5:1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today, we’re talking about the #blessed life. So, I did what any 32-year-old pastor would do. I did little research on Twitter to find out what people are saying. I searched the hashtag #blessed, and here are some of the examples.
“I bought my first car today… Hard work pays off, no handouts. #blessed”
“got my dream job today!! #blessed”
“Just wrote out a whole tweet about Monday…then realized it was Tuesday. #blessed”
“I want to thank not only God, but also Jesus for letting me not go for cafeteria duty. #blessed”
Linebacker for the Patriots, Dont’a Hightower tweeted this, “No better felling than waking up and knowing you’re headed to Houston #blessed”
“the diner just gave me two extra pieces of bacon for free #blessed”
“Ash and I still look good while drinking beer. #blessed”
“I’m thankful for wine. You’ve always been there for me… Thank you for never giving up on me. I love you, wine. #blessed”
Now, hopefully some people are being sarcastic. But what if some aren’t? What if people think “blessed” only refers to earthly items and situations that make you happy? What happens if being blessed is only about the physical and material? Well, then are you blessed or not?
If you don’t have the job that you went to school for and the one you have been waiting patiently for, then you can’t tweet #blessed. If you don’t have the car you really want in your garage, the clothes that friends have, the tech toys that you see on TV, the happy feelings that others seem to relish, or the meaningful relationship you have been praying for, then is it true that you aren’t living the blessed life? If you can’t handle some of the situations you’re dealing with right now, does that mean God is not blessing you the way he promises he will? That seems to be the way America is talking. Whether it’s people at the office or the ones poking at screens all day, being blessed means that you are happy because of what you have or because your current circumstances are enjoyable.
So, what about you? How would you define the blessed life? Is it having a lot of earthly blessings that makes you blessed? Does being blessed mean you are soaking up a bunch of joyful moments lately? Is blessed all about your satisfaction with life? Or maybe…does #blessed simply mean you are regularly thanking God for everything you have? Does blessed mean you are happy just because you woke up and God gave you another day on this earth?
If that’s the case, then listening to Jesus start off his Sermon on the Mount might have you scratching your head a little bit. Because what Jesus says about the blessed life doesn’t necessarily fit in with what Twitter says, and it might not jive with what your own heart is telling you. Recorded for us in Matthew 5, there are nine different descriptions that really don’t seem to fit current trends about the blessed life. These might not even be what you would expect Jesus to say. Let’s quickly go over them.
Poor in spirit seems like the opposite of success and happiness. Someone who is poor in spirit isn’t talking themselves up or referencing a long list of their achievements. Someone who is poor in spirit isn’t proud of all that they have done this past week.
Those who mourn are dealing with sad news. They are in the throes of grief. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to say that someone who is morning is enjoying a happy blessed life, does it? I didn’t see any tweets where people were posting sad news with the hashtag #blessed.
The next person that Jesus calls blessed is the meek. That’s humble, gentle, considerate, selfless people. Do we really say that people who don’t focus on themselves are blessed? The meek don’t jostle for the first spot in line. The meek might miss out on Black Friday deals. The meek want others to be joyful and successful. But if you are the meek one, how does that help you? Would Americans in 2017 call that the blessed life?
Jesus then brings up those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. These folks aren’t filling their bellies or their lives with whatever they want whenever they want it. They are seeking only what the Lord calls good. They find their happiness in worship, Bible study, devotions, prayer, and serving others. That means they aren’t putting tons of time and effort into their own personal enjoyment. Does that have anything to do with earthly blessings and success?
The merciful are compassionate and loving, the way Jesus is. The merciful don’t neglect what Jesus says, but the cling to his words and follow his example. The merciful wouldn’t gossip or grumble about bullies, protests, and politicians. Instead, they would stand on the foundation of God’s Word and show God’s kind of sacrificial love to everyone.
Pure in heart doesn’t even seem possible. You and I all know what was going on in our heart this week, whether planned or just popping in, and pure is not the word we can use for that. Who is here among us who can say they have felt no guilt, that their life is free some sin? That would be zero.
Peacemakers normally have to put up with a lot of stress. They have to go back and forth in a process of restoring relationships that have been torn apart. It’s hard work. It’s true that peacemakers are certainly causing joy when their work pays off. But I don’t know if it always feels happy and joyous to go through the ugly side of the peacemaking process.
