Luke 6 – The Sermon on the Plain
A. Jesus and Sabbath controversy.
1. (1-2) The source of the controversy: the disciples are accused of “harvesting” on the Sabbath.
Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
a. Now it happened on the second Sabbath: If the unnamed first Sabbath was the one mention in Luke 4:31, Luke gave this time marker to show how busy Jesus had been in the two weeks (second Sabbath) since the Sabbath mentioned in Luke 4:31.
i. Clarke, along with others, believe this phrase refers to the first Sabbath after the Passover. There are some textual complications here as well, and the idea may simply be “on the Sabbath.”
b. His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands: There was nothing wrong with what they did. Their gleaning was not considered stealing, according to the provision for the poor of the land given in Deuteronomy 23:25.
c. Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath? The problem was with the day on which they did it. The Rabbis made an elaborate list of “do” and “don’t” items relevant to the Sabbath and this violated one of the items on this list.
i. When the disciples did what they did, in the eyes of the religious leaders they were guilty of reaping, threshing, winnowing, and preparing food. There were therefore four violations of the Sabbath in one mouthful.
ii. This approach to the Sabbath continues today among Orthodox Jews. In early 1992, tenants let three apartments in an Orthodox neighborhood in Israel burn to the ground while they asked a rabbi whether a telephone call to the fire department on the Sabbath would violate Jewish law. Observant Jews are forbidden to use the phone on the Sabbath, because doing so would break an electrical current, which is considered a form of work. In the half-hour it took the rabbi to decide “yes,” the fire spread to two neighboring apartments.
iii. At this time, many rabbis filled Judaism with elaborate rituals related to the Sabbath and observance of other laws. Ancient rabbis taught that on the Sabbath one was forbidden to tie a knot – except a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well, one could not tie a rope to the bucket, but a woman could tie her girdle to the bucket and then to the rope.
2. (3-5) Jesus responds to the accusation with two important principles.
But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
a. Have you not even read this: This was a not-so-subtle rebuke to the religious leaders (the Pharisees of Luke 6:2) who were confident in their knowledge of the Scriptures. This had the effect of Jesus questioning whether or not they ever read or understood their Bibles; He implied that they were ignorant of the essential point of the following Old Testament event.
i. “It is possible to read scripture meticulously, to know the Bible inside out from cover to cover, to be able to quote it verbatim and to pass any examination on it – and yet completely miss its real meaning.” (Barclay)
b. What David did when he was hungry: The reference to David’s use of the holy bread (showbread, or Bread of the Presence) in 1 Samuel 21:1-6 showed the first principle: human need is more important than religious ritual.
i. This is exactly what many people, steeped in tradition, simply cannot accept.
· They don’t believe that what God really wants is mercy before sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).
· They don’t believe that love to others is more important than religious rituals (Isaiah 58:1-9).
· They don’t believe that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
ii. “Any application of the Sabbath Law which operates to the detriment of man is out of harmony with God’s purpose.” (Morgan)
iii. The incident with David was a valid defense, because:
· It was a case of eating.
· It probably happened on the Sabbath (1 Samuel 21:6).
· It concerned not only David, but also his followers.
c. The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath: The second principle was even more dramatic. Jesus said that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and the Lord of the Sabbath was not offended by His disciple’s actions, then these religious leaders should not have been offended.
i. This was a direct claim to Deity. Jesus said that He had the authority to know if His disciples broke the Sabbath law, because He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
3. (6-8) Jesus enters the synagogue and sees the man with the withered hand.
Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood.
a. He entered the synagogue: Luke showed the rising resistance to Jesus and His followers. Yet, Jesus still attended synagogue services and did not forsake the gathering together of God’s people – even when we might think He had reason to.
b. The scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath: By their very actions, the Pharisees admitted that Jesus had the power of God to work miracles, yet they sought to trap Him. It was as if a man could fly and the authorities arrested him for not landing at airports.
i. The religious leaders watched Jesus closely, but with no heart of love for Him. We can watch Jesus, but still be far from our hearts from Him.
ii. “It may even be that they purposely set Jesus up by bringing the man into the synagogue.” (Pate) Perhaps they had a greater expectation that Jesus would do such a miracle than the followers of Jesus had.
4. (9-11) The Lord of the Sabbath heals on the Sabbath.
Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
a. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy? In His question to the religious leaders, Jesus emphasized the truth about the Sabbath. There is never a wrong day to do something truly good.
i. In the legalistic approach taken by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (which went beyond the commands of the Bible itself), they clearly neglected acts of compassion and love to the needy. “Surely, there is no desecration of divine ordinances so powerful as that which clogs the stream of compassion.” (Morgan)
ii. The modern Christian has the challenge of displaying love and compassion to all, and faithfully upholding God’s clearly stated moral standard on matters of social controversy.
b. Stretch out your hand: When Jesus commanded the man “stretch out your hand,” He commanded the man to do something impossible in his current condition. But Jesus gave both the command and the ability to fulfill it, and the man put forth the effort and was healed.
c. They were filled with rage: The reaction of the religious leaders was shocking, but true. When Jesus did this miracle on the Sabbath, He met the needs of simple people and broke the petty religious traditions of the establishment. Obviously, their rage and plotting of murder (discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus) were far greater violations of the Sabbath than the healing of the man’s withered hand.
i. Jesus often rebuked the religious leaders of his day for this kind of heart. He said of them, laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…all too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…making the word of God of no effect through your tradition. (Mark 7:8-9, 7:13)
iii. Jesus wasn’t trying to reform the Sabbath. He tried to show that in their understanding of the Sabbath, they missed the whole point. A legalist wants to debate the rules; but the point wasn’t which rules were the correct rules; the point was the basic way to approach God. We emphasize that it is based not on what we do for Him, but it is based on what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
B. The choosing of the twelve apostles.
1. (12-13) Jesus chooses the twelve.
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:
a. Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray: Jesus was at a critical point in His ministry:
· He offended the traditions of the religious leadership, and they began to plot His death.
· The political leadership also began to plot His destruction (according to Mark 3:6).
· Great crowds followed Him, but they were not interested in spiritual things, and could be quickly turned against Jesus.
i. In response to these pressures and changing situations, Jesus secluded Himself for this time of special prayer. We suppose that Jesus prayed constantly, but for this particular need He went out to the mountain to pray. “Jesus, therefore, to prevent interruption, to give himself the opportunity of pouring out his whole soul, and to avoid ostentation, sought the mountain.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Then, being alone out on the mountain, Jesus continued all night in prayer and before choosing twelve among the disciples who would become His apostles.
b. And continued all night in prayer to God: Jesus was about to choose His disciples. In one sense, there was nothing in Jesus’ three years of ministry before the cross more important than this. These were the men who would carry on what He had done, and without them the work of Jesus would never extend to the whole world. No wonder Jesus gave this critical choice an entire night of prayer.
i. Jesus was God; yet He did not simply use His infinite knowledge to pick the apostles. Instead, He prayed all night. Like every other struggle Jesus faced, He faced this one as a man; a man who needed to seek the will of His Father and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit just as we do.
ii. All night: “One night alone in prayer might make us new men, changed from poverty of soul to spiritual wealth, from trembling to triumphing.” (Spurgeon)
c. He called His disciples to Himself: The disciples (and also the apostles for that matter) belonged to Jesus. Disciples never belong to any man; they only belong to Jesus. They are His disciples.
i. “A disciple was a learner, a student, but in the first century a student did not simply study a subject; he followed a teacher. There is an element of personal attachment in ‘disciple’ that is lacking in ‘student.’” (Morris)
d. From them He chose twelve: Jesus chose twelve apostles because this was the foundation of the new chosen people, and as Israel had twelve tribes Jesus would also have twelve apostles.
e. Whom He also named apostles: From among the group of His followers (the larger group of disciples), He picked twelve to be apostles.
i. The idea behind the ancient Greek word for apostle is “ambassador.” “The Greek word is apostolos, which means ‘sent one’.” (Pate) It describes someone who represents another and has a message from their sender. In this broader sense Jesus was also an apostle according to Hebrews 3:1: consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.
2. (14-16) The twelve listed.
Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
a. Peter… Andrew… James and John: We really do not know much about most of these men. Peter, James, John, and Judas we know something about. Yet of the other eight, we pretty much only know their name. Their fame is reserved for heaven, where their names are on the twelve foundations of God’s heavenly city (Revelation 21:14).
b. There are many interesting connections with this group. There are brothers (James and John, Peter and Andrew); business associates (Peter, James, and John were all fishermen); opposing political viewpoints (Matthew the Roman-friendly tax collector, and Simon, the Roman-hating Zealot); and one who would betray Jesus (Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor).
i. “Judas’s surname of Iscariot probably indicates that he was a man from Kerioth: he thus seems to have been the only Judean among the twelve.” (Geldenhuys)
ii. It seems that the names of the twelve disciples are usually arranged in pairs. “Since Jesus sent His Apostles out two by two, this was a logical way to list them.” (Wiersbe)
· Peter and Andrew.
· James and John.
· Philip and Bartholomew (also called Nathanael in John 1:45).
· Matthew (Levi) and Thomas (his name means “twin”).
· James, son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot.
· Judas, the son of James (also called Thaddaeus in Mark 3:18) and Judas Iscariot.
c. Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor: Jesus chose Judas, knowing how he would turn out and become a traitor. Jesus later told His disciples that He chose them, and He knew one of them was a devil (John 6:70).
i. Jesus also had many others to choose from. He chose these twelve from among many others.
ii. Jesus wasn’t looking for an edgy person to make scandal or controversy. We read of no other scandal surrounding Judas during Jesus’ ministry. The other disciples seemed to do worse things during their three years with Jesus.
iii. Jesus chose Judas knowing him and what he would do, but also knowing that God would allow and even use the great evil Judas did for great good, despite the intention of Judas.
iv. A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The teacher replied, “I don’t know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?”
