BLESSED ARE YOU WHO ARE POOR
Key Verse 6:20
Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
First, "The Twelve Apostles" (12-19). Verses 12 through 19 talk about Jesus choosing the Twelve and designating them as apostles. This event is not unrelated to the previous passage - the two events that happened on the Sabbath. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were supposed to be the leaders and shepherds for God's people Israel. But the events happened on the Sabbath showed that they were not like shepherds at all. Jesus prayed about this all night long, and had a direction to establish a new batch of leadership - the Twelve apostles. With this new batch of leadership, God's kingdom work would go continually. Also, when we check out verses 17 and 18, we see the practical reason to establish leaders. Verse 17 shows that there was a large crowd of his disciples, not just onlookers, but the disciples who had a heart's decision to follow Jesus; they were committed to Jesus, maybe, several hundred or even several thousand. Also, there was a great number of the crowd who came to hear his message and solve their problems; they did not know Jesus personally yet, but they considered him as a great man of God and wanted to solve their practical problems such as diseases or demon-problems. Surely, Jesus' ministry was now so big that simply he needed helping hands. So, at this moment, he organized his ministry by establishing the Twelve of them as leaders and designating them as apostles. These twelve apostles would be his inner circle members who would serve God's kingdom work together with him; they would discuss the things of the ministry with Jesus, make plans, and launch them to advance God's kingdom work. Simply, they would be his partners who would serve God's work together with him in one mind and heart.
The word, "designate" means, "to nominate, or select for a duty, office, purpose etc." And the word, "apostle," means "the one who is sent." This was the title given to the ambassadors of the Roman Empire; they represented the Roman Empire in other countries. Jesus assigned them as his ambassadors to have the authority to represent himself to others. They would serve God's kingdom work in his name. In the passage, we see two words standing out - disciples and apostles. The disciples are those who learn: they learn from him who God is and what God is doing; they learn what God is talking about in the Bible, and mostly, they learn of Jesus himself. Then, they are assigned as apostles to be sent out to the world for Jesus' purpose. Our Christian life can be summarized with these two words: once we are disciples, learning of the Bible, coming to know God's will and purpose, and enjoying fellowship with Jesus; then, we are assigned as apostles to go into the world for God's kingdom purpose; then, when our mission is done, God will simply take us away from this world to be with Him for ever and ever. The event of choosing his Twelve apostles was a universal event that has changed the world history forever. When God establishes our church, we too will organize our church with new leaders; I pray that such a blessed time may come quickly, and that it may be a universal event that will change the course of human history completely.
The chosen Twelve apostles were: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. There were two sets of brothers - Simon and Andrew, John and James, a very pure-hearted person - Bartholomew (Nathanael), a very smart person - Philip, a very pragmatic person - Thomas, an excellent mathematician - Matthew the former tax collector, a nationalistic patriot - Simon the Zealot, and James son of Alphaeus, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot the traitor. An interesting person is Simon the Zealot; actually, he was more than a nationalistic patriot; the zealots were extreme, willing to take the course of violence for the nation. Whenever a national issue came up, he would raise his voice. But still Jesus chose him. Matthew was a tax collector, despised as a public sinner; having that kind of known public sinner as one of the top leaders would not look so good for his ministry, but Jesus chose him. There is no record about James son of Alphaeus and Judas son of James, indicating that they were not so outgoing, not playing a leadership role among the disciples, yet Jesus still chose them as his apostles. When we think about the Twelve, we can see that Jesus' choice was not based on functionality for the ministry or based on their performance either. Instead, it was based on Jesus' own sovereignty. After praying for this matter all night long, he chose those whom he wanted. We are called to be his disciples not because we had performed well; we are called to be his apostles not because we have performed well. Jesus chose us and now he is establishing us as useful, effective and influential leaders for His kingdom work.
Second, "Blessed are you who are poor" (20-26). Look at verse 20. Let's read this verse together:
Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
This is the sermon on the mountain. The author Luke specifies that this message was addressed directly to "his disciples." There were so many disciples, and now through this sermon on the mountain, Jesus showed them how blessed they were, how they should live their life as his disciples, and what would happen to them; and at the same time, he gave them warnings. So, the sermon on the Mountain is like the manual for the disciples. You are Jesus' disciples, so now you need to know the manual and live by it - so this is for you.
