Sermon on the Plain, part 6

I suppose now, in verses 24-26 of Luke 6, would be the part where, if set to music, the music would be very heavy and ominous. The strings are laboriously pulling their bows across their instruments and the bass drum is rumbling heavily. With each “woe” Jesus pronounces, the percussion clashes – cymbals and brass come together with great force. And the audience is held captive to the words of Jesus…

“Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Jesus utilizes the physical realities to demonstrate a spiritual truth: it is usually the rich who are well fed. And based upon their self-indulgence, they develop an attitude of superority and self-sufficiency. They need nothing from anyone. However, their self-sufficiency will turn to desperation in the kingdom. They are physically fed, yes, but are impoverished spiritually. One commentator writes, “Jesus is referring to the ultimate reality. In the kingdom of God it is these people who are the paupers. One day they will see this for themselves.” The warning from Jesus is clear: take inventory in this life to ensure you are invested in the spiritual things. But Jesus continues…

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”

Hence, the Christian is to live a stoic life with no joy, right? Wrong. Jesus is instructing through hyperbole. In fact, his entire ministry was against the killjoys of his days and the legalism that stifled joy. Moreover, Jesus said his very purpose in coming was that we “might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Rather, Jesus is pronouncing woe upon those who are the pleasure seekers. But more than that, the final realization of this superficiality is really weeping and mouring. Pleasure is their god and they lead a superficial life. Another commentator calls this “the carefree expression of contentment with the success of the present.” Indeed, the Christians hope and joy is not in the present reality – our hope and joy is founded in the eternal which can never fade.

Our lives are temporary and fleeting. The half-brother of Jesus would call it a vapor that is here for a short time and then vanishes. Jesus, with the pronouncements of woes upon the superficial and the self-reliant, is saying invest in heaven. Rely not on the earth and the things in. Do not be mastered by the flesh and the things of this world but rather find bliss in the kingdom (rule and reign) of God in your life.

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