A government of forgiveness & sacrifice


How different is God’s government? How can we live that government now?


I want us to learn that only God’s government is for humanity’s good and that its two qualities of giving and forgiving are guideposts for us to live by.

Sermon Plan

Read Luke 23:33-43. We will discuss human government vs. Christ’s government, forgiveness and self-sacrifice.

A new level of forgiveness (vs. 34)

We could say that Jesus was born to die. That is true, but he was also born to forgive when for most of us it would have been incomprehensible. Forgiveness for murder is perhaps one of the hardest things imaginable. One of the most remarkable sayings of Jesus is recorded in Luke 23:34. “Father forgive them. For, they don’t know what they are doing.” It takes a strong person to apologize and ask forgiveness. Weak people don’t apologize. Many of us will forgive others — after they apologize. Weak people may never forgive even with an apology. Some Christians believe that forgiveness can only be granted by God after repentance. However, here Jesus teaches us a new level of forgiveness, before repentance, before a change of heart, forgiveness because of a deed done in ignorance. What a strange idea!

Heavenly forgiveness (vs. 34)

We may have heard stories about Nazi victims who found it difficult to forgive former persecutors after they asked for it. Some have. Now that’s world class forgiveness. It is the best kind of forgiveness available in this world. There is a kind of forgiveness that is even beyond world class. We could call it heavenly forgiveness. It is recorded in Luke 23:34. Jesus said, “Father forgive them. For, they don’t know what they are doing.” It is difficult for most of us to forgive atrocities on the order of that which the Nazis committed. Crucifixion was no less an atrocity than those extermination camps. Yet, Jesus forgave, even before he was asked to. World class forgiveness is difficult. Jesus prayed for heavenly forgiveness for terrible deeds done in ignorance. Thank God for forgiveness! All humanity surely needs it!

Human Leadership Failure (vs. 34)

Human leadership easily disappoints. Many Christians constantly criticize and condemn political and church leaders. But that overlooks grace. Matthew 26:14-27:66 highlights two common leadership faults: weakness and hypocrisy. It’s our human condition. The Judean leadership was a group of Jews who deeply feared Roman occupation forces 2,000 years ago. They were so frightened of their own people rioting and angering the Romans that some of them used false charges, coercion and violence to avert it, crucifying Jesus. Every single one of Jesus’ disciples also abandoned him. At the cross, all human leadership in or out of the faith failed. When we are tempted to criticize political or church leaders today, maybe we ought to remember Jesus’ words about both while he hung on the cross: Father forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing (Luke 23:34).

Democracy just sucks less (vs. 34)

It’s not that democracy is really that much better than other forms of human government. It’s just that it sucks less. All forms of human government ultimately fail, some just more miserably than others. An early despot was Nimrod who gathered people into cities so as to have more power over them. Egypt was run like a company town. The country was a plantation and the company bosses were just like many company bosses today, building huge monuments to themselves and much like communism, the government owned almost everything. Like Israel’s kings most European Monarchs, though claiming religion were nothing but selfish leaders. Democracy emerged in Greece as government by the people, but all our checks and balances eventually fail as the rich and powerful take over. Only one government offers hope for humanity, that of Christ (Luke 23:34).

Living Christ’s government now (vs. 34, 35, 43)

Jesus conquered the gates of hell at his crucifixion and resurrection. He ushered in a new government. Although the fullness of that kingdom will not be ushered in until his return we can live under that government now. How? Luke 23:33-43 indicates some very important ways in which we can be ambassadors for the government of Christ now. He forgave those who planned his death. He willingly offered himself as a sacrifice for all. He allowed a criminal to enter paradise on his attitude alone. We represent that eternal government whenever we forgive and sacrifice for others. Jesus’ forgiveness of his persecutors was before any change of heart or repentance. Jesus’ example was a total self-sacrifice. Jesus’ inclusion was of a sinner who had a change of heart but before he could prove his repentance with a changed life.

Attributes of human government (vs. 34, 35, 39)

All human governments are represented by those that crucified Christ, not just the Roman and Jewish states. In Luke 23:33-43 are telling contrasts between Christ’s and human reign. Human governments are usually filled with very intelligent and highly educated people, but as Jesus and a man I once knew said who had lived among world leaders said, “they do not know what they are doing.” Another telling difference is that rather than being there as real servants like Christ, our so-called public servants, from political and military leaders even to criminals in reality deride the suffering saying in so many words, “let him save himself,” and “save yourself.” Is it no wonder that human governments are symbolically pictured in apocalyptic literature of the Bible as devouring beasts. In reality are we not all just the same, selfish and ignorant.

