When I was in Bible college, the cold weather changed and everyone suddenly had spring fever. Imagine our delight when we arrived at Educational Ministries class to find a note on the chalk board to meet the professor under a nearby tree!
We all sat down on the grass and he began to teach us. The story of Jesus teaching the disciples in Luke chapter 6 always reminds me of that occasion.
Jesus Teaches All who Will Listen
According to Luke, Jesus just finished choosing his twelve disciples and had taken them down the mountain to a level place to teach them. But they were not alone; there were many other disciples there as well as crowds who came from long distances to hear Jesus.
There Jesus taught not only his followers but anyone willing to listen.
Proclaiming the Good News to the Poor
However, what they heard that day was quite different from what they expected. His message seemed to turn reality upside down! Jesus began:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
The word ‘blessed’ means happy or fortunate. How can the poor, hungry, and mournful be considered fortunate? It is because their current circumstances will not prevail. Jesus brought the good news of the kingdom of God—the Father’s community on earth. The poor would become part of this community, the hungry would be satisfied, and those who mourned would laugh.
Their marginalization, alienation, and neglect by others would come to an end because the Father makes a place for them in his community. In addition, they have eternal life in the future where there is no poverty, hunger, or mourning.
In the very next chapter of Luke, when John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the expected one, Jesus did not say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Instead he responded:
Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
I am sure this is all the answer John the Baptist needed, as it recalls the opening words of Isaiah chapter 61:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
What is the Practical Value of the Good News?
Does this mean the poor will no longer be poor? Not necessarily. But they are fortunate in that they now have meaning and purpose to their lives. They are no longer marginalized and unnoticed for they are members of the Father’s new community.
The good news tells us they are important to God, even if they are unimportant to leaders of this world. Injustice is not the final word for them. They are fortunate in that their hunger ‘now’ will ultimately be satisfied and their weeping ‘now’ will turn to laughter.
Receiving the good news of the Father’s community brings about a change of attitude and orientation. Despair turns to joy–as believers, we recognize that we are part of the work of the Father to resolve alienation, restore dignity to all people, and ultimately live in peace and happiness in the Father’s community.
This change of attitude does not relieve us of all hunger, pain, and trouble in this life, but it delivers us from dehumanization and utter dejection. This change of orientation gives us strength and a sense of self-worth.
Fortunate are You When People Hate You
But Jesus is not finished:
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Following Jesus does not always make people like you. In fact, followers of Jesus are often hated because they seem empowered against intimidation from those who wish to dominate their minds and control their allegiance. People treated Jesus badly–and later his followers. They excluded believers, insulted them, and defamed their reputations.
However, this does not mean believers in every time and culture will be hated and persecuted. We should not seek persecution, and we certainly should not consider ourselves persecuted when we are not. But when we find ourselves persecuted we should keep it in perspective and ‘leap for joy’, because great is our reward in heaven.
But wait until you hear what Jesus has to say about the rich and comfortable!
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