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17. And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;
18. And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.
19. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all
20. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the Kingdom of God.
21. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
23. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24. But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation.
25. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep.
26. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Here is a very unusual arrangement of what is called the Message on the Plain, similar in some respect to the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in St. Matthew, but evidently a different time, a different situation. Here is Luke emphasizing particular things, especially four blessings, four beatitudes that are followed directly with a great reversal into four woes. Let’s look at this situation tonight and contrast these beatitudes with the woes as we look at what is really taught in this passage of scripture.
Luke describes when Jesus had ordained his apostles and named them as we learned in our lesson last time, that they came down from off that mountain where he had called them up to be with him, and entered into this plain, as it is called here in verse 17. There was a great company of disciples of all descriptions beside the twelve and then the great multitude of people from Judea, Jerusalem, and as far as the coast of Tyre and Sidon to hear him and to receive healing. They already recognized his great healing and delivering ministry and they were drawn to him. They were scrambling to get close enough to touch him, because when anyone touched him healing virtue went forth out of him into them and they were healed. There was just a continual flow of the mighty healing and delivering power. It gives us a glimpse into a tremendous experience of ministry where the miraculous power of God is at work in a broad spattering way touching the multitudes of people who had come. I assume that most of us really enjoy being in that kind of atmosphere where the power of God is being demonstrated, where Jesus is Lord, where healing is taking place, where the love and glory and grace of God is coming upon the whole congregation. But Jesus often took advantage of situations like that to teach serious lessons that would penetrate the heart of the people. He was never willing for anyone to be greatly blessed or healed without also learning a genuine lesson that they needed to understand about him and their relationship to him. John would put it this way later when he would have all the great “I Am” sayings of Jesus. He would indicate that Jesus is what he gives. He gives light, but he is the light of the world, he gives bread, but he is the bread of life. With the idea that you don’t receive his blessings without receiving him and his word and his teaching. You can’t just go running loose on credit, and constantly receive the great blessings of God without also having some qualification brought to bear upon your life where you receive Jesus as Lord as well as savior and healer. You can’t just keep on receiving great spiritual blessings without receiving teaching from the Lord himself, so right in the midst of this great scene where miracles are taking place and the vast multitudes are there and everyone is healed or delivered, Jesus then begins to preach and teach what has been labeled the Sermon on the Plain.
First of all he talks about the blessedness of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The way people are blessed is what Jesus called blessed. Sometimes we might not look upon it as a blessing. What he calls woes, we might want to call them a blessing. It is difficult in our humanity and especially if we are overwrought with carnality, it is hard to understand the teachings of Jesus as it relates to what he puts as top priority or what he puts premium value upon.
He said first of all, Blessed are ye poor. This means poor in spirit as it is recorded in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount; for yours is the kingdom of heaven. When you consider yourselves poor up against God’s riches then you automatically receive the riches of his kingdom. That sounds like a paradox because this being poor represents people who are extremely conscience of their own poverty, their unworthiness, people who are mastered and governed by humility. People who have genuine modesty, people who don’t mind playing second fiddle, so to speak. People who don’t insist upon having their own way and be arrogant and overbearing. Blessed are ye poor for you have the kingdom of God. How can you get a kingdom? How can you get elevated? In the Lord’s teachings, it by humbling yourself. The way up is first of all a way down, as we’ve heard all our lives. The way to glory and the cost of glory is self-denial.
He said blessed are ye who hunger now for ye shall be filled. He is talking about people who have a consuming desire for righteousness, a hunger for spirituality, a hunger for God, a hunger for the truth, a hunger for righteousness. People who have this kind of burning, consuming desire will be filled because they will never be satisfied until they have received his righteousness.
I don’t know about you, but being raised on a farm, as I was, you grow up with certain kinds of foods that you get hungry food and you never quite get satisfied. I just planted forty-nine rows of garden and most of it is black-eyed peas. Sometimes my wife and I just make a meal of cornbread and black-eyed peas. Sometimes you just get hungry for something and you never have a satisfaction until you get that. He is talking about people who have a hunger for the righteousness of God and you will not be satisfied until his righteousness pours forth into your life. Hallelujah!! You get tired of yourself, you get tired of your own goodness and you want the divine heavenly goodness and righteousness to pour forth in your life. He said when you have that kind of hunger you will be filled, you won’t give up until you get it. Praise God! Hallelujah!