Attributes of Christ’s government (vs. 34, 35, 43)

Government is a bad word to many people, but Jesus came as the head of a government that would genuinely be for everyone’s good not just the rich and powerful. Some key differences are outlined in Luke 23:33-43. They are some of the first acts of government and set the precedent as to how that government will operate. One of Jesus’ first acts as head of God’s government was to forgive the wrongs of everyone involved in plotting and preparing for his murder. Another act was his unwillingness to save himself from self-sacrifice for everyone else. Where are today’s world leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves? The head of God’s government’s third act in this section was also one of forgiveness of one certain criminal based entirely upon his attitude. Forgiveness and sacrifice — hallmarks of Christ’s government.

A message for oppressed people everywhere (vs. 35, 37, 39)

The Gospel message in Luke 23:33-43 is as relevant to North Koreans murdered by their government for having a Bible as it is for retail workers mistreated and underpaid by society’s most privileged families. The greedy and powerful can crush the life out of you but they cannot crush the hope for a better world. As Jesus followers attended his crucifixion, all over the world today people have gone to a church service somewhere in hope of a better world. They may be oppressed Christians in countries where their faith is banned. They may have had their homes burned, been kidnapped, imprisoned or be about to lose their lives, but they have a hope. They may be western Christians failed by false political promises of liberty and equality for all. Nothing is the hope of the world but Christ.

Kings suck (vs. 35)

As a class of human beings, kings generally suck. At least that has been their history. As a rule most were selfish, murderous, tyrannical and didn't care about the people of their nation. That is a major reason why modern democracies have either ditched their kings or severely limited their power. Why in the world then is Jesus referred to as a king? Not all kings suck. Some few have made great personal and financial sacrifice and even given their lives on the battlefield for their people. It is that order of king, the rare kind that Jesus represents. Kings who willingly place themselves in harm’s way are highly honored and deeply loved. As such a king, Jesus sacrificed himself for us. As our king (Luke 23:35) Jesus ignored the suggestion to save himself. He came to save us.

The manner of a human king

When ancient Israel rejected God as their king they wanted a human king just like the nations around them. 1 Samuel 8:10-17 describes the manner of a human king. That relates to any human national leaders no matter their title. The first three words are very descriptive, “He will take.” Taking, rather than giving is a hallmark of human governments. “He will take your sons and MAKE them serve… they will plow HIS ground and reap HIS harvest… He will TAKE your daughters… the best of YOUR fields… take for HIS own use… and you yourselves will become his slaves.”* Taxation without forgiveness and taking, rather than giving are hallmarks of human government. In Luke 23:33-43 we read of hallmarks of Christs government, giving and forgiving, as he gave his life for the whole world and forgave sins.

* Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Save us from our saviors (vs. 35)

Saviors are everywhere. At least many claim to save us. Politicians will save us from the government. Advertisers will save us from illnesses and bad breath. Drink manufactures will save us from pure but boring water. Fashion merchants will save us from comfortable clothes. Credit card companies will save us from being debt free. Central banks will save our economies. Hollywood will save us from innocence. Who will save us from our saviors? When all the results are in and we look back on the claims, we will probably find that more often than not, those saviors hurt more than they helped. Even Jesus’ enemies testified that he “saved others” (Luke 23:35). He healed many and saved them from not only from their illnesses but also promised something no one else can do, save us from sin and death.

Kingdoms suck (vs. 42)

Democracy has long replaced monarchy as a form of human government. Abuse of power among kings was intolerable. We no longer believe that kings have a “divine right.” Vestiges of monarchical excesses remain. Prince Charles still owns 131,000 acres in Wales. However, even our democracies have not stopped the abuse of power, merely brought it under a measure of control. What if there was a king who did not need to be elected because his kingdom rule was one without the corruption of human governments? What if there was a leader we knew would never cause us any harm? Would we choose to voluntarily submit to such a kingdom? Would we ask that king to remember us when he came into his kingdom? Would we take a criminal’s request (Luke 23:42) before his execution as a worthwhile recommendation?

