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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Blessed Are You (Beautitudes)

All Saints Day


Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.


He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12


Today is All Saints Sunday. Today we in the church on Earth look up to the church triumphant – to the saints who have gone to be with their Lord. We give thanks to God for them – though our gratitude may well be mixed with tears.


They have passed through their last tribulation – we have not. And today the Lord would comfort us, His saints who get pretty tired and discouraged sometimes. Blessed are you who are on the way to eternal life with the Lamb of God – even though the way is narrow and steep, and thorns pick your feet on the way. “Blessed are you,” Jesus says.


Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has been called “the essence of Christian faith and life.” And the Beatitudes have been called “the essence of the Sermon on the Mount.” So, we could say that the Beatitudes are the essence of the essence of the Christian way of life.


The Beatitudes are the central doctrine of the Christian life. Matthew makes that clear three times in his introduction to them.


1) We read that He “sat down.” This was the official way for a rabbi to teach. He may talk while He’s walking along, as we read of Jesus doing, but when something really important was to be said, the rabbi sat down. The Beatitudes were not to be a pleasant discourse or a series of sayings, but an important teaching.

2) Now, for some reason, the New International Version, which we use, leaves out Matthew’s second hint at the Beatitudes’ importance, though it’s in the Greek and in other English translations. And that is, “He sat down, and He opened His mouth.” That means a lot more than just “He said.” This expression was used to introduce important sayings or truths. For example, when we read about Philip explaining the scriptures to the Ethiopian eunuch, Luke wrote, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus” – the Gospel itself! And again, after the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius, when Peter discovered that the Gospel was also for the Gentiles, again Luke wrote, “And Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality.’” Good news for us Gentiles!

3) So, Jesus sat down, opened His mouth, and “began to teach them.” That’s Matthew’s third clue. It isn’t past tense, like Jesus did it and that was that, but imperfect tense showing continuing action. This was the substance of what Jesus had been teaching them!


So, let’s take a brief look at these Beatitudes.


The word Jesus begins with over and over again is “blessed.” Some have substituted the word “happy” but blessed is a better, stronger word. It literally means “an inner joy that’s untouchable by the world.”


Human happiness is too often dependent on the chances of life over which we have no control – a sudden illness, a deep disappointment, a death, or the loss of a material possession. Even the weather report in the morning makes us say, “It’s going to be a good day – or a crummy day.” And it hasn’t even started yet! “Blessed” is the right word.


In His Beatitudes, Jesus points to the eight character qualities which bring blessedness, or permanent joy to our lives. Four of them look at our relationship with God, and four at our relationship with our fellow human beings. The blessedness He speaks of is the same as He later refers to when He says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you.” (John 14:27) So, at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the eight qualities of life that result in true joy. We call them “The Beatitudes”.


Now let me ask you a question: If you were asked to name the conditions under which life would be best for you, would you name these eight? Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering and thirsting, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, and persecuted? If you had these eight things in your life, would they make you a blessed person? Jesus thought so!


Now, before you say He’s wrong, set these qualities against their opposites: The opposite of poor in spirit is proud in spirit; the opposite of mourning is not caring; the opposite of the meek are the aggressors; the opposite of the persecuted are those who play it safe, who compromise, who never take a stand for anything.


1) Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went to the temple to pray. Which one do you suppose found the greater joy, the one who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men…” or the one who beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”? One was proud, the other was poor. Which one was the blessed one?

2) To most people, sorrow appears as tragedy; they find nothing in it for which to give God thanks. They only long for the end of their sorrow and rejoice that in Heaven “there shall be no more sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” But Jesus says we should be grateful that we’re capable of mourning, for mourning is another side of loving. In sorrow, we discover how deeply we love! Jesus especially calls us to the sorrow that comes from our oneness with others in their sufferings and in their sins. Then we can be a blessing – and be blessed.

3) Here’s a contract for you: Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ. One said, “I will conquer and rule the world.” The other said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Which of the two found real happiness?

4) A lot of people hunger and thirst, but not after righteousness. Life is just one long series of wants and cravings for things that don’t satisfy: pleasure, fame, power, thrills. Jesus met a woman at a well one day who had been hungering and thirsting for a long time. As a matter of fact, she was with her sixth husband! She thought that if she didn’t have to come to the well anymore, that would satisfy her. But Jesus showed Himself to be the Christ and turned her into a missionary. Many Samaritans believed because of her testimony, and she was truly blessed at last.

5) It’s not easy to be merciful. It’s a lot easier – and more fun – to be fair and just – to give people what they really deserve. Jesus told a story about a young man who blew his inheritance on loose living. When he finally came to his senses, he returned home to two kinds of people: a brother who was self-righteous and felt that the prodigal had just what he deserved – nothing! And a father who was merciful and loving. A father who wanted to restore the wrong doer to righteousness. Forgiveness is an effort to restore, and mercy’s job is one of restoration. The person who doesn’t have this spirit of love hasn’t really returned to his Heavenly Father’s house. The person who does is blessed indeed.

6) “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” Now there’s a passage that has put a lot of people into feeling condemned. The “pure heart” – that must be one without sinful desires, right? Wrong! If that were the case, there wouldn’t be a single pure heart in the whole world – and no one would see God. It’s written, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Well, then the pure heart must be one that’s just filled with faith and love. Ask the Apostle Paul. He says that he is – not that he was but that he is – the “chief of sinners.” And ask the Apostle John. He says that his heart condemns him. Then what is a pure heart? The pure heart is a sinner’s heart, full of impure and sinful desires. But it’s one that doesn’t try to conceal, nor excuse, nor defend its impurity but opens itself to God. Blessed are such hearts, says Jesus, for they will see God!

7) Peacemaker – now there’s a thankless job. It seems like you just get in trouble when you try to make peace. It’s easier to stay mad! But the person who hates another does far more damage to himself than he does to the one he hates. Hatred is probably the most ineffective weapon there is! It’s about as good as shooting yourself with a rifle so the recoil will hurt the other guy! Not too smart! When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, He meant that we are to create the kind of atmosphere for the person who wronged us in which his anger can’t live. And how blessed it is to help someone become at peace with God and his fellow man.

8) And finally, Jesus tells us that we’re blessed if we’re persecuted! That sounds kinda far-fetched but look at Peter. At one moment in his life, he was cursing and denying that he even knew Jesus. At another moment in his life, he was in prison waiting to follow James to the executioner’s chopping block. Chained between two guards, he slept like a baby! In which moment was he the happiest? If you’re not persecuted (for righteousness sake, that is – not for being ornery) maybe you’re not being different, and no one can even tell that you’re a Christian!


The Beatitudes, said Jesus, are the steps to happiness – to more than just happiness – to blessedness as we travel through this life toward eternal life with all the saints of all time.


Let’s thank the Savior who prepared the way for us with His sacrifice. He rejoices with every step we take.


And one day we’ll close our eyes here on Earth, to open them again in eternal wonder in God’s Heaven. Praise God for His love!


Amen

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