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O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
The Beatitudes are Jesus’ famous introduction to the even more famous Sermon on the Mount. This is the speech of Jesus Christ that is probably best known throughout the word, both by conservative and liberal Christians, by both the most religious believer and the most ardent atheists.
When it comes to the Sermon on the Mount almost everyone likes what Jesus has to say here. And each person tends to read these passages and interpret them however they see fit. But there are not infinite possible meanings for this sermon. There is only one true meaning. When Jesus preached, He had a point, something that He intended to convey to His hearers.
And so it befits us here this morning to begin a six-week look at this Sermon on the Mount. Each week will build upon the last. We will discover what Jesus intended for us to learn from reading and hearing His words recorded by Matthew. And it begins this week with the Beatitudes. It begins with blessings.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. First, in order to grasp what Jesus is saying, we must understand the word “blessed”. It does not simply mean “happy”, or “fruitful”. It means more than receiving gifts from a benefactor. In Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus announces a blessing upon someone, He is announcing their salvation. So to give the emphasis we need here we should read, “Rescued are the poor in spirit.”
And what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Jesus is not talking about money. He is not talking about possessions. He is not even talking about emotions and a state of depression. The poor in spirit are like those who are poor in body. To be poor in body it to have no physical resources, no way to provide for yourself. Those poor in spirit have no spiritual resources. They have no means of providing for their spiritual needs. They know that they stand before God as beggars.
Rescued are the spiritually destitute. And why? Because the Kingdom of Heaven is being given to them. There is nothing good or virtuous about being spiritually poor. But there is good brought out of it. In spite of their poverty those who have no spiritual means are rescued, blessed, because God is giving them His kingdom.
Help us to see our spiritual poverty dear Father in heaven. Help us to recognize that we are sinners, that we bring nothing but sin and death into Your holy and righteous presence. Because then, and only then, will we see that You have truly blessed us with a kingdom. You have blessed us, rescued us, by sending Your Church, Your kingdom, into the world, that powered by the Holy Spirit and Your Word, we might believe and be rescued from sin and death.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Rescued are those who are starving for the righteousness of God. A quick glance at the Old Testament reveals that those who are seeking righteousness are not simply looking for God to be good to them, or for God to give them the ability to be better people.
When the Psalmist is calling for God’s righteousness it is because he is being tormented. He is on the brink, pressed by enemies on every side, pursued to the point of death. He calls upon the righteousness of God, not because he needs power to do good works, but because he needs salvation. He desperately needs the Lord to intervene on his behalf and save him.
Those who are hungering for God’s salvation, those whose lips are pining for one moist drop of His power to save, shall look no further. In Jesus Christ those who need salvation shall be satisfied. Their spirits shall be filled. Their thirst shall be quenched, because Jesus Christ brings the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God brings salvation.
When you and I finally recognize that we are spiritually impoverished, that we have nothing good within us, how can we not hunger and thirst for salvation? How can we not desire more than water, more than air? And the Lord does not leave us wanting. He feeds us with His body, broken for our forgiveness. He quenches us with His blood, shed for our salvation. When we eat His body and drink His blood, we are filled with His spiritual goodness. We are saved from all perils of the soul.
Blessed are the merciful. Those who have received God’s blessings, those who have been filled with His righteousness and enriched by His kingdom, cannot help but be merciful and generous to the world around them. They are so built up by His gifts, they are so beaming with His salvation, that it overflows the bounds of their life and into the lives of their friends and neighbors, even the lives of their enemies.
“The merciful” is simply another way of describing Christians. We can no more say we don’t desire to be merciful than we can say we don’t desire to believe in Christ. It is who we are, because Christ has had compassion upon us.
That is not to say, of course, that showing mercy will be easy. The world will not always be merciful in return. Christians, moved by the love of Jesus Christ, will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and the world will hate you for it. Don’t expect a thank you, no pat on the back.
But we shall continue to receive mercy from the source. The merciful are blessed, rescued from an unmerciful world, by the infinite mercy of Jesus Christ. His death, His resurrection, invade our lives and bring a compassion with them that the world cannot hope to match.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Not only will the world fail to show us the same mercy that it has received from the hand of God, but it shall utterly despise those of the Christian faith. We should expect, not a thank you for our good works, but anger, hatred, and at times violence. The disciples of Jesus are never popular with the world, at least not when they are being who they were meant to be.
But in spite of the persecutions, in spite of the fact that 11 of the 12 Apostles were murdered for their faith, they were blessed. And so are we. I do not know what persecutions will come your way or mine. But I know that in the face of it all, Jesus Christ is here to rescue us from it all. The kingdom of Heaven will not be crushed by the devil or the world. It shall endure for eternity, and so shall we, each one blessed by God, rescued by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, as you hear over the next month the Sermon on the Mount, as it is applied to your life and mine, Jesus will expect a great deal from us. His disciples are called to belong to Him and no one else. They are called to believe in Him, love Him, serve Him above all. But it begins today with blessings.
You are spiritually poor, but Jesus has enriched you. You are hungry and thirsty for salvation, but Jesus has satisfied you. You shall be merciful. You shall receive the mercy of God. You shall be persecuted. You shall be rescued from all danger. Jesus Christ has graced us with every spiritual blessing. Thanks be to God. Amen.