Please read and memorise Luke 6:17-49
Then he came down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his talmidim was there with great numbers of people from all Y’hudah (Judea), Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and the coast around Tzor (Tyre) and Tzidon (Sidon); they had come to hear him and be healed of their diseases. Those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being healed; and the whole crowd was trying to touch him, because power kept going out from him, healing everyone. Luke 6:17-19 CJB
In a visual sense, Yeshua’s withdrawal and ascent up the mountain, followed the next day by His descent with the Twelve, announced them to the gathered multitude from near and far. It also implicitly signalled to the diverse crowd the formal organization of His new community – the establishment of a new foundation of 12 – soon after Yeshua had told them the parables about the “new” and “old” (Luke 5:36–39). This was part of the new wineskin to carry the new wine that He brought.
Yeshua had been up on the mountain praying all night (possibly Mount Arbel). After the sun rose He had called His talmidim (disciples) to Him and chosen 12 of them whom He designated apostolos (apostles), and had given these Twelve authority to do what He had been doing – healing the sick and casting out unclean spirits (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:14-15). Now He came down from the mountain with His newly appointed apostles, along with the rest of His talmidim, to a level place where the growing crowds had been gathering.
In the hills that ring the Sea of Galilee on the east, north, and west sides, a single area stands out as an extensive level area that matches Luke’s description. It lies on the northwest shore about three miles west of Capernaum and stretches away from the lake for about a mile before abutting high hills. It is called the Plain of Ginosar (Gennesaret).
In the assembled crowd included not only people from Galilee, and from Judea and Jerusalem where He had taught and done miracles during the Jewish feasts, but also from places that Yeshua had not been to: “from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him” (Luke 6:17). By the time that Yeshua delivered this Sermon on the Plain, people had heard about Him from far away and travelled great distances to listen to Him and be healed by Him. The access road for those from these coastal regions to the northwest was through the Arbel Pass that leads down from Upper Galilee and brings travellers onto the flat area of the Plain of Gennesaret.
At the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul, as they entered a season of teshuvah (repentance), we had seen Yeshua ascend the Mt of Beatitudes to sit down and teach the people, as was done in the synagogues, proclaiming His Sermon on the Mount, searching and exposing the hearts of all the people before the light of God as He declared the Laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now He was leading His Twelve newly appointed and empowered apostles, along with the rest of His talmidim (disciples), down Mt Arbel to meet the needs of the gathering masses on the level ground of the Plain of Gennesaret. Here there was no opportunity to formally sit and teach – Yeshua stood on a level place as power kept going out of Him, healing everyone who sort to touch Him. None was excluded and none was left out. No one went away disappointed that they had not received the miracle they’d come for. Everyone was healed.
They had come to this level place from as far away as Judea and Jerusalem in the south, and Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast to the north-east. Several days worth of walking had brought Jews and Gentiles alike to listen to Yeshua teach, and to be healed of their ailments. The Hebrew prophets’ use of the word “level” (pedinos in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings) provides the background for its use here. “Pedinos” often referred to places of corpses, disgrace, idolatry, suffering, misery, hunger, annihilation, and mourning (see Jeremiah 9:22; 14:18; 30:4; Daniel 3:1; Joel 1:10, 20; 2: 22; 3:19; Habakkuk 3:17; & Zechariah 12:11). At the same time, the prophets foresaw God renewing the level places. The glory of God (salvation) would be revealed in them (see Isaiah 40:4, 18 & Ezekiel 3:22, 23; 8:4). Yeshua brings healing and deliverance and teaches the ways of the Kingdom to all who have come from their very different walks of life to the ‘pedinos‘ place, in need of Him. There were no exemptions. There on the level place, the power of God’s love healed everyone.
Although Yeshua had given the Twelve apostles authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons (Mark 3:15), there is no record of any of them joining Him in meeting the people’s needs yet. They had the authority but were not practiced in using it. They were still just watching and learning. Interestingly, when Yeshua turned His attention to teaching them it was not instructions on using their newly acquired authority to heal and deliver that He gave them, but dealing with the attitudes of the heart.
There, on the ‘pedinos‘ place, Yeshua turned His gaze towards His Talmidim and taught them. Yeshua‘s words, like those of every Jewish rabbi in His day, were designed to be memorised and serve as a source of constant meditation. His words contained a wisdom that was contrary to how the people thought then, even as they are contrary to most teaching now.
“Blessed” – μακάριος, makarios – describes the enviable position of being in receipt of God’s grace, provision and benefits. It expresses the life-joy and satisfaction of the person who experiences God’s favour and salvation. It is the joyous fulfilment identified with pure character in receipt of God literally extending Himself.
“Woe” – οὐαί, ouai – is an interjection of grief or of denunciation. It is suggestive of being under divine judgment awaiting great loss and pain.
He looked at his talmidim and said:
“How blessed are you poor!
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
“How blessed are you who are hungry!
for you will be filled.
“How blessed are you who are crying now!
for you will laugh.
“How blessed you are whenever people hate you and ostracize you and insult you and denounce you as a criminal on account of the Son of Man. Be glad when that happens; yes, dance for joy! because in heaven your reward is great. For that is just how their fathers treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already had all the comfort you will get!
