The beatitudes are at the very core of Jesus’ inaugural teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
They are more than an explanation of principle, or a set of ethics and certainly greater than a list of pious platitudes; they are a declaration of a person. St. Bernard referred to them as a “veiled autobiography of the character of Jesus.”
Others have commented on them as the:
• Constitution of the Kingdom of God.
• Jesus’ distillation of the entire Hebrew prophetic tradition.
• Magna Carta of the Christian faith and
• Manifesto of Christ’s alternative society.
Jesus is not merely telling us how to be Christian, but how to be human. Jesus is not only speaking as Head of the church, but as Creator of humanity.
Jesus called his disciples to follow and learn from him. We think of learning in the form of the acquisition of information or facts, but Rabbi’s like Jesus made it a lifestyle…an internship within the affairs of everyday life.
Christ’s discipleship was the result of an accessible life…his students were eye-witnesses called upon to emulate, simulate, mimic and imitate his thoughts, words and deeds. Are you a disciple of Jesus?
No one goes sadly or reluctantly into discipleship with Jesus. No one goes in bemoaning the cost. They understand the opportunity. -Dallas Willard
Daily discipleship is to be an ongoing experience of the cross and resurrection.
The beatitudes are the Cross and Resurrection transposed into the life of discipleship.
The first half focuses on the crucifixion, where each “blessed are they ____” gives us the character and fruit of the company of the crucified–specifically crucified to the demands and dictates of the ego.
The second half focuses on the resurrection, where each “they will be _____” shows us a very real description of what Jesus produces in those transfigured by his resurrection and life…participation in the divine nature that changes us from glory to glory.
What does it look like to take up the cross and follow me? It looks like the sermon on the mount. His sermon pushes buttons, plows the soil of your heart and plants new seeds of life. This sermon will kill you then fill you. It is Jesus’ call to discipleship.
Jesus never speaks about the cross as a sit back and watch me die for you. No he talks about the cross as pick up yours and follow me…die with me. Jesus did not die instead of you – it is an invitation for you to die with him and be raised with him.
Blessed are…is better translated as “divine life” or from the classical Greek, the life of the gods…the divine enablement to walk in the Spirit, live by faith, and love by commandment. Jesus is showing us a new way of being human.
Thanks to Bishop Malcolm Smith, Thomas Watson, Brad Jersak, Chuck Swindoll, Brian Zahnd, and a few others for their research and development of Jesus’ words that help me draft these notes. The beatitudes are being adopted as the Core Virtues of our lives and our ministry here in Aurora, Colorado.
This value is powerful because it focuses on your circle of influence. It’s an inside out approach. By seeking first to understand, we can turn a transactional opportunity into a transformational opportunity.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Seek First to Understand
We Value the judgment to error on the side of giving mercy to others.
• Eventually God breaks every rule in the Old Testament; this is mercy. -Brueggemann.
• God sits on a seat of mercy.
• God’s throne is the place to obtain mercy.
• He visits sin to 3-4 generations but shows mercy to 1000′s.
• Mercy pursues me all the days of my life.
• Mercy is new every morning.
• God is rich in mercy.
• Mercy triumphs over judgment.
• the Chorus of history in Psalm 136 is, his mercy endures forever repeated 26 times!
• I was born in Mercy hospital…so were you
• The church is the house of mercy.
• I never bet against the mercy of God because I never like my odds. – Bill Everitt
• It is better to have to give an account to God for too much mercy than for too much severity. —–St. Antoninus.
God does not have love, He IS love! He cannot have more or less, it is not quantitative or measurable; it can’t be quenched or kindled by behavior…good or bad. God’s love is like the sun and rain it comes to both the good and the evil.
What do you do when you fall flat on your face
fall from a life of social grace,
feel the shame of Adam’s race,
your creator’s image is now mud on your face,
to everyone around you’ve become a big disgrace,
a wreck and ruin …an emotional basket case,
your sin and shame you can’t erase,
there is no place you can show your face,
you’re driven from your place,
locked away inside a tight space,
they’ve taken your photo like you were shot with mace,
like a fugitive you wish you could lose yourself w/out a trace,
your past is scattered like ashes from a shattered vase?
