Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday January 29th 2017 - / Matthew 5:1-12 / How do You Receive the Blessings of the Beatitudes?
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 29th 2017: Season of Epiphany/ Matthew 5:1-12 "How do You Receive the Blessings of the Beatitudes?"
Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him.
And He opened His mouth and 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.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Today is a great day for showing how Scripture interconnects with Scripture; how one passage helps understand another passage. This is especially important with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, His sermon on the mount: The beatitudes.
They have long been turned into a sort of to-do-list set of marching orders, which when applied to men and women and children can become a crushing rock set upon their backs. Go be a peacemaker, go be meek, go be merciful, go be pure in heart, yet Jesus says, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” There is nothing peaceful, meek, or merciful, or pure in heart about any of that. When the beatitudes become a list of things for the individual to do in order to be blessed, in order to see God, in order to have the kingdom then they can become a crushing weight because people sin: Jesus is right, we are not pure in heart, we have been disturbers not peacemakers, we can be cruel and careless; when life calls for meekness crouching at the door is the temptation to be become hard and belligerent.
Christ says that faithfully suffering persecution is rewarding, yet many people can’t even suffer one small slight, one small insult, one small backhanded comment against their faith, they become impatient irritable and rude right back at the ones who insulted first. Instead of resisting the one who is evil, they are tempted not to “turn the other cheek” but to punch back with words, maybe even with fists. Quickly it becomes clear that even those that the world would point to and say, ‘look at him, look at her, aren’t they great, aren’t they the best of us,’ even those are incapable of always being good, they cannot always, “do justice,” they do not always, “love kindness,” They don’t consistently, daily, with every footstep, “walk humbly with [their] God.” Who can do this? Who does this? Our Old Testament reading says that this very thing is what God requires, that you are, “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” In fact at the beginning of that Old Testament reading today it’s made clear that when we break God’s law it is not just broken against our neighbour but against God Himself. It is not God who wearies us, it is us who weary Him with our sin, and all the earth hears the indictment that God has against us, the mountains and the hills hear the voice of the Lord and it is an air tight case which is pleaded against us. Don’t sweep aside the detail that comes at the beginning of our Gospel reading, when Matthew says how, “Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying …” Yes the very mountain upon which Jesus sits hears the same words spoken by Jesus in the beatitudes, the hills become a witness to this list which people fail to live up to by their own will, reason, or strength.
That is why each time we gather together we ask for forgiveness, pointing out that we have not kept God’s law; that we have fallen down; Fallen into sin with our thoughts, words, and deeds. These very things listed in the beatitudes could be used to gauge of how well we have kept God’s law. And that would be, and is, an appropriate way to look at what Christ says here. But there is more, in the same sermon on the mount just a bit further ahead in chapter five of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” And here is why we have this reading in the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is about the revealing of Christ to the world. About the surprise of who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who fulfils this list for you. He fulfills the law in your place. Jesus is blessed: At His baptism the voice of God the Father rang out saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is blessed. Jesus is not rich by the worlds standards, along the way to His cross and passion Jesus is looked down upon by the majority of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the chief priests, the scribes and elders of the people they do not see Him as one who is rich in spirit rather they see Jesus as one who is poor in spirit because He “eats with sinners and tax collectors,” at the grave of His dead friend Lazarus Jesus wept making Himself one with those who mourn, when He was tempted in his physical hunger to turn stones into bread in the wilderness Jesus turned to the righteous bread of God’s Word and waited on the Lord to be satisfied, He was merciful towards the sick and the needy even when they were not insiders, when they were outsiders. In His ultimate persecution Jesus was faithful to the end, “for the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” He went to that cross at mount Calvary, at the hill called the Skull, Golgotha, with perfect meekness, Isaiah prophesied of this saying, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” At the cross Jesus took upon His pure heart and the sin that flows so readily from our impure heart, Saint Peter describes it like this in 1st Peter chapter two, when he writes how, “[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (Saint Peter quotes Isaiah there at the end of what he says there in this verse from 1st Peter) Yes at the cross Jesus becomes the peacemaker, Saint Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians writes that, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” We are saved by Jesus’ death and by His life. He makes peace between you and God.
The case that God brings against you in Micah chapter six, the full weight of God’s law, at the cross is brought against Jesus. He hangs there nailed to the cursed wood of the tree of the cross in all meekness and righteousness cursed by God in our place, and as Isaiah says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” You have not earned the justification that Christ won for you at the cross, all the same He gives it to you as a gift. He gives you His pure heart in exchange for your impure heart, and because of Christ you will see God, because of Christ the blessings that God the Father gave Him in life and the blessings God the Father gave Him in His resurrection are now given to you as a gift: Yours is kingdom of heaven – it belongs now to you as an inheritance, and it is yours today; you shall be comforted; When Christ makes all things new on The Last Day you shall inherit the earth, on That Day you shall be satisfied, you shall receive mercy, in your baptism and in the blood of Christ you are now children of God and you are free to be merciful, and meek and peaceful and hungry and thirsty for God’s word, and pure of heart because these requirements have been fulfilled in Christ. You can now embrace them, not caring if the world looks down on you or persecutes you, because holding fast to them is holding fast to Jesus who did them perfectly.
This is why Saint Paul in our Epistles reading today says that, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
We then do not aim to boast in how meek we are, how peaceful we are, how merciful, or pure in heart we are but in how Christ is all of these things for us, He is all of these things for you. When we remember Christ Jesus the beatitudes are no longer a heavy weight crushing us for Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” By fulfilling the beatitudes He makes the burden light, you are now free to live your lives in praise of God, and for the benefit of your neighbour and to turn to Him always who will life the weight of sin off of you and give you His peace. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Matthew 5:39
 Micah 6:8
 Matthew 5:17
1 Peter 2:24
1 Corinthians 1:27-31