It seems that a lot of folks look at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 as some sort of spiritual self-examination to determine if they can get into the Kingdom of God.
I see them as wide-open invitations for everyone to place their confidence in Jesus because he IS the Kingdom of God. And he is there for everyone. It is not a matter of reaching some kind of spiritual achievement before you can realize his presence. It’s a matter of trusting him to give you the Kingdom, entrusting it to you and me.
I want to imagine for a moment Jesus on a hillside with lots of people who have come there because they have heard that he might be the new Messiah for the people of Israel. Most of them have come to the hillside because they are not so welcome in the temple or synagogues. Perhaps the sick, the sinful, a few ‘righteous’ folks and among the crowds those whom Jesus would call to follow him were there too.
Now this is the first large gathering of folks and what Jesus would say would set a tone for his ministry. He wanted to be clear about what was expected in this new age and he wanted the people to be sure they knew their place in the Kingdom of God. Some say that Matthew used ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ out of sensitivity about using the name of God. Kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God are the same.
So Jesus is looking over the crowds. He knows who they are and why they have come. And he is about to make an invitation to join him in this Kingdom that he has brought. Remember that his first words were, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’. (Matthew 4)
So now I want to use some different language for the beatitudes, words that have more impact on the folks for whom religion has become irrelevant or outdated. Nevertheless they express this good news that Jesus is announcing.
So let’s begin.
You have a special place in God’s heart and providence, you who think so little of yourselves, who have so little. Even though you are not knowledgeable about spiritual things God places high value on your life and wants to give you his kingdom.
And you, the ones who hurt, ache, and grieve over life’s casualties, God has taken special regard for you in his kingdom. He wants to soothe you, comfort you, and hold you in his arms in his Kingdom and say, ‘It’s ok. You’re safe now’
And then he looks around and notices the people who always seem to take the last place or perhaps have been shoved there. There seems to be no room for you but THIS, my life surrounding and embracing you, is the new Promised Land You are with me and God will make sure that you share in everything that I have and will have. God is colonizing the earth with people like you. You rule!
And then Jesus takes note within his spirit of the Jews in the crowd who have longed for justice, righteousness, fairness that only the Kingdom of God could bring, only the Messiah could enact. Jesus is that justice, righteousness they long for. He is the Son of God, the King incarnate and tells them in so many words that their search is favored by God, approved by God if you will. They will be as satisfied as the sheep that graze on good ground. God has heard their cry and sent his son to set things aright in the Kingdom of God.
And then there are those in the crowd who are so kind to others. In the midst of their hard lives they take time for others for it’s the only way perhaps right now that justice can be done. One on one. Face to face. God has a place for them in his heart. It’s for them his Kingdom has come. They may not have religious training. They may not be good Jews but they care. Love matters to God and so Jesus promises that in his administration they are going to receive, know, and experience the mercy, the kindness of God. MORE TO COME…..