By Sam E. Stone
Luke does not specify the time and place when Jesus delivered the message we study today. It possibly could be the same lesson known as the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5–7). It is also possible that it is a different message delivered at a different time but containing some basic themes and illustrations that are also found in the other. Regardless, this message has one main emphasis—living as God’s people.
Praying and Choosing
Luke 6:12, 13
In Luke 6 the scene changes from the synagogue where Jesus healed on the Sabbath to a mountain where he went out to pray. There he spent the night praying to God. In the morning the Master chose 12 disciples whom he designated as apostles (vv. 13-16). An apostle simply means “one sent” (compare 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25). After his resurrection and just before his ascension into Heaven, Jesus commissioned the apostles to go into all the world with his message (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20:21-23).
Healing and Teaching
Lewis Foster wrote, “Jesus and his newly appointed apostles descended from the higher slopes of a mountain to a level place which, no doubt, formed a natural amphitheater. A vast number of people from all over the land of the Jews and Phoenicia were waiting there.” It is hard for us to imagine the size of the crowds that followed Jesus. The number of people thronging to see him is even more remarkable when we recall that, in his day, the only way people could learn of Jesus’ presence in an area was by word of mouth. Imagine how many more would be there today if people used social media to announce his location to the whole world!
The people came for two reasons, according to Luke—to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Many of the people wanted just to touch the clothing of Jesus. A. T. Robertson noted, “Probably some of them felt that there was a sort of virtue or magic in touching his garments, like the poor woman in Luke 8:43-48.”
In words reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Lynn Gardner pointed out, “Happy is not the best translation because it may be so superficial and selfish. The word blessed means one is really well-off. It describes a spiritual well-being that is not dependent on circumstances.”
The verses that follow expand on this teaching. R. C. Foster wrote, “The Sermon on the Mount presents the highest ideals of living the world has ever received, in the most beautiful language ever conceived. . . . This sermon and, in fact, the whole teaching of Jesus and his inspired apostles place a profound emphasis on the inner life.”
The beatitudes that follow contrast the difficulties of this life with the joy promised in eternity. While it is not easy and is costly to follow Jesus, blessings await the faithful. Heaven is promised, and there we will have no more tears (Revelation 21:4). The four beatitudes are followed by four corresponding woes. Woe is an expression of wailing and lament. It signifies impending disaster. Those who fail to consider the eternal consequences of God’s judgment will one day regret it.
“If we adhere strictly to the virtues which Christ enjoined, we shall find that the world has an evil name for every one of them,” declared J. W. McGarvey. “Earnest contention for his truth is called bigotry; loyalty to his ordinances is dubbed narrowness; strict conformity to the law of purity is named Puritanism, piety is scorned as hypocrisy, and faith is regarded as fanaticism.”
In verses 27 and 28, Jesus moved beyond four blessings and four woes to four commands. Here he taught an unimaginable rule: “Love your enemies . . . pray for those who mistreat you.” His hearers had never heard such a thing. To be sure that they understood what he was commanding, the Lord gave specific illustrations of proper behavior—turn the other cheek, give your shirt to the person who takes your coat, and give to everyone who asks you! He concludes with what the world calls the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The words of Jesus are just as difficult for us to hear and obey today as they were for those living in the first century.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.