Matthew 5:1-10. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth 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 shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Who doesn’t want to be happy? Who doesn’t want to be blessed by God? Isn’t God’s blessing what most of the world is looking for? Striving for? Isn’t obtaining and then keeping the blessing of God the goal of all religion? “Obedience brings blessing,” we say to each other. Or we let each other know that we are #blessed when we get the new house, or graduate from college, or win the award.
Being blessed was not a new idea that Jesus is introducing here at the beginning of his great sermon. In fact, nothing about this whole scene is new. It’s straight out of Exodus. In Exodus, Moses went up on Mount Sinai surrounded by the 12 tribes of Israel, and there he gave the people the law. A conditional covenant full of blessing and cursing. Blessing IF you obey. Cursing IF you disobey.
Jesus is reenacting that great day from Israel’s past. Like Moses, Jesus goes up on a mountain. Like Moses, Jesus gathers the 12 around him. Like Moses, Jesus declares the beginnings of a covenant.
But Jesus’ covenant is different. The kingdom he has brought to earth does not come with conditions like the old covenant. That would be bad news. But Jesus’ kingdom is good news. His blessings are unconditional.
Blessed ARE. Not blessed IF.
We often miss this in the beatitudes. We read Jesus’ words as another “to-do” list. To be blessed by God just be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted. Good luck.
But Jesus isn’t telling us what to do. He’s telling us the good news of who we ARE in him. When we repent and believe the gospel (see yesterday’s reading), we become the blessed citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
And every citizen of heaven, everyone who is in Christ, is:
Poor in spirit – They struggle and they know it. They know they are morally bankrupt. They admit that they need the blessing of the “kingdom come” to us.
Mourning – They know that this life will never fully satisfy. All of the losses of this world, the pain, the sorrow, point to the blessing of the comfort of being in Christ.
Meek – They know that cruciform weakness and sacrifice today brings the blessing of Christ’s power and glory at the end of days.
Hungry for righteousness – They long desperately for all to be made right in the world. And that hunger IS the blessing. For only those who know they are starving can be filled with Christ’s righteousness.
Merciful – They know that no merit has earned them life, only the mercy of God. And now, blessed with mercy, they naturally become the merciful. The overflow of God’s grace.
Pure in heart – They know that perfection could never be self-achieved. That purity is a pronouncement. A gracious cleansing that affords us the ultimate blessing of seeing God.
Peacemaker – They know they have peace with God and the peace of God. Living with this blessing of Christ’s sonship, they become the brokers of his peace in the world.
Persecuted – Admitting your emptiness (poor, mourn, meek, hungry) and allowing Christ’s filling (mercy, purity, and peace), will make you a vessel of true righteousness and that will, in turn, invite the blessing of persecution.
“To live is Christ” is not to find our way to these blessed attributes of Jesus. It is to find them IN Jesus. In Christ we are the poor in Spirit who ARE blessed in him. Blessed through the repentance and faith that places us into the kingdom of God as citizens of heaven, and co-heirs with Christ.
Are you living in the upside down kingdom of God’s poor in spirit? Or are you still building your own kingdom of power?
You in Christ
In Christ you ARE blessed. How does this change how you pursue happiness today?
Christ in you
How can your life display the mercy, purity, and peace of Jesus today?
Playlist: Songs for the Poor in Spirit.