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Dr. Luke: Healing the Breaches - Book 2

This book covers Luke 4-6, expounding on Jesus' baptism and early ministry. Jesus called twelve disciples and set forth the basic principles in the Sermon on the Mount.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 17

The Beatitudes

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, according to the outline given earlier.

Blessed are the Poor

Luke 6:20 says,

20 And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

The blessed ones were “His disciples,” who were blessed on account of their faith that He was truly sent by God and spoke by revelation from God. While most of the people in Judea would have claimed to have faith in the true God, not all of them were so blessed, because “faith comes from hearing” (Rom. 10:17), and not all of them had ears to hear. Those who stood before Him were called disciples because they followed Him and put His teachings into practice.

Why, then, are the “poor” so blessed? Must one be in poverty to enjoy such blessings? No, that misses the point. In Hebrew thought, “poor” was much more than an economic condition. It referred to the lower class that had no political power and also meant “the humble or the afflicted.” It should be understood also by its contrast, for the rich in those days were usually examples of pride and oppression.

The Humble Ones

Matt. 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” showing that the “poverty” was not about money. No doubt Jesus had in mind Isaiah 66:2, “But to this one I will look: to him who is humble [aniy, “poor”] and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Even the word “tremble,” as used here, was not literal, but speaks of one who took the word of God very seriously. Kenneth Bailey comments on this, saying,

“On rare occasions the word ‘poor’ in Isaiah does refer to people who do not have enough to eat (Is. 58:7). But in the majority of cases, it describes the humble and pious who know that they need God’s grace and ‘tremble’ at His word” (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 69).

Jesus said that these humble ones who seek God already possess the Kingdom of God. What did He mean?

The majority of the people in that day had been taught that the Kingdom of God was a Jewish kingdom, ruled by God through the Messiah. Being in captivity to Rome, they longed for a great general to rise up, full of the power of God, which He would use to overthrow the Roman armies, even calling down fire from heaven to destroy their enemies. This messiah, they believed, would reverse the captivity and put all other nations into slavery to the Jews, even as the Jews had been enslaved by other nations. Their view was nationalistic and controlled by self-interest. Few thought in terms of receiving divine power in order to bring creation into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). Few understood the law of Jubilee or its prophetic implications.

However, Jesus told them that even while they were currently oppressed and enslaved by Rome, they were already living in that blessed state, and the Kingdom of God was theirs. The implication of this was to say that they did not need a messiah to overthrow the Romans before they could live in that blessed state. The state of blessedness was independent of the political situation, their economic or social condition, or any external factor that controlled their lives.

Though God had brought judgment upon Judah, removing from them the Dominion Mandate and enslaving them to beast empires, the Kingdom of God on this level had never been taken away. Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and many others had enjoyed the Kingdom of God even after Judah and Jerusalem had been destroyed. So also could Jesus’ disciples enjoy the Kingdom as its citizens, even while living under Roman rule.

The Kingdom of God was the primary message that Jesus preached. When we read through the rest of the gospel accounts, we find that Jesus spoke of the present Kingdom as well as a future Kingdom. The Beatitudes focus upon the present Kingdom, by which the people already might live in that blessed state. Likewise, Jesus said in Luke 11:20,

20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

The King was present among the citizens of the Kingdom. The people could also live by the laws of the Kingdom, written in Scripture. The only thing that was lacking to be a complete kingdom was territory.

In other words, the “Kingdom” is synonymous with the blessings that it bestows upon its citizens. Men may enjoy its blessings today, without having to wait for the end of history when all things have been put under His feet. With the appearance of the King, the Kingdom had been inaugurated. Yet Jesus also spoke of the Kingdom as something that was yet to come. In The Lord’s Prayer, we read in Luke 11:2, “Thy kingdom come.”

We also know from Dan. 2:35 that the “stone” grows until it fills the whole earth. That growth period takes time. It grows not only by converting more people as citizens, but also gains territory until His glory covers the earth. His Kingdom includes all that He created in Gen. 1:1. Both heaven and earth is His Kingdom, for He owns all that He created. God created more than just people.

Therefore, in the end, the Kingdom of God will include the earth as a territory. And when “the times of the Gentiles” comes to a close, wherein the beast nations have ruled by the Dominion Mandate since the rise of Babylon, the political structure too will change. Jesus Christ will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, taking the throne that has been rightfully His since the beginning of time.

