Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, in the midst of a cold winter, warm our hearts and souls with the reality of all Your blessings! Fill us with the happiness of knowing that You have made us right with God. And for all this and more, we also bless Your holy name. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SOURCE OF ALL GODLY BLESSINGS!
TEXT: Matthew 5: 1-12
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
“And may God bless America!” That phrase often accompanies speeches from our national politicians. We’ve heard it more times than we can count. But, do we really know exactly what those words mean? Moreover, does the person uttering them know exactly what they mean? Does everyone equate blessings with Christ, alone?
Thomas Jefferson was a great man in human terms. But, he was a pygmy before God. Don’t get me wrong. I like Jefferson. I’ve studied his writings a great deal. He could well be called: a universal genius. But, Jefferson was not a Christian. He was a Deist. That is, he believed in some sort of higher power, but refused to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and his eternal Savior. Yes, Jefferson admired the teachings of Jesus. Yes, he had his own version of the New Testament Gospels compiled, laid on his nightstand, and read it every evening before he dozed off. But, in that compilation he cut out all the miracles, all the supernatural references to Jesus being God’s Son, and only included some statements from Christ that he liked. Jefferson especially liked the words of the Beatitudes, the text before us today. He liked those words of “blessing” just like politicians do today. And he also tried to achieve that state of blessing before his “higher power” via his own good deeds.
The word “blessed” comes from the Greek word “makarios.” It literally means: happy, fortunate, or blest.” The word is used throughout the Bible in both Testaments. Usually it is reserved for God and either Him giving such goodness to us, or humans honoring and praising Him for His goodness. Occasionally, it is also used by humans for humans.–Such as when Jacob sought out his father, Isaac’s, blessing. Thus, it also connotes an ongoing state of happiness and good fortune for the one on the receiving end.
Here in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He speaks and seeks to convey that state of Godly good fortune to His followers. The question is: Who is able to achieve and attain Godly happiness by their own will-power? Is any human able to cause God to bless them strictly by doing what Jesus says? Look at the exact words following: blessed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What human being is poor when it comes to human pride? Can any of us perfectly renounce our self-love? Can any of us totally get rid of our egos? So, humans can never achieve heaven by trying to be poor in spirit on their own, can they? “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Yes, we humans mourn over loved ones who die. But do we mourn, cry, over our sins? Do we grieve over every single time we hurt God by breaking a commandment? No! So, our human attempts at mourning fail to give real comfort, eternal comfort, don’t they? At best, they are stop-gap measures to help us get through the day. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Doesn’t all human life teach us that the strong, the risk-taker, the folks that aren’t afraid of the spotlight—that they are the ones who “get ahead.”? Meekness, or failing to put yourself forward, sounds good. But, does it really buy you a career, or that job promotion, or human accolades? Moreover, who is truly meek—within the confines of their own life and self-image? Don’t we all stroke our own ego? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Our natural inclination, once we realize we’re empty inside, is to gear up and try to make God like us. So, we attempt to live moral lives and try to help people in need. Then, we reason, that because we worked hard, like Jefferson, to do good things with our lives, God will fill us up with happiness. But righteousness means “rightness with God.” It means perfection. It means freedom from and the absence of all inner and outer guilt. What mortal human can ever hope to attain such a state?—If they are honest with themselves….
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Who among us has never borne a grudge, never wished ill upon another, never uttered words of contempt towards another? So, who of you has earned God’s mercy? “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Ah, pure in heart. It sounds clean, bright and beautiful. But, who can boast of a pure heart? Doesn’t Jeremiah say: “The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked, who can know it?” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” All people have a temper. All people get angry. All people want and often try to “get even” with those who have hurt them. If Jefferson admired these words so much, why did he agree to go to war with the British during the Revolution? And what mere human can ever make peace with God and appease His anger over sin?
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now we’re getting closer to understanding the true meaning of the Beatitudes. True righteousness comes only from God through Jesus Christ. It is His gift to us. It is a gift which cost Him everything and costs us nothing. It is a gift that works faith and confidence within the human heart, so much so that because of it we’re willing to suffer persecution for our faith. Christ amplifies this in the concluding section: “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.”
The whole point of the Beatitudes is this: GOD’S BLESSING IS ATTAINED ONLY THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. Only Jesus laid aside His heavenly splendor and became a slave, poor in spirit, for us. Only Jesus mourned even over the enemies who crucified Him. Only Jesus was meek and humble, always putting hurting souls before Himself. Only Jesus hungered and thirsted for the salvation of all people—thus His words: “I thirst” from the cross. Only Jesus showed mercy to all people of all generations in giving up His life for theirs on a cross. Only Jesus was perfectly pure in heart since He was and is the Son of God. Only Jesus is the Prince of Peace Who took away the sins of the world and God’s anger over them. And when Jesus hands to us His gift of grace, of undeserved, perfect love, by faith His perfection is extended to us and into us. That’s why Christians are willing to risk all under persecution—because Christ’s eternal love compels them!
My point is this: you cannot understand any of the Beatitudes apart from Jesus Christ. You cannot follow them and attain their blessings apart from faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot be truly happy in life without Jesus Christ. So, divorcing Him from their truths is a fool’s errand. Don’t be a fool! Instead, cling to your Savior in humble faith, let His holiness cover all your own failings, try to show your faith by doing your best in every situation, and then God’s blessing will rest upon you! That’s because Christ and only Christ is the Center and Source of all true blessings! Amen