Have you ever made a sacrifice? Driven to a distant town to pick up a friend from the airport? … passed on a high-calorie dessert to lose weight? … plunked down some money to take a class and learn a new skill? … given up freedom and independence to get married?
What were the blessings? What were the sacrifices?
In Luke 6.12-26, Jesus appoints His inner-ring of twelve disciples and then takes them down the mountain for a power encounter. In the presence of a “great” crowd of followers, among a “great” multitude, Jesus speaks, heals and casts out demons: And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and he healed them all (:19, ESV).
The disciples had to be impressed. Maybe, they even thought following Jesus would be easy. Just hang with the Man, Jesus, and all the blessings of the Kingdom of God are theirs, right now!
This is when, in our passage, Jesus begins to teach his followers. Pulling them apart from those who came only to be healed, Jesus gives the message some have called the “Sermon on the Plain”. In it Jesus calls His disciples (including us!) to look to our own hearts and consider what it looks like to be kingdom people following Him. There’s sacrifice with blessing. There’s blessing in the future at His return (though His disciples hadn’t learned about that yet), and there’s blessing right now in the sacrificing.
Like the prophet that He was, Jesus divides humanity into two groups: those who will experience kingdom blessing and those who will experience woe. The emphasis is on how Jesus—followers ought to respond to those who don’t heed the woes.
Jesus lists the blessings and woes in four, interlocking pairs:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God … But woe to you who are rich, for you have receive your consolation (:20/24)
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied … Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry (:21a/25a)
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh … Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep (:21b/25b)
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! … Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets (:22/26)
So far, Jesus has encouraged His disciples with future grace: sacrifice now, receive blessing at Jesus’ return. That would be enough to motivate the true follower, but there’s a sleeper key verse in this passage:
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy … (:23a)
And, what day is that? The day of Christ’s return? Of course it is, but not in this passage.
It’s the day of sacrifice “on account of the Son of Man”! It’s the day when we go hungry, get made fun of, or experience momentary disadvantage, because we’re following Jesus!
The reason we rejoice now is because Jesus is really worth it! … for behold, you reward is great in heaven. Or, as Paul says in 2 Cor 4.17, For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison …
Also, sacrificing on account of Jesus now puts us in the company of all God’s people throughout all time: … for so their fathers did to the prophets (:23b).
Finally—and this is a theme Luke will record Jesus developing through the gospel—there is enormous blessing NOW, in this life, while we sacrifice.
This blessing will include the Spirit of God to guide us. This blessing will include God’s grace to help us with everything God asks us to do—material need or otherwise. And, this blessing will include a new family: My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it, Jesus will soon say (8.21).
Following Jesus means sacrifice with blessing now, with the fulness of blessing yet to come!
That’s good news when I see that following Jesus costs me something. My life, in fact. That’s good news, because once I’ve started following Jesus, I learn that life with Jesus is about joy in the midst of sacrifice. And that makes me want to leap!
Take a minute to consider some of these penetrating questions from Luke 6.12-26.
- How does this passage sit with you? How much are you like the disciples, hoping perhaps for instant success and victory?
- What potential sacrifices scare you the most?
- How much does future grace (future reward and blessing in the presence of Jesus) motivate you in following Jesus?
- Where do you see God’s blessing in your life now? How has God surprised you in this?