A Contrite Spirit

In Luke 6:20, the first Beatitude commends those who are “poor.” Matthew says “poor in spirit,” showing Jesus’ intent to connect this to Isaiah 66:2, “humble [poor] and contrite in spirit.” To be contrite means to be stricken or smitten. Those who are “contrite,” then, are those whose conscience functions properly when the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin (John 16:8). They are appalled that they said or did something that went contrary to the character of God. Such humble people are blessed with a healthy conscience, as opposed to those whose conscience has been seared as it were with a branding iron (1 Tim. 4:2).

Of course, we must also recognize that some people have an overactive conscience, living in constant guilt, never knowing the true freedom of forgiveness of sin. A malfunctioning conscience such as this does not accept the blood of Christ as being sufficient to lay past sins to rest. They feel a continuous need to punish themselves. Such people need a revelation of the power of the blood to forgive sin, so they may find rest in Him.

The twin problems of conscience are mentioned in 1 John 1:8, 9,

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The fruit of a healthy conscience is “confidence before God,” as seen in 1 John 3:21, 22,

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.

Confidence is the main characteristic of faith. It has been said, however, that sometimes a clear conscience is the result of a poor memory. That is not quite accurate, but if a clear conscience is the result of a seared conscience, the result is a blessed feeling that is not based in reality.

Hence, Jesus pronounces woe upon “the rich” in the counterpart to this Beatitude (Luke 6:24). It is not their wealth per se that is evil, but their pride which causes them to oppress others. In time such people may obtain a seared conscience, thinking that it is their divine right to oppress others.

Blessed are the Hungry

The second Beatitude found in Luke 6:21 says,

21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied….

In Matt. 5:6 this is listed as the fourth Beatitude. It may be that Matthew’s list was the actual order in which Jesus gave these Beatitudes, but that Luke rearranged them in order to give then poetic structure and to relate them to the four “woes.” Matthew did not mention these woes, so he had no reason to structure the Beatitudes as Luke did.

In this Beatitude, Jesus used physical needs as a metaphor for spiritual realities. Most of the poor understood hunger and thirst, having experienced it for themselves. Their vivid memories allowed them to truly understand both the need and the desire for spiritual food and drink—the meat of the word and the water of the word.

The Famine of Hearing the Word

Amos 8:11, 12 gives a vivid word picture of this when he prophesies about a famine of hearing the word:

11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. 12 And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

A three-year famine occurred in the time of King David, after his predecessor (Saul) had broken Israel’s treaty with the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:1). America, too, has been guilty of hundreds of broken treaties, and for this reason, I believe, we have experienced a famine of hearing the word. In the midst of millions of Bibles, our nation suffers from a serious lack of understanding that has caused us to stray far from the laws of the Kingdom and to support counterfeits pretending to be the Kingdom of God.

For this reason, the prophet’s description of this “famine” is seen everywhere, as people often travel thousands of miles to every place where the Spirit of God seems to be poured out. I have observed how many seek a word from God every time a well-known prophet comes to their area. There is truly a famine of the word in the midst of plenty.

The Search for Righteousness

The blessed ones, however, hunger and thirst, not merely for direction or even healing, but for righteousness. In our Western culture, we think of righteousness in terms of morality or ethics. But in Hebrew culture, righteousness is inseparable from the law, and so it is largely bound up in the concept of justice.

Keep in mind that the Greeks thought philosophically, while the Hebrews thought judicially. Even their concepts of history differed, for the Greeks viewed history as a series of events, whereas the Hebrews viewed history as the Acts of God. Luke blended the two perfectly in his second book, The Acts, which is a history of The Acts of God in bringing the gospel from the confines of Judea to the world at large.

To a Greek the idea of righteousness was expressed in their classical art, where they pictured beauty in ideal forms. They were searching for “the perfect man,” both morally and physically. The Hebrew idea of righteousness was bound up in a covenant relationship with God, whereby the great Judge might “justify” them in the divine court. They sought vindication from the Judge. They wanted God to take their side in any court case against them, extending grace to them. By His grace they were justified.

Yet such vindication, grace, and justification depended on their covenant relationship with God. The problem was that the Old Covenant failed to give them grace, because it was based on their perfect obedience in keeping their vow to God. Because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), that covenant failed to maintain their relationship with the Judge of All. Only the New Covenant could succeed, because it was based on God’s promise (vow), by which He obligated Himself to do what no man could do.

Biblical righteousness (tsadaq) is based on the New Covenant relationship which Jesus Christ has mediated. That relationship, based upon the promise of God, gives us the right to claim all the privileges that spring from it. And so, when tsadaq is used to describe the righteousness of God, it should be understood as the righteous acts of God in the earth. So Micah 6:5 says, “in order that you may know the righteous acts [tsadaq] of the Lord.”