Overconfidence of humanity (vs. 42)

We have all experienced the overconfidence of youth. We think that we can do so much better than our forebears or we think that we could do so much better than those currently in government. The only problem is that every generation starts out life exactly the same way, thinking that they can create a better world and live life better than others. By the time we reach middle age, that overconfidence is somewhat mellowed as we are forced to admit our many failures. By the time we are old, we are compelled to face the realities of life and death. Our generation has also not solved the world’s problems. We don’t have to worry about our imperfect lives in an imperfect world. We just need to pray, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Outro/Take Home

Let us live lives now as ambassadors of a different government, one that is giving and forgiving. Jesus and his kingdom are the only hope of the world.

Stand firm and you will win life


How important is a building to God? How important is a building to his kingdom? What is more important? 


I want us to learn that God is not overly impressed with church real estate. 

Sermon Plan 

Read Luke 21:1-19. We will discuss church success, what impresses God, church buildings, tribulation, fear, prophecy and endurance. 

Successful churches (vs. 1-4) 

The Arch of Titus in Rome features the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus predicted it. Spoils stolen from the Temple are pictured on the south panel of the arch like the menorah, golden trumpets and table of shew-bread. The Temple was built around 19 BC. It’s outer walls were not completed until a few years before their destruction by Rome. Herod constructed temples to pagan gods as well as Jerusalem. The widow’s mite also paid paid the upkeep of this temple. The temple was so magnificent that it could easily surpass many of today’s most magnificent churches. Though magnificent God had it destroyed because it was not a successful building. It had become an idol. Successful churches are those not those with the most magnificent buildings but those that preach Christ and change lives. 

Most successful life (vs. 1-4) 

There is an old saying about success that he who dies with the most toys wins. It is a rather revealing commentary on shallow materialistic goals. Some wealthy people seem to try and gain accolades by public displays of philanthropy. Is such a life the most successful? It is certainly a better example than the alternative. A life of stinginess and accumulation can be partaken of by every social class and it is a mean and empty life. On the scale of success through generosity, there is one example that stands out above the rest, and it is not the person who gives the most in monetary value. There is a person, who is often completely unknown, who is the greatest. It is not the amount given away that gauges financial success, but the percentage. That's what the story of the widow's mite is all about. 

What impresses most at church (vs. 1-4) 

When Jesus was at the temple in Jerusalem he was not impressed by most of the religious leaders. His disciples were impressed with the architecture. His comments indicate a very different perspective than what is normal in our society. What impresses us most at church? Is it puffed up people with big titles and fancy clothes? Is it extravagant and ornate church architecture? Some people are offended by churches because of such things. God is also offended when we are more impressed with status and materialism than with him. Jesus had the most praise for a widow who gave very generously at the temple. Could it just be that one of the most important reasons to attend a church is the opportunity to learn from the examples of the many faithful people with whom we fellowship? 

Closing church buildings (vs. 1-4) 

Everybody hates to close a church building down. It’s seems like giving up ground in the church’s spiritual battle. It is also one of the most difficult jobs in church life. My Greek professor at graduate school loved it. He saw it as a necessary part of keeping church life healthy. We become so attached to real estate that we begin to believe that the church is buildings instead of people. So it was with ancient Israel. Jesus predicted that the temple at Jerusalem, which had lasted over 500 years, would be destroyed. God is sometimes in the business of closing down buildings. Jesus’ prediction came right after he had praised a widow for her very generous contribution to the temple fund, the proverbial widow’s mite. Church buildings are not the "forever" part of church life. 

The battle over church size (vs. 5) 

Many Christians are intimidated by mega-churches and their larger than life leaders. It is as if we believe that quantity is far more important than quality. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the majesty of a large church service is awe-inspiring. Yet the intimacy and healing embrace of a small church is unsurpassed. However, size does not guarantee spiritual depth. Sometimes the preaching in a large church is hollow and trite, while the preaching in a small country church can be rich and deep. The opposite can also be true. Jesus did not promise large churches would be the norm or even a sign of success. Some few times local churches were large anciently. More often, they were small and scattered during very difficult times. Size is not mentioned as a sign of success; standing firm is. 

A church choice (vs. 5) 

What if Jesus were to present us with two church choices? On the one hand, we could meet in a large and beautiful building with community respect and international acclaim. It would contain gold and magnificently dressed priests. On the other hand, there would be no gold and church leaders may be dressed very ordinarily. We could be scattered without a building, endure suffering and be despised. Most of us would readily prefer the former. What if the choice came with a caveat, that if we chose the latter and stood firm, we could have eternal life? That is similar to what Jesus predicted. Buildings can be idols. We are overly impressed with the things of this world. Jesus is more impressed with the grandeur of a heart which stands firm for him no matter what. 

