The Upside-Down Kingdom

In Sermon Outlines by Rachel Schultz

The Upside-Down Kingdom


Text: Luke 6:17-26

Main Idea: Can we let go of our pride, our individualism, and our need to go it alone? Can we truly “live together” as a band of strangers and urban pilgrims, bound together by the Way of Jesus? This is the call of discipleship that Jesus held out to the multitude when he was on earth, and it is the challenge of today.

I. Introduction
A. As we pass through the season of Epiphany – and as we progress through the early ministry of Jesus – we are learning more and more about what is important to him.
1. We have spent time dwelling with the early messages of Jesus
a. His inaugural sermon in his hometown synagogue – that was a bumpy start
b. To his calling of his first disciples by the lake and the demonstration of the power of the God’s reign.
B. Again, today, we are confronted by Jesus’ and His message about the Reign of God.
1. And what we see and hear is, if not completely unexpected, at least unwelcome in some respects.
2. We are not used to seeing the world the way Jesus sees it.
3. He is inviting us to a different place
a. This is the meaning of repentance and conversion
b. It means turning around and going in the other direction.
II. Read Luke 6:17-26
III. Pray
IV. The Healing Touch of Jesus
A. The back-story to today’s passage is that Jesus has gone out to the mountain to pray.
1. And he spent all night there in prayer
2. After that he called his disciples to him and set apart 12 of them as apostles
a. Apostles are “those who are sent with a message”
b. Soon they will be (see Luke 10)
B. But then Jesus comes down from the mountain with his disciples
1. To a level place – commonly called “the plain”
a. A crowd has gathered – this is becoming more common now and news about Jesus and his extraordinary power is spreading throughout the land.
2. These people have come from everywhere.
C. Now, listen again to Luke’s testimony about Jesus
1. READ VS 17-19
2. How many were healed that day?
D. Jesus heals everyone!
1. Some are physically sick, some are demon possessed, some are emotionally sick, some are spiritually sick.
2. Jesus touches them and “power came out from him and healed all of them!”
E. This is the narrative backdrop of our passage today.
F. It is important to get this picture in our heads because it will affect the way we hear the rest of the passage.
1. The overflowing compassion of Jesus which healed an entire “multitude”
V. Sermon on the Plain – Read vs. 20-26
A. This sounds a lot like which other passage in the gospels?
1. Right – Sermon on the Mount
2. Found in Matthew 5
3. Also, the Beatitudes, which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount
4. So, we have the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew
5. And the Sermon on the Plain in Luke
6. There are similarities and differences
B. The most glaring difference is that in Matthew we just have “Beatitudes,” or blessings
C. But here we also have “curses”
D. Also, Matthew tends to soften his blessings and almost spiritualize them
1. So, where as Luke has Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor” Matthew has it as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”
a. Luke – “blessed are the hungry”
b. Matthew – “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
2. We’re not going to get that help from Luke, and so we must simply deal with the text as Luke has given it.
E. There are four pairs of blessings and curses
1. the poor (v. 20) and the rich (v. 24);
2. the hungry (v. 21a) and the full (v. 25a);
3. the sorrowful (v. 21b) and the joyous (v. 25b); and
4. the persecuted (v. 22) and the popular (v. 26).
VI. Upside-Down
A. The Rule of God is confusing to us
B. It’s upside-down when compared to our value system
1. Who in our society is deemed blessed?
a. The poor or the rich?
b. The hungry or the full?
c. The sorrowful or the happy?
d. The persecuted or the popular?
2. Especially in Hollywood, these contrasts are clearly visible, aren’t they?
a. In Hollywood, the blessed are “rich and famous”
1) Who, we are told, are happy and full all the time, never hungry and sorrowful.
2) Hmmm….
C. But God’s economy is different
1. Things are not valued the same in God’s kingdom – under God’s rule.
2. In God’s economy, the poor are blessed
3. In God’s economy, the persecuted have the edge
4. In God’s economy, the hungry are full and the sorrowful are joyful.
D. This is all quite good news, isn’t it?
1. And it meshes with Jesus inaugural sermon in Nazarath, only a short time ago, when he announced, from Isaiah,
a. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18).
2. Jesus, it seems, is on message.
E. But what about the flipside?
F. Jesus can’t just stop with these blessings and let us infer the rest.
G. He gets explicit
H. Not only does Jesus defy conventional wisdom and say the poor are the ones who are blessed,
I. But he will now rub salt in the wound and say, Woe (Cursed) to you who are rich…”
1. Ouch!
J. And curses to you who are full and laughing and popular, so that all speak well of you.
VII. Promises of Reversal
A. What is going on here?
B. Does Jesus just love to hate rich people?
C. Are we supposed to just go home with a guilt complex if we are happy and have enough money to fill our stomachs?
D. What Jesus is saying in this passage is that in God’s reign there is and will be a “great reversal.”
1. Things will be turned on their head – upside-down.
2. Injustices and inequities will be justified and equalized.
3. The poor will have enough, which means the rich will not be nearly so rich.
4. The hungry will be fed which means the fed might have to do with less.
E. These blessings and curses have to do with rectifying wrongs
