Monday, July 2, 2012

Blessed are they... - Pt. II

7/1/12 FBCRB

“Blessed are they…”Pt. II – Matthew 5:1-12

I want you to take a few minutes and envision the scene. It’s a beautiful spring day. There is a slight but refreshing breeze coming off the Sea of Galilee. At the edge of the water some children are playing while a little further out 2 men in a boat are fishing with nets. At times a storm can come up and whip the water into large, angry waves but today the water is calm. In fact, it is so calm that nobody in the large crowd is even paying attention to the water. Their backs are to the water and their heads are up so they see up the hill and their ears are open, soaking up every word that comes from the mouth of Jesus as he preaches.

While it would be a wonderful thing to continue envisioning the Savior as He speaks, I want us to focus this morning on 2 men in the crowd. We don’t know their names. We don’t know from where they come. They are similar in how they look and how they dress. The biggest difference in these 2 men is not outward but inward.

Both men have been following Jesus as He walks and talks across the hillsides. Every so often Jesus would sit down; not really because He was tired but that’s how they knew He had something He wanted them to hear and so they would all gather around. This afternoon Jesus found a large rock and sat down on it with the large crowd between Him and the water. Both men were tired of living under this repressive military government. Taxes consumed 1/3 of their income. Slavery was rampant. Racial prejudice was standard. Surely this man Jesus who spoke so counter-culturally was the answer.

He then began to preach what would later become known as simply “The Sermon on the Mount”. The first 8 sentences alone would prove to be world-changing. Known as the Beatitudes, the first 4 dealt with man’s relationship with God, the next 4 dealt with man’s relationships with other men. Both men in our story this morning heard Jesus plainly as He started with the words found in Matthew 5:3-6.

When Jesus spoke those first words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” the first man’s heart soared! He had few possessions and very little money and he heard Jesus say that word “blessed” and immediately applied it to himself. He understood that one word to mean what in the English language takes several words. He understood it to mean more than just happy. It meant to have joy; to be fulfilled, to in fact have everything one needs and so he was very excited.

He misunderstood what Jesus said and thought that if anything maybe he could be a little more poor-spirited by saying bad things about himself and since he didn’t have much money, surely that combination would get him the kingdom of Heaven about which Jesus spoke. He would just try real hard to look pious and put himself down in front of other people and he thought he would be right on track.

The second man understood that Jesus was not talking about being physically poor. If that were the case then we would certainly never see Abraham, Moses or David in Heaven. This man understood that Jesus was saying that those who were spiritually bankrupt would be blessed. He understood that meant to come to God with a complete absence of pride and self-reliance and because he understood that he was crushed. He was crushed because he knew deep down in his heart there was the remnant of pride; that feeling that if he tried hard enough he could earn his way to Heaven. And because of that, even as Jesus spoke the man’s heart ached and he cried out to God,

“God save me. I have nothing to give you. I don’t deserve it. There is nothing in me that is deserving of your Heaven but it is only through your great grace and mercy that I ask for your favor. I am utterly dependent on you.” This man was exactly where God wanted him to be and it was this attitude that would ultimately lead him to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Then as Jesus continued with the greatest sermon ever preached the first man was again relieved to hear Him say that those who mourn would be comforted. The man, like everyone else, had suffered loss in his life and was very sad and so he took this as a promise that he would instantly feel better and expected that it meant that he would no longer have to go through loss anymore and he was anxious and excited for that to kick in.

The second man, on the other hand, was listening to the same words but didn’t even realize that he was living out exactly what Jesus was telling them to live out. He was in such mourning over his spiritual bankruptcy and his total inability to be good enough to live up to God’s standards that he no longer felt the sting of his own physical losses. He mourned the bad decisions he had made. He mourned the sorry state of his spiritual life through his own bad choices. He realized that he had grieved God and in doing so was grieved himself.