Blessed are you that weep now, for ye shall laugh. You mean to say that if I have sorrow, and weeping and burdens I should count myself as blessed? That’s what he is saying. If it is the right kind of weeping and the right kind of sorrow, you will laugh. What he’s talking about here is the kind of mourning and weeping that causes people to be concerned with the conditions of the people around them in this world, conditions caused by sin and evil. You become burdened and weep over it. The psalmist would put it like this, if you go forth weeping bearing precious seed you will doubtless come again rejoicing. That is the kind of weeping and rejoicing he is talking about.
Ezekiel paints a picture in his great book of prophecy that demonstrates and illustrates what I am talking about here, because Ezekiel describes the time when judgment was coming upon Jerusalem and all of Judah and the people were standing ready for the coming in of the Babylonian empire and army. God moves in in judgment and he tells the angel of the Lord to take an ink well and stamp and go through the city of Jerusalem and stamp all the foreheads with a certain mark of the people who are crying and weeping over the abominations of my people, people who are burdened and concerned about all the moral breakdowns and backsliding of Israel and all the people turning away from God, and mark those who are troubled and burdened about it. Because the death angel is coming and all those that are indifferent and cold about what is happening to others and they don’t care about what is happening anywhere, they have no burden, they have no vision they have no concern for the lost and mistreated and the hurt and the straying of the people. The angel of the Lord will come through with the sword and slay all destroy all those that do not have the mark of weeping. This is what Jesus is talking about, you are blessed if you carry the burden upon your heart where you weep over your lost loved ones and you weep over the conditions of this world, and you weep over the trouble of the nations and our own nation and you weep because of the sin and the way things are, because you want people to turn to God. You will laugh and rejoice, and you will be blessed indeed, because you carried the burden and you have wept before God. This strikes deep at this attitude of indifference and unconcern. It is something that can so easily to creep up on you, especially in a nation like ours and a time like ours it is so easy for you not to feel the burden about the needs of so many. Blessed are ye that weep now.
Church, it is a time for weeping and mourning before God, for his mercy. You read this book, you read the Old Testament and you will see that every time there was a great move of God on behalf of his people it was because somebody went fasting and praying and weeping as Daniel did in Daniel chapter nine. Lord help us never to lose that sensitive heart that reaches out in compassion and love through tears on behalf of people who are standing in need of God. Amen!
The fourth Beatitude is: Blessed are ye when men hate you for the Son of man’s sake, not just hate you for the mischief you have done, but hate you for the Son of man’s sake, and here is the way the hatred is manifested and put out when they separate you from their company. No wonder we in Pentecost have felt that this world is not our home and we don’t really belong and we shout and rejoice because we are accepted by the king and purchased by the king, we are in his family and we are heirs of the great promises of God, even though some did not accept us. He said you are blessed when people are reproaching you or insulting you, and I don’t know sometimes if I can handle number three it says when they are casting out your name as evil, literally lying on you.
Have you ever just been blindly mad? The maddest I ever got was when I was in high school and a young man who didn’t have the slightest notion of what he was saying, he made a remark about my girlfriend who is now my wife that he shouldn’t have said. So I took an encyclopedia and raised it up across that table, and I was aiming at him. Luckily, it hit the edge of the table and bounced over him. It didn’t hurt him. But he got the message that you don’t put someone’s name out as evil. That is a grave gross sin. That is what Jesus meant about murdering somebody’s influence. You can say I really like this person and someone says well you don’t know everything about them, and they begin to tell all the rumors that they’ve heard. I have more sanctification now than I had awhile back, but it is still hard to handle when someone puts your name out as evil.
Jesus said even when people call you names and lie about you and put it out that you are not what you say you are, that you are evil, you’re blessed. Blessed are you! Lord, I am not sure that I can live with that. He says yes! They called him a liar and a glutton and a wine bibber. You should read the conflict in John eight, the name calling that went across about Jesus. They called him a liar and they accused him of being crazy enough to commit suicide, and they finally got down to the worst thing you could call a Jew in that day, and that is a Samaritan. Then they went even farther and added an adjective to it and called him a demon-possessed Samaritan. Now if you want to pick a fight you just call a man a name like that in those days, and that is what they called Jesus. And everything they called him was false. He was insulted. He was reproached. He said blessed are you when you get among people and they look down on you and they reproach you and they insult you and they hate you and they make you out as evil. That is the way they did the two prophets of God, in days gone by, but said what you should do is rejoice in that day and leap for joy for your reward is great in heaven. For in the like manner did their fathers to Gods prophets. The fathers that Jesus was talking about, the traditionalists who came down from Judaism always had a bad word to say to true prophets. So Jesus says that if you are going to be true disciples you are going to be hated. You are going to be mocked and scoffed and made fun of. You are going to be insulted and your name will be thrown into the dirt. But don’t worry, you’ll be blessed and you will get a great reward in heaven for going through such things.