3. (17-19) Jesus ministers healing and deliverance to a multitude.
And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.
a. He came down with them: Jesus came down with them (His disciples) to serve and bless this crowd. Jesus not only taught them about serving others; He wanted them to help Him. Here they seemed to work as a team.
i. Jesus could have done it all by Himself. But it was important that He work together as a team with these twelve, both for their sake and for the sake of the work.
b. And stood on a level place: The work described in these few verses and the teaching recorded till the end of the chapter took place on a level place. For some, this is a helpful distinction marking the following teaching from the teaching on a mountain described in Matthew 5-7.
i. However, some have observed that the area around the Sea of Galilee – including the traditional Mount of Beatitudes, where the Sermon on the Mount is said to be delivered – is like a mountain when looking from the Sea of Galilee, but like a level place when one stands on or above it.
c. A great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon: People came from great distances to be healed and delivered from demonic spirits by Jesus, even from Gentile cities such as Tyre and Sidon.
d. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: This was a dramatic scene, with hundreds or thousands crowding in upon Jesus to touch Him, hoping to receive something miraculous from Him. In that scene and context, Jesus taught them. We might say that He interrupted the healing service and had a Bible study.
e. Power went out from Him and healed them all: Jesus not only had the power of God in Him; it was also true that power went out from Him as He healed them all.
i. When the woman with an issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed, it says of Jesus: immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him (Mark 5:30). As Jesus served the needs of others, both in His preaching/teaching work and in miraculous deeds, something went out of Him. It cost Him something to be used of God and to serve others.
4. (20a) Jesus prepares to teach His disciples and the multitude.
Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:
a. He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples: Jesus here began a section of recorded teaching often called the Sermon on the Plain, because it was done on a level place (Luke 6:17) and to distinguish it from the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7.
i. The recorded teaching in Matthew 5-7 is similar in many ways to passage in Luke, but there are also differences. Mainly, the Luke account is much shorter. Many wonder if these are two separate occasions of teaching, or the same occasion.
ii. Scholarly opinion is divided on this issue. But we should remember that Jesus was an itinerant preacher, whose main emphasis was the Kingdom of God (see Luke 4:43).
iii. Itinerant preachers often repeat themselves to different crowds, especially when teaching upon the same topic. This is probably the same sermon as Matthew 5-7, but possibly at a different time and a different place.
b. Toward His disciples: In Luke’s gospel, it is no accident that this great message of Jesus comes immediately after Jesus chose the twelve (Luke 6:12-16) and before He sent those disciples to preach throughout the towns of Galilee (Luke 9:1-6). It was part of their teaching to hear and understand this message, because it helped explain clearly what it meant to be a follower of Jesus the Messiah.
i. “It may be surmised that the sermon served a twofold function: to encourage faithfulness among Jesus’ disciples and to challenge non-disciples to follow Him.” (Pate)
ii. It is clear that the Sermon on the Plain (and the Sermon on the Mount) had a significant impact on the early church. The early Christians made constant reference to it and their lives shined with the glory of radical disciples.
c. And said: What Jesus said in the Sermon on the Plain (and in the Sermon on the Mount) has long been recognized as the sum of Jesus’ – or anyone’s – ethical teaching. In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus told His followers and would-be-followers how to live.
i. It has been said if you took all the good advice for how to live ever uttered by any philosopher or psychiatrist or counselor, took out the foolishness and boiled it all down to the real essentials, you would be left with a poor imitation of this great message by Jesus.
ii. The Sermon on the Mount is sometimes thought of as Jesus’ “Declaration of the Kingdom.” The American Revolutionaries had their Declaration of Independence. Karl Marx had his Communist Manifesto. With this message, Jesus explained the agenda and plan of His Kingdom.
iii. It presents a radically different agenda than what the nation of Israel expected from the Messiah. It does not present the political or material blessings of the Messiah’s reign. Instead, it expresses the spiritual implications of the rule of Jesus in our lives. This great message tells us how we will live when Jesus is our Lord.
iv. It is important to understand that the Sermon on the Mount does not deal with salvation as such, but it lays out for the disciple and the potential disciple how regarding Jesus as King translates into ethics and daily living.
v. “This may be an instance of the Jewish method of preaching. The Jews called preaching Charaz, which means stringing beads. The Rabbis held that the preacher must never linger more than a few moments on any topic but, in order to maintain interest, must move quickly from one topic to another.” (Barclay)
C. The surprising plan of God’s kingdom.
1. (20b) Blessings to the poor.
Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
a. Blessed: Jesus promised blessing to His disciples, promising that the poor in spirit are blessed. The idea behind the ancient Greek word for blessed is “happy,” but in the truest, godly sense of the word, not in our modern sense of merely being comfortable or entertained at the moment.
i. This same word for blessed – which in some sense means “happy” is applied to God in 1 Timothy 1:11: according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God. “Makarios then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and changes of life.” (Barclay)
ii. In Matthew 25:34, Jesus said that on the Day of Judgment He would say to His people, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. On that day, He will judge between the blessed and the cursed – He both knows and explains what the requirements are for the blessed one. We can also say that no one was ever blessed more than Jesus; He knows what goes into a blessed life.
iii. “Note, also, with delight, that the blessing is in every case in the presenttense, a happiness to be now enjoyed and delighted in. It is not ‘Blessed shall be,’ but ‘Blessed are.’” (Spurgeon)
b. Blessed are you poor: In the ancient Greek vocabulary there are several words that can be used to describe poverty. Jesus used the word that indicates a severe poverty; the idea is someone who must beg for whatever they have or will get.
i. Immediately, this statement strikes us with its strangeness. Blessed by being poor? That makes no sense at all. Yet the power and wisdom in this truth lies in the fact that the poor man must look to others for what he needs. He has no illusions about his ability to provide for himself.
ii. Though there is much practical wisdom in the teaching of Jesus, He was a spiritual man and taught on spiritual themes. The poverty Jesus had most in mind is poverty of spirit, and that was exactly how He phrased in the sermon recorded in Matthew 5.
iii. The poor in spirit recognize that they have no spiritual assets. They know they are spiritually bankrupt. Poverty of spirit cannot be artificially induced by self-hatred. It comes as the Holy Spirit works in our heart and we respond to Him.
iv. Everyone can start here; it isn’t first blessed are the pure or the holy or the spiritual or the wonderful. Everyone can be poor in spirit. “Not what I have, but what I have not, is the first point of contact, between my soul and God.” (Spurgeon)
c. For yours is the kingdom of God: Yet those who are poor in spirit, so poor they must beg, are rewarded: they receive the kingdom of God. Therefore, poverty of spirit is an absolute prerequisite for receiving the kingdom, because as long as we keep illusions about our own spiritual resources, we will never receive from God what we absolutely need.
i. This blessing to the poor is placed first for a reason, because it puts the following commands into perspective. They cannot be fulfilled in our own strength, but only by a beggar’s reliance on God’s power.
2. (21a) Blessings to the hungry.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.
a. Blessed are you who hunger now: The hungry person seeks. They look for food, and hope to satisfy their appetite. Their hunger drives them and gives them a single focus. Jesus described the blessedness of those who focus on Him and His righteousness like a hungry man focuses on food.
· This passion is real, just like hunger is real.
· This passion is natural, like hunger is natural in a healthy person.
· This passion is intense, just like hunger is.
· This passion can be painful, just like real hunger can cause pain.
· This passion is a driving force, just like hunger can drive a man.
· This passion is a sign of health, just like hunger shows health.
i. It is good to remember that Jesus said this in a day and to a culture that really knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty. Modern man – at least in the western world – is often distant from the basic needs of hunger and thirst. We find it difficult to hunger and thirst after Jesus and His righteousness.
ii. Matthew recorded Jesus giving a similar message, and recorded Jesus with these words: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Since Jesus spoke of more than physical hunger, even His sermon in Luke implies this kind of longing. Hunger for righteousness may express itself in several ways:
· A man longs to have a righteous nature.
· A man wants to be sanctified, to be made more holy.
· A man longs to continue in God’s righteousness.
· A man longs to see righteousness promoted in the world.
b. For you shall be filled: Jesus promised to fill this hungry one; to fill them with as much as they could eat. This is a strange filling that both satisfies us and keeps us longing for more.
3. (21b) Blessings to those who weep.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
a. Blessed are you who weep now: The weeping is for the low and needy condition of both the individual and society; but with the awareness that they are low and needy because of sin. You who weep actually weep over sin and its effects.
i. This mourning is the godly sorrow that produces repentance to salvation that Paul described in 2 Corinthians 7:10. Those who weep can know something special of God; the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10), a closeness to the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).
ii. “I do not believe in that faith which has not a tear in its eye when it looks to Jesus. Dry-eyed faith seems to me to be bastard faith, not born of the Spirit of God.” (Spurgeon)
b. For you shall laugh: The one who does grieve over their spiritual condition can genuinely laugh when God makes things right. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5).
c. Now: In each of these three paradoxical statements – describing a person’s spiritual condition in terms of poverty, hunger, and weeping – Jesus used the hopeful word now.
· You are poor now; you will one day receive the kingdom.
· You are hungry now; you will one day be filled.
· You weep now; you will one day laugh.
i. Some are taken with the idea that Jesus was more a community organizer or revolutionary than a true preacher and teacher, and that Jesus meant for these statements of blessing to subvert the social order and give power to the oppressed.
ii. Jesus was in fact extremely concerned to give power to the oppressed but set His focus against the greatest oppression of all – the tyranny of sin and separation from God in and over a man. While not ignoring the need of those poor, hungry, and weeping in the physical sense, Jesus focused on the spiritual revolution that would change them and eventually, society.
iii. In fact, what Jesus said here is against the spirit of the social revolutionary because He gave people hope in their present poverty, hunger, and weeping. The revolutionary wants to take away all present hope, and demands that people take immediate action (often violent, sometimes murderous) to supposedly change things. The bitter fruit of this thinking can be numbered in the hundreds of millions of dead by the murderers of Communist ideology. Jesus shows a better way, a way of true hope.
