Summary: The Beatitudes show us that our hope is in conflict with the world's expectations. Trusting in Jesus, we are able to point our lives toward our godly heritage.
I have a hope; and I hope it. What is hope? For the benefit of all the women who didn’t attend the 2010 Diocesan Men’s Retreat, and the men who couldn’t make it either (and as a refresher to those who did attend), let’s talk about hope. During our preparation for the retreat, the leadership team discussed the theme. During the course of our conversation, my brother Larry Green confessed that he felt that hope was something weak and uncertain, like a fragile form of faith. But as our dear brother Mike witnessed to us, hope is powerful and compelling. Hope is “something desired with the expectation of attainment, or a confident expectation.” Hoping is the opposite extreme of wishing; whereas wishing is desiring something with little to no anticipation satisfaction, hoping is desire that expects fulfillment. A hope is not a wishy-washy pipe dream, but something that you completely expect to receive.
|| So what’s your hope? || Today’s psalm is one of my favorites and it succinctly states what is my hope: “Who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” (Ps. 15:1). Dwelling in God’s sanctuary, not clinging to the horns of the altar to escape punishment, but residing there—residing here—to offer unbroken worship and service to the King of King, this is my hope. Abiding on His holy hill, living on Mount Zion, always near to the Most Holy Place is what I eagerly anticipate. What more could I ask for? It’s the life that Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden, walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day (cf. Gen 3:8).
And the rest of the psalm speaks to the other part of Adam and Eve’s fellowship with God: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). How does one enjoy that blessed life with God? By walking blamelessly, and doing his neighbor no wrong, and, as the KJV puts it, “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not,” and so forth. “He who does these things will never be shaken.” How could you be shaken if you do these these? For then fellowship with God, unashamedly walking with Him, would then truly be your daily bread.
The Beatitudes speak of a life of hope. They are marvelous declarations, promises, of our Lord. In them, He encourages, exhorts, and instructs His disciples concerning their lives. In them, Jesus tells us the rewards that we can expect for acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. Are you ready to dig in?
Let’s first look back at 4:24: “News about him spread over all Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them” (Mt. 4:24). “Now when [Jesus] saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down” (Mt. 5:1). Jesus saw the crowds and, seeking to draw them to better things, he went up on a mountainside. Christ comes to us and heals us in our current state. But He is ever calling us to go up the mountainside—to draw away from the busyness and the business of our daily lives. He calls us out from our common, profane lives. He wants us to be with Him on the mountain, the holy hill and sanctuary: a place set apart (consecrated) from the ordinary, where God and man can converse.
“His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Mt. 5:1,2). As they see Jesus going up the mountain, some refuse to leave what they already have, the comfort and security of things as-they-always-were, the world of the status quo, the life of the mediocre. Others don’t go because they are worried that the journey will be too hard for them, that their own weakness will hinder their ascent. Still others start out on the journey, but are discouraged because there is no highway, only a trail blazed before them by Jesus and the disciples who have gone before them, and so the steepness of the slope, the difficulty of the way makes them turn back. So the crowds thin until Jesus is left only with His disciples.
These words of blessing are not for the passers-by, the curious onlookers, those who are not ready or who are unwilling to make a commitment to follow Jesus, to learn from Him, to imitate Him, to accept His teaching and His rebuke. If we are to receive the blessings of the promise, we must be ready to receive the hardships and responsibilities that go with fulfilling our part of the promise. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). And so the disciples, who have willingly climbed the mountain with Christ, now hear His words of promise, of hope.