Destruction for progress (vs. 6) 

When rebuilding old shrinking churches there are two inevitable things we must face: change and conflict. Any rebuilding necessarily destroys something old. Sometimes drastic action is required and anger arises. In church life we tend to focus overly much on things that we have built and not enough on people. We look too much to our traditions and not enough to God’s instructions. We worship our complications and not the simplicity of Christ. The same was true in ancient Israel. In order to rebuild the faith, sometimes existing structures must go. When Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed, he was predicting an important change, a revolution in faith. If we are not willing to move forward in faith, then perhaps God will step in and destroy what we have built for our own good. 

Admitting our ignorance (vs. 6) 

Christians are divided by ideas yet united in Jesus. Some are proud of a tradition of ignorance and lack of education. They claim that the apostles were uneducated men, yet they were educated for 3 years by the Master. Others praise their own education in the traditions of their denomination and look down their noses at the teachings of others. Yet, even good ideas can become like idols. Idols need to be destroyed. The same was true of the temple in Jerusalem. It had once served a good purpose, but it had become a national idol. The more we study Jesus, the more we realize how ignorant we are of God’s perspective. Instead of being vain about our education or lack of it, let’s all realize our mutual ignorance and sit at the feet of the Master. 

St Peter's Basilica cost what (vs. 6) 

A story is making the circuit of a tour group being shown through St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. One tourist asked how much it cost and the astute priest tour guide responded that it cost most of northern Europe. He was referring to the Protestant churches which left the western Christian Church in large part because of the financial scandal associated with funding that building. In another sense then, instead of being a monument to the Apostle Peter, it is also a monument to sin and arrogant pride in the Church. Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem carries with it similar lessons. If we are not willing to change, then the traditions and structures we have built can become monuments to our own sin and conceited arrogance which God must eventually destroy. 

Building a permanent structure (vs. 6) 

The Jerusalem temple was so incredible a building that when the sun reflected off its gold covered sides, people had to look away, it was so bright. Jesus predicted its destruction but also spoke of a truly permanent temple and an important cornerstone. We are that house of God (Ephesians 2:18-20). We so easily forget that people are more important than buildings. The beautiful physical stones of that worldly building were destroyed. We are the living stones (1 Peter 2:4-6) that are being placed into a spiritual temple. People still weep for the destroyed temple in Jerusalem today. They are deeply disappointed that it is a ruin. Our hope is not in physical buildings but a permanent structure being built by Jesus Christ. If we build with him we will not be disappointed. 

A mile wide & an inch deep (vs. 6) 

A church planter friend once said that he knew how to build a church a mile wide and an inch deep, but that only a true pastor could build depth. A principle behind Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple was the greater importance of inner spiritual depth over visible signs like buildings. How then do we build a foundation of spiritual depth if the comfort of a building does not help? A good building has a foundation that stands firm. We are to stand firm. A list of things outside of a church building that helps us stand firm follows: Don’t following false preachers who make wild claims about salvation and the end of the world. Do not be frightened. In the midst of calamity and hatred, rely upon the strengthening that God gives. 

The time is near (vs. 8) 

People have predicted that the time is near every century for the past 2,000 years. Yet a major thing about that kind of prediction is frequently neglected: the warning that Jesus made not to follow people who make such predictions. That’s right! If you don’t believe me, just take a look at Jesus’ own words in Luke 21:1-19. He said that many would come predicting that the time is near. Then he said something very shocking, Don’t follow them. Wow! Have you ever noticed that? False prophets are a dime a dozen. Yet, not only are the day and hour unknown, but also the nearness of Christ’s return. When we believe that we are certain of the nearness of Christ’s return, we become lazy. Yet, real Christianity involves keeping on keeping on even in the midst of uncertainty. 

Warning bells (vs. 8) 

How can we tell if a preacher is on the right path, way off the track or somewhere in between? None of us can claim that we are all right on every issue, but we often deceive ourselves into thinking that we are more right than wrong. Jesus taught some major warning signs that would distinguish false teachers from the rest of us who, although still very faulty are perhaps at least headed in the right direction. Jesus describes those giving off such alarm bells as many not few. Not too many claim to be Jesus, but many do make Messiah-like claims such as the sole place to find salvation or exclusive knowledge about salvation. People who make prophetic claims about the immediacy of Jesus’ return are certainly sounding a warning bell — not to follow them! 

