This section begins what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. Luke's version of this sermon is much shorter than that recorded in Matthew. Both versions can be regarded as a condensed version, or summary, of the actual sermon. So how does this version in Luke differ, and why? Luke, we remember, is writing primarily to the Gentiles, so the summary of this sermon provided in his gospel is oriented more for the Gentile reader. There is no discussion of Moses' Law. Rather than mentioning "publicans", this version refers to "sinners", which would include all of us.
Matthew records Jesus saying they are blessed to accept persecution "for My sake", while in Luke's version Jesus refers to Himself as "the Son of Man." We have seen that this is the title He chose to refer to Himself as a representative for people of all nationalities and backgrounds.
We see at the beginning of this section that Jesus "looked at His disciples." What a thing it must have been for this Man, who spoke with such great authority, to be looking among His people, in their faces, speaking directly to them.
These first four beatitudes, the "blessed art thou" are things that are true of the people of God. God's people will always be those who submit to the Lord's leadership; they will always be distinct from the people they are living among. If they are not distinct, if there is a blending of the world and the church, it is not real Christianity.
"Blessed are the poor." The people of God are poor in all respects. Frequently they are economically poor; they are poor in spirit; they are not self-sufficient. They are not enriched by the world's goods, rather they are looking to God for their delight.
"Blessed are those who hunger now." Again, God's people find their satisfaction and fulfillment in Christ. They are not filled and satisfied by the things of this world.
"Blessed are those who weep now." This world is a sad place! God's people shed tears over the degradation of sin, over seeing Christ held in low esteem.
"Blessed are you when men hate you." Have we felt this hatred of men? Have we felt what is like to be separated, ostracized, regarded as evil? This is part of being one of God's people; this is what Christians are supposed to be experiencing.
After these four "blesseds" there are four "woes". Jesus condemns those who are satisfied with the world's goods, who are constantly jovial and amused. Woe are you when men speak well of you! Countless men have perished in their sins due to their love of others' approval!
Note how Christ's message is balanced -- it's not a weak "Smile, God loves you!" message, rather there is equal emphasis on judgment and blessing. Also see the passion in His message. A total love for Him is required. It is not optional; you must live for Him totally.
Also, we again see the "doctrine of twos". It is the world vs. Christ, there is no middle ground. You will be either blessed with Christ or cursed with the world. There is no room for blending and compromise.
There is nothing that compares to Christ! Seek Him and you will be comforted. He is a Savior for sinners!