Heaven Shines Down on the Outcasts
Seventh in a series of nine, “Heaven Shines Down”
Luke 6:17-26 // Jeremiah 17:5-8 // 1 Cor 15:12-20
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is the first portion of Jesus’s sermon on the plain, as Luke retells the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of heaven is yours...” Our text thus far.
Dear friends in Christ,
God does not choose places or people at random but deliberately. God does not ignore the past of his people but uses every bit, every scrap of everything that we are to demonstrate his grace, his mercy, and his peace.
We’ve been seeing heaven shine down at Bethlehem, at the River Jordan, at Cana during a wedding feast, in Nazareth when Jesus is rejected, in Capernaum as Jesus heals and teaches, and last week, we saw heaven shine down as Jesus calls the disciples and tells them, I will make you fishers of men. Pastor Griffin said, “Jesus moved Peter from timidity to courage... and it wasn’t just a one-time deal.”
So, after seeing thousand chasing after him for healing, after seeing hundreds of disciples gathering around him, after selecting his 12 disciples...
Today, we see Jesus lifting up his eyes on his disciples, out and among so many that came to him for so many reasons, and he begins to teach.
Four blessings and four woes for today, and all four of these, they really just say (one thing). One thing, one main point said four different ways.
Let me read them all together.
Blessed are you who are poor, and woe to you who are rich, for the kingdom of heaven is at stake.
Blessed to you who are hungry and woe to you who are full, for satisfaction in heaven is at stake!
Blessed are you who mourn and woe to you who are laughing, for joy in heaven is at stake.
And here’s the most important one, and you know that because Jesus spends the most time saying it. Blessed are you when you are persecuted, and woe to you when people speak well of you, for your reward in heaven is at stake.
But before we get to that one thing, notice some of the context. All of these blessings and woes point us again and again to the truth that this earth is a heavenly (battlefield), and remember our definition of heavenly from a few weeks ago—heaven is to be in the presence of God.
Your kindness demonstrates the kindness of Jesus. Your response to adversity can encourage faith (which clings to eternal life!) in others. Your life in the body of Christ is where God has chose to make “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done” to come on earth as it is in heaven.
To say it in a different way, if you had eyes to see it, you would see in every interaction, every situation, every action, every reaction, in every one of those, there is a supreme battle raging between light and darkness, where every one of your actions has a cosmic effect, where heaven itself is at stake.
But back to the one thing. These verses only really say one thing, that’s this: Blessed are those who (have no power). Woe to those who (do have power). What does that mean?
Blessed are you when you are on the margins, when you are on the edge. Woe to you when you are the influencer, when you are in the center, when you are the leader and the doer.
Blessed are you when the only hope that you can possibly have is heaven. Woe to you when life is going well enough that you think you can do it on your own. What does that mean? Does that mean we should seek to be sad, that we should seek to make bad business decisions, that we should starve ourselves?
And well, that misses the point as well, because those are only the outward signs of something greater. The point isn’t to be poor and hungry and weeping and scorned, because being that is only a by-product of what Jesus really wants. Instead, it’s about a person (and I quote), “who no longer requires such things for satisfaction.”
What would it look like to no longer require such things for satisfaction? To no longer require wealth to know serenity and security? To no longer require laughter to know joy? To no longer require food to know fullness? To no longer require influence to know that you are to be an example of Christ’s love even to those who hate you?
Because, there will be a day when your Christian calling won’t match your gifts. The kingdom of heaven is like a man whose greatest calling in life was to be a husband, and he was good at laying down your life for your wife, but now she’s gone.
The kingdom of heaven is like a woman who exulted in using her body to run marathons, making friends. She felt alive there in a way that nothing could compare, but now her knees give out and she’ll never be out there again.
The kingdom of heaven is like a woman named Joni Earickson, whose promising life came to a halt when she became a quadriplegic. She couldn’t do what she always thought she would do. She couldn’t do hardly anything at all. But slowly and surely, she found that the Lord wasn’t done with her, and that he had more for her to do than she ever thought possible.
Because each and every one of us is going to come to that point, when what we want to do doesn’t match what we can do.
Or to say it the way that St. Paul said it, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
Your reward is in heaven, and heaven shines down to us in (Jesus).
Because, no matter however your circumstances change, your God stays the same. Jesus died for all of your sins, whether your sins feel heavy or not. Jesus was raised for your eternal life, whether you see the horror of death in front of you or not. Jesus empowers you with an unearthly peace and a godly strength whether you feel like it or not. He is the kingdom of heaven. He is our reward. He is heaven itself. And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Amen and amen.
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