Are you one who enjoys big crowds, or avoids them?
Jesus is facing a big crowd in Matthew Chapter 5. He’s got a lot of people following him, because he’s been a popular preacher in worship, as well getting attention for the healing work he has done. Matthew 3:25, the verse immediately before Sunday’s reading says, “And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” That is a big area given that most transportation was done by walking!
Lots of people have scrambled up this hill to hear Jesus. I like this artist’s imagination about the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus begins with the speech we call The Beatitudes, a series of sentences about who is blessed: the poor in spirit, the ones who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, and those who are hated and persecuted because of Jesus.
It is an unexpectedly heavy list of those who are “blessed” by God.
Some popular televangelists preach a very different blessing — one that says if you invest in Jesus (especially online donations), Jesus will bless your life with great riches and all things for which you hope. That living right will get you a place on Easy Street.
But that isn’t consistent with what Jesus has to say in Matthew 5:1-12. He promises the constant presence of God and a place in the kingdom, but not protection from hard times. He promises to ABIDE with us through these times when we experience the pain and suffering of life in this world.
The people who wanted to hear Jesus were looking for rescue — from a life of poverty, of political oppression, from sickness or injury, from a soul fearing death.
Are you in need of hearing Jesus’ blessing in the midst of trouble? And who do you know who needs you to give them a word of peace, whether by a one-to-one encounter, or by some mass appeal to “the powers that be” to demand justice? Where do you march to further peace?
How does God want to bless you according to Matthew 5:1-12?
In the name of the God who calls us BLESSED,
Pastor Bonnie Wilcox