4. (22-23) Blessings to the hated.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
a. Blessed are you when men hate you: We think of the people who see themselves as spiritually poor and hungry; who with weeping seek God. It seems impossible that these people would be hated, but they are.
b. Exclude you… revile you… cast out your name as evil: This speaks of the extent of hatred that would be brought against the followers of Jesus; and even worse would come upon them. Jesus said that for this, His followers (for the Son of Man’s sake) would be blessed.
i. It did not take long for these words of Jesus to become true of His followers. Early Christians heard many enemies exclude them, revile them, and regard their name as evil. Christians were accused of:
· Cannibalism, because of gross and deliberate misrepresentation of the practice of the Lord’s Supper.
· Immorality, because of gross deliberate misrepresentation of weekly “Love Feast” and their private meetings.
· Revolutionary fanaticism, because they believed that Jesus would return and there would be an apocalyptic end to history.
· Splitting families, because when one marriage partner or parent became a Christian there was often change and division in the family.
· Treason, because they would not honor the Roman gods and participate in emperor worship.
c. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! It is a paradox to be so happy when so hated, yet these persecuted ones can because their reward is great in heaven, and because the persecuted are in good company: the prophets before them were also persecuted.
i. Trapp names some men who did in fact rejoice and leap for joy when persecuted. George Roper came to the stake leaping for joy and hugged the stake he was burned at as if it were a friend. Doctor Taylor leapt and danced a little as he came to his execution, saying when asked how he was, “Well, God be praised, good Master Sheriff, never better; for now I am almost home…I am even at my Father’s house.” Lawrence Saunders, who with a smiling face embraced the stake of his execution and kissed it saying, “Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life.”
5. (24-26) Strange woes.
“But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.
a. Woe: This was an expression of regret and compassion, not a threat. The woes Jesus spoke seem just as paradoxical as His blessings. We normally see no woe in being rich or full or in laughing, or in being spoken well of.
b. But woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are full: Riches, no sense of need, and continual excitement and good times are a genuine obstacle to the kingdom. We normally won’t come to Jesus the way we should until we know we are poor, hungry, and needing comfort.
i. In each of these paradoxical sayings, Jesus contrasted the current expectations of the kingdom with the spiritual reality of His Kingdom. Jesus told us that God does unexpected things. Jesus mocked the world’s values. He exalted what the world despises and rejected what the world admires. Jesus turned upside-down (rather, right-side-up) their perception of the Kingdom of God.
D. God’s agenda is a plan of love.
1. (27-28) Love your enemies.
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”
a. Love your enemies: This is a shockingly simple command to understand, but difficult one to obey. Jesus told us exactly how to actually love our enemies: do good, bless, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
i. Jesus recognized that we will have enemies. This plan of God’s Kingdom takes into account real-world problems. Though we will have enemies, yet we are to respond to them in love, trusting that God will protect our cause and destroy our enemies in the best way possible, by transforming them into our friends.
b. Do good… bless… pray for those who spitefully use you: The love Jesus told us to have for our enemies was not a warm, fuzzy feeling deep in the heart. If we wait for that, we may never love them. The love for our enemies is a love that does something for them, quite apart from how we might feel about them.
i. Bless those who curse you means that we must speak well of those who speak ill of us.
ii. “We cannot love our enemies as we love our nearest and dearest. To do so would be unnatural, impossible, and even wrong. But we can see to it that, no matter what a man does to us, even if he insults, ill-treats and injures us, we will seek nothing but his highest good.” (Barclay)
2. (29-30) Be willing to suffer wrong.
To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
a. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also: Continuing His astonishing teaching, Jesus said we must accept certain evils committed against us.
i. When a person insults us (strikes you on the one cheek) we want to give them back what they gave to us, plus more. Jesus said we should patiently bear such insults and offences, and not resist an evil person who insults us this way. Instead, we trust God to defend us. France points out that ancient Jewish writings say that striking someone with the back of the hand – a severe insult – was punishable by a very heavy fine, according to Mishnah BK 8:6.
ii. It is wrong to think Jesus meant evil should never be resisted. Jesus demonstrated with His life that evil should and must be resisted, such as when He turned tables in the temple.
iii. “Jesus is here saying that the true Christian has learned to resent no insult and to seek retaliation for no slight.” (Barclay) When we think how Jesus Himself was insulted and spoken against (as a glutton, a drunk, an illegitimate child, a blasphemer, a madman, and so forth) we see how He lived this principle Himself.