I am sure that we are all well informed on the scandals concerning; President Bill Clinton and his questionable relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which is nothing in comparison to King David and his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his murderous cover up of her husband. Then there is the Tiger Woods entanglements due to his entitlements that has left him just a shell of his former self. Then there is the Penn State football fumble concerning Joe Paterno and his prior knowledge concerning assistant coach Jerry Sandusky who has been charged with 40 criminal counts, accusing him of molesting eight young boys. Then there is the dictatorship of Saddam Huessin, who also by comparison was a boy scout compared to King Nebuchadnezzer, the actual head of gold when it came to ego-maniac emperors and yet he found mercy in the God of Daniel.
The line separating good and evil passes, not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties—but right through every human heart. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Could you believe that you were a candidate for the mercy of God after a public Sex Scandal, followed by lies, deception, premeditated murder and a year long cover up?
I mean he broke two the big ten commandments so then on what basis do you appeal to God? On this alone…Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51
The breaking news stories of our day and times are worthy of epic biblical responses…
The SCANDAL of our faith is God’s LOVE!!!!!!!!
As rapidly and riveting as the Penn State news broke…our news should be constantly breaking into peoples “regularly scheduled lives”. Interrupting them with the scandal of his love for them regardless of their life or lifestyle. Our Good News trumps their bad news any day!
“Even our troubles don’t belong to us exclusively; within them is the seed of another person’s comfort, hope, and inspiration. My mercy is not my mercy. It all belongs to others, and those others were once you and me.” – Paul Scanlon
• Do people instinctively look to the church when they need mercy?
• Do you believe that no one is beyond Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness?
• What if how we judged others is how we’ll be judged when we need mercy?
We are called to LOVE mercy…we must begin to see people as Jesus sees them. Jesus never sees a person’s external presentation. He never saw a tax collector, prostitute, thief, drunkard…he never saw people as SINNERS.
In Jesus’ constitution of the kingdom of God, the beatitudes, he defines the divine life. The word blessed from the classical Greek is best rendered “the life of the gods”! From his 4th and 5th beatitudes Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness…Blessed are the merciful…you can hear a deliberate echo of Micah 6:8 do justly & love mercy…
Later in the sermon of the mount…in Matthew 5:48, Jesus calls us to perfection and in Luke 6:36 to be merciful. The perfection God is looking for is not the unattainable perfection of flawlessness—but the fully attainable perfection of extending mercy to those who are flawed.
Here is where my imperfections come soaring to the surface. I am so full of my own judgments, insecurities, fears, inferiority, and infirmities that I fail to be compassionate…which is mercy in motion.
For example I have people in my life (maybe you do too) that I cannot love. They remind me that it is not them that are full of shortcomings, but me, because I am not yet perfected in love. It humbles me to recognize that after 46 years of following Christ I don’t have enough of his life and love to absorb my neighbors and enemies.
But as we continue to grow in Christ we can gain the heart ability to believe that God really does love others, strangers and enemies. As we do our faith in God’s love will bring about his love in us for them. Empowering us to see them, serve them and save them.
Without a commitment to justice, mercy can collapse into cheap sentimentality. When the longing for justice banishes mercy we have abandoned the Jesus way. When we bring justice to the poor, widow, orphan and foreigner, God calls that mercy. If your understanding of God doesn’t make you more merciful then you misunderstand God.
Jesus was merciful toward sinners…as long as their sin was not being unmerciful. So if you’re going to be a sinner, I would suggest your sin be something other than showing no mercy because Jesus was only unmerciful with those who were unmerciful.
2 Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if] One died for all, then all died; Amplified Bible. Paul used the word “constrained” – a medical term used only by physicians probably borrowed from his traveling companion, Luke. It was used to describe the condition of a virus in the body that brought about a severe fever. The virus was so controlling that it would bring you to hallucinations. The diagnosis was “you were constrained.”
