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Trading Places

October 15 2023

Book: Luke

Scripture: Luke 6:12-26

I’m very grateful to Caleb for preaching not once, but twice – and doing a great job with Luke. This morning, we will pick up where he left off last week – chapter 6 verse 12.

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

I don’t want us to rush past this verse. Let’s pause here and consider again the importance of prayer in the ministry of Jesus. Before making a very important decision, Jesus pulled an all-nighter. He devoted hours to prayer. He deprived himself of sleep to pray.

It begs the question – if Jesus felt the need to spend hours in prayer before a big decision, why do I usually feel that a few minutes is sufficient? If I pray at all?

This is the kind of relationship Jesus invites us into. His relationship with the Father is available to us and it looks like prayer.

13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:

14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,

15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,

16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Twelve men – chosen by Jesus. He chose twelve for a reason and they all knew what it meant. Twelve men, representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel.

But one name stands out. It’s the last name recorded by Luke – Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

I’m grateful for Ralph Davis pointing this out in his commentary because I would have missed it. Consider the fact that Jesus spent all night praying about this decision and still He chose a man who would betray him.

This is very instructive for us. It tells us that the purpose of prayer is NOT to prevent bad things from happening. Prayer is not good karma. Saying “prayed up” doesn’t magically protect us from problems. Jesus prayed for hours, and He still chose Judas, because that was the mysterious providence of God. The Father loves Jesus and still He allowed this betrayal.

God may not give you the answer to prayer you want, but He loves you no less.

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon,

18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.

19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

Luke wants us to see that Jesus is now wildly popular in the entire region, now even beyond Judea. Crowds are gathering, many of them looking for healing. These are Jews and Gentiles.

And among the disciples are both rich people and poor people, even among the twelve. That’s important because of what Jesus is about to say to them.

What follows is a sermon that is very similar to the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5. It may or may not be the same occasion. We cannot be sure.

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

Notice, Jesus speaks to his disciples – not necessarily to the crowds. He is primarily concerned here with teaching the twelve men whom he just prayed over and selected.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

There are four blessings and four warnings.

Jesus promises blessings for the poor, the hungry, the sad, and the persecuted. But He warns the rich, the well fed, the happy, and the popular. And it’s really two groups of people, not eight.

The first group, the poor, will inherit everything, but the second group, the rich… they already have their wealth. The poor will eat, but the rich will starve.

40 years ago, the movie Trading Places was released, featuring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd. The plot of the movie is that Akroyd, a wealthy businessman, is forced to trade places with Murphy – who plays a street hustler.

When I read this sermon in Luke 6, that’s what comes to mind. It sounds like the kingdom of God is about rich people and poor people trading places.

But that’s not the message. We need to read more carefully.

If you read carefully, Jesus compares the way things are to the way things will be. But it’s not a simple exchange. The poor are not trading places with the rich. That would actually make the poor worse off than they already are!

Instead, look carefully at what Jesus promises the poor. Not earthly wealth, but what? The kingdom of God. Jesus says that the rich have something, but it is not the kingdom of God. And so, they are not trading places. Instead, the poor receive something far better than money.

We can summarize what Jesus teaches His disciples in this way. Things are not the way they are supposed to be, but God’s kingdom will turn everything right side up. He will change the way the world works.

That is the covenant promise Jesus makes us. My kingdom will make everything OK. None of my people will be hungry! None of my people will be sad! None of my people will be excluded!

And how does He want His disciples to apply this truth? What does it mean today?

Jesus intends to describe for his disciples the ways in which his kingdom looks different from the kingdom of this world. It’s a call to be different.

Stop pursuing temporary happiness. Stop worshiping at the altar of wealth, food, entertainment, and popularity. None of that provides lasting joy.

We have a great illustration of this, which is provided by the lottery. Nothing can instantly turn a poor person into a rich person like the lottery. This week, someone in California bought a Powerball ticket worth 1.7 billion dollars. 180 million people bought tickets, but there was only one winner.

And I get it. I understand the appeal. I’ve absolutely daydreamed about what I would do with all that money. But I’m also certain it would destroy my life.

Did you know that 70% of lottery winners spend or lose all their money in less than 5 years? Easy come, easy go. Read their stories and what you will find is that most of them wish they had never won. If you don’t believe me, go home and later today, Google the phrase “regret winning the lottery” and see for yourself. Pages and pages of stories about people who wish they had never won.

Everyone started asking them for money. They become a target for scams. It put strain on their marriages and other relationships. Winners report feeling guilty for winning. They become bored with life. Suicide is common. Winning the lottery would literally ruin your life!

You’ve heard all of this before. But it doesn’t matter to most people because we are controlled by our desires. Deep down, we know that life is short, and we believe that we have to try and get our best life now. Eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow you may die. And so, we play the lottery because we are living for the moment.

But what if Jesus is right? What if His offer of lasting happiness is real? What if there really is an inheritance that will never run out? What if you can be forever satisfied? Forever joyful? Forever accepted?

But you can’t have both. It’s either His kingdom or the kingdom of this world. And there is a real choice to be made – repent and believe OR keep living for the moment. It’s also not a one-time choice. Repentance and belief is a daily choice.

And I have to warn you, because Luke does – don’t assume you’re choosing the kingdom of God just because you’re around Jesus or because you’re part of a church.

Luke makes a point to tell us that one of the disciples will betray Jesus. Matthew tells us that Judas did it for only thirty pieces of silver – which was maybe enough to buy a smartphone in today’s currency.

Think about it. Judas was part of the greatest Bible study in the history of the church. His pastor was Jesus! His friends were the apostle! He witnessed countless miracles. He shared countless meals with the Son of God. And still, Judas chose the kingdom of this world.

That’s a warning to us. We can be around Jesus our whole lives and still actively reject Him. Judas had a better opportunity than any of us to see the person and mission of Jesus – and he rejected Christ. He rejected the kingdom of God in favor of the kingdom of this world.

At the heart of this rejection is very often a misunderstanding of the way the kingdom of God works. And that’s actually the main point here. Two weeks ago, when Caleb preached about Jesus healing the paralytic and forgiving his sins, he made an important observation.

At that time, everyone assumed that bad things happen to people because of their sin or the sins of their parents. And they assumed that if people were rich and healthy, it must be because they were good people. Why? Because people always get what they deserve, right?

Wrong. That is the philosophy of this world, but it’s not the Gospel.

No one gets into the kingdom of God because they deserve it. No one except Jesus.

Sometimes bad things do happen to us because of our sin. And sometimes good things happen to us when we obey. But according to Jesus, that has nothing to do with the blessing of the kingdom.

We get into the kingdom with Jesus, or not at all. Jesus hints at this in verse 22. Look again:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

He’s saying that the world will reject you because you’re with me. And by extension, that’s the only way we get into the kingdom of God – because we are with Jesus.

How? How does it work? How do we inherit the kingdom of God?

To put it simply, it’s by trading places with Jesus.

You see, He became poor so that we could inherit His kingdom. He became hungry so that we could be filled. He wept so that we could rejoice. He suffered and died for our sake, so that we could enter the kingdom of God – even though we don’t deserve it.

For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is who we follow by faith, not for a temporary blessing – but for an eternity with Him, our good King! And He will make everything OK. None of His people will be hungry! None of His people will be sad! None of His people will be excluded! And none of His people will deserve it.