Blogging the Bible 272 – Luke 6 – The Sermon on the… Plain?

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This chapter feels like Luke’s equivalent of Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, though Luke’s clear that there’s no mountain involved!
Luke’s equivalent of the Beatitudes (Lk. 6:20-26) serves the same purpose as Matthew’s (Mt.  5:1-12) but while there are strong echoes, Luke’s has a different focus
For one thing, Luke’s version balances blessing and woe. Not, as many would have expected in yesterday’s quote from Isaiah, woe to the Gentiles but to the rich and complacent of Israel.
Then the blessings themselves are, less equivacolly than in Matthew, promised to those who are poor and downtrodden in concrete, present – world terms. Where Matthew’s account of Jesus’ words promises blessing to the poor in spirit,  Luke refers simply to the poor. The hunger of those who are blessed isn’t here, as in Matthew, for righteousness. It’s for food. There’s no question that Luke shows Jesus’ eye and heart firmly fixed on those in real, concrete need.
This doesn’t set Luke’s account ‘against’ Matthew’s, as if one were giving the true picture of Jesus distorted by the other. Apart from anything else, in three years of ministry there was time for more than one sermon, on the Mount and in the Plain!
More deeply, the different focus reminds us that we need more than one person’s view of Jesus to be able to relate to him healthily and throughout life.
Matthew’s list of Beatitudes reminds us of God’s vision of reality in a way open to all of us, a pattern for thought and values. Luke’s, following on from the prayers of Zechariah and Mary, reminds us that God cares deeply about the current social and economic realities of the world. And he’s not on the side of those who are on top.
It may be worth asking ourselves – which do I find easier to relate to – Matthew 5:1-12 or Luke 6:20-26? For me, while I love Luke’s gospel, I find myself more drawn to Matthew here; I think I need to wonder why.

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