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THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY– Series C

Text:  Luke 6:17-26

Title: “Blessed Are You”

Date: Sunday, February 17, 2019

Pastor Steve Bocklage

The late syndicated cartoonist Charles Schultz delighted children and adults with his popular Peanuts cartoon strip. Among his works were a set of simple books with a sim­ple title: Happiness Is ... For Linus, "Happiness is ... a warm blanket." For Snoopy, "Happiness is ... a full dish of food."

         In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks about being "blessed" or "happy." But this "happiness" is far different from what our world calls "happy." This "happiness" implies Jesus is the source of every blessing. It implies God’s grace and favor is centered in Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead on Easter morning. "Blessed" or "happiness" implies God’s grace and favor is gifted to the one whose joy results from God’s work of redemption in Christ.

Our sermon text begins with large crowds of Jews and Gentiles coming to Jesus from everywhere "to hear Him and to be cured of their diseases." (v 18) As they gather before the Son of God, Jesus looks on the crowd of harassed and helpless people, who are like abandoned sheep without a shepherd. Diseased and demonized, these people have come to the One who means everything to them. Intuitively, they know the Lord is an extraordinary healer with awesome power and authority. Jesus' power was so great that Dr. Luke records: "power went forth from him and cured them all." (v 19)

         Among those present with Jesus are many of Jesus’ disciples, including Jesus’ inner circle…the twelve disciples. This event becomes a training session for Jesus’ disciples because the Lord will commission them later to preach and heal (Lk 9:6) in His name.  “Looking at His disciples,” (v 20a) the Lord Jesus speaks of the contrasts of life in the "blessings," which are a way of life…and the "woes,” which are a way of death by falling away from faith in the Savior and stubbornly rejecting Him. These four “blessed” statements made by Jesus in Luke 6 are declarations of blessedness that believers enjoy now in this life and in the heavenly life to come.

Better known as beatitudes, these declarations of blessedness describe Gospel gifts that pertain to every believer. They are not principles to live by in order to achieve success in the things of this world, whether that would be one’s occupation, finances, or relationships. The purpose of being "blessed" by God is to instill faith and strengthen it in Christ alone.

         Jesus begins by stating: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (v 20b) "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." (v 24) Rich in their self-proposed goodness, the rich feel no need for a Savior from sin and death. In contrast, the poor are the ones with empty hearts and poverty-stricken souls. Jesus calls them "blessed" because their spiritu­ally bankrupt condition before God is a gift that comes through faith in Christ. According to St. James, God has chosen “those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him.” (James 2:5) The ONLY treasure they possess is the Son of God and His king­dom through faith in the Savior.

          Jesus continues: "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied." (v 21a) But "woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry." (v 25a) The person full of self-righ­teousness, pride, self-made religion, or other sin­ful appetites may be full now, but on the Last Day when Christ returns, the bellies full of those appetites will be forsaken and empty. Jesus wants you to have a deep hunger to know more about Him and His Word. Like a starved person who devours bread, the believer in Christ devours the Word of God. Look in faith to the Son of God who hung on the cross in pain…who hun­gered and thirsted for you and for your salvation. Jesus satisfies your hungry heart when He fills you with His righteousness in His Word and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. His gifts of grace overflow in your life! In heaven, never again will you hunger or thirst because Christ is your Shepherd who will lead you to springs of living water.

         Jesus says in the next beatitude: "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (v 21b) But "woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep." (v 25b) The movie Titanic showed people partying wildly, secure in the thought that nothing would sink the massive ship. Even as the bow was going under water, the band still played and people slowly boarded the half-full lifeboats. Only when the water crested the bow and no more lifeboats were available did people run for higher ground-pulling, pushing, and screaming. The "unsinkable" was going down.

The people whose mantra is "Eat, drink, and be merry" believe spiritual matters and eternity can wait! They have no time for true sorrow over sin. They have no time for repen­tance. They laugh and enjoy the worldly pleasures and lusts of sin in this life. Personal responsibility and accountability for their actions, words, and thoughts are practically non-existent. But that laughing will eventually turn to weeping and grieving when Jesus pronounces judgment.

One of the greatest writers in history wrote what the Encyclopedia Britannica describes as "one of the two or three greatest novels in world literature" known as War and Peace. But Leo Tolstoy also wrote a book in 1879 titled A Confession…which tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. One question that kept haunting him to the verge of suicide was this: "Is there any meaning in my life which will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death, which awaits me?" Tolstoy searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy. He continued asking the most important questions about life. "Where did I come from?" "Where am I going?" "Who am I?" "What is life all about?" Tolstoy eventually discovered a strange thing. He found that the Russian Christian peasants had been able to answer these questions. Through their Christian faith, they had a peace and happiness that were foreign to him. Tolstoy soon realized that ONLY in Jesus Christ does one find the true answer to the “blessed” life.

The Good News is the Source of joy is Jesus, who "will wipe every tear from their eyes." (Rev 21:4) Jesus took your sins and the suffering of the world into His own body on the cross. He shed His blood for you so that you would have your sins forgiven and life in heaven with Him. In the book of James, the writer records, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10)

In the final beatitude, Jesus proclaims: "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man." (v 22) But "woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." We live in a time where people seek to do what is right in their own eyes. They becom­e a religion unto themselves and admit no need for a Savior. That’s why it’s not surprising that the reaction of a sinful world to Christ and His disciples are persecution…instead of acceptance; hate…instead of accolades; exclusion and insult…rather than praise. The cross of Christ does indeed casts its shadow on all who follow Him. When you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are also willing to suffer for His sake. (l Pet 4:14)

Remember, ONLY in Christ are all God’s blessings found. One day, you will see the promised glory of heaven as you sit at the Lamb of God's banquet feast and are filled. One day, you will see your great reward…when you stand in heavenly robes arrayed in light, together with all the faithful who have died in the Lord Jesus Christ! Until that glo­rious day, you are to walk by faith and trust in Jesus and believe His words to you: "Blessed are you!" Amen.

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