Woe to You…


We began to look last time at Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain.   As we look at this sermon, as well as the Sermon on the Mount, we need to realize that these are sermons for changing the world.  Because despite our tendency to want Jesus to take us to heaven while leaving our world alone, we must understand that Jesus fully intends to save our world by changing our world, and he’s willing to die to do it.  In fact, he did die to do it.


What Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain, and what he did on the cross, are basically the same thing.  One is an announcement of the Kingdom of God, one is the enactment of the Kingdom.   What Jesus preached in the Sermons on Mount and Plain was an announcement of the kingdom of god.  When Jesus stretched out his hands of love upon the hard wood of that cross, he was enacting his kingdom.  But they are the same thing.


In the sermon on the Mount and on the cross, Jesus reoriented the world from an axis of power enforced by violence to an axis of love expressed in forgiveness.  The sermon is the announcement, the cross is the enactment.  But they are the same thing.  With that understanding, let’s look at the sermon itself.


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.    These are the beatitudes.   Beatitude means “blessing”.  They are not commands.  Jesus is saying these are the people who will be the most happy with what he is bringing.  Jesus is bringing the reign,  rule, government, administration, the Kingdom of God.   These are the people who will be happiest of all in the Kingdom of God.

blessed are you

Matthew gives eight beatitudes.  Luke’s Sermon on the Plain cuts that in half to four. More significantly, there is a subtle change in the way they are presented.  In the Sermon on Mount, it is blessed are “those”.  He’s talking to his apostles about those who will hear this good news of the gospel of the kingdom. When he comes down from the mountain, the  Sermon on the Plain goes from blessed are “those” to  blessed are “you”.


Jesus has been up on the mountain with his apostles  preaching about preaching.  I’m about to begin to announce and this is what I will say to them.   Then he comes down the mountain to that coastal plain by the Sea of Galilee and preaches straight to the people.  Blessed are you who weepBlessed are you who are hungryblessed are you who are poor.  Why are the poor blessed?  Because when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.  There is not much to hinder you from jumping completely on board with what Jesus is doing.


Blessed are you who are hungry now.  Matthew expands this to Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for rightness in the world.  Those of you that have a dull ache inside you that something is profoundly wrong in the world, you’re going to be happy with what I’m doing.


Blessed are you who weep now.   It’s obvious Jesus is talking about big changes that are coming.  Jesus then goes to a future reference.  Blessed are you when (the future) people hate you on account  of the Son of Man.  Why?  Because that’s how they always treat prophetic people.  People who are with God ahead of the time, they are always persecuted.  So when people persecute you for the son of man, leap for joy because that just shows you are truly becoming a prophetic people.

full now

Unlike the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, the Sermon on the Plain in Luke balances the four blessings with four “woes”.   Woe, woe, woe, woe.  This is in keeping with the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  The Hebrew prophets often spoke “Woe”…. We too often here this as a word of condemnation.  It’s not really a word of condemnation but lanentation.  It’s a word of Oh…alas.  It’s a word of lamentation over the plight people find themselves in, not a word of condemnation.  But it’s very strange the things Jesus is lamenting.

woe to rich

 “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.   These woes kick us in the gut.  But woe to you who are rich.  Why?  Jesus repeats this throughout his ministry.   He says things like “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” Mark 10:25 ESV.  There is humor in this.  It’s ok to laugh here.  Jesus is using something ridiculous and absurd.  But he’s making a serious point.  The disciples then ask – And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?   Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.   Try to squeeze that camel through the eye of the needle.

full now

Woe to you who are full now.  When you are satisfied, you’re not really interested to big changes.  You tend to resist those bringing change because you are satisfied with the current system.  Woe to you who laugh now…who was laughing?  Maybe the Pharisees, maybe the Sadducees, the Herodians with all their wealth were laughing.  The Romans were laughing loudest of all.  Jesus says alas…changes are coming and you may not be laughing nearly as much.  


Another anticipation of the futureWoe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.  People that concur with the falseness prevailing in society, when we speak so well of that, we fail to be a prophetic people.


The sermon on the plain seems to hit a little harder than the sermon on the Mount.  Am I the rich?  Am I full?  Am I satisfied with the present system?  Am I laughing now (usually I am).  Do people speak well of me?  Why?


Is it wrong to to be rich, full and happy?  No, don’t misunderstand.  There nothing wrong with being rich full and happy.  In fact, may you be rich, may you be full and may you be happy, but know it’s dangerous.  Most of us would like to be rich full and happy.  May the lord bless you with richness, fullness and happiness, but be careful. These are the things that can seduce us away from real fervency from the government and the kingdom of god.  Too easily we will find ourselves in the same plight as a certain rich young ruler – “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:21-22 ESV.  Will we, too, love our stuff so much that we walk away, disheartened, from the call of Jesus on our lives?   Woe to you who are full now.

John Lewis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s