Luke 6:17-26: Sermon on the Plain vs. Sermon on the Mount, part 1: ‘Happy are’ vs. ‘woe to’

It’s difficult to feel “blessed” when life is difficult, when bad and evil things of our existence seem to dominate. However, one of the promises God makes throughout the Bible is that He will bring “woe,” or judgment, to the evil of the world. “Blessed are,” or “happy are,” those who trust that God will make good on those promises.

Passages: Luke 6:17-26; Matt. 5:1-12; Psa. 1:1; Psa. 94:12-13; Psalm 37.

There are some key differences in the two sermons. The locations differ: Luke says that Yeshua was on “on level place” and Yeshua is on the same level as His disciples. He simply turns His gaze and begins to speak. Matthew’s version tells us that Yeshua “went up to a higher place and then sat down.” 

In Jewish writings and tradition, teaching is done in a seated position. It is recorded in the Talmud tractate Baba Batra 119b, “Moshe our teacher sat and taught.” 

Luke’s version appears to focus on the physical hunger, poverty, etc. while Matthew’s version focuses on spiritual hunger, poverty, etc. Both of these versions show us glimpses how Yeshua was our “suffering servant” who suffered physical difficulties and spiritual harassment. 

There are those who extrapolate these teachings, which are to be applied on a personal level, to a national level. An example of a national application is a recent story in Denmark, where El Al Airlines is leaving Denmark because the Danish government doesn’t want the El Al security guards to be armed, using texts like the Sermon on the Mount’s calls to non-violence and even pacifism to prove their demands that El Al disarm themselves or leave. El Al has decided to leave and not disarm. 

There are many academics who dispute that these events are recorded accurately because of the “discrepancies.” However, there are many simple and valid explanations that merge the stories without calling either Matthew or Luke liars. 

The pattern in both talks includes the phrases “You are blessed…” and “Woe to you…,” although Matthew quotes Yeshua’s “woes” later in Matthew 23. 

The Greek word for blessed is μακαριον makarion (G3107). It’s commonly found in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible), most commonly as a translation for the Hebrew word אשרי ashrei (H035) and most often in the Psalms. The word ashrei often shows up in verses that discussing God’s righteous discipline that keeps the child of God from falling into the pit of eternal death. On the surface, we don’t feel much joy when we are being disciplined by God but when the alternative is falling into the second death, we can find joy in those trials. 

 The Greek word for woe is ουαι ouai (G3759). The Hebrew counterpart is אוי oy (H0188). The word oy is found 24 times in the Hebrew scriptures translated as “woe!” in an impassioned sense of grief and despair. A variation of oy is the Hebrew word אי ee (H337), which is found in the name of Eli’s newborn grandson Ichabad (אי–כבוד), which means “Alas, No-glory”

Both of these sermons bear close resemblance to King David’s Psalm 34 where we are told that we are blessed when we suffer persecution. The reason we are blessed is that our persecution at the hands of evil doers is temporary. God’s final punishment of evil doers will be permanent. 

It’s an interesting point: worry can lead to acts of evil when we decide that we don’t trust God to pour out his wrath but want to inflict it in our own defense ourselves. 

Yeshua is echoing the teachings of the Prophets, that the sufferings of this world are rough but aren’t eternal. They aren’t the way things should be. Whether it’s Babylon, Rome or the petty dictators of our times, where are those who persecute God’s people both physically and spiritually. The comfort of the “blessings” and “woes” shows us that God hasn’t overlooked our forgotten and will resolve it in His own way.

Reader: John Walsh. Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.


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