The first words in his address to the disciples were: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." Looking at them, Jesus said to them, "Blessed are you,..." Jesus was so happy to see his disciples and showed them that they were really blessed to be his disciples. "Blessed are you,..." He was saying, "Congratulations! You made the right choice to follow me; now you are really blessed; you will be happy and your life will be beautiful." When you applied for schools, you receive a letter that says, "Congratulations!" That's what Jesus was saying. His heart was full of joy and the desire to bless them - they looked so precious and lovely.
"Blessed are you who are poor." In Jesus' eyes, they could leave everything behind and follow him because they were poor. They were poor, meaning that they had nothing valuable in their life. Matthew - even his high paying job did not give him any meaning; it had no value to him, so when Jesus called him, he could leave it freely and follow him; John and James - their family business, even if it was successful, did not mean anything to them - no value at all; so, they could leave it behind and follow Jesus freely; Simon - he even did not ask his wife about Jesus' calling; even his family matter did not give him any meaning. They had nothing to hold on in this world - nothing gave them any meaning or purpose or fulfillment; surely, they were poor in this world; they had nothing valuable in this life. These poor people accept Jesus' calling and follow him. What about rich people? They have things valuable to them - their career dream, their desire for a romantic marriage life, their desire for a happy family; they pursue what they value in this world; they find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in these things, so they turn down even God's calling so that they can pursue and secure what they desire. Only the poor are blessed because they can accept God's calling and pursue Jesus.
How are they blessed? Jesus says, "For yours is the kingdom of God." The kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor, those who have nothing to hold onto in this world and thereby, follow Jesus as his disciples. They come to possess and enjoy the kingdom of God. The real essence of the kingdom of God is not abundance, or beautiful scenery, but "fellowship with God," or simply, "life together with God." When Adam was in the fellowship with God, the Garden of Eden was the Garden of Delight, in which he could enjoy a truly fulfilling life; but once he lost that fellowship with God due to his sinning, the Garden of Eden was not the Paradise any longer, but a hiding place. But when you are in the fellowship with God, you are so overjoyed and happy; your life is so fulfilling and wonderful that even in extreme poverty, you say, "I have all I need." "My cup overflows." When you have life together with God, you say, "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life." Possessing the kingdom of God is all people's dream. "Yours is the kingdom of God." This means that you are the ones who come to enjoy beautiful fellowship with God and thereby, enjoy a truly beautiful and fulfilling life. The kingdom of God is actually what all peoples on earth have looked for - a truly fulfilling and happy life. The kingdom of God cannot be found in money, or in boyfriends or girlfriends; it cannot be found in family, or in fulfilling your most rosy dream, but it is found only in the fellowship with God; it is found in following Jesus Christ as his disciples. Those poor people who have nothing to hold on in this life, and thereby, follow Jesus are really blessed, because they are the ones who find the kingdom of God and enjoy it. This is what Jesus proclaims. When you make a decision to follow Jesus, he welcomes and blesses you, saying, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." You live as Jesus' disciples. Then, Jesus confirms with you, saying, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
Look at verse 21. Let's read this verse together:
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Jesus describes his disciples' present struggles with the words, "hunger" and "weep," and their future blessings with the words, "satisfied" and "laugh." With these, Jesus shows what kind of struggles the disciples have now, and what kind of blessings they will enjoy later.
When you hunger and weep in your Christian life, you are blessed. This is totally the opposite of general consensus of modern day believers. They think that Christians must be satisfied, and happy, and they pretend to be happy, behaving as if everything goes well with them and that they have nothing to bother them at all, saying, "God will take care of that," "God will help me." As a result, they are not sincere about their Christian life; they are not so serious about their practical struggles. But Jesus shows that you are blessed when you hunger and weep. In other words, when you hunger and weep, you are living the blessed life of Jesus' disciples in the right way. How come, "hunger" and "weep"?
The word, "hunger" implies their desperate attitude. Nothing - money, pleasures, relationships, any success - satisfies them; no meaning or purpose or fulfillment in anything. They are hungry for a true meaning and purpose of life - a truly fulfilling life. And the only solution for their hunger problem is in Jesus alone. So, they follow Jesus alone desperately and wholeheartedly. When you have such hunger for a true meaning and purpose of your life in following Jesus, you are blessed. And Jesus' promise for you is that you will find what you have looked for - a truly fulfilling life - in him. As you pursue Jesus that way, you will find yourself so satisfied and happy in such a beautiful fellowship with Jesus, your Lord. You will be satisfied. Those who put their trust in God will never be put to shame.
