Thursday, January 16, 2014

Living Justly with Others

Scriptural Reading: Luke 6:17-31
Devotional Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Sometimes I don’t want to turn on the television, read the Internet, or just simply hear the news. There is so much crime happening everywhere I turn. In the author writes, “Many will recall the plaintive call of Rodney King, the man whose vicious beating by members of the Los Angeles police department was caught on video. Mr. King cried out, ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’” Yes, that is a good question to ask as we are challenged throughout the Bible to live justly and to love our enemies. For the Apostle Peter taught in his writings at 1 Pe 1:15-16, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (NKJV) It would be impossible to be holy in our conduct like Christ and God the Father with hatred in our hearts and living unjustly and without mercy toward our neighbors.

This quarter of study is entitled “Jesus and the Just Reign of God”. We are in Unit II – “Jesus Ushers in the Reign of God” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second lesson of a four-lesson study. Believers are challenged to live as God’s people as recorded in the book of Luke.

Jesus had made enemies with the Jewish religious leaders by breaking their understanding of the law, such as healing on the Sabbath. It had become their high desire to persecute Him at all costs in order to eventually kill Him. On one of those days while His enemies were in the midst of conspiracy against Him, Jesus went to the mountain to pray all night unto God, His Father. The next morning He chose the twelve apostles from among the disciples who were following Him.

Then He and the disciples came down from the mountain to minister to the multitude as recorded at Luke 6:17-19. It reads as follows, “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.” (NKJV) Dr. Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” is often compared with the Apostle Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 5-7). Matthew’s recorded a lengthy Sermon on a mountain full of blessings. On the other hand Luke recorded a much shorter Sermon with four blessings and four woes. In each Sermon the teachings of Jesus were revolutionary. A great multitude of people came from far and near to hear His message. Some were curious, some were expecting a miracle, some awaited a Word, some were enemies, and others were simply onlookers. Jesus knew their heart and their mind as He prepared to preach the Word. Those who had demonic spirits within them were cured by touching Him. Everyone tried to touch Him because there was power and grace emanating from His person. His healing virtue cured every need of any person who touched Him that day. Why not touch Him for seen and unseen grace?

Then Christ began to preach blessings to the disciples and the multitude saying at Luke 6:20-23, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (NKJV) Jesus will send the disciples out poor and hungry. If they go out rich and well-fed, their message of evangelism can’t be well preached. The poor are blessed in their poverty when it is self-imposed for His sake. He was not speaking of people who were poor because of laziness, tragedy, or circumstances beyond their control. Jesus also issued a blessing for those who are hungered due to self-denial. They have worked so hard in the kingdom of God, they have either not had time to eat bread or they are willing to get along on a plain diet. Their self-denial will be rewarded in a future day. Then there was given a blessing for those who weep. It is not a blessing about crying for others. It is a blessing that Jesus gives for tears shed for His sake. The last blessing taught in the Sermon on the Plain was to add a layer of faith by stating we are blessed when we suffer or we are hated for His sake. The key to the understanding of these four blessings is found in the phrase “because of the Son of Man”. Every blessing will be based on our love for Him. We will be ideal disciples if we live by these blessings. And always remember the greater challenges allows us to not only “rejoice” but to “leap” for “great is our reward in heaven”.

Jesus then switched from speaking about blessings to speaking about warnings. Many times we have congregations that want sugar-coated messages. This was not to be as we read Luke 6:24-26, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry, Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (NKJV) When the Bible says “woe”, it is speaking of a serious warning. Jesus pronounced four “woes” in His Sermon. There is an end to that man who puts all his trust in the comfort of his riches rather than the comfort and reign of God. Woe unto him. Woe to those who are full of an abundance of everything they need, who lack nothing but God and Christ. They shall experience hunger in the day when rewards are given to the faithful stewards of Christ. Woe to those who continuously find laughter and merriment in the world without Christ. They shall one day mourn and weep over their lost opportunities to accept the Lord as their Savior. The final woe pronounced by Jesus in the Sermon should be an eye opener as well as thought provoking. Woe to those of you when everyone speaks well of you. Were they seeking the praise of men or God? If they were seeking the praise of men, they were not delivering the message. It was for this reason that Jesus was not popular with the learned scribes and Pharisees. He was not seeking to deliver a message of praise of men but the message of God. He was faithful to the trust God had in Him.

Love was the revolutionary weapon preached by Christ for the kingdom of God, and learning how to trust and be active agents of its power. Jesus knew that love was more powerful against His enemies than hatred and would cause great problems of understanding with the old religious order which authorized retaliation and revenge. His Sermon message ends in a lesson on love as recorded at Luke 6:27-31, “But to you who are listening I say Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (NKJV)

Written by Deborah C Davis

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