Jesus came down with His apostles after naming them in Luke chapter 6, and stood “on a level place.” Here, verse 17 tells us that, along with His disciples, there was a “great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.” And He healed them all.
What follows here in Luke is a sermon that many commentators have tried to “harmonize” with the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7. The similarities are not nearly enough to make up for the differences in circumstances, timing, and content. This is why more astute scholars have dubbed this one as the “Sermon on the Plain.” The Beatitudes here are substantively different from those in Matthew – less of them, as well. The “woes” here are not in the sermon in Matthew at all. Jesus sat on a hill in Matthew. He stood on a level place here. He preached this sermon right after naming His apostles. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew was long before that event. We could keep going, but you get the idea. It is no surprise that parts of Jesus’s messages bore repeating on numerous occasions.
So what about these woes? What is that all about? The answer comes from reading them in context with the corresponding beatitudes. Let’s take a look at them individually. The first beatitude says “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” The first woe says“but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Does Jesus mean that all of those who are poor are going to inherit the kingdom of God merely by virtue of their poverty? Is he condemning people that are wealthy – and simply because they are wealthy? The answer, of course, is no on both counts. The point is that those who are poor should take heart in the fact that they have the blessed opportunity for eternal life with God. Those who are wealthy have that same opportunity, of course, if they do not allow their satisfaction with their wealth to be the driving force of their lives. Therein lies the danger of woe.
It is the same for the remaining beatitudes and woes, which describe opposite circumstances of life. There is great hope for all through Jesus Christ, but when this earthly life is going very well for people, some tend to be complacent and neglect the treasures they should be putting up in heaven.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.