Jesus finishes his list with those who are persecuted in one way or another for their faith. I don’t know how many would say “Amen” to that. Along with the mourners, this seems like the people who would in no way have the blessed life. It’s hard to envision any scenario where persecuted people would be happy, joyful, and successful.
This whole list flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but maybe that tells you something. Jesus wants us to get a different definition for “blessed.” We don’t need to search it on social media or listen to the news. We don’t need to look at our contacts, calendars, or careers, not in our homes or at our hobbies. To find what the blessed life is the hashtags are always going to miss one vitally important concept, eternity.
Jesus starts his Sermon on the Mount with this “blessed” list because he wants your face off the phone and not staring at yourself so much. Instead, Jesus gets us looking at him for happiness and joyful contentment, no matter what your earthly circumstances might be right now. That’s what needs to happen for a blessed life. Look and listen to Jesus. And what do you think he wants you to have? A nice car? A great career? A big house? Fun friends? A particular set of skills?
Sure. Jesus wants you to enjoy the life that he has given you here on earth. BUT! But, don’t you think he cares a little bit more about your eternity? Don’t you think he wants the source of your happiness to be your Savior and not your stuff or yourself?
Friends, that is the reason why Jesus came to give the blessed life a new meaning for you and me. Just think, he was living the most glorious life of all as the ruler of heaven and earth. He needed nothing. He had perfect glory and perfect control. And he gave it up to live in human form, which meant he put himself under the laws of the land and under the care of parents. During his life he was poor in spirit. He felt sadness and pain. He was gentle, humble, and meek. He was not filled with all sorts of good things but was filled with righteousness, even when people hated him for it. He was patient and compassionate to a degree that no one can compare. He was pure in thought, word, and deed every second of his life. He was patient and kind, never giving in to gossip, grudges or grumblings. He was persecuted, insulted, betrayed, falsely accused, beaten and killed.
His life means you and I have the blessed life, because only Jesus’ life gives us what we need forever. Look again at that list, paying specific attention to the second half of each verse. Only Jesus’ life produces a place in the kingdom of heaven. Only Jesus’ life comforts those who mourn. Only Jesus’ life gives humble, gentle people power in our world. Only Jesus’ life fills us up with righteousness. Only Jesus’ life gives us forgiveness for every one of your sins and the compassion to show that kind of love to others. Only Jesus’ life gets rid of the guilt, replacing it with pure heart that will see God in heaven. Only Jesus’ life gives us a new title of God’s child. Only Jesus’ life gives joy to the persecuted. Only Jesus’ life takes away the sting of death. Only Jesus’ life gives us the eternal blessed life.
Talk about the blessed life! If I told you I can promise you a life where there is no trouble or toil, no bullies or Band-Aids, no stress or sadness, no heartaches or headaches, no lusting or lies, no anger or anxiety, wouldn’t you say, “Sounds great! Sign me up! That’s the blessed life for sure!” That’s what Jesus has accomplished for us.
For people who believe in Jesus there is an eternity of blessings in heaven waiting for you. It won’t be because of what you will have but who you are with, Jesus. By faith, we are also with Jesus now. So that means we can live the blessed life now, as well. And what does that look like? Twitter doesn’t have the answer. Actually, Jesus has a pretty good glimpse for us right here. You are living the blessed life when you are poor in spirit, trusting Jesus’ sacrifice and not your own. You are living the blessed life even in sadness because your comfort is rock solid in God’s Word and not the things of this world. You are living the blessed life when you are humble and gentle, not getting dragged into useless arguments or getting caught in political rants. You are living the blessed life when you are filled regularly by God’s Word and sacrament. You are living the blessed life when you are compassionate and forgiving just like Christ, looking for ways to love and not hate. You are living the blessed life when you are the pure, who live a life of faith in Jesus, fleeing from temptation and selfishness. You are living the blessed life when you’re the peaceful and helpful. You are living the blessed life when you wear your faith on your sleeve and take whatever happens because you know you have a Savior watching over you. You are living the blessed life every day with Jesus.
And he says you can rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. No one can dampen that eternal joy. Nothing can take that away. What can I say; it’s the blessed life.