Christians living in great tribulation (vs. 12) 

Warnings in prophecies like Luke 21:5-19 are strange to us in countries with great religious freedom — Christians tried, believers betrayed by relatives and friends, some put to death, everyone hating us because of Christ. Christians live such tribulation in about 50 countries today. North Korea is the worst. An estimated 400,000 Christians face labor camps and death if caught. Saudi Arabia is second worst. It has no religious freedom. 1¼ million Christians are threatened with imprisonment, deportation, torture and death. Afghanistan is next worst. Thousands of Christians there face kidnapping and killing. With over 300,000 Christians Iraq is next, where they are threatened with home burning, abduction and murder. Last in the worst 5 is Somalia, where a few hundred Christians live. They face abduction and murder with no religious freedom. Let us pray for them. 

Fearless in fearful times (vs. 11-14) 

Our society is afraid of many things and fear is big business. Fear sells merchandise from pharmaceutical drugs to newspapers, from insurance to airport security systems. It buys votes for political candidates. It is profitable for politicians and businesses to lead us into fear. This encourages a relationship of dependency for profit. At the same time there are many real reasons to fear. Despite the profit motive which encourages fear, things to be feared are not all imaginary or exaggerated. Jesus informed believers several times about the reality of fearful times, but encouraged them not to be afraid. Can we be fearless in fearful times? Every aspect of our lives, even the hairs on our heads, are under God’s control. It takes faith to stand firm until the end and in so doing win eternal life. 

Doomsday prepping or living by faith (vs. 14) 

Some people read apocalyptic literature and try to hide in man-made caves, while others read it and resolve to live a fuller Christian life by faith. There certainly is a time to flee from impending persecution. So, why is it better to live life under normal circumstances by faith than be a worried prepper? Nobody knows the day or hour of calamitous times. Every generation since Christ thought that theirs was the last generation and none of them was right. What a lot of time was wasted. Many false prophets have taken advantage of people by making such false predictions. Jesus encouraged us not to worry about being overly prepared but to put our faith in him. Worry and doubt distract us from the most important job at hand which it to spread the gospel message. 

Dying testimony (vs. 16) 

We have borrowed a word from Greek to mean someone who dies for their faith. The word in English is martyr. It comes from a similar Greek word used in Luke 21:5-19 which is often translated as testimony. For many Christians their witness or testimony has been in their willingness to die for their faith, to be martyrs. And what a testimony! Throughout Christian history many have been betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and some have been put to death. Currently 50 countries are on the world watch list at Open Doors of those who persecute Christians the worst and the Voice of the Martyrs tells many of their stories. May we pray for them and follow their example by standing firm no matter what may come, so that we too "will win life." 

Difficult Christianity (vs. 17) 

The fiction of the prosperity gospel attracts many suckers, but it is not real Christianity. It is the snake oil salesman’s version of the real thing. It is a counterfeit which enriches the false preachers who gladly ask for your so called “seed money.” One place to see the reality of a Christian life is where Jesus predicted many hardships which would follow true believers. Does that mean that God never provides material blessings to the obedient? Of course he does. The problem with prosperity preaching is that many teach that if you suffer, you must have been disobedient. That is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught and the early church experienced. Suffering comes to Christians precisely because they are obedient. Jesus encouraged us to stand firm and inherit something greater than materialism, eternal life. 

Model T Endurance (vs. 19) 

I once knew of two elderly brothers who owned a farm and still used the first and only car they ever bought, a Model T Ford. Once a month they drove it to town for supplies. When most of us change cars occasionally, they endured through all the repairs, changes of parts and even occasional change of engines to keep their one and only car for life. In a throwaway world, most of us do not have such endurance. Yet, there are some things that we keep for life. It may be family bonds, keepsakes, a bank account or a phone number. Our bodies change dramatically over a lifetime but our fingerprints change very little. Endurance is a habit that we make consciously and against all odds. It is a good habit that leads to eternal life. 

