The Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49)

This is our text for Sunday August 9th, 2009.

This past Sunday we discussed the idea that Christianity is about feasting, and that feast takes place among those who are the least likely to get invited to the party. “Feasting with Tyrants and Tax Collectors” as we called is part of the new work God brought about through Jesus’ ministry. But for many, both in Jesus’ time and in our own, Jesus’ outreach strategy looks pretty shady, and won’t get him a spot on the outreach board and it definitely won’t get him hired as the new missions pastor. (Doesn’t he know he shouldn’t be associating with people like that?!) This caused a lot of hubbub in his time (to really understate it) and got him in trouble with many of his peers. In fact, this isn’t the exact response you’d expect from people after hearing God’s messiah preach:

“But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (Luke 6:11).

But of course this is most likely because, among all the other questionable things Jesus was doing, he was hanging around with all the wrong people. His reputation was completely shot by the time chapter 7 rolled around:

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34-35).

In the midst of all this commotion, Jesus called the twelve (isn’t it interesting that he calls someone who, I presume he knows, will betray him later?) and then, as opposed to in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus preached from the side of a mountain, he went down to the people and stood among them (again take notice of who is there). It says:

“He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them (Luke 6:17-19).

He then gave them the master plan. He knows he’s not going to be around for long, so he offered the ethical basis from which his people will (and must) draw if his mission is going to continue in this world.

Here are the “poetics of the kingdom:”

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”” (Luke 6:20-49 NRSV).

How/why might these be considered the poetry/poetics of the kingdom? What do you think Jesus is doing here in this “sermon?”
Who are our/your enemies today?
What would it look like, or what does it look like, to live these ethics out in the life of the church today?

Memorize a line, or a few lines this week from Jesus’ sermon that really challenge or resonate with you.
Find a way to turn a portion of this this passage into a prayer and pray through it during this week. (One suggestion might be to say, “Help me to be merciful, just as you, Father, are merciful.” as a breathing prayer).


  1. Something that really resonated with me in reading the passage this time is the context of loving your enemies. Do I really have enemies? That’s not a word I really use in my everyday vocabulary. Instead of enemies, when I thought of this passage in the context of – love people that aren’t like me; have different interests, love people that make different choices than me… It’s about the act of love without boundaries. Don’t allow myself to limit love.

    Another noticing that Jamie mentioned to me and I have been thinking about is, “Give to everyone who begs from you”. The passage specifically uses the word everyone. Since I work in Portland I got a little nervous about the word everyone, but what better way to practice love?

  2. Jason, thanks for this comment. I agree with the question around enemies. It’s language I think many of us have tried to consciously not use towards other people, but of course there are (I am sure) people who we treat as enemies even if we don’t call them that. Though it may be more difficult to identify who there are at times.

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