Last Sunday I began a 9-week series on The Beatitudes, which are found in Matthew 5: 1-12. Nine weeks is a long time to spend on twelve verses, but the more I read, study and pay attention to what’s revealed to me, I’ve come to understand the Beatitudes as a foundation to understanding how God loves us.
Beatitudes are blessings. The Greek word used in Matthew is makarios, which is translated “utmost joy.” Of course, blessings bring on happiness – they are the riches of life. If God is blessing you, then you are favored with God’s riches. But from the earliest biblical times up through today, we have seen God’s blessings as something we earn or can control with our behavior. Deuteronomy 28 is an example of how this was taught.
The blessings that are listed are mostly wealth or material possessions especially for an agrarian people – rain for the fields, productive fields and multiplication of livestock. You’ll also have power – your enemies will be defeated; people will fear and respect you. You’ll be the head, not the tail. On top, not the bottom. The passage ends by again warning – to get these blessings you must be obedient. If you keep reading in chapter 28, the writer then tells about the curses God will send if you are disobedient – no rain for the fields which will dry up; the ground will be hard like iron and disease will come. So – obey God and get blessings. Disobey God and get punishments. This is how God was and is often described and characterized. However, very little of Jesus’ stories, parables, teaching sound like this. There is a call to know God, follow God’s word, get close to Who created us to love and for love, but very little about punishment by having material possessions or wealth taken away or disease cover you if you disobey. Still, this was an overarching thought – if you were wealthy and living a good life, God was blessing you. If you were sick, lame or poor, God was punishing you.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus redefines what it means to be blessed by God. Redefines God’s blessings and who is blessed. And while it was good news to his audience, it must have also sounded ridiculous at the same time. It still sounds ridiculous today. Blessed – happy – are you who mourn, who are poor in spirit, who are persecuted? Happy – utmost happiness in some of life’s most difficult aspects?
That’s why I want to take 9 weeks (it’s just 8 now) to look at this important passage. Because it’s hard for us to get our head and heart around this concept – this kind of love. I hope you’ll join us for worship in the sanctuary or online.