Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Beatitudes Beyond the Sermon on the Mount

      The Greek word makarios ("blessed") appears thirteen times in the Gospel according to Matthew, all employed in the teachings of Jesus. Nine of these are found in the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount, commonly known as "the Beatitudes" (5:3-11). The Latin beatus, from which this designation is derived, means "fortunate," "blissful," or "happy." However, "blessed" is probably the better rendering of the Greek term since it directs our focus upward and implicitly acknowledges God from whom these blessings proceed (cf. James 1:17). The word occurs four more times in Matthew’s Gospel beyond chapter 5, the subject of our current study.
      In chapter 11, as the imprisoned John the baptist was seeking words of reassurance, Jesus summarizes the results of his ministry (vv. 2-5) and affirms in v. 6, "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (NKJV). To be a follower of Christ at this time was clearly not easy, and the difficulties would only intensify in the weeks, months, and years to come (cf. 10:16-25; John 15:20-21; 16:1-4, 33). Today being a Christian is still not without its challenges. The world in which we live is consumed with religious turmoil, injustice, unbelief, and sin. God’s people regularly find themselves in the unpopular minority and at times may feel intimidated, discouraged, and overwhelmed. But let us never forget that we are the ones who are truly blessed, ever mindful of the Lord’s exhortation: "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."
      In Matthew’s 13th chapter the word "blessed" is used again, this time as Jesus explains the reason he taught in parables. Comparing spiritual perception with the physical ability to see and hear, the Lord observes that many have the latter while lacking the former (vv. 10-15). He then says to his faithful followers, "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear" (v. 16). When people do not "see" and "hear" the truth, even when it is plainly communicated, it is essentially because their minds are closed and their hearts are hardened. Since the will of God is readily available and understandable to all who genuinely seek it (Matthew 7:7; John 7:17; Ephesians 5:17), may we be among those who are blessed because of eyes that see and ears that hear.
      In chapter 16 the Lord asks his disciples what others were saying about him, and various responses are given. When he then enquires about their own convictions, Simon Peter confidently declares: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). Jesus then pronounces a blessing and makes an intriguing observation: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (v. 17). Exactly how the heavenly Father revealed this information to Peter is not disclosed, but to be on the receiving end of divine revelation is obviously a blessing. Today the will of God is conveyed through his written word (Ephesians 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we therefore read, study, and learn from the sacred scriptures, how blessed we are! Alternatively, if the revealed word is neglected and our Bibles collect dust and cobwebs as they remain unused for extended periods of time, let’s appreciate the converse reality of what we’re missing! Only when the Lord’s directives are wholeheartedly welcomed into our lives can it rightfully be said, "Blessed are you . . ."
      In view of the unexpectedness of Christ’s second coming, emphasis is given in chapter 24 to the importance of spiritual readiness (vv. 36-44). Accordingly, to be considered "a faithful and wise servant" (v. 45), there are delegated responsibilities that must be fulfilled. Thus Jesus observes, "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing" (v. 46). The rest of the chapter describes the tragedy of unpreparedness, so there can be no excuse for being caught off guard and foolishly ignoring the certainty of divine judgment. To persevere in active, loyal, obedient service to the Lord is to enjoy heaven’s richest blessings.
      Blessed are the faithful, whose allegiance to Christ is without reservation. Blessed are the attentive, whose minds are set on things above. Blessed are the receptive, who eagerly embrace the word of God. And blessed are the prepared, who dutifully anticipate the Lord’s return.
–Kevin L. Moore

No comments:

Post a Comment