February 9, 2022
The Great Reversal
Can you see the crowds travelling a great distance to hear a young rabbi preach? His certainly was a different kind of message. And, certainly as some of those who were third or fourth time attendees knew, many of his messages were accompanied by miracles.
In one of Jesus’ most popular discourses, called the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5—7) he gives a view of what people could expect in the kingdom of God. Here, in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 6:17-49, sometimes referred to as the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus, after a night of praying and communing with God, his Father, teaches both his newly-appointed disciples and the crowds around some of those same lessons.
While many came for the message, still others came for the healing miracles. The Bible tells us that “Large crowds of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon were there too. These people had come to listen to Jesus and to be healed of their diseases. All who were troubled by evil spirits were also healed. Everyone was trying to touch Jesus, because power was going out from him and healing them all” (Luke 6:17-19, CEV).
Think of it in today’s language. They drove, were bussed in, they took mass transit, they walked—but they came. The mentally ill, the cancer patients, the Covid-stricken, the depressed, and those CEO’s who had it all, but whose “all” didn’t satisfy them. Jesus was standing on the plain. At their level where they could reach him, and he didn’t disappoint. The Scripture says that he healed them all. All? Yes, every one!
But more than that, he taught a lesson they were not expecting. It was a lesson of reversal, so to speak. Those who the world viewed as bereft of earthly benefits, and who believed the Good News, would receive abundance in the kingdom of heaven. Those who did not heed the gospel and did not use the wealth, talent, opportunities they were given in this life to uplift the downtrodden and marginalized, would find themselves in that same position at the end of their life.
Jesus was teaching not so much about human poverty and wealth, but rather that we must recognize that we need to empty ourselves of earthly trappings and depend only on him. It is then that we can become transformed into the likeness of God. It is then that our minds and spirits can be renewed. It is then that we can experience the kingdom of God.
Jesus preached even more radically. He encouraged his audience to love their enemies, and pray for them, too; to rejoice when they were mistreated for the cause of Christ; to treat others as they themselves wanted to be treated; and above all to forgive.
Can you see the big “What???” in their eyes? Who had ever heard of such a message? Who could ever carry our out such a command? Who would want to?
We who have the benefit of reading the Scriptures now, 2000 years later, realize that we can carry out Jesus’ command, but only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only if we allow the mind of Christ to be in us (Philippians 2:5). Only if we truly believe that God’s thoughts and his ways are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Only if we move away from religious routine and give God pre-eminence in our life.
It seemed like an upside down gospel, but that was what was needed then and it is still needed now as we fight racial injustice, crime, gender bias, deceit and greed, and a host of social ills that plague our communities even more than the current pandemic.
At the center of Jesus’ message is love—love for God, and love for each other, these are the commandments Jesus lifts up in Matthew 22:37-40 as the most important ones. It is not too late, even now, for us to adopt these, if we would see conditions in our world reversed.
PRAYER: Loving God, help us to heed your call to be people who would follow your teachings. Help us to follow where you are leading and not where we expect to go. Cause us to make use of every opportunity to expand your kingdom here on earth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. ©Medytations 2022