iv. It is wrong to think that Jesus meant a physical attack cannot be resisted or defended against. When Jesus spoke of a slap on the one cheek, it was culturally understood as a deep insult, not a physical attack. Jesus did not mean that if someone hits across the right side of our head with a baseball bat, we should allow them to then hit the left side. 2 Corinthians 11:20 probably has in mind this kind of insult slap.
v. It is also wrong to think Jesus meant that there is no place for punishment or retribution in society. Jesus here spoke to personal relationships, and not to the proper functions of government in restraining evil (Romans 13:1-4). I must turn my cheek when I am personally insulted, but the government has a responsibility to restrain the evil man from physical assault.
b. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you: With this, Jesus told us how to deal with people who mistreat, coerce, and manipulate us. We should take command of the situation by sacrificial giving and love.
i. Under the Law of Moses, the outer cloak was something that could not be taken from someone (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:13).
ii. “Jesus’ disciples, if sued for their tunics (an inner garment like our suit but worn next to the skin), far from seeking satisfaction, will gladly part with what they may legally keep.” (Carson)
iii. “The old said, Insist on your own right, and loving your neighbor, hate your enemy, and so secure your safety. The new says, Suffer wrong, and lavish your love on all.” (Morgan)
c. From him who takes away your goods do not ask them back: We can only practice this kind of sacrificial love when we know that God will take care of us. We know that if we give away our tunic, God has plenty more of them to give us.
i. The only limit to this kind of sacrifice is the limit that love itself will impose. It isn’t loving to give into someone’s manipulation without our transforming it into a free act of love. It isn’t always loving to give or to not resist.
ii. We might say that Paul repeated this idea of Jesus: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
3. (31) The Golden Rule.
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
a. Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise: The negative way of stating this command was known long before Jesus. It had long been said, “You should not do to your neighbor what you would not want him to do to you.” But it was a significant advance for Jesus to put it in the positive, to say that we should do unto others what we want them to do unto us.
i. “The Golden Rule was not invented by Jesus; it is found in many forms in highly diverse settings. About A.D. 20, Rabbi Hillel, challenged by a Gentile to summarize the law in the short time the Gentile could stand on one leg, reportedly responded, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.’ (b. Shabbath 31a). Apparently only Jesus phrased the rule positively.” (Carson)
ii. In so doing, Jesus made the command much broader. It is the difference between not breaking traffic laws and in doing something positive like helping a stranded motorist. Under the negative form of the rule, the goats of Matthew 25:31-46 could be found “not guilty.” Yet under the positive form of the Golden Rule – Jesus’ form – they are indeed found guilty.
b. You also do to them likewise: This especially applies to Christian fellowship. If we would experience love and have people reach out to us, we must love and reach out to others.
i. “Oh, that all men acted on it, and there would be no slavery, no war, no swearing, no striking, no lying, no robbing; but all would be justice and love! What a kingdom is this which has such a law!” (Spurgeon)
ii. This makes the law easier to understand, but it doesn’t make it any easier to obey. No one has ever consistently done unto others as they would like others to do unto themselves.
4. (32-35) Loving after the pattern of God’s love.
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
a. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?We should regard it as no matter of virtue, and no imitation of Jesus, if we merely return the love that is given to us.
i. Remember, Jesus here taught the character of the citizens of His kingdom. We should expect that character to be different from the character seen in the world. There are many good reasons why more should be expected from Christians than others:
· They claim to have something that others do not have; they claim to be renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
· They do in fact have something that others do not have; they are in fact renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
· They have a power that others do not have; they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.
· They have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.
· They have a better future than others do.
b. You will be sons of the Most High: In doing this, we imitate God, who shows love towards His enemies, and is kind to the unthankful and evil.
i. “What does God say to us when he acts thus? I believe that he says this: ‘This is the day of free grace; this is the time of mercy.’ The hour for judgment is not yet, when he will separate between the good and the bad; when he will mount the judgment seat and award different portions to the righteous and to the wicked.” (Spurgeon)
ii. This is an example – that we also are to love our enemies and bless them if we can. In doing so we show ourselves to sons of the Most High. “We are made sons by regeneration, through faith in the Son; but we are called to make our calling and election sure – to approve and vindicate our right to that sacred name. We can only do this by showing in word and act that the divine life and principles animate us.” (Meyer)
5. (36-38) The principles to follow.
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
a. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful: In the Kingdom of Jesus, we have a pattern for the way we should give mercy to others. We should be merciful to others the way God has been merciful to us. That’s a lot of mercy, and would only require more mercy from us, not less.
b. Judge not, and you shall not be judged: With this command Jesus warned against passing judgment upon others, because when we do so we will be judged in a similar manner.
i. Among those who seem to know nothing of the Bible, this is the verse that seems to be most popular. Yet most the people who quote this verse don’t understand what Jesus said. They seem to think (or hope) that Jesus commanded a universal acceptance of any lifestyle or teaching.
ii. Just a little later in this same sermon (Luke 6:43-45), Jesus commanded us to know ourselves and others by the fruit of their life, and some sort of assessment is necessary for that. The Christian is called to show unconditional love, but the Christian is not called to unconditional approval. We really can love people who do things that should not be approved of.
iii. So while this does not prohibit examining the lives of others, it certainly prohibits doing in the spirit it is often done. An example of unjust judgment was the disciples’ condemnation of the woman who came to anoint the feet of Jesus with oil (Matthew 26:6-13). They thought she wasted something; Jesus said she had done a good work that would always be remembered. They had a rash, harsh, unjust judgment.
