So Jesus has built his team, and is ready to go. Finally. I’m struck by how much preparation has taken place in Jesus’ ministry. He’s already been out there doing a great amount of work (a lot of healing and a lot of casting out evil so far), and his ministry definitely has some steam, but it hasn’t quite felt like we’re really going yet. Luke’s Gospel has taken some time and many steps. From circumcision, to being presented in the temple, to establishing some authority at an age as young as 12 years old, to baptism, to temptation, to proclamation, and then to building a team, Luke has taken time and strategic steps in readying us for Jesus’ mission. It doesn’t just happen. Not even for Jesus. But finally it feels like we’re ready to go, and we are. Jesus comes down from the mountain with his 12 to a “level plane”.
What we’re about to get, here, is Luke’s version of Matthew’s famous “Sermon on the Mound”. This however is the “Sermon on the Plane”. It begs the question, “well, which is it- a mound or a plane?” but the easy answer to that is “both”. These are some crucial, foundational teachings here, so it’s likely that Jesus preached it in more than one place. That’s what we preachers do. When we find some stuff we like, we preach it all over place. And this is foundational stuff. It’s the kind of stuff that we’re really meant to wonder about in our lives. It’s easy to read the sermon on the plane and start to point to fingers at others who fall short of its demands, but that is exactly the opposite of what it’s designed to do.
It begins with Luke’s version of the beatitudes, which have some similarities to Matthew’s more famous version, but one stark difference: Luke adds some “woes” on to his “blesseds”. And those woes should give many of us great pause. Luke’s gospel does not speak well of affluence and it couldn’t be more clear than here. He then tells us to love our enemies, to “turn the other cheek”, and to give to “everyone who begs from you”. Then he closes with a phrase that is so famous that many don’t even know it’s from Jesus, let alone the Bible: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” He then moves into warning us about judging others, when we’re all guilty of falling short. And then he closes with this talk about how if you want to know who people really are, look at what they do: do they bear good fruit in the world? What is your foundation in this world? That is, “what are you standing on? What do you trust in? Have confidence in?”
Like I said, these are meant to be read and reflected upon in our lives. So go back and read them again. Wonder about them. Let them in, and let them take an inventory of your life. Keep coming back to these words. I am of the belief that much of the foundational teaching of the entire Christian life is in these words (more so in the Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, which you can read in Matthew 5, 6 & 7). So keep coming back to them and let them challenge and call you to the deep waters of following Jesus.
Pastor Paul’s message from this text at Aldersgate UMC on January 31, 2016: