The Sermon On the Mount,
and Why It’s More Relevant Than Ever
(Luke chapter 6, verses 20-36)
For this week's Bible study, we'll be going over part two of Luke chapter six. It is at this point in Scripture that the venerated Sermon on the Mount begins, although it starts in chapter 5 of Matthew's gospel. But today we'll be picking up where we left off last week, beginning at verse 20. As you recall, when we closed out last week's study, Jesus had just finished healing an entire crowd of people that had come to see him and to hear him preach the Word. Now that the healing was over and everyone's physical needs had evidently been met, it was time for the preaching and teaching phase of Jesus' ministry to begin. I find it quite remarkable that Jesus apparently didn't need to take a break between the healing and the preaching, even though by this point our Savior must have been on his feet for hours. Jesus might have stopped long enough for a quick bite to eat, but the Bible doesn't say if he did or not. I find this to be one of many classic examples of the unknowable and never-ending love of Jesus Christ for each of us! But to stay on topic, let's begin at verse 20.
“Looking at his disciples he said, 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6, verses 20-21)
As we take in this portion of Luke's gospel verses by verse, I think it's important to examine both sides of this coin from Jesus' point of view. “Blessed are the poor”, means cursed are the rich. Anyone who chooses a lifetime of temporary riches, all of which will remain behind when that person has lived out their life, will get exactly what they chose. Meaning, after they die they have nothing set aside for eternity. They will be “thrown outside into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25: 30). “Blessed are you who hunger, for you will be satisfied.” Matthew's gospel says this a little better, I think: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt. 5: 6)
We live in an incredibly unjust world, and the proof lies in the rampant inequality that currently exists, and which has existed for centuries. But if we all make ourselves a people who hunger and thirst after some true righteousness, we find that righteousness to be only in Jesus Christ, the One who died to save us all, only to live again forever. Hallelujah! “Blessed are you who weep now”. Rest assured that those who have caused you sorrow will be repaid for their injury to you. Only let God take care of it, don't try to avenge yourself. It is written elsewhere in the Old Testament: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, thus says the Lord your God”.
“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.” (Luke 6: verses 22-23)
Ever joined a church only to find yourself excluded or given a cold reception by other members? Ever tried to join a church only to be turned away? Trust me, both of the above have happened to me in the not-too-distant past. But what I gained from these experiences is a heightened sense of spiritual discernment that I had previously lacked. These kinds of experiences are fairly commonplace in American churches, both Protestant and Catholic, as most of you know.
Well, Jesus is telling us all to quit being mad about feeling rejected, suck up our hurt feelings, and to grow up into being better followers. How can we ever become disciples if we first fail to be followers? Those who rejected us will be dealt with in due time. By the same token, any Christian believer who finds themselves ostracized for their faith should give thanks to God. Moreover, when this happens and we give thanks and praise, it serves to strengthen us in our abilities to resist evil and temptation. In so doing, we strengthen our faith and affirm more strongly our belief. Then Jesus gives his apostles and the crowd gathered around them the flip side of this coin that I mentioned above.
“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.” (Luke 6: verses 24-26)
What was Jesus saying in modern English? If all we want is riches, that is all we will receive. If all we want is food and comfort, if any of us really thinks we will be content with that and no more, then if any of us is willing to settle just for that little bit, why should the Lord reward us with any more? That would be like somebody willingly paying more than the sticker price for a car or truck. Since it makes no sense to pay more than we have to, then it would be equally nonsensical for the Lord to reward any of us for being willing to settle for less than the best. The same thing goes for being popular or highly respected, or for those seeking fame and fortune. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you”, and that remains ever so true to this day. And now let's conclude today's study, beginning at verse 27.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?. Even 'sinners' lend to sinners, expecting repayment in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6: 27-36)
Confound your enemies by treating them well. Love those who hate you, do good to those who mistreat you, don't use curse or swear words against someone even if they 'cuss you out' first. This is a tall order for anyone to fill, no matter how well-meaning an individual we might be. For one thing, it's noticeably counter-intuitive. We naturally react negatively towards those who react negatively towards us – it's human nature. In fact, what Jesus preached that day was that we are to do everything that is contrary to our human nature in order to live like Christ. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” That statement is one of several Jesus made here that sums up Christianity in a nutshell with these most timeless instructions. Love your enemies, because love always conquers hate. Love them and do good things for them without qualification. Lend to them while expecting nothing in return.
After all, if God is kind even to ungrateful and wicked people, how much more will he do for those who diligently follow him and serve him without reservation? Instead, Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” As before, there are 2 sides to this coin. The same degree of mercy and patience that we show towards others will be shown back to us when our lives are over and done with. The more mercy and patience towards children and the elderly, the disabled and handicapped, the mentally ill and homeless that we show throughout our lives, the more merciful God will be towards us through Jesus Christ his Son.
But shallow and selfish individuals who live their whole lives keeping everything all to themselves while showing no due consideration for anyone else they ever came into contact with will go to everlasting punishment. Due to their adamant refusal to try and reach out and help others, those condemned individuals will have a demonstrated tendency to put themselves ahead of others instead of the other way around. Let us take all these things carefully into consideration during this coming week, making a concerted effort to become a merciful and gracious people in honor of the Lord, knowing he will do the same for us when our time comes to be with Him for eternity. And next week we'll move on to the 3rd and final part of Luke chapter six.