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Blessed are the poor - Jesus said the strangest things!
Jesus came down with them [His disciples] and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. The whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.
Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you; and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! Indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Luke 6:17-26 NKJV, condensed
Happiness is . . . . !!!!!
If the events of the Gospels took place today, hordes of TV crews would follow Jesus' every move. Words and actions would be recorded in sound bites. Human-interest stories of people in the crowds would fill the screen and touch our hearts. Diseased and disabled bodies, tormented minds and souls, struggles compounded by poverty, the joys of healing and wholeness, the heroics of some and criminal acts of others, civility and rudeness; we would witness it all daily.
Happiness is being healed! The tide coming in was filled with people struggling to touch Jesus. The tide going out was full of newly-healed people with their loved ones, joyfully anticipating a new life. Happy was the word of the day. A perfect time for Jesus to teach his disciples a lesson about happiness.
The scene before Jesus reminded him of some things dear to his heart. So he looked toward his disciples as though to say, Listen up; I have something to say to you about being happy, about feeling blest. "Blessed are you poor . . . . Blessed are you who hunger now . . . . Blessed are you who weep now . . . . Blessed are you who are persecuted . . . ."And then to top it off, Jesus added, "But woe to you who are rich . . . . Woe to you who are full . . . . Woe to you who laugh now . . . . Woe to you when all people speak well of you . . . "
Imagine those words coming across the television screen. "Uh, what was that, Jesus? Well, if Jesus wants a fight, he is certainly going to get it!" Jesus had turned the tables. The poor, not the rich, were to be blessed. The weak, not the strong, were to come out on top.
Blessed are the poor - Jesus said the strangest things! To whom was Jesus speaking? To the crowds? To the twelve disciples? To all those who loved him and followed him as best they could? Might Jesus have been looking at his disciples and describing what their life would be like?
The Twelve he had chosen--they would not be earning money any time soon. There is no indication Jesus ever received payment for his teaching, preaching or healing. There was nothing like a living wage, no way to support a family. Jesus and his disciples relied on the hospitality of those who received them, or they lived off the land. They would know hunger and thirst, sorrow and persecution.
In the midst of their hardships, Jesus proclaimed them blest. Happy are you who are the recipients of God's favor. Your life will be good. The kingdom of God will be yours, now as you live this life, and in the future when the time comes for you to receive your reward in heaven.
But woe to you who are rich if let your love of comfort prevent you from being my disciple. Woe to you who are well-fed today and allow your fear of want and hunger deter you from accepting my invitation. Woe to you who laugh now and let your need for security prevent you from saying "yes". Woe to you who want to be loved by everyone and therefore refuse to follow me.
Blessed are you who make the choice to follow me and obey my words. Woe to you who reject me because you are afraid of poverty, sorrow and persecution. Woe to you who chose to remain as you are, and continue your life as it always was; you will miss the blessings and joys of discipleship.
Jesus knew it was a big world. He would need a lot more than 12 disciples. He may have been looking toward his disciples, but he was surely speaking to everyone. Yes, even to us! Jesus did not hate rich people, nor did Jesus like to be hungry. He ate and laughed like the rest of us. And I'm sure it was painful for Jesus to suffer persecution. But he is telling us that if we really want to be happy, if we really want to live, then come, follow him. Each beatitude contained a promise that whatever we forfeit now, will come back to us many times over from the hand of God.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Did you, or anyone you know, ever feel poor? Describe the circumstances.
The poor miss out on a lot of life's blessings. Lots of people gamble for a chance to win millions of dollars and become rich. So does Jesus' beatitude about the poor being blessed make any sense to you? Were you ever more fortunate than someone who is wealthy?Go back to the ice-breaker question. If you responded to the ice-breaker within a group, were you able to notice blessings in the midst of anyone's poverty experience?
How do you define being poor, and being rich? Does God love the poor more than the rich? Is it wrong to be rich, well-fed and to laugh? Is not abundance a sign of God's favor?
The "Woes" are difficult to read and deal with. Jesus is quoted as saying extreme things sometimes. How do you handle things which you read in the Bible that you don't understand, or that don't make any sense to you? Is it possible to take Jesus' words too literally and miss his point?
If the kingdom of God belongs to the poor, then God's kingdom is like no other kingdom. What does the phrase, kingdom of God, mean? Where is God's kingdom? Who is a part of God's kingdom?Jesus linked each blessing with a promise of joy and abundance. What is the significance of that?
Were you ever persecuted for Jesus' sake? If so, what were the circumstances? Did you ever feel poor, know hunger, or cry because you followed Jesus? Have you ever felt rich, full, and happy because you followed Jesus?
Luke's account of the Beatitudes is slightly different from Matthew's. Luke addressed Jesus' words directly to "you poor." Matthew records, Blessed are "the poor." Do you notice any differences here, subtle or otherwise?Also, Luke sounds like he means poverty in a literal sense, whereas Matthew's words read "poor in spirit." What is the difference between being "poor" and being "poor in spirit"? Is there any way you can be sure that you know what Jesus meant? How do you interpret the word "poor" in this beatitude?