Monday, March 19, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 6:17-26 (Blessings and Woes)

He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Maybe you didn't notice, because this is really kind of a subtle thing, but the people are coming from a larger area now.  Before it was just the people from small towns and surrounding areas. But they are showing up from a larger area and they are all wanting to hear him speak.  They all want to be healed by him, and who could blame them?  Jesus has the power of the Spirit. It was coming from him and healing them all.  The way this reads, it sounds like the power of healing is just emanating from him the way light shines from the sun.  Just the presence of Jesus is healing them all.  How amazing!

Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor, 
   for yours is the kingdom of God. 
Blessed are you who hunger now, 
   for you will be satisfied. 
Blessed are you who weep now, 
   for you will laugh. 
Blessed are you when people 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 ancestors treated the prophets.

It seems like Jesus is saying it is a good thing to be poor, hungry, and hated.  I believe these words are a great comfort.

It is a blessing to be poor.  If you have lived a life without wealth, possessions, and power, then they are things you do not need.  Those who have money are very hesitant to part with it.  They are most unlikely to give to those in need.  Those who have possessions begin to care more for the things they have.  Those who have power over others begin to cherish their power and their standing.  It grows to a point that they are willing to do anything to maintain that power and control.  It comes to a point where they forget that people matter.  Money, possessions, and power are not eternal and have no eternal value.  The poor, though they have little, are generous with what they have.  Theirs is the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God!  That's the kingdom of "if you have two cloaks, give one to the person who has none."  What a great gift to give, especially when the giver has so little.

Jesus continues with his blessings.  He tells the hungry that one day they will be satisfied.  He tells those that are weeping that one day they will laugh.  He does not promise that it will happen today or tomorrow.  He  doesn't actually give a time frame as to when these things will happen, but Jesus said they will happen.

The world knows about the tragedy that happened in America on September 11, 2001.  It was a terrifying day.  The days that followed were agonizing.  People were glued to CNN and any other media outlet they could find.  Everyone wanted answers.  Everyone wanted assurances that it was over.  Everyone prayed that there would be more survivors, but all we heard was the deafening sound of tears.  The nation wept.  I remember changing the channel in the hotel room after getting stranded away from home (flight schedules were still a horrid mess).  It was Saturday Night Live.  The host came on and talked about the events of 9/11, but briefly.  "America, it's okay to laugh again."  In that moment, a nation breathed a sigh of relief.  We began to realize that life will go on - and it has.

In this same way, I believe those are weeping and mourning will one day find comfort.  They will again find their joy.  They will again love the sound of laughter.

The final blessing Jesus pronounces is for those who are hated because of Jesus.  Note that this is not a blessing on those who are hated.  It is on those are hated because of Jesus.  So, a person following Christ and living a life worthy of Christ may will be hated by the world.  This is the person Jesus is blessing.  He tells us that prophets were treated the same way.  They were hated, feared, and avoided because the messages they brought were from God.  In just the same way, the words and actions of a Christian can be things that make people of the world uncomfortable.

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 everyone speaks well of you, 
   for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Wow. Why does Jesus go into the woes now?  Well, let's consider who is audience is.  Remember? A lot of people from all around the area.  Not just the poor, but the rich too!  Now Jesus is giving a very difficult teaching here.  A rich person who hoards the wealth is a selfish person.  If they do not provide for those in need, they have not used the wealth they were blessed with wisely.  For now, theirs is a life of plenty and comfort, but when they die, their wealth does not go with them.  They will be very poor in the things that matter.

What of those who are well fed now?  Does that mean that they will starve?
What of those who laugh now?  Why will they mourn and weep?

The last woe is somewhat easier to understand.  If the world approves of who you are and what you do, don't be comforted by that.  The world also approved (and still approves) of false prophets.  Yes, be very worried if the world approves of you.

I am troubled by the meaning of the woes to the well fed and the laughing. I'll spend some time praying about the meaning of these Scriptures and researching them.

My prayer for you is that you would seek approval and providence from the Father who created you, from Jesus who saves you, and the Holy Spirit, who ministers to you.


  1. Thanks Dan, Our Children in Quizzing this year learned the Beatitudes. This really has been an awesome year for many of the quizzers..We had 2 find the Lord in the hearts & lives! So thrilled of God's expressions of success!
    Karen Hall

  2. That's wonderful news, Karen! I'm so glad that they are hiding the Word in their hearts! :)