When you read Luke 6:17-49, you encounter the amazing phrase “Sons of the Most High.”It’s like a raising of the stakes – a new vision of what men can be.
But it’s a tough call, a high climb, and a costly ambition. It’s the character of Jesus made real in the lives of men. The standard? Being willing to give up all you have in this life through the way you live towards others.
Who can “attain” that standard? Only a disciple – someone living in the mercy and grace of God.
The scene is set with huge crowds milling about Jesus. Some from Judea and Jerusalem-these most likely are Jews. But some come from Tyre and Sidon, coastal cities well to the northwest. Most likely these are Gentiles. Luke tells us that some in the crowd are His disciples – not just the Twelve, but many others who want to learn from Him. Others are a “great multitude of people.” It’s a cosmopolitan mix. Some come to hear Him and some to be healed of their diseases. And Jesus heals many and casts demons out of others.
And the crowd includes both “real” disciples and spectators. And tothis large,mixed group Jesus will say (in verse 46), “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” So, (I guess), included among those who don’t obey Him are some whom He has just healed.
Think about that.
- You can benefit from Jesus and still be lost.
- You can feel the love of the kingdom and still be outside it.
- You can taste the goodness of the Word of God and not be transformed by it.
Many people were healed by Jesus, many heard Him speak – and then walked away glad for the spectacle, glad for the physical healing. They didn’t obey Him. They didn’t become like Him.
So to be “a Son of the Most High” requires more than physical healing.
Also, it’s just not enough to be rich, satisfied, happy, and admired. In verses 24-26, Jesus pronounces four woes: On the rich, on the full or satisfied, on the happy or laughing, and on those that people speak well of. Why does Jesus speak these woes? Because all the rich are lost? No. The Bible clearly teaches that some rich people are saved. In this Gospel, Luke tells the story of the conversion of Zaccheus, a rich tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). So Jesus (and Luke) are not saying that all the rich are lost.
First, the crowd assumed that wealth was a sign of God’s approval. Now, they were correct in thinking that riches come from God. As David says in 1 Chronicles 29:12, “Both riches and honour come from You.” But it is wrong to assume that these riches that come from God constitute a reward for godly behavior. As Jesus says in verse 35, “he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Consider: His kindness includes healing the ungrateful who are ill, and providing riches to ungrateful, evil men. Jesus pronounced these woes so that His listeners would know that riches are not a sign of God’s favour.
Second, riches are not only God’s kindness but also God’s test. Indeed, riches are a test that many fail. When God gives us riches, we are tempted: Will we find security and happiness in our riches or in God?
It’s a sobering question, since, by the standards of Jesus’ day, virtually everyone around here is incredibly rich. Our riches are a test. For me. For you. Having wealth does not indicate that I am Son of Most High.
In fact, you might ask: Is your wealth keeping you from discipleship?
Those who hear Jesus’ words are not necessarily Sons of the Most High. In the great crowd around Jesus, one would assume that virtually everyone has ears! That is: they are physically capable of listening. But do they hear? Jesus says there are those who call Him “Lord” but do not obey him. They don’t do what He says. Such a person will lose everything. He will look like he has built a nice house of faith: He goes to church. He has been baptized. He has cleaned up his most obvious sins. He quotes the Bible. But when trials come – in this life, or perhaps not until the final judgment – the true nature of his “faith” will be exposed. His house collapses.
So we’ve seen the warnings: Don’t think you’re ok because you have received some benefit from Jesus. Don’t think you’re ok because you have money, respect, happiness, or satisfaction. Don’t think you’re ok because you have heard Jesus’ words and have called Him Lord. Those are not the right criteria for judging whether or not you are a son of the Most High. So what are they?
I think we have to start with that old song -a hymn I used to sing as a small boy- “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
“Trust” means to acknowledge and depend upon what Christ has done for you in the cross. “Obey” means to act upon that acknowledgement. It’s a tough, gutsy decision, but once you make it, then your house stands rock-solid in the meanest storm and all your life-choices -all of them!- take on a new clarity. You’re heading the Jesus-way.
A son of the Most High.
I’m going to read that whole passage in Luke 6 again right now, and ask the next question: What does the Jesus Way look like?