Jesus was baptized, tempted, and he called disciples. It was time to teach and he had many interested in what he had to say. He went up the side of a mountain and sat down.
He sat down. He was going to stay there a while.
If you come to my house to pick up something, we will probably talk at the door. I don’t know what you might come to pick up. All of my tools seem to leave but not return.
If you come and want to talk, we will go in and sit for a while. We might go out back in the courtyard and sit outside for a while.
If you stop by my office to just say Howdy and you are on your way to somewhere else, you might stand. If you need to talk for a while, you will pick out a seat.
Jesus was going to be talking for a while. This was going to be a drinking from a firehose sort of day, at least for the disciples and others who came to listen.
Jesus began with what we now call the Beatitudes. A beatitude is a special or highest blessing. It could be a statement of bliss. Jesus was talking about blessings.
People knew blessings. If they followed the one true God, he blessed them with flocks and fields and things of substance in this world. Every good gift does come from God, but Jesus was going to tell those with ears to hear that there is more to life than eating and drinking and what you wear and how much you store up for yourself in this world.
For some, these blessings may not have sounded like blessings.
Let’s take this from the top. Who wants to be poor in spirit? Who wants spiritual poverty? How about the one who is disposed to repent. How about the one who knows that whatever our human spirit feels—and it can feel good on its own—is nothing without God.
Did John not preach a baptism of repentance? Did Jesus not preach repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?
Did we not talk about having a preexisting condition of repentance and readiness to follow Jesus?
Let’s move on. How can we be blessed in my mourning? How can I be blessed in my sorrow?
We know what it is to mourn the life of a loved one that we lost. Have we ever mourned the innocence of our lives? Have we ever mourned our death because we lived in sin? Have we mourned our separation from God because of sin?
They—we—will be comforted not that we get what we mourn for back but that God rescues us from the relationships that we had with the sinful world.
Think to what the prophet Joel said. Rend your hearts not your garments. Again, we find the penitent heart ready to receive blessings.
But what about being blessed for being meek? The way of the world is conquest. God doesn’t want us to adopt the world’s ways. He wants us to be gentle.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t defend your family or your nation. It means that you don’t have to have your own way all the time. It means that you don’t have to have everything that your neighbor has. It means that you don’t have to play the dog eat dog game.
Consider verb—inherit. You don’t win a prize. You inherit that which is of great value. Why? It’s because of who you belong to—to God.
What good is it to acquire the wealth of the world but have to forfeit your own soul?
We should still work and earn and provide but our joy is not in our money and possessions or getting our way. Our inheritance comes from the Lord.
The next one is a little more straight-forward. If we hunger and thirst for righteousness then we will be filled. We are told to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness above all things.
Jesus was baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness. His righteousness is imputed to us when we proclaim and receive him as Lord.
We don’t follow the law to check the blocks to become righteous. Only Jesus did that completely. He fulfilled the law because that was among his mission objectives.
We should hunger and thirst for the right living that has been given to us so freely. We should have an incredible appetite for what God wants to feed us.
Again, Jesus gives us a straight-forward blessing. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Jesus knew the whole eye for an eye business, but he told us that we would be blessed to practice mercy.
Our human nature wants an eye for an eye, or sometimes it’s predecessor. What was that? You pluck out my eye and I will pluck out both of your eyes and spit in your grits. The predecessor of an eye for an eye was a one-up approach to retaliation.
Jesus tells us that we will be blessed to practice mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. We can skip that one. Nobody is truly pure in heart. We can’t get there. We all still have some depravity that we wrestle with every day.
Think to David. He knew he sinned. He got away with it for a time until his friend reminded him of what he had done. If David could have sacrificed every bull and goat in his kingdom to be right with God, he would have done it.
But there were not enough animals on the planet to do what needed to be done. Only God could do that. David in psalm noted what he needed. Create in me a clean heart.
So, the beatitude is not about a perfect person but one who seeks and receives and desire to sustain the clean heart that God gave us. This blessing is for those who do not take his gift lightly.
How can you see the invisible God? Jesus is the image of the invisible God. No one can look upon God directly because of our sin, but one day all of our sin will be gone and God will be among us and we will look upon him and be blessed.
Perhaps maintaining a pure heart gives us an early glimpse of what we will see for eternity.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. We can have peace that goes beyond understanding. It’s a wonderful gift, but this blessing is for those who go beyond whats good for them and seek what is good for others.
The Marine Corps gets a lot of peace-making missions. Raise a white flag when you are ready for peace or keep fighting and die. It’s a simple equation.
I have been a part of a United Nations Peace Keeping force but you can’t do peace-keeping without peace-making.
It’s the same concept here in Matthew 5 but with a different methodology. What’s the method? A pure heart, mercy, and seeking the life that God desires over getting even.
When we are wronged, we don’t seek vengeance or retaliation. We seek reconciliation. Jesus doesn’t use the word love here but this is about love.
How will people know that we follow Jesus? They will know we are his disciples by our love. We will be known as children of God by our love.
When it would be easier to sit on the sidelines or join the fray insisting on our way, we would seek to make peace with the love that we practice because we belong to Christ Jesus.
Jesus wrapped up this part with a really off-the-wall statement—at least by worldly standards.
You are blessed when you are persecuted. Hold your holy horses right there! Blessed? Did auto correct exist back then. Jesus meant to say bummed not blessed, right?
He said exactly what he meant to say. You are blessed when you are persecuted, not for any ole reason, but because you are doing your best to live in right standing with God.
If you are persecuted because you robbed a bank or shoplifted or were out throwing Molotov cocktails at various homes and stores, you are not blessed. You are a fugitive. You are not persecuted you are pursued by law enforcement.
But when you are persecuted because you are known by your love, then you are in good company. The prophets who brought God’s word to the sinful people of the world were persecuted as well.
How is this a blessing?
Persecution by the sinful world is better than the best tee shirt that says I belong to God. When the world disowns you and hates you because you love God, it is an affirmation that you are on the right course.
If you are driving 100 miles per hour in a stolen car and there are flashing lights everywhere you look, that’s a different thing.
To be persecuted by a sinful world because that world can see that you belong to the one true God, that’s an affirmation. That’s a blessing.