Summary: Jesus as a teacher of wisdom, and how God’s wisdom is "upside down" compared to the wisdom of the world.

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Jesus The Sage – “Portraits of Christ” series

Steve Simala Grant - Feb. 2/3, 2002


I have a picture here taken in Disney World, outside of the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” pavillion. I want you to look at it closely: What’s wrong with this picture?

Look closely at the waterfall. Think for a moment – what happens when water falls? It splashes. Where in the picture is water splashing? At the top! The waterfall is upside down. That is actually what it is known as – “The Upside-Down Waterfall.”

Today I want to take a look at another portrait of Jesus – Jesus the Sage or Wisdom Teacher. I want to contrast the wisdom of Jesus with the wisdom of our world, the values Jesus taught and the values our world teaches. And we will see that the Kingdom of Jesus is truly a Kingdom Upside-Down.


What is a “Sage”? Quite simply, a Sage is a very wise person, one to whom others go for guidance and direction. Often they were teachers, sometimes simply people whom others would go to for advice and counsel when facing difficult decisions. Books such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and even Song of Songs are known to us as “Wisdom Literature,” and are typical examples of the kind of teaching that would come from a Sage.

Our Portraits of Christ series would not be complete without looking at this aspect of Jesus – Jesus as Wisdom Teacher (or Sage). It is not as familiar or maybe as obvious as Jesus as Prophet and Priest and Suffering Servant or Suffering King, the portraits we have looked at so far, but it is an important picture. I particularly want to spend time on this portrait because the Wisdom of Jesus is so radically different from the wisdom of our world. Probably the one place where we see this most clearly is in the Beatitudes, Matt. 5:1-12.

The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12):

These are exactly the kind of statements we would expect from a Sage: short words of wisdom – easy to remember, to the point. But as we reflect on the content of them, we see how radical these words of wisdom really are.

Each starts with the word “Blessed.” Some translations use the word “happy,” but the idea is far more than the feeling we associate with “happy.” Probably the best way for me to describe it is to do it from God’s perspective, for us to understand the word in the context of “favored (or gifted) by God;” and to understand here then that Jesus is referring to our ultimate well-being, to a state of spiritual joy because God’s favor is upon us. It doesn’t mean “lucky,” or “fortunate,” or “given the ideal now.” Each of these beatitudes look longer term, and point out what the end result is.

Pope John Paul was speaking to a group of teens in the Holy Land in March of 2000. He made an acute observation about our culture, and whom it is that appear “blessed.”

Modern Beatitudes

(Pope John Paul II) Christ’s Beatitudes

(Matt. 5:1-12)

Blessed are the proud Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are the violent Blessed are they that mourn

Blessed are those who prosper at any cost Blessed are the meek

Blessed are the unscrupulous Blessed are those who hunger after righteousness

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