4 popular views of prophecy (vs. 20, 27) 

Apocalyptic books such as Daniel and Revelation are accepted in all Christian Bibles. There are studied with 4 predominant views of prophecy: fulfillment mostly in very early history, mostly throughout history, mostly in the future and symbolic fulfillment any time any place. These four camps are often called preterism (ancient fulfillment), historicism, futurism and idealism (symbolic or spiritual fulfillment). Because apocalyptic literature is largely symbolic in genre, it seems logical to see its prophecies as also symbolic. A symbolic view also has a place for all three other views. So when we read of prophecies in other literature such as that in Luke 21:5-19 we can see elements which were fulfilled at least in type shortly afterwards (Jerusalem surrounded and trampled) and some which will be more logically completely fulfilled only at Christ’s return (the Son of Man coming). 

Outro/Take Home 

Like all temporary things, buildings never have been important to God. What is more important is living changed and people that will live forever with him.

God of the living


What happens after death? What happens between death and the return of Christ? Where are our loved ones?


I want us to understand that God is the God of the living because to him all are alive.

Sermon Plan

We will start by reading Luke 20:27-38, then discuss the Sadducees, an ancient marriage custom and resurrection questions.


Who were the Sadducees? Under King David temple liturgy was organized by a high priest named Zadok. Possibly under that Zadok or a later name-sake, a group formed to support temple worship. Their name Sadducees refers to Zadok. In Israel there was no separation of church and state, so any such religious party was also a political party and Jesus’ comments about them were also political criticisms. Sadducees were conservatives believing that preserving temple worship would perpetuate God’s blessing. After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, they lost followers and disappeared. They opposed the more liberal Pharisees who believed that people could worship God anywhere. The Sadducees also did not believe in a resurrection as this discussion shows. The Pharisees and Sadducees were not often in agreement but they were united in opposition to Jesus.

Trick levirate question

In ancient times marriage meant survival and was often more a business arrangement than romantic. Ancient law gave agricultural inheritance through the males. This was because females would usually marry and thus be partners in their husband’s farmland. Israel inherited this practice but made exceptions where the general rule created an unfair situation. The necessity for a male heir created the levirate marriage, where a man married his deceased brother’s wife so as to ensure the family inheritance. This is the background to the trick question the Sadducees asked Jesus. Whose wife would she be in the resurrection? The question was not sincere but designed to trick Jesus about the resurrection, something the Sadducees did not believe in. Important beliefs in Christianity are repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-3).

The mocking marriage puzzle

The Sadducees’ questioned Jesus perhaps with mocking humor: Moses perpetuated a Ugaritic and Hittite custom that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, he must marry the widow and raise up offspring to inherit his brother’s land. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a horrible woman and rather than live with her he died in self-defense, childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way each of the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her? Was it meant to humorously disprove the resurrection? Jesus did not answer the question but pointed out how ridiculous it was because there is no marriage in the resurrection.

Resurrection questions

How will life be for eternity? Our passage gives us a few hints. How will we look at the resurrection? Luke reveals that we will be very different from how we are now. There will be no childbearing or human-style family life. Will we recognize our earthly families? Though Jesus did not directly address that question, he did say that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be recognizable. So, it is reasonable to assume that we would know family members who are also there. It is also reasonable to speculate that current close bonds of love between family members on earth would naturally continue. What about body and spirit? Whatever happens in the meantime, whether or not body and spirit are separated for a time, completeness of resurrection will mean body and soul together for eternity.

Abraham, dead or alive?

In our text Jesus spoke of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that God is the God of the living. Some Bibles explain this as “to him all are alive” but others say something closer to a literal translation of the original Greek like “all live to him.” As we humans perceive things, people are either dead or alive, but obviously God perceives the reality of things beyond our physical ability to know. Does this mean that Abraham is literally alive now in heaven or just that God counts him as being alive because he will be in the future or that after death a timeless eternity has already begun? There are people who believe different sides of that discussion. But does it really matter since eternity is something beyond our understanding anyway and in that eternity all are alive?

They can no longer die

What does it mean that those who are accounted worthy to partake of that age, and are resurrected from the dead can no longer die? The Sadducees were not so different from us, in that they tried to obtain eternal life through their children by perpetuating family lineage or family names. It is a worldly version of eternal life. Even today, some conversations tend to sideline those who cannot have children or have the gift of celibacy and so choose to remain single. Marriage is indeed honorable, but so is celibacy. We do not then, need to be married and have children to be assured of everlasting life with God. When we reorient our thinking away from the values of this world to those of the next, then we begin to see things as God does.

