Fourth Sunday in Epiphany: Mic. 6:1-8, 1 Cor. 18-31, Mt. 5:1-12
The theme that ties our lessons together is the surprising wisdom of God. God loves to work through unlikely people and situations because it highlights His grace and inspires our praise. Another name for this is God’s blessing. But the real challenge is learning to grow in grace, growing up into more of God’s blessing without sliding into apathy or legalism.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the servant of all. Unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. The healthy do not need a physician. Jesus came for the sick, the sinners, the outcasts. This may often include the materially poor, but sin is a disease that robs every class. Do you know your poverty? Then you are blessed.
- Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. The word for “blessed” in Hebrew also means “happy,” which adds to the seeming irony of this statement. But honesty about life in this world should make it easy enough to mourn. To fail to mourn is dishonest, but there’s another kind of dishonesty that manufactures mourning like buying pre-ripped jeans at the Gap. But honesty includes the gospel of Jesus, and this is always our comfort.
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Meekness basically means humility, but we have somehow gotten the idea that being meek or humble means being a pushover or a doormat. But true biblical meekness clings fiercely to the word of God. When we are meek, we don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take God seriously. This is why the meek will rule the world.
- Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled. Many people are hungry for being thought of as being hungry for justice. And you can tell this is what is going on because they are defensive and easily offended. But a true love of justice is an open book, humble, accountable, easily corrected. This is because biblical justice comes from a mountain called Golgotha where an innocent man suffered and the guilty went free. But many fight for a faux-justice with a satanic snarl.
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Sometimes the loudest voices praising mercy are the least merciful in practice, and this is because they are often the most mercy-starved. But Jesus is God’s Niagara of mercy, never ending, never dried up, and when you’re standing in His grace, your children and your spouse and your closest friends and relatives know. Also remember that mercy is not a biblical form of deception, where we agree to let terminally ill patients live in delusions of their immortality. True mercy tells the truth and offers true healing, but Pharisees heal wounds lightly.
- Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. There is a widespread lie that says the more sin you’ve committed, the more foolish you have been, the more wisdom you have. But this is the original lie of the Devil. Their eyes were opened, and they saw things they hadn’t noticed before, but it was full of shame and guilt. Repentance and obedience is the only way to see clearly. And if you’ve been walking in unconfessed sin, you should assume that you aren’t seeing clearly. Jesus says in one place that those who know they can’t see are the ones to whom He gives sight.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. True peace is only possible in Christ. He Himself is our peace, our security with God, our confidence before men, and our comfort from all pain and fear. Much peacemaking is done out of fear on the one hand or in search of kudos on the other. But the kind of peace God makes boldly tells the unvarnished truth, loves the grace of forgiveness, and knows full well that God sends His favorite sons to bear crosses.
- Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus teaches here that when you love true righteousness there will be people who really hate you. Woe to you if everyone always speaks well of you. This doesn’t mean that as long as you are making at least a few people mad, you must be pursing true justice. This kind of persecution would be the kind that really scares you, really hurts. But the righteous man lives by faith in the Son of God.
- Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. When God is pouring out His blessings on His people, it’s the kind of thing that can and will be mistaken for something it’s not. The more obedient you are, the more faithful you are, the more you run the risk of being misunderstood. Jesus came eating and drinking, and they called Him a glutton and a wino. If you cheerfully point out sin, you will be called judgmental and mean. If you celebrate God’s goodness, they may accuse you of being prideful and competitive. Always be honestly accountable, but always be ready to be lied about.
- Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets which were before you. This is the “10th Commandment” of the new Law. Instead of coveting the treasure and gifts of others, rejoice in your inheritance in the saints. As you rejoice, make sure that your joy flows from the legacy of the prophets. Do not be conformed to the trendy fashions of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Store up treasures in heaven where nothing good is ever lost.
We are gathered here because we have tasted something of the goodness of God, His blessing, and we can’t get enough. And Jesus smiles and says follow Me. In Him is the fullness of God’s blessing and happiness and joy. Wisdom and blessing are not random gifts, they are the gifts of the Spirit of Christ, received by faith. So open your mouth wide, and He will fill it with good things.