Apostles Selected (6:12-16)
Jesus is about to make an important decision. The decision is so important that Jesus goes out to a mountain and prays all night to God. When the day comes, Jesus calls his followers and chooses twelve of them. He calls them “apostles.” The word “apostle” literally means “one sent,” picturing a messenger. But these twelve are not just mere messengers for Jesus. These twelve men were to function as his representatives and mouthpieces for the message of the kingdom. It should not surprise us that Jesus selects twelve followers to be his apostles. Just as the twelve sons of Jacob founded the Old Testament people of God, so also the twelve apostles established the foundation of the new people of God (Ephesians 2:20). One other thing is worthy of observation before we move forward. There are four lists recorded in the New Testament of the apostles’ names. Peter’s name is always first and Judas Iscariot’s name is always last. This is also with good reason since Judas would betray Jesus and Peter leads the twelve and represents them.
What The Good Life Looks Like, What Looks Life The Good Life But Isn’t (6:17-26)
Verses 17-19 reveals that great crowds of his disciples and great multitudes of people from all over the surrounding regions, and even Jerusalem, were coming to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. I love the subtly of verse 19. “And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.” The power of healing is just pouring out of Jesus. Power is coming out of him. Have you thought about the gravity of Luke’s statement? People are just trying to touch him because power was coming out from Jesus and touching Jesus would make them well. Imagine the multitudes crowding Jesus and people pushing to try to touch Jesus. This would be worse than what Hollywood celebrities deal with from the paparazzi. Every step Jesus takes would have people crowding into him to touch him. So Jesus stops and begins to teach. This section of teaching has often been called, “The Sermon on the Plain.” The lesson is similar to the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew’s gospel. But there are some very serious differences that should cause us to see the Sermon on the Plain as a separate, unique sermon that is not parallel to the Sermon on the Mount.
One of the unique features of this sermon is that Jesus does not just teach who is blessed, like the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus not only teaches who are blessed but also offers the counterbalance of woes: those who are going to experience pain and anguish. Notice the first blessing and woe combination.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation (vs. 20,24).
This is probably a fairly shocking statement that may even bother us and cause us to be uncomfortable. Luke recorded earlier that the gospel Jesus promised to preach was “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). This teaching goes contrary to the way we think religion operates. We want to read the Sermon of the Mount into the text at this moment and say that what Jesus means are those who are “poor in spirit.” But that is not what Jesus said. Theophilus did not have Matthew’s gospel and no one reading this sentence would think that Jesus is talking about the poor in spirit. Jesus is talking about material possessions. Verse 24 confirms that Jesus is talking about material possessions when he pronounces a woe on the rich. The problem is that many measure God’s blessing in their lives by looking at their bank accounts. Jesus is teaching us to throw that kind of thinking away. It is the people who are poor who can be blessed by God. God’s kingdom is for people who do not seek their wealth and life in earthly things. Rather, God’s kingdom is for people who acknowledge their own poverty and come to Jesus for true life (Geldenhuys, 210).
Why? Why is the kingdom of God for the poor? The reason is that the poor are those who will seek after God. Those who are well off financially do not see their need. They think they have all their need. Churches often make enormous mistakes by moving out of the downtown of a city and relocating to the suburbs because it is the poor, those who have nothing to rely on in this world materially, that begin to seek God. The more we have, the greater difficulty in seeking after God because we have so many other things that get in the way. We are comfortable and our priorities are upside. The corresponding woe helps us understand what Jesus is driving at and pressing into us. The rich have received their consolation and comfort. We are happy because we have material things. Our rest is not in Jesus, but in the couch. Our leisure is in the television, not in the word of God. We check Facebook more often than we check in with God in prayer. We have things that distract our attention away from God. I hope we are broken by the thought that our material possessions are quenching the fire for serving God. Perhaps we are the ones that Jesus would say to sell all we had to be his disciple. We are constantly assaulted with the temptation to rely on our riches. We are dulled to our spiritual needs because we have so much physically. Blessed are the poor because they do not have the distractions, possessions, and wealth that pull us away from the service and love that God demands.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry (vs. 21,25).
