1"Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him."
Two things stand out in the setting of the sermon we are about to read. Notice first that Jesus goes up a mountain to deliver his instruction. In Matthew’s gospel this symbolizes that something important and revelatory is about to happen. (See Matthew 4:8, 15:21, 17:1, 28:16.) Secondly, notice that Jesus sits down. In Jewish life, only teachers of great authority sat to speak. This introduction to the Sermon on the Mount clues us in that an authoritative teacher is about to deliver something new and revelatory concerning our relationship with God. A new Moses, on the new Mount Sinai is about to deliver a new kind of law. The gospel tells us that the disciples came to him.
We go to many things—and people—for instruction. How willing are we to come to Jesus?
Hear my prayer, Holy One.. I come to you for…
2 He taught them, saying: 3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.”
Happy is such an anemic word in today’s speech. This Greek word is best translated “deeply happy” or “joyful.” It conveys the sense of blessing and divine favor. The hopeless and grieving are happy today. They are part of God’s kingdom today – even if gladness must wait until tomorrow. This sermon begins by turning the world’s values upside down. While the world pronounces blessing on the self-sufficient and powerful, Jesus announces that the joy of God’s people rests in God and God alone – not upon circumstances.
We avoid hopelessness and grief. Can these really be places of blessing?
Hear my prayer, Holy One... for hopeless places like…
5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. 6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.” _
Humility and hunger for justice seem like virtues for believers to practice. But Jesus is actually speaking about unavoidable circumstances that must be endured. Happy – joyful are those who have been smacked down, driven over and left in the dust. Joyful are they because in God’s future another reality exists. In God’s future their story gets a new ending.
Where do you hunger and thirst for things to be made right?
Hear my prayer, Holy One for… _
7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.”
Mercy stands as a hallmark of life in God’s kingdom – mercy to one another, linked to mercy that flows from God. Here in the fifth beatitude, Jesus begins to list the characteristics of citizens in God’s realm. The merciful are happy and blessed because they reflect the character of God. They know something about how God’s work begins on earth.
Do we value mercy or see it as a sign of weakness?
Hear my prayer, Holy One for mercy to enter… _
8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.” _
Purity seems like an old-fashioned, out-of-date concept. Is it really? Maybe we’ve lost sight of the original meaning and power of purity. Instead of closely associating purity with sinlessness and sexual inexperience, what if we thought of purity as single-minded, undivided loyalty and purpose? The pure heart is an undivided and devoted heart – a heart without obstruction or clutter. Such a heart would not be blind to God’s work in the world.
What is the condition of your heart?
Hear my prayer, Holy One for a pure heart as I look at… _