John T. Willis

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Jesus' Four Beatitudes and Four Woes--Luke 6:20-26

After choosing his twelve disciples or apostles and healing many people, Jesus now teaches his disciples with a sermon on the plain or on the level place [see Luke 6:17]. This sermon is only thirty verses in comparison with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, which has 107 verses. The first portion of the Sermon on the Plain consists of four beatitudes and four woes. Each beatitude has its counterpart in the woes. This appears in Luke 6:20-26, and naturally falls into two parts.

I. The Four Beatitudes. Luke 6:20-23.
a. Jesus lifted up his eyes upon his disciples and began to speak. 6:20a.
b. First beatitude--Blessed are you [Jesus' disciples] who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. The word "blessed" means a person's internal happiness in the heart. Such a person is happy, prosperous, fortunate although externally poor. What a terrible mistake to assume that a person is successful or personally happy because he or she is wealthy. 6:20b.
c. Second beatitude--Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled." Physical hunger is painful and challenging. But God has the ability of filling our lives even when we do not have food. 6:21a.
d. Third beatitude--Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Crying or weeping is NOT a bad character. It is just the opposite. God has created all of us to weep when we suffer illness or losses or terrible situations, when we sin, when the world stands in opposition to God. In this context, laughter is internal joy of the heart since the kingdom of God constantly bombards our lives. 6:21b.
e. Fourth beatitude--Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy, for you reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. Many of us have encountered people who hate us, who exclude us from their lives, who revile us, who defame us. Do not be surprised because of this, because this is exactly the way people treated Jesus. This attitude reflects an ungodly, unChristian feeling. God blesses us when treated by such people. Recall the stories of Ahab and Jezebel hating Elijah; Jeremiah's false prophets scorning Jeremiah like in the account of Hananiah; and many others. 6:22-23.

II. The Four Woes. Luke 6:24-26. [NOTE: The four woes are counterparts of the four beatitudes, and thus do not call for much additional comment].
a. First Woe--Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Unfortunately, many people spend their lives trying to achieve wealth. Jesus says: they already have their reward. But all human beings die. What happens then? That is the question. 6:24.
b. Second Woe--Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Physical food never satisfies any individual. There is much more to life than being satisfied with physical food. 6:25a.
c. Third Woe--Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Receiving the pleasures of good health, wealth, and the like is very temporal. Time flies. It is not long until we all experience deaths, losses, illnesses, and the like. It is very important for all of us to live realistic lives. 6:25b.
d. Fourth Woe--Woe to you when all speak well of you, forthat is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. A widespread good reputation is not an acceptable goal in life. This is deceptive indeed. GOD ALONE knows the heart and HE ALONE will make the final decision of each one of us. 6:26.

Jesus' teaching is challenging. He has the ability of changing our hearts and lives.

Share YOUR insights and experiences and failures and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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