The same is seen in Rev. 15:4, “for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Under the Old Covenant, men vowed to do righteous acts and failed; but under the New Covenant, God vowed to do them and succeeded. Hence, man’s righteousness, by which he obtains vindication, grace, or justification in the divine court, is only possible through the New Covenant relationship that we enjoy. For this reason, after Isaiah prophesied of the death of Messiah in Isaiah 53, he proceeds to tell us in Isaiah 54:17,

17 No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication [tsadaq] is from Me, declares the Lord.

In other words, the divine court rules in their favor. They are given grace, while their accusers lose their case. All of their accusations are thrown out of court. Those in covenant with God are vindicated and justified by their faith in the blood of the Lamb.

The Remnant of Grace Finds What it Seeks

The second Beatitude in Luke’s account speaks of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. How will they find satisfaction? How will their spiritual bellies find the food and drink that they desire? That which they seek cannot be found in the Old Covenant, but only in the New. Hence, Paul tells us in Rom. 11:7,

7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened.

Israel as a nation sought for righteousness through the Old Covenant and failed. But the chosen ones, “the election of grace,” did obtain it. How? Rom. 11:5, 6 says they obtained it through “God’s gracious choice.” It was by the New Covenant, which was based upon the promise of God. His righteous acts extended grace to those who have a New Covenant relationship with Him.

These, then, having received justification from the divine court, are able to live their lives with a clear conscience. They are no longer bogged down in the divine court trying to deal with the accuser of the brethren. They are free to become the expression of the righteous acts of God through them.

This is the life of “the elect,” or the “chosen” ones. These are the overcomers. They are the ones who, having been forgiven, are able to forgive others. They are the ones who, having known the slavery that sin had brought, are able to set creation free by speaking the words and decrees of God and by doing what they see their Father do. They become part of the solution, rather than perpetuating the problem.

Those who truly hunger and thirst after such righteousness will be satisfied. And wherever they set their foot, the Kingdom of God is there. Isaiah 32:15-17 prophesies of the conditions on the earth as the overcomers rise up to do the works of their Father:

15 Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fertile field and the fertile field is considered as a forest. 16 Then justice [mishpat] will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness [tsadaqah] will abide in the fertile field. 17 And the work [or outworking] of righteousness [tsadaqah] will be peace, and the service [labor] of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.

We see, then, that those who truly hunger and thirst for biblical righteousness will be satisfied. At some point in their lives, they will no longer suffer from the famine of hearing the word. And as this spiritual food and drink strengthen them, they will be able to be the channel of blessing to the world, as the righteous acts of God come forth from them. The result in the world will be peace, not war; and the reward of the blessed ones will be seen in their actions. Having entered into God’s rest, their labor is a rest-work, and the result is “righteousness, quietness, and confidence forever.”

Blessed are Those who Weep

The third Beatitude is found in Luke 6:21, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Matthew words it differently in Matt. 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

How can it be that those who mourn or weep are considered “blessed?” Our natural instincts avoid pain and any occasion for sorrow. But perhaps Solomon understood the meaning of this when he wrote in Eccl. 7:2-4,

2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting... 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 4 The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Those who never experience pain in life never truly mature in their character. Those who live for their own pleasure remain shallow and immature, unable to empathize with others who mourn, because they have never experienced it for themselves.

The truly blessed ones are overcomers. These are people who have had much to overcome, and by facing those problems, hardships, and sorrows of life, they have depth and maturity.

Abraham and Sarah had no children for decades, and no doubt this caused them pain. There is little doubt that Sarah wept before God, seeking the fulfillment of the promise. When she passed through menopause and could no longer bear children, she must have had to face the “reality” that either the promise of God had failed, or He would have to give her children in another way.

She tried to fulfil the divine promise through Hagar, but when Hagar became haughty, it only caused her more pain. Finally, when she was 90 years old, God fulfilled His promise to her, and she brought forth Isaac, the son of promise. She called him Isaac, “laughter,” because her mourning had been turned to laughter.

Mourning and Weeping

Matthew’s word for “mourn” is pentheo, “to lament or wail,” while Luke uses the word “weep” (kleio, “to mourn, weep, lament”). So we have two words to clarify Jesus’ meaning. The word pentheo is often used in connection to death and funerals, but also when men repent and lament for their sin.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 5:1, 2,

1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned [pentheo] instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.

It is the mourning of repentance. James 4:9 also applies pentheo in the same way.

So the Beatitude includes not only mourning and weeping on account of pain and suffering, but also repentance for sin or a sinful condition. Hence, the Day of Atonement was a day of fasting and repentance, and fasting was said to be time of “mourning.”

