Luke 6:17-26 (EHV) He went down with them and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, as well as from the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. 18Those who were troubled by unclean spirits were also cured. 19The whole crowd kept trying to touch him, because power was going out from him and healing them all. 20He lifted up his eyes to his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. 22Blessed are you whenever people hate you, and whenever they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. 23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because of this: Your reward is great in heaven! The fact is, their fathers constantly did the same things to the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, because you are receiving your comfort now. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, because you will be mourning and weeping. 26Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because that is how their fathers constantly treated the false prophets.
JESUS GIVES US A LEVEL PLACE
I. With Blessings
II. With Warnings
In the name of Jesus who gives us a level place to stand in this topsy turvy world,
These last few weeks here in Wisconsin we have had a crash course so to speak about how to get around on ice. Day after day it seems stores have sold out of the ice melt for putting on the sidewalk and driveway. I can get around pretty well on the level spots with more of a slip slide sort of a motion. But there is a spot on our walk way where things head down hill and the other morning as I was shoveling I could just feel that if I walked on that I was going to go down.
It isn’t just icy sidewalks that give us that feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Life in this world can give us that feeling that our feet are about to going flying out from underneath us and we are going down. In this topsey turvey world Jesus gives us a level place to stand. With blessings! With warnings!
My wife, my children, my congregation, might get sick of hearing me say, “You know my grandpa always said” or “My mom always used to say,” or my pastor always used to say.” Those things that stick in our minds that those close to us have said are things that were probably said more than once-probably said on more than one occasion. Some of the things said on the level place here sound a great deal like Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. These are important teachings that I’m sure Jesus repeated over and over for his disciples so that they would stick in their minds.
Right before these words in Luke, there is sort of a starting lineup introduction for Jesus’ disciples. After the 12 disciples are named for us. It’s almost like they are standing out there at center court and Jesus turns their eyes toward the crowd around them. “He went down with them and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, as well as from the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. 18Those who were troubled by unclean spirits were also cured. 19The whole crowd kept trying to touch him, because power was going out from him and healing them all.” As they began their ministry Jesus showed his disciples all the people they would serve. They could look into the eyes of all the all the people coming to him from Jerusalem and Judea, many troubled by evil spirits. Other sick people just wanting to touch Jesus and be healed. Crowds of people coming from Tyre and Sidon which were successful cities of commerce in Jesus’ day but they were looking for something missing in their lives.
Maybe good for us as Jesus’ followers here this morning to stop and look around at all the people in our lives Jesus has put into our lives for us to serve. People who need Jesus. People who need help. People troubled by all kinds of things. Let’s see the people around us whose lives have been wrecked by sin. Look around the world and see the people in Tyre and Sidon and Asia and Africa and South America and Europe who are looking for something that is missing in their lives. They need Jesus. Turning our eyes toward others and their needs helps to keep standing on level ground looking toward others and listening to Jesus.
In some ways that thought (not being so self absorbed, looking toward others and listening to Jesus) sort of runs through the blessings and the warnings Jesus talks about here on this level spot. “He lifted up his eyes to his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. 22Blessed are you whenever people hate you, and whenever they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. 23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because of this: Your reward is great in heaven! The fact is, their fathers constantly did the same things to the prophets.” At first glance, what Jesus is describing as blessed doesn’t sound so blessed. When I say that I have been blessed, I’m usually not thinking of being poor, hungry, people hating me, excluding me, insulting me and rejecting the Waldschmidt name as evil. But think things through. Blessed are you when you are not thinking that this world is all there is and so the all important thing is gathering and storing up stuff and enjoying this life. Because this life is just temporary and the real life is coming after this life is over. This world has been wrecked by sin and God has in mind a life of pure joy and happiness in mind for us in heaven. Blessed are you when you are not caring so much about eating a great meal with and finer things of life and forgetting about feeding our souls with God’s Word. Blessed are you when you caring so much about what people are saying about you and caring more about what they are saying about our Savior.
I’m old enough to remember playing on playgrounds the really high slides and the teeter totters where a person stand on the board in the middle and try to balance standing up. Jesus has a level place for us in his word for us today with a balancing of blessings and warnings. “But woe to you who are rich, because you are receiving your comfort now. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, because you will be mourning and weeping. 26Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because that is how their fathers constantly treated the false prophets.” When we first hear Jesus words about being rich we might think we better get rid of all of our stuff right now. And if our lives are only about being comfortable and all wrapped up in getting stuff, then it really would be good for us to get rid of our stuff. But the problem is not how much money or stuff we have. It is our attitude toward that stuff. In the Bible we hear of plenty of believers who had great wealth. Think of Abraham. He had his own army of 318 servants. Think of Job who was one of the wealthiest men in the world of his day, who lost it all then got it all back again. Remember his attitude, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised!” In our country where we have been so blessed it is so easy to let those possessions grab hold of us. How sad if we let our possessions or the lack thereof become the most important thing in our lives. Because the comfort of this life doesn’t last. Cars rust, bank accounts run away, big screen tv’s break.
Right now we have another “Biggest Loser Weight Lose Competition” going on in our family. Its subtitle is “This Time We Are Serious.” It is the successor to “for real this time” and “this time there are consequences.” Who of us doesn’t like to be well fed. But let’s not make being well fed the goal of our lives. Remember what Jesus said to Martha when she was scurrying around getting dinner ready while Mary listened to Jesus. “You are worried and concerned about many things but only one thing is needed.”
Jesus closes with a warning not to be so concerned about what people say about you because you follow him. Don’t let the names people say about you drive you away from Jesus. Don’t let the insults of the unbelieving world keep you from talking about Jesus.
I hear Jesus words of blessing and they drive home for me how far I am from standing on that level ground- how lopsided and self centered my life is. How blind I am to what is really important. What a poor example of a follower of Jesus I am. There is a part of me that clings to this world. There is a part of me that doesn’t really leap for joy when the world calls me names for following Jesus. There is a part of me that wants to just sort of fly under the radar and not say anything Jesus said that will make me a target. Maybe you feel that same way when you hear Jesus say these words. But then fast forward to more words Jesus said. From the cross Jesus triumphantly called out through the ages to you and me, “It is finished!” All our sins were paid for. All our shortcomings were taken care of in the Savior’s perfect life for us. “Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God.” Through faith in Jesus God gives us forgiveness of sins and life eternal in heaven. That changes us and our way of thinking! It brings us to level ground. Jesus’s life for us brings us more and more to concentrate on the things Jesus says are important- the life after this life is over. Jesus putting your needs and my needs ahead of himself leads us to more and more see the people around us everyday. Jesus brings us to see that what we have and what we eat and what people say about us is not the all important things. Jesus leads us more and more to see the hurt and sadness in the eyes and hearts of those who don’t know him and to reach out however we can so that others come too and stand on this level ground.
My neighbor gave me a stair stepper exercise machine. A person is always going uphill on those things! When a person sees this life as the only thing that matters. It is very much an uphill climb- never any rest. But in Jesus we have a level place to see the world for what is- a world we are just passing through. Our real home, our real treasure is in heaven. Amen.