Unrestricted love

Many people have attempted to find cheap immortality by experiencing unrestricted sexual love. Our world continues to suffer the consequences of breaking sexual taboos. Sexual restrictions are for this life and create a safety zone which perpetuates family units and healthy societies. Yet in the resurrection there will be no need for restrictions on love, because marriage and sexual love will no longer exist. To those who have suffered horrible sexual experiences this may be good news. It is also good news to those who have had wonderful marriages with lifelong joy. The joys of human sexuality are only a pale foretaste in comparison to the eternal pleasures of the resurrection. There will be no such boundaries to our relationships in God’s presence forever because in the resurrection there will no monogamous marital relationships, just unrestricted love.

God of the living

Presumed dead but alive seems to be a theme regarding the patriarchs and matriarchs of antiquity in the Gospel message according to Luke. Many Sadducees were wealthy priests who did not believe in the resurrection. Luke quoted Jesus as saying that God is the God of the living. Phrases similar to God being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are repeated often in the Old Testament. Yet were they not all dead? If so, then God would be called the God of the dead. So, they must be alive to God, even though we call them dead. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) also shows Abraham as alive. God is the God of the living implies something more than just a future life. It implies that our lives today are already blessed with eternity.

Between death and resurrection

Is the soul as well as the body asleep until Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15)? How could that square with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) or Stephen’s prayer “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59)? Are passages referring to death as a sleep literal or figurative? Is purgatory the place of judgment (Hebrews 9:27) and where atonement may be made for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:43-45)? Is resurrection instantaneous after death where believers receive a spiritual body (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)? Is the spirit absent from the body and consciously present with the Lord in heaven (Philippians 1:19-26) but awaiting a body at the return of Christ (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)? All die and by God’s grace we can enter his joyful presence forever (Luke 20:27-38).

Outro/Take Home

God is the God of the living because to him all are alive. Therefore, let us stand firm. Let nothing move us. Always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Blessings and woes


How different are our thought than God’s? Today we will look at blessings and woes and I think that we will be shocked as to how different God looks at many things.


I want us to learn that God’s thoughts are much different than popular ideas in our culture.

Sermon Plan

We will discuss poverty, hunger, weeping and being hated. We will also discuss wealth, full bellies, laughter and popularity. We will be shocked to see which one is blessed and which is not.

Two kinds of laughter

How can a poor person laugh genuinely and a rich person’s laugh be empty (Luke 6:20-31)? How can a hungry person laugh with joy and a person with a full belly cry? How can those who cry now laugh joyfully and those who laugh now weep and mourn? How can the hated and rejected be filled with happiness and those who are flattered and well spoken of be filled with sorrows? Such are the paradoxes of Jesus’ teachings. There are two kinds of laughter. One is that of hardhearted laughing insults. Another is joyous laughter from heaven. Yet, even for coldhearted people there may be hope. The weeping of the callous and uncaring suggests that many of them will eventually find the path to true happiness, not in their wealth and abundance of food, but through their own suffering.

Blessings of poverty

Poverty is a blight and a road to suffering but Jesus clearly said in Luke 6:20-31 that the poor are also blessed. Unlike the saying in Matthew where Jesus described the poor in spirit, Luke wrote that Jesus also emphasized the poor in fact. So, what are the blessings of the poor? Jesus said they are blessed because the kingdom is theirs. Why? The poor appreciate small blessings, are more environmentally friendly, are more empathetic to suffering, are more generous and more moral, know they need a Savior, depend on God, have no exaggerated sense of self-importance, are less into competition than cooperation, know the difference between necessities and luxuries, learn patience, know how to survive great suffering, know the Gospel is good news and respond to the gospel unafraid of losing anything because they have nothing to lose.

Blessings of hunger

Hunger is a worldwide scourge not caused by lack of food but selfish politics and greed. Jesus strangely said that the hungry are also blessed (Luke 6:20-31). What could he have meant? Those who have fasted for a time either due to circumstances or choice know how good the food that breaks that fast tastes. Somehow the cleansing of poisons from our bodies during a fast makes all food taste so much better. The poor may long to eat crumbs from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:19-21) but the rich man may be dying due to poverty of diet, the unhealthy ingredients of a bad western diet, something even the ancients knew (Daniel 1:1-16). But even healthy food only satisfies for a few hours. There is a hunger in every soul that only Jesus can truly satisfy.