· We break this command when we think the worst of others.
· We break this command when we only speak to others of their faults.
· We break this command when we judge an entire life only by its worst moments.
· We break this command when we judge the hidden motives of others.
· We break this command when we judge others without considering ourselves in their same circumstances.
· We break this command when we judge others without being mindful that we ourselves will be judged.
c. Condemn not… forgive: Jesus expanded the idea beyond simply judging others. He also told us to condemn not and to freely forgive.
d. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over: Jesus encouraged the freedom to give without fearing that we will become the loser in our giving. He wanted to set us free from the fear of giving too much.
i. This is true and has been tested when it comes to generosity with material resources. Simply said, you can’t out-give God. He will return more to you, in one way or another, more than you give to Him. Yet the most pointed application of this in context is not so much the giving of material resources, but with giving love, blessing, and forgiveness. We are never the loser when we give those things after the pattern of God’s generosity.
ii. Put into your bosom: “The Jew wore a long loose robe down to the feet, and round the waist a girdle. The robe could be pulled up so that the bosom of the robe above the girdle formed a kind of outsize pocket in which things could be carried. So the modern equivalent of the phrase would be, ‘People will fill your pocket.’” (Barclay)
e. With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you: This is the principle upon which Jesus built the command, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” God will measure unto us according to the same measure we use for others. This is a powerful motivation for us to be generous with love, forgiveness, and goodness to others. If we want more of those things from God, we should give more of them to others.
i. We might say that Jesus did not prohibit the judgment of others. He only requires that our judgment be completely fair, and that we only judge others by a standard we would also like to be judged by.
ii. When our judgment in regard to others is wrong, it is often not because we judge according to a standard but because we are hypocritical in the application of that standard – we ignore the standard in our own life. It is common to judge others by one standard and ourselves by another standard – being far more generous to ourselves than others.
iii. According to the teaching of some rabbis in Jesus’ time, God had two measures that He used to judge people. One was a measure of justice and the other was a measure of mercy. Which ever measure you want God to use with you, you should use that same measure with others.
iv. We should only judge another’s behavior when we are mindful of the fact that we ourselves will be judged, and we should consider how we would want to be judged.
E. The distinction between two ways.
1. (39-42) Illustrations centered around the idea of seeing.
And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
a. Can the blind lead the blind? This is obvious. The blind can’t lead the blind. Therefore we should never look to other blind men to lead us; nor should we try to lead others in our blindness. Instead, we should make Jesus our leader, our teacher, who sees and knows all things.
i. Jesus reminded us that some supposed leaders are blind – beware of them. Later Jesus said of some of the religious leaders of His day, They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14)
ii. “Though the Pharisees and teachers of the law had scrolls and interpreted them in the synagogues, this does not mean that they really understood them…The Pharisees did not follow Jesus; so they did not understand and follow the Scriptures.” (Carson)
iii. In these words of Jesus we see the guilt of those who are blind leaders of the blind. We also see the responsibility of followers to make sure their leaders are not blind.
b. A disciple is not above his teacher: A disciple was much like a student, with the added element of following and patterning after the master or teacher. In this way, the disciple would never be greater than the teacher, yet everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. We will become like those we follow, so we must decide to choose good teachers to follow.
i. In this perfectly clear and logical truth, Jesus gave a wonderful promise. As we are taught by Him and grow in Him, we will become more like Jesus. More and more, we are conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) and ultimately, when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
ii. “The Lord Jesus became like unto us in our low estate, that we should become like Him in his glory…There must every be the limitation of the creature as compared with Him by whom all things were made. But in our measure there shall be the same perfect beauty – his beauty upon us.” (Meyer)
c. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? The figures of a speck and a plank are real figures used humorously. Jesus shows that we are generally far more tolerant to our own sin than we are to the sin of others.
i. Though there might be a literal speck in one’s eye, there obviously would not be a literal plank or board in an eye. Jesus used these exaggerated, humorous pictures to make His message easier to understand and more memorable.
ii. It is a humorous picture: A man with a board in his eye trying to help a friend remove a speck from the friend’s eye. You can’t think of the picture without smiling and being amused by it.
iii. An example of looking for a speck in the eye of another while ignoring the plank in one’s own is when the religious leaders brought the woman taken in adultery to Jesus. She had certainly sinned; but their sin was much worse and Jesus exposed it as such with the statement, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first (John 8:7).
d. You yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye: Jesus indicates that the one with the plank in his own eye would not immediately be aware of it. He is blind to his obvious fault. It is the attempt to correct the fault of someone else when we ourselves have the same (or greater fault) that earns the accusation, “Hypocrite!”
