Exploring the Scripture
Before this passage, in verses 12–16, we read of Jesus going up a mountain to pray followed by his calling of 12 disciples, who are named. Now Jesus comes down from the mountain to a “level place” (v. 17) or plain. With him are his disciples and a great multitude who have come from various places, some from great distances. Jesus had obviously gained a reputation for him to attract so many interested people. They come for two purposes: to hear Jesus and to be healed by him. Verses 18 and 19 indicate their hopes for healing were fulfilled. Not just a few, but all were healed.
Those who came to hear were not disappointed either. Verse 20 begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. This has parallels to the more commonly referred to Sermon on the Mount described in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Although some themes are common to both versions, and some of the text parallels Matthew, there are important differences in the final verses. In verse 20, Jesus pronounces, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” The “you who” construction sets the tone for the next two statements. The significant difference between the Luke and Matthew versions is the latter’s addition of “in spirit” to the poor. Some commentators see this as watering down the direct and provocative reference to the poor.
The next two declarations (v. 21) refer to those who are hungry and those who weep. They are strong examples of Jesus’ message of reversal. Here Jesus promises the hungry will be filled and the weeping will laugh. This is similar to his “the last shall be first” (Matthew 20:16) understanding of God’s kingdom, where the greatest shall be least and the least greatest. Verse 22 continues in this tone by saying those who are hated and excluded will rejoice and leap with joy.
Verses 24 to 26 continue the pattern of reversal by declaring woe to those who benefit now from wealth and power for they will see a time when all that is taken from them.
These teachings of Jesus are scandalous, especially to those who benefit from the status quo. But here Jesus describes God’s kingdom, not the ways of the world. He declares good news to the poor (see Luke 4:18). He is saying to all who are victimized by the power systems of society that God’s ways are coming and those who op- press others will no longer have their way.
Jesus’ words of blessing are to all people. But it is the less powerful or those without power who see hope in his words. While Jesus teaches that God loves everyone, he makes it clear God will not allow any to oppress others. In this sense, God is seen to side with the poor, hungry, and oppressed. It is said that societies, including religious institutions, will be judged by how they treated the least among them. Wealth is of no significance unless all share it. Those who hoard for themselves will lose; what they have will be taken from them. This message is as important today as it was in Jesus’ day. We are called to generously share what we have with others. That is the essence of God’s will for all.
- Jesus’ ministry focuses on teaching and healing.
- God’s kingdom offers blessing to those who are outside the power structures of society.
- Those who take pride in place and possessions will be humbled.
- Jesus’ disciples today are called to share generously what they have with those in need.
Questions to Consider
- In what parts of your life have you experienced healing? How were you changed?
- What do you learn from Jesus’ declarations found in Luke 6:20–26?
- When have you experienced economic in- stability? How did it affect you?
- In what ways does your congregation sense God’s call to live in the spirit of generosity?