Blessing of weeping

There is one blessing in Luke’s summary of the beatitudes that cuts across all classes and circumstances, the blessing of weeping (Luke 6:20-31). How can it be a blessing to cry, to mourn out loud? Loss and pain are common to all human beings, rich or poor, famous or unknown, loved or hated. According to some medical experts, crying aloud is not only good physically in that it cleanses the body of certain toxins produced by stress, it also helps us bring negative emotions to the fore so that they can be addressed. Mourning is good it produces a change of heart about bad habits and produces change. Mourning may be all the more genuine and produce longer lasting positive benefits when it is expressed through tears. Such a changed heart is a blessing bringing true joy and laughter.

Blessing of being hated

We all experience being hated at times even if only from an impatient motorist on the road. Even the most famous receive negative reviews and hateful criticism. Those in some jobs, like politicians, experience hatred almost constantly yet there are always people waiting in line to fill their shoes. Is there a secret that the rest of us don’t know? Could there be something in what Jesus said about being blessed when people hate us (Luke 6:20-31)? In context, Jesus was encouraging people expelled from the Jewish community, because of him. Christianity was once a part of the Jewish religion. Today, Christians are excluded, insulted and rejected as if evil by many people from various situations. Yet, they are in the best of all company, the good company of the ancient prophets and will receive great reward in heaven.

Woe of wealth

Jesus is not against wealth per se. After all, although he lived in voluntary poverty while on earth, he still is the wealthiest person in the Universe, owning everything there is. So what is it about worldly wealth that caused Jesus to declare woe on the rich (Luke 6:20-31)? The issue is that wealth is a great temptation to live in selfish and callous comfort. Jesus overcame that temptation when he chose to be born in a stable, but most rich people find it almost impossible to overcome. Wealth tends to harden people’s hearts. Witness is the loud voices of those wealthy who oppose public programs to help the poor or demand budget cuts in welfare programs and yet oppose increases in taxes on the rich. They call it entitlement, but surely selfish entitlement is strongest among the rich.

Woe of full bellies

I once knew a man from rural Ghana who grew up wearing no shoes but never knew even the common cold until he moved to the capital city Accra. Then he moved to the west and began to experience our western diseases. In Europe and America we are well fed, but have diseases not common in many poorer countries, because they cannot afford to pollute their food with all the toxic junk that we do. So, when I read how Jesus said woe to the full (Luke 6:20-31) I think of our awfully bad but filling western diets. Even with junk food, our full bellies tend to make us forget those who are starving. Those who eat well now may end up empty on judgment day, because of the callous hearts that go along with wealth and full bellies.

Woe of laughter

Some Christians get the wrong idea about Christianity. They think that it ought to be a life filled with money, good food and laughter. Jesus said just the opposite in Luke 6:20-31. He said woe to those who laugh now. What is Jesus, a party pooper? Notice he said laugh “now.” There is a time to laugh, but in the midst of a world where greed is a fashion statement, laughter may not always be appropriate. In fact it can even be from an attitude of not caring about those who are suffering. Being thrilled about the things of this world, fashions, popularity, money and partying can all come from a calloused heart that does not care about the distress of others at our own gates. Jesus warned a lot about the fate of those with hard, uncaring hearts.

Woe of popularity

We all like a kind word, encouragement and even a little flattery feels good, but it can be a deadly trap. In Luke 6:20-31 Jesus spoke of the woe we face when everyone speaks well of us. Among pastors we often joke that if everyone likes us we must be doing something wrong, and there is a large measure of truth to that. Elijah the prophet was labeled a troublemaker by his nation’s leader Ahab. He was not very popular. More popular was a pagan god called Ba’al (1 Kings 18), the principal god of a place or “lord”. So eventually there was a confrontation between a lonely Elijah and 450 priests of Ba’al. Which was more important, being flattered and popular or being right? In the great judgment day only one reputation will matter, being popular with God.

The unknown saint

Saints are special people to God. Right? That is true, but there are more saints than those few canonized by mere human, church authority. In fact a saint is someone that heaven makes holy even though they are not perfect. The Greek word translated as saint in the Bible more fully means different from the world and therefore special to God, and that includes millions of people who have lived in poor circumstances. Because they have a special blessing from heaven, whether they are poor, hungry, weeping or hated they are still blessed (Luke 6:20-31). Being rich, fat, funny or popular does not make someone a saint. Some of the greatest saints may be virtually unknown. So next time you see a poor, hungry, crying or hated person take a second look. You may be speaking to a saint.

Outro/Take Home

God’s thoughts are so far above ours and the culture which permeates our daily thoughts. Let us learn to think like God does.