Tuesday 26 July 2016

Bible Book:

“Blessed …” (v. 3 et al)

Matthew 5:1-12 Tuesday 26 July 2016

Psalm: Psalm 119:145-160 


There is a sense of drama about this scene.

Matthew's Gospel sets the Sermon on the Mount early in theministry of Jesus and through the evocative word picture painted inverse 1, clearly elevates this moment to one of great significance:"Jesus saw the crowds … [and] went up the mountain". (Is there anallusion to Moses and the commandments here?). He "sat down" (v. 2)- a deliberate, 'I've-got-something-important-to-say-to-you'action; and when Jesus had gathered the people, he taught them.

The setting is dramatic, but what are we to say of the teachingitself. Each beatitude begins with the Greek word translated for usas "Blessed", although in some versions of the Bible we will read"happy". Although there is probably enough in the origins of theword to permit that translation, the context and content suggeststhat "blessed" is preferable. To 'be happy' essentially catches howa person feels in any given moment, but Jesus is not actuallytalking about feelings here. He is not saying that "the poor inspirit" (v. 3) or "those who mourn" (v. 4) feel delighted by theircircumstances, but rather that God declares that within thosecircumstances they are blessed. To be blessed is to be therecipient of the unlimited and often unmerited blessings of God onour lives. It is how the Lord sees us, how he regards us, not howwe feel inside. God's people are blessed, even if difficultcircumstances as they seek to live lives that please God andreflect the servant humility of Christ.

Scholars have debated at length whether we are supposed tounderstand this divine blessing as being confined to some futurefulfilment when the kingdom comes in its completeness. However,this is to risk disconnecting the "kingdom of heaven" (v. 10) fromearthly reality which should not be the case. Jesus brought thekingdom into our everyday lives in a real and particular way, andthe assured blessedness of a 'one-day-it-will-arrive' eternity, issurely to be held alongside a current reality of knowing ourselvesblessed by God in our day-to-day experience. We are 'blessed' notonly because of our future participation in God's (eternal)kingdom, but because of our present assurance of God'sblessing.

To Ponder

  • Can you recall a time when you have known yourself 'blessed'despite being profoundly 'unhappy'? Give thanks to God forthat.
  • What does it mean for you today to "hunger and thirst forrighteousness"?
  • "Do not pray that the persecution will stop. Pray that we willhave courage to keep the faith in the midst of persecution" (Prayerrequest from a Christian in Syria). How can you best support thosewho are persecuted for their faith?
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