We have the virus of another life…the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. David Oxberg wrote, Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference. In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi asked God to help him to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
The test isn’t given on Sunday’s at church, but in every day real life situations.
“In a world built on free-will instead of God’s will, we must be the Freaks. While we may not be called to martyr our lives, we must martyr our way of life.” – Michael Tait
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
Seven is a sound biblical number and I am of the opinion that there are 7 beatitudes. These last two statements of Jesus are technically beatitudes…offering blessing as well as the others…however
It is my understanding that these last two are unique and by reading in between the lines I think Jesus is trying to say something. If we truly follow him by living from the blessedness of his divine life in the 7 beatitudes (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering, merciful, pure in heart and peacemaking) we will be living a persecuted life that will be exacted upon us as a crucified life.
But as we have also seen, we will encounter the resurrected life as we live out the Christ life (theirs is the kingdom, comforted, inherit the earth, satisfaction, obtaining mercy, seeing God, called God’s sons).
What I see unfolding in these last two “blessed are” statements is they are primarily saying the same thing twice with a bit more clarity in the second statement as to how we may encounter persecution. Part of that clarity comes not to the general us, but to the personal you…you will be persecuted and you will be rewarded as the prophets, but you must rejoice!!!
But what is hidden is that accompanying the persecuted life is a life of double blessing as we respond to it with joy.
One of the clues to my understanding is that the same reward given to the poor in spirit is the reward offered to the persecuted. It’s not that Jesus couldn’t think of anything new or his kingdom ran out of benefits to offer his poor subjects. No! I believe He is saying in another way that when you follow me in this life as I live this life then you will be persecuted and I am going to ensure that you get a double blessing.
A blessing that could be viewed as both yours and His! We are joint heirs! Yours will come in the form following your ability to rejoice and be glad and Mine will come to you in the same way as I received it when I returned back to the Father, so great is your reward in heaven.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7
In similar fashion to the ascended Lord who oversaw the seven churches in Revelation, he sees all they are going through, but to each he offers a promise when he says (he is good to his word) “to him who overcomes I will give.” Or in the creation narrative it was on the third day that the scriptures recount that God said twice, “It is good.”
Usually when we think of Christians suffering persecution for Christ we think of the people who actually are tortured physically, even to the point of death. I by no means want to be cavalier about their sacrifice any more than i would Christ’s death. That being said, it is also necessary that we understand that there is a living death in following Christ in the beatitudes that is also at the heart of Jesus’ words. The beatitudes are a veiled autobiography of Christ’s life and how he chose to live everyday. He calls us to follow him and be like him in all these ways. If we do, then we should also be a part of the persecuted church.
When values are internalized (learning a playbook, rehearsing the steps in a dance) there is less need for rules and more opportunity for improvisation.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Live with the End in Mind
We Value the formation of our future by the imagination of faith in the absolute commands and principles of God’s Word.
We only know what the Lord requires as we examine the sacred text and see the life that he intends from and for all of humanity. Our life will be called into account and judged. Your life will have an end and this life will have an end…live in light of the end.
God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31
Imagine being at a funeral and all of your friends and relatives are there. As you walk by to view the body, you notice that you are attending…your own funeral.
• Family and friends are reminiscing about your life, how will you be remembered?
• If you can imagine how you will be remembered, then you have probably come up with the principles that will order and reward your life, offer a definition of success and help you write your personal mission statement.
You might think it’s a morbid exercise, but Jesus lived in light of the end of his life. From the wedding at Cana to weeping in Gethsemene, he measured life by his final hour.
• John 13:1 when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
• John 17:4 I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
To Live with the End in Mind is based on imagination. Faith’s ability to envision what you cannot at present see with your eyes. Through imagination we can visualize the uncreated potential within us and all around us. God declares, I am God, and there is no other; Declaring the end from the beginning, Isaiah 46:9-10
We are image bearers of the Creator, and we bear his ability to speak, calls things forth, create…
Creative faith is based on the principle that all things are created twice.