Psalm 51 kept running through his head where David cried out to God saying, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”And also, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

The second man grieved over his sin just as the first man had grieved his loss of a loved one and in doing so was doing exactly as Jesus was saying when He said “Blessed are those who mourn.” Just like David there was great comfort for that second man in this life but even more so in the life to come.

When Jesus then said, “Blessed are the meek…” the first man was confused. He knew that if they were to ever get out from under the cruel Roman rule they would need to have strength and power. In fact, in his mind that is how a man got anything, including respect, by showing his strength, not by being weak.  When Jesus said that the meek will be blessed and will inherit the earth the man the man felt almost pity for Jesus.  How could someone be so obviously wrong?  The idea of a meek and gentle Messiah was absurd.  In his stubborn thinking he even overlooked the scripture that talked of the Suffering Servant who would be the Messiah.  He was just sure that to overcome an out-of-control government one would have to have the most power.  It just made sense.

The second man, on the other hand, knew what it meant to be meek.  He had spent time as a sailor and he knew that word was often used to describe a well-balanced ship in whose captain had complete control even as it sailed through stormy waters.  He knew it did not mean weakness or cowardice and, in fact, was often used to describe Moses in scripture and no one would dare describe Moses as weak or cowardly.  He could also see great meekness in the one speaking at this moment.  He saw in Jesus a great power that was totally under control.  He spoke with clarity and directness while at the same time humble and with love.

He also remembered scripture in Deuteronomy and Psalms that also talked about inheriting the land and knew that it did not mean the meek people would possess great property but was used proverbially to describe a great blessing, perhaps the sum of all blessings.  The second man looked eagerly forward to the day when he would reap that blessing in Paradise with this man who spoke with the meekness of the Messiah.

The first man heard Jesus' next words with great confidence.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..."  The man didn't have to really hunger for that.  He already had it.  He went to the temple as often as anybody else.  He followed the law of Moses as good as the next guy.  He even fasted and tithed every now and then.  That was better than most people did so he was quite sure what Jesus meant by being filled included being full of himself.  He wore his righteousness like cologne.  It wasn't really a part of him but when he had it on it made him smell real sweet.

The second man wanted righteousness more than anything else.  He knew that meant to live in accordance to God's standards, to be in proper relationship to God.  And when he grasped who God was and who he really was then all he wanted was to be in right relationship with Him.  He often missed a meal because he was so intent on his prayer he just forgot.  He had even told his boss before that he wouldn't be in because he needed to study and pray.  He knew he was a sinner.  He knew he had displeased God and his sin crushed him.  He knew there was nothing in him that deserved God's mercy or grace.  He humbly spent time and energy on his face before God repenting of his sin, asking for wisdom and guidance as he lived his life as close to God as possible.

He learned from Job how to live when difficult times come.  He learned from David how to cry out to God for help.  He learned about wisdom and leadership from Moses, the power of prayer from Elijah.  He learned of God's sovereignty through Joseph's story and the benefits of obedience through the life of Joshua.  And now, through the power and meekness of this young preacher and prophet named Jesus he learned how to have everything he needed.

His hunger and thirst for righteousness was being filled and like a ship that is filled with everything needed to make a long voyage he was filled and ready to continue his relationship with this man who was, through his counter-cultural sermon, revealing Himself to be the Messiah, the One who had the power to cleanse and the grace to save.  He was and is the One who has the compassion to heal, the strength to protect and the mercy to provide.  He was and is and is to come the Creator, Sustainer, Deliverer, Redeemer and even our Friend.

Do you know Him today?  He is the same today as He was when He preached on the side of the hill.  He is still all these things and more and He is waiting for you to come to Him, not with the self-confidence of the first man but the humble hunger to live a life that is full and free that characterized the second man.  He is still meek.  He won't force you to walk with Him but He is also just and will allow you to reap the consequences of a life that is not in accordance to His will.  You can choose to do what makes sense to you like the first man did and spend eternity in Hell or you can put up your shield of faith and tell God you don't understand everything but you choose to have a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  It's your choice.

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