i. “Jesus is gentle, but he calls that man a ‘hypocrite’ who fusses about small things in others, and pays no attention to great matters at home in his own person.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Our hypocrisy in these matters is almost always more evident to others than to ourselves. We may find a way to ignore the plank in our own eye, but others notice it immediately. A good example of this kind of hypocrisy was David’s reaction to Nathan’s story about a man who unjustly stole and killed another man’s lamb. David quickly condemned the man, but was blind to his own sin, which was much greater (2 Samuel 12).
e. First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye: Jesus didn’t say that it was wrong for us to help our brother with the speck in his eye. It is a good thing to help your brother with his speck, but not before dealing with the plank in your own eye.
2. (43-45) We can only follow Jesus this way if we have been radically changed by Him. If Jesus has touched us, it will show in our lives.
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
a. A good tree does not bear bad fruit…every tree is known by its own fruit: This fruit is the inevitable result of who we are. Eventually – though it may take a time for the harvest to come – the good or bad fruit is evident, revealing what sort of tree we are. Not every tree is the same.
i. “Not to have good fruit is to have evil: there can be no innocent sterility in the invisible tree of the heart. He that brings forth no fruit, and he that brings forth bad fruit, are both only fit for the fire.” (Clarke)
ii. “It is not merely the wicked, the bearer of poison berries, that will be cut down; but the neutral, the man who bears no fruit of positive virtue must also be cast into the fire.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Just before this Jesus warned us to judge ourselves first, to look for the speck in our own eye before turning our attention to the beam in our neighbor’s eye. Therefore before asking it of anyone else, we should first ask: “Do I bear fruit unto God’s glory?”
b. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks: Our words reveal our heart. If there is good treasure in the heart, it will show; if evil, that also will show in time. Our words say more about us than we think, and reveal that some are good men and some are evil men.
3. (46-49) Concluding exhortation: doing what Jesus commanded is our foundation.
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”
a. But why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and do not do the things which I say? Jesus made a distinction between those who merely make a verbal profession of faith, and those who actually both hears His sayings and does them.
i. We must use the language of “Lord, Lord” – we cannot be rescued if we do not. Though hypocrites may say it, we should not be ashamed to say it. Yet it alone is not enough.
ii. This warning of Jesus applies to people who speak or say things to Jesus or about Jesus, but don’t really mean it. It isn’t that they believe Jesus is a devil; they simply say the words very superficially. Their mind is elsewhere, but they believe there is value in the bare words and fulfilling some kind of religious duty with no heart, no soul, not spirit – only bare words and passing thoughts.
iii. This warning of Jesus applies to people who say “Lord, Lord” and yet their spiritual life has nothing to do with their daily life. They go to church, perhaps fulfill some daily religious duties, yet sin against God and man just as any other might. “There are that speak like angels, live like devils; that have Jacob’s smooth tongue, but Esau’s rough hands.” (Trapp)
iv. Jesus put this in the form of a question: Why? “If we are disobedient, why continue the profession of obedience?… Each soul guilty of the wrong referred to must face this ‘Why?’ alone. All that need be said is, that to do so will inevitably be to discover the unworthiness of the reason.” (Morgan)
b. Whoever comes to Me: Here, in three brief points, Jesus described the one who does follow Him in wisdom and truth – and went on to illustrate the wisdom of that one.
i. “Carefully note the three-fold condition. 1. ‘Every one that cometh to Me,’ surrender. 2. ‘And heareth My words,’ discipleship. 3. ‘And doeth them,’ obedience.” (Morgan)
c. He is like a man building a house: In Jesus’ final illustration of the two builders, each house looked the same from the outside. The real foundation of life is usually hidden and is only proven in the storm.
i. “The wise and the foolish man were both engaged in precisely the same avocations, and to a considerable extent achieved the same design; both of them undertook to build houses, both of them persevered in building, both of them finished their houses. The likeness between them is very considerable.” (Spurgeon)
d. When the flood arose: Jesus warned that the foundations of our lives will be shaken at some time or another, both now (in seasons of difficulty) and in the ultimate judgment before God. It is better that we test the foundation of our life now rather than later, at our judgment before God when it is too late to change our destiny.
i. Time and the storms of life will prove the strength of one’s foundation, even when it is hidden. We may be surprised when we see who has truly built upon the good foundation. “At last, when Judas betrayed Christ in the night, Nicodemus faithfully professed him in the day.” (Trapp)
e. He who heard and did nothing: Merely hearing God’s word isn’t enough to provide a secure foundation. It is necessary that we are also doers of His word. If we are not, we commit the sin that will surely find us out, the sin of doing nothing (Numbers 32:23) – and great will be our ruin.
i. Yet no one can read this without seeing that they have not, do not, and will not ever completely do them. Even if we do them in a general sense (in which we should), the revelation of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount drives us back again and again as needy sinners upon our Savior.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission