17 February 2019Luke 6:17-26
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.' (v. 20)
Psalm: Psalm 1
Jesus had spent a night on a mountain, praying. Luke tells us that Jesus came down the mountain and encountered a large crowd who were eager to listen and to be touched by his healing. Perhaps there are echoes of Moses descending from the mountain full of the Holy Spirit, bringing the word of God for the people?
So what did that crowd hear? Perhaps they were taken by surprise. Perhaps they were yearning for revolutionary slogans that would challenge the status quo. Perhaps they already suspected that Jesus’ words would turn the world upside down. They wouldn’t have been disappointed. The form of his words would have been familiar to them. The casting of sharp contrasts between blessing and sorrow was there in the wisdom and the prophets. There’s an example in Mary’s Song in Luke 1:46-55.
Jesus’ message challenges our key assumptions about how the world works. How can poverty be a blessing? How can sorrow bring happiness? Many in that crowd would know about hunger and social exclusion first hand. All of them lived under harsh foreign occupation. These words would have come as a spark of hope – perhaps hope against hope. Perhaps Jesus really meant those inflammatory, prophetic words in the synagogue at Nazareth that had got him into so much trouble (Luke 4:18-19)? Perhaps there is good news for the poor, release for captives, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed?
Let’s not forget just how radical the message of Jesus really is. He proclaims a kingdom where those who are least really are greatest, where the sick are healed and the captives find freedom. That kingdom can be glimpsed now in the transformed lives of those who will follow him and accept the forgiveness and healing he offers. But building the kingdom will take time and perseverance – are we still willing to be counted in? If so, we can expect to face the same ridicule and opposition the prophets did, but we will be travelling in Jesus’ footsteps.
- Who are those in our world who are poor, hungry, full of tears? If they are the ones who are blessed in God’s eyes, how might we view them differently?
- Spend some time asking God how you can be part of the project to build God’s kingdom among those you will encounter this coming week.