Please read Luke 6: 27-38 and then pray with the Psalmist; Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Amen.

We have just prayed and asked that God would lead us in the pathway of his will and on level ground. Last week we began to consider the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus which on one occasion he shared with a multitude of people on a level place (6:17) – on level ground. Jesus constantly combined healing the sick with teaching the kingdom. Through healing the sick, he actively and compassionately demonstrated the presence and power of his kingdom; and through this sermon on the plain, as it known, he begins to reveal the lifestyle of those within the kingdom – the practices of those who enter the kingdom now. Those entering and living the life of the kingdom are as we saw last week;

  • The poor (v20) who are the poor in spirit and so often the economically poor as well.
  • The hungry (v21) who are hungry for God, his living word and his kingdom righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)
  • The persecuted (v22) who suffer simply because they love, follow and serve Christ.

Last week, I left the teaching on that rather relevant and contemporary note of the persecution of Christians in the 21st century; the majority of those persecuted for the sake and for the name of Christ today, also happen to be people who are economically poor, disenfranchised, marginalised, shunned and hungry – regularly having to pray to their Father in heaven for their daily bread. Their main consolation and indeed their great inspiration, is the example of Jesus himself. Jesus experienced a life of relative poverty; he experienced and knew what is like to suffer from physical hunger and from physical and mental persecution and abuse. Jesus perfectly understands his suffering saints, and they know that he understands their painful trials. What a comfort! Here is a God who understands and cares!

I am so proud to serve a Saviour who has personally experienced and understands poverty, hunger, alienation, suffering, tear-filled eyes and broken hearts. I am so proud to serve a Saviour who was born into the poverty of a stable and not with a silver spoon in his mouth. I am so proud to serve a Saviour who humbly washes the feet of others, eats meals with those regarded as nobodies, and spends hours healing the sick and feeding the hungry. This is what true kingship looks like. This is the King of Kings and the Lord of lords. This is your King. This is the King of the poor and the weak and the sick and the lost. This is the King who will bleed on a cross for you – in your place – for your sake!

One of the most important things to grasp about the ethically pure and life-giving teaching of Jesus, is that it comes from the heart and lips of someone who perfectly lived out everything he taught. What Jesus taught – he lived. What Jesus asked of his disciples – he did himself. He lived out the word of God in its entirety. This is what we will see in this sermon on the plain. This is one of the reasons why Jesus can and always did teach with authority.

But I tell you who hear me: (6:27a)

When you live totally without stain and hypocrisy like Jesus did– you can teach with great authority and power. Take for example, Jesus’s strong teaching on the need for his disciples to live and lead with humility. Jesus could teach this so powerfully because, first of all, he himself was “humble of heart meek and gentle” (Matthew 11:29) and secondly “he washed the feet of his disciples” (John 13:3-8) – even though they believed that this act of service was beneath him and he should not do it. Jesus set them a clear practical example to follow. He did for them what he taught them to do for each other and for others. Disciples must be willing to be humble servants. No-one is above the Master – Jesus. If he served humbly – we must.

In this great sermon on the plain – Jesus teaches behaviours and practices that all his disciples must embrace as they learn to follow and model him. He is not asking them to do anything that he himself has not done or will not do. Let me just mention 4 aspects of his teaching that he exemplifies himself.

  • Love your enemies
  • Give generously and freely (not concerning yourself with what might be given back if anything)
  • Be merciful to those needing help
  • Always forgive others who have hurt or harmed you.

Jesus places special emphasis on loving enemies. He has just explained that the blessed will be persecuted as they identify themselves with himself. But when they are persecuted for their commitment to Jesus – they must respond – with loving action, good deeds, prayerful blessing and intercession for those who persecute them. Now that is revolutionary! This is the Kingdom of God where love reigns – even love for enemies – for those who hate Christ and his Church. When you consider how Christ faced his enemies after his arrest and sham trials, we see him living out his own teaching. In his first letter, Peter describes how Jesus handled persecution;

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 3: 21-23)

