The Jesus Way of living -as outlined in Luke 6- is extraordinary. In the familiar line by G.K.Chesterton: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Luke 6: 27 begins: “I say to you who hear…” The implication is that some just don’t get it. They hear the words, gawk at the miracles and shake their heads affably at the wonder of it all. But miss the point.
The point is that the word spoken is intended to evoke a response.
And those that really hear -really understand- are those who respond. They take up the challenge of living the Jesus Way. It really is as stark as Corrie Ten Boom put it: “Don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.”
Otherwise, the first storm that comes along will knock you off your feet.
Have you seen videos of those Tsunamis? – those scary walls of water overwhelming everything in their path? Jesus makes the claim that the one who hears and obeys His word is building a house that no Tsunami, can break down. The waters will beat against the house, but in the end they will recede, leaving the house standing. If you are a “Son of the Most High” then nothing can change that. Nothing can take you out of your Father’s hand. No opposition. No temptation. No persecution. The one who hears and obeys is a Son of the Most High – despite any appearance to the contrary.
Jesus gives an example of this truth at the beginning of the passage. In verse 20,21, Jesus looks straight at His disciples. And then He speaks to a massive crowd, but the main focus of His words are to those truly “get it,” who want to learn from him, who like Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Levi have left everything to follow him. And what does He say? In a nutshell, Jesus says, “If you hear my words and do them, then your poverty doesn’t matter. Your poverty is not a sign of God’s anger or disappointment with you. Quite the contrary: You have the kingdom! You will be satisfied! You will laugh!”
Jesus is not saying that every poor person is happy and blessed. He is not saying that every poor person is in the kingdom.
Mind you, the poor do have some advantages. It is easier for a truly poor person to see his dependence on God. For a truly poor person knows that death could come at anytime, while the rich can pretend that they are in control of death. The truly poor person knows he might not have anything to eat for his next meal, while the rich never face involuntary hunger. The truly poor person knows that disease might hit him at any time, that he might thus be unable to work, and so might starve, while the rich have access to medical care and savings. Despite these advantages, Jesus makes clear in verses 22-23 that His followers, rather than all the poor, are the ones who are blessed.
There are no blessings for the one who is hated because he’s annoying; there are no blessings for the one who is excluded because he talks all the time. Indeed, there are no blessings for the one who is reviled because of his poverty. Instead, the blessings are for those who are hated, excluded, and reviled on account of the Son of Man. Such persons are to rejoice and leap for joy. Why? Because “Great is your reward in heaven.”
Note the expression “for behold” in verse 23. The two Greek words translated “for behold” appear together only seven times in the New Testament. Every time they mean something like: “Pay attention: this is really unexpected and great!” One example that you might remember is in Luke 2:10. The angel appears to the shepherds at night. They cower in fear. He says, “Fear Not! For behold I bring you good news of great joy.”
So in verse 23, Jesus is saying, “All these terrible things can come upon you – but rejoice! For behold (Pay attention! This is really important!): Your reward in Heaven is very great! Jesus says, “You are suffering now. I know it. I feel it. But if you are suffering all this for My sake – you will never lose. You will receive much more than you ever give up. Hold on to that! Remember that! Live in the light of that!”
There’s a radiant confidence in the Big Picture – that God can not only be trusted in the storm, but glorified through it, and that all will be well.
This is how Jesus lived, of course:”I have come to do thy will, O Lord.” Everything is secondary to that primary directive. Family ties are subordinated to kingdom ones. Reputation, prospects, ambition, relationships, security – every driving principle is realigned around a new centre.
Are you so confident in God’s sovereign love and control, that you can hear Jesus’ words and do them no matter what?
Luke 6:27-38 contain some of His most challenging commands. The central command in these verses is: “Love your enemies.” Jesus isn’t talking about conjuring up warm, fuzzy feelings for those who hate your guts. Instead, see how He elaborates on this command: “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” We are to be so changed on the inside that we take actions that benefit those who hurt and hate us.
The point is illustrated. If someone hits or slaps you on the cheek (The idea is probably an affront to your honour and respect rather than a physical attack.),then how do you react? You let him do it again. You don’t lash back. You don’t plot how to get even. You don’t try to save face. You let him do it again. Someone is stealing from you – you let him take what you think you need, and don’t demand it back. Someone begs from you – and you give willingly.
You’re happy about that, right?
Jesus goes further: The idea is not: “Whatever other people want to do, let them do it.” The point is: “Act out of love for the other person. Don’t look to your own interests. Do what is best for the other.” The idea is: Don’t guard yourself. Don’t worry about yourself. Be willing to lose – for Jesus sake, to show Jesus’ love.
Why should we live this way? How can we possibly live like this way?
We are not only to love the people who love us. There is no benefit, no grace in that. That’s common in the world. Similarly, there is no benefit in doing good to those who do good to us. That’s also a commoplace. People are always paying back those who have helped them, or doing something nice for someone in the hope that in the future they will get something in return. Again, there is not benefit in lending money to someone who you think will then lend you money in the future when you need a loan. That’s just rational self-interest. T
So what is the benefit from truly loving our enemies?
Simply this: Our reward is great: We are sons of the Most High! We are living God;s way! We too are kind to the ungrateful and evil. When we live that way, when we truly love our enemies, we are showing what He is like. We are glorifying God. We are fulfilling the purpose of our creation.
He is not saying, “This is the right thing to do. So just do it!” Instead, He is saying: “Living in this way looks to be risky. It looks like you will lose all. I know that. But listen to me: That is not the case! This is the greatest investment you can make! So lose your self-importance. Be willing to lose your possessions, your comfort, your status. Gain what is infinitely more precious: Take on God’s character. Become like Him. You will be a Son of the Most High. You will have much greater reward in heaven.”
Do you believe Jesus when He says this? Will you quit making sure you are ok – and simply love God, love others, and follow Him?