Have you ever had somebody lie on you and make it stick? I mean, get somebody to believe it? That’s awful! That’s hard to handle. But Jesus says for you to go ahead and handle that. Be blessed because great is your reward in heaven. This says to me that Jesus takes up for you and defends you and looks out for you. Jesus said when they do you wrong don’t let it get you down, but rejoice and leap for joy. Even when the devil comes to falsely accuse you, Jesus our big brother comes by our side to take care of us.
Let me give you one example of that. You remember when Mary came and broke that box with very expensive ointment and put the whole thing on Jesus because he realized that when Jesus had raised Lazarus her brother from the dead that he had signed his own death warrant. He was going to have to die. So here she was. She anointed him beforehand for his burial. He understood the price he was going to pay for giving life to her brother. And then, Judas…Judas scolded her!
He started complaining about the money and how it was wasted, how the oil should have been sold for money to be used in ministry, but Jesus knew what was in his heart and he looked over at Judas – and I want you to listen to this word, he didn’t soft-pedal or go easy on Judas – he said Let her alone! I like it when Jesus gets tough with other folks. I always want mercy, but when someone interferes with worship and tries to interfere with the relationship to the Lord he takes up for you. He takes up for you! He will rebuke the devil and cast him aside and give you the freedom to worship the way you want to.
Now all of a sudden, Luke reverses the whole thing and gives four woes. He says woe unto those who are rich, for you have received your consolation or your comfort in this life. What he means by that is that people who trust in their riches and they feel big and important and powerful and they try to throw their weight around and their influence around because they are rich, he said the only comfort they are going to get is in this world and in this life. Jesus had a lot to say about those that are rich and trusting in wealth and feeling so important.
The second woe says woe to those who are full for ye shall hunger. The time will come indeed when the very rich, full people in that congregation and that tried to withstand Jesus and the prophets of old, the time would come indeed when they would lose everything.
He said woe unto you that laugh now for you shall mourn and weep. A tremendous illustration is seen in the book of Amos the prophet about this. In one of Amos’s woe sermons, he has three main points: woe unto you who are rich and powerful and you drink wine out of bowls, and you lay on beds decorated with ivory. He began to describe the judgment that would come upon them, because they are not grieved over the affliction of Joseph. What we were talking about earlier, sighing and crying and having a burden for needs, here are people who are so blind to the needs of this world, that they are blinded to the grief of others. They are not grieved what so ever.
Jesus says woe unto you when all men speak well of you, Oh Lord! I thought that is why we take all these “Dale Carnegie” courses to gain popularity, to win friends and influence people and all that. He said woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you for so did their fathers to the false prophets. I want you to look at those words. First, in the Beatitudes, he says they did the prophets, meaning the true prophet, but now when he’s talking about the woes, he said these people who treated the false prophets, these people who blessed them and counted them great, honored them and they let them get by with anything, because the false prophets would preach anything they wanted to hear.
A young seminary student went down to interview for a church and the committee asked him how he preached certain topics, and he stated that he would preach it any way they wanted it. So they hired him. Some of us have missed something. They said this is the way they used to do the false prophets, they patted them on the back and spoke well of them, Ahab and Jezebel fed hundreds of false prophets. That is the way the fathers treated the false prophets, speaking well and living in hypocrisy. Strong language Jesus is using here, blessings in situations that don’t seem like blessings at all; woes upon people with things that we would think would be great blessings. Jesus said the important thing is to have the kingdom, everlasting joy, and the satisfaction that comes from being filled with righteousness, having the hilarious joy that comes from carrying your burdens and weeping at the right times over the right things, being hated and despised, yet bearing up under it because the Lord takes your part and great is your reward in heaven. This is the message that we need to hear good and loud. There is a blessedness in being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ undergoing discipline even if it means suffering, undergoing rigid discipline even if it means carrying heavy burdens now, because after awhile the reward in the time to come and he starts handing out the rewards, then great will be your reward in heaven.
Let us pray, Lord help us to keep our eyes upon you and not let ourselves be distracted from doing your work by the things people say or do or have. Help us see blessings in our suffering for great is our reward with you in heaven.
Here is Luke emphasizing particular things, especially four blessings, four beatitudes that are followed directly with a great reversal into four woes.
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