The first episode of this chapter (vv. 1-11) is somewhat of a continuation of the last episode in chapter 5. The debate has moved from fasting to debates about what to do on the Sabbath. Again, this debate is about meaningless attachment to the letter of the Old Law- a law that Jesus is about to supersede and perfect. And in classic Lukan form, this episode revolves around Jesus healing a man with a crippled hand.
The second episode in this chapter is the calling of the 12 Apostles (vv. 12-16). From the great multitude of people that had been following Jesus, he picks 12 to be his intimate core group. He actually names them Apostles that means, “one sent.” Later in Luke’s gospel, Jesus will send the 12 Apostles out to places that he intends to visit. Their mission is to prepare the people for Jesus’s preaching. From these 12 then, Jesus chooses 3 to be his intimate circle: Peter, James and John. These will be the ones present at the Transfiguration and are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he is arrested. There is a brief interlude and reminder of Jesus ministry (vv. 17-19) before Jesus begins his Sermon on the Plain (vv. 20-49).
The Sermon on the Plain is Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel. It is considerably shorter in Luke’s Gospel, perhaps because Luke had read Matthew’s accounts and didn’t necessarily want to repeat things. Theologically, Luke recounts the sermon on the plain, and not the mountain. Luke’s focus differs from Matthews in that Luke wants the sermon and its teachings to be accessible, not flighty and out of reach. So, Luke presents Jesus on level ground, teaching not as an authoritarian but as a brother, an equal.
The Sermon on the Plain ends the same way the Sermon on the Mount ends. The image of the house built on a firm foundation is a classic one of Jesus and it’s probably meant to be the one that can be most easily remembered. The house that is built represents not just the contents of the Sermon on the Plain, but rather the entire corpus of teachings that Jesus offers through his sermons, parables, miracles and interactions with the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus is essentially saying, “Build your entire life on top of me and the Gospel, and you will never, ever topple!” A very doable challenge!
Point for Prayer
“Jesus, source of all true happiness, open me to receive your four gifts of joy in Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. Awaken me to the reality on my own inner life and lead me on the journey to a loving union with you. Help me to embrace your gifts for powerful personal change. Transform my heart with you love. Amen”(69).