1. The mental/verbal creation
2. The physical or realized creation
All things are created twice: God said and then God saw. Our lives testify to this imaginative ability to create…we think, believe, say and do. Getting married, having a baby, training children, constructing a building, planning a trip, going to the store…etc. A grocery list is not the same as possessing the groceries or eating the groceries.
If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then by default you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life. Don’t let others create your world for you because they will always create it to small.
If you do not believe that you have a new heart you may hold your own imagination in contempt or condemnation. Imagination is the way to recover what faith is.
1 Cor 2:9-10 “ Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. (Isaiah 64:4)
We live our lives in memory or imagination. We need healed memories and helpful imaginations.
We need to develop a biblical imagination so that we may gain the mind of Christ, the heart of the Father and the voice of Spirit as we are: reading, hearing, studying, praying, singing, meditating and memorizing the Scriptures.
• Listen for his voice and its echo
• Look for his presence and its shadow
• Long for his touch and its memory
We orient ourselves to God by faith. Hebrews 11:6 Anyone that comes to God, must believe that He is and that he is the rewarder of them that seek him. Faith is not a lesser or inferior way of knowing empirical data, it is just a different way to access the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in the mind/heart/voice of God. Faith is the technology of another dimension.
Faith is the orientation to following God through life. Our orientation to God gives meaning to our movement, or else you end up disoriented. New students in school take an orientation class in order to give direction to their new life, how much more do we all need an orientation (catechism) to our life of faith.
The Scriptures are our primary means of orientation. The best way to learn faith is to imitate people of faith (Hebrews 11) then you will get better at it. Faith is like playing golf: I have clubs, balls, might even be a member and I attend occasionally, but I’ve never taken a lesson so I’m not very good at it, but I can get better if I will practice.
Performers, dancers, artists, chefs, athletes, etc…are visualizers. They see it “in their mind’s eye” before they do it. “If you can sense it then it is only a matter of time until you will see it.” Bishop T.D. Jakes
Faith grows because it has the nature of a seed. Like a seed it is not suddenly or sensational, but a slow motion miracle…you’ll need a time lapse camera to watch it unfold.
Faith is to bring about what God wills not what I want. It is not to meet our greeds, but our needs. It gives us the power to alter things around us, and we should start with things that are rooted in our life that do not belong there: attitudes, actions, fears, anger, shame, addiction, etc.
Faith speaks…faith comes from hearing the Word (not just listening, but to him who has ears to hear what the Spirit is speaking…a rhema – a now present timely word. God’s word has creative, evocative power…Jesus said, ask me and I will give it to you.
John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. The Greek particle and tense indicates that if there is something that you desire that is not yet created, ask me and I will create it for you.
Faith creates the possibilities of the other dimension to be experienced in this life. Faith sees the invisible and does the impossible. We should by faith expect to find access points into the realm of God and the prayer of faith asks for the will of the Father to be done on earth as it is in heaven. For example, what if walking on water is something that we forgot? What else have we forgotten?
• We don’t walk on the Water, but we can Walk on the Water of the Word.
• We are not looking for footprints in the sand, but on the water
• The word was spoken before it was written so that what was written would be spoken.
• The content of the Word is limited, but the revelation of the Word is limitless.
• The only way to release faith is to speak it.
• God wants what he spoke to be spoken again…by you.
Jesus changed life all round him by the words that he spoke and told us to do likewise. Mark 11:23-24 I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
We get to invent our future. We are invited to write a script out of scripture. A script that is healthier, more congruent with our deepest values and the heart of God, which means that we need to be in the Word in order to rightly order our hearts and lives.
The real Bible is the one that has become flesh in your life. The word that you have received in your life…it has authority. Speak from it and add to it. We confess more than we can explain which is why a Sacramental theology is necessary in order to keep the faith incarnational.