“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will go hungry!
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and cry!
“Woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is just how their fathers treated the false prophets! Luke 6:20-26
Although the multitudes were there, pressing in to get a blessing from Yeshua, to get healing from Him, it was not to the multitudes that Yeshua directed this next teaching, but to His talmidim, to those who had chosen to follow Him and learn of Him how to live as citizens of the Kingdom. The values of His Kingdom are so opposite to the values of this world. Still today, many of those who claim to walk with Yeshua have difficulty with what He taught us here:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God –
But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied –
But woe to you who are well fed now, for you shall be hungry.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh –
But woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Blessed are you when all men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way your fathers used to treat the prophets –
But woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.
Yeshua begins this teaching by pronouncing a blessing on the poor – πτωξος, ptochos – “one who is bent over or folded;” metaphorically “one utterly destitute.” Blessed, in receipt of God’s favour, salvation and joyous fulfilment, are those who are totally destitute with no means to care for themselves or others. Those who are greatly devalued in this world are greatly honoured in the Kingdom of God. It is an exhortation for the crouched down ones to stop believing they aren’t worth anything and start lifting their heads up as royalty, as children of the King. Yeshua had begun the Sermon on the Mount, heralding the Jewish time of teshuvah (repentance), with an exhortation: Blessed are the poor in spirit, referring to those who are repentant – coming to God recognising that they are utterly destitute with regards to the moral strength and character needed to be citizens of heaven, and are totally dependant on His forgiveness and His righteousness. It was an invitation to bow low. Now He begins the Sermon on the Plain with an invitation for the despised lowly ones to raise up and stand tall: “blessed are the poor“.
That Yeshua was here speaking about physical poverty, not the repentant attitude of being ‘poor in spirit‘, is confirmed by His corresponding woe to those who are rich and living in comfort. He then goes on to deal with three aspects of living in poverty – being hungry, weeping, and being despised. For each He pronounces blessing and provides an eternal promise – to be fed, filled and satisfied; to laugh with joy; and to receive a great reward in heaven – to be honoured before all creation. Yeshua’s words turned man’s thinking upside down. They comforted the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable. They lifted the disciple’s focus from the things of this world to the things of heaven. Who do we give more honour to – those who are wealthy and popular, or those who are poor and despised? Are we viewing people from a worldly perspective or from God’s perspective?
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 NIV
Having raised them up as having great value, worth and authority, Yeshua now instructs His talmidim in the purposes and use of such self-esteem. We are not raised up in His Kingdom in order to crush our enemies, but in order to love them. We are not raised up in order to withhold, but in order to give over and above. We are not raised up in order to execute revenge but in order to be willing to suffer further loss and pain for the sake of those who were trying to oppress us and hold us down. For the Kingdom of God is not of this world.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?
The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:37-45 NIV
As He had done in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua, again contrasted judging others with discerning what is good or evil. His command to avoid judging and condemning was not a command to blindly accept everything as good. It was not a tolerance of sin, but an abhorrence of the sin of failing to love our neighbour. We need our eyes opened by Christ’s word and not blindly follow or lead others to destruction. We need to be fully trained by Yeshua such that we have become like Him. Both planks and specks are injurious and need to be removed from our eyes. Trees are recognised by their fruit. Our words and actions reveal what we have stored in our hearts.
What is the state of your heart?
Again, Yeshua finished His sermon with a warning of the need to not only hear His words, but to put them into practice. Just memorising what God’s Word says is not enough, we need to LIVE what it says at all times. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:46-49 NIV
It doesn’t matter how big or fancy our building is, it doesn’t matter how much work we have put into making it look spectacular, if it is built without foundation it will surely collapse and we’ll lose everything when the storms of life come and beat against it. The ONLY foundation that can hold our lives up is Jesus. To secure our lives to the Rock of Ages we have to obey everything He says. Partial obedience is not sufficient to withstand the storms of life, we must take head to everything Yeshua has told us and fully obey it all.
1. Thomason, Steve. and stood on a level place | A Devo on Luke 6:17-26. Following the Cloud. [Online] February 1st, 2017. https://www.stevethomason.net/2017/02/01/stood-level-place-devo-luke-617-26/.
2. Allen, Ronald J. Commentary on Luke 6:17-26. Working Preacher. [Online] February 17th, 2019. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3960.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What do you think the significance was of Jesus going down from the mountain to the level plain before teaching His disciples?
* What insights have your congregation gained from memorising Jesus’ teaching on the level place?
* Where did you meet Jesus, what was happening in your life at the time?
* How would you describe the power that kept going out from Jesus and healing everyone?
* Luke keeps telling us that everyone who came to Jesus was healed. To what extent are we following in His example? Why are some people who come to us not healed – can we know the answer?
* It sounds like a very chaotic, noisy class – trying to teach his disciples outside in the midst of a crowd of thousands all pressing in trying to touch Jesus and receive their healing. Why do you think Jesus chose that setting for these lessons? How did Jesus’ sermon fit in with what He was teaching them through His actions?
* Often people think that acts of loving our enemies (like letting them take from us) show weakness, how are they really acts of strength?
*How do you describe the difference between judging and discerning?
*How can we fully obey all that Jesus said?