Luke 6:17-49 – The Sermon on the Plain
SummaryJesus teaches people on "a level place," instructing them about God's blessings, human relationships, ethics, and good character.
AnalysisJesus' teaching certainly instructs hearers about how they should live, but for the most part it offers statements of fact about God and people. The blessings and woes that Jesus pronounces in the first part (vv. 20-26) declare what God's reign will accomplish and who benefits and suffers from it. Jesus calls those who are mistreated to treat their oppressors with love and generosity. He commands people not to conduct their relationships in ways that demand reciprocity. The social ethic he promotes is theologically inspired, for it reflects God's own character.
Much of the material in this passage resembles what Jesus says in chapters 5-7 of the Gospel according to Matthew, a passage known as the "Sermon on the Mount." (Some of Jesus' teachings in Matthew's sermon appear elsewhere in Luke, not integrated into Luke's "Sermon on the Plain.") But there are significant differences between the two Gospels' famous sermons. Perhaps the most significant difference is apparent in Luke 6:20, where Jesus says, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God," while Matthew 5:3 has him saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." In Luke, Jesus speaks about real economic and social poverty, pronouncing God's blessing upon those who suffer such hardship.