Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Luke 6:12-26

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
“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.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

 If I were choosing disciples in Jesus' day, perhaps I would have visited Gamaliel's rabbinic school to seek his top students. Perhaps I would have tried to steal some disciples from the Pharisees and Sadducees.  I doubt I would have chosen some fisherman, a tax collector, a religious zealot, an accountant, and some various others. I would not have been so in tune with the will of God. But Jesus' practice was to spend long periods of time in communication with God before times or trial or decision. Putting aside his divinity, he lived as a man and needed time in prayer to seek the Father's will. It is interesting that one who would eventually betray him was selected as one of his closest followers. Jesus knows what it is to be betrayed by a supposed friend! Although many would follow Jesus from place to place, these 12 would be his closest disciples. They would receive special teaching and instruction, and 11 of them would eventually found the church and spread the gospel at the cost of their own lives.

People continue to pursue Jesus to hear his teaching and receive healing. Many were cured by simply being in his presence or managing to get close enough to touch him. Luke's "Sermon on the Plain" closely mirrors Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount". Clearly these are principles taught by Jesus to the multitudes on more than one occasion.

The gospel is not one of "health and wealth". Those that inherit the kingdom of God experience hunger, poverty, and persecution on the earth. Their true reward is in the life to come. Many who are rich and respected in this life have already received their reward and have only eternal punishment in their future. Favor on earth is not necessarily a sign of God's favor on our lives. Do we trust Jesus enough to wait on his blessing rather than chasing the fleeting riches and rewards of this world? Do we seek the favor of God or the acclaim of man?

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