The word, "weep" shows the disciples' sorrows and pains now. Why? Because following Jesus is hard and challenging; you have to deny yourself, and there is deep pains and sorrows. Sometimes, your family members whom you love so much misunderstand you saying that you don't care about them any longer; even they persecute you. Sometimes, you have to let go of a dream job offer only for the sake of following Jesus, and you have to see your colleagues get it. Sometimes, your sin hinders you in pursuing Jesus. So, you weep a lot. While bearing such pains and sorrows in heart, you live as Jesus' disciples. This is a real Christian life. Jesus shows that, if you have this kind of struggle, if you weep as his disciples, you are really blessed, because you will laugh. If you follow Jesus with such pains and sorrows in your heart, eventually, you will have the laughter of victory, the laughter of thanks and happiness. How come? Because God will make you laugh. This is what real Christian life is about.
What verse 21 suggests - hunger and weep - is directly the opposite of verse 25. Some people are well fed, having so many good looking things; they post on the Facebook and brag about what they have - good career, boyfriends or girlfriends, beautiful looking marriage partner, and they make big smiles in their pictures, and you don't have anything like that; it seems that they have freedom and fun, and you don't have; instead, your Christian life is with painful self-denial and sorrows; you envy them and wish that you may have what they have - you have hunger, and for the sake of serving God, you deny yourself and struggle, but still sorrows are there in your heart, so you cry out to God in prayer at night, you shed tears, saying, "I am lonely. Help me." When you have this kind of struggle, when you have hunger and sorrows only to follow Jesus, Jesus says, "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." This is Jesus' confirmation that you are living your Christian life in a right way. And also, this is Jesus' promise of blessing that you will be happy and satisfied. How? Because God will satisfy you, and God will make you laugh. At that time, your conscience will be really free to laugh and enjoy God's blessing. You will find yourself in Christ, and everyone who hears about you will laugh together with you. Happiness not through securing what we have desired by ourselves, but through receiving what God gives. Meanwhile, until that time, we patiently endure hunger and sorrow so that we can pursue and serve God's kingdom work as Jesus' disciples. This is what Christian life is about.
But that's not all. In addition to "hunger and weep," there is one more thing you come to have if you live your Christian life in a right way - hatred and persecution from others. Look at verse 22. Let's read this verse together:
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
When we check out verse 22, their hatred intensifies - they hate you - ill feelings toward you, - exclude you, meaning, single you out in discrimination, insult you, meaning now personally attack you, and reject your name as evil, meaning, they blend you as an evil man publicly alarming others about you to have no association with you. Their hatred against the disciples is personal as if the disciples are their real enemies. In this individualistic society, no one wants to care about anything of others. Even wicked people say, "You eat your bread, and I eat mine; don't bother me." Then, how come these people hate the disciples and attack them? All these ill treatments show how wholeheartedly and persistently the disciples have struggled to challenge them to repent, disallowing how they have lived, not giving them any credit. Just delivering one general message, even though it may be harsh, will not cause so many people to hate you this much. Just giving them some indirect message of repentance will not create so many haters, but when you personally challenge them to repent, when you personally point out their sins, and disallow what they desire - such as success, job matter, marriage matter,.. - they will really hate you. When you really try to serve God's work this way, you will have only two groups of people - those who accept your challenge and repent will honor and respect you highly as true servants of God, but those who do not accept your challenge and refuse to repent will hate you personally and become your enemies.
At that time, how should you respond? Look at verse 23. Let's read this verse together:
"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
Jesus says, "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy." What does it mean to "leap for joy"? It means to jump into the air and shout for joy, saying, "Hurray! At the last!" It is like college students at their graduation, throwing their caps into the air, and shouting - a lot of struggles so far, but finally, they are done with their school and graduate; they have done all the requirements and they have proved themselves worthy of graduation. When you have this kind of ill-treatment from people, rejoice and leap for joy, shouting, "Hurray! At the last!" Why? Jesus says, "for great is your reward in heaven." Not because of some other reason, but because of this practical reason that you have secured great reward in heaven that you must leap for joy. Reward in heaven must be great. But Jesus emphasizes the greatness of your reward in heaven, saying, "Great is your reward in heaven." So, the reward you have secured in heaven by being hated and persecuted for Jesus must be really great. Because of this great reward, you leap for joy, "Hurray! At the last!" When you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, then, you are like a person who wins the California Lotto. How will you respond that you win $30,000,000.00 lottery? Indeed, you leap for joy, shouting, "Hurray!" You know that such a big amount of money is there waiting for you to come and collect. In the same, when you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, you know that such great reward is waiting for you in heaven. So, you shout and leap for joy, "Hurray!"
