1 Corinthians 15:12-20
These words of Jesus may seem familiar to you, but also strange. You may be saying to yourself, “I know what this is, the Sermon on the Mount!” But it’s not the Sermon on the Mount. Some of you may know that this is the Sermon on the Plain, or Luke’s version of Jesus’s famous sermon. The dead giveaway is in the first Beatitude: Matthew records Jesus as saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” but Luke writes that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor,”—full stop. Matthew says Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” but Luke writes that Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are hungry.” And Matthew doesn’t follow the blessings with woes, like Luke does. “Woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full, woe to you who are laughing, woe to you when all speak well of you.” Matthew saves his woes for the religious hypocrites of Jesus’s day, and of course, we are all very comfortable saying “Woe to you, religious hypocrites!” It somehow feels a lot more satisfying than saying woe to you who are rich! Which is strange, because we God-botherers here who believe we are sinners and in need of God’s grace are therefore almost by definition hypocrites, and I’m not sure how many of us would like to claim that we are rich. I’ll leave that discussion aside for today, but at any rate: Who knows if Jesus gave this sermon on a mountain, or on a plain, or both. It’s justifiably famous, influencing everyone from St. Francis to Gandhi. You have probably heard it before, in one of its forms. There’s more to it, and we will continue with another section next week. But it’s enough for today to contemplate this mysterious blessing Jesus gives, which is so wrong and so antithetical to our understanding of justice and righteousness—blessed are you who are poor, hungry, weeping, and blessed are you who are hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed on account of Jesus. If you’ve ever been poor, or at least broke, you might be tempted to say: keep the kingdom of God. I’d rather have a full fridge.