Back in the Sermon in the Mount this morning. We live in a political world, and the Sermon on the Mount shows us the politics of Jesus. We don’t get to confess and declare Jesus as Lord and then make up our own politics. We gave up that right when we made the decision to follow Jesus and claim our position children of God. By politics I mean the very structure of human society, how the world is run. There are lots of ideas for how to organize and run the world. Jesus has some, and I support Him!
Jesus just cuts right to the chase here, He’s not saving the best for last. He just comes right out with what we call his beatitudes. The beatitudes of Jesus are absolutely revolutionary, even to this day. If the American Revolution has as its central document the Declaration of Independence, the Jesus revolution has as its central document the Beatitudes. Or, as Brian Zahnd calls them, the Declaration of blessedness.
The Beatitudes are nothing if they are not counter-cultural. We will be guided by the spirit of the age, the spirit of the world, or we will be guided by the spirit of the beatitudes. And the spirit of the beatitudes is the Holy Spirit. Baptized believers who live by the spirit of the beatitudes will be counter culture and revolutionary. The world and pagan religions of Jesus time pretty well thought they knew what God blesses, just like our world does, and it’s not what Jesus says. Which, of course, is why Jesus is revolutionary!!
The spirit of the world says blessed are the proud, the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the clever, the strong willed, blessed are the winners, blessed are the champions. But Jesus says blessed are the…poor in spirit. Blessed are…the mourners. Blessed are…the meek. Blessed are those hungering for the world to be made right. Blessed are the merciful, the pure hearted, the persecuted, the peacemakers.
Jesus directly challenges the politics of the world.
The spirit of the world blesses the cocky and the self confident. Those who know they can do it, who are certain they know how to do it all in their own. But Jesus says – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Are you not overflowing with self confidence and certitude? Plagued with self doubt? Are you sometimes not sure that you can do it at all? Jesus says, “Blessed are you.”
The world blesses those who are shallow and therefore happy all the time (people like me). People with little joy of the Lord, but they are easily distracted by entertainment. Jesus says – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed is the jilted spouse whose husband or wife has left them, leaving them paralyzed by rejection. Blessed are the parents in mourning over the loss of a child, blessed is the one grieving the loss of a career 10 years before retirement. The world would see them as cursed, but Jesus says “Blessed are you”.
All is not right in the world, and we are not called to ignore it all. It is as we hurt and mourn in our own lives, and with those around us who are suffering, that Jesus can get into our soul and carve out new depths within us.
The spirit of the world blesses the power hungry who want to run the world. Jesus says – Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Jesus blesses those who are patient and willing to trust God.
The world blesses the “privileged protectors” – those in the inside of the “system”, benefitting from it, who will do whatever it takes to protect it. This is where the religious leaders of Jesus’ day went wrong, especially those like Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. This is where, really, leaders of every age go wrong. Rather than seeking justice and doing the right thing, they (we) circle the wagons to protect their own person privilege. Jesus singled out the Pharisees and pointed out this very tendency – “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” Matthew 23:5-7 ESV. Yes, the world blesses this, but Jesus says – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Jesus blesses those who seek justice. Maybe it’s justice for themselves. Maybe they seek to fix injustice within themselves, to set themselves right, to correct their own failures which keeps them up at night.
Or maybe it’s the one willing to risk it all for the sake of justice for others. Don’t be afraid to love enough to risk it all. Risk being hurt in the name of love. Makes me think of the old U2 song, “Pride, in the name of love”, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. “Free at last, they took your life, but they could not take your pride. In the name of love.” A true prophet of God, right down being killed by the very systems of society which he criticized. “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.” Luke 11:47-48 ESV.
A revolutionary in the kingdom of God.