Joel 2:15-17 speaks of fasting on the Day of Atonement, saying,

15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly… 17 Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, “Spare Thy people, O Lord…”

Isaiah’s commentary on the Day of Atonement is found in Isaiah 58, where the prophet gives us the true meaning of this day of fasting and prayer. He shows that God is not so interested in men abstaining from food (Isaiah 58:5), but rather in setting men free, feeding the hungry, and helping the needy (Isaiah 58:6, 7). And then, because the Day of Atonement was also a Sabbath, Isaiah’s commentary concludes by telling us the true meaning and purpose of a Sabbath. It is to cease from one’s own labor and do only the works of God (Isaiah 58:13). This is how we enter God’s rest (Heb. 4:10).

All of these concepts are bound up in Luke’s third Beatitude. We labor to enter rest, we weep now to enjoy true joy and laughter in the end, and we repent now so that the Holy Spirit may conform our lives to the example of Jesus Christ. The labor, weeping, and repentance are not ends in themselves, but are the means to an end.

The Rich Contrasted

In contrast, “the rich,” who have the means to avoid most pain and the luxury of pursuing pleasure, are not the blessed but the “woed.” Luke 6:25 says, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” Jesus was not chiding those who laugh or make jokes, as some have thought. He was speaking of the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. These go through life with no empathy for the needy and feel no need to change one’s attitude or behavior.

Because most of the needy think of the rich as being blessed, Jesus turned it around. Being blessed was not connected to wealth but to one’s character and spiritual maturity. Hence, it is usually easier to develop spiritual maturity and to manifest the love of God while in need than in the midst of wealth.

The Comforter

Finally, the Holy Spirit (“Comforter” in the KJV, or “Helper” in the NASB) is connected to mourning (repentance) as well. John 16:8 says of the Spirit,

8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness, and judgment.

It is the job of the Holy Spirit to show us the right path. The Spirit also interprets the Word for us and shows us how to apply it correctly in our lives. To repent means to change one’s mind and behavior. The Holy Spirit’s revelation helps us to make changes in our perspective, our opinions, our understanding, which then translate into changes of action in our daily lives.

This is foreshadowed in Isaiah 61:2, where the Messiah’s calling, in the end, was “to comfort all who mourn.” The word “comfort” is from the Hebrew nakham. This is the word from which John derived the concept of the “Comforter” in relation to the Holy Spirit. When Isaiah 40:1 says, “Comfort, O comfort My people,” it prophesies of the coming of the Holy Spirit after the Mediator-Messiah had ratified the New Covenant.

Matthew’s version of the Beatitude says “they shall be comforted,” using the Greek verb parakleo. The noun form of this word is parakletos, “Comforter” or “Helper.” Mourning, then, brings the Holy Spirit to comfort us and help us, rewarding us with revelation.

Blessed are the Persecuted

Luke lists only four Beatitudes, while Matthew gives nine. Luke’s version of Jesus’ sermon is greatly shortened, because he leaves out the material that would be of interest to Jews and focuses more upon the teachings relevant to the non-Jewish world. Luke’s audience is different from Matthew, even though Luke has addressed his treatise specifically to a former high priest in Jerusalem.

Luke’s fourth Beatitude is found in Luke 6:22,

22 Blessed are you, when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.

Matthew turns it into two Beatitudes in Matt. 5:10, 11, saying,

10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you, when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me.

The main difference in wording is that, in Luke, men are persecuted “for the sake of the Son of Man,” while in Matthew they are persecuted “for the sake of righteousness.” These mean the same, of course, though the approach is different. Righteousness is the biblical goal, which comes down to having a covenant relationship with the “Son of Man,” whereby we may achieve union with the Father and thereby become the expression of His Love.

Those who hunger and thirst to achieve this are often persecuted, because their beliefs and methods differ from that of their persecutors. Obviously, the persecutors follow the dictates of their carnal minds. Because they are in positions of power, they are able to kill the prophets for daring to disagree with their traditions of men.

The Captivity of Judah was not Persecution

The sin of Judah and Israel in earlier times had brought about the captivities to the beast nations portrayed in Daniel 7. Under the “yoke of iron,” Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were deported to Babylon. Yet under Medo-Persia, the people’s sentence was reduced to the wooden yoke, and they were allowed to return to their old land. They were also allowed to form their own government, though it remained subservient to the Persian king (and later to Greece and Rome).

So the political situation gave the religious leaders in Jerusalem a certain level of authority over the people, which they often misused to obtain wealth and to persecute the prophets. In other words, their captivity seemed to do little to turn their hearts to God, but rather they manifested the same heart of the beast system which they hated.

