February 25, 2012: The Fourth Day of Lent

February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Blessed are…” ~ The Beatitudes ~

We now come to Christ’s teaching, which begins with the famous Beatitudes. It will help us to look at them as a whole before we look at them individually. The verses of Matthew 5.3-12 contain many similarities to one another.

One thing that stands out is that Jesus uses a form of poetry for teaching in this section. Jewish poetry would focus upon repetition of thoughts and ideas. This made poetry a valuable teaching tool in the time of Christ, for it helped hearers to retain the message; the rhythm and repetition would assist recall. In keeping with this use of poetry, Christ uses a constant pattern for these sayings: “Blessed are the _______, for they shall _______.” By putting this form into play, Christ paints a picture of the Christian life.

Another element that we should pay attention to is the use of the word “blessed” at the beginning of these verses. When reading Scripture, we always do well to ask ourselves what the passage meant to the original readers. This holds especially true here; the word “blessed” we often see in our Bible translations doesn’t quite get it right. When we think of “blessed” today, we may think of God showering down grace, favor, rewards, healing, provision, etc., upon his people. Or perhaps we think of a “blessing” – a prayer used to invite or request God to act or be present in a certain way.

However, the people hearing Christ’s words would not have thought of cause-and-effect blessings resulting from actions when hearing this. Rather, Christ makes statements of reality in these verses. He speaks of the life of the redeemed and the delivered as matters of fact. “The merciful will receive mercy, because that’s just how it works.”

Christ speaks of the life of the believer in the Kingdom of Heaven. Many of these realities sound foreign and difficult to us in our culture. Poor in spirit? Doesn’t sound like much fun. Mourning? Who wants to do that? Being gentle? Well, okay. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness? It has a nice ring to it, but it’s not something you’d automatically think to do on your day off. Being merciful? That’s no way to get ahead in times like these! Pure in heart? Is anyone pure in heart anymore? Peacemaker? Maybe you feel the need more to have one than to be one. Persecuted? I didn’t sign up for that!

Yet, the realities of the Kingdom of Heaven are different than what we would think. These are the hallmarks of those who follow Christ. God does not watch you with a clipboard and a checklist to be sure you’re living these things so that he can bless you – far from it. Rather, he invites you into a world where humility is the norm. Where mourning and comfort go together like peanut butter and jelly. Where gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity, peace, and rejoicing are the rules, not the exceptions. This is radical and revolutionary; this kind of life will face opposition on many levels. But we have the promise of Christ – it’s worth it, because that’s how it is.

Over the next few days, we will look at the individual Beatitudes and the realities they tell us about. As we do so, let’s ask ourselves questions like these: Have I experienced this reality of the Kingdom of Heaven? How does this truth challenge me?What is keeping me back from experiencing this reality?

Lord Christ, I hear your voice calling to me to enter your Kingdom. But so often I choose my house of cards instead of your firm truths. Lord, please help me to enter your Kingdom and surrender the things that are holding me back. I want to embrace your reality and all that it holds. Amen. 

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