This is the toughest of challenges, but Jesus did not say following him would be easy. When disciples love their enemies, they actually display and promote Jesus – they glorify their suffering and rejected Saviour. Not only do they glorify and reveal Jesus – they reveal the character and love of Jesus’s Father and their Father, his God and their God. This is because God the Father loves his enemies. Later in the text we are told that the Most High is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. God loves and provides graciously right now even for those who hate Him and shake their fist at him. He sends his sun and rain upon the unrighteous as well as the righteous. (Matthew 5:45) Furthermore, while we were God’s enemies in our hearts, minds and thinking (Romans 8:7), God graciously and lovingly sent his Son to die for us on the cross. While we were yet sinners and enemies of God – Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) This is grace – amazing grace.

God loves his enemies. Christ (God in flesh – here upon the earth) – loved his enemies. Therefore, God’s children must also love their enemies and pray for those who want to do them harm.

In the same way, Christ was always extraordinarily generous to those with needs, he was constantly, daily sharing mercy with those who begged him for help and healing, and he forgave those who opposed him and put him on a cross. Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. (Luke 23:49)

Jesus was like this because God is like this – and Jesus is God – God the Son. His Father, our Father, is generous, merciful, forgiving, gracious and compassionate. (Psalm 103:8, Exodus 33: 6-7) Like Father, like Son. Jesus is the exact image of the Father (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). Jesus exactly represented God’s being here on earth. He showed us exactly what God is like – loving, kind, generous, forgiving, merciful, holy and righteous. Jesus himself said;

Anyone who has SEEN ME has SEEN THE FATHER.  (John 14:9)

If this is how God the Father behaves and how God the Son demonstrates God’s character and love and holiness, then – children of God, disciples of Jesus – must aim to live like their Father in heaven and their Saviour and Lords who died for them.

Today as we welcome new members into the life of this Church, and as together we think once again about the challenges Jesus places upon all of us through this sermon on the plain – each and every follower, challenges like the one to love enemies and to forgive those who have wounded us, we also need to be reminded how living this kind of kingdom life is possible. It’s ok to understand what we must do, because God in Christ did these things, it is quite another to know how to live such a kingdom filled life in this world where Christians are pressurised, persecuted, and abused. How can I forgive? How can I show mercy to those who may not deserve it? How can I be kind to the ungrateful? How can I speak graciously to the abusive, rude and aggressive person? Is living this sermon an impossible ask and a thankless task?

Listen to the words of the Christian writer Douglas Milne;

“We will never locate the secret of such qualities and behaviours within ourselves, but only out of a living, personal, thriving relationship to the Most High God as our own Father (v35-36). This kind of relationship can only be channelled through knowing and living for Jesus. Knowing God and keeping his company is the only way to acting like him. Living Jesus’ way is fed from the springs of personal faith and communion with him, now and forever.”  (Let’s Study Luke p87 – D.J.W. Milne)

When God truly becomes your loving Father, when you are personally related to Christ and you have him as your Saviour and Helper, and when you are filled with the power and person of God the Holy Spirit – then you can imitate Jesus; you can live like Jesus; you can live in the light and power of this sermon on the plain. But you must know him (Jesus), be in Him (in Christ) and Jesus must be in you. Once Christ is in you by his Spirit, the Spirit will begin to change you and grow the image of Jesus into your character.

You can become more like the Christ who died for you. You can reflect him and his glory to the world around you. Christ can be seen in you just as the Father was seen in him. With Jesus and His Spirit – it becomes possible to live in a new way – even showing love to enemies, to the unlovely, to the unkind, even showing forgiveness to the people who have hurt you the most. It is Christ in you – who is able to do this. It is by his grace that a Christian can smile graciously at an enemy and say, “May my God bless you and fill you with his love.”

We are here in this Church to encourage all members to become like Jesus. We are here to spur one another on to live for Christ – and like Christ. We are here to pray for each other and study the life of Jesus together. Let Jesus be grown in us! Let Him be seen among us for the greatest compliment we can be paid is if someone says to us;

I see Jesus in you. I see his mercy. I see his forgiving heart. I see his love and grace – in you…

I encountered Jesus in you.

I tasted the life and love of Jesus through you.

We finish as we began;

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.