Those who are not satisfied with the things of this world are blessed. Blessed are those who are not comfortable now. We are not to be content with living in this world. We are not to find our satisfaction in the things of this world. This thought follows the sentiment of one of our popular Christian hymns, This World Is Not My Home. When we are filled on the things of this world, then we stop looking for the things God has to offer. We do not act like we are strangers living in tents on this earth. We have our wealth and we have our homes and we have given this world our allegiance. I fear that we have grown too comfortable in this world. We find too much of our joy in this world and not in God. Our lives are simply too focused on this world. Jesus tells us that their are sorrows and anguish to those who are full now because we will be hungry. We are failing to recognize how much we are going to miss by being satisfied with the things of this world. We fail to consider how much will be lost to us when the glory of the Lord is revealed. The satisfactions and comforts of this world are not worth missing the riches of eternity in the presence of our heavenly Father. David pictures the kind of desire we are to have for God now.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1–2; ESV)
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1; ESV)
When we find our love and satisfaction in the things of this world, then we will not have this longing. Living in lack gives us something to look toward.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep (vs. 21,25). One quickly becomes aware of the common theme of these beatitudes. Our life joy cannot be of this world. We cannot find all of our pleasure and all of our desires in this world. If our joy is in this world, then we will be sorry because we are going to miss out on the great joy when Christ returns. Too many who claim to be Christians are living for all there is to find in this life. They want to fulfill all their desires and pleasures. There are many sorrows to come for those who live to party now and seek after the joys of this world, rather than the spiritual joys and pleasures from God. Society tells us to do what makes us happy. Jesus says there is a problem with that. You may have some joys now, but there will be eternal consequences for those choices. Living for yourself and living for the now will bring consequences.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (vs. 22-23,26)
People are going to hate you if you have a devotion to Jesus. Following Christ and popularity do not go together. We are not going to fit. We will not be part of the crowd. Light stands in contrast to darkness. If people readily accept us, then we are not living a godly life. People are not going to like what we believe. People are not going to like what we teach. They are not going to like that we hold to an objective standard of morality. They are going to exclude us and revile us when we obey the word of God.
Do you see what Jesus says to do when we suffer because of Jesus. Rejoice! Rejoice and leap for joy because you know that you have a great reward in heaven. Understand that we have made the right choice. We cannot be people pleasers, but God pleasers. We cannot please God and please all people. We have a saying that you can’t please everyone. Those words are so true. But let’s add to that proverb. If you try to please everyone, you will not please God. If you please God, you will not please people. A disciple of Jesus must understand that we cannot live our lives by opinion polls. We cannot be worried if a doctrine is unpopular. We cannot attempt to do things in worship to please and attract the masses. We must offer the word of God which has the power to change the lives of every person. Rock bands, drama skits, and children’s activities are going to please people, but not God. God wants us to ask, “What will please my master?” We cannot be people pleasers.
Finally, notice the final jab that Jesus takes. The final phrase in verse 23, “For so their fathers did to the prophets.” This is an eye opening statement. It is not only the world that is going to hate you, exclude you, revile you, and spurn your name as evil, but even those who claim to be followers of God will do the same. The prophets experienced this kind of ridicule and persecution from Israel. Further, Israel spoke well of the false prophets who tickled the people’s ears and told them what they wanted to hear (6:26). We will suffer at the hands of people who claim to be Christians. If everyone who claims to be a Christians speaks well of you, it is reason for pause because Jesus said we may not be on the right track at all. We can receive criticism for doing right even from those who are supposed to be living right. Do not be surprised or dismayed. Rejoice and leap for joy because those who claimed to be the people of God had Jesus, in all his righteousness and good works, killed.
For this lesson I want for us to take home one key thought: Will you treasure Jesus more than anything else? Unfortunately we often treasure anything else above Jesus and it shows in our decisions. We do not give much time to God. We do not come to worship and Bible studies. We do not pray. We do not read the scriptures. We do not serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not teach Bible classes. We treasure anything else above Jesus.
Keep this in mind. What looks like the good life in this world isn’t the good life at all. They are temporary pleasures that will bring consequences from the Lord. Jesus preached the gospel to the masses on what the good life truly looks like. Treasure and seek after Jesus above anything else and the kingdom of God is yours and you will be satisfied.