01282023 – Matthew 5. 1-12
Jesus was a “subversive sage,” using “existing wisdom genres” to present “a subversive version” of blessedness.
Let me break that down.
Jesus was respected, revered, and honored in his own right, as a great and mighty teacher.
We are told frequently, how he did not teach, like the teachers of old, but rather, that he taught with “a new and different kind of authority.”
People listened. They wanted to hear. And in some cases, they wanted to “overhear,” whatever it was, that he was saying and or teaching.
He spoke like a mature person of sound judgment.
Almost similar to the wise men of old.
He spoke, and people listened.
Like a profound philosopher, he was distinguished by his wisdom. A sage, in his own right.
For the record, Jesus did not invent “beatitudes.” They were around and in existence long before Jesus started his public ministry.
There actually is a whole genre of Hebraic writings that have been referred to as “wisdom writings.”
Dependent on whom you read, “some” just classify them as writings – period.
Writings like: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ruth, Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, and Lamentations…are all considered to be writings and/or “wisdom writings.”
So there was this “extensive library of Hebrew wisdom literature” already in existence.
The beatitudes as given by Jesus in the infamous SERMON ON THE MOUNT “come off” as being “additional wisdom literature or material.”
We know that Matthew wrote for a Jewish-Christian audience.
The followers in Matthew’s community lived by edicts, rules, and guidelines of Jewish Law.
Matthew (the gospel writer) highlights the beatitudes of Jesus as the way to live a “highly structured life.”
The beatitudes point to an awareness of a spiritual need, humility, peaceful living, moral living, and compassion – as being the keys to happiness in this life.
But more than that, they are ways to draw you closer to God.
They are not commandments, they are not laws, but they are “wise religious sayings” that we would do well to listen to and adhere to.
Jesus is saying, BLESSEDNESS comes from a right relationship with God and with one another.
Psalm 1, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.”
Psalm 33.12, “happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen for his heritage.”
“Happy or blessed are they who delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law, they meditate day and night.” (Ps.1.1)
Isaiah 61.1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.”
So, in the hands of Jesus, blessedness gets turned topsy-turvey, as does just about everything else.
Do you know who is blessed? It is…
Not the fatcats. Not the rich. Not the wealthy. Not the high and mighty Romans.
Listen to me.
Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who mourn and grieve. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers…and blessed are those who are persecuted.
With just a little twist or play on words, Jesus was talking about the downtrodden, the bullied, those who long for fairness and equity, and those who seek God.
Blessed are those who work not for war, but for peace. And blessed are those who are persecuted because they are good and righteous and holy.
With just a little twist of words, he made all these human conditions – spiritual.
He was not talking to the crowds. He was talking to his disciples. He was teaching THEM.
It says when he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. Don’t believe Hollywood versions, believe the scriptures.
Then, he called his disciples to him. Then he sat down and taught “them.”
Sure others tried to gather around. Sure, people tried to overhear his words. Sure, the crowds gathered to hear a new teaching…sure they wanted to hear his every conversation…
But Jesus was speaking to the 12.
Beatitudes were nothing NEW in the world of Jesus.
They were commonsense sayings…that expressed what everybody already knew and realized.
But Jesus added this twist to them.
You want to be blessed, you want to be my disciples, then, do these things…
These are the things that lead to “higher righteousness.” A more profound faith, if you will.
Do these things, embrace these things, and you will become closer to God.
Originally, I referred to it as being a “subversive version of blessing.”
That’s because at the time, the only ones who were considered to be blessed by God, were the wealthy, the rich, the landowners, and those in cahoots with Rome. Those who could “care less” about their fellow human beings.
Jesus did care.
He was concerned.
And he spoke out against what he was witnessing on a daily basis.
He was noticing and acknowledging the plight of everyday people.
Now, what about you?
Do you care about the plight of others?
Or, as is the case for so many today, are you only concerned with your own happiness and your own personal contentment?
There is more to “this life” than meets the eye.
And there is definitely more to this life, than me, myself, and I.