6th Sunday after The Epiphany “D-Day”
February 13, 2022 Luke 6:17-26
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
The major portion of our gospel lesson today is Jesus’ Beatitude Sermon, a sermon that He preached at least twice. We’ll talk about those blessings & woes in a moment.
Last week we heard about the miraculous catch of fish, and Jesus’ invitation to Peter, James & John to follow Him, & be catching people. So, Jesus continues going from town to town, healing people, and preaching & teaching about the kingdom of God, and inviting others to follow him. Many did.
And then a “D-Day’ occurred = a day of significance, a day of decision regarding the Lord & His kingdom. In the verse just before our lesson, we learn this:
12 On one of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
So, this was a day with many ‘Ds’ = A day of deciding on a dozen disciples, leaders designed to defend the gospel, & to defeat the devil. By choosing & concentrating on just 12 disciples, Jesus was rallying the troops behind 12 future leaders, in order to defeat His kingdom’s enemies, and to carry the gospel mission forward after He ascended. (except for Judas, who would have to be replaced.)
The word ‘disciple’ literally means ‘one who learns’, a student, a trainee. After a night of praying about it, Jesus chose the right 12 students, and they would now be trained, & later sent out; which is what the term ‘apostle’ means: ‘one who is sent out.’
Now we come to our lesson for today. He just chose the Twelve, and as of yet, they were untrained. They had heard & seen a few things, but they had much more to learn before they were ready to be sent out as leaders. So our lesson says that Jesus took them down to a level place, and looking at those 12 disciples, he began their training by teaching them about God’s blessings and woes.
It’s worth noticing that Jesus’ ministering is being done in the presence of both kinds of people: Jews and Gentiles. This is an important lesson for the Twelve to keep in mind = that the message of the kingdom & God’s gracious working is for ALL people: for all nations, tribes, & languages. On this day, they are not gathered in a synagogue among just Jews.
This ‘great multitude’ includes those of various colors, cultures & customs from all over Judea & the Roman Empire, including from the gentile coastal areas of Tyre & Sidon, along the Mediterranean Sea. Just as Peter would’ve seen various kinds of fish in his net on the day of his big catch, so now Jesus demonstrates that the Messiah, & His Words of Life, would be for ALL people of the world = none excluded.
As Jesus teaches, these words remind us of His Sermon on The Mount in Matthew’s gospel. And altho there are many similarities, there are also some differences, and this one is called The Sermon on The Plain. It was delivered at another time & place. A lesson to learn by this is, that the gospel message and God’s word does not change, and it never wears out. A true teaching is worth repeating until it is fully learned, clearly understood, and finally lived.
Because we repeat many of our same sins & disobedience, time & time-again, so God’s words give a repeated correcting, rebuking, encouraging, and training in righteousness for the good of God’s trainees. So Jesus had already preached this sermon on a hillside near Capernaum, by the sea of galilee. But that was okay; His truth was just as valuable the 2nd time around. So, these were 2 important training lessons presented to the Twelve that first day. The good news of the kingdom of God is a solid, unchanging message of truth for all people.
And then we come to content of Jesus’ sermon. He preaches a paradox. A ‘paradox’ is something that seems illogical or contradictory, but may have some reality. Like this statement: +Nobody goes to that restaurant; it’s too crowded. +Don’t go near the water until you’ve learned how to swim. One paradox that has a number of applications in the faith is this: +less is more.
Jesus doesn’t’ teach things that automatically make sense to the fallen, human mind.
He also doesn’t treat people like idiots & just preach a few nice things. Instead, He challenges people with the truth; He stretches their minds to see all things of life in God’s particular way.
God has an important message; a mixed message: both good news and bad news, and the people need to hear it all. His words /rebuke those who need correcting; /they instruct those who are searching & striving after God’s ways, / and they comfort those who face hardship, fear, and doubt. WE also need to hear it all.
The Beatitudes contrast blessings and woes, and are paradoxical. If you are poor, you are blessed; if you are hungry, sad or hated, you are blessed. But that’s not how we usually view things. Who do we see & envy & wish we were? The rich, the well-fed, the laughing & the well-liked. So, when Jesus says, ‘woe’ to them, it makes us pause. This is a good lesson for those Apostles-in-training, because they will begin to experience this paradox very soon in following the Holy God in an unholy world.
It is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith that, as a disciple of Jesus, you are not ‘at home’ in this perishable flesh, and in this sinful decaying world. Instead, your true hope & identity will pass-up many earthly niceties & priorities in order to hold tight & not lose the eternal heavenly riches. The chosen Twelve would struggle with doubts about this; that when times were hard, they would wonder if the sacrifice would be worth it = is heaven worth it?
Jesus was already being hated & opposed in some regions; esp by the pharisees.
