Epiphany 0619 – “True Blessedness and Joy in Jesus!” Luke 6:17-26
Epiphany 0619 – “True Blessedness and Joy in Jesus!” Luke 6:17-26
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke, the 6th Chapter.
“17And 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 and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
So Far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What is it that brings you blessedness and joy? This is the eternal quest of every person born into this sinful world. For this reason we tend to make lists of gifts we would like for special occasions. The couple planning to be married will register at various stores or online and choose a variety of things to help them begin life together. Children will make lists of gifts they want for a birthday or Christmas. In their minds eye these gifts will bring them total and complete joy. How long does the joy last? How blessed will a person feel when the initial joy wears off and life returns to normal?
Dr. Luther writes:
“The quest for happiness is common to all mortals, and there is no one who would not wish himself well and would not hate to have things go ill with him. And yet all men, as many as are alive, have lost the understanding of true happiness …”#2133 – What Luther Says p. 688
In another place he writes:
“To achieve this joy we must cling whole heartedly to the Word and find comfort in the thought that Christ has so solemnly promised to be with us, together with the Father, and to protect us, so that no misfortune will harm us, no power of the devil and the world will crush us or tear us away from Him. In this way we constantly find comfort and joy, and we become increasingly happy as time goes on, allowing no suffering or adverse circumstance to make us depressed or despondent. In fact, bearing all manner of suffering for the love of Christ actually becomes pleasant and delightful.” #2136 ibid. p. 689
Certainly we witness people seeking for joy and blessedness in the reading from St Luke. They are flocking to Jesus from all over the Land of Canaan. They come from Tyre and Sidon on the seacoast in the north, from Judah and Jerusalem in the south and from every place in between. Are all believers? Yes they are. Some believe that Jesus will heal them from their diseases and afflictions, but may not see Jesus as Messiah. Some believe that Jesus is a great prophet of God, but they do not see him as the one “like unto Moses.” Yet, all were drawn to Jesus because power came out from Him and He healed them in their bodies.
Certainly, they were filled with joy. Their bodies were made whole again. Their hearts swelled at the sound Jesus’ words and healing touch. Weak bodies were made strong. Troubled hearts were calmed. Oppressed souls were freed. Jesus brought them new life in the kingdom of God. He was fulfilling His saving work among God’s people. He was bringing relief and joy to their troubled lives. Jesus was filling those who were empty, feeding those who were hungry and comforting those who had nothing.
Yet our Lord comes not only to restore the broken and injured bodies. Jesus comes to bring the life of God to sin dead hearts. By nature we do not know we need what God offers to us in Jesus. We surround our lives with the creature comforts of this world and think everything is okay. Wealth deceives us to think we have all we need. Full bellies deceive us to believe the hunger we feel is only physical. Happiness with earthly blessings deceives us to believe there is nothing greater or of more importance in life. Being congratulated and praised by those around us deceives us to think God is pleased with us, also.
Jesus speaks to this truth in declaring woe upon those so caught in sin’s delusion. Woe to you rich …, woe to you filled now …, woe to you who receive the praise of men …. If you think life is only these outward trappings you are most to be pitied. For in your sinful ignorance you have not acknowledged the Creator and giver of these gifts.
You have taken these gifts as your due. You have hoarded these gifts for your own pleasure. You have sought the praise of other sinners, but failed to give praise to your Creator. Therefore, your wealth will run out. Your emptiness will be your reward. You will mourn over the life you wasted. You will acknowledge the God who gave your life from a distance with your weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The time for repentance is now. The time to receive God’s grace is now. The time to confess your spiritual poverty is now. The time to seek healing for sin-starved live is now. It is for this reason that Jesus lifted up His eyes and spoke to His disciples the words of hope and restoration. Those who followed Jesus and were brought to faith through His preaching and miracles were given eternal promise, everlasting hope and complete satisfaction which comes only through God’s grace and mercy. Consider the promise and blessing given by Jesus.
Those who recognize and confess their poverty of worthiness before God will be exalted and lifted up before God’s throne in eternity. Those who hunger for the pure spiritual food and drink of God’s Word will find satisfaction in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Those who weep now over their sins and confess such sinfulness to the God of all creation will be brought to joy in the body of Jesus given and blood of Jesus shed for the sins.
This is what sustains the believer in Jesus throughout life in this rebellion driven world. When we walk by faith in the Word of God made flesh, we will be opposed on all sides. The followers of Jesus will be called hated for proclaiming the need for repentance. The followers of Jesus will be excluded because they do not fall in line with the rest of the world heading for destruction. The followers of Jesus will be insulted because they refuse to evil good and good evil as impenitent sinners do.
We are facing such things in our community every day. Most recently the community of faith has spoken out against the Drag Queen Story Hour. People have heard the voice of God spoken at various town meetings in opposition to what is clearly against nature and the will of God. Our children are being targeted to influence their acceptance of such a life. Yet, those who promote and support such things have no fear of the God who says, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:2
At times it may seem futile for those who walk by faith in the Son of God. The burden of giving faithful witness may seem great. The rejection of truth may seem disheartening. The insults being thrown at you may seem unbearable. Yet, there is always hope for the follower of Jesus Christ. First, we must remember to expect such rejection and persecution. For the servant is not above his master, nor is the student above his teacher. If they did such things to Jesus they will do such things to those who follow Jesus.
Secondly, we must remember such treatment is temporary. Rejection and persecution will continue for only a moment. We always look past the present suffering to the future salvation. As did our Savior so must we also. The writer to the Hebrews says this of those who follow Jesus. “… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) This echoes the words of Jesus who tells his disciples “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven….”
Do you remember the words of Dr Luther I spoke earlier? Perhaps you thought he was a little warped when you heard these words. “In fact, bearing all manner of suffering for the love of Christ actually becomes pleasant and delightful.” We are not eager to suffer. Nor do we intentionally seek it out. Yet, when suffering for the faith does come to us our Lord commands us to rejoice that while the world rewards us with pain and persecution, our God rewards us with eternal life.
In the name of thee Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen