Living the Good News in the Gospel of Luke
Study 3

Learning to love the Kingdom way
Luke 6:20-49

This Sermon on the Plain, as it is called, is a vital learning experience for Kingdom members, and so Jesus prepared himself for it in the way all disciples prepare for any important event. Jesus went to a quiet spot on a mountain and spent the time in prayer to God (v. 12). The next day he chose the twelve apostles and then came down with them to a level place and there preached to a great crowd of disciples and people from all over the country (vv. 17-19). Yet this Sermon is addressed primarily to his disciples (v. 20); Jesus is setting down the spiritual and moral foundation for them to follow in his steps. They are to become like him as children of the heavenly Father, members of the Kingdom of God.

This Sermon appears to be a shortened version of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. But it leaves out many sections which were more meaningful for Jewish Christians, such as the discussion of Jewish law, or uses them elsewhere. Luke wants to focus on those teachings of Jesus which are more relevant to Gentiles and to make the message as pointed as possible. These aspects are very relevant to us as present-day Kingdom members as we seek to exemplify our heavenly Father in our relations with others.

Jesus had already stated what his mission was in his inaugural sermon in Luke 4:17-21 with the quotation from Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6. It is to reach out with the Good News of God’s love and compassion to the afflicted, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed. He will continue this through his disciples, then and now, through those who listen to him (cf. 6:18, 27, 47).

While the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 emphasize the spiritual blessings, Luke’s are strongly sociological. Luke knows that in Jesus’ teaching both the spiritual and the sociological are integrally connected, yet for his audience it is the real social concerns of poverty, hunger, grief, hatred, exclusion, reviling which need to be addressed. Spirituality can never be separated from social action and is its motivating force. Luke draws in corresponding woes (not found in Matthew) to contrast with the blessings. This is to emphasize Kingdom concern and action for the afflicted over against common attitudes found in society of unconcern in terms of self-centred indifference, greed, indulgence, and feeding on flattery.

The overall attitude of a Kingdom member is love and mercy—a love that imitates God’s love for us. Consequently, it is a love which reaches beyond the animosity, resentment, hate, ridicule, abuse shown to us to the person(s) behind all these hurtful attitudes and actions. Behind these kinds of attitudes is usually a person who is also hurting, lost, or misguided. Love does not pass judgment or condemn. Instead it reaches out in compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. Love is very vulnerable, but it is the only ultimate power to transform lives for good. Kingdom members recognize their own vulnerability and are conscious that without God’s love being like that they would be lost. Like a fruitful tree, they draw their life-giving source from the love of God in Christ. They build upon that foundation, and so stand firm against counter-forces to act in love.

Blessings and Woes
Read Luke 6:20-26.

1. The first four verses are proclamations of God’s blessings on you. How do you feel?

2. “Yours is the Kingdom of God.” What does this mean to you?

3. Are these blessings (vv. 20-23) for this life or for a future after-life? Note that “in heaven” in v. 23 is the pious Jewish way of saying ”in the presence of God” (Compare Luke 6:20 with Matthew 5:3; and Luke 6:23 with Matthew 5:12).Picture yourself as one of the disciples sitting at the feet of Jesus as he proclaims these blessings and woes to you. How would you understand them? How would you interpret them for you personally? Cf. Isaiah 65:13-14.

Loving enemies, reaching out selflessly
Read Luke 6:27-36.

4. Share with each other some of the experiences you have had with people who hate you or curse and abuse you. How have you reacted? Why do people act that way? How can we respond in each case in a way that shows we are “children of the Most High” (v. 35)?

5. Why would you stand there and let an abusive person hit you again, or let a thief take even your shirt (v. 29)?

6. Is giving to street beggars being merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful (vv. 30, 36)?

7. Jesus may have had these passages in mind: Exodus 22:25-26; Deuteronomy 24:10-17. Cf. Matthew 5:38-42. Or does he go further? What is one’s motivation?

8. In vv. 32-36 Jesus speaks about two different kinds of love. Both are reflected love but what is the difference? See also 2 Corinthians 3:16-18.

Being non-judgmental, forgiving, sharing
Read Luke 6:37-42.

9. Is it judging when you discriminate against people of another race, or religion, or social status?

10. Is it ever okay to judge or condemn?

11. Where does forgiveness and giving come into it?

12. Discuss the point of Jesus’ carpenter-shop hyperbole (vv. 41-42).

Being fruitful
Read Luke 6:43-49.

13. What is the point Jesus wants us to understand in the metaphors of a tree and a treasure? Cf. Psalm 1:1-4; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Isaiah 61:3; Genesis 3:18; Isaiah 7:23-25.

14. What does it mean for you to build on a rock (vv.46-49)?

15. So now what does it really mean to be a disciple, a Kingdom member? Summarize Jesus’ message to you.

Remember, being a Kingdom member is a gift of Grace. Just let the love of God flow through you!