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The Blessings

Jesus starts His incredible Sermon on the Mount off with pronouncing blessings on those who are usually overlooked. Many have understood these blessings as Jesus teaching a roadmap to God's blessing, but I don’t think that's what is happening here. Jesus is pointing out that there is nothing that the blessing of God's Kingdom reaches EVERYONE, first of all, those who are not seen as very blessed or feel very blessed.

Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)

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.

These blessing statements, often called the Beatitudes which comes from the Latin word for ‘blessing’, are the opening words of Jesus teaching about the Kingdom. In each statement, Jesus pronounces a blessing over a group of people that is normally not seen as particularly blessed.

But His Kingdom, is an upside-down Kingdom, where the first are last, and the last are first.

Qualities rewarded with blessing?

Over the years, many scholars have interpreted these statements as describing characteristics of people who are truly blessed. It fits much of Jesus’ teaching on humility and not living by worldly standards but for the things that matter to God. And this is true, much of what Jesus said went right against the current of His day, and of our day, and He measures by different standards.

Yet, even though there are some praiseworthy qualities mentioned in these statements, I don’t think that this was the point that Jesus was making. Jesus is not teaching a set of characteristics that will qualify you for the Kingdom. His point is rather that nothing disqualifies you from receiving the Kingdom.

Take for example the first statement: ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’. Is that a characteristic we should be after? Should we become spiritually poor in order to be blessed by God?

Translators have tried to work their way around this problem by adding a word. They translate it as: “blessed are those who know that they are poor in spirit”. With this, they try to make ‘poor in spirit’ a quality of spiritual humility and dependence on God.

But, if Jesus wanted to say ‘those who know they are spiritually poor’, don’t you think He would have said it that way? Both the Aramaic language Jesus was teaching in and the Greek language the New Testament was written in, have sufficient words to say that.

Jesus opens the Kingdom to EVERYONE

So, what do these blessing statements mean then if they are not avenues to receive blessing?

The answer is provided in the verses leading up to the Sermon on the Mount, which provide the context for the whole sermon.

Matthew 4:23-25 (ESV)

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

These crowds of people that were drawn to Jesus’ miracle works were the direct receivers of Jesus’ teaching. After demonstrating the coming of the Kingdom of God to them, He decided it was time teach them about this Kingdom– God’s perfect reality breaking into the broken human reality.

It’s not just the disciples that were listening in to the teaching, when Jesus was finished teaching, huge crowds followed Him again. A crowd gathered as He was teaching.

He sat down, and began His teaching on the Kingdom by pronouncing blessing over those who are often overlooked; the no-no’s, those left out, those who are considered of little worth, both by themselves and by others. Jesus says, the Kingdom of God is about to change your broken reality into a restored reality.

The poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek and the ones crying out for justice were sitting around Him when He began teaching!

Jesus says: “I see you. I hear you. You are not forgotten. You may be seen as very unblessed. You may not feel very blessed. But the Kingdom of God is here, and you are the first to experience it!”

Dallas Willard, commenting on the Beatitudes says that was Jesus was pointing out, is that; “no condition of the human experience excludes you from blessing!”

When the Kingdom of God comes, it doesn’t come first to the religious experts, the wealthy, the ones who ‘have it ‘, it starts with those who have not; the spiritual zero’s, the ones who are persecuted, depressed, left out, left behind, and stuck. They will be the first to experience the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Blessed are…

So, let’s go through the world-rocking blessing statements of Jesus.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

In Jesus’ day, the ones considered truly blessed were those who were able to study and explain the Scriptures. They were the religious authorities. Jesus agreed with them about many of their interpretations of Scripture, but He often confronted the way they lived. He pointed out their hypocrisy, arrogance and desire to control.

Jesus pronounced His blessing over those who have got nothing to show for. Spiritual zero’s, who don’t know the lingo, are not sought out for advice and direction, those who have lots of questions and no answers. You guys, He says, will be the first to experience what God is about to do in your midst.

And this is what happened. It was the crowds that were sitting at Jesus feet and saw Him heal the sick, cast out demons, multiply bread and even raise the dead! The ‘spiritual heroes’ of the day were standing at a distance mocking Him!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Again, mourning is not an avenue to blessing. Jesus says, those who now mourn over their losses, the Kingdom will come to you with comfort.

