The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) begins in a curious way. It says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.” That little detail that Matthew tells us, that Jesus sat, indicates that this was to be a central teaching of the Lord.
You may know that the word cathedral is derived from the word, “chair.” The cathedral is where the bishop rules from his seat (throne). Hence it is a place of authority. When Jesus sat to speak, it meant his utterances were authoritative. Rabbis also did their most important teaching while seated.
What follows, as you know, is a radical reorganizing of how we think of things. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who are persecuted. Blessed are you when people revile you. Blessed are the meek. What?
As you will see below where I have copied the beatitudes, Jesus is showing people that the world’s standards of wealth, power, popularity, competitive achievement are not what enriches a person’s soul. Jesus is showing that though someone may seem to be a loser in life, in reality that person is close to the heart of God and is in fact blessed.
Let’s just look at the first one, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The Greek word can mean poor, it can mean unable to accomplish what someone sets out to do, it can mean destitute, it can even mean devoid of the virtues Christians seek, it can mean weak.
It is hard to imagine a better description of what many people are feeling as we crawl along with the pandemic and sheltering in place. “Poor in spirit.” I hear people using words like melancholy, sad, worried, gloomy, and the blues.
Jesus speaks across twenty centuries to us. If that is how you feel you are blessed. Why? Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The beatitudes show us a different reality than the one the world promotes. It is a reality with God firmly at the center, with a foundation built on the words of Jesus, it is a reality infused with the Holy Spirit.
The promises Jesus is making here are for the future when the kingdom has fully come, but not only that. These promises break into our day as Jesus lifts us when we are fallen and helps us stand. He has given us the victory, not only in times to come, but right now. We who belong to Jesus are blessed. Our joy is a joy sometimes hidden from the world, but it is more real than any other that can be found anywhere.
When these times get us down, and they sure do, look and see who stands right next to you. You will never suffer anything Jesus has not suffered. You will find no greater power than the strength he imparts to keep you going. We need godly vision to see, and Jesus gives that to us. Paul promised all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, those called according to his purpose. (That is you, by the way.) Here is how Eugene Peterson puts it in “The Message,” Romans 8:26:28: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
Please pray with me. Dear Lord, when we feel bowed down, defeated, weak, or like a failure, rescue us with the blessedness Jesus talked about. Give us lenses for our eyes that see things as you see them. When we think life is beating us up, show us that you are closer than ever to us and that we are embraced by your empowering love. Remind us that what matters is what you deem important, not what a godless world deems important. Help us to return your love, live out your promises and help others who are bowed down. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen. Peace be with you! Pastor Fred
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)
Jesus began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.