Jesus began a series of instructions to his followers with a blessing for poor and hungry people. He said,
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.” (Luke 6.20-21)
The other day I ran into a homeless man who has visited Maywood on occasion. I said hi to him and gave him a few dollars.
How do you think he would have responded if I had quoted the words of Jesus in this passage to him?
I think he would have been perfectly right to give me a hard time over my insensitive remarks.
On the other hand, if Jesus showed up and spoke his blessing to the homeless man, they would have transformed his life.
The coming of Jesus into the world signified that something profoundly new was taking place.
Jesus’ mother sang of God’s goodness.
“His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
“He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
“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.” (Luke 1.50-53)
The Spirit of God prompted Mary to reveal that God’s destiny for the lowly and the hungry was filled with good news.
When Jesus identified his mission with Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 61.1-2), he continued the theme of good news to the poor.
“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.” (Luke 4.18)
Jesus didn’t just talk about blessing the poor, he truly blessed them.
— Luke 5.31-36 – He freed a man from demonic oppression and allowed him to return to his family and the community.
— Luke 5.38-39 – Women were included in Jesus’ good news activity.
— Luke 5.12-15 – Few people were as poor and hungry as lepers. At Jesus’ touch this man was healed and brought back to his loved ones.
— Luke 5.17-25 – A man who was paralyzed by sin and sickness was forgiven and healed.
— Luke 5.27-31 – Tax collectors were rich in material goods, but impoverished in spirit. Jesus joined them for dinner and called one to be one of his close followers.
— Luke 6.1-5 – Men who don’t know the finer points of the Law are accepted into Jesus’ band of disciples.
— Luke 6.6-10 – A man with one hand that works has a hard time caring for his family and himself. The good news of Jesus’ healing ministry healed him.
I included all of these references, because they are a perfect interpretation of Jesus’ words of blessing.
When Jesus is present, people have an opportunity to experience power that heals, delivers, and grants new life.
Good News Today
While it would have been inappropriate for me to give cheerful words of “blessed are the poor” to the homeless man, Jesus does have a blessing for the poor and hungry.
I believe a good book could be written about the men and women who have experienced Jesus’ love and transforming power over the years.
If you are familiar with God’s work at Maywood Baptist, you will identify many people who have experienced a radical transformation rivaling the picture we saw in Luke’s Gospel.
Poor or Poor in Spirit
This passage in Luke is called the “Sermon on the Plain” and a similar one is called the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew.
Both sermons begin with blessings or Beatitudes.
In Luke we read:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6.20)
In Matthew the message is: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.3).
Who are the “poor in spirit” and who are the “poor”? Are they the same, or different?
I think the best explanation is to use the analysis of Bible verses I provided earlier in the article.
The “poor in spirit” and the “poor” know that they need what Jesus has come to give humanity. They are open to Jesus and willing to receive his healing, deliverance and the message of God’s kingdom.
The contrast to the “poor in spirit” and “poor” people are those who are self-sufficient.
One of Isaiah’s major messages was for people to trust God rather than human abilities. Isaiah’s theme can be summarized in one verse.
“If you do not stand firm in faith,
you shall not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7.9)
Everybody Needs Jesus
A lovely young lady attended Maywood many years ago. The first time I met her, she had just been released from intensive care with a serious heart problem.
She was born with a defective heart and was not expected to live past her childhood years. At age 30, her heart was failing and she required hospitalization.
She came to church that Sunday to tell me that Jesus had healed her and released her from the hospital. She was glowing with God’s love and grace.
This woman lived for several more years in fairly good health and lots of God’s joy. One of frequent sayings was, “We just need Jesus.”
Her words summarize this passage today. We just need Jesus.
Rudy Ross and I have produced a YouTube video on this passage. Rudy is a Jewish follower of Jesus and an excellent Bible student. You will be enriched by his thoughts on the passage. The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.