For the next couple of weeks we are going to have a very brief look at a well known, but rarely understood moment of Jesus' Ministry...The Sermon on the Mount... Specifically, the Beatitudes!
Many people see the Sermon on the Mount...As either so confusing or so impossible to follow spiritually...That they pass it by without serious consideration! One Professor gave the Sermon on the Mount to his freshman class as an assignment, without revealing the origin of the writing... (Texas A&M)The resulting feedback from the papers was an overwhelming combination of anger, rejection and, "that was for another era of time" mentality...As an example, one paper disgustingly wrote:"...That is the most extreme, stupid, un-human statement that I have ever heard." (1)Even those who recognized the writings as Biblical were very critical and clueless of their origin and intent:
“Many believe that this sermon should be taken literally. I believe, on the other hand, that, because the scriptures have been interpreted from so many different languages, we should use them as a guide—not law. Another fallback is that certain beatitudes are irrelevant to current life-styles. Loving your enemies, for instance, is obviously not observed by the majority today.” (1)
I would really like to spend time here for a couple of reasons...One, I believe everything Jesus speaks about in this Sermon is a powerful reiteration of what we have been covering for well over a month!(Repentance, humbleness, and passion to be used of God!) But secondly and most importantly, I think this Sermon tells us so much about the heart and passion of Jesus, that it is imperative we spend time here!
Much of what we need to see about this Sermon comes long before we read one commandment that Jesus teaches...
When we read the events leading up to this moment, we see something very important...One - Jesus had just finished His forty-day fast in preparation for entering into His Ministry...Two - John the Baptist had just been placed into prison and in response...Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum to officially begin His ministry! And began drawing His disciples to Him in preparation!
This Sermon is Jesus' first official discourse to the masses! That is one of the reasons the Sermon is so important and powerful! Jesus is stepping up to give His views of the culture and religion around them for the first time! So this was a major reflection on the most pressing issues of His heart!!!
Think on this... The very God that originated the Laws and beliefs of their society... Was now literally there to comment on how HE felt they were being interpreted and followed!! And just like today, the desires and opinions of men had so distorted His Word, that Jesus had to bring them back to the heart of His Message! As you listen, realize these are the very Words of God in the Flesh...Expressing His heart... His mindset... About what He truly wants from us as His disciples!
Matthew 4:25, 5:1
Some say that Jesus went up on the hillside to get away from the crowd...But the text never says Jesus tried to get away from the crowd, which it sometimes specifies in other texts...And He surely would have gone to a more remote area than an open field on top of a small mountain, in view of all...And the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in Chapter 7, speaks of the large crowd of people gathered being astonished at His words! So, Jesus surely saw the crowd and found a place to openly address them effectively up on the hill! Jesus sat down, because that was the custom of the teacher in those days...Again, implying that He was about to give a planned sermon! "And His disciples came to Him." Jesus was probably first addressing His disciples, knowing the crowd would hear and learn as He spoke as well! Therefore the audience comprised of His close disciples, many other followers, and on the outer edges no doubt, Scribes and Pharisees! This lesson was very clearly directed towards those who were believers and followers of Jesus already... Jesus was giving a powerful statement of what the heart of a true disciple should look like... Of what His kingdom is all about! In purposeful, sharp contrast to everything the religious leaders exemplified to the people of Jesus' day! And in sharp contrast to the political expectations of the coming Messiah from the masses! (Against the moral depravity... And militant control) The problem being that it is just as contrasting today...To what many are being taught by our church leaders...And by what our political focus has become in our spiritual walk, verses the heart of what our focus should be!
The Greek word used for "blessed" is makarios (mak-ar'-ee-os)...Meaning, "Very blessed..." But also, meaning happy in its deepest sense! Not comfortable or entertained... But deep joy, peace and contentment! And take note in each statement, this happiness is not just for the future time of His Kingdom...But this happiness is in the present tense!!
Not "Blessed shall be", but "Blessed ARE!" Meaning if we live according to His Words, we will have great joy NOW!
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Poor in spirit" simply and powerfully means that we are consciously aware of our absolute lack of righteousness and goodness within ourselves!!!
This is in complete contrast to thinking, "I should be accepted and blessed just as I am..."Or else God is a contemptible God for His judgmental way !Having the audacity to think that my ways are smarter and more loving than that of a Sacrificial, Righteous God! This is in complete contrast to the prevailing attitude of many Christians...Who feel they do a pretty good job of being holy and righteous...Therefore they deserve God's blessings! The word for poor here means, "Utterly poor..." A beggar! Destitute! It means that I realize I have no good, no selfless thoughts of my own at all! It means I realize I am completely reliant on God for any goodness in my soul! It means I cannot live on my own accord, apart from the help of the Spirit! It means I cannot look down of others who seem less righteous than I am, as though I were better!!!
How can I see my true need for God if I don't realize the depth of my depravity? Everyone can start HERE! The learned and unlearned... The publically upright and publically shamed How can THIS possibly make us happy in the here and now? By forgetting about our struggles to look and act better than others! By ceasing from worry about whether I'm loved in my failures! By finally just trusting that HIS DEATH ALONE was enough, and resting in His love!!!! "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." A realization of our own poverty in love and righteousness...Is the absolute necessity to receiving ANYTHING ELSE from GOD!!! How can He forgive what we don't see as sin? How can He bring a renewed mind when we think our view is fine? How can we rely on Him when we think we've got it under control?
