Luke 6: 17 – 19
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.
Imagine yourself in the crowd, perhaps one of the disciples who has been following him wherever he goes, always wanting to be in his presence, hearing him speak, seeing him heal and transform so many suffering people. Or imagine yourself as someone deeply troubled who has heard that this miracle worker is freeing everyone. Feel the excitement in the air as people crowd towards him, many obviously suffering, many being assisted to get closer to him. See the waves of power flowing out from him as people begin jumping up and down, people who had moments before been barely able to move. Who is this man? Oh my God, maybe finally I am going to be whole again!
More and more people are being healed and as the stories spread, the expectation of healing is growing as well. We all know that when we believe we are going to be healed we are so much more likely to be healed. It must have been something else to have all these fragile suffering people suddenly well again. What an amazing fountain of blessing Jesus had become that people simply believed that they need only touch him and they too would be healed… and they were!
Noon Day Prayers Question
If there was one thing you really wanted from God, what would it be? He loves to give us our heart’s desires. He gladly gives the Holy Spirit to whomever asks. What do you truly want from your Abba? Let the question and its answer stay with you and Abba this day.
Luke 6: 20 – 26
Before you start reading, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: What would it take to feel blessed? What would make you feel truly fortunate and joyful?
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.”
“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.”
So first off, religious folk of Jesus’ day and ours would consider themselves as being in the kingdom of God. We talk and sing about life in the kingdom all the time. So why does he say the “poor,” the beggars who scrabble around hoping for charity, why is the kingdom of God theirs? I know people who are deathly afraid of becoming poor, because it only takes an illness or the loss of a job to suddenly make you poor and vulnerable. Something does not compute!
More than that, I do not know about you, but when I read the list of people Jesus tells to anticipate woeful suffering, I am in that group with you (relatively rich, well-fed and prone to laughter).
Finally, imagine saying blessed are you when you are hated, excluded, insulted and your name is considered evil because of me. Not only are they to consider themselves blessed to suffer for Jesus but they are to rejoice and leap for joy! What a nut-bar!
Jesus was speaking to his disciples and you can imagine their perplexity. But seriously, when you find yourself suffering as a follower of Jesus, he says to count yourself blessed. We know our heavenly father works all things out for the good of those who believe in him. Jesus is turning normal human experiences upside down suggesting that a number of normally unpleasant situations should be counted as blessing. But his woes help make his point more clearly. When you have got it made, your chances of getting into the kingdom are pretty slim, particularly when your identity is invested in “having it made”. It is possible to live like you do not have possessions and wealth and to put your wealth to the good of those who need it. Elsewhere Jesus said it more clearly, “for where treasure is there your heart will be also.”
So perhaps this sermon is about being part of Abba’s kin-dom,* part of Abba’s family where being poor or being rich are not significant factors in your sense of who you are. Having nothing in this world to distract you from the blessing of being God’s child is a blessing! Living like you do not have riches is then also a blessing, but harder to achieve. Being his blessed child, full of the Spirit and part of his community of disciples is the life worth living. So do not get sucked into poverty or prosperity thinking – they both distract you from the blessedness of your walk with Abba, following Jesus.
*Several theologians have moved from “kingdom” to “kin-dom” in order to remove the emphasis from top-down rule with all its oppressive connotations, to being part of Abba’s family. After all Jesus did say that no-one could enter this kin-dom, except if they were like a very small child.