20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus had come down from the mountain and stood on a level place, surrounded by the newly appointed apostles, all the disciples, and a multitude of people who have come from near and far just to see and hear him. He likely chose a place where the hills formed a natural amphitheater around him, where all the people could hear.
And he looked up at the disciples and began, “Blessed are you who are poor.” What? Isn’t it the rich who are blessed? Don’t we all talk about receiving “many blessings” when we think of our material belongings? Jesus is saying there is something more – something that gets lost this time of year in all the expensive gifts, wrappings, and ribbons. My sister and I were talking about our Daddy last night. When Mother talked about the depression years, it was with bitterness and fear, but Daddy, he told of happy times, making do with what they had – of riding a mule bareback, and falling off, of Christmas stockings with a single orange and a stick of hard candy, perhaps a hand-made toy; and of music around the fire, where everyone played and sang. And you could hear his stories and think, that family had a blessing – and it is called love. Blessed are the poor, for they recognize the things that are important – love and family. And we are called to be a blessing to the poor – if we are indeed blessed with material things, we are called to share these blessings.
Have you picked up yet, that the care of the poor runs as a theme throughout Luke’s gospel? It begins in the poor girl God selects as the mother of the Christ, continues through her song, the Magnificat, and now is spoken clearly by Jesus. Blessed are the poor – for yours is the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is built on love, not on wealth and prestige. It belongs to those who love one another.
Jesus goes on, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” Notice, Jesus is speaking to the crowd gathered around – he is speaking in the second person, “you”. In Greek the second person “you” is differentiated into singular and plural, and here it is plural. Many of those to whom he speaks are poor, and hungry, struggling to live and pay taxes to the Romans. He gives them a promise – they will be filled. In the Kingdom of God, all share, and everyone has enough.
And then he addresses those who grieve, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Grief will end; Jesus walks with us through times of grief. He promises an end to grief, a time for laughter. This too, is the Kingdom of God. Luke’s “Sermon on the plain” is about the Kingdom of God, just as Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” is about the Kingdom of God.