F. As NT Wright loves to say, “God is in the business of putting the world to rights.”
G. Isn’t this what Jesus’ mother, Mary, prophesied?
H. Remember, only a few pages back, Luke 1:52-53?
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
I. Part of the economics of this, according to Luke’s Jesus, is that the rich have already had theirs
1. And now it’s time for a change.
2. Which is consistent with what we get from Mary as well.
VIII. The ‘Now’ and ‘Not Yet’
A. So far we’ve said that these blessings and curses are about the kingdom of God that Jesus is both bringing and announcing.
B. And that God’s purpose in his new reign of mercy and grace
1. (remember the backdrop of all those healings)
C. …is to put the world to rights.
D. Through Mary in Luke 1 and Jesus (quoting Old Isaiah) in the synagogue in Luke 4 and now to the multitudes in Luke 6, the message is, God has begun to reign.
1. There is a new king in town.
2. And this king is bringing radical change
3. That change will be, at once and the same time, good news and bad news, depending on who you are and where you stand when you hear the news.
E. One important dimension of this kingdom is that in the New Testament it is both now and not yet.
1. At times Jesus announces the kingdom is if it is here now.
2. At other times He is clearly talking about something that will come in the future.
3. The reality is that it is both!
F. Jesus says, the Kingdom of God is at hand
1. But that doesn’t mean it is in hand.
2. We don’t fully “have it” and we certainly don’t “own it” or “control it”
G. So, coming back to our passage for today, we might look around and see that the poor are NOT blessed.
1. The hungry are NOT full
2. The sorrowful are not yet laughing!
H. This can be puzzling to us until we realize that there is a future dimension to Jesus’ words.
1. They are promise and hope
2. They are descriptive of the way things will be one day.
I. And as such, they are warnings for the rich and the full and the rejoicing.
1. The simply message to the rich, it seems, is that there will be a great leveling someday.
2. You might want to share your riches, your food and your joy with those who have less
3. Lest you end up on the wrong side of the future leveling.
J. However!
K. And I don’t’ want us to miss this!
L. For Jesus and certainly for Luke’s community, these blessings for the poor, hungry, sorrowful and excluded ones are not simply promises for the future.
1. The community which prayed, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’, was itself a place where the reign of God began to be realized.
M. We’ve been flashing back to Luke 1 and 4 today
N. But now flash forward for a second to the beginning of Luke’s second volume – Acts – chapter 2:43-47.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day-by-day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
O. These apostles Luke refers to here in Acts 2 are the same apostles (minus one) who Jesus appointed in Luke 6.
1. And they got it!
2. They understood the blessings of the kingdom
P. They got that Jesus’ sermon on the plain was an outworking of the Sabbath theology of Luke 4, pointing back to Exodus 16 where God first introduced his economic plan.
Q. The people of God were formed by this teaching in Exodus 16.
1. As the Sabbath is first seriously formed in God’s “coming-out-of-slavery” people
2. God links Sabbath with creation
a. A creation in which there was abundance of every good thing.
b. A creation in which every creature was adequately provided for.
3. On the Sabbath, they would be reminded of God’s provision, through the manna.
4. Every day they were to collect just enough for them and their clan
a. Millennia later Jesus would teach his followers to pray, “give us this day our daily bread” or “give us today, bread enough for today.”
5. On Friday they were told to collect twice as much and miraculously it would keep over the Sabbath.
6. The theology of ENOUGH – it was ingrained in God’s people
7. By the time of Jesus, people needed some reminding
8. And it was also a promise of hope that God would redeem his people’s oppression and restore Israel.
R. Today, and every week, as we observe Sabbath, we STOP.
1. We stop our labor, our accumulating, our consuming
2. We opt out of the rat race of consumerism and wealth acquisition for a day a week, as a witness to the truth that God is creator, owner and provider.
S. But, as Isaiah had to remind his people, this is not just a day for God’s people to stop accumulating.
1. It is also a day to share – to give our excess away to those with less (Isaiah 58:7)
2. If the rich shared their abundance with the poor there would be no lack
3. The poor would get their blessing and the rich would escape their curse.
T. Those with vested interests will often prefer a Christianity that will leave the status quo as it is and focus only on the world to come.
U. When we do that, we betray the poor when we call them blessed.
IX. Conclusion
A. The question for us is “how will we live?”
1. Can we envision ourselves living in this “upside-down kingdom?”
2. What would it mean for this community to share its wealth with each other and with the community outside our doors.
3. This passage really does point to Acts 2 as the outgrowth of this kingdom teaching of Jesus.
4. Can we imagine living like that?
B. Can we let go of our pride, our individualism, our need to go it alone?
C. Can we truly “live together” as a band of strangers and urban pilgrims, bound together by the Way of Jesus?
D. This is the call of discipleship that Jesus holds out to the multitude
E. It is the challenge of Luke to his community
F. And it is our challenge today!

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