Sermon outline for this coming Sunday:
A House That Stands, Luke 6:12-49
The Pharisees sought to renew Israel by applying principles of holiness and separation in every detail of life, such as table manners and how you spent your time on the Sabbath. Jesus agreed that Torah had to be extended to all life, but the specifics of Jesus’ teaching were radically different from the Pharisees’. His was a program of mercy, self-giving, and love rather than a program of separation.
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself . . . .” (Luke 6:12-49).
Jesus had already begun to gather disciples (see Luke 5:30, 33; 6:1). A disciple is a learner, a student who follows the teaching and example of his master. Everyone who follows Jesus is a disciple. But the twelve stand out from the rest of the disciples, and here are called “apostles” (6:13). An apostle does not simply learn from his master, but is authorized to act in his master’s name. Jesus establishes the “Twelve” as the leaders of His disciples.
We know the transition from Luke 6:11 to Luke 6:12-16 is significant because it is preceded by a night of prayer, as are many of the milestones in Jesus’ ministry (6:12; see 3:21; 4:42; 5:16). What is at stake in the choosing of the Twelve? Jesus has come preaching the kingdom, and the year of release, and the people of Nazareth try to kill him. (Strike one.) Then Jesus enacts the year/day of release by healing on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees go out to discuss how they can get rid of Jesus. (Strike two.) Israel gets only two strikes in this game: Immediately, Jesus goes to a mountain and calls together the core members of a new Israel.
Another important point is that Jesus gathers the twelve exactly as persecution is intensifying. The Twelve are called to join Jesus not only in His preaching, healing, and exorcism, but also to share in His suffering. The persecution mentioned in the “sermon on the plain” is clearly coming from the Jews: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day, and leap, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to do to the prophets” (6:22-23).
After Jesus appoints the patriarchs of a new Israel, He comes down from the mountain (as Moses did from Sinai) to deliver the new Torah to the people. This sermon describes the way of life of the new Israel. At many points, Jesus is not giving new commandments but clarifying the old Torah and correcting Jewish distortions of Torah. This is clearer in Matthew’s version of the sermon (Matthew 5-7), since there Jesus contrasts His teaching with what the people have “heard” from the teachers of the law.
Jesus begins with a series of blessings and woes, blessings and curses (see Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). These blessings and woes assume that there is a threat of judgment looming over Israel, and that a great reversal is about to take place (see Luke 2:46-55; 3:7-9). Because Israel is about to be judged, those who are rich and prospering are going to be cast down, while those who are oppressed will be exalted. He emphasizes that discipleship is evident in our use of money and wealth (6:34-35, 38).
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
The thrust of Jesus’ teaching in the sermon is the demand of love. In one sense, this is not a new commandment, since Torah itself commanded Israel to love their neighbors as themselves, and prohibited vengeance and holding a grudge (Leviticus 19:18). In another sense, Jesus’ commandments intensify the demands of the law. Instead of urging love only for neighbors, who would love you in return, Jesus commands us to love those who hate us. What marks out the “sons of God,” the true Israel, is not separation and purity, as the Pharisees thought, but love for enemies, doing good without expecting a return (Luke 6:35).
Like the Pharisees, however, Jesus says that this demand must be pressed out into the details of daily life and in our day-to-day relationships. Jesus assumes that people will hate us (6:22-23). When people curse us, we should bless them and pray for them (6:28). We should refrain from condemning others, and be quick to forgive when we are wronged (6:37). We should not attempt to correct a brother’s sin until we have dealt with the must more serious sins in ourselves (6:41-42). In every area of life, at every moment, the “golden rule” applies (Luke 6:31).
Jesus’ instructions have a significant political edge in His first-century context. Many Jews considered Romans their “enemies,” and Jesus’ instructions apply to how a subject people should respond to their oppressors. Specifically, Roman soldiers had the right to requisition supplies from the Jews; instead of resisting this imposition, Jesus instructs His disciples to give beyond what is demanded (6:29).
A HOUSE ON A FOUNDATION
Jesus ends the sermon with a parable about two men building houses. Both have heard Jesus, but their response is different. The difference between the wise and foolish man is whether or not they do what Jesus commands them to do, not whether they hear it (see James 1:22-25).
This parable is specifically a warning to Israel, for the Jews were then in the process of building a great house. Jesus is telling them that their house, the house of Israel and the temple of the Lord, will stand if Israel listens to and does His word, for it is the “word of God” (5:1). If they do not do what Jesus says, a great river will burst against the house and destroy it, the great river of the Roman legions (see Isaiah 8:1-8; Luke 21:20-24). In the end, Israel did not do what Jesus said, and their house fell, leaving not one stone on another.
Catechism for Little Saints
Why did Jesus choose twelve apostles?
Because there were twelve tribes in Israel, and Jesus was gathering a new Israel.
What did Jesus say we should do with our money?
Use it to serve Him.
What is the “golden rule”?
“Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
For Further Study
1. Compare the lists of disciples in Luke 6, Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Acts 1:13. How are the lists different? How are they similar? Why?
2. An exercise in self-examination: Look at your checkbook, and ask if your use of money is consistent with Jesus’ instructions in this sermon.