Special focus on this passage highlights the blessings and woes in Luke’s version of what is often called “The Sermon on the Plain,” by comparing what Jesus says in these verses with Matthew’s version in “The Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5:1-12. Reading these two passages side by side can be a helpful exercise.
These words bring to life the mission Jesus had been embodying all along, “to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the day of the Lord” arriving, today, right there, in their hearing (Luke 4:18).
His words continue to speak to us: on the level place, on a mountaintop, or wherever we encounter them still…
For those who have been kicked to the curb, thrown away with the trash, trampled on by the powerful, exploited by the greedy and run down by life, Jesus speaks of God’s blessing by announcing a great reversal of abandonment, cruelty, injustice, judgment and mortality experienced by the hurting, estranged and forgotten.
Yet, unlike Matthew’s version of this sermon, in Luke’s version Jesus also speaks directly to those who throw away others, trample on the powerless, exploit others by greed, ignore the problems of this world and prop up their own comfort. When Jesus says “woe” (the equivalent of saying ‘God’s warning, judgment and wrath are upon you’) he not only gives a stern word of rebuke, he calls for repentance to turn around to see our fellow human beings in a new restorative way.
The kingdom opens when healing comes.
His sermon continues by calling all his hearers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who hate you and pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28 – part of next week’s passage). Jesus calls us not to crush our enemies but to bring them back into the fold. Community is made by bringing people together, not by eliminating parts of it. Our individual thoughts and actions matter. So do the systems we participate in both active and passive ways. Jesus’ sermon comes as a wake-up call to all of us.
Restorative justice (not punitive justice) is the true healing all of us need. Jesus calls us into that healing together.
When we begin to see our common humanity in an age of dehumanizing the other, blame and deep divisions, it begins to look a bit like the Kingdom of God.
That would be a true blessing.
-Where are you calling out to God for healing and hope in your life?
-Where can you share healing and hope with others?
-What systems do you participate in that hurt others? What will you do about it?