These are the days, oh, these are days…you’ll remember. These are also words of a song by the band 10,000 Maniacs. It was a song which topped the music charts, coincidentally, nearly 10,000 days ago.
In these days, oh, these are three simple words…to remember. These are also words written by a man named Luke. These three simple words top what is probably the best known teaching of Jesus for nearly 730,000 days. The teaching has been called The Sermon on the Mount.
What is the Sermon on the Mount?
The Sermon on the Mount is recorded for us in two books of the Bible – the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. In Matthew, the sermon fills three whole chapters (Matthew 5; 6 and 7) and can be read in about ten, maybe fifteen minutes. In Luke, the sermon fills just the remainder of a chapter (Luke 6) and can be read in a couple of minutes. In Matthew, the sermon consists of 107 verses. In Luke, the sermon consists of just 30 verses. The point is not so much that the sermon in Luke is shorter. The point is that the sermon in Luke is the same sermon as in Matthew, only different. How is the same sermon in Luke different?
The sermon in Luke is introduced by those three simple words – in these days (Luke 6:12). And in these days Jesus “went out to the mountain.” Pay close attention as to why Jesus went to the mountain. It was “to pray.” Now, what are these days? These are days that must be seen through the lens of the preceding verse, Luke 6:11. “But they,” let’s pause there. They are the Bible teachers and the Bible experts of these days. “But they were filled with fury” – fury means no mind or angry to the point of losing the capacity to think. “And discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” These are the days. And in these days, what did Jesus do? He went to the mountain to pray.
In these days, Jesus did not pray for himself. Instead, he prayed and continued to pray all night for his disciples. On the eve of the cross and before he was arrested and before he was betrayed and before he went to the garden, what did Jesus do? He prayed and he did not pray for himself. Instead, he prayed for his disciples (John 17). Now listen to Hebrews 7:25. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost [at all times or completely] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” What is Jesus doing right now for his disciples? Part of the application from Luke 6:12-16 is the necessity in these days to be praying for one another; praying that we might comprehend together the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ; and that our love for others would abound and keep abounding some more; and that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus our Lord and Savior, even in these days (Ephesians 3:18-19; Philippians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18).
But look again at Luke 6:12-13. And just mark this down – Jesus prayed for his disciples. And in that statement too, it is in Luke 6:13; highlight those two words “his disciples.” These two words appear here and again in Luke 6:17 and then again for a third time in Luke 6:20. So, three times in this portion of Luke, the best known teaching of Jesus, are these two words – his disciples.
So, the sermon in Luke is different in that Luke takes time to first emphasize these days. A reason may be that the words of this sermon are especially significant or needed for days like these days. But there is one glaring difference between this sermon in Luke and this sermon in Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke include right at the beginning something called the Beatitudes. Just to clarify, these Beatitudes are not attitudes to be; this is not why they are called the Beatitudes. The word beatitude does not even appear in the sermon. But it does mean to make happy and is similar to the word bonus. It is like a bonus of happiness. In Matthew, there are nine beatitudes. But in Luke there are four beatitudes. Why does Luke only include four beatitudes? It is because Luke also includes four woes (Luke 6:24-26).
And He Came Down With Them
Jesus went to the mountain to pray and to pray for his disciples. He then called for his disciples and selected from among them twelve men that he would send out on mission. These are called the twelve apostles – Peter, Andrew, James and John; Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew; James who was the son of Alphaeus; Simon who was a true patriot; Judas whose dad’s name was James; and Judas Iscariot.
Now notice Luke 6:17. “And he came down with them.” Who are them? It would seem that these are the newly chosen twelve apostles. He came down with them and stood on a level place. This is significant, but we will see why in a little bit. Then notice what Luke does and I think it is to distinguish the them. Luke draws our attention to a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people. Why does Luke do this? There are three groups of people, each different in size. There are the twelve apostles (them); then a larger group – the great crowd of his disciples and then a much larger group – the great multitude of people.
Notice the great multitude. These are people from “all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.” I think this is so exciting. Mentioning Tyre and Sidon is an indication that the renown of Jesus is not contained within all Judea and Jerusalem. It is spreading. The good news of Jesus is spreading beyond borders. This is expressed in one of our Bible readings from this week. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (cf. Psalm 67:1-4a).
