Red Letter Year: 7/8

Luke 6:17-26

17 When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.

van gogh eyes20 Then Jesus fixed his gaze on his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.

21 God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.

22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 

23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

24 What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.

25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.

26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.


Luke prefaces the Sermon on the Plain telling us Jesus raised his eyes on his disciples. Fixed his gaze is another way to translate that. Jesus very emphatically looks at his disciples. Since Luke went around gathering eye witness testimony, it’s not hard to imagine that this detail stood out in someone’s mind even years later.

I mentioned Friday that Luke introduces the apostles and names them as such when does for a reason. Here is where we begin to see why. There are three groups of people listening to Jesus. The crowd – who are not his followers, the disciples – who are his followers, and a subset of the disciples, the apostles he just came down from the mountain with. Jesus directed his healing power at everyone (v.19), but Luke wants us to know that this teaching was directed specifically at his followers – all of them. The crowds are there but this is not for them. The apostles are there but this is not just for them. What follows in the Sermon on the Plain (6.20-49) is an extended teaching for all who would be Jesus’ followers, for all who accept being his disciple.

I have been sharing since we began Luke about how he used Mark and Matthew as sources, highlighting the alterations Luke made. The ones here are among the most significant. Here is a side by side comparison of the beginning of  Luke’s Sermon on the Plain and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount:

Luke 6 Matthew 5
20. Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
21. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you will be filled. 6. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
21. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 4. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
22. Blessed are you when men hate you… 11. Blessed are you when men revile you…
n/a 5, 7, 8, 9, 10. Blessed are the meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted for righteousness sake
24-26. Woe to you who are rich, full, laugh, and spoken well of n/a

As you can see, Luke does not spiritualize the poor. They aren’t poor in spirit. They are economically poor. They do not hunger for righteousness. They are hungry. For food. Jesus is looking his followers in the eyes and telling the poor ones one thing and the rich ones something else. Oh yes. The woes here are not for the crowd. They are for the disciples too. Which is significant for those of us who live far removed from poverty. Jesus has a lot more to say to us from this plain, but for today, reread the blessings and the woes. Jesus is looking at you. Jesus is talking to you.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.