17He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets."
Because I was late getting to church last Sunday and the pastor led the class, we didn't get into the discussion I hoped these ideas would lead to, so these notes are extremely basic and undeveloped.
Comparing the beginning of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) and Luke's Sermon on the Plain or Level Place is a classic move that to a degree is essential in differentiating the style and emphasis of both gospels.
Matthew's Jesus proclaims and declares from a high place, a mountain—Matthew brings us Jesus of Nazareth as the new Moses. You probably remember God spoke Ten Words (Commandments, called words in the Hebrew text)) on Mount Sinai or Horeb through Moses. Matthew's Sermon on the Mount includes only blessings that follow from certain attitudes and behaviors. This list sometimes is called the beatitudes. It may not have been original with her, but a participant in a study group I once was in called the beatitudes "be-attitudes." These blessings are quite spiritual in nature. (You may recall Matthew also emphasizes Jesus as the new King David.}
Consistent with his emphasis on distributive justice, common-wealth, and the well-being of the neighbor we've been referring to as neighborology – the word about the neighbor – in Luke's gospel Jesus descends from the hill he'd been on with his disciples so he can stand on the same level or elevation as they are. Besides blessings that are more earthbound than Matthew's, in Luke Jesus follows with woes or sorrows. Earlier in Luke we've seen social and economic leveling in Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:39-55}; Jesus' first act of public ministry (Luke 4:14-24) picks up Mary's theme as he quotes from Isaiah and promises jubilee: good news (gospel) to the poor, liberty to captives and oppressed, overall economic and social justice where no one has too much or too little, everyone has enough. But this is not sameness! It's a situation that draws upon everyone's unique gifts and ability to contribute, as the apostle Paul often writes about.
As we continue in Luke's Revised Common Lectionary year C, we'll continue tracking these themes.