Four unexpected blessings

Four unexpected blessings – a sermon on Luke 6:17-26 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

What a world it is that we live in! Yes, there are wonderful people out there involved in fighting for things like justice for the poor or for refugees or for the rights of children. But in general that’s not what the world looks like, is it! Perhaps I’m cynical, but it seems to me that the focus of our culture is on the self…. self-esteem, self-gratification or self-importance. We see it in the “it’s all about me” culture. We see that in how people give up values to get into the good books of others. We see it in the endless striving for riches. We see it in the grabbing after power and importance in the political and business world – and in people’s personal lives too. We see it in how people have such a craving for being in charge, of lording it over others.

But when we listen to what Jesus says, we get a different picture of what our lives ought to be like. In our passage Jesus speaks to His disciples and instructs them on the way to live – He instructs them how to live lives of serving. He teaches them how to see as God sees, not how the world sees. He does this by teaching them of the blessings of discipleship. As we make our way through the text, we’ll see that what Jesus says brings blessings isn’t quite what people would’ve expected. He says that four things no one wants, are actually blessings, while those things that everyone seems to want will never truly satisfy.[1] Jesus focuses the attention of His disciples on four particular blessings – let’s call them the blessings of godliness as opposed to the blessings of worldliness:

But before we look at these blessings, let’s just turn our attention first to whom it was that Jesus was speaking to in our text. In the beatitudes in the gospel of Matthew Jesus spoke in more general terms – blessed are those who are humble, for instance. But here in Luke the words are much more targeted, in a sense. You see, verse 20 tells us that Jesus looked at and spoke directly to His disciples.  Yes, the gathered crowd could listen in on this too, but Jesus was telling His disciples what it meant to follow Him. He was telling them what they could expect if they followed Him. As one preacher puts it, in these verses we have a profile of what a disciple is to be – Jesus blows away the shallow talk of discipleship and He calls for true commitment.[2] And He says that such commitment is characterised by 4 types of blessings:

  • The blessing of poverty (v20, 24).
  • The blessing of hunger (v21, 25).
  • The blessing of mourning (v21, 25).
  • The blessing of rejection (v22, 26).

[1] Philip Graham Ryken, Luke (ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani; vol. 1; Reformed Expository Commentary; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 259.
[2] R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 214.