We are now enterning a text commonly referred to as “the Sermon on the Plain.” We are familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; however, not many people rush to memorize and quote Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain which is really a shame because it too is a great word from the Lord concerning the kingdom of God. So we will take our time with this study and see what the Lord is really saying and how that impacts our lives today.
The NIV says this was a “level place.” Some scholars will argue that this could have been the same address as the Sermon on the Mount based upon the langauge in the Greek. However, one need not be dogmatic about this. Scholars think Jesus had a sermon which he delivered like a “keynote” at the various places he visited. It was the same message but perhaps delivered differently. You can see the similarities between this sermon and the Sermon on the Mount because both open with the beatitudes and ending with a parable about builders. Also, it would not have been uncommon for Jesus to preach the same message or parts of a message repeatedly for the various crowds and to embed his teaching in his disciples minds.
Luke tells us there was a “large crowd” of his disciples that had gathered to hear him preach on this occasion. He also lists the places that these people were from: all over Judea, Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. This is quite the mix of people and yet Jesus, the Master preacher, is able to address each group and hit their particular need perfectly.
In addition to his ability to preach, these people come out to see the Great Physician. They have come to be healed, made whole. Apparently these people were familiar with the power of Jesus and ,like the woman with the issue of blood who will be introduced in later chapters, seek to touch the hem of his garment. They knew he was the source of healing and that he had the power to make them or their loved one well and came to Jesus. Jesus no doubt met their needs and surpassed that need to an even greater need: a spiritual need. Like a good shepherd, he gently and powerfully preached the word to them.
I believe every Christian can learn from Jesus in this setting. He met their need physically to open a door spiritually. We can do this, but I think too often we simply meet a physical need and miss the spiritual need. This is “soup kitchen” religion – it meets a basic need (food, usually) but then misses the major point. “Soup kitchen” religion is not necessarily a bad thing. The question we must keep coming back is whether this activity I am engaging in is just to appease and silence my conscience, or am I seeking to impact the kingdom and change people lives. We are not just feeding people with bread that lasts for today; we are trying to get them the “bread of life,” which is so much more important.