The problem with me is that I take Jesus for granted. I think I have somehow pigeon-holed Him and figured Him out. Instinctively, I make Him look, sound and believe like me. I miss the Man, Jesus. I miss His foibles, His mystery, His idiosyncrasies, His “otherness.”
The biggest problem I have while reading the Gospels is that I know the FULL story while those in the story do not. I miss the wonder of the miracles, the joy and expectation of Jesus being the Messiah who would crush the Roman army and reinstate Israel, the anguish, terror, and gut-wrenching despair at His crucifixion. I know on Good Friday that He will rise on Easter Sunday. The disciples did not. I miss the emotions and lessons in the waiting, the unknown.
My goal in this series is to address the mystery of this Man. I want to feel the surprise, wonder, fear, expectation, impatience, worry, anxiety and doubt of His followers. Because I feel these emotions most days, and if I can read the Gospels and feel impatient, frustrated or sympathetic toward the disciples’ fear, anxiety, worry and doubt, then there is hope for me and you! There is something they don’t know that if they knew, they would not be so worried, fearful, or anxious. Join me as I study the God Man Jesus.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Oh, we begin. The Sermon on the Mount is the longest of Jesus’ ministry, and right at the beginning, Jesus sets the tone. Isaiah 61:1 had functioned throughout Jewish history as a source of hope, expectant deliverance and peace for the Jewish people.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
Now Jesus draws upon this well known passage as a springboard for His Sermon. Jesus is surrounded by the poor, the mourners, the meek, the broken, the hungry as He is teaching. AND HE IS BRINGING GOOD NEWS TO THEM! Keep this in mind – this wasn’t hypothetical. Jesus was looking into the eyes of these folks as He taught them. There is substance and hope here for them . . . and us!
The first thing to know is that the word “blessed” that Jesus uses here means “fully satisfied.” In the Greek it pertained to a state of blessedness after death. Virtually every culture spoke to this state of blessedness (Romans, Greeks), and many believed that after death, your soul would rise up and remain in a perpetual state of euphoria.
But Jesus and His apostles who wrote the New Testament define blessedness differently. The word “blessed” refers to the joy that is a result of salvation in Jesus Christ. You can be fully satisfied if you are saved by Jesus; you cannot be fully satisfied if you are not saved by Jesus. In lieu of this, we see that Jesus is not praising poverty or mourning or difficulty, or more importantly, he is not separating being blessed and being dead. Instead, in the Sermon on the Mount He is pointing to deeper, spiritual truths that can bless us in our lives, today, right now.
Now, let’s take these one by one.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The first step in being blessed is a realization of my own spiritual poverty. When you are poor, you feel helpless, defenseless, hopeless against adversaries. While all of us are at wildly different points in the spectrum of our finances, ALL OF HUMANITY is at the same level in terms of our spiritual wealth – we are all spiritually bankrupt. The faster you can come to this realization, the better off you will be.
You have nothing to give to God that impresses Him or that can “buy” His favor – not your donations, not your help you give to the poor or the sweet old lady next door, not your strict adherence to attend Church, not your own moral code, not anything. You are spiritually bankrupt, and so am I.
DO I REALIZED MY SPIRITUAL HELPLESSNESS? If I do, there is a great promise Jesus extends to me – the Kingdom of Heaven, eternity with God, something the Jewish people have craved and sought after for thousands of years. If I recognize my spiritual bankruptcy and turn to Jesus as my true Wealth and Treasure, I get eternity with Him.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
The realization of my own brokenness and poverty should lead me to sorrow and mourning over my own sins. My sins are not trivial, trite, minor, or small. They are to be wept over, mourned over, fasted over, prayed over, broken over. I often gloss over my sin, excusing it, ignoring it, or downplaying it. I can’t do this. Sin is offensive to God.
One of my pastors said something that has stuck with me for years – “The extent to which you want to be free is measured by the extent to which you are honest about your sin.” When we see our sins as they truly are (rebellion against a holy God, ugly, vile), they will drive us to Jesus. There is freedom in exposure, because you are finally being honest about the real mess of your life.
Only in Christ is there comfort from our sins.
DOES MY SIN CAUSE ME TO MOURN?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The meek are gentle, humble people, even in the midst of persecution. You know them when you meet them. They are not weak, but honest, aware, realistic. The revelation of my spiritual helplessness and sin (and the Comfort given by Jesus) should drive me to humility and meekness.
Man, I forget this so often. Pride creeps back in and, over time, I begin to see an arrogance, insensitivity, callousness, hardness in me. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” as the old hymn says.
DO GOD’S BLESSINGS LEAD ME TO GENTLENESS AND HUMILITY?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
This sermon section is progressive. Being convicted and broken over my sin drives me to Jesus. Jesus comforts me, humbles me, and leads me toward gentleness and meekness. Humility causes me to hunger and thirst for more and more of Jesus – the less I exalt me, the more I exalt Christ.
I used to find some satisfaction in the World – lust, anger, retribution, revenge, pride, idolatry, self-exaltation . . . . Now, I find my only satisfaction in Him. Tasting from the Fount of Living Waters quenches your thirst. Trying to drink from any other fountain only leaves you dissatisfied. Experiencing Jesus ruins your ability for finding joy in any other person or thing.
AM I HUNGRY FOR THE THINGS OF GOD?
It would be a good practice to ask yourself these questions on a consistent basis. They will help you gauge where you are spiritually, and if you find yourself answering “No” to any of them, I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord for help, wisdom, guidance, conviction.