is about to torpedo me because my life is easy and good. But I love what Leon Morris says in his commentary: “It is an expression of regret and compassion, not a threat.” Jesus isn’t towering above me, waiting to drop the hammer; rather he’s showing his great compassion and concern over the things he knows stand in the way of my coming to him.
I see this compassion even more clearly in the fact that Jesus follows these woes up in the next section with a sermon on love. He talks about loving those who are unlovely, those who have no visible merit, those who make it difficult for you to love them. I’m so thankful this section follows the four woes, because there are definitely times that I am unlovely and yet Jesus’ care for me is unconditional. Thank you, Jesus!
- Esther McCurry
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