We're going to look at Luke 6:20-26 today as we continue to work our way through this Gospel together. In the last article, we looked at Luke 6:12-23 as Jesus introduced the Beatitudes. Now today, we are going to go back to those Beatitudes again, but this time we're going to couple them with the woes. It's interesting that Luke is the only one, who in the Sermon on the Mount, records both Jesus' woes and Jesus' words of blessing.

Surely the disciples and the gathered multitudes would have responded to what Jesus was saying in these blessings and woes with some surprise because what Jesus is doing in those blessings and woes is He's making a mockery of all that the world values and considers blessing. And He is mocking all that the world considers woes. Now that's obvious. When you hear it read, you immediately think, "You know, poverty, hunger, weeping, persecution and friendlessness are not in the top five things I want for my life, or for the lives of my children." And, conversely, you don't think of, well, a full stomach, laughter, many and deep and rich friendships and a relative lack of persecution by the world - you do not number those things among the worst possible things that could ever happen to you. So you understand that Jesus is being deliberately provocative and ironic.

That is obvious, but the question is, "Why?" Why is Jesus talking about blessing and woe in this way, in a way that so obviously cuts against our instincts and our sensibilities? Clearly, poverty, hunger, weeping, friendlessness and persecution are not in and of themselves blessed states - nor are wealth, a full stomach, laughter, friends, and persecution inherently blessed states. Whether those states are blessed or cursed depends solely on your relationship to the Son of Man.

So why then is Jesus juxtaposing these blessings and cursings? Well, the blessings and woes are designed to exalt what the world despises and reject what the world admires. But even more basic, the answer is pretty simple - Jesus is telling His disciples how He intends us to be different from the world, how He intends us to be distinct from the world, how He intends us to stand out in the world. What will make us distinct from the world? Not our wealth, not our food, not our clothing, not the laughter that we enjoy common with the world, not the friendship that we have with the world, but what we value most will make us distinct from the world.

Now, let me back up and explain this. In the Old Testament, when God wanted to make Israel distinct from the nations, you know what He did? He gave them a special ceremonial law and in that special ceremonial law it requires them not to eat certain foods, not to wear certain kinds of clothing, and conversely, to wear their hair and clothing in such a way that was distinct and they were required to do certain rituals that non-Jews did not do. And so it helped them to stay distinct from the world.

And He gave them clothing laws. There were certain kind of clothes that they could wear and not wear, and they had to wear their hair in a certain way because anyone could see them and say, "That person is different from me." And so they could look at other people and say, "That person is not a Jew." And He gave them ritual laws, like circumcision, that they were to practice, and the nations around them did not practice. This built a strong sense of the identity of the people of God. It is an identity that remains to this day.

Well when Jesus comes, as you know, He abolishes the ceremonial law. He says, "No longer are My people bound to follow those dietary laws and those clothing laws and those ritual laws" even though those laws, many of them, pointed to what? To Jesus Christ - they pointed to Christ - especially the sacrificial system, it pointed to Christ, but it's abolished.

So then you have to ask, "How are God's people going to be distinct in the world without those ceremonial laws?" And Jesus is saying, "This is how you are going to be distinct. This is going to be how you are going to be shown to be different from the world around you. Not your food, not your clothing, not your ritual, but what you value most, is going to set you apart from the world around you. What you treasure most is going to set you apart from the world around you. So let me explain it to you this way, disciple - you are going to be blessed, even when you are poor, because you understand that I am the only real treasure. You're going to be blessed, even when you're hungry, because you understand that I am the bread of life. You're going to be blessed, even when you are weeping, because you know that I came to bring joy inexpressible and fully of glory. You're going to be blessed, even when you are friendless, because I am the friend of sinners, and I will never leave you or forsake you. You're going to be blessed, even when you are persecuted for My sake, because frankly, I'm worth it."

My friends the choice that's before us today is this: will you treasure Jesus more than anything else, or will you treasure anything else above Jesus? That's the great question of life. And those who have trusted in Jesus have so tasted and seen that He is good, that they treasure Him more than anything.