Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 1 year ago

Blessing The Poor In Spirit

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Paul Johnson

... I'll read through the first twelve. Listen, for this is the word of the Lord. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain. When he sat down, his disciples came to him and he opened his mouth and he taught them, saying 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 meek, 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 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. That's by the reading of God's word me. He blessed to us. Please be seated. This morning we hear some famous words, famous words from one of Jesus most famous sermons. These words open Jesus's famous sermon on the Mount, this sermon that contains the next that's that's found in the next few chapters of Matthew's Gospel, contains some of Jesus's most well known instructions. It contains lessons that we've all probably grown up with, whether you grew up in a church or not. Here's where Jesus says that we are to love our enemies. Here is where Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to judge, not lest you be judged, to do unto others, as you'd have them do, untoto, you and the moral absolutes Jesus will describe in this sermon are alarming. Many of Jesus's statements in the sermon are truly shocking. I mean, there's a reason his sermon on the mount is so memorable and has a lot to do with just how surprising a lot of it is. But even if Jesus's moral teachings are shocking and surprising. At least they're still rather straightforward. I mean, it may have been surprising the first time you heard Jesus call you to love your enemies, but it wasn't exactly confusing. You weren't wondering what he means. They're so what about these beatitudes? What about these opening string of blessings? Blessed? Are the poor in spirit? Blessed? ARE THOSE WHO mourn blessed? Are Blessed? Are we can easily follow along and when Jesus teaching us about what is right and what is wrong. But I found it harder to grasp what is going on with these blessings. I have to confess, as a young Christian, I didn't know what this meant. Am I supposed to be meek? I thought I was supposed to be courageous. Am I supposed to want to inherit the earth? Shouldn't it be better to desire heaven? I think what we see here is there's a there's a poetic character that these blessings take. I mean there's balance to these words,...

...their symmetry, there's simplicity to what Jesus is saying. I mean there's structure, obviously, to these opening words, but there's not a lot of explanation. So what's going on with these beatitudes? What's happening here in these blessings? It's easy to find many interpretations. It's easy to to find many, many pitfalls as well, especially when it comes to what to do with them, how to apply them. One of the most common opinions is to view these blessings simply as commands. I mean, obviously, when when Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, then there's a part of us that instinctively wants to reread these words as if they say, if you want to be blessed, therefore you must be poor in spirit. It's very easy for us to read conditions into these blessings. That's one way to solve the question of what do I do with these words? But they're not really there, are they? Another interpretation I've heard is to break down or to break apart these blessings to sort of ask the question, well, which are you? Are you more poor in spirit? Are You more meek? I haven't googled it, but I'm sure there's an online quiz you can take that will classify you. Maybe you're more of a peacemaker, maybe your mourning. But when we categorize these blessings, when we split apart these blessings, we when we part them out as maybe you're here or there, we then fail to see the unity that Jesus is drawing all these things together. He's not dividing them out among our various people of various statuses. Well then, what is Jesus doing here? If he's not giving commands, what's he what's he giving if he's not breaking up these blessings? What is it that is holding them all together? We're going to answer that question in a couple of ways. First, I want to start with the opening couple verses. Before verse three, we hear Jesus that he's seeing the crowds and he went up the mountain and when he sat down, his disciples came to him and he opened his mouth and he taught them. So Jesus going up to a mountain where he then sits down, he opens his mouth and he teaches. He opens his mouth on the top of a mountain to teach them what it means to be blessed before God. Does that sound at all familiar. Can you think of any other leader in Israel's history who likewise has sended a mountain in order to deliver God's Word to God's people? It's very easy to see a parallel with Moses here. In fact, Jesus sermon on the Mount will likewise remind us and comment on the Ten Commandments which Moses himself received and delivered to God's people. And this isn't the first time in Matthew's Gospel that Jesus's life has reflected the life of Moses. Both Jesus and Moses, when they were infants, their lives were threatened by a tyrannical king. Both Jesus and Moses had to flee, while other infants in their town were put to death. Both Jesus and Moses lived in exile for a time where the king, while the king lived who sought their life. And the similarities don't end there. When when Jesus was baptized, it recalled various imagery of Moses and Israel's passing through the Red Sea, an event which the Apostle Paul calls a baptism as well. After...

