Pastors preach. Right? Roll out the big Family-Feud game board and ask: ‘Name something a Pastor does’ and the number one answer would be: ‘Preach.’ A congregation calls him to that service. To take God’s Word, explain and apply it.
Starting in Matthew chapter 5 all the way through to chapter 7, Jesus preaches. He takes God’s Old Testament teachings, explains them and applies them. He starts with a theme: Blessed are You! Then, two key points explain why: (1) for Christ fills your soul and (2) for Christ gives you the kingdom. So, that means, you are hearing a sermon on a sermon— and not just any sermon, but Jesus’ sermon. Full disclosure: Jesus preaching is the best; it’s leagues better than anything I can possibly come to preaching. So, what do you expect from me? Because I cannot improve his words.
Maybe that’s a good place to start: Confronting what I cannot do. Some title Jesus’ sermon: ‘The Beatitudes.’ First— do you know what a ‘beatitude’ is? (Hint: it’s not an ‘attitude,’ some emotional response. Therefore, this is not a sermon on attitudes you must ‘be.’ Be happy. Be helpful. Be kind.) A ‘beatitude’ is a ‘declaration of blessings.’ (see: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beatitudes)
That leads to another question: How do we define ‘blessing’? (Another hint: a ‘blessing’ is not ‘getting good stuff,’ like money or toys.) ‘Blessing’ means ‘to receive God’s favor, his approval.’ The man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners is ‘blessed.’ He does not stand condemned. He holds God’s pardon (Psalm 1:1).
So, Jesus lists fortunate situation after fortunate situation. Just listen:
“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.”
Do those situations sound favorable? Blessed are the poor in spirit. No, not low-income. Not when you lack money. Jesus spotlights spiritual poverty. You will need at least $4,100 just to get into today’s Superbowl. (Some will pay $50,000 for their club ticket. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/super-bowl-tickets-2020-cheapest-most-expensive-seats/g0gzhwn2rbyp1u2w1exx1z3oq) Can you afford that?
God sets heaven’s admission price at: absolute moral purity. Think about that for a moment. Never ever trust in wealth. Never toss aside God’s Word. No cursing, no jealousy, no boastful pride, no arguments, no greed. Be this always! (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48) Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365-days a year, from the instant of conception until the moment you die. God finds no fault. Have you reached that level? Have you even come close to that standard in just the past hour? Then, there remains the awful reality that each of us are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:1). We start life already short! Entrance into heaven lies light-years out of reach! It costs too much! Here, Jesus says: ‘How fortunate is your spiritual bankruptcy!’
Then he says: Blessed are those who mourn. Have you ever tried saying that to a grieving family? ‘Oh, you’re so fortunate, so blessed!’ No! We ache too! We ache because we confront the devastation sin wreaks on the world. Death came to all people because all sinned (Romans 5:12). The miscarriage hurts because my child inherited my sin and sin’s deadly consequences! The casket holds yet another person who failed to be sin-free. That casket thunders sin’s deadly consequences! As if death does not cause enough pain, you (and I) still confront the sinful nature. The sinful nature is hostile to God (Romans 8:7). The toddler hollering at you is not innocent. She reveals a hatred to honor his father and mother (Exodus 20:12). The adult child lets his intelligence sit over God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-29). Society claims a right to shake its puny fist at God’s one-woman, one-man marriage commitment. Look around and you find plenty of evidence that the sinful heart wages war against a holy God. Still, Jesus says: ‘How fortunate is your sin-caused sorrow!’
He goes on: Blessed are the meek. The gentle, the humble people. How privileged you are giving to charity, but the lazy take advantage of your generosity! How fortunate to work hard and honest, but then the worthless co-worker trashes your reputation. How blessed to hunger and thirst to ‘do’ God’s righteousness, but never feel satisfied. You call daughter about church, but she sees the Caller ID and lets the phone ring. You promise self-control for the umpteenth millionth time, but the booze, the drugs, the addiction gains the upper hand. Yes, Jesus says: ‘How fortunate when you fail to be perfect. How blessed when others trample all over you, even as you serve me.’
Beatitudes? Statements of blessing? Of favor? Of approval? It really does not sound like Jesus gives anything favorable! He only pokes at the soul’s sore spots and makes clear: ‘You will encounter trouble.’ Beatitudes sound like statements of misery.