The Twelve were already being identified with this new Rabbi who was rocking-the-boat by not going along with the majority, or joining in the progressive culture. He even stood firm on things that were right or wrong, without tolerating man’s flexible morals & excuses.
Perhaps Jesus repeats this sermon to renew the disciple’s courage, that they would continue to follow and not lose heart. All of Jesus’ followers need this same courage, which comes from being taught by The Spirit about God’s view & goal of life: The only blessings that will count eternally are those that come after this life. That makes each day a little ‘D-Day’
as we stand firm & walk in faith in following after our Lord Jesus & his teachings.
So, blessed are those who are willing to face /poverty, /hunger, /sorrow, /& rejection for Jesus’ sake, right now, because they will be /rich, /satisfied, /& rejoicing soon enough in heaven. But woe to those who can’t wait, and so settle for earthly things. Woe to anyone who puts God off, and ignores God’s right ways while they chase after pleasure & satisfaction in earthly things. What they see now will be all they get.
And then, their last hour will come like a thief, and the gate will be locked to them. That’s the trade-off of faith; & that’s a paradox in the human mind. There will be no heavenly reward for those who do not follow The Son now; there will only be woe.
In God’s mind there is no paradox. He knows the truth: a person cannot go in two opposite directions at the same time. Sin has made our desires & this world travel in one direction of man’s will & desires & death. But God is facing the other direction of true life with Him. For the Christian to pursue heavenly things and holy behaviors means giving up some earthly things; it means rejecting many accepted behaviors. And today, as Jesus is teaching you this paradox, do you believe Him or not? Just as He did back then, He points out the ‘woe’ and He holds out the ‘blessing’.
This is a message you & I hear quite often when we come here to be the crowd that Jesus is teaching. He keeps repeating to us His beatitudes of woe & blessing so that we will repeatedly test ourselves to make sure we haven’t taken our eye off the goal; the real goal. We do come here, and we give our thanks to God for the many generous blessings He gives to us: /food & drink, /house & home, /money & goods, /a devout family & good friends. We give thanks for it all; but Christ is above all of those things, & that’s what He talking about today.
Christ is our forgiveness before God, & He makes all those other blessings like ‘dust in the wind.’ He has become our life; His teachings define what the good life looks like & feels like. Could you walk away from all of those other earthly things -if you had to- in order to keep your Lord & Savior & His promise of heavenly life? Let’s not think that the right answer is easy to make; too many have been confronted by the Lord and have turned & walked away.
This is a particular challenge to young people, who walk away because they want to think that they have so much earthly life to live; and they want to experience it, and not have Jesus get in the way. We pray that the Lord will show them mercy, show them reality, and keep seeking after them, and calling them to return to the true blessings of faithfulness.
The reality is this: Our Heavenly Father created us to enjoy a full life; balanced between /physical, /spiritual, /intellectual, /& emotional. Earthly life was to be perfect in every way. But the reality is: sin destroyed all that, and changed us; and turned it all upside down & opposite.
And now, to follow God’s ways, we are forced to make some hard decisions, and to live according to some unpopular standards. But’s the end goal makes it worth it, and that’s what makes us blessed.
Our earthly lives are cursed with being incomplete, unsatisfied, & unfulfilled. And naturally we try to fix that. But without God’s help, we can’t – because we’re sinful; we’re always trying the wrong things, and going in the wrong directions. Neither /money, /nor food, /nor laughter, /nor popularity can fix our spiritual problem. They are all pointed in the wrong direction. The blessing we need will only come when we are ready & willing to be /poor, /hungry, /sad, /or hated in order to be faithful to our Lord.
In all of this, it’s important that we remember who it is that’s teaching to you about these things; it is your Savior, Jesus, the Son of God; who came & lived /poor, /hungry, /sad /& hated, and who took up the cross so that we will not lose heart or lose heaven. While on earth, Jesus was blessed because He lived under the will & promise of His Father. And Jesus’ message today to you is ‘follow me.’
I’ve read that when the ostrich lays her egg, she carefully covers it with sand. Then she meticulously camouflages the location so that no one will harm the egg. In fact, the ostrich is so good at hiding her egg, that if she moves her eye from the site, even she won’t be able to find it again. And so, the ostrich gives all her attention to the egg’s resting place, even if it means sacrificing her own life. If she looks away, she loses everything. For this reason, the symbol of the ostrich egg is present in many Christian churches in the Middle East, and it reminds them to focus completely upon God-thru-Christ during their worship and in their lives.
This is the teaching of Jesus for you today, as you are one His chosen disciples. Good students learn to avoid the woes, and to rejoice in the blessings, and to understand those things as the Lord of Life has defined them.
In Hebrews 12, that message is summarized like this: ‘fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary or lost heart.’