Faith – Blessed

By Pastor Jerry Donovan

Jesus is pronouncing a blessing on the people who have gathered to hear him as he begins to teach in Matthew 5:1-12. His purpose for blessing them is to teach them to think differently about the way the world works because of what he is teaching and doing. He is describing how we are to live as God’s people in this world; not simply by calling attention to all the many ways God has blessed us personally; but by being a blessing for others.

This was a radically new teaching for the people in Jesus’ day. In the ancient world, many people believed strongly in cause and effect. They believed that if they were good people who followed God’s commandments, worked hard, and tried to do their best in all circumstances, God would reward them with good health, food to eat, stable jobs, happy families, and prosperity. Likewise, they believed that God punished the sinful with illness, poverty, imprisonment, blindness, divorce, and other personal tragedy. All who suffered did so as the consequence of their own bad behavior because suffering was understood as punishment for sin.

But Jesus is saying it doesn’t work like that in the kingdom of God. It isn’t that we are wrong to feel blessed when something goes our way. But when things do not go our way, that does not mean God is punishing us either. God’s kingdom is a whole different playing field brought by the God in the flesh of Jesus Christ.

In this new kingdom that Jesus is showing us, God blesses the saints and sinners alike. Jesus offers a blessing on the poor in wallet and the poor in spirit. He blesses the blind, the lame, the imprisoned, the outcast. He blesses the leper and the prostitute. He blesses the murderer and the thief and the adulterer. He blesses the Jews and the Christians, the Muslims and the Hindus, and the Buddhists. He blesses the Democrats, and the Republicans, and the Independents alike. In Christ, God’s blessing does not discriminate. God’s blessing is for all.

Now that’s good news, don’t you think? It means that no matter who you are or what you have done, you are blessed and you are welcomed into God’s family, and there is nothing you can do, ever, to lose God’s love, affirmation, and blessing.

His teaching stands against conventional wisdom that happy are the rich, happy are those who exercise power over others, happy are those who are proud, not meek, happy are those who have no hunger or thirst for anything, and who are confident of their own righteousness.

The most striking contradiction is to the ancient and modern virtue of heroism in battle: blessed are the warriors, blessed are the victorious in war. With Jesus, the blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. When you look at the present from the point of view of the future, blessing is for those who suffer for the sake of righteousness, goodness and peace.

That’s the invitation of the “Beatitudes.”

So do you hear him? Can you hear him speaking to you? Can you hear him saying, “YOU ARE BLESSED”?

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