Friday

01 November 2013

“Blessed are you ...” (vv. 20, 21, 22)


Background

In the Gospel of Luke's account of the beatitudes, Jesus outlines both the positive blessings of seeking the kingdom of God and the negative woes of rejecting it. There are echoes here of the consequences of building upon the firm foundation of rock, as opposed to shifting sands (Matthew 7:24-27).

The 'poor' in Jesus' definition includes those who are both spiritually and material poor - ie those who are utterly dependent in every respect upon God. He is not romanticising material poverty but rather underlining that for those who have little, their reliance on divine provision will bring the reward of a place in God's kingdom. (verse 20). Likewise the hungry, both those who need more food to live and those who hunger for justice (Matthew 5:6) will be filled in God's kingdom (verse 21) and those who weep, whether out of personal grief but for a hurting world, will be joyous (verse 22).

The theme of joy is continued in verses 22- 23, even though Jesus is describing persecution for those who follow him. Here Jesus connects the experience of the rejection of the Old Testament prophets to future blessings to underline that present sufferings, however painful, are part of a bigger story which will have a victorious denouement.

Jesus now turns to the bad news! In the obverse of the first three verses, he affirms that those who are currently rich and full and carefree and feel themselves without need of God, will find their self-reliance has its own bitter rewards when the kingdom is consummated (verse 24-25). Once again, Jesus places current popularity in the context of the reception afforded to the prophets (verse 26).

Self-reliance is contrasted sharply with the practical self-denying nature of love that Jesus challenges his followers to emulate, even to those who hate them (verses 27-28), in practical and self-less ways (verses 29-30). A practical governing principle in demonstrating my self-giving love, Jesus says (verse 31), is to afford others the same treatment you yourself would want.


To Ponder

  • The idea of God's salvation has often been caricatured as 'pie in the sky when you die', whilst others have responded that it is more like 'cake on a plate while you wait'. Is it the future or the present reality of God's offer of salvation in Jesus Christ that is more important to you and why is this so?
  • "I can't enjoy anything unless everybody is. If one guy is starving someplace, that puts a crimp in my evening", says Woody Allen in the film Annie Hall. How do you balance joy at your experience of the beauty and creativity of the world God has made with practical concern for it often being sinful, broken and hurting?


Bible notes author: 
The Revd Tim Woolley

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