Blessed are you when men 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 fathers treated the prophets.
Today we would like to think about the blessedness of the life that follows and serves Jesus. The other day, with several of my friends in the Lord, I went up to the Ski place at Mt. Baldy. I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. I also saw a lot of folks enjoying skiing. As I saw them skiing and snowboarding it occurred to me that skiing and snowboarding can be a lot of fun if you know how to do it. Several weeks ago one friend of mine invited me to California Land and then to Disney Land. I enjoyed the many good features Walt Disney offers. In so visiting I was also reminded of the joy I received from watching the animated movie called Toy Story. Have any of you ever seen this movie? I do not like animation, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. There are many joys in life. The joy of skiing, the joy of watching good movies such as Toy Story, but today we will think about the joy of the life that follows and serves Jesus as his disciple.
This passage gives us a quick glimpse into the life of a disciple. What does the life that follows Jesus and serves him look like? By surrounding the message with the theme of blessings and woes, Jesus characterizes it as the blessedness (joy or happiness) of the life of a disciple. In what respect is the life as a disciple thoroughly a blessed one?
First, blessed are you...
If the disciple's life is a blessed one, how blessed is it? In the first place, what does the word “blessed” mean? Well, most of us already know the answer. In the passage, Jesus uses the word “blessed” four times. The word “blessed” has several meanings: holy, revered, happy, joyous, fortunate, or favored. We can better understand its meanings by considering the meaning of the word “woe.” Blessing is the opposite of woe. Woe means anguish, grief, heartache, misery, sorrow, adversity, affliction, or tribulation. We can also think of the word “blessed” as meaning happy, and the word “woe” to mean “unhappy.”
But the level of happiness this word describes is much higher than the happiness most people know. For example, in the Greek society of Jesus’ day, people did not use the word “blessed” to describe the happiness enjoyed by regular human beings. The Greeks used it to describe only the kind of happiness enjoyed by the gods. To them, blessedness is divine, not human.
In the same way, Jesus uses the word “blessed” referring to the happiness enjoyed by God the Father and those who belong to Him. By definition, God is perfect, so that the blessings or blessedness Jesus talks about does not refer to what is mundane or human but divine: they refer to absolute happiness and absolute joy, the joy and happiness that are divine, powerful, supreme, and totally satisfying that you feel like bursting into songs of joy, giving thanks to God from the bottom of your heart!
One friend of mine whom I have known for the last 35 years often times amazes me, because every once in a while she says, “Amazing grace.” On many occasions I feel down and depressed. But more frequently than ever I hear her uttering these two words: “Amazing grace.” And she does so all by herself: while doing the dirty dishes, she says, “Amazing grace.” After finishing a call with someone who could have struck her as irritable, she says, “Amazing grace.” Had someone who didn’t know her seen her saying “Amazing grace” all by herself, one would have easily mistaken her as being “mentally ill.” But I know she is not mentally ill. And I know she knows the blessedness of the life that loves and serves Jesus as the Lord and Savior, so every once in a while she expresses the blessedness of the life in the Lord saying, “Amazing grace.”
Second, power was coming from him
Where then does this blessing come from? Where does the joy and happiness stem from? What is the source of it? We can find an answer to this question in verses 17-20. “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’ ”
This passage says that Jesus is the source of blessings. He is the spring fountain of life. Supreme joy, true happiness, does not depend on human conditions such as a college degree or the amount of money sitting in your bank account. Rather it all depends on a person called Jesus Christ. Why?It is because He is the source of life. Speaking of the same truth, verses 18-20 testify that those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and power was coming from him healing them all. Here Luke describes people coming to “hear” him first, then getting cured of their spiritual sicknesses, and then getting healed of all other diseases. God’s word goes out from Jesus to troubled souls. Then evil spirits depart from them. Then, healing follows. In this way Jesus is the source of blessings. He is the source of all that we need for life, especially joy and happiness.
Another interesting point is that it was by looking at the disciples of Jesus that Jesus started teaching the message of the blessings and woes. In the passage, Luke divided the people who thronged around Jesus into two categories: Category No. 1 - a large crowd of “disciples;” and Category No. 2 - people who came and then left. What is the difference between the two classes of people? The difference is obvious: the disciples came to follow Jesus to the end, whereas the non-disciples came just to get some benefits, and then leave.
This distinction raises a question: What did the disciples see in Jesus that the non-disciples could not see? Luke answers: they saw that Jesus has the word of life. John 1:1-4 says that Jesus is the Word of Life. The disciples saw this. They saw that Jesus is the source of true happiness. He is the source of all blessings. Later, in John 6:68, Simon Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Peter’s statement makes us stop and ask: What is the source of my happiness? For joy and happiness, to whom do I run? Or, In search of happiness where do I go? To a movie theatre? To a local bar? To a video arcade?
Third, blessed are you who are poor
Knowing that the Lord is the source of blessings is one thing, and getting into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is another. So, in order to assist us to get into a personal relationship with him, Jesus continues with the message of blessings and woes. Let us read verses 20-26.
