The Crowds Follow Jesus

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany | January 17, 2019

Jeremiah 17:5-10 • Psalm 1 • 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 • Luke 6:17-26

17 When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.

20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,

“God blesses you who are poor,
    for the Kingdom of God is yours.
21 God blesses you who are hungry now,
    for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
    for in due time you will laugh.

22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man.23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
    for you have your only happiness now.
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
    for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
    for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
    for their ancestors also praised false prophets.

Luke 6:17-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

As the season of Epiphany progresses, we continue walking through the Gospel of Luke. Just before this week’s passage, Luke records how Jesus gathered his disciple and appointed 12 of them to be apostles.

After they are selected they traverse down the mountain and are greeted by a crowd of people. They have come to hear Jesus speak – and to be healed – healed of diseases, from evil spirits. We are told that everyone tried to touch him because if they did, they would be healed. Remember, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit went ahead of Jesus.

In the next paragraph, Luke gives us a different account of the Beatitudes. He reminds us that blessings await those who are mocked and hated on account of the gospel. People will exclude us – that is part of what happens as purveyors of the gospel. Then in typical upside down fashion, Jesus tells us to leap for joy when that happens. Leap for joy when we are persecuted for the sake of the gospel? Yes, because our reward is not here but in heaven. The gospel song says, “This world is not my home…I’m just a passing through.” This life is only temporary and we are to preach the news of the Kingdom as much as we are able. Many were seeking Jesus for the healings – for what he could do for them. He desires that we seek Him so that the Kingdom is increased.

As we conclude this section, Jesus warns his disciples of prosperity. Those who are rich – without seeking the Kingdom first – only have happiness now – that richness will not follow into the Kingdom of God. A sign of prosperity would be those who have much food to eat and Jesus talks about the fat because there will be a time that they will starve because they only seek for physical food and not spiritual food. For those who laugh now – your laughing will turn to sorrow. If you are praised by the crowd – that is also cause for alarm because the false prophets were praised.

Jesus warns his disciples of prosperity, because it can take our eyes off the Kingdom of God. We get more concerned about what I can get out out of the Kingdom, rather than working for the Kingdom. Many in the crowds were simply there to see what they could get out of Jesus – but the disciples – they were there for the long haul and Jesus warned them of the cost they would need to pay.

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