Thursday 7th March – Luke 6:17-23 ‘A radical manifesto’

Luke 6:17-23

So Jesus has just picked his cabinet – if you’ll pardon the political analogy – and it’s time to set out his manifesto.  The crowd that has gathered is remarkable, not least for its geographical breadth: Jerusalem and Judea are in the southern part of Israel, Tyre and Sidon are so far north that they are in modern day Lebanon, more than a hundred miles north of Jerusalem.

It’s interesting to speculate where this ‘level place’ might have been to cater for a crowd from such a wide area, because Samaria is right between the two – a place which is effectively off-limits to the orthodox Jews of the day.  It would have been near the coast, though, as the east of the country is more hilly (or even mountainous).

Not surprisingly, many of the crowd long for healing – word about his miracles has spread far and wide.  However, at some point Jesus chooses to speak.  ‘Looking at his disciples,’ Luke says, Jesus gives the most extraordinary manifesto any leader has ever given.  Who is really blessed in this life? 

Jesus looks around at those who have chosen to follow him (the disciples are a larger group than the twelve apostles) and commends those who hunger for him: as they must do, having travelled so far to listen to him; those who weep, as many who had come with diseases and spiritual oppression must have done; those who are poor, which is more than just a material poverty, but a recognition of spiritual need as well; those who are hated for their beliefs, as Jesus’ increasingly testy encounters with the religious elite indicate will be an inevitable consequence for those who follow this radical Messiah.

He reminds them that the heroes of the faith have usually been despised in their own generation (v23). (As an aside, this is a striking challenge to the way we elevate particular church leaders today – dare I say that we might sometimes be looking in the wrong directions?  Every leader, myself included, should occasionally reflect soberly on this!)

I don’t know if you particularly identify with one of these groups – if you do, then may today’s extraordinary teaching be good news: yours is the kingdom of heaven!  If not, this may be a day to pray for all those, especially in the Suffering Church, who are poor or hungry or weeping or hated, that the Lord Jesus might raise them up – not just at the last day (which is a sure promise – v23), but in spirit this day, too.