There are four steps to build up a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These four steps are expressed together with four steps relating to one who is shut out of the relationship with Jesus. The passage uses four words that represent the four steps that progressively build a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ: “poor,” “hunger,” “weep,” and “[suffering]” (such as being hated, excluded, insulted, or rejected because of Jesus). Corresponding to each of these steps, the passage adopts four words that describe the four steps in which a man goes farther away from Jesus and eventually is shut out of the relationship with Jesus Christ: “rich,” “well-fed,” “laugh,” and “well-spoken of.” Let us think about these two sets of four steps one by one.
(1) Blessed are you who are poor (20; 24)
Throughout the 66 books of the Bible one message stands out and screams for our attention, that is, the absolute necessity for one to believe in a man named Jesus Christ.
The Bible begins with paradise and ends with paradise. The first two chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1-2, describe the first paradise. The last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22, depict the second paradise. In between the two paradises, we have the lost paradise in which we are living. The Bible presents Jesus as the only one to help us recover the paradise we have lost.
Then, one may ask, “Why is it that it is only through Jesus Christ that one can enter God’s kingdom?” Look at Luke 6:20 and 6:24.
“Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ ” (20). “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” (24). The “you” in, “You who are poor,” refers to those who know that they are poor (in every way conceivable), and that they need Jesus Christ, the Savior.
The Apostle Peter is a good example of one who realized his poverty and sought out Jesus. At first he thought he was rich enough that he did not need Jesus. But, through Jesus’ help, one day he realized that he was a really poor person. We find this story in Luke 5:1-10. In that passage, Simon went out for night fishing. He fished all night, but caught nothing. The next day, as he was about to leave, Jesus stopped him and asked him to put out into deep waters and let down the nets. Simon Peter obeyed. Then he caught a huge amount of fish. At that moment he realized that his life without Jesus was an empty one; it was as empty as an empty net. Then he confessed to Jesus saying, “Lord, I am a sinful man.” Upon Jesus’ invitation, he left everything and followed Jesus. That day the kingdom of heaven rested in his heart.
The “you” in, “You who are rich,” refers to the one who thinks that he has all he needs and so is not in need of Jesus Christ, the Savior. The Apostle Paul before he met Jesus on his way to Damascus is a good example of such a person. As a law-abiding citizen, he thought that he was a good person. He was so confident about himself that he did not need Jesus at all. But thanks to Jesus’ help, he opened his spiritual eyes about himself. He realized that he was the worst of all sinners. (cf. 1Ti 1:16) In Romans 7, Paul confesses that the life without Jesus is so wretched that in Romans 7:24 he cries out saying, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Then in Romans 7:25-8:2 he says, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord… There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” And in many places of Paul’s epistles, he continues to talk about all of the unsearchable riches that are found in Christ Jesus. (Eph 3:8,16-20; Ro 11:33; Col 1:27; 2:1-3)
The example of Peter and the example of Paul indicate that realizing our poverty without Jesus Christ is the first and foremost important step to attaining to the true joy and happiness in the Lord. By the same token, not knowing one’s poor condition as a fallen man, thinking that he already has all the comfort here in this world, is the first step towards falling away from Jesus Christ. It is the first step of a man going from bad to worse.
(2) Blessed are you who hunger (21a; 25a)
What follows the sense of poverty is the spiritual hunger for the living word of God. Let us read verses: 21 and 25.
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” (21). “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry”(26).Here “hunger” refers to a spiritual hunger for the living word of God. The expression “well fed” refers to a man who is self-sufficient and therefore neglects feeding on the word of God.
Again “you who hunger now” refers to the one who is hungry for God’s Word.Like a new-born baby he craves for pure spiritual milk, that is, God’s word. Then, as he hungers for God’s word, he is deeply satisfied. The hungrier you are for God’s word, the more satisfied you will be. The opposite side of the coin is also true. The more you think that you are all self-sufficient, and therefore do not need God's word, the farther away from the word of God you will go, and the thirstier you will be.
There is a hymn entitled “I love to tell the story [of Jesus].” This song includes a line that reflects the significance of the spiritual hunger for the satisfaction of a soul, for verse 4 of the song says, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting like the rest. And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new song. It will be the old, old story, that I have loved so long. I love to tell the story! It will be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” The point of the Bible is Jesus Christ. At the heart of the story of Jesus is the love of God. Those who hunger for God’s word hunger for the love of God. As one hungers for God’s word and in this hunger feeds himself on the word of God, God’s love deeply satisfies him. In this way he grows up. He grows to be a mature servant of God.
So, here are some questions for you, Are you hungry for God's word? Do you think that you are well fed, so much so that you do not need to feed yourself on the word of God? If the latter is the case, you will soon be hungry. It does not matter where one might have reached in his spiritual pilgrimage in the Lord. Both, spiritually young and old, all need to feed on the living word of God daily. Otherwise, one will sooner or later be thirsty and hungry. He will be like a used up battery. During the Spring Bible Conference, we received God’s word in abundance.So, one may think that he is well fed now so he can skip Bible studies. But here is a warning: if you neglect God's word, you will soon hunger.You will even starve to death!