In the midst of our broken world, where we have lots to mourn over – loss of a loved one, loss of dreams and hopes, loss of a job or friendship – what the Kingdom looks like, is Jesus sitting next to you, wrapping His arm around you and crying with you through the pain. And the comfort you experience of God will restore you to a state that can be called ‘blessed’.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Generally, it’s not the meek that inherit the earth – but the assertive. The meek – those who are gentle, who don’t promote themselves and won’t gain at the loss of others – are often pushed aside.

But in the upside-down Kingdom of God, they are among the first to experience the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus sees them and pronounces blessing on them.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of injustice? There is honestly nothing that gets my blood boiling than being judged unfairly or being cheated.

Imagine those who have experienced a deep loss through injustice, or are living under a constant curse of an unjust system – they hunger and thirst for justice to be done unto them.

Jesus says that, when the Kingdom comes, it comes with justice. Your hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied. God will make things right.

Now, Jesus will move on to indeed some praiseworthy qualities, through which we often may experience suffering in a survival of the fittest type world.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Just like the meek, it is often those who have mercy on others that come out last themselves, because they are not the people that get what they want, or perhaps what they deserve. They show mercy to others, often at their own expense. But when the Kingdom comes, they will be on the receiving end of mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Since most people aren’t so “pure in heart”, those who are may be left out as well. They are seen as weak, perhaps even as judgmental because they retrieve themselves from situations and conversations, they feel pollute their integrity. Yet, Jesus says: they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

It’s the peacemakers that throw themselves in dangerous situations trying to bring resolution and reconciliation. Even though they are out for peace, they often find themselves accused, insulted and loosing relationships over the fact that they won’t pick a side.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In our broken world with a skew sense of morality, doing the right thing is not always rewarded. But Jesus sees it, and counts those who suffer because they are doing the right thing among the first to receive the blessings of God’s Kingdom.

So, how can you and I live in response to this opening of Jesus most fundamental teaching about living and anticipating the Kingdom of God?

Anticipating the Kingdom

My point, earlier in the message was that, the blessings pronounced are not necessarily rewards for the way you live. They actually point out that there is no condition of the human experience that could remove us from God’s ability to bless us. His hand can reach to the deepest pit, melt the hardest heart and restore a ruined life.

When you encounter Jesus, with all your brokenness and in all your hiddenness, He restores you to the point that the only appropriate word to describe your new situation is: blessed.

The blessing pronounced in the Beatitudes is not the reward of a certain qualification, but the result of coming into right relationship with Jesus. And for some, that will first look like comfort, for others, that will look like justice, for yet others, that will look like mercy.

And this is how we should live in response to the Beatitudes; anticipating the blessing of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

In our brokenness, in our crying out for justice, peace and mercy – we look to Jesus. We live in expectation of God’s Kingdom. We don’t force justice. We don’t withhold mercy for fear of being left out. We don’t despise grief and loss. But in all that, we understand that ultimately what we long for most, is for God’s Kingdom to come.

Living the Kingdom

If Jesus pronounced blessing on the spiritual zeros, the depressed, those always caught in the middle and those suffering from injustice – this certainly should give us an idea of the type of people we should be a blessing to.

Don’t read the Beatitudes looking for ways to receive blessing. Read them, to see who God is sending you to be a blessing to.

God is looking for partners when it comes to bringing His Kingdom on earth. He has always wanted us to be His partners, this is the very reason we were created for.

As ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, we seek to bless those God wants to bless. And the Beatitudes give us a great starting point: those who are usually overlooked.

What would the Beatitudes sound like today?

In closing, if Jesus sat down on a mountain today to teach about the Kingdom, what would it sound like? I imagine it would sound something like this:

Blessed are the ones who are desperately seeking, but haven’t found peace for their spirits yet. I’ve got what you are looking for.

Blessed are those who have lost a loved one, a dream or a job in the corona crisis. I am mourning with you.

Blessed are those who are burned out, left out and cast out, I have not forgotten about you.

Blessed are the refugees in Moria, the 40 million caught in slavery and the children that grow up without any perspective of the future. God is a God of justice, and justice will prevail.

Blessed are those who refuse to rage on social media and swim against the current of populism. Blessed are the ones who stand for peace, show mercy and live righteously, even at their own expense. You are ambassadors of the coming Kingdom.

10 keer bekeken


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