Thinking back to Jesus’ words of “great reward,” one could rightly inquire as to the nature of the great reward that would be received by the covenant people of the Creator God for loving their enemies, doing good, and lending with no expectation of return. Jesus says, “you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35b). Now, what does it mean to be a son of the Most High? His hearers would know that it meant that they would be children of the kingdom of God. This ran counter to the then-current mindset, because it was generally believed that the kingdom of God would be established in their land and on their behalf (thereby making them sons of the Most High) by their God’s messiah gaining victory over the enemies of the covenant people, and doing so in the manner of King David. Jesus sets this aside, indicating that the kingdom of God is going to be established through sacrificial demonstrations of grace, love and compassion. The Creator God’s people were not to take up arms to somehow aid their God in His work or to force His hand. No, they were to love their enemies, and in so doing, receive the long-looked-to reward of their God entering into history on behalf of His people.
Why is it that doing all of these things for their enemies would make them sons of the Most High? It is, as Jesus says, “because He is kind to ungrateful and evil people” (6:35c). This, of course, could be construed as a statement that was directed against His own people. Jesus’ countrymen would have known very well, that throughout their history, their God had been quite kind to them, oftentimes when it was quite undeserved. Throughout all of their ingratitude, and throughout all of their turning to idolatry and their actions against the covenant that made them be the opposite of the light to the nations and His instrument for dealing with evil in the world that their God had intended them to be (the Hebrew Scriptures have much to say about the lack of care of orphans and widows), the God of Israel was very kind.
Jesus adds, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (6:36). The narrative of the covenant people was earnest in insisting that the Creator God had chosen Israel for Himself, from all nations, and been merciful towards them in all His dealings with them in spite of the evil which had been wrought by their hands (again, oppressive activities, including that of orphans and widows should here spring to mind). If the covenant God of Israel could be merciful to those that should rightly have been looked upon as His enemies, then why could not His people be merciful when dealing with those that did not have the advantages of being the Creator God’s chosen people---having received His revelations of mercy?
Owing to their God’s special revelation to them, and understanding that all of the other nations were at a significant disadvantage when compared to His own people, Jesus says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (6:37a). Unfortunately, Israel continued to stand against and pass judgment against who they perceived as their enemies, rather than coming into union with their God’s Messiah (Jesus the Christ) and following His example of love and compassion towards all peoples, Jew and Gentile. Because of this, there would come a time of great judgment, when the Romans would wipe out Jerusalem and destroy the Temple. They rejected Jesus’ way, they judged, and ultimately the places that were held dear (Jerusalem and its Temple) were catastrophically judged. It is possible that Luke’s audience would already know this to be the case, and would be in the position to hear his report from a context in which Jerusalem had already been destroyed.
Jesus said, “do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (6:37b). This too, was ignored, so in that day of final Roman domination, condemnation came. Jesus said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (6:37c). Because they did not forgive---because they did not humble themselves, pray, and seek His face, God did not hear from heaven, He did not forgive their sin, and He did not heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). The curse was not lifted, the exile was not ended, and they would not hear God say to them that He was going to “reverse your captivity and have pity on you” (Deuteronomy 30:3a).