(3) Blessed are you who weep now (21b; 25b)
This brings us to the third step, that is, having a contrite heart. In verse 21b Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:25b presents the opposite case – the case of a man who is self-conceited. To a man like this, Jesus says, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”
Here “those who weep now” refers to those who mourn for the loss of the relationship with Jesus Christ. In many places of the Bible, our relationship with Jesus Christ is described as that of a bride and a groom. (cf. Rev 21:9; Eph 5:32) Like any other relationship, in order for the relationship to thrive, faithfulness on both sides is necessary. Jesus Christ is faithful to us all the time. Yet, on our part, every once in a while we are unfaithful. Then the relationship suffers. Instead of joy, sorrow overtakes us. The sense of grief and guilt fills our hearts.Then, what do we do?We must weep for our sins. With longing to restore our relationship with Jesus Christ, we must cry out to God for the forgiveness of our sins. King David set a good example in weeping for his sins.After committing sins with Bathsheba, he wept bitterly for God’s forgiveness.God had mercy on him.God restored in him the joy of salvation.
“You who laugh now” refers to the one who laughs at God’s word, justifies his godless way of life, and keeps indulging in his rebellious lifestyle.To bring this kind of person back to God, the elder James says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom” (4:8-9). But still, like Lot’s son-in-laws who lived in the city of Sodom and laughed at the angel’s warning about God’s judgment, they laugh in the face of the message of God’s judgment. Figuratively speaking, such a person is like the people who were having a joyful party aboard the Titanic, not knowing that sooner or later the boat would sink.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” It has been said that those who laugh last, laugh best.God wants us to laugh best by being able to laugh last. God does not want us to laugh now, only to weep and mourn later.
There is however a way to laugh (meaning joyfully) all the time. What is it? To always struggle to secure one's relationship with Jesus Christ. How? By always maintaining a contrite heart, struggling to repent of any hint of unfaithfulness that stands in the way of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ! The Apostle Paul set a good example. “Brothers I die every day, I mean it.” In a way, he maintained a contrite heart struggling to die to himself, particularly to his sinful nature.
(4) Blessed are you when men hate you… (22-23; 26)
The last step to attaining to the powerful joy of salvation in the Lord is to positively participate in the sufferings of Jesus Christ by struggling to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. Look at verses 22-23. “Blessed are you when men 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 fathers treated the prophets.” This passage refers to the joy of life that participates in suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Figuratively speaking, the one who participates in the sufferings of Jesus Christ and thereby rejoices in the day of Jesus’ coming is like a football player who goes through rough moments to make touchdowns. He might even suffer from some wounds and scars. But when the game is over, and a victory is announced, he will rejoice greatly, leaping for joy. Suppose however you are afraid of confrontation, so you remain on the side lines just watching. When the game is over, will there be any reward stored up for you?
Spring break is over and schools are in session again. During the remainder of the semester, let us then pray to go out and do the work of God, reaching out to those who are yet to know Jesus Christ. The battle is not easy. But as the Bible says, those who sow seeds in tears will reap the harvest with joy!
In helping out sheep, let us not try to flatter them with smooth words. If we do, we will operate as false prophets, for Jesus says in v. 26, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” Rather let us serve God’s word as it is, even if God’s word rubs on the prideful egos of our Bible students. Although God’s word may be abrasive to them, let us still serve God’s flock with God’s word as it is.Then, despite conflicts and hardships, God’s word will go out and bear fruit in them. Then, God will bless us to rejoice greatly in the days to come.
4.Verses 20-25 describe ideas which are opposite in meanings. What do the following expressions mean?
1) "you who are poor" vs. "you who are rich";
2)"you who hunger now" vs. "who are well bed now"; and
3) "you who weep now" vs. "you who laugh" now.
** Here the poor or the rich refers to either the spiritually poor or spiritually rich. Mat. 5:3
** Hunger or well fed, has to do with one's perception of God's word. Those who hunger refer to those who hunger for God's word whereas those who are well fed refer to those who think that they already know God's word full well (i.e., are so well fed spiritually so to speak) that they think they do not need to study God's word or learn anything from Jesus.
** Weep or laugh has nothing to do with physically weeping or physically laughing.
Those who weep refer to those who are contrite in heart for their (spiritually) lowly condition, so they keep asking God for help. Those who laugh refer to those who mock God's truth, thinking that he has no problem whatsoever.
5.Verses 20-26 also talk about "now" vs. "in that day" (23). What does "in that day" mean? (Luke 17:31)
** That day refers to the day of Jesus' return.
6.Verse 23 talks about "reward in heaven". What does reward "in heaven" mean?
** It means the kingdom of God to be fulfilled fully when Jesus comes again.
The word "heaven" is synonymous with God's abode.
While a believer is in his body he enjoys presence of God but it is only partial, not full. Eph 1:13,14. When Jesus comes again, God is going to renew everything, and reward those who needed true rewards.
7.Compare verses 22 and 23 with verse 26. Jesus distinguishes "the prophets" (in verse 23) from "the false prophets" in verse 26. How can we tell true prophets from false prophets?
** True prophets speak God's word which calls men to repent and turn to God, whereas false prophets do not speak God's word; rather they speak on their own, so they end up flattering men, only to take advantage of men, causing sinners to continue to sin and sin more.