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“Beatitudes (B) – BE the Blessing”

Jan.29, 2017 – Matthew 5:7-12(1-12)


Today our congregation has our Annual Meeting. It’s a good time to check our perspective, our focus: to look back on what God has accomplished through us in the previous year, and also to make plans and look ahead in anticipation to what’s coming next.

             We need to keep doing that in our own personal lives, too. Is our focus right? Are we yearning for the best objectives? What’s our target, and are we getting any closer as the years march on? Are we keeping “our eyes on the prize”?

             Olympic athletes discipline themselves in order to achieve best possible performance in their particular events. One measure of performance is winning a medal. This week brought unhappy news to Usain Bolt, a Jamaican runner who won the “triple triple”, gold medals in three events – the 100 m, 200 m, and 4x100 m relay – at three different Olympics: 2008, 2012, and 2016. Now Bolt has to hand back one of his nine Olympic gold medals (a problem I will NEVER have!) because one of his relay partners, Nesta Carter, has tested positive for a banned substance back in the 2008 games. It seems Carter may have been so eager to earn a medal that he yielded to impurity, gave in to the “doping” temptation so as to enhance his performance. If so, he would have been taking his eyes off the prize of excellent and fair success in world-class competition.

             Last week we began our look at the Beatitudes, Jesus’ striking statements starting His classic Sermon on the Mount. The first four beatitudes dealt broadly with our hollowness, our lacking – being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, yearning for righteousness. This week’s deal more with what, but the power of the Holy Spirit, believers have, how we love and share God with others.

             But what is the main theme that resonates all through here? What is the ‘main prize’ that constitutes our incentive for obeying Jesus’ commands? To parallel the Olympic quest – what’s the MEDAL, the reward for excellent discipleship?

             There are some valuable yet transitory rewards: being comforted (v4), being shown mercy (v7). There are some more lasting rewards that are still somewhat secondary: inheriting the earth (v5), a specific reward in heaven (v12). But the main reward Jesus holds out, the principal incentive for BEING a Beatitude-obeyer, is that we GET GOD Himself. We have said referring to “heaven” is a polite Jewish deferential roundabout way of referring to God-space. V3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Again in v10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we get “the kingdom of heaven”, the best thing about it is we get to BE WITH GOD. Likewise in v8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

             Our main motivation in becoming a beatitude-liver is that we will, by the Holy Spirit, become more reliant on God Himself, forced to run to Him, because the resources demanded in living this way are far beyond our natural selfish flesh-based capacity. Nesta Carter (Bolt’s teammate) found out the hard way the truth of Paul’s observation in 2Tim 2:5, “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” Crowns of laurel wreath were awarded back then instead of medals. The medal we are competing for in the life of faith is a close and fulfilling relationship with God Himself. James reminds us in Jas 1:12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Life in the presence of our good, glorious, loving Heavenly Father.

             With that overall goal or prize in sight, then – receiving the kingdom of heaven, seeing God, in other words, the prize of relationship with the Lord Himself – let’s look at some particulars in the second half of the Beatitudes.


Much of the world’s philosophy of life is based on the theory of finding self-advantage, getting ahead at others’ expense, “making the other guy pay”. This week the US President signed an executive order authorizing construction of a wall 1,000 miles long between that country and Mexico. It’s estimated to cost between $10-25 billion. And who’s going to pay for it? Is the US, who’s instigating it, going to pay? No, “make the other guy pay!” Whether Mexico will do so willingly is another question.

             Jesus taught in Mt 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Mercy is NOT “making the other guy pay” – that’s called REVENGE. “You do damage to me, I’m going to make you pay for it.” No, mercy is ABSORBING THE COST of the wrong done to you. Mercy is forgiving the hurt caused to you, instead of hurting them back. Jesus said very plainly after the Lord’s Prayer, Mt 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

             If we want to have mercy shown to us, we need to be ready to dish out mercy – not revenge – to others. James 2:13 “...judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Mercy also includes showing generosity to those in need who do not have the ability to pay you back. Proverbs 14:21 “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.”

             One of Jesus’ most unforgettable parables is that of the unforgiving debtor who, having been forgiven ten million dollars, was unwilling to forgive another person a mere twenty dollars! Jesus concluded, Mt 18:34-35 “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

             At the heart of Christianity is the concept of GRACE: “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”, Jesus paying our sin-debt to make us acceptable to a holy God. As believers in Christ, we have been shown great mercy, so we can be extending it to others in turn. Myron Augsburger relates the word “mercy” to its Hebrew equivalent in the Old Testament, checed: “The word carries the meaning of identification in the suffering of others, of going through something with another, of entering into another’s problem with understanding and acceptance.And this is what God did for us in Christ; identifying with humanity and suffering on behalf of our sin.”

             Blessed ARE the merciful – for they WILL BE SHOWN mercy. If you want it – give it!


In athletic doping, a banned substance is found in the athlete’s urine sample. His or her system is not PURE. Jesus wants our delights to be UNDOPED. Mt 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

             The word for ‘pure’ in the Greek is the same root from which we get our word “kathartic”, as in it was a cleansing, purging therapeutic experience. Katharsis results in being clean, pure, free from corruption, sincere, genuine. You might say that person “is who s/he is”, without duplicity, they’re “the real deal”. To be pure is to be unmixed, without alloy, unadulterated by contamination.

