Summary: In Jesus’ Beatitude on the plain, He appeases his followers with a promise of better things to come despite their current dismal condition.
JESUS - RELEVANT FOR ALL GENERATIONS
This past Sunday we were presented with the Gospel of the Publican and the Pharisee. This was the first of four Sundays that leads us to the doorstep of the Great Lent. This entire week is a fast free week. We are permitted to eat meat on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
Today, the 34th Thursday after Pentecost, the Church puts Luke’s Gospel of the Beatitudes on the plain in front of us. Here Jesus speaks to His apostles and disciples about the poor, the hungry and those who were hurting. He is telling them that there is something better awaiting them then what they are experiencing now. In other words He is saying, if you are my disciples and follow my teaching, you will be blessed with all these good things. But, if all your life you pursue wealth and pleasures of the flesh, these things will let you down in the end because they are only temporary and will soon disappear. What could be more rewarding than spending eternity in heaven?
Yet in this day and age, very little thought is actually given to the subject of heaven. There are very few books and articles that are written about this topic. There are countless books written about angels, about death and dying, and about out-of-body experiences; yet, although many people believe in an afterlife, there is very little being written about it. Although Christ tells us that for those who are poor, hungry or hurting, things will be better, and although we could possibly spend the majority of our time in heaven if we are deserving, no one seems to give this topic the much needed attention that it deserves. In His book, Heaven: A Place, A City, A Home, Edward M. Bounds points out that Philip Yancey, writing in Christianity Today, offers these three reasons why this topic is being neglected.
1. “Affluence has given us in this life what former generations longed for in anticipation of heaven.
2. A creeping paganism invites us to accept death as the culmination of life on earth.
3. Older images of heaven, the biblical ones, have lost their appeal. Walls of emerald, sapphire, and jasper, streets of gold, and pearly gates may have inspired Middle Eastern peasants, but they don’t mean much to the world of Bauhaus.”
I would like to suggest a Fourth reason to add to the three already given.
4. There is very little information in the Bible to draw on in order to do this topic justice. We have hints of what heaven would be like but nothing specific.
Yancey ends his article with this thought, “To people who are trapped in pain, in economic chaos, in hatred and fear – to these, heaven offers a promise of a time, far longer and more substantial than this time on earth, of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace. If we do not believe that, then, as Apostle Paul noted, there is not much reason for being a Christian in the first place.” (Stories Illustrations & Quotes, Robert J, Mortgan, p 417)
Many of our generation are looking for instant gratification. For those who are wealthy and healthy, what could be better than their heaven that they have right here and now on this earth? There is no waiting and no cross to bear. But what a surprise it will be for them when life on this is earth is over and they face the final judgment! They’ve already had their reward – a short-lived one at that.
Jesus concludes today’s lesson with a revealing statement. “Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look! – Your reward will be great in heaven.”(Lk. 6:22-23 TNJB). He says we should rejoice when others hate us, ostracize us and abuse us on account of Him. Why do you suppose Jesus made that comment? There is very good reason why Jesus said that.
We might think that if we are praised and complimented for the great things we are doing that that is a good sign. We might take that sign to mean that we are good, virtuous Christians because people are praising us. But it could also mean that we are acting like hypocrites and false prophets. We may just be saying things that others want to hear and are not necessarily speaking the truth. I have often heard some say that we should not antagonize parishioners who are in a common law relationship by including that topic in our sermons when they are present in Church. Yet, how else will they know that it is sinful to partake of the Eucharist when they are involved in that type of relationship. If we neglect to make them aware of it and should that cause them to loose the reward of eternal happiness in heaven, then who shall be to blame?