Summary: Where do you look to for evidence of God's blessing? Are you looking to the right places? Jesus tells us to look to some rather unusual places to find his blessing while also providing us with a list of warnings.
How are you doing this morning? There used to be a man who when he walked into church on Sunday mornings and I asked him how he was doing, he would respond with a single word. He would say, “Blessed!” Every week he said the same thing. How many of us would give that response today? Maybe all of us because “blessed” seems like a pretty “churchy” thing to say, right? But if you actually gave it some thought, what would you look to see if you were blessed? Maybe you would quickly take inventory of what’s going on in your life. You might think, “Well, my health has been relatively good, at least it certainly could be a lot worse. I’ve got a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I’ve got friends to talk to. You know what, I am pretty blessed.” But what if all those things were taken away, would you still consider yourself blessed?
This morning, Jesus teaches us where to find his blessing. And like many of Jesus teachings, he turns things upside down. While the world tells us to look in one direction to find the Lord’s blessing, the Lord completely turns us around and point us in the opposite direction. Where does he tell us to look? Well, let’s look at the words of Jesus which are recorded for us in the gospel of Luke which are traditionally called “The Beatitudes” and see the unusual places that the Lord promises his blessing.
As we begin our study of these words, it’s important that we take note of the audience. The gospel of Luke tells us, “A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases” (Luke 6:17,18). Jesus was preaching to a large and diverse crowd of believers and unbelievers. Some were followers of his and some were probably just interested in seeing the man they had heard about but did not yet believe in. But when it came to these specific words of The Beatitudes notice how the audience is specified as “Looking at his disciples, he said…” (Luke 6:20). These words are NOT directions in how to BECOME a Christian. These are Jesus’ words to those who were ALREADY Christians. As these Christians lived their Christian lives of thanks to their Savior, Jesus promised to bring his blessing in some pretty interesting places and situations in their lives.
Luke records these words of Jesus in a very memorable way. Did you notice how there are two sets of 4 things listed here? First you have four statements of blessing followed by four statements of woe or warning. Each of the four statements of blessing have a direct contrast in the four statements of woe and warning: poor to rich, hunger to well fed, weep to laugh, hate to speaks well of you. The first four statements of blessing seem to be speaking of spiritual things, while the second four statements of woe and warning seem to be speaking of physical or material things. This style not only made it memorable, but brings out the stark contrast between the two lists. Let’s begin by taking a look at the list of blessings.
It’s a little strange, isn’t it, where Jesus says that you find blessing? If you asked someone how their week was and they responded, “Well, I’m poor, hungry, sad, hated, excluded, insulted and rejected,” you probably wouldn’t respond with, “That’s great to hear!” Yet, that is where Jesus tells us that we find blessing. How can that be? Remember that Jesus is talking about spiritual things here.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” The psalmist wrote, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them-- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Psalm 49:7-8). I am by nature poor. I possess nothing that can pay the price of my freedom from sin’s condemnation. We are spiritually bankrupt beggars. My good works and niceness, my patience and putting myself out for others, will never be enough to reach the standard of perfection that God requires for me to be part of his kingdom. It is only when I recognize my utter spiritual poverty, that I can truly appreciate the riches of God’s grace and forgiveness. It is when I realize that I cannot contribute even an ounce towards my salvation that I am blessed with the confidence and peace of knowing that Jesus has paid fully for my salvation. How blessed are poor sinners who depend fully on the riches of Christ’s love and forgiveness.