Faith For Tomorrow
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The Great Sermon on the Plain
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“Nazarene… look here!” Someone among them shouted.”
“No, No, Nazarene here I am…” Came another voice.”
Meanwhile, the Apostles were beginning to feel overwhelmed, confronted, like nervous shepherds protecting their flock from predators. Unbeknownst to them—they had just a day before been named Apostles—the reverse was true; the shepherd was about to bring his flock in and assure them of their place within the fold. To some among the twelve—two of them were John and Bartholomew—the faces of the crush were becoming a blur… but not to Jesus; to him, they were individuals, individual faces, with frightened expressions, indicating their fears and pains… the shepherd always recognizes his own sheep.
They were old and young, and in between, GOD’s children seeking GOD’s mercy.
The multitude stretched out beyond, to the horizon.
Chatter from the midst of the multitude and melded into one voice, except to the Nazarene who, even though he was indeed human—because of the power of the Holy Spirit within him—could hear individual voices, individual stories, some old, some young, some saying one thing, some saying something else.
Someone from the midst said, “Do you believe this Rabbi from Nazareth is a miracle worker like they say he is?”
In the distance, on the rise, the Miracle Worker from Nazareth tilted his head in that man’s direction; and it was as if the Holy Spirit picked up that man’s words and lifted them up over the heads of the crowd to deposit them within the Nazarene’s hearing. Jesus listened and smiled.
Another woman, far in the back, almost out of sight of the Lord, said, “I saw him up close; there is something in HIS eyes. I believe this Rabbi from Nazareth was sent to us from GOD.”
Jesus smiled again.
The crowd continued chattering among themselves, their voices mixing with calls of gulls sailing above their heads.
Simon, the fisherman (newly anointed by the Master to be one of the twelve Apostles), stood on the rise nearby—if two tall men were laid out head to toe, it would represent the distance from where he was standing to the Master—and gazed out over the multitude. Until recently, Simon had been a follower of John the Baptist and had been here that day when John baptized his cousin in water, and Simon had heard the voice from heaven say, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” After that, the Baptist told Simon that he should henceforth follow Jesus that there was about to be a new, more miraculous ministry in Galilee.
Soon after that, Simon searched throughout his village of Capernaum for the Nazarene; but, Jesus was nowhere to be found. The big fisherman did not see Jesus again until some forty days later when the man from Nazareth suddenly appeared by the Galilee shore as Simon and Andrew, his brother, and business partner were bringing in their boats and folding up their nets after a day of fishing.
From that day forward, Simon (and his brother Andrew) began following the Nazarene just as the Baptist had said, and now Simon had been named one of the twelve. And as he looked out over the multitude, he thought back to the ministry of John beside the Sea; he had seen crowds gather to hear John preach in the same place at the elbow of the Sea of Galilee many times, but somehow never like this. John baptized those who choose GOD’s kingdom with water, and, in his ministry, there was healing, and demons WERE cast out, but not like this. In the presence of the Rabbi from Nazareth, it was as if the kingdom had already come, and there were always healings; men and women could be healed by merely coming into the Rabbi’s presence and asking, sometimes by simply touching the hem of his garments.
Simon looked out, and a young woman caught his eye. She was holding the arm of an older, seemingly very frail woman, probably her mother… the Apostle surmised. They were waiting to approach the Master so that the older woman might be healed of whatever infirmity she suffered. There was an expression of utter wonderment on that old face, so deeply etched with deep lines indicating her advanced year’s and experiences, both good and bad, and now near the end of her life, here she was waiting for Jesus, like so many others, waiting for GOD’s mercy which was as it should be. Her daughter seemed somehow harried in the effort to hold the older woman upright, then mercifully, some younger male family members joined in and steadied the woman near the base of a great old wild-fig tree beneath the shade of the great tree’s enormous canopy.
With the apostles so absorbed, the multitude looked on and waited to see what would happen.
Hence, when they saw that everyone who reached the Rabbi received healing, they jumped up and crushed forward, and, as a result, moments later, almost everyone there on that plain attempted to touch the hem of the Master’s garments.
