Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
A Unique Opportunity
The section of Luke 6:17-49 is known as the Sermon on the Plain. It’s very much like Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” but is shorter. It’s possible that Luke picked from the Sermon on the Mount certain sections to make his point, or that these are two separate events, which could easily have occurred because Jesus taught the same things on multiple occasions.
In a nutshell, the first portion of the Sermon on the Plain is about realizing you won’t find satisfaction or validation in this life or from the people of this age. Belonging to Jesus means in many ways pitting yourself against the values of this age. But despite that, your attitude should be one that raises you above what this age expects: which is to act only in your own best interest, even when helping others.
It also presents Christians with a unique opportunity—to not take advantage of this world’s justice in order to bring the next age into the lives of others. Jesus introduces us to a new and much better way, not an easy way, but one that mirrors the character of the One who made us all and who holds the universe together.
17 – 19
You can picture the scene. The news of Jesus’ acts of healing has spread far and wide. Perhaps too are His exploits in matching wits with the Pharisees. They realize this is a Man of power and authority. His words and His actions bring a freshness, a newness, and new life.
Folks now gather as Jesus and His group of apostles descend from the mountain, not just from the Galilee now but from all over Judea and even Israel’s capital Jerusalem. And now not just Jews but Gentiles as well from the areas of Tyre and Sidon.
Notice what they want—to hear and be healed. Is that not the way all of us should be attracted to Jesus—to hear His words and to experience His presence? The healings Jesus did are like a down payment on what all life will be like in His kingdom. Because Jesus represents that kingdom anyone that comes into contact with Him can’t help but experience that new life—but in reality Jesus is going to do something even greater—heal not only physical sickness and deliver from demonic oppression but to heal the source of all sickness and death—sin itself and the devil that introduced sin to humanity.
So next, Jesus speaks of the kind of heart attitude that leads people in His kingdom.
20 – 23
We shouldn’t think of this as four groups of people, but the four characteristics of someone coming to Jesus, loving Him, and pledging themselves to Him no matter what. This should remind us of Jesus’ mission statement in Chapter 4. Jesus said He came to the poor—those that realize their lack of goodness. Those that know this repent, trust in Jesus and are adopted into His kingdom. Jesus came to satisfy an inner hunger for security, intimacy, destiny and purpose. He came to those oppressed and in prison to sin who mourn their condition. They will laugh for joy because Jesus has paid the price for their sin and set them free.
The final “blessed” involves the result of this repentance and commitment: rejection. Openly belonging to Jesus means exclusion from people groups, jobs, families, and even societies. Being a Christian would become a sentence of exclusion to the Jew. Even today in our society proclaiming your faith in Christ is becoming an evil thing in the culture. But Jesus says you are actually blessed when this happens.
Jesus says to rejoice because this has happened to a long line of the faithful throughout the millennia. The kingdom, the satisfaction, and the joy of being a child of the King is enough to persevere under the worst persecution and oppression.
There is an opposite side to that coin: those that reject the grace that Jesus brings.
24 – 26
Verses 24 through 26 are only found in Luke and offer a direct counter to verses 20 – 23. It’s a serious warning. Without the Messiah, if you think you’ve got all the security you need—all the security of this age is all you’re going to get and it won’t be enough in the age to come—in fact it won’t amount to anything because this age and this world are coming to an end and won’t be a part of the King’s new earth.
If you think you have satisfaction now, you will discover that what you really hunger for is not the things that this age offers—physical beauty or prowess, intellectual attainment or power or money or physical pleasure—even the pleasure of doing good outside of Christ. The only thing that will satisfy for all of eternity is the Messiah and His grace—that unmerited favor.
People steeped in this age laugh and play as if they’ve got it all together. But there will come a time of weeping and mourning because the only way to have it all together is to let the Messiah give you His goodness.
The final warning is very serious. When this age affirms your gospel, it is not the gospel of Jesus but a false gospel. Jesus warned in Matthew 24 that false Christs would arise and indeed they have. Their gospel does not include sin or repentance or the cross. Doctrine that pricks the ear but does not tear the heart is how the false prophets have preached for millennia.
So next, Jesus turns to speaking about the character of a person who has repented and turned to the King. This is where we can get things turned around. Many in our culture like to use Jesus’ sermons like self-help books—so that if you mirror these things you do good and God has to like you (especially the “Golden Rule” of verse 31). But the character we see in the following verses comes after you give your heart to Jesus and actually runs counter to default human behavior. This new character is the opportunity I spoke about—the ability to do good in the face of human evil for a divine purpose.
27 – 36
The basic character trait Jesus describes here is agape love. It is defined as “other-centered, self-sacrificing affection”. Human default behavior expects reciprocity. Our relationships become some sort of a business transaction. You do good to me and I’ll do good to you. You hurt me and I’ll massacre you!
God’s character is simply not that way. When humans hurt and taunted and tortured and crucified Jesus, not only did He ask the Father to forgive them, but He gave His life for those who were enemies of God so that He actually paid for our evil (Romans 5:8).
So Jesus prayed for those who hated Him, and did an act of love that benefited them. That, in essence, is what Jesus calls us as His disciples to do: do good to someone that hates you, pray for them, don’t try to extract fairness or justice from them. If someone rips you off, you have the choice of not going after them. Now this doesn’t mean Christians become doormats, but it does mean that you can strategically not enforce your rights if it means this person’s heart is touched for the gospel.
As I said at the conclusion of last week’s message: In every situation you should ask yourself—how can I help, heal, encourage, build, and serve? This can be extended to those who are actively hating and abusing us.
- Hitting on the cheek (verse 29) was a sign of rejection. If a person rejects you for sharing the gospel, you can continue to share it with them, like “offering the other cheek also.”
- The idea of the shirt is one of vulnerability. Living your Christianity on the outside makes you vulnerable. Showing kindness in the face of rejection (“don’t hold back your shirt”) can be a powerful force to the gospel.
- Have a light touch on the things this age values, and a tight hold on what’s really important—sharing the agape love of Christ to a world that hates God. It’s very powerful not to take retribution, especially when it is within your power. It’s what sets us apart from those who do not have the character of Christ.
The bottom line is to show mercy—thus mirror what God showed to us.
So this raises some questions for us to face. First, are you not yet a believer in Jesus? You may feel like you don’t really need what He’s offering. You feel satisfaction—you have all the material possessions you desire, all the comfort, all the joy, and all the admiration of those around you. Don’t let that condition fool you. The riches of this age are fickle and fleeting and do nothing for you in the age to come. My advice is to examine your life in relationship to the goodness of God. The only way to have real satisfaction and riches and joy and love is to receive it as a free gift from the sacrifice of Christ.
As disciples let me ask you this: which do you favor more: getting what you think you deserve, or seeing someone repent and enter life through Christ? It isn’t always but sometimes this is an either/or proposition. There is no such thing as the sin of being taken advantage of. You have a choice when faced with opposition because of your faith. You can demand what’s yours, and stand up for your “rights” or you can strategically allow yourself to be vulnerable and merciful, even if it means you get hurt in the process—in order to encourage someone else to enter God’s kingdom.
No one will judge you either way—I’m just suggesting that the true way of the Master is one of self-sacrificing, other-centered affection—and sometimes this means giving and showing mercy even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.