...his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness where he was tested like Moses, like Israel, and as Moses ascended Synai to receive the law of God, how Jesus ascends another mountain in order to speak God's Word to God's people. And yet the similarities we see are given to highlight their differences. The point is not to view Jesus is just another Moses or a new Moses, but as the fulfillment of what Moses himself was looking forward to. Back in Deuteronomy, Chapter Eighteen, the Lord told Moses that I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers, and I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them. All that I command him. What we see in Christ is one like Moses, but one greater, one, so much greater than Moses. I mean Moses ascended Mount Sinai in order to first receive God's word before he could then speak to God's people. What does Jesus do? He goes up, opens his mouth and speaks on Mount Sinai. Moses had to go up alone, and if any other person or animal came too close to the mountain, it was to be stoned. At that mountain, the people stood in fear before the holiness of their God. The crowd was told to stay back, to stay away. But what does Jesus do? He goes up the mountain and he brings he brings his disciples, he brings the crowds with him. This mountain is not a place of terror, it's a place of peace. And though Jesus will preach the law with all its perfections, it's not in the context of judgment but of grace. For Moses would also speak to God's people of blessings, but he would also speak to them of curses. And for Moses, the blessings and the curses come after the reading of the law, as we hear in Deuteronomy seven. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandments and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. And because you listen to these rules and kept them and do them, the Lord Will God, your God, will keep you, will keep with you the Covenant and steadfast love he swore to your father's he will love you, bless you and multiply you. I mean, this makes sense, doesn't it? Of course God should bless perfect obedience, shouldn't he? Isn't this what his own righteous justice would require? And yet the problem is none of us are righteous, and the history of Israel showed they deserved God's curse, not his blessing, because the law given by Moses does not give us a process for saving ourselves. Rather, it shows to us our inability. Law reminds us that we are not under God's blessing, but because of our sin, we deserve his justice, we deserve his curse. And yet what is the first word out of Jesus's mouth? The first word out of Jesus's mouth is a word of blessing. May I'll admit, as a young Christian reading my Bible, I was continually confused by what Jesus was saying here. So I'm happy to share, after years of study, after seminary education, sorry, after what all the training right that...

...we receive has taught me. And if you don't remember anything else about this sermon, I want you to remember this. I'll say it twice. Even when Jesus announces these blessings, here's what Jesus is doing. Jesus is blessing. When Jesus announces these blessings, Jesus is blessing. I don't know why that took me so long. To See, and it's a blessing that's not held out to you in the future to one day, hopefully grasp and receive. The blessing is for you to day. As we see, then, that Jesus is more than just a prophet speaking God's word to his people. He is the Prophet who speaks not just God's word but with God's own authority. This is the final prophet who is also the king, the perfect king, the perfect king who embodies the perfect wisdom of the Lord. I think there's a reference to salt, to proverbs thirty one here and in proverbs thirty one, and King Lemuel is given this wisdom, saying first of all, it's not for Kings, Oh Lemuel, it's not for kings to drink wine, for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what's been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Starts with saying what kings are not to do. They're not to act out of selfish greed drinking strong wine. They're not to open their mouths for that sort of thing. Rather, later in proverbs thirty one, open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously defend the rights of the poor and the needy. Jesus goes up to this mountain to open his mouth, to judge on behalf of the poor and the needy and to bless them. The day has finally arrived that the Prophet Isaiah looks forward to, and Isaiah Sixty one, the spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, to comfort all who mourn. This is how Jesus will later verify to John the Baptist that he is indeed the Promised Messiah, because these things are being fulfilled through his men, stry. Good news is being proclaimed to the poor, captives are being set free, those who mourn are being comforted. We hear that from these very words of blessing this morning. We're just going to look at verse three. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there's is the Kingdom of Heaven. Now Jesus has been announcing the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven throughout his ministry. He's already declared repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and he can declare that as the king of that kingdom, and as the king of that kingdom, he is now dispensing, handing out the blessings of his kingdom. He says blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. I don't want you to miss how shocking these words are. Blessed are the poor. Is there a time when you looked at someone...

