Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Beatitudes: introduction    (9/20/2015 )

When we start a new job, or make ourselves known anywhere new, we often try to make it clear what we're about, and what our values, skills and experiences are.

Jesus did the same thing when he first began his work in Galilee. The gospel of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament (although much of its content is also recorded in two of the other three gospels) describes Jesus' birth and then suddenly skips forward about 30 years to describe his baptism by his cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus was then was tempted by satan in the desert; started teaching and preaching; called the first four disciples; then started healing the sick. All in just the first four of Matthew's 28 chapters.

So Jesus has only just stepped into some kind of limelight when he starts doing some pretty dramatic stuff: teaching in the synagogues (much to the irritation of the appointed leaders); preaching the ‘good news of the Kingdom' (and we know from later passages that Jesus' way of seeing things was at odds with much of what the religious leaders were preaching); and miraculously healing people of both physical and spiritual sicknesses.

If a young man wanted to get himself noticed in Galilee in about 30AD, this was the way to go about it. People flocked to hear him, be healed by him—and probably just to see what all the fuss was about.

The next section of Matthew, recording the Sermon on the Mount, runs over three chapters (Jesus' birth runs to only half a chapter). The sermon begins with the ‘beatitudes' (blessings), a group of 8 statements about characteristics valued in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Through the filter of contemporary life, we may sometimes fail to appreciate their impact at the time. Or we may have heard them so often that they've started to lose their meaning.

But make no mistake: while it may sound a bit wishy-washy to us to hear ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth', at the time these statements were radical.

This was a time when strength and riches were praised and sought-after. Under Roman oppression, the Jews were longing for a king to rise up and deliver them (politically).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus put his cards on the table. He showed people why he was completely different: that he was good news (with the emphasis on 'new'). He overturned what many of them had grown up practising and believing—and he effectively asked his disciples to encourage others to do the same. He was teaching the teachers, in preparation for their own lives in ministry.

Over the next 8 weeks, we'll be looking at these beatitudes. Why not come back and find out more—or subscribe, and we'll deliver them right to your inbox!

Pray: Lord Jesus, there are so many conflicting images of you - meek and mild, or radical and revolutionary. Please reveal to me the real Jesus: help me to get to know you. Amen.

Think about: Does the idea of being meek, mournful, hungry and persecuted sound appealing to you? Unless we discover the real Jesus, who lived as a man and could see perhaps also see these attributes as we do, we can't possibly understand why Jesus would want to bless them. But if these characteristics are so important to him, isn't it worth finding out what he really meant?

Challenge: Over the coming week try to remember different (perhaps even conflicting) images of Jesus which have come to you over the years. Do you think any of them may be worth challenging? If Jesus was wishy-washy, for example, why did huge crowds flock to him the way they did? Is it time to find out who he really was - and is?

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