Living and Loving Like Jesus
Luke chapters 1 and 2 describe the birth narratives of Jesus and John the baptist. They introduce the reader to the promised Messiah who has been prophesied for centuries and who Luke and his sources believe to be fulfilled in Jesus. His public ministry began in chapter 4 continuing on from John’s ministry described in chapter 3. Jesus quickly became a public figure because of his amazing teachings accompanied with signs and wonders. As the crowds followed Jesus, so did the curiosity of the religious elite. Some believed him while others grew in aggression towards him. There were twelve men who Jesus called to be his close disciples. These men, listed in Luke 6:14-16, would become the Apostles who brought their faith in Jesus to the rest of the world – except for Judas who was a traitor.
The section that follows is comparable to Matthew 5-7 commonly referred to as the sermon on the mount. Luke 6:17-49 is referred to as the sermon on the plain. There are similarities between the two sermons and differences also, namely length and location. They also do not appear to sit in the same place in the ministry of Jesus. It appears that Luke and Matthew are recording two different lessons of Jesus.
- 17-19 Drawn to the power of Jesus
- 20-26 Heaven now or later
- 20-23 Blessed are you who…
- 24-26 Woe to you who…
- 27-36 Love like your Father
- 27-31 Love your enemies
- 32-36 Not like this world but like your Father
17-19 Drawn to the power of Jesus
“A large crowd of his disciples was there…” Note that Jesus had just named the 12 disciples and now we hear that there is a large crowd of them. We see a distinction between all those who are following Jesus and those that Jesus has named as his 12.
“…from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon…” Luke has named the region of Judea which is Jew country and includes Jerusalem which is its capital city. He also mentions the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon which extends beyond the Jewish region and is a major trading port to the Mediterranean Sea. The fame of Jesus is far reaching now and is at the brink of going international.
“…people tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.” See also Luke 5:17. It is a mystery how the healing power of Jesus actually worked but no less than the mystery of how God can create the world with just his word. People from far and wide have been drawn to Jesus and his influence is more than just good moral teachings. He had power to heal and this gave him credit as a man sent by God (Acts 2:22).
20-26 Living for heaven now or later
“Looking at his disciples, he said…” Whether to the twelve or to the large crowd of disciples is a minor debate and the context would indicate it was the larger number. It is important to note, though, that the teaching that follows is directed to those who would call themselves a follower of Jesus.
“Blessed are you who…” Each blessing contains a sign of those who will be blessed and a description of why. Some may argue that poor people are all blessed by Jesus here. But the context clarifies his teaching to mean that the disciples of Christ will not seek wealth on this earth because they already have the promise of the kingdom of God. We are not to be people establishing heaven on this earth right now but living in the promise of heaven to come. And the reality right now is that we have the kingdom of God and we have the Son of Man (Jesus).
“Rejoice in that day…” This gives us more clarity about the above conclusion. The day does not refer to a special day in the future but any day when we find ourselves poor, hungry, weeping, hated, insulted in Christ. The reason? Because this has always been the way the people of God have been treated. All those who stand out as disciples of Christ or prophets of God will stand firm on the solid knowledge that they are God’s and they have a reward waiting for them in heaven.
“But woe to you who…” The opposite is listed here and the greater picture is whether our comfort and hope and joy is found in this life or do we put our hopes in the world to come. It is not evil to be rich or well fed or happy or congratulated. But a life seeking these things and finding security in them for their own sake will be the picture of a non-disciple.
27-36 Love like your Father
“But to you who are listening I say…” Jesus reminds us that he is talking to his disciples. And you can’t be a disciple if you’re not listening to Jesus.
“Love your enemies…” The list of ways to love in verses 27-31 is countercultural to say the least and sacrificial at its core. How we treat our enemies, people who hate us, who curse us, and who mistreat us is the opposite of how anybody ever recommends. It’s words like these that make critics wonder if Jesus is actually insane. Is he being dramatic in his prescription in order to get his point across? Well, no. Once we’ve listened to him speak in verses 20 to 26, if we keep on listening (v27) we see that we don’t live for self-preservation and the accumulation of wealth or establishing ourselves here on earth, but we surrender our lives to following Jesus. Want to know what a mature Christian looks like: listen to Jesus here! The sermon on the plain concludes with Jesus’ famous story of the wise and foolish builders (Luke 6:46-49). The things that this world deems as safe and secure and smart living is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. This is a hard teaching that we all need to stop and listen to. Are you still listening?
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Verses 32-36 contains Jesus’ conclusion on the matter of loving as a disciple would love. Our bench-mark is not our fellow man but our Father. If we simply love and do good on the basis of how others have treated us first, then we are not behaving as God does. Remember the gospel: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Many people were coming to Jesus and attracted to his teaching and healing but His description of a disciple is polarising. There is a way that is familiar to us and then there is the kingdom of God. We can choose to be a disciple of this world or a disciple of Jesus and His kingdom. The choice comes with either blessings or woes. We can live and love the way the world does or we can live and love the way a disciple of Jesus should. Because that is the way of the kingdom of God.
Topic A: Listening to Jesus. The sermon on the plain is directed to the disciples of Jesus who needed to be listening. To stop listening is a mark of abandoning Jesus. His lesson in this passage goes directly against the ways of humanity and yet Jesus expects his disciples to listen and understand and put it into practice. This is true of the whole bible. It is a book that steers us away from the judgment of hell and into the protection of grace. It rebukes and corrects. And it instructs us to repent and believe. The bible is not written to approve of us but to approve of all that God has done to redeem us. Discipleship is about listening to the word of God and admitting that it is true.
Topic B: Loving our enemies. This is often a sticking point for people interested in Christianity. Have you heard someone say, “I know I’m called to love everybody but I just cannot love that person!” Does Jesus give us an exception clause in his lesson? The Lord’s prayer compares God’s forgiveness of us with how we forgive others. The gospel itself declares that while we were still enemies of God, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). One way to think of loving is that it is not hating and it is leaving justice and judgment in the hands of God. Do you need to change your behaviour toward some people? Ask God to help you.
Topic C: The joy of God’s promises. Look at the positive ways Jesus talks about the future for his disciples and see how they inspire us to persevere through trials and suffering in this life. Yours is the kingdom of God. You will be satisfied. You will laugh. Your reward will be great. You will be children of the Most High. He is kind to sinners like us, the ungrateful and wicked. He is merciful.
Prayer for the week
Father, thank you for your love and mercy in being kind to the ungrateful and wicked. May we always listen to your voice and follow your Son for eternity. Help us in this world of strife, struggle and suffering and give us now your peace and joy in believing that you will make all things new, at peace and satisfied. May your kingdom come. Amen.