We have just passed through some of those festivals in the Christian calendar that focus us on the momentous events of God’s saving intervention in our world.
Advent focuses on the first and second coming of Christ in preparation for Christmas. Christmas marks the birth of the Redeemer and fixes the moment that we set as the dividing point in human history: BC and AD. The Epiphany or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (January 6) recalls the visit of the Magi and the place of non-Jewish people in the saving purposes of God.
We are all very familiar with these things, so familiar that we can easily forget just how shatteringly dramatic and world changing they were both back then and now, for all human beings everywhere.
Earlier in this chapter (6)Luke records Jesus’ act of selecting twelve whom he called apostles: ones who are sent as messengers. The choice of twelve would not have been lost on those who observed. Jesus was choosing a new Israel, like the twelve tribes of the Old Testament people of God. Few actions could have been more dramatic and meaningful than this choosing of twelve. It spoke of who they were but, even more pointedly, of who he was, the One doing the choosing.
As recorded in Deuteronomy 27 and 28, the covenant that God established with ancient Israel involved blessings and curses for loyalty and disloyalty to that sacred arrangement. Now here the formation of a renewed Israel is marked by expressions of both blessings and woes.
Why this passage is so remarkable is the fact that it shows how dramatic the advent of Jesus really was and continues to be. His coming and his kingdom mean a thorough reversal of what was, and is, often considered as the accepted state of things. It is alarming becausethe wrong sorts of people are spoken of as being blessed. As one commentator has put it, the values seem to up-side-down but in fact what is happening is that they are being turned right-side-up.
The coming of Jesus will open the kingdom of God to those who are poor, hungry, sad, and hated and exclude for Christ’s sake. Under his rule those who are generally dismissed and despised will (and do) have abundant reasons to be glad. On the other hand, those contented with the present situation, those who are rich, well feed, mirthful, and lauded for their false assurances will experience exclusion and woe because they will not acknowledge Who is in their midst and make the changes that his presences demands.
In addition, Kingdom life will not only see a reversal of what might be expected, it will also look very different in its expression. It will be a life of loving (even enemies), of forgiveness, and of generosity as the following verses will indicate. At he heart of this Divine Kingdom is a King whose love is infinite, whose wisdom is unerring and whose power is almighty. Blessed indeed are those who have surrendered their spiritual and temporal affairs to this King who has come and will come again. Abject indeed are those who refuse to recognise the King who has come and will come again.
As we read this passage today we need to remind ourselves regularly that a tremendous change took place with the coming of Jesus. The world is not the same as it was before his coming. Righteousness, or approval before God, comes to those who believe in Jesus because of who he is and what he did. His death and resurrection brings reconciliation with our Heavenly Father and peace with God.
In addition we who are sinners by nature are spiritually renewed. We are not perfect, we only have acceptance with God because of Jesus, but have been changed. The sort of living spoken of in this passage becomes the nature of the life that God’s Spirit nurtures within us. It is his gift to us and we are to look to him daily for it.
He is the perfect Saviour provided by the Father for our every spiritual need. We are to look to him moment by moment for what only he can do: make us new in thought, word, and deed.