Monday, February 1, 2016

Jesus' First Sermon

The Beatitudes

5 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. 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What is a "beatitude"? It comes from the Latin word which means, "beautiful". Someone has termed these "be-attitudes", indicating they are something we can control from the inside by our attitude. Although Jesus has been talking to the crowds so far, he gets away to teach his disciples. Jesus spends his time doing three primary things: preaching about the availability of the kingdom, teaching about how it works, and finality showing how it works. We might call this "manifesting" the kingdom. As we move through the sayings of Jesus this year, we see will see him speaking from one of these three contexts.

The "beatitudes" begin a section of Jesus' teaching called the "Sermon the Mount". As the text says, when Jesus saw the crowds he went up to the mountain to teach his disciples. At the end of the last chapter Jesus had healed all who came to him of all kinds of sicknesses. So now he takes the time to explain how the kingdom works in this way. Some have called this the finest collection of moral teaching that has been the foundation of the Judeo-Christian ever since.

So Jesus begins, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Jesus is not talking about material things, but spiritual matters. One commentator has said, "In other words, when we come to God, we must realize our own sin and our spiritual emptiness and poverty. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God."

Another says, "The “poor in spirit” are those who cast themselves on God's grace. We personally acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy before God." So Jesus in effect says, "If you want to enter the realm of the kingdom, you need to humble yourself and empty yourself of pride". This is the first and essential principle which to true happiness and blessedness. By dying to oneself, a whole new world of God sized opportunities are available.

So what can this mean for us? Do we want to access the kind of power Jesus had? Do we want to live lives that are have an eternal impact? It all starts with acknowledging we REALLY do need God. As Jesus says to his disciples, "Apart from me you can do nothing!" Do you need God? Does your life reflect that? Jesus says this is the first step in true happiness.

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