|Sea of Galilee near Capernaum|
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 6:17-49 to teach believers to experience the blessings of walking in belief, not the woes of unbelief, and to walk in love toward enemies.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about walking in belief.
Pray and Read: Luke 6:17-49
1. Walking in belief is blessed, but in unbelief are woes (Luke 6:17-26)
2. Putting belief into practice develops Christ-like love (Luke 6:27-36)
3. Putting belief into practice develops Christ-like integrity (Luke 6:37-42)
4. Putting belief into practice develops Christ-like character (Luke 6:43-45)
5. Putting belief into practice develops Christ-like stability (Luke 6:46-49)
By comparing belief and unbelief, Luke’s Gospel calls us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (Luke 1-2). The first step in belief is to repent of our sin (Luke 3:1-20) to God’s suffering Servant, who, through his sacrificial death (Luke 3:21-23a), is the truly obedient Son of God, unlike sinful Adam (Luke 3:23b-38), defeating Satan in every area of human life: body, mind, and spirit (Luke 4:1-13).
In the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus begins his ministry around the Sea of Galilee (Luke 4:14-9:50). Luke powerfully contrasts belief and unbelief in a series of events in Galilee. First, Luke compares the response of unbelief and rejection of Jesus at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:14-30) with the response of belief and unleashed power at the one in Capernaum (Luke 4:31-44). After calling his first disciples in belief to follow him (Luke 5:1-11), his ministry arouses the unbelieving hostility of the religious leaders when he forgives sins (Luke 5:12-26). When Levi the tax collector responds in belief and follows Him (Luke 5:27-32), the Pharisees respond in unbelief and anger to Jesus’ dining with sinners (Luke 5:33-39).
The fourth and fifth incidents of opposition center around the unbelief of the Pharisees around their rigid ideas of keeping Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11) contrasted with Jesus’ calling of twelve believing disciples as apostles (Luke 6:12-16).
Now Jesus gives his disciples and apostles his basic teaching, the choices that those who choose to follow Him must make in daily life. Like His Sermon on the Mount, this is his Sermon on the Plain with Beatitudes showing the blessings for operating in belief and the woes associated with operating in unbelief (Luke 6:17-26). Walking in belief issues means loving one’s enemies (Luke 6:27-36), backing away from condemnation, and walking in forgiveness (Luke 6:37-42).
Exposition: Note well,
1. WALKING IN BELIEF IS BLESSED, BUT IN UNBELIEF ARE WOES (Luke 6:17-26)
a. Having come down from the mountain where the Twelve were chosen, Jesus is met in the plain by a large group of people, some who had come quite a distance, even Gentiles, awaiting healing and relief. Again he is gracious, restoring sick bodies and sending out evil spirits. And now, after proclaiming the Kingdom, he defines the radical values that characterize this Kingdom (Luke 6:20).
b. Luke 6:17-49 – Sermon on the Plain. Those who point to discrepancies between this passage and Matt. 5-7 ignore the obvious. We don’t find it unusual when politicians repeat the same themes and comments in speech after speech. Why should anyone expect Jesus, traveling and teaching about the kingdom He is bringing in, never to repeat Himself? Luke purposefully places this sermon “on a level place” (Luke 6:17) so we will not mistake it for Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1). While it touches on many of the same subjects, it is an entirely different sermon. Not only the geography, but the Sermon on the Mount was only to his disciples (until Matt 7:12) while crowds came to hear (Luke 6:18) the Sermon on the Plain, even though he directed it to his disciples (Luke 6:20). Matthew’s sermon is placed earlier in the Galilean ministry and precedes the calling of the Twelve. Matthew’s version is much fuller than Luke’s, and there are considerable differences in details. Matthew has nine Beatitudes while Luke selects the first, fourth, second, and ninth, but adds four woes, recalling OT prophetic language (Deut 27-28). While the first eight of Matthew’s Beatitudes are in third person, Luke’s are all in second. What is most significant is not the differences between the accounts, but rather the fundamental consistency. Both begin with the Beatitudes and end with the wise and foolish builders. Both include love for enemies, judging others, and trees known by their fruit. Those who heard Jesus were so deeply impressed that when Luke interviewed them years later, they remembered his teachings with great clarity.