And still, healing power flowed out of him.
After a time, the Apostles—noticing events were unraveling and about to go out of control—spread out and attempted to restore order among the tumultuous crush. The young Apostle John, seeing that Simon was distracted, called out to him. And, Simon’s attention shifted from the young woman in the distance and her relatives back to the unruly crowd.
Gathering his wits about him, the big fisherman set about helping his brothers control the crush, and after a moment, he cried out with his booming fisherman’s voice and managed to assure the crowd that the Rabbi would speak to them all very soon. And with that, the throng settled back down on the slope of the plain and waited to hear the Master speak. The meadow where they had all settled was located just south of the outskirts of Capernaum, on the western edge of the Inland Sea; where, above the still, watery expanse, the shadows of the day stood taller and stretched out longer as the sun seemed to move slowly across the blue horizon. Until at last, standing up before them, Jesus glanced at his disciples, then back to the sea of faces and gestured with his hands as if drawing them all in.
Finally, he started to speak, saying, “Blessed be the poor…”
A great sigh went up from the assembly on the plain, causing his words to be lost in the noise thereof.
Jesus smiled, his coal-black eyes crinkling up as if he were smiling with his eyes, and began again to speak.
He said, “Blessed be the poor among you, for yours is the kingdom of GOD. Blessed are you that are hungry now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you that are sad now, for later, you shall laugh. And if men and women hate you and push you out… if the evil men of today accuse you and destroy your reputation with lies because you follow me… Rejoice! Leap for joy… Because your reward in heaven will be great.”
A loud, healthy murmur erupted from the midst of the multitude.
Jesus said, “Remember this… The fathers of those who might accuse you today because you follow me. Well… their fathers and grandfathers were the same. Their fathers were so bold as even to accuse GOD’s own prophets.”
This particular field where Jesus and his Apostles had decided to stop was well known to the traveling evangelists; most among them had, at one time or another, camped here before and knew this grassy depression in the landscape created a natural amphitheater (created by nature’s GOD) as effective as any structure ever designed by the Romans. This same meadow was a place traveling Rabbi’s used often, and they all knew the spot quite well. To Jesus and his friends, the site had the added advantage of being not very far from Capernaum, the place where most of them lived. Additionally, adding to this depression’s attraction was the scenic beauty and serenity of the area; the sky beyond the Lord was the deepest blue with long-winged seabirds gliding this way and that over and about the green hills below.
Jesus paused, tracking with his gaze, a pair of gliding gulls that were sailing high above the heads of the assembly below him; the Master was standing at the head of the meadow upon a grassy incline overlooking the water.
After a few moments, the Rabbi glanced out over the crowd, raised his arms, and almost shouted, “But, woe unto you who are satisfied only in your riches, for you already have your reward. And, woe unto you who care only about filling your bellies, for you shall go hungry. And, woe unto you who only care about drinking and laughing, because later you will mourn your loss. While you are here on GOD’s earth, you should spend time contemplating the things of GOD. What good will it do you later, when your time comes. What will you do with all that wealth and good food, and the drinking and the laughter? Do not listen to those who say laugh, drink, and be merry today, for tomorrow it may all be gone. I say to you now… Beware when men and women whisper flattery in your ears because their fathers and mothers whispered the same things to the false prophets, telling them lies about GOD.”
The Lord walked slowly about the grassy incline and looked out over the sea, then went on to say, “Brothers and Sisters, allow me to tell you what GOD loves. He loves charity and forgiveness. So, I admonish you… Love your enemies! And, if you are able, try to treat those who hate you with charity. Bless them that curse you and pray for those who use you badly. And, if Someone strikes you on one cheek, do not hit back wildly. No, I say… No! Turn to that man the other cheek, then, if he strikes you again, walk away.
You should be the stronger person.
