Luke 6:17-49 – The Sermon on the Plain


Luke 6:17-49


Jesus teaches people on “a level place,” instructing them about God’s blessings, human relationships, ethics, and good character.


Jesus’ 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.

Jesus’ word “woe” should get our attention. While it is certainly a contrast to “blessed,” it does not mean “cursed” or “damned.” The word is an attention-getter, maybe similar to “Yikes!” in English. Jesus warns people to look out. The things we think are gifts or advantages turn out to be illusions, unable to provide true security.

Much of the material in this passage resembles what Jesus says in Matthew 5-7, 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.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” speaks of love expressed through non retaliation in 6:27-30. (These words come across as much more general or universal than what we see in Matthew 5:39-40, 42, 44). Jesus’ words here should not be taken to encourage victimization or to somehow glamorize the experience of suffering abusive behavior. Jesus consistently tries to deliver people from suffering in his ministry.