President Barnes preaches on Matthew 5:1-3

Posted By on September 22, 2019


– Out text comes to us today
from Matthew chapter five. When Jesus saw the crowds
he went up the mountain and after he sat down his
disciples came to him. Then he began to speak
and talk to them saying, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The word of the Lord. – [Congregation] Thanks be to God. – Father God, we ask that you
would do what only can be done by your Spirit which is to
use your words to transform us closer into the image
of the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, amen. Throughout the Thursdays of this semester I will be preaching out of the Beatitudes which are, of course,
the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which
describes what life looks like under the reign of heaven. A reign that has already
begun in Jesus Christ and will one day be fully realized. The Beatitudes offer a glimpse
to us of what it means to be a citizen of this reign of Christ. The interpretive words for
each of them, of course, is the word, blessed. The blessing or the grace
that comes from living as a citizen of the kingdom of
heaven is that it places you on a path that takes you somewhere
you did not expect to go. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That’s not what we expected. What we expected was for Jesus to say, blessed are those who are poor
in wealth or poor in health or poor in esteem because in
heaven they’ll be made whole. If you have little in this
life, great will your reward be in the life to come. No, blessed are the poor in spirit. There were two words
available to Matthew here to describe poor. He could have said,
“penes,” which means like, struggling to make ends meet. But he chose to use the word, “ptochos,” which means completely destitute. Blessed are those who are
spiritually destitute. True spirituality is never
something that we achieve. It’s only something we
receive by confessing how bad we are at it. It doesn’t matter how good
you are at the spiritual disciplines, how faithful
or devoted you are. No one climbs their way
into the kingdom of heaven. Those who feel like they
are saints are not one. The true saints always lamented
how bad they were at prayer. So when preachers stand in pulpits and tell their congregations
to be role models, to be faithful, to live in the spirit, the poor in spirit just
want to climb under the pews and say, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. There is no arrogance that is quite as bad as spiritual arrogance. If you’re serious about being
a disciple of Jesus Christ and following him, he will
take you to place after place every day that just demonstrates how bad you are at discipleship. Grace is not just a means of
beginning our relationship with Christ, it’s a daily discovery, the only means that we have
of communion with Christ. Blessed are those who are not
good at being a Christian. Blessed is the prodigal who’s
run out of ideas and dreams and fantasies and has nothing
left and has to come home. Blessed is the tax collector
who has discovered that in spite of cheating those
around him, he still doesn’t have a life that he wants so he
repents and asks for mercy. Blessed is the thief on
the cross whose last words are not justification or anger but simply, Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom. Blessed are those who
finally know how desperately they need mercy, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven. So what does this say then to the elder brother in the parable? What does it say to those
who follow the rules, live basically good lives, who are devoted and want to use their
life to make a difference? What does it say to those who
take years out of their life to study theology because
they’re really committed? I think the point of
the Beatitude is that it doesn’t really matter what
you have done or not done. What really matters is what
Jesus has done, is doing and will do. This has been beautifully
depicted in Rembrandt’s painting titled, The Woman Taken In Adultery. Such a striking title, The
Woman Taken In Adultery. In the painting he, as he
typically does, uses light to proclaim the gospel. In this particular
painting, Jesus is standing taller than anyone else. And all of the light in the
painting emanates from him. The woman whose been cast down at his feet is low enough to be in the
light that emanates from Christ. Strikingly, she is painted wearing white. She is actually dressed in
splendor in this painting because she’s in the light of Christ. The condemning, judging men
who try to stand so tall are standing outside of the light. But interestingly, even a
couple of these men are in the light because of their position
in relationship to Jesus. Ironically, one of them
is painted in scarlet, scandalous scarlet. But even he is in the light. Not because he’s standing tall
but because of where he is in relationship to Jesus. Again, it’s not a matter of
what you do or have not done, it’s a matter of where you
stand in relationship to Jesus. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. To live as a citizen
under the reign of heaven is to stop thinking about
the things you’ve done for which you cannot forgive yourself. Stop thinking about the things you’ve done that make you so proud. It’s about lifting up your eyes
to find the light of Christ and only then can you see
how to use your light. In the name of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

Posted by Lewis Heart

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