Who is Jesus?
Have you ever tried to answer that question in a short, succinct, way? During this season in the church year known as "Epiphany," which means "revealing," God reveals to us who Jesus is.
From the signs that marked him as the long-awaited Messiah, like the star the wise men saw, to the signs that marked him as God's Son and Lord of all, like heaven opening at his baptism, the Father testifying to him, and all of his miracles, Jesus has been shown to be the One. Coming up in Lent, we'll see his suffering mark him as our substitute and Savior. But for these next few weeks, we'll see what Jesus' teachings tell us about him.
This week, we're entering into a sermon series on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As we go, we'll notice that what Jesus says is so opposite of the way of the world. It was opposite even of what the religious leaders of his day thought and taught. We read that at the end of his sermon, "the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matthew 7:28-29).
You see the difference already in his introduction to this sermon. We know his introduction as "The Beatitudes," the statements of blessing. Right away - he flips the way we think on its head, and draws us into this sermon as he gradually transitions from "blessed are they" to "blessed are you" making each reader a part of this blessing. As we read, notice that the blessing, the happiness, that peace, comes only through a relationship with Jesus, on his terms.
God's not interested in having someone tell him how he should act. He's interested in blessing us beyond what we could ever imagine. So he begins:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It is not the proud and self-sufficient, those who pretend that they can take care of themselves, who will be happy. Because deep down, we all know we can't handle it.
It is those who realize their spiritual poverty, who realize they need help. Why? Because, just like an addict needs to realize the problem before they're ready for the solution, our addiction to self and sin needs to be exposed before we can see the salvation that Jesus' death on the cross paid for us.
And so it makes sense that he continues, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Sorrow over our sins, repentance, brings God's forgiveness. Talk about comfort. Hearing Jesus tell me that my sins are buried in the depths of the sea, I can't imagine anything more comforting than that.
"Blessed are the meek," Jesus goes on. True happiness belongs to those who are not always insisting on their "rights" but realize that God has already given us all we need and will give us even more than we can imagine. We are God's. He's in control, even if we don't have what our sin-filled self wants, we have more.
Realizing that is blessing.
As you go down that list in Matthew 5, the pictures get more and more intense. Our relationship with Jesus is not about getting what our worldly, flesh-driven, sinful nature wants, but realizing our need and so receiving blessings more valuable than any money can buy: Peace, innocence, removal of shame, contentment in God, certainty of an eternal future, joy, happiness... in short - Blessedness.
So blessed are you because, knowing your need, you see Jesus, who fills you with his righteousness (v. 6), who has shown you mercy (v. 7), who shows you God's love and his heart for you (v. 8), who has placed you in God's family (v.9), who has given you heaven (v. 10).
Check back next week to see what that blessing does to you.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.