And, if Someone takes your coat, give him your shirt also. Give something to everyone who asks whenever you can. And if Someone steals from you, do not worry yourself into a harried state.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
After saying which, the Rabbi from Nazareth paused for several moments and looked about with loving eyes. To some in the assembly below, his glance alone seemed to caress them and ease their hurts. After a time, he said, “Remember this, if you love only those who love you, what have you accomplished? Even sinners love those that love them. If you do good only to those who do good to you, what thanks do you deserve? If you give only to those from whom you hope to receive, you have simply made a wise investment. I ask you, is it not true, sinners do the same thing?”
A woman near the front thought of what had occurred to her that morning how she had cursed her neighbor because she had mistakingly thought the woman was interested in her husband; later, she learned the truth but did not speak to her neighbor, and now she felt ashamed.
Until a moment later, the Lord reached up with his right arm and curled his fingers about his shoulder, his left arm hanging down at his side. Thereupon, he stood like that for several moments before, suddenly, pushing out his right arm and pointing with his forefinger. The Rabbi’s eyes narrowed as he moved the accusing digit slowly from side to side, pointing at the multitude who waited breathlessly for his next word; the black parts of the Lord’s penetrating eyes seemed to emit specks of light. When the accusing digit reached the woman who had cursed her neighbor, instead of feeling accused, she felt relief, realizing at once upon returning home she would go to her neighbor and beg her forgiveness. And, that woman was not the only person among the multitude who were touched by that pointing finger.
Suddenly Jesus commanded the multitude, saying, “Be merciful! Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful. Judge not, lest you be judged. Condemn not, and others will not condemn you. Forgive, and GOD will forgive you. Be generous, hoping for nothing in return, and your reward will be great. Love your enemies, and you shall be known as the children of GOD. After all, GOD is patient with those who are not thankful and even with those who are evil. Give generously to the ministry and your brothers and sisters in need, and GOD will meet your needs. He will fill up your baskets, and shake them down, and fill them again until they are so full, they run over. Always remember this, GOD notices how generous you are and rewards you the same.”
The crowd listened and fell silent.
Then, in the distance, a cacophony of gull calls penetrated the stillness.
The calls of the gulls sounded strange to those on the plain below, not the familiar squawks; instead, the calls reminded them of laughter. Bartholomew, one of the Apostles, pointed to the sky and gave the gulls a name, calling them the laughing gulls. Jesus smiled, his head tilted ever so slightly. Then, he laughed out loud at the comical sound.
The Lord loved all the creatures GOD had created.
After a moment, the Rabbi turned his attention again to the people, and he said, “Do not worry about your brother’s small faults when your faults are great. Do not be a hypocrite. First, get rid of your faults, then you will be able to see clearly enough to help your brother. After all, can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both stumble into a ditch? Become perfect in your faith, and you will be more like me. No good tree produces bad fruit, and no bad tree produces good fruit. Likewise, men and women often become recognized by the fruit of their labor. If you produce that which is good, you will be known as good. Men do not gather figs from thornbushes or pick grapes from a bramble bush. If you want figs, you go to a fig tree. And, if you desire the kingdom of GOD, you go to GOD. Remember this, a good man from out of the goodness of his heart does that which is good. And, an evil man from out of the darkness in his heart does that which is evil. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Someone near him shouted out and said, “Lord, your sayings are too hard for us.”
The Lord listened to the man, paused, and went on to say, “Why do you call me Lord, and then do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to me and listens to me and does what I say is like the man who builds his house on a solid stone foundation. When the flood comes and pushes against the house, it remains standing, for the house was built on rock. But, men and women who listen to me and refuse to do what I say are like the foolish man who builds his house on a foundation of sand. And, when the flood comes, the house is swept away in a great pile of rubble.”
That day, the Lord preached for a good long while until darkness began to blanket the area, and with evening approaching, Jesus finished preaching and led his followers back to Capernaum, where they intended to rest for a time.
These passages come from The Gospel According to Luke (Luke, Chapter 6) and are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible. The text above is a translation/interpretation of the KJV text. You should go to your own bible and read the scripture as given, only using this expanded translation as an aid to understanding… For the truth always go to the source, the scriptures themselves.
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