How good you are at the High Jump? You must at least have seen athletes on TV – a short run (but not straight at the bar), at the last minute they seem to turn away, and then jump with a curious swing of the legs. Somehow, it’s not an obvious way of doing it – and you will understand I don’t try.
I won’t even think about pole vaulting!
That seems a good way in to Jesus’ comments. (Luke 6:17-26). He had chosen 12 apostles, and gathered them, with others who had been following him, and a crowd of local onlookers. He was healing people, but, as always, teaching as well.
And it is his teaching which seems strange:
Blessed are you who are poor
Blessed are you who hunger now
Blessed are you who weep now
Blessed are you when people hate you Luke 6:20-22 part
There’s nothing happy about poverty – it is limiting, often uncomfortable, insecure. The same thing with hunger; we’re not talking about effective dieting, but about starvation, weakness, the risk of illness and inability to work or even move about freely. Crying, being hated – the same applies.
What can Jesus be talking about?
In part, he may be talking about spiritual poverty. (Matthew 5:3 reads “Blessed are the poor in spirit”) – but not entirely. Read carefully, and you see that Jesus is talking about people who are not entirely happy with the way things are now, on earth. They are not so heavily invested in the status quo that they aren’t actively looking for something better.
The poor will find the Kingdom of God because they know something is badly wrong with life here and now. The hungry will value the bread Jesus offers – not just at the feeding miracles. The hated have the nerve to be loyal to a Saviour unpopular with the establishment.
For those who don’t want to be disturbed, it gets worse. Luke adds verses Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” lacks:
“But woe to you who are rich, . .
Woe to you who are well fed now, . .
Woe to you who laugh now, . .
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, . .
We see that the same sort of explanation applies. A minority of Jesus followers were wealthy, and able to provide for their needy brothers and sisters. Jesus isn’t cursing them, but taking very seriously the dangers of complacency, of the wrong sort of contentment. (“I’m all right Jack, keep off what’s mine”). The well fed may be drowsy rather than alert to the need for justice. The laughers may scorn the abused. The popular may not have passed on the words of God, which sometimes warn or redirect.
Things are not what they seem. Those who appear to have done well – are in real danger. If you want to live well, you have to approach life, well, like a high jumper. A curious technique, which seems impossible until it works.
We aren’t poor, not by global standards. Nobody here is starving, and if some are sad and others have been the subject of gossip, it is the ordinary events of life, not critical destitution, we are speaking of.
Can we, then, find the motivation to live as Christians? Do we understand how lightly we must sit to wealth, posessions, even good times and good reputation?
Those who follow Jesus must go where he goes, see as he sees, and only then reach the promised glory. Perhaps we should talk more of the sinners in heaven, and less of our earthly success?