"Those who mourn." What in the world does that mean? I'm blessed when something makes me cry? No... This statement is directly tied to the first one...I am blessed when I realize just how terrible my sinfulness looks to God! And I am broken over hurting Him!! And I am broken over the pain that my wrong doing causes! Why is THAT a blessing in the here and now?!
2 Corinthians 7:9
It is a blessing here and now, because we WILL NOT get close to God when we do not have a passion to leave sin!!
We are blessed here and now, because real change only comes when we are truly ashamed and disgusted by our sin!
We are blessed here and now, because we are not going to stay in that grief! "For they shall be comforted." God promises to literally be the One to comfort and help us on the journey...Taking away the guilt if we are finally convicted enough to change!
"The meek," in the Greek "praus" (prah-ooce')...Does not mean quiet, soft-spoken, timid and mild!!! So often Christians feel they are to be passive doormats to others or else they are not being 'Holy!" So often Christians feel they are not to be angry about anything, because that wouldn't be meek!
Jesus was meek...But was He quiet, unwilling to challenge others, or make a disruption? Was He not often righteously angry! Meekness means strength and ability, but under loving and caring control! Like a powerful horse which could trample you...But allows himself to be under your complete control! Like a K-9 Police Dog, that could tear you to shreds literally...But cares for & protects you rather than using his strength against you! Meekness doesn't mean lacking confidence, or being silent and passive! Meekness means that I place others before myself!!! That I place a cause or purpose above myself...It is strength in humbleness and love! Meekness is a willingness to disregard my own rights and comforts in order to serve another! (Boy, is that against society today!) It is not thinking about what someone else had better do for me...But, what can I do for others! It is suffering without getting vengeance or having an attitude! It is expending what is rightfully mine for another...Time, money, comfort, talent, etc...It is relating to, and caring for others, rather than feeling superior or disinterested! It is being willing to submit to the authority of God, and willing to serve men above self!
Why would this make me "Happy" in the here and now?! Because I am free from the stress of looking better and out performing everyone else... (No pride) I am free from worries about whether I have pleased others around me... (No dependence upon praise) I am free to love and serve others whether they, "deserve" it or not! (No judgment or self-righteousness)I am free from being offended every time someone does not speak or act as I would like! (Love for others above rights and preferences)...Trusting God to protect me...Trusting God to punish when punishment is due! I am free to serve God because His desire is above my own! "For they shall inherit the earth. "The meek will inherit the New Earth because the real love of God is only attainable through selflessness... Meekness! Selflessly loving and serving God above their own lives!
"Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..." Jesus says blessed and happy are the ones who not only try to act right...Who not only resist temptation...But, who are literally craving, longing to be righteous for God!!! Have you ever fasted for a blood test or surgery? Have you ever gone a long period of time without something to drink? Until you can't get the desire for food or drink out of your mind, no matter what else you are doing? Jesus says THAT is how badly He wants us to desire righteousness! Imagine that you have not had food or water for several days, and you are very near passing away...If you saw someone with a bottle of ice cold water and a burrito...Would you say, "Hey, I'd like to work for you a few hours and earn that bottle of water and burrito if I may sir!" Or would you say, "Please let me have those, I can't go much longer!" And receive them as a desperate gift?! Well Jesus knows that you cannot earn your burrito of righteousness either!! (Those college students were right in their exasperated papers!)
But if you will come to Him, with the desperation to please Him in righteousness above all else...This verse promises that HE will fill you with that righteousness from HIM! HE will work in you through the Spirit! HE will give you strength, selfless love, and a mind focused on the things of God! The Greek word for "filled" here is "chortazo" (khor-tad'-zo)... Meaning to be filled, satisfied, even gorged! If Jesus could just see the true thirst for pleasing Him and acting righteous on His behalf...He promises to do the rest!!
How will that make us "happy" on this side of Heaven? By drawing us intimately close to Jesus right now! By giving us peace and contentment from sin...By taking away the unquenchable thirst for other things that make us slaves in this life!!
What do you hunger and thirst for in your life? Honestly? It doesn't take a long time to see the thirst in someone's life!!!
Some thirst for attention and praise! Some thirst for sex and pleasure! Some thirst for control and power! Some thirst to hurt and manipulate others! In the beginning of this first and most expressive Sermon from Jesus Christ on earth...God in flesh... With his own mouth... Directly expresses exactly what He wants of us!!! Did you notice that none of His desires...
None of His commandments...Were based upon PERFORMANCE? Everything that Jesus Christ spoke of was based upon the true condition of our heart for Him! One- He wants us to see and understand how completely selfish, lost and dirty we are without Him! (Which is near impossible for many today!) Two- He wants us to realize how hurtful our sin is to Him and others...And care enough to be broken over the damage done! Three- He wants us to be powerful and bold through His Spirit, but humble in how we use that power to love and serve others! (Meekness!) Four- He wants to see us literally long for, and thirst for, a selfless and serving heart of righteousness... To crave and obsess over it... Knowing it would draw us close to Him and please Him! And He promises that we will not only have joy and rewards in His Kingdom one day...But we will have much more joy and reward in this life right now!!! As the Kingdom of Heaven lives and works in us now! Jesus made His desires very clear with His own mouth...Jesus made the way for us to attain those desires very easy with His own Sacrifice...And all He asks is that we have a heart and passion for Him to work in our lives
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