And these are people who have come to hear him – do not miss this – and to be healed of their diseases. But really notice the last part of verse eighteen. “And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.” The word troubled (vexed or tormented) is a word that is found one other time in the New Testament. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). The word troubled is the picture of a raging mob. And the affect of such trouble is upon the heart and mind of an individual (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-19). Here it is demonic possession and/or influence which is the cause of such trouble. So what is the affect of such possession and influence? It is upon the heart and mind of an individual.
What does Luke say about those who were troubled by these unclean spirits? They were cured. The word cured, it is healed in some translations, is just so unexpected. What though was cured? It was the heart and mind. I love this word. It is the Greek word therapeuó. What word do you see? It is the word therapy. Listen to this word. It means willing service and refers to a faithful attendant who voluntarily serves another, like a friend serving in a tender, noble way (cf. Hebrews 3:5). Jesus tended to, served like a faithful friend, those who were troubled by unclean spirits. This is how he cured them.
This is such an amazing scene! What did it sound like? There must have been clamor, clamor of joy and tears. What did it look like? Were families embracing? Were the lame now leaping? Were people breaking out into praise of God? Lives were being fully restored. Most importantly, what was the mood? I want us to all agree that the mood was happy. This place was filled with happiness.
And He Lifted His Eyes Upon His Disciples
Listen to Luke 6:20. “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples.” It is during this whole scene with the great multitude of people. Jesus then turned his attention to the great crowd of his disciples. Jesus had been standing, but now he was sitting. Matthew tells us that he was sitting (Matthew 5:1). A teacher would sit to teach. As soon as he did, the place grew silent. Remember the great multitude did not come just to be healed, but also to hear him. But notice Jesus has his attention on his disciples, meaning what he has to say is primarily addressed to his disciples. But the great multitude is listening. He does not turn his back on them. Why is that important?
The same power that restored lives is the same power that will be experienced in this Spirit-anointed, authoritative teaching. Yes, it is for his disciples but it can awaken unbelievers to the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ.
And Jesus gives his disciples four beatitudes and four woes. The word blessed correlates with the word woe, that is, whatever blessed means, woe is the opposite. And each beatitude correlates with each woe. And by the way, the woes sound pretty good.
The word blessed is an adjective, actually. And often we think of this word as simply meaning happy. I learned this week, though, that it does not mean happy. Happy is way too small of a word. Blessed means to make your happiness large. And here it is used as a statement of fact. Disciples, your happiness is large!
What is a disciple? In Luke, this word first appears in Luke 5:30, part of a chapter called “Jesus Calls His First Disciples.” And I think from there until now, Luke is helping us understand what a disciple is. A disciple is a learner, one who is learning from Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). A disciple has left everything and is following Jesus, meaning, everything is weighed by this question: When it comes to Jesus, what is everything to me? (cf. Philippians 3:7-16). A disciple loves the unlovely, the seemingly unlovable and the unloved. Those who are unwanted know the loving embrace of his disciple. A disciple, too, has abandoned the old life for new life with and in Jesus Christ. And a disciple then is one whose happiness is made large. How is it made large?
Some disciples are poor, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples are hungry, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples weep, maybe for long seasons of life, but their happiness is made large. Some disciples are friendless and ridiculed and marginalized, but their happiness is made large (Luke 6:20-23). So, what does it have to do with the woes?
The word woe (ouai) itself sounds bad. A woe is an expression of grief; a denunciation. These woes or expressions of grief are about pursuing wealth and health and joy and friends and acceptance, to enlarge happiness (Luke 6:24-26). Some disciples are rich and are healthy and never really weep and have friends and are accepted. But take it all way and their happiness remains large. What is the difference?
Blessed is a synonym for faith. And what is faith? It is simply looking to Jesus. Hebrews 11 is the famous faith chapter. It describes those who had wealth and health and joy and friends. Some though had it all taken away (Hebrews 11:32-38). But in all things, no matter the circumstance, these looked toward and longed for something better. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). And their testimony ends with these words: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and 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). But how do we do that?
Sometimes you must fight for it. There are days, perhaps these days, that just bring you down. But in all the days, sing together. Read God’s Word together. Recite God’s Word together and to one another. Hear God’s Word taught together. Pray together. It is called worship. And there we are reminded, our happiness is large.