Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. Matthew 5:1
Jesus climbs up a mountain, sits down, and begins to teach what it really looks like to do life in the kingdom of Heaven. He begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What in the world does He mean?
Financial situation has little to do with being poor in spirit. It is an utter emptiness without God. It is a crater that can only be filled with God’s grace, mercy, love, goodness. It is an absence of any sense of control or ability to fix anything on our own.
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. All of the goodness available when we are emptied of ourselves and open to receive heaven. In that emptiness, that crater, that absence, God comes in and fills it overflowing.
Here is the hard part: Only in the emptying can there be filling. My pastor says he often prays of our congregation, “bless them or break them…whatever brings them to you.” More often the breakings are what bring us places we would never otherwise go. Places where we see God’s face more clearly.
We can’t muster up being poor in spirit and we can’t obtain in by watching others. Yes, we are moved, but we are not emptied. We are still clinging, if only slightly, to a thread of control and trying to make it on our own. All of the counter-intuitive verses about joy in trial and suffering make more sense. Only then are we emptied. Poor in spirit.
The only response is worship in humility and deep gratitude. A realization that something was done to us, in us, for us that we could never do on our own. We truly experience the kingdom of heaven; the rich abundance of a holy God we are emptied of us and filled with Him.
Questions: Why do you think this was the first “blessed” statement by Jesus in this Sermon? How do you see this truth as being foundational to all others?
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… Luke 6:27
So how do we get to a place of true blessing with God as the filler of all the holes in our hearts, our lives, our contentment and joy? Perhaps this burning question is why Jesus launches into His next teaching.
Jesus tells us to love. Yes, we love those who love us, that is easy. But Jesus says to love our enemies. And love is an action, not a feeling. Love does stuff. We do good to those who hate us. We bless those who curse us. We pray for those who abuse us. These are HARD words to hear, much less do.
Loving doesn’t mean condoning, and it doesn’t mean passivity, but it does mean responding differently. It is stepping outside of our entitlement mindset that makes things all about us, and moving into reliance on God…His justice, His mercy, His grace. Because when we do these humanly impossible things, it isn’t us doing them. It isn’t our natural inclination. It is all the power of God in us. We have to tap into Him to be able to do these things, and we can do these things until we feel these things. We can act like the person we want to become. It isn’t faking…it is trusting God to come in and change us.
It is about loosening the grip on the things we strive so hard for and cling so tightly to. And in that loosened grip – that poverty, hunger, emptying – we are filled even more with God. Oh boy, how hard it is to make that leap. Honestly, I haven’t fully figured it out. But I want to.
Oh, God, change my want to. Help me want Your definition of blessing more than I want my definition of blessing. And in the meantime, help me to LOVE as You love. Help me to see people and my surroundings through Your eyes, not my own. Help me to be the person You see when You look at me. Help me to trust You enough to do what You say, even when I don’t yet feel it.
Challenge: Try to go through the day thinking about how Jesus would love in each scenario you are in. What would He do? What would He say?
Blessed are the poor….hungry…those who weep…those hated, excluded, reviled….Woe to those who are rich, full, laughing, well-spoken of… Luke 6:20-26 (excerpts)
Our idea of blessed is all backward when define it by things going our way or having beautiful things. But this is how we define it most often, isn’t it? We are blessed when we have food for a nice meal, we are blessed when our social media following grows, we are blessed when we win, we are blessed when we make captain of the team, we are blessed when we get that amazing job and new house and child.
Jesus says otherwise. Not that these are bad things but blessed is not what you physically have possession of, it is when you realize you have nothing of any value at all; when you understand God is what you need.
When we have resources, we may ask God to fill in some gaps, but we still try to take care of as much as we can on our own. We don’t tap into the mighty power of God.
When we have food, we may feast on the bread of life, but only a little because we are quite full of what we already have. We miss out on the fullness of God.
When we are satisfied, we may ask God for those new desires, but we aren’t desperate for them. We are pretty okay. We miss out on the truly abundant life God has in store for us.
When people admire us and speak well of us, we think we are on the right track. We crave more from people and truth becomes blurry. We may be leaning too far into things of the world over things of God.
In story after story and teaching after teaching, Jesus tries to get us to see this truth, but we continue to live according to the world’s definition of blessed. We may get a little of God, but only what fits in the holes left behind by our own filling. As a result, we miss the abundance of God.
Question: How do you define blessed? How might this differ from Jesus’ definition? Why do you think that might be the case?
And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. Mark 12:43
The wealthy are piling into the temple dropping large coins – lots of them – into the treasury. Each donation makes a loud clanging sound as it drops into the trumpet-shaped metal receptacle designed to literally hear the size of the offering. Impressive nods abound as the clanging is louder and more prolonged. A poor widow comes and drops in two small coins, the value of a penny. They make barely as sound as they hit the collection vessel. Small; unimpressive to the watching religious leaders. But not so to Jesus. Jesus says her offering is more than all the others because she contributed out of her poverty where the others contributed out of abundance. She gave everything. All she had to live on.
The King James translation calls the offering the Widow’s Mite. Mite is a very small coin, worth practically nothing. I love this translation because it turns out the widow’s mite was awfully mighty in God’s eyes. And “mite” for us may be more than just money.
Maybe it’s writing, creating, music, teaching, mentoring, leading, encouraging, tutoring, speaking, or any number of gifts. We are quick to be hard on ourselves; critical and insecure about what we have to offer. We think our gifts are merely a mite. Small, unimpressive, insignificant, of no use in the bigger scheme of things. But it’s a lie. A lie that keeps us from putting ourselves in the game.
We may be holding out because we don’t think we have enough, or aren’t ready yet, or don’t feel qualified enough, or are afraid of failing or being rejected. We tightly cling to our gifts and passions, instead of giving them all away. We think they are mite, but God can use them mightily.
The truth is, God doesn’t NEED us. He can make miracles happen with His words alone. He WANTS us. He wants us to step out in faith. He wants us to take what little we have, place it in the receptacle of our God-ordained spaces, and watch Him multiply it.
Questions: What “mite” are you clinging to? What is holding you back?
And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. Mark 3:14-15
Continuing from the previous passage with the different people and beliefs about Jesus, we also meet up with Jesus’ family and childhood friends. People who knew Him before the healing and teaching and fame and following. They can’t reconcile who they knew with who they are witnessing. They have been around Him so long, they can’t grasp the magnitude of who He is. It doesn’t make sense to them. He is misunderstood by those who should know Him best as they proclaim, “He is out of His mind.”
Finally, we see the chosen twelve. He called them and they came. He appointed them SO THAT they might BE WITH HIM and He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. A new covenant with a new chosen people to carry it into the world. Twelve disciples in the pattern of the twelve tribes of Israel from the original covenant fulfilled by Him. Their first and most important job: to BE WITH HIM. This is foundational for any other calling. They will know Him, learn from Him, become one in spirit with Him, and THEN be equipped to go out and share Him with others.
I heard a speaker once summarize it, “Withness before Witness.”
May we always be in the eager disciple category. Chosen and willing. Never skipping the first and important step of BEING WITH Jesus. And then, fully equipped, being the hands of feet of Jesus to a hurting and hungry world.
Questions: Recap these two new categories in addition to the ones from the passage yesterday. How do we see this play out today? Where do you see yourself?