That is precisely how these words appear if we divorce Christ. Yes, Jesus pinpoints limitations; he exposes our weaknesses. He highlight when and where we fall short. Understand, not that you (and I) despair, but that you (and I) refocus. That we find real strength.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. You (and I) who stood morally bankrupt, covered in festering sins, held under Satan’s powerful grip. Not one inkling of a chance to stand before God in heaven. How fortunate, how blessed that we do stand before God. That we do have heaven because we have received God’s favor. Want proof? Jesus is here. Preaching. He sits in your imperfect world, and he walks among sin’s devastation. He sees those with crippled limbs and incurable disease. He watches false teachers feed people lies. He even stands outside a tomb holding his dear dead friend Lazarus. Jesus lives in our world— but he is not weak. He is not poor. He is rich. His heart shimmers with absolute moral purity. His hands give selfless love. His mouth preaches faith-building forgiveness. Simply put, Jesus does the Father’s righteousness.
He takes that righteousness and pours it out on the cross. He pours out his absolutely morally pure life into your heart (and mine). He fills us completely that we overflow.
So, yes, Blessed Are You, for Christ fills your soul. Superbowl ticket? Probably not. Entrance into heaven? Yes! He puts the priceless ticket of eternal life into your hand—paid at the cost of his own blood. That makes you a recipient of God’s favor. Blessed Are You, for Christ fills your soul. Blessed Are You, for Christ gives you the kingdom.
You heard that right. These beatitudes are not conditions. (If you show mercy, then you will receive mercy.) No! You already stand blessed. That is what you are. Blessed! Fortunate! Favored by God! So naturally, you, ‘the blessed ones’ showcase God’s blessings.
Listen again to Jesus’ sermon:
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 sons of God.
These words describe you! Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. You (and I) are the merciful people who show mercy. Mercy, that is, demonstrating sincere compassion. Yes, the trash-talking, back-stabbing co-worker hurts you. Yes, some able-bodied people might take advantage of welfare and your generosity. Remember this: you (and I) did not deserve God’s mercy. When our actions hurt God, his compassionate heart wiped clean your heart. When we took advantage of God’s kindness, his tender arms embraced you. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That is mercy.
God puts us in a position to demonstrate mercy (1) as you are able and (2) without seeking any repayment. We demonstrate compassion for physical needs, but even more, spiritual needs.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. That’s you— pure in heart. You will God one day! Yes, the sinful nature still wants to wallow in filth, but God keeps washing that heart clean. You keep praying: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God (Psalm 51:10). Let your words be my delight. Let me remember them. Let me live them.’
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Peacemakers do not avoid conflict. They try to end conflict. Yes, the husband might have said something terribly insulting. You can lash out, but will only make your relationship worse. Yes, those parents might be overbearing, but rebelling will not help. Yes, blame others for your problems, but that does not correct your future. Christ literally gave himself— his time, his convenience, his heart. All this to bring peace with God. We are recipients of that peace. We make peace when our hearts align with God’s Word and as we can bring others to line up with that same Word.
Yes, the world might look at you strange. A child calls you overbearing. A friend considers you a pushover. Their hearts do not have God’s blessing. They do not see the benefit of listening to their Maker.
Still, 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. What makes you blessed? Well, what is the common denominator? Why does child calls you a bigot? Why do so-called intellectuals call you ‘weak-minded?’ Why do coworkers openly mock your beliefs about sex, drugs, and booze? Why do you encounter conflict? Because of Christ. You did create a set of personal beliefs. You cherish Jesus’ teachings.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. What joy to know that trouble may come because you are connected to Christ! Even the world sees that connection and tries to break it, but cannot! The world lacks the power to do that! What can the world take from you, the Christian? Can he keep Jesus locked in heaven? Can he prevent the world’s judgment? Can he hinder Jesus’ eternal separation? No! God’s prophets were attacked, but God sent more. Those prophets exchanged earthly life for heavenly life. How blessed! For Christ gives you the kingdom!
This is a sermon on a sermon— and not just any sermon, but Jesus’ sermon. I cannot improve on it. That’s alright. Because it leads me back to Jesus’ words. It leads me to trust in his might.
Much like life. My inabilities are completely filled by Christ. All I need I have in him. Forgiveness. Eternal life. Strength to live a Christian life. When I need more strength, I go to these words to take in what he has done for me. His kingdom is mine! I have it all! I lack nothing! How blessed is that?! As one who holds God’s favor, I live under that favor in every circumstance of life. How Blessed are You, for Christ fills your soul and Christ gives you the kingdom.