Sermon on the Plain

This morning’s Gospel reading is traditionally called, ‘the Sermon on the Plain’, because Luke reports that Jesus came down to deliver his sermon on ‘a plain’ (Lk 6:17). Much of the material in the sermon is identical to ‘the Sermon on the Mount’ which is in Matthew’s gospel (Matt ch’s 5-7). However, subtle, but significant differences of emphasis exist between Luke and Matthew’s accounts. Each reflects the interest by the Gospel writer to present Jesus as either a rabbi who is superior to Moses (Matthew’s account), or the prophet teaching his disciples how they are to live as one of his followers in a society which is rich, powerful and persecuting them (Lk 6:22, 24, 26). For example, Luke contrasts those who are poor (6:20), with the rich who Jesus denounces. In contrast, Matthew’s account has ‘the poor in spirit’ (Matt 5:3).

What is significant in Luke’s presentation is that Jesus’ teaching is addressed to the broader group of disciples who are contrasted with the crowd (6:20). His teaching is therefore for those on the inside, who have heard the call to follow and not the general public. He makes a shocking contrast between the rich and poor and pronounces judgement on the rich in four ‘woes’ (6:24-26). The ‘blessings’ are upon, and also it should be noted, for the poor, the hungry, those who weep in despair and those who are marginalised (6:20-22). This is Jesus being the prophet. He has announced that a division is already being made between these two groups and he has shown his hand. Judgement is coming on the rich who do not respect God’s poor yet claim to be God’s people (see also James 5:1-6).

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