They were mad.
My Southern-born mother would have said that they were so mad they could spit.
Life was hard and hurtful and God had promised them better.
They couldn’t understand Jesus’s delay.
Hadn’t the Jewish people been waiting for generations for God to deliver them from persecution? Hadn’t they been faithful to remind each other in all that time that one day God would stop their suffering?
“Next year . . . ” They told each other day after day.
“Next year in Jerusalem! ”
Surely, next year in Jerusalem, God will send Messiah to help us!”
Jesus was the one God had sent! He performed miracles and supernatural signs everywhere He went. He was the one their scriptures promised would remedy the injustice in their world. They were certain of it.
But, Jesus had been with them for over a year and nothing in Israel had changed.
Life was still hard and hurtful.
And God had promised them better!
They were tired of waiting. So, they followed Jesus up the mountain that day to confront him. They stood in the back of the crowd as others gathered close around him.
Most days, when I go to Jesus, I draw close to him too. I sit at his feet and breathe in his words.
But, there have been days when I stood back with the angry ones, asking him, “Are you, Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth, the Messiah? Or, are you not? Because, if you are, you need to step up and fix some things!”
Jesus opened his mouth and spoke.
He was talking to those of us who were sitting at his feet. But He spoke with enough force to reach those of us who were standing in the back of the crowd.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
His words were poignant and poetic. But, none of the his early followers understood much of what He said.
How could they? He was speaking a spiritual language and they had no interpreter.
But, I do. And He has taught me that these are the blessings of the beat up and bent over.
“Blessed,” He said to his disciples,
Are those who are gentle, merciful and pure in heart,
Those who humble themselves to make peace,
The ones who need to be right with God as desperately as they need food and water . . . and then are persecuted for it,
Those who are weak with sorrow,
And blessed are the poor in spirit . . . the beat up and bent over . . . the ones who know they have absolutely nothing to bring to the table when they go to God.
(I need to step into the story here and release some pent-up frustration. You might want to stand back a bit from your screen.
When I hear people use these verses to teach that Christians should work to take on the characteristics that Jesus mentions in the beattitudes, I want to scream, “No! No! No! HELL AND FIRE NO!!” [Apologies sent to my Southern-born mother]
If the message we take away from this passage is: If we are gentle and merciful and pure in heart and become peacemakers and pursue righteousness, God will bless us . . . then we make this about us!
THE BEATTITUDES ARE NOT ABOUT US!!
[Can you hear me screaming?]
If we focus our attention on the first half of each beattitude [I’ve got a problem with the name too.] then we diminish the significance of the second half.
It is in the second half that we find the blessing!)
They are blessed because God will meet them there!
Many generations of disciples later, those of us who are children of God still panic when life cycles into its hard times or when we see pain on the horizon? Why do we so desire comfort in our circumstances?
Even with access to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus still want to stand tall. We struggle with bending to serve others? Why do we so desire comfort for our egos?
Why do we still get angry when life is hard and hurtful and demand that God step up and fix things?
I’m pretty sure, if we stopped fighting with our disappointments and listened, we would still hear Jesus telling us about the blessing . . .
“Child . . . shhh . . . be still
“Don’t run from this place.
“Open your spiritual eyes and look around.
“GOD is here!
“And He has brought you mercy for today.
“He has come to draw you to his side, cover you with his wings and give you rest.
“It is here that you most need God. So, it is here that He most fills you.
“He reigns most powerfully here.
“It is here that you can claim what He has promised you.
“It is here that you become like him.”
“Child . . . shhh . . . be still.
“Don’t run from this place.
“Here, where you are weak and humble, God blesses you with Himself.”
I looked up the word “blessed” in Strong’s concordance. It is defined, “happy/to be envied”.
It seems to me that those of Jesus’s disciples who are beat up and bent over are not to be pitied. Perhaps, instead, they are to be envied.
The Beattitudes can be found in Matthew 5:1-10 and Luke 6:17-21.