Today’s reading is from Luke 6:17-26. The phrase that captured my imagination is in verse 17, “and he came down with them and stood on a level place.”
This may seem like a trivial, geographical detail, but I think it actually speaks volumes regarding Luke’s theological agenda. This becomes more apparent when we contrast this passage to Matthew’s version. Matthew says that Jesus “went up the mountain” and spoke the famous beatitudes (Matthew 5:1). Luke has Jesus up on a mountain when he names the twelve disciples his apostles (sent ones) and then he “came down with them and stood on a level place.”
Then notice who is with him: “people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.” These are Jews AND Gentiles gathering TOGETHER to hear what Jesus tells them.
Then notice what he tells them. He first speaks to the lowest of the low–the poor, the hungry, the mourners, the hated–and reminds them that God exalts them. After that he speaks to the highest of the high–the rich, the full, the laughers, the well-loved–for they will be brought low.
This is Luke’s running theme.
It’s what Mary said in her song – Luke 1:46-56
It’s what Zechariah said in his song – Luke 1:67-80
It was evident in the birthplace among animals and shepherds in Bethlehem – Luke 2
It was proclaimed by John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah – Luke 3:4-6
It was proclaimed by Jesus, again quoting Isaiah, in his first sermon in Nazareth – Luke 4:18-19
Now we see it lived out in the narrative. Jesus does not exalt himself to dispense heavenly wisdom. He lowers himself to the level place and proclaims the great equalizing power of God’s love.
We will see this played out in the text for this weekend’s sermon from Luke 7:1-17.
Here are images from the sermon from Luke 3 a few weeks ago that visualize the theme.