             As it relates to one’s heart, that would mean there’s a single desire, you’re not torn in two directions; your love for God is whole, entire, there are no competitors. A big challenger in our materialistic society is money, and what money can buy. Jesus warned later in this Sermon on the Mount, Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters.Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.You cannot serve both God and Money.” Your keenest desire needs to be purely for God, what God wants.

             The Danish Christian philosopher Kierkegaard maintained: Purity of heart is to will one will – a call for unmixed motives that seek only the will of God. Don’t be a “dope” in your delights: seek what’s divine! Christ promises if our heart’s pure, we will have an amazing privilege – seeing God’s face. 1Cor 13:12 “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

             Love God singly, if you would know Him intimately. Jesus told the disciples in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” See it there again? GOD IS THE GOAL.


Do you ever get in a ‘tiff’ with those who are closest to you? Can you remember the last time there was a painful disagreement with a family member? Perhaps you went to bed with the matter unresolved, and when you woke up in the morning, there it was, hanging between you like an invisible wall, an icy silence punctuating your terse communication in clipped phrases. You know when someone’s not happy with you. Frequently you know exactly what the cause of the disagreement is, but you’re not willing to budge an inch in order to achieve reconciliation. Who’s going to be the one to make the first move?

             Such impasses can take a real toll on relationships. The Bible’s advice is to keep short accounts; Eph 4:26f “"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” To hold a grudge or allow bitterness to develop gives the enemy a foothold or base by which to bring havoc.

             Jesus teaches in Mt 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Note it’s not just “peace-lovers” but “peace-MAKERS”. You MAKE peace by making the first move. It’s up to YOU to initiate reconciliation, find out what needs to be conceded in order to win the other person’s affection again. Even when you’re convinced YOU’RE right! Pay the price needed to achieve reconciliation. The Braid Scots translation has, Blessed are those who are “makkers up o’ strife”. Be the first to “make up”.

             This is contrary to our human nature, but Jesus sets the pattern. There was nothing lovable or desirable about us sinners when He gave Himself for us. Eph 2:14-17 “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”

             Making peace is a costly enterprise. It’s certainly not easy. The cost for Jesus was His very lifeblood. Col 1:20 [God was pleased] “through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

             Go ahead – bleed a little. Resolve that quarrel. Confess your part in the fight, how you overreacted, your stubbornness, your inability to understand their point of view. Be prepared to absorb the cost, to pay the price of peace.

             Jesus adds that peacemakers “will be called sons of God” – that’s a high honour! When you make the first move to restore a relationship, you’re reflecting your Heavenly Father who moved toward us sinners by sending His Son to be our Saviour, our Redeemer. We were His enemies, but that didn’t stop Him. So Jesus could teach in Mt 5:44f, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”


Jesus knew those who adopted His principles and lived His lifestyle would not be welcomed in a self-oriented culture. There’s a saying, “The seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs.” Christianity spread because believers fled persecution AND onlookers were converted as they witnessed the authenticity of Christian’s response to persecution and execution: joy! So, in vv10-12, Christ prepares His followers for the tough testing they’ll undergo.

             Mt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” REJOICE when you’re persecuted? How unusual, unexpected is that?!

             Let’s clarify, the cause of the persecution is NOT because of our obstinacy, or our trying to be “better than thou”, looking down our nose at non-Christians, or because we’re simply being jerks! What two causes does Jesus list here as being legitimate reasons for persecution? V10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness...” V11 “Blessed are you when people insult you (etc.) because of ME.” Double-check that it is in fact your righteous actions, your being associated with Jesus, imitating Him, doing what He would do, that’s drawing other’s ire. The more we become Christlike, exhibiting His purity and holiness and goodness, the more opposition we can expect from those who remain wired to follow the passions of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Identifying with Jesus will make you a lightning-rod! Jn 15:21 “They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” Lk 21:17 “All men will hate you because of me.” The exclusiveness of believing and saying Jesus is the only Saviour for people draws criticism. Paul observed, 2Tim 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...”

             Purity – desiring God and what He wants – sets us at odds with those who don’t. Myron Augsburger writes, “To will God’s will is to be different from those who will their own will.This is the way of the cross in which God’s will cuts across the will of humanity.”

             Still, Jesus urges us to “rejoice and be glad” because we have reward in heaven, and assurance we’re being treated exactly the same as God’s righteous witnesses of yore, the prophets. The Apostle Peter in his letters addressed the suffering the early church was experiencing. Tradition has it that he himself was crucified upside down. 1Pet 4:13 “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”


To sum up, I’d like to close our look at the Beatitudes with a couple of quotes that highlight just how opposite the ways of Jesus are to our culture’s default materialist / naturalist / Darwinist ‘survival of the fittest’ mode of operation.

             Dr Richard Halverson observes, “The way of the Kingdom of God is antithetical to the way of our contemporary culture.”

             Myron Augsburger elaborates...“God says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ but we say blessed are the achievers. God says, ‘Blessed are those who mourn,’ but we say blessed are the self-fulfilled. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the meek,’ but we say blessed are the powerful. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,’ but we say blessed are the unrestrained. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the merciful, but we say blessed are the manipulators. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,’ but we say blessed are the uninhibited. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ but we say blessed are the strong. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,’ but we say blessed are the expedient. Jesus said we are blessed when persecuted for His sake, but we say blessed are the aggressors. Jesus challenges the very selfishness that determines so much of our social behaviour.” Let’s pray.