The Gospel we heard today begins on a level place, sometimes called the Plain. Earlier in this chapter, we heard that Jesus had gone to a mountain to pray, and had called his disciples, whom he also designated his Apostles.
As would become the norm, a large crowd gathered around Jesus. He taught them, and he healed them. In fact so many were trying to touch him that power came out from him and he healed all of them.
This was a wonderful time for the Apostles. They have been called to attend him, to learn from him, and to be commissioned to take this message to the whole world.
When Jesus came to the level place, you might say he ‘leveled’ with his disciples. He began to speak about blessings and curses, or woes.
Let me ask you a question. Do you feel blessed today? I bet you do, and I do, too. I am blessed with my somewhat good health, a wonderful wife, a great extended family, and a church family that I love.
We tend to think of blessings in the place we are, or the things we have. We are blessed because we are free to have our lives and liberties, and especially in the pursuit of happiness.
But how does Jesus describe blessings in the Gospel we heard today? Each of the blessings come with a hope of a future reward.
St. Matthew’s version of the beatitudes is slightly different. In Chapter 5, Matthew wrote that Jesus went up on a mountain and sat down to teach. When he began to speak, he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
In Luke’s version, it is more personal. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” And Luke quotes Jesus with the converse to that, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
When Jesus is addressing the rich here, he is not talking about money. This is not material wealth, but a condition of your spirit. We can use Matthew here to inform Luke. When you are poor in spirit, by the world’s standards, you will become rich beyond measure in the kingdom of God. But to those who are rich in spirit, by the world’s standards, who have no need of a savior, you will lose it all in the end.
I know people like this, don’t you? They don’t need religion, or Church, or any of that God stuff. They are perfectly fine on their own. They don’t know what they don’t have.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” and its related verse, “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.” Are you hungry for a relationship with your Father in heaven? Are you hungry in spirit?
During those years when I was away from the Church of God, I was hungry, but I did not know what for. I tried to fill that hunger with what the world could offer, yet I was never full. Now that I have Jesus in my life, he has filled my hunger.
“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh” and its converse, “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep”
Is your spirit sad for lack of that relationship with your heavenly Father? When I was at my lowest point in my life, I wept, and Jesus answered my prayer and filled my heart with joy. Only Jesus can truly fill your heart with true joy. Those that laugh and find joy in the pleasures of the world, will lose it all at the end.
The last pair of verses relate to how we are viewed by others in the world. Blessed are you when people hate you on account of the Lord Jesus. “Leap for joy,” Jesus says, for your reward will be great in heaven. On the other hand, woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.
A number of times I can say I was ridiculed for my faith in Jesus. Maybe some of you have, too. Jesus did not promise to make everyone like me! Not everyone accepts me as I am. Jesus does promise the reward of eternal life to those who long for him. To those who are loved by the world, who have no need for the savior, they will lose it all at the end.
These statements have what we call eschatological importance, as they prophesy the things that will occur at the end of time. St. Paul had to contend with the charismatic Corinthians about the resurrection.
Some of them doubted the resurrection, and didn’t want to believe it. They did not want to be resurrected in their bodies. They wanted to leave them behind for good. St. Paul reminded them that just as Christ was resurrected in the body, they too will be resurrected in the body.
In every step of his life, Jesus pointed the way for us. His birth, his baptism, his serving the poor and healing them, his persecution, his death, and his resurrection; these are all laid out for us as well.
St. Paul lays it out pretty strongly, too. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen sleep.”In this fact, we have hope that we are destined to be raised from the dead, as well, and will spend eternity in the bliss and light of our savior Jesus Christ.
St. Paul wrote, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end, Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead, and of the living.
We may never understand the extent to which we are blessed by the Lord, but we do know that he is the one from whom all blessings flow. Let your hunger and your thirst be for your Lord and Savior. He will refresh you and give you joy. Amen.