Jesus says, "For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." When you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, God sees you in the same level with the prophets in the Old Testament. We all honor the prophets - the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Jeremiah, the prophet Jonah, the prophet Elijah and the prophet Elisha. Indeed, they are holy prophets. But when you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, you are in the same level with them. You are so great in God's eyes deserving such great reward. By being persecuted for Jesus, you have proved yourself worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus Christ; you have proved yourself truly loyal and dedicated to God's kingdom work. Such hatred from people is like the seal of God's approval on you as his true servants. You are recognized by God for your love and service to Him. So, you shout and leap for joy. When people hate you and discriminate you, when people attack you and give you evil names, don't be discouraged; don't be confused. Instead, shout and leap for joy, for great is your reward in heaven.
Look at verses 24 through 26. Let's read these verses together:
24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Remember Jesus was not talking to other people, but to his disciples - so verses 24 through 26 is about Jesus' warning for the disciples. When they show the symptoms and signs Jesus mentions here, when they live the kind of life Jesus describes in these verses, a red flag is up - these symptoms and signs are evidences that they are living a wrong Christian life, and as a result, unless they really repent right away, sooner or later terrible things are going to happen in their lives. In verses 20 through 23, Jesus talks about their blessed life as his disciples - if you hunger, if you weep, if you are hated, you are blessed and you are living your Christian life really wonderfully. Now in verses 24 through 26, Jesus talks about a wrong way of life as his disciples - if you are rich, if you are well fed now, if you laugh, if everyone speaks well of you, you are living your Christian life as his disciples in a wrong way, and sooner or later, something terrible is going to happen; so you must repent right away.
Originally, we were poor, having nothing valuable in this life; we were looking for something real, something truly valuable; that's why we could turn to Jesus and follow him as his disciples, leaving everything behind. In this new life, now we must be careful that we will not give our hearts to the things of this life such as comfortable and pleasant life, or happy family life, or titles and positions, and pursue them. Jesus must be the source of our joy, comfort and fulfillment all the time. But the minute something else becomes the source of our joy and happiness, the minute we pursue them, a red flag is up. And Jesus warns us, saying, "Woe to you who are rich." "Woe to you who are well fed now." "Woe to you who laugh now." You never want Jesus says to you this way. So, don't give your heart to such things at all. Otherwise, sooner or later, something terrible will happen to you. What the Bible says is really true. The Bible says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:15-17)
Jesus says, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." When I heard the expression, "false prophets," many years ago, I thought that these people were really evil like Satan worshipers. But when I read the Bible and learned about them, I found that they were not with two horns or with divided tongues like snakes; instead, they were Bible teachers who taught others the word of God and prophesied in the name of God. But the only thing was that they said good words - words of peace and blessing, which God believing Israel people liked to hear, giving them their approval of the way they were living, proclaiming God's blessings on them; while God's judgment was coming due to their sinning, these messengers, Bible teachers proclaimed peace and God's blessings on them, saying that they were God's chosen people and God would help them. As a result, people liked them and honored them as God's servants; they spoke well of them; these false prophets were popular in Israel.
As Jesus' disciples, as Bible teachers, we must not become false prophets. How? By serving God's work really, by challenging people to really repent and dedicate themselves to God, instead of saying words they want to hear all the time. Actually, it is really burdensome to say words that would offend them; proclaiming the message of judgment generally is not hard at all; if you do that, they will like you more, saying that you are cool. But in dealing with their practical matters such as job matter, or boyfriends or girlfriends matter, or marriage matter or their family gathering matter, it is really burdensome to say, "Don't go to your family gathering; instead, come to our church worship service absolutely." It is really burdensome to challenge people personally to cut off sinful relationships or to not get that job they like. So, often, when that kind of challenge comes, I call John Boos. How easy it is to try to maintain good relationship with people instead of serving God's will! How easy it is to just enjoy honor and respect from others as a servant of God! Sadly, this is the trend nowadays, and it is a sign of the last days. The apostle Paul warns about it, saying, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2Tim 4:3) We should not follow the way of false prophets. With a heart's determination, we must pursue Jesus' will and purpose as his disciples. Let's not be afraid to be hated by others; let's not be afraid to be rejected by people. Our praise is not from people, but from God alone. Let's be zealous for God and serve his work wholeheartedly, then, surely not all people will speak well of us, but only those who accept our challenge; then, other people who refuse our challenge will hate us.
One Word: Blessed Are You Who Are Poor, For Yours Is The Kingdom Of God.
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