In the end, however, when the beast systems have finished their time and their contract with God has expired, these “blessed” ones who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will be given the Dominion Mandate of the Kingdom. Daniel tells us that after the “little horn” has completed his time of dominion, the saints will receive the Dominion Mandate. The “little horn” wages war with the saints and overpowers them “until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrives when the saints took possession of the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).

We find ourselves living at the time that Daniel prophesied, for as I have shown previously, the long-term “seven times” contract is expiring from 2006-2016, depending on which event we date its beginning point. Likewise, the 1480-year time of the final beast, that is, the “little horn,” is also expiring. It began in the days of Justinian, who changed times and laws from 526-536 A.D.

So we see that the present age (now ending) was given to the beast nations on account of the sins of Israel and Judah, for they were unworthy of the Dominion Mandate. Yet in the end the “saints” of the Most High God will rule the earth under their Head, Jesus Christ. These are the blessed ones who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of the Son of Man, the Mediator of this New Covenant.

Woe to the Persecutors

Luke 6:26 gives us the fourth “woe,” which corresponds to this fourth Beatitude, saying,

26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.

Conflict between the righteous and the carnal ones is inevitable. Political leaders want unity, and when they are led by their own carnal minds, they want everyone else to follow their lead. The “false prophets” are those who use their gift to support the will of the leaders, rather than to support the will of God. Their loyalty is to the king first, for they have decided to submit to men rather than to God. At the same time, they claim to speak for God, but their loyalty to God is subservient to their loyalty to the king or leader.

The righteous, however, have a different goal, and their loyalty is to God first and the king second. So whenever the king disagrees with God, these “blessed” ones are perceived as being unpatriotic or out of step with the majority. They are seen as the cause of disunity, because their goal is different. Carnal leaders want everyone to support them in their quest for power and wealth. Those who are led by the Spirit seek the Kingdom, where the common good is established by the law of Love and Impartiality.

The Central Message

Upon completing his shortened list of Beatitudes, Luke then presents us with the central thought in Luke 6:23,

23 Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.

This statement also appears in Matt. 5:12 with only slight changes in the wording. Luke positions this statement as a climax to his Beatitudes and as a transition into the four “woes.”

The climax or conclusion of these Beatitudes is to “be glad” and “leap for joy.” The poverty and oppression of the average person was not the focus. Jesus did not play on their discontent or resentment. Neither did He tell them how bad off they were. He had not come to make them angry at the injustice that was evident all around them. His message was that they were “blessed.” Why? Because their reward was permanent—not temporary. The reward of the beast empires was dated and therefore limited by the Law of Tribulation to a mere “seven times.” The reward of the blessed had no expiration date.

To truly recognize that one is blessed is cause for rejoicing in spite of hardship, oppression, and persecution. If all of the people had understood this, the nation itself would have prospered under Rome. If they had submitted humbly to the judgment of God, the iron hand of Rome would have been greatly relaxed. If the people had believed that God was righteous in His judgments when He sold them into the hands of these beast nations, they would have submitted to Rome as unto God.

But carnal minds do not comprehend the divine plan, nor do they believe that God would rule against them in favor of beast nations. It was this way in the days of Jeremiah, when the people decided to fight against Nebuchadnezzar, instead of submitting to divine judgment. It was that way again in the first century when many false messiahs rose up to lead revolts against Rome. Each revolt increased Rome’s oppression until Jerusalem finally was destroyed.

The “blessed” ones, then, are those who truly believe the word of God and who act accordingly. They distinguish themselves from the average carnally-minded person. They are often despised and even persecuted for believing differently.

The rest of Jesus’ “sermon” shows us just how different these “blessed” people are, for as we will see, the Beatitudes are only an introduction to Jesus’ foundational teaching. What follows is the practical way of life that characterizes such “blessed” people.

The Woes

Jesus’ “Sermon” in Luke 6 shows the contrast between the blessed ones and those who are not blessed. In our Western way of thinking, we normally assume that “woe” is a condemnation, when, in fact, it is an emotional exclamation expressing grief. The Hebrew word is howy, or oi vae, and is translated “alas!” or “ho!” or “ah!” Isaiah 5:20 uses the term in this way:

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Perhaps this is the verse that Jesus had in mind when He said in Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when men…spurn your name as evil.” The woe corresponding to this is found in Luke 6:26,

26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.

In other words, the truly blessed ones are called evil, while their self-righteous accusers are given accolades. Men call evil good, and good evil.

Jesus does not condemn those who do this, but expresses grief over it, saying “Alas!” It is a terrible tragedy that men could be so blind and show such lack of love.