...in absolute poverty and said, boy, they sure look blessed? I mean, to our ears it almost sounds sarcastic and almost sounds uncaring. What do you mean? The poor are blessed? They can't put food on the table. You're telling me their blessed. That's astonishing. But Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit. So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? What is it the categorizes the poor? Those who are in poverty have have nothing to offer. Those who are destitute are without the ability to purchase things for themselves. And truly this is the spiritual condition of everyone before our holy God. The Perfect Law of our God reveals our sin, it reveals our inability to earn or to achieve any sort of gain or blessing from our Lord. And yet here Jesus declares the poor in spirit to be blessed because to them belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus announcing the blessings of the kingdom as they are being spread out to those who cannot earn them. The poor in spirit have nothing to offer. And yet what did they gain? Everything. Isn't this what the Gospel declares to us in Romans Five, for when we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly, for one will scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. But God shows his love to us and that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And yet there's more here to being poor. There's more here to being poor in spirit. This condition does not just describe our spiritual state before the Lord on another level and also describes our condition in this world. Again and again, these beatitudes or these blessings of Jesus will describe and will confront us with our position and place, not just as those before God, but before others in the world. So what does it mean to be poor in spirit before our neighbors and before the world? Christ isn't making the point that it's more virtuous to be physically poor. Rather, he's describing how the world sees us. He's describing how the world treats us. The spiritual life that we're given in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like poverty to the world. What does the world do to their poor? It looks down on them, pities them, the poorer helpless before their neighbors, the poorer subject to all kinds of abuse and neglect. For to be poor in spirit does didn't reflect your bank account. Just look at how often David is crying out in the psalms, acknowledging that he has nothing. To be poor in spirit is to be treated by the world as those who are despised, to be looked down upon because our investment is not in the things of this world. We look poor in the eyes of the world, and it is, Paul tells us, an effusions one. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. And...

...yet to the world it looks like foolishness, to the world that only cares for itself, spiritual blessings look like a bad investment, and it isn't this exactly what Christ himself faced, though, having a right to the very riches and blessings of Heaven, Christ laid those down to share in the sufferings, to share in the afflictions of the poor in spirit, as Paul says in Second Corinthians ate. For you know, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich. Christ was despised, Christ was hated, not because of his financial situation, but because he was dismissed as worthless. He was unwelcome because he possessed nothing that this world truly values. He was afflicted, he was oppressed all the way to the cross, to the same cross, which is foolishness to the world, which is yet the very wisdom and power of God for your salvation. There Christ paid the penalty our sin deserved and in the Empty Tomb. Christ proved victorious over the sin and death that defines so much of this world. And if we are looking to Christ by faith, if we are placing our trust in him, then we've been united to him, both in his suffering and in his resurrection, as Paul says, and Second Corinthians, for though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. And so on the top of this mountain, Christ is not handing out conditions that must be met, he's distributing his promises that, though there is nothing we can do to become wealthy, in the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ bestows His blessing on the poor in spirit, on those who mourn, on those who are meek, on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Chris rice, blessings are unconditional and though they speak of unseen and eternal things, that is how Jesus says this. Doesn't say the poor in spirit will be blessed one day when they inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Now what he says now, the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven is indeed future, but the blessing that Jesus is giving is here. The blessing is now blessed are the poor in spirit, because the blessings of Christ are for today. And so in Christ we are poor, we are weak, we are foolish in the eyes of the world, and yet we are already blessed by Christ, not because of what we will one day possess, but because of what you already possess here and now, for you've been given Christ himself and because Christ himself has claimed you. You who are poor in spirit. Christ purchased you with his own blood. You, who are despised in the eyes of the world, you who are looked down upon by a world too caught up in its own fleeting desires, which never satisfy, know that this world is not your home. You belong to your savior, all the while suffering the slings and arrows of a world that is fading away, as Paul says in Colossians three. If, then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ...

...is ceded at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. So just as they look down on Christ. Just as they despised him and rejected him, the world will do the same to you. And Yet, knowing what an honor it is to be labeled poor in spirit along with our savior, the world doesn't value the blessings that Christ gives through his kingdom. And yet what greater honor is there and to claim this title of poor in Spirit along with Christ, from Christ's hands, to receive the very blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven which are yours now to live as citizens of that great and eternal and perfect city. All the While we see a world struggling, a world failing, a world which needs to hear the same message of blessing. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen, let's pray.

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