BACKWARD BLESSINGS?

BACKWARD BLESSINGS?

In our recent Lenten and Easter sermon series we focused on “the Beatitudes” in Matthew’s Gospel.  As we resume our study of Luke’s Gospel, we find a very similar sermon but in somewhat varied and briefer form.

Surely Jesus must have preached “the Beatitudes” and other portions of the Sermon on the Mount more than once during His earthly ministry, as any preacher or teacher of God’s word presents the doctrines of the Bible many times and in various ways.    Paul said to the Philippians:  “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.”

Whether scanning our Lord’s words in Matthew or Luke, it is stunning how backward and upside down those words are by every worldly yardstick:

“Blessed are you who are poor…blessed are you who hunger now…blessed are you who weep now…blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven…”

Years ago, the British writer J.B. Phillips gave his version of the “beatitudes” as they apply in the kingdom of this world:

  • Happy are the “pushers”: for they get on in the world.
  • Happy are the hard-boiled:  for they never let life hurt them.
  • Happy are those who complain:  for they get their own way in the end.
  • Happy are the blasé:  for they never worry over their sins.
  • Happy are the slave-drivers:  for they get results.
  • Happy are the knowledgeable men of the world:  for they know their way around.
  • Happy are the trouble-makers:  for they make people take notice of them.

To the movers and shakers of the world it seems backward, upside-down and out of touch when Jesus points the poor, the mourners and the suffering to the undeserved gifts of grace in heaven.  This emphasis on our eternal home has fallen out of fashion.  But the fleeting fame, wealth and success of this world cannot compare to the infinitely better world God has prepared.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:  “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.”  On this second Sunday of Easter, we are reminded that every Sunday is mini-Easter, pointing us to Christ’s eternal triumph and ours with Him.