c. Luke 6:20 – Blessed are you who are poor. The physically poor are spiritually advantaged because their poverty fosters reliance on God. The poor here can also mean those who suffer oppression and poverty because of their status as God’s people. The “poor” are those who trust God for their salvation (Isaiah 49:13). Among first century Jews, giving to the poor was one way a wealthy person might commend himself to God. But among Greek Gentiles, Christ’s affirmation of the poor must have stunned them. The wealthy Greeks were increasingly dedicated to their own personal fortunes. The few who did anything for anyone else might endow a library, a school, a bath, or establish a fund to pay for an annual banquet for the town. But rather than real generosity, they were only ostentatious displays. Roman society viewed the poor man who worked for hire with disgust, not pity or respect. Even self-made wealth was looked down on with disdain by the upper classes. Against this background we can better understand the difficult choice these words call Jesus’ followers to make. If one is to follow Jesus, the values of human society truly must be rejected and replaced with those appropriate for a kingdom ruled by the Messiah.
d. Luke 6:21 – Who hunger and weep. God promises in the OT to feed the hungry and bring comfort and joy to his people. There may be an allusion here to the Messianic banquet (Isaiah 25:6-8), a common theme for Luke. Being filled (sustained) was a hoped-for blessing of the Messianic era. Weeping was a sign of repentance.
e. Luke 6:22-23 – When men hate you. This verse echoes Isaiah 66:5 about “those who exclude you because of my name.” Jesus is referring to all kinds of rejection and slander. Jesus’ hearers would have caught his point that most true OT prophets suffered rejection.
f. Luke 6:24-25 – Woe to you rich. The physically rich are spiritually disadvantaged because their wealth is a danger and hindrance to putting God first (Luke 12:13-21; 16:19-31). Most of Jesus’ hearers were poor Jews, but Luke’s urban, Greco-Roman readership were probably much better off (Luke 1:3-4). How do the rich inherit woe while the poor are blessed? In Greek society, wealth made its owner self-centered and indifferent to others, leading to an attitude of contempt, opposite the loving concern which we are called to give others. The rich are so satisfied with themselves that they have no concern for the future or spiritual realities (Luke 12:15-21). Wealth insulates the wealthy from a sense of inadequacy which leads us to realize our need for God. The tragedy is that it insulates us from concern for others which God Himself has, and which he expects to be reproduced in those who name Christ Jesus as Lord.
g. Luke 6:26 – When men speak well of you. False prophets were often popular because they spoke what the people and the leaders wanted to hear (Micah 2:11; Jer 6:14; 28:8-9).
2. WALKING IN BELIEF CALLS FOR LOVING ENEMIES (Luke 6:27-36)
a. Luke 6:27-31 - The Law of Love: Love as God loves – Jesus commands his follower to a radical new ethic: to love one’s enemies (||Matt 5:44, 39, 40, 42, finishing with the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31; ||Matt 7:12). People naturally love those who love and reward them in return (Lev 19:18). But Jesus makes it a normative standard of behavior for his followers to love their enemies. Love here is not an emotion or a feeling. It is an action. There is very little reward here on this earth for loving enemies. Some will change, but many will be even more hostile because you are gracious. Remember two things. God rewards those who love their enemies, and His rewards are better than any ordinary folks can offer. And in loving enemies, you will become more like Jesus, who actually gave His life for those who rejected and hated Him (Rom 5:7-8).
b. Luke 6:29 – Strikes your cheek. The blow is probably an insulting slap with the back of the hand. It was the most grievous insult in the ancient Near East. The clothing refers to the outer and inner cloak. The poorest of people might have only one each.
c. Luke 6:30-33 – Beggars were usually in genuine need and unable to work. Jewish society emphasized charity and responsibility. These ideas like lending without hoping to receive back were unheard of.
d. Luke 6:34-36 – (||Matt 5:44-48 in a slightly different order). Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. In the Roman world, interest rates ran as high as 48%, but the OT forbade usury, or charging interest to brothers. Jesus calls Christians to unselfish giving. Jesus call to imitate God is not new. The OT called God’s people to “be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). The power of Christianity is that Jesus not only forgives our sins, but comes into our lives and infuses us with an ability that no human being has alone – the ability to serve God and please Him by doing His good and perfect will in serving others.3. PUTTING BELIEF INTO PRACTICE DEVELOPS CHRIST-LIKE INTEGRITY (Luke 6:37-42)
a. In the Greek NT, verse 36 introduces this section and really caps it off (Luke 6:36). Jesus elaborates on his command to do good to others by turning to the subjects of forgiveness and judgment. We must not condemn others, but rather forgive them just as we desire to be forgiven. Jesus’ command does not mean that we never confront sin or that churches should not in sadness deal in church discipline with erring members when necessary. What Jesus condemns is hypocritical judgment, a judgment that creates a double standard. Jesus says that if we will genuinely love (Luke 6:27-36), then some will respond and use the measure we used with them (Luke 6:37-39).
b. Luke 6:38 – Good measure, pressed down, shaken together. The image here is of the purchase of grain. A generous seller not only fills the measuring container for the customer, but then presses down the grain and shakes the container to make room for even more. The then tops it off until it overflows into the customer’s lap (kolpos) or the folds of the garment at the waist, which could serve as a large pocket for grain.
c. Grain contracts of the ancient period sometimes stipulated that the same container or instrument must be used to measure both the grain and the payment.
d. Luke 6:39 - Can a blind man… Jesus is referring to a common proverb in both Greek and Jewish sources.
e. Luke 6:40 – A student is not above his teacher. The word for student is mathetes (disciple). In NT times, learners attached themselves to a teacher. They lived and traveled with him, listened to his teaching, asked him questions, and were asked questions in turn. Their goal, however, was not simply to learn what their teacher knew, but rather to be like their teacher in every way. Jesus used this mode of teaching to train his Twelve disciples for future leadership. The disciple who is fully trained (katerismenos – “put into proper condition, make complete”). Our greatest need is not for skills, but for spiritual maturity. As we become more like Christ, God uses us.
f. Luke 6:41 – The speck, the plank. Jesus is using humor, exaggeration, and hyperbole to draw out laughter and attention from his audience. There were similar proverbs in Greek literature, and Jesus is using the familiar to teach a lesson. If we all looked after ourselves, there’d be no need to peer critically at others. The plank (dokos) is probably a large beam rather than a two-by-four, making the image more striking.
g. Luke 6:42 – The Greek term hypocritēs is a colorful word and was what an actor in a drama was called. It became a metaphor for one who pretended to be something one was not. By the time of the New Testament, the term was often used of a deceiver or what we know of as a hypocrite, acting one way but being something else.
4. PUTTING BELIEF INTO PRACTICE DEVELOPS CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER (Luke 6:43-45)
a. Jesus now develops the reference to hypocrisy in Luke 6:42 with several illustrations from nature. Just as good trees produce good fruit and bad trees bad, so those whose hearts are right with God produce good deeds.
b. Luke 6:43 – Bad tree, bad fruit. The term bad (sapros) originally meant decayed or rotten and was an appropriate term for bad fruit. It could also mean anything of inferior quality, in which the quality of the product (the fruit) gave a reputation to the producer (the tree.)
c. Luke 6:44 – Figs … grapes. Olives, figs, and grapes were the most common agricultural products in the Holy Land, so the image is a common one for Jesus’ hearers, thus strengthening the integrity of the text written by a Greek physician who did not grow up in that area.
5. PUTTING BELIEF INTO PRACTICE DEVELOPS CHRIST-LIKE STABILITY (Luke 6:46-49)
a. Jesus’ reference to good deeds flowing from a good heart (Luke 6:45) transitions into saying a word about putting his words into practice (Luke 6:46) and an illustration about the consequences that follow (Luke 6:47-49). Whenever rain comes on the rocky, dry hills of Israel, the floods rush down the bare slopes and sweep everything in their path away.
b. APPLICATION: Life has its disasters, too. If we are not firmly anchored in obedience, we will be swept away. Those who hear his words and practice them are like a man who builds his house on a firm foundation that survives life’s storms. Those on the other hand who merely pay lip-service to calling Jesus their Lord, but not doing what he says, are building on a weak spiritual foundation that will collapse when the storms of life strike.
c. Luke 6:48-49 – Ezekiel uses a similar image of a devastating storm to describe the fate of false prophets who deceive God’s people (Ezek 13:13-14
d. Luke 6:48-49 – Ezekiel uses a similar image of a devastating storm to describe the fate of false prophets who deceive God’s people (Ezek 13:13-14).
e. Luke 6:49 – Putting words to practice. Jesus’ saying is similar to Ezekiel 33:31-33: “With their mouths they express devotion…. For they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”
 Culminating at Luke 9:20 with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Anointed of God.
 The incident parallels the beginning of the birth narrative, in which the priest Zechariah responds in unbelief to the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The Capernaum synagogue’s